Thursday, April 5, 2012

Moses and Kelly--two dog family

Last week I told you about adopting our beautiful golden retriever Moses. What a big love! I also promised you the answer to the question: what did Kelly think of this?

The short answer: "What the woof?!"

Knowing that our 10-year-old girl is a bit snippy with other dogs and was dominant with our previous yellow lab, we tried to do everything right to ensure the right match and a happy transition for all. First we set out to look for a medium sized submissive male.

 Then we met Moses.

Okay, not medium sized.

Not only is Moses overweight, but he's just plain BIG. We haven't had him weighed yet, but I'm guessing near 100 lbs. He's tall, counter height. And his paws are ginormous!

But, I figured, goldens are gentle giants. This is still okay.

We introduced Kelly and Moses at a park, a neutral location. Kelly wagged, seemed happy, her hackles didn't rise as they do sometimes when she sees a dog she doen't like. All good signs. Moses, too, seemed just fine with the idea. The match is made!

When we got home, they both seemed content enough. Mostly they avoided each other. Kelly seemed confused but willing to play along for a while. Moses was still a little shell-shocked from his recent transitions and was pretty quiet. He loves, loves, loves people and would let you pat him all day. He just looks at you and begs for more. They circled around each other. Kelly tested him a few times and he backed away. So far, so good. They hung out, slept on the floor in the same room during the day, and all was well.

At night we separated them, since we still felt unsure how they would do alone together. In the morning we took them on a nice walk around the block together. The walk was stressful, with Kelly pulling ahead so that she could be leader, and Moses moving fast and pulling. She didn't even feel she could stop long enough to pee, when she started to he would catch up and she'd take off again in a hurry.

At home, the dogs seemed okay together for the first day or so. When my husband left for work, and I was home alone with them, the trouble began. Kelly tested Moses a few times and scuffles ensued. Moses barked back and reacted, but neither dog seemed especially aggressive. Just trying to establish the rules. I responded by separating them, but I have to admit each scuffle shook me up. Not that they were constant...but they worried me. The atmosphere now became very stressful. I am fully aware that dogs can pick up on this. But it's no easy job to just "turn it off."

Now Moses is feeling more confident, he is becoming bolder with Kelly. He has a big personality, full of love and demanding attention, and also full of mischief! And he plays hard! Kelly is stressed, whining and returning to me for reassurance.

I've been taking care to feed them separately, but the next day Kelly got by me and snapped and barked at Moses while he was eating his breakfast. He barked back. I separated them but then I was really anxious! This set the tone for the rest of the day, with three more scuffles breaking out. I felt that Kelly felt she had to protect me from Moses. It was really sad for me, because I didn't want to project this fearful energy, but every time they got near each other I tensed up. It ended with me keeping them separate the rest of the day, which broke my heart.

Moses is a big boy and very bold. Kelly is a little girl and very possessive. Can she accept her new brother? Can I become calm? Even if I could, are these two dogs the right match? Is it too much stress for old, spoiled, queen of the house Kelly to be asked to adapt to a busy 100 pound bossy boy? Should we feel comfortable letting the two dogs work it out together?

Next time: What did the trainer say?

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