I’m excited about receiving my AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator credential in January. Just in case you were wondering, AKC stands for American Kennel Club. They are the entity who developed and award people with their dogs a certificate after successful passing of the AKC CGC test. I decided in pursuing the evaluator credential after going through the Therapy Dog training class with Paws with Love. Bernie earned his CGC and I thought, I understand the ways in teaching the behaviors necessary for the exam and I’ve successfully instilled the training with Bernie, so let’s apply! I can now, in addition to the AKC CGC, I can ‘officially’ test people and their pups on the AKC Community Canine and AKC Urban Canine.
I’m also happy in sharing I’ve become a member of Paws with Love (Paws With Love) and have offered my dog training services for their group classes. You can even see a picture of Bernie and my graduating Therapy Dog class 🙂 Their classes begin tonight, so I can’t wait sharing my experiences with group training!
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!
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.