For the last month I’ve been boarding a puppy named Daisy. Now, Daisy has all sorts of issues arising from congenital aggression (i.e., a problem in her brain makes her aggressive). One of the many issues facing Daisy is the ability to deal with other dogs in a mannerly fashion.
Now, she really likes dogs. I mean, she really likes dogs! But if they start to play too rough, it can overwhelm her and trigger her aggression. When she started boarding with me, my dogs, Cash and Lily, would play with her. Over the first few days they would play too rough (Cash, a 107-pound king shepherd, Lily, a 65-pound pit bull, and Daisy, a 20-pound welsh terrier), and Daisy would panic and try to make them back off. When they backed off, she would continue to attack. (That’s when I would step in, usually with a squirt bottle!)
Cash and Lily worked with Daisy patiently, rarely losing their cool. Now, I noticed that she was getting much better with them. She’d learned that when she played too rough, they’d yelp and if she didn’t back off, the other would cut in and shoulder her away until she backed down. (Cash and Lily quite often work as a team this way. It fascinates me to watch!) Soon, she’d learned that if they yelped or tried to bully her away, she needed to back off. Getting pushier wouldn’t work; they wouldn’t stop until she settled down, but they’d remain calm and keep from triggering her aggression.
The next thing she learned was that if she got hurt or scared, she should yelp, and they’d back off. Once she’d learned this, her aggression lessened greatly. She’d never attacked my dogs with intent to hurt, but certainly with intent to scare: a small but significant difference in the dog world!
For three weeks, she got on quite well with my dogs. I was always there to step in (if I can’t see them, I’m listening for them) so that if someone yelped, I went out quickly to see what was going on. Nine times out of ten they’d already solved the problem, and were milling around sniffing each other carefully. The tenth time a sharp hist noise settled them down quickly.
Well, one of the things we’ve been working toward is getting Daisy into Doggieville, a fantastic doggie daycare (among other things) center in Mountain View. My thought is that if other dogs can help Daisy remember she’s a dog, and wear her out at the same time, her mother’s job will be MUCH easier! It’ll also give her mom a nice break from running home to check on Daisy, who can’t be left for more than 5 hours at a time (yet).
Today (or rather, as of this writing on Jan 27th!) was Daisy’s evaluation, and let me tell you, I was biting my nails! She’s been doing fantastic with my dogs, but my dogs are supremely well behaved and there are only two of them. I didn’t know how she’d do with A) a bunch of dogs and B) dogs that aren’t so well mannered. Anna and Chris (head trainer and owner, respectively) brought in one dog at a time to see how Daisy would do, slowly increasing the number and type of dogs in the room.
My biggest concern was that Daisy wouldn’t do well with a dog that was in her face or chasing her around, and we figured that out right away! One of the dogs they brought in was determined to let Daisy know who was boss, and barked and chased and barked and chased. Daisy handled it like a trooper, though, using everything Cash and Lily had taught her; she retreated, played elsewhere, retreated, played elsewhere, and finally hid behind Anna’s legs when it was too much.
I was also quite proud because at that point I leaned down, touched her lightly and said, “Just settle, sweetie.” She did, which I knew she would, and the other dog went trotting away. Daisy followed a moment later. Chris commented, “Wow, her off switch is really good!” I gave a big grin, because we’ve been working on that quite a lot! One of the things about a dog who doesn’t turn themselves off is that it’s more important for them to listen to us when we ask them to focus and calm down, so we can help them when they’re not sure what to do. Daisy did that excellently!
Daisy’s now been enrolled in Doggieville, having gotten along with all the dogs and handled all the stress with the grace and playfulness Cash and Lily have taught her. Thank you, Cash and Lily!