Life With Rugby Always Changes….

As Rugby has gotten older, I’ve seen some changes in him that have been fairly predictable and consistent.  And frankly, they’re not all that great, but at least I’m learning his patterns which means that I can adjust things at my end to help manage life with Rugby.

From day one, Rugby has always, always, ALWAYS, loved a snuggle right on top of me.  He can’t get close enough.  It’s not enough to be in the same room, or within petting distance.  He’s got to be half laying across me, on my lap if he can, and if that’s not available, over my feet. And while I like a snuggle with Rugby as much as possible, this arrangement does have its limitations!

The biggest problem with this, is that as he’s gotten older, when Rugby falls asleep, he really prefers not to be disturbed….especially if it’s after 9:00 at night. If he’s woken up prior to 9:00 pm, he’s likely to have a cross, barky response. If it’s after 9:00 pm…he’s likely to have a growly snarl, sometimes even aggressively responding to being wakened up.  As a result, I’ve had to make a sad and very difficult decision…at least for the interim….to keep things safe around the house.

Rugby has lost all of his furniture privileges for having two aggressive explosions recently.  Naturally, Rugby hates this, and frankly, I do too.  I miss the days of really just hunkering down for a nice and relaxing snuggle with him.  But, if he’s really sound asleep, he wakes up by often charging up from his nap….growling…even snarling at times, and he’s loaded for bear….or for Mama….whatever happens to be closest. He’s nipped my arm on two separate occasions….just reacting from being wakened up when he was deeply sleeping.  Fortunately, I had a jacket on the first time, and my bathrobe the second time.  He left one small bruise, but without something on my arms, the outcome could have been very different.

I’m honestly at a loss for why he seems to be getting more reactive about being wakened up as he is aging.  He never did this as a younger dog, but now that he’s nearing nine years old, he seems to be trending to more of an aggressive response…and he has a hairpin trigger, and he’s as fast as greased lightning.  So, that means I simply have to adjust the rules for living with him, in order to keep myself safe, and to stop anything aggressive from getting worse.  When he wakes up, he is clearly simply reacting….and he seems to be still soundly asleep….almost like he just doesn’t realize what he’s doing.

The good news about this rule change, is that because I’ve kept him off all of the furniture altogether, I’ve seen a big decrease in anything ugly from him when he’s been wakened up, and that’s a very good thing.  Stopping anything nasty in its tracks is huge, because it prevents anything aggressive from spiraling downward into an ugly direction.  Aggression is very often progressive, which means that it often keeps getting worse and worse over time….unless it gets stopped.  I’ve stopped him from having the opportunity to practice his aggressive skills.

So….something else that I do, is I just don’t allow him to lay on my feet at all when he sleeps near me.  He doesn’t seem to be as reactive on the floor if he’s nearby and not actually on me.  I often put his dog bed  somewhere fairly close to my feet and let him have a cozy place to curl up.  This seems to work well.  And, I always make him move if he starts to sleep too close.  I just make him get up and move over, which really makes a very good difference.  It’s important that I be able to control and direct where he can sleep, because this helps him remember that he is not in charge!

Once he’s really fallen asleep, I always speak to him before I move.  That way, he gets an opportunity to wake up before he can react aggressively, and things get nipped in the bud.  I like bud nipping.  I’m big on it.  Many good things in Rugby’s life have come from nipping things in the bud….before they became habits that were much harder to break and produced behavior I really don’t want from him.

Will I ever be able to trust him again?  Will he ever be invited on the furniture with me?  At this point, I honestly don’t know.  I would love to be able to relax the rules and give him some of the luxury that I know he just really loves.  However, I have to weigh that with the balance of what’s best for him overall.  And my head knows that at least for now, Rugby needs to have strict rules and snuggles need to be limited, and he needs to earn his perks and extras.  It sounds like no fun for him, but it’s a great way to live with him, and it’s obviously working really well!

ALL relationships….even ones with our canine friends are living, breathing, and growing.  As individuals, we are always growing and changing…adapting and reacting to the world around us.  Often our own changes are subtle ones that we don’t even realize about ourselves.  It stands to reason that our dogs will also change in response to things in their worlds as well.  And so, as dog owners and lovers of those wonderful misfits in the canine world, we have to be on our toes and stay vigilant to keep the house rules in flux as well.

When I made the decision to live with a special needs dog who can react in an aggressive way, I also made the decision to do what I needed to do to keep everyone safe…including Rugby.  Rules aren’t always forever….I modify and change as I go along.  But I do modify and I do change them as needed.  Rugby pouts for a few days, but quickly adapts and gets along with the rule changes just fine.  And this is just one more example of how we do life at our house with Rugby James.





  1. Jil says

    Have you taken him to the vet to be sure it isn't something physical (decreased hearing or vision, arthritis) or a little doggie dementia? I've heard lots of stories about older dogs getting aggressive...maybe, like older people, they just don't always feel well.

    • Sally says

      Thanks, Jil for a great suggestion! Rugby just had his annual physical two weeks ago and got a wonderful clean bill of health! When I'm working with aggressive dogs I always make sure clients get them checked for anything medical too. Great suggestion! He seems to me as if he is sleeping more deeply these days...lots of dreams....whimpers, sometimes even little growls in his sleep. I've often wondered if dogs have nightmares. At times when he wakes up in a very reactive state, I can see in his eyes that he's really not even awake....he's just reacting. This only happens when he's in a deep sleep state, so it's fairly easy to manage. Maybe at some point, I'll get the cause figured out! Thanks as always, for reading and taking time to care and comment! <3

      • Jil says

        I love that little guy! My own dog, who is 12 years old, has never had a mean bone in her body...but - when she is on my bed relaxing, she doesn't like to be messed with. Especially if someone leans over her - she will give a warning "air snap". I'm careful to call her over to me if I want to pet her. I wish you all the best with Rugby.

        • Sally says

          Yep....that's so very common with dogs! I see it in many sweet dogs who just really don't want to be bothered. I'm so glad you've got a good plan of action in place that eliminates any possibilities for something nasty to take place! Good thinking, Mama!! Give your sweet girl a belly rub from me....when she's awake! 😉

      • Mike says

        I love that he has little doggy dreams and I am certain they do that.

        I know a certain cat that has little dreams during the day, his paws begin moving, he meows little noises sometimes and seems like he is moving after or chasing something in his dream... which is certainly more exercise than he receives on a daily basis in real life.

        • Sally says

          Hahaha!!! Well, I guess exercise is harder for us all as we age. I hope Rugby's dreams are always good ones, and not ones where he's afraid, although when he's aggressive waking makes me wonder if he was having a really scary dream instead of a squirrel chasing dream...


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