Ok, so I’m way behind in getting the second part of Katie and Pippa meeting and also staying with Jack and Bernie over Christmas. Now, with a bit of time on my hands and my mental notes of how we had a successful few days together, I put my thoughts to virtual paper and will explain how we enjoyed our holiday fight free!
The first things first, initial greetings for sure set the tone for how things will go. My sister and I were intentional with breaking the greeting down into manageable and easy steps. As a look back, we had each dog meet each other individually on leashes. We each have good insights into our dogs and their stress responses. For instance, I know Jack gets wound up, so we took time and decreased distance only when he wasn’t pulling. When he did we moved away. This helped him use up some of that extra energy at the same time, he looked to me for my lead and direction (what you want!). We did the same thing for Bernie. Bernie’s response in stressful situations is to mostly flee. Bernie also freezes. As you dog lovers know, dog’s who freeze under stress, this could lead to a bite or a fight if the stress isn’t removed or if Bernie isn’t walked away. Bernie and I practiced this around both Katie and Pippa. Bernie responded better and he seemed more relaxed, so we all moved inside.
The next part of the process of integrating them, was vigilant observation of body language. What I mean by vigilant isn’t standing and staring at them because that would escalate their behaviors. They stayed in the same area, they had immediate access to the backyard and any close quarters were quickly redirected by happily calling them over to us. I made sure Bernie had an escape route, so he didn’t feel pressured to ‘hang out’ with them right away. He’s a bit more a slow to warm up type of dog, I can totally appreciate his interest in taking time. On the flip side, Jack is an in your face, let’s be friends type of dog, which isn’t received well by some other dogs, so I watched him for any over exuberance in greeting, paying too much attention to either Katie or Pippa or even high energy play which can be overstimulating for a new play group. I observed tail movements and body language. I quickly interrupted play between any of the dogs and kept the atmoshphere low key. In talking with Aileen, she knows Katie is a buzz kill. She quickly interjects herself and helps end any play between a dog and a person if she’s around. Aileen knows all too well how some innocent fun Pippa may be having, Katie acts on ending it right away. In the past, this led to some serious fights between Katie and Pippa and a trip to the emergency vet. We made sure this didn’t happen. Knowing, observing and responding to body language was the necessary component in making the pups feel comfortable in either a new environment or with unfamiliar people and dogs in their home.
The second day, things really settled in. I contribute most of the success of this day to the 10 or 11 mile run Eddie and I did with the Bears. We are training for a marathon and Jack and Bernie have increased their mileage with us, so 10 miles wasn’t out of the ordinary for them. I must say, the rest of the day, the atmoshphere in my home was just chill. The four pups minded themselves and didn’t get into each other’s way and respected personal space. The key ingredient on this day was exercise. Exercise burned off their energy and Jack and Bernie were low key and relaxed. This type of mindset also allows them an opportunity to experience unfamiliar things at a low threat level therefore makes them feel ok about something new happening.
Finally, we made sure all feedings were done separately, no toys were left out and all Christmas present opening happened under close supervision in separate areas. Our dogs perceive these events as more intense. As a situation is perceived by a dog to be more excitable, the excitement can flip like a light switch and the energy can become more aggressive leading to a dog fight. We kept with our goal of associating all things happening with pleasure and positivity. Even by the end of Katie and Pippa’s time here, for a brief moment in time, Jack gave a few play bows and engaged Katie in a game of chase 🙂
I look forward to our next Christmas with the Girls!