I had a long drive from Oregon to Washington so, plenty of time to think about how introduce Viva into the environment of our house, our neighborhood and Catty. I freely admit that I was caring a lot of anxiety about the introductions with Catty. Poor Brett had heard my ongoing anxiety since the day we decided to take in Viva and he continued to tell me "It will be just fine, we'll work it out".
So, I took the day off work to do everything I could do to set Viva up for success. First to do was to continue to keep Viva and Catty separated and then take Catty for a walk. I wanted to tire her out. During this walk I had very high food reinforcers with me to use with Catty. I was lucky to have 3 days with Viva at my in-laws where I had an understanding of how she initially interacts with dogs. I was betting that she would do what she'd been showing me, with getting her nose up Catty's rear end so that's what I was preparing for. As we walked I would stop, Catty would stop, stand still and stare at me. Catty was given the reinforcer for this behavior - we did this over and over. I can tell you that by doing this with such a high reinforcer, I had Catty's complete attention which was what I was counting on when she would meet Viva.
Once we were home, I put Catty in a different section of our house where she couldn't interact with Viva and Viva couldn't interact with her.
Time to work with Viva. I walked her down our street, doing a loop of about 1/8 of a mile. I did this because I knew that was the loop were going to do with Viva and Catty once Brett was home from work. I wanted Viva to has some exposure to this loop before we brought Catty along. I did have food with me to use as a reinforcer for good behavior. I know this loop well and what in the environment might be stressful to Viva.
We actually ended doing this loop over and over throughout different times of the day. We did this 6 different times. Each time I could visually see a reduction in Viva's reaction to the environment when walking this loop. Sweet Viva is very much impacted by her environment so, the more we can help her to feel at ease the better for everyone.
And then it's time to explore the house! D'light was also put away during this time. This went as I expected. Lots of investigation, fast movements and on the verge of being overwhelmed with the new environment. We've had a lot of dogs in out of our house over the years and then with our two dogs I'm sure there's tons to smell which creates a lot of stimulation.
As Viva checked out everything, I took some pictures and then just sat down letting her do what she needed to do. I did all of this because if we are successful with introducing Viva and Catty, I don't want Viva running all over the house (with Catty in the house) while being overstimulated by our house environment. This behavior would stress out Catty and could produce a fight between the dogs. Again, management of the environment is the key when introducing dogs.
People often wonder why a dog meeting another dog (on or off leash) often goes south. The majority of the time is due to the human not managing the environment and the dogs doing what they have to do to manage the interaction the only way they know how.
Viva has no problem with the stairs - inside or outside.
Time to take a break!
Gotta get a drink
Then Viva finds a bed that she opts to rest on. Good girl Viva!
As you can see she's tired - notice her ears and eyes. We often don't think about how stressful it is for a dog coming into a new environment.
Nap time for a girl who has had a busy day
Time to stretch out, relax and nap
Brett came home early and met Viva. This went well and we weren't expecting any issues. Viva likes people and she liked that Brett had some treats to offer her!
Next step was introducing Catty and Viva. I knew for this to be successful we needed top of the chart food reinforces.
I pulled out the chopped up chicken thighs, hot dogs and cheese! This is what I used on my earlier walk with Catty. I offer each of these to Viva and she's was one happy girl.
So, there's no way to take video or pictures when we are introducing a dog with Catty. Both Brett and I are on full alert and ready to go to plan B if things don't go as planned.
Both Catty and Viva were on leash, Brett has Viva and I have Catty. Catty and I walk out (we are about 15ft from Viva) and Viva does what she does. Growling lunging and pulling. Catty is also dog reactive on leash so she's not pleased about this but, I've done a ton of work with Catty when we are in situations like this and she knows if she looks to me she will get a reinforcer. And that's exactly what happened. As I was rapid fire with the chicken Brett and Viva came up from behind and Viva stuck her nose up Catty's rear end and growling like she does. Again, really rude behavior and thank goodness for chicken being way more important to Catty than a rude dog.
This interaction did not last long. 3-5 seconds then we started moving with chicken being given to both Viva and Catty - lots of reinforcement. We kept walking Catty in front of Viva and doing a lot of starting and short stopping for butt sniffing while still reinforcing Catty with chicken. Once it was clear that Viva had finished all the sniffing and growling Brett came up next to me and we walked with Viva on his outside and Catty on my outside. Still reinforcing the dogs with chicken and now cheese and hot dog. This went great and we did some stagger walking and then Catty and Viva were walking next to each other. When we did more of the starting and stopping, Catty did some sniffing of Viva's rear and Viva was given rapid fire reinforcment with the food. All went extremely well - I was amazed and delighted! Brett's response was "See I told you it would be fine".
So way to go Viva and Catty - you two are beyond amazing! Here's a picture of the three dogs once we were home.
This is exactly what we wanted. Dogs in a shared area and all giving space to the other dog.
After we were home we did a little more reinforcement using food for the dogs being in proximity of each other. Then it was time for everyone to have time away from each other. This was a lot for all three dogs and especially Viva and Catty. Just because we had this success doesn't mean there won't be dust ups and we need to be hyper vigilant in dog management and giving everyone breaks from each other. More to come of how we do this!