In case you missed it, here's the link to Management, management, management - Part 1
Viva has been in our house for a little over two weeks. When we are home, we are at about 80% integration with Viva and our dogs. We are still supervising when the dogs are together and continually reinforcing behavior we are looking for. This behavior includes: giving space to each other, sitting/waiting patiently, looking to me or Brett. Specifically for Viva, she continues to be constantly reinforced for the behaviors of: ignoring the dogs when in the same area, reduced intensity of butt sniffing of the other dogs and a reduction in growling when first seeing each other after breaks from the other two dogs. Things are going great thanks to all the management & training we've been doing!
We've only had 2 "dust ups" and 1 potential "dust up". There's no doubt we've had so few issues because of us managing the environment and the behavioral work (using positive training) we've done up to this point with all three dogs. If we had just "dropped" Viva into our house we would have a huge mess right about now and everyone would be stressed out and miserable.
All of the "dust up" events involved the same behavior by our dogs triggering Viva's behavior. The behavior was that Catty and D'light growled and Viva wasn't about to try to figure out why they were doing that. Remember where Viva came from not that long ago. She was in a shelter for a good amount of time with dogs lunging, growling and barking at her on a daily basis and never knowing when this was going to happen. She's learned from her shelter experience, that trying to sort out why a dog is acting that way wasn't a good idea. So, while we all know Viva is not in the shelter, she had a long time to practice a number of behaviors that she used in attempt to keep herself safe. We often have very unrealistic expectation and timeline for dogs - expecting their behavior to change to what we want overnight. This sets everyone up for frustration and it's usually the dog who suffers. If we step back and really think about things from a dog's perspective I'm guessing we would adjust our expectations and timelines.
The 2 "dust ups" were with Catty and since Brett and I are always with the dogs we quickly intervened. The first one was when Catty was lying on a bed and Viva walked to close to Catty. Viva was ignoring her (good girl Viva) but, Catty didn't want her that close so gave a warning growl. The second one was when Catty was playing with a toy. Viva was baby gated (no visual barrier) down the hall in another room and Catty is a loud player - lots of growling. Viva heard that and with her strong self, down came the gate and she came a running. Again, I was right there and interrupted the behavior with no bad outcomes.
The potential dust up with D'light. He was walking towards Viva with a "baby" and he growled (he will do this when he's unsure/conflicted). D'light social skill are stunted and most dogs find his behavior strange - not surprising about Viva's reaction. I was right there and I saw Viva's body language quickly starting to change and intervened immediately.
So all of these interactions give the human 3 choices. Punish the behavior, do nothing or rework the environment. Of course punishing the behavior is not acceptable and will increase fear and aggression and erode relationship building between the human and dog. Doing nothing will get you more of the same behavior and probably make future situations worse. Reworking the environment is the way to go for everyone.
When Catty and D'light are playing with toys we double baby gate, use a taller gate and we use a visual barrier. This has really helped and Viva does well with this set up. We do reinforce Viva with food when the dogs are playing with toys or each other. If Viva seems to be getting close to going over threshold with the noise of the growling, then Viva goes into a room (with something to keep her brain busy) where she cannot hear the growling.
We still have gates up as everyone still needs time away from each other.
But the gates are not up as much and the dogs are doing well with sharing space. All the while we are still doing lots and lots of reinforcement with high value food.
You can see Catty sleeping out on the deck while Viva relaxes under the table after a good walk. Viva's behavior was reinforced with food.
Nice space ladies and good job with focusing on me! More reinforcement opportunities.
More time a the room together - Catty on the bed, Viva on the red mat.
More good behavior by both girls and they were both reinforced
More good work and Viva' sit is beyond amazing. I'll be talking about that later...
"Oh good grief D'light!"
Lovely spacing in the kitchen - more opportunity for reinforcement
I love this picture. Viva choosing to have her back towards Catty. Yes for this behavior!
Putting out mats to practice "go to mat"
"Why are we done with this game?"
Viva is a wonderful girl who is making excellent progress! Viva's growling is decreasing and it's clearly linked to her feeling anxious, nervous and/or uncomfortable.
And again, we are at this point because of management and positive training. You can read more about this this from my earlier post Training before we head out