Guest post from my Sister-I-Love! Thank you so much Jodi! You have taken a life event that is stressful for EVERYONE – merging pets – and provided a great example to follow.
by Jodi Finch
Thank you all for participating in Blogathon 2011! It is an honor to be part of this great event and contribute to supporting the critters at Nebraska Humane Society until they find their forever homes. I was excited when my sister-I-Love, Dr. Shawn Finch, asked me tojoin – I love to write, but almost everything I write is so technical these days, my creativitykind of withers. Aren’t you glad you get to share in my creative side?
Recently we’ve been talking a lot in my family about introducing new furry family members. My parents adopted Lucy, “a speeding ball of fluff” as Mom called her, a crazy, lovable Boston Terrier, Maya (whom I affectionately call Piggie) joined our life. I can’t speak very well to how Lucy and my parents’ long-time dog are getting along, but I can (and will, yay for you) share that my dogs have accepted Maya as part of our household, and how that happened.
I have two dogs – Sid, a Fox Terrier mix who is 100% dominant alpha with every other dog she has ever encountered, and Taco, a Belgian Malinois mix who is 65 pounds of soft-hearted, super sensitive love.
I know, you’re asking – aren’t Malinois normally tough worker-dogs, used by police departments all over the world? Um, yes, but not my Taco-boy. He’s just a lover. And terrified – trembly, hide behind me terrified – of small dogs. PartlyI blame it on his personality. Partly I blame it on Sid, the dominator. She has been known to bite him for nothing more than the sake of biting him. Unfortunately, his fear often manifests as snapping at the small “offender”.
You can imagine my concern when Shane, Maya’s “dad”, became a very important partof my life. I knew that we would need to introduce the dogs, and that Taco would haveto accept Maya in order for this to work. Worried doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt about it. Lucky for me (and for the dogs), I have been privileged to meet some awesome “dog-people” through Dr. Finch, and through Twitter. When the time came to introduce the dogs, my first thought was to reach out to Nancy Freedman-Smith, dog behavior expert and writer of GoodDogzBlog.
Nancy gave me some great hints for introducing the dogs – some that worked, some thatdidn’t. Keep in mind, there is no “perfect” solution when it comes to dealing with dogs. Their personalities are different, just like human personalities. You have to take your dog’s quirks and behavior into account and use what works for you.
Shane and I spent several months with each other and with the dogs separately before we decided to introduce them. They were very familiar with each others’ scents and with us individually before they met face to face. When the time came for face-to-face introductions, we started with introducing them from a distance. Shane kept Maya on her leash at one side of my yard, while I held Taco on his leash on the other side. They were curious, but not really worried – no barking or growling. We slowly brought them closer until they were able to sniff each other. Much to my relief, Taco didn’t hide, and he didn’t snap. He’s not a growler – in the past, he has snapped with no warning. We debate dmuzzling them, but knowing how Taco reacted to muzzles in the past, I decided it would be more stressful than helpful.
We spent about 30 minutes with them in the yard on leashes, and then took them in the house (my house, Taco’s territory) but kept them leashed. Again, there was no barking, no snapping, just indifference on the most part. We dropped the leashes (but kept them attached in case we needed to separate them quickly) and let them do what dogs do – circling & sniffing ensued. Finally, Taco just walked over to “his” chair and laid down. Maya went to the couch and laid down. Whew. After several weeks, they will now lie together, and vie nicely for Shane’s or my attention.
Sid has been more problematic – she growls and gets upset if Maya is around when she is getting attention. She has been kenneled a couple of times for snapping, sort of a “timeout”. I attribute that more to being a cranky old dog than being threatened though, because for the most part, she just ignores Maya.
The best part of this (besides the fact that we can be one big happy family and not have to worry about boarding or pet sitters) is that Maya is playful and fun, and she is teaching Taco that it is fun to play with another dog.
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