Sunday, May 22, 2011

Getting an adult dog to like a puppy: Exercise One "Picnic at the Park"

Sensi, relaxed, with Allison & Reese in the backgrou
Friends of mine and Brent's (Alan & Allison) brought home a new puppy, 10-week-old Beagle/Lab mix named Reese, last weekend. On Tuesday, we found out Sensi hates her (see my previous post, Adult dog doesn't like puppies, what do I do?).

So, we're working on that. Yesterday was our first exercise in getting Sensi to tolerate Reese. I call it "Picnic in the Park" and it's a total twofer — meaning that while Sensi is learning that being around Reese can be an enjoyable, positive experience, Reese is also learning a lot, from general obedience to good dog behavior in a park setting. And oh yeah, both dogs are getting energy drained — woo hoo!

When we first got to the park, we walked both dogs on opposite sides of a park road, Sensi comfortably ahead of Reese so he was focusing on the walk and not on her. He had on his Halti (gentle leader) but no muzzle. It was hot, which worked in our favor in terms of tiring the dogs out pretty quickly. We then returned to our vehicles, grabbed our blankets and coolers and bags full of dog goodies and set up camp.

I took the Halti off when we got settled. He drank a bunch of water and then I gave him a porkhide to
Chillin' with his tennis ball, watching puppy Reese
chew on, which he absolutely loved and that kept him busy for quite a while. I don't like him devouring a porkhide like that in one setting, though, so I took it away after a bit and had Allison toss him this supersized tennis ball she'd picked up for him (what a good friend, buying toys for my dog!).

Sensi was thrilled with the tennis ball. He loves ripping those apart. He was so happy that he moved off the blanket, into the grass and began rolling around his back. He actually moved closer to Allison and puppy Reese while rolling around, which definitely signaled to me that he was 100 percent comfortable with the current arrangement.

Allison and Reese moved closer, a couple feet at a time, than what you see in these photos. We were probably about 15-feet apart, each dog on 6-foot-leash, when all was said and done.
Allison & Reese

We later got up and walked them down to a spot where they could walk a couple feet into the lake. It was Reese's first time seeing a lake and the lab in her really shone through. She jumped right in and stuck her nose right down to the bottom of the lake to pick up some seaweed! Sensi, meanwhile, waded in the water as far as he could and fished out a couple sticks. He also watched Reese's adventure in the water with some relaxed interest — he's tried to teach so many non-water-loving puppies to love water and never had success. I hope her playfulness in the water sparked a bit of admiration from him.

We took the long way back to the blankets, each of us taking breaks to practice obedience along the way with some real cooked chicken. They loved it. We hung out on the blankets again, this time maybe a little less than 15-feet apart, until our men finished their round of disc golf. In all, we were out there for about five hours full of giving our dogs a doggone great day — a day full of walks, water, toys and really awesome treats and rewards.

Sensi was totally relaxed. I am feeling a lot more confident that we can do this, though I haven't forgotten dog trainer Nicole Herr's advice — take it slow. While it's very encouraging to have such good behavior from Sensi yesterday, I'm reminding myself and Allison that it's all about social distance with dogs. Yesterday, we kept a social distance between the dogs that Sensi was totally comfortable with. Had we decreased that, had we made them have direct physical contact, we could have turned it into a very, very negative situation. For now, we'll be keeping that social distance.

In the meantime, Reese will grow quickly and learn a lot about being a dog. Sensi will learn that having Reese around is going to be a part of life from now on. And maybe, just maybe, they'll learn to be pals along the way.

A short video clip from our outing:

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