Energetic playful puppies vs. older dogs
Today was a visit out to Oceanside, NY, beautiful location with lots of great dogs who get to play on the beach and in the yard – but not so much leash-walking, interaction and socialization with other dogs, or offleash play in a crowded dog park.
The family had one adult female Pit Buffy (the sweetest Pit-underbite and giant belly you can imagine!) and a newly adopted male Boxer pup Brody (ri-dunc-ulously cute with gelatinous Boxerneck combined wtih generic puppy smushface). Problem is, Buffy doesn’t find Brody all that cute. When he jumps on her with his unrestrained puppy energy, often while she’s napping peacefully in the corner, she pounces on him and more or less tries to scare the @#$% out of him, snarling and gnashing – and succeeds, as Brody runs off squealing. Apart from also succeeding in scaring the @#$% out of the loving mom and dad, this bodes badly for Brody’s future socialization, as he’s becoming scared of all dogs and the world in general, and is learning to react aggressively himself.
My protocol was to create positive bonding pack experiences in any and every way possible. The first step was to stop fight, flight, and avoidance.
As Cesar Millan breaks it down, there are four basic canine reactions to other dogs and the world in general:
The Four Reactions:
- Submission (I like calling this one “Peace”).
(Note that I like calling the fourth one “peace” because it can include play, excitement, joy, and other energetic behaviors that aren’t normally conjured by the word “submissive”.)
We first had to stop Buffy’s reaction to fight. Notice that this isn’t necessarily the only word for her reaction – she was also justifiably putting Brody in his place, teaching him rules and boundaries and etiquette, nipping the overexcited unbalanced energy in the bud, keeping the pack stable and peaceful. Nevertheless, with her human pack present, she doesn’t need to do any of those things; also we can accomplish the same results without the violence and risk of blood and injury; and Buffy should also learn to relax and trust that mommy and daddy will take care of it.
To stop her fight response was simple, as she’s a great loyal loving dog who aims to please. One loud clap, a hand up, and she broke free and looked up like “What do you want me to do?”
Next was to stop Brody’s flight response. At that point all he wanted was to run away. But what he NEEDED was a “reparative experience”. We brought him back in close to Buffy, at which point she went into the third reaction, avoidance: she’d been reprimanded from reacting to him, yet his energy was unacceptable; so her only recourse was to lower her head and slink away. Of course we didn’t let that happen, by keeping her present and keeping Brody’s energy submissive and respectful – and when Buffy saw that, she instantly changed her attitude 180 degrees toward Brody because that was so much more of the attitude she wanted to interact with! She started pawing and playing with him – literally 30 seconds after “attacking” him, and of course Brody lit up and reciprocated playing with her.
We worked on a few other excercises – inviting Brody up on the bed when Buffy was already there (something she never before tolerated); having them chew a bone together; walking side-by-side on leash; feeding them side-by-side; and so on. Always when they were peaceful we’d reward both of them with belly rubs and turkey treats. What used to be stressful is now peaceful and pleasant, in their minds! Or at least, with enough consistent repetition and practice, rules and discipline, and rewards and praise from Mommy and Daddy, it should be.
Once again, I come away noticing all the empty spaces in our home where there aren’t any Pit-bulls.
But hopefully someday soon there will be.