As my faithful readers know, there has been one change after another in my life lately, nay in our lives (I don’t do this alone, the girls and I are in this thing together).
I expected there to be some difficulties (difficulties isn’t exactly the word that I want) and I wasn’t disappointed. Dogs are creatures with incredible senses of smell. I brought both girls home at the age of 12(ish) weeks and we’ve been in the same apartment with the same couch and the same bed using the same sheets and same towels for as long as they can remember. In my efforts to clean my life and begin to prepare for the next adventures I got rid of that couch, that bed, and those sheets instead relying on the help of friends to get by with borrowed items so when the time came I could easily load my dogs and 4 totes in my car and head off to wherever it is life takes us.
While Rose is not immune to change her spirit and personality allow her to adjust mid-step. She copes so quickly one can barely notice her noticing the change and accepting it as the way things now are.
Analaigh, as one would expect, takes considerably longer to come to terms with newness.
When Analaigh met the man in my life she sniffed from the door and backed away, then sniffed a step closer and backed away, another step closer, then away, closer, and away until she was finally close enough to put her cool nose against his leg although he wasn’t allowed to pet her. It was almost 24 hours after she met him when she finally decided it was O.K. and threw herself on top of him. Rose, if you must know, was belly up at his side in less time than it took me to write this.
But I digress, as always…
The first move happened over a weekend and I was at work again on Monday leaving the girls cooped up in our room in a place that didn’t smell like us for 8 hours. The destructive results? Absolutely nothing. They were too scared to do anything so instead of torn pillows and an unmade bed, I came home to dilated pupils and pinned back ears searching my face for the answer to why I just abandoned them.
I have been taking the girls to the dogpark to socialize since they were inoculated enough to go. Analaigh was 6 months old her first time and has always been submissive. Her entrance to the park was crouched low to the ground quickly rolling to her back as soon as anyone louder than her demanded it. Never had I seen her bare her teeth defensively, except with one overbearing, unchecked, aggressive dog (Duchess).
We have been to numerous parks on many different days at all sorts of different times and the social interactions and types of canine greetings have been varied. I have never had to leave a park due to an inability to co-exist with other dogs before…until we moved.
The first day we went to a new park it was just my girls and a rottie named, Luke. Everyone played and chased happily. The next day we entered the gate and the girls sprinted off in different directions. Analaigh was on her back while 6-7 very large dogs crowded around trying to get a whiff. No one sniffed and backed away and the longer she remained pinned the more terrified she became. She bared her teeth and started to snap. I stepped in, scattered the dogs, pulled Analaigh to safety (my arms as I attempted to sooth her). Seconds later, one by one the large dogs came back and, again, Analaigh was on her back, pinned and terrified. Again, she bared her teeth and started to snap. In a heartbeat she was leashed and we headed to the exit. A quick whistle brought Rose from the lap she’d found and we left.
What is wrong with Analaigh, I wondered? How do I fix this? I knew the move would bring something but the inability of my girl(s) to be social wasn’t one I had considered especially since it’s not an option.
We walked away from the gated park over to a large field and I let the girls run and play and relax. After about 30 minutes I noticed all of those large dogs leaving with only 3 dogs remaining in the park. I thought, Let’s try this again. We went in and had no issue and they played for 2 more hours.
A week later we returned to the park. This day there were only 3 dogs when we got there: Luke, another rottie, and a greyhound. As the girls sat at the inner gate waiting for me to open the door and call them in, this rottie we didn’t know started barking and pacing. Again, as we entered the girls sprinted off in different directions. I followed after Analaigh. As I got to her she had rolled to her back but she was not, yet, panicked. So I knelt at her side consoling her and murmuring “Good girl” as I petted her letting her know this was good and there was no need to escalate to full-tilt-boogie panic. She was doing beautifully until the dominant rottie started nipping at her bottom. Then she said “Eff you, Mom. This shit is NOT okay!” Again, she was leashed, Rose was called to us and we began to leave.
The woman of the dominating dog took this time to tell me that as Analaigh was petrified taking her to the small dog section and allowing the dogs to greet each other from the other side of the fence would be a good way to let them get to know each other. For anyone who reads this and thinks that is a good idea. It isn’t. I haven’t started my training yet but I do know that. It is a very bad idea to let dogs charge up and down a fence unable to get to each other to sniff each other out. If they can not figure it out in close quarters, they will not figure it out apart. It’s just not a recipe for success.
So, again, we left the park. Again, we walked to the large, neighboring field and, again, I let the girls run and play and relax. Again I thought, how do I fix this?
But this time, a picture was beginning to form in my head. Last time, when 7 dogs rolled her and wouldn’t let her up, Analaigh submitted and then acted defensively when it never stopped. When we went back and 1 of those initial dogs was there, there were no issues and everyone played happily. This time, the girls were greeted at the gate by a loud and dominating dog and Analaigh was O.K. until the other dog began to nip which enticed Luke to gang up as well. So I don’t think the issue is an inability to socialize or the quantity of dogs, I think Analaigh just needs to be allowed to warm up.
So we went back. More dogs had showed up about which I was kind of happy that I could test this out. For the most part, the girls stick with me on a “with me” command (clever, I know). In order to focus my attention on Analaigh, I let Rose run off in the direction of her choosing (admittedly it was still “with(ish) me”) and it really is a blessing that Rose is so easy-going. Immediately I tasked Analaigh to stick “with me” and we walked the perimeter of the park, greeting the dogs that interestedly came our way…one at a time. It worked. Analaigh’s ears began to fold forward in her adorably floppy-eared way and I could see her relax. I gave her the all clear with a “go play” and off she bounded as we enjoyed the next few hours of good, clean fun.
Interestingly enough, when we reentered, the owner of the dominant rottie had her pinned on her side in a forced submission (not a technique I particularly approve of) because she had aggressed at a few of the new dogs to join the park. One of the new dogs, and its owner, were now isolated in the small dog section at, I can only assume, the suggestion of the rottweiler owner. Kind of made me sad as I’m starting the think the problem isn’t where that woman thinks it is.
So crisis averted. My girls are fine and there doesn’t appear to be any lasting behavioral change as a result of turning their worlds upside-down. The time it took them to get comfortable enough to let me know how unhappy they were about my work schedule, was just long enough for me pack up our belongings and move us to a new home.
Of course, now we are battling the Napoleon complex of Silence, the resident shiba-inu. I’ll post more about that when that situation comes more under control.