This is a wonderful time of year, the season of giving (and receiving), warm snuggles from my Bears and the anticipation of visits from family. This year, my sister came to visit for Christmas. It was the first time in what I think was years that we spent the day of Christmas with each other. There were other years when she and I would reunite a day or two after Christmas, but this year, Santa was coming to my house and we would be both under the same roof ;). As you can speculate, I was excited. I felt the energy of her arrival for a couple of days beforehand. I somewhat tied up loose ends (purchasing a new air mattress, putting sheets on the new air mattress, purchasing TONS of food and adult beverages). Some of my plans kind of fell short, but my motto is “whatevs”. The one thing I did take time and put energy into was planning for the arrival of not only Aileen, but also her adorable and quirky English Bulldogs.
You may be asking yourself, “Why so much energy to planning for her dogs coming into her home?” “What’s the big freakin’ deal?” Well, the big deal, is I’ve witnessed and observed how Jack and Bernie greet dogs, especially how Bernie greets Bulldogs. Let me tell you, it’s not like two unfamiliar people coming up and shaking hands. It’s more like two people coming up to one another and one of them punches the other one unprovoked in the face. Maybe not that bad, but Bernie definitely has prolonged staring, stiff body and his breathing becomes slower. I’ve seen him react and get in a dog’s face if he feels threatened. Early on in Bernie’s life, he would be bullied. He would be chased by other dogs and I was told ALL dogs humped him. Now, he seems to stand up for himself and at times, it’s a little preemptively. I’ve watched him in several encounters with other dogs, especially with Boxers, Bulldogs and Pit Bulls and made sure he was able to have a way out and was still able to be redirected. The way out with him was crucial. If Bernie feels like he’s forced to react, he will. I’m aware of ensuring Bernie has time to himself and he has a way out if someone or another dog doesn’t respect his alone time. Some dogs bullied him, they would shadow him and constantly be in his space. Bernie is very much one who needs time to warm up and he’s methodical.
Jack on the other hand, is the social butterfly, he’s a ying to Bernie’s yang. Jack enjoys meeting others and he’s not afraid of new situations. He just becomes, over stimulated and super excited. I’ve watched Jack calm other anxious dogs down, befriend dogs who have otherwise never been around another dog, mind his own business around dogs who are too threatened by him. I’ve seen him give exaggerated head turns which signal to the other dog, “I’m not here to bother you, just walking by, that’s all”. I’ve never witnessed Jack to flee if he feels threatened. Jack is a very self assured, outgoing dog. He feels confident in himself and will try and mend fences when possible, sometimes a bit too much in your face!
Katie and Pippa are great pups, each with their own sentiments on new environments and new dogs. Katie has some physical issues. She has a hard time walking with her back legs and doesn’t see straight. She uses walls and other objects to give her guidance. Katie is also a total buzz kill. Whenever she hears affection or fun being had by any other dog, she stops it. Eddie appropriately gave her the nickname “Thunderball”. She will be sitting quietly and then out of nowhere, she darts at whatever dog is getting love and tries to stop it. You gotta stay on your toes with her.
Pippa is tolerant and she knows what she wants. Aileen adopted Pippa as a puppy. I used to love getting her excited and she would try to take out your legs by barreling into them. It would make me laugh, until it didn’t! She is now more reserved and also methodical. This may be because of the experiences with Katie moving into the home. Pippa knows to leave others alone and would really appreciate being left alone or at least not having the focus on her so much by another dog. Pippa and Katie have had their spats and Aileen does a great job of understanding each of their triggers and has a solid behavior management plan in place. She attests to watching body language and has a deep understanding of keeping resources out of reach when they aren’t able to be supervised.
Now fast forward to Wednesday, December 23rd. This is the first meeting between Jack and Bernie with not only Aileen, but also Katie and Pippa. In understanding all these facets and triggers for all four dogs, I came up with a plan. I would have loved to take a video of the following exchange, but as always, hindsight is 20/20!
1. When Aileen arrived, I asked for her to come inside, so Jack and Bernie can meet her alone. They both get excited with new people and with high energy and unfamiliar dogs it could lead to a fight.
2. The next step was for Aileen to go outside and be working on a “look at me” (Pippa completed basic obedience and she’s fantastic at the the “look at me” cue. At the same time of Aileen and Pippa working, I had Jack on a leash. He gets excited when he sees new to him dogs. I took him about 5oft away. We practiced our loose leash walking. As soon as he pulled, I moved him away. We slowly decreased distance and as we were about 10 ft away, Jack started showing displacement signals (sniffing the ground, looking away and even better so focused on me). I knew at this point, Jack was ready to meet Pippa. They greeted each other appropriately and even immediately began ignoring each other (perfect!).
3. I repeated the same steps with Jack and Katie. Aileen said Katie tries to hump little dogs (maybe to shut them up) and Jack would definitely fit into this category of being a barker. Jack was way more chill when we took our time during the greeting. We did continue being vigilant watching body language (I’ll talk about this later).
3. I took special precautions with Bernie. I reminded Bernie I would ensure his safety and I would look out for him by moving him away while we were greeting new dogs. At one point, Bernie initially pulled like he was going to take off towards the girls, but when I counteracted his motion by moving away, Bernie immediately calmed down. He became more focused on me or looking away then laser focus on Pippa and Katie.