Dogcharmer: Not taking my own advice, Part 2

Jeffrey, left, and Paula hang out on their beds next to each other. — Tom Shelby

Dear Readers, and me,

Having had Paula Jean, the easiest dog in the world to live with, for the past nine years, I feel I should not only remind myself of what to do when bringing a new, punk-age, 8-month-old dog into the home with an 11-year-old totally cooperative, placid poodle, but I should also share some of the do’s and don’ts.

First thing is the “Meet.” Dogs are territorial, some a lot more than others. So if you want to introduce two dogs in the hope of their getting along, best do it on neutral territory, as opposed to bringing one dog to another’s house. If it must be at another’s house, have the “meet” outdoors. In this case, I felt OK about bringing P.J. to Jeffrey’s house because of his youth, and I wanted to know right away if he’d surprise me by showing an aggressive territorial response. Had I brought him to my house first, Paula Jean would have been appalled at the intrusion of this bigger, heavier, ill-mannered brute playfully accosting her in her own den.

The “Meet” went fine, with Paula checking out the new smells while trying to ignore him, as he was trying to get her attention, totally thrilled at the new presence, but respectful enough. And so it was decided we would take Jeffrey home after the long weekend, which had just begun. Without saying anything, I took two small pieces of cloth and rubbed Jeffrey to capture his scent, one of which I then placed under Paula’s food bowl, and the other under her favorite bed, the idea being to give Paula a positive association with Jeffrey’s scent.

Four days later, wife Jaye, Paula, and I are ushering Jeffrey into the car for his new (all of our new) life with a new family unit. Paula was clearly appalled at this intrusion, but tolerant. Once home, they were both let into my fenced backyard, where Jeffrey had a FRAP (frenetic random activity period) period, which many people refer to as the “zoomies.” It’s a common energy release. P.J. looked on with an air of disgust at the immaturity of this intruder.

In a litter of puppies, it is common for one of the dogs to establish itself as the dominant, or alpha, dog by 4 months of age, and it’s often not based on size or aggression, but rather attitude. It was important to me that P.J. have the dominant role in this new family unit, as she would have not been happy to be second fiddle to this young newcomer. So she is greeted first, fed first, petted first, etc. And so far, Jeffrey is duly respectful.

He had been crated at his previous home, so I crated him initially, and then experimented by leaving him free for short periods with Jaye and I gone, with no problems. After about two weeks, the crate was removed. Both dogs are not experienced at sharing toys, which is referred to as “resource guarding,” but with my supervision, it’s coming along, and is facilitated by the fact that P.J. likes soft, plushy toys and Jeffrey likes the hard ones.

For the past half-century I’ve been able to walk all my dogs off-leash anywhere, with them cooperating when I said “Leave it,” or “Come,” or “Stay.” We hike about two-plus miles on the surrounding woodland trails almost every day, and it started with Jeffrey dragging a four-foot leash with the handle cut off, on a harness, running free. He would be called to come multiple times every walk, only to receive a people food treat when he arrived. He’s been off-leash for the past two weeks with 100 percent recall cooperation for a tiny dog treat. His “Leave it” is
excellent, and his “Stay” is still a work in progress, as I increase the intensity of the distractions that he must ignore and “Stay.”

When I was actively working 800 training appointments a year, most often the last appointment was what I called the “door turmoil routine,” the routine at the door to eliminate the turmoil when a visitor arrived. Last training routine because it’s one of the hardest to teach, because dogs are territorial. That’s why getting Jeffrey to sit and stay when somebody knocks on the door and is entering is still a work in progress. He still takes the position that the visitor at the door is there for him, and it’s his responsibility to fully molest the visitor in his joy at the visitation.

Bottom line, his presence is an absolute joy, challenging, but nonetheless wonderful.

Dogcharmer Tom

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