Saturday, May 20, 2006

how to introduce your puppy to a reserved adult dog

Jazz officially met Baloo today, without leashes or other restraint. They have been interacting safely since Baloo came home, but always supervised, and always with one or the other under control. It has been a bit tense at times, but the long "getting aquainted" period is paying off. When bringing a new puppy home to an older, reserved dog it is important to take it slow. When Baloo first came home, we immediately went to a nearby park (neutral place) to allow the first interaction. Ideally, we would have taken the dogs to a completely neutral place (since the park "belongs" to Jazz), but it worked pretty well. Jazz was very apprehensive and growled a bit. I didn't scold her, and concentrated on remembering to breathe (my tension always sparks increased tension for her). Since bringing Baloo home 19 days ago, their interactions have been allowed to progress as it seemed appropriate (no rushing, no forcing the issue). Since Baloo is being crate trained, there have been opportunities for the two to safely interact between the wire crate. Outside in the back yard, Baloo has been walked on a leash. Jazz has progressively gotten more interested and typically investigates. I always praise her when she gives a tail wag to Baloo, but watch carefully and somewhat disinterestedly. Jazz picks up cues from me that I am not even aware of. At least I'm aware that I'm not aware, so I keep my eye contact and breathing in check knowing that if I hold my breath or make too much eye contact I can really escalate any budding tension. I can see that the less of a big deal that I make of the situation, the better. I don't put myself between the two dogs, because that might also create a situation where Jazz feels the need to assert herself. There has still been a little tension, and I know that Jazz has concerns about whether she is still top dog or not. It is important to let an alpha dog know she is still the top dog and reassure her of her position. Of course, it is also important that she know that I am the true alpha of our little pack, and if she gets out of line I let her know. But growling at the puppy doesn't cross the line, so I have to be prepared to only step in when the line is crossed. This morning I took Jazz for a walk and then fed her. While she was eating I took Baloo for a long walk to wear her out a bit. When we returned I prepared the water hose, deciding that would be my best tool if things got out of hand with the dog meeting. The meeting went pretty well. Baloo was very submissive and Jazz's actions were relatively benign. Now begins the process of supervised backyard interactions. We're making progress. The goal is to feel comfortable about them interacting, hopefully that will happen within the next 30 days.

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