Tolerance, acclimation and integration

We’re still struggling with the acclimation process between Leo and Isis. To be honest, I’m not sure we’ve conquered tolerance yet.

Isis tolerates Leo being confined to the laundry room. She’ll glance at him nonchalantly when she passes on her way in and out of the back door. But we’re still keeping them on opposite sides of barriers. Even then, sometimes there’s snarling, lunging and barking. We’ve had a few accidental meetings. I was not present for one when it was reported that there was no reaction. During the most recent one, all was calm for about three seconds with dogs nose-to-nose. Then Leo threw himself on his back and started wailing. Isis at that point was just sniffing his belly, but that turned into snarling. She hasn’t hurt him, but that could be because her teeth are worn down to flat surfaces. Maybe she’s effectively been defanged.

We have a wonderful trainer and I do see progress. But I also see a lot of regress. We have two xpens set up in the backyard. I can put a dog in each pen, and Isis will lie down and give a few calming signals. (When Rob learned of “calming signals,” such as lip-licking, yawning, sniffing, he asked how he could recognize my calming signals.)

Yesterday, at the instruction of my trainer, I let Isis out of the pen, with plans to praise her for appropriate behavior toward Leo, still in his pen. At first, she trotted off toward the back door. This is when we go inside, right? When she realized I wasn’t with her, she ran back up to the pen, sniffed Leo and lunged and barked at him. It was very difficult to restrain her and get her back in her pen, even with a harness and a head collar. She’s very strong. But once back in the pen, she appeared calm again.

It’s disheartening, because I really believed that Leo would be a good buddy for Isis, and that she would play with him happily. I still think he will and she will, I just don’t know when.

I sit on my couch and watch Isis lying on the floor in front of me and I can’t even imagine a time when both dogs are in the same room with us. Of course, Leo will get much much bigger. He’s already 50 pounds. Presumably, with his mellow temperament, Isis won’t bother to start anything with him.

And let’s be fair, it’s not like Leo would get free run of the house if Isis weren’t around. He’s a little monster. Mouths everything and everyone. Knocked over a bowl of soup and spilled it on the couch. Ruined a laptop power cord when alone in the kitchen for 30 seconds. Bites bites bites his people! It’s bad. I’m really hoping this is the “gets worse before it gets better” part of teething. It’s hard to call “time out” as soon as he puts his mouth on me though, because it’s not easy to extricate one’s self from a 50-pound German shepherd attached to one’s arm.

The best approach, I think, is to train a conflicting behavior. He can’t bite me if he’s sitting for me, or touching my palm with his nose. (OK, actually, he can and does bite me when I ask him to touch my palm with his nose, but I click and treat him when he does it without teeth.) However, he’s gotten bratty about sitting and downing when I ask.

Yesterday we had a way fun training session in which he performed proper “drop its.” He drops the toy when I offer him a treat. Really it’s a trade. In between drop its, we tug-tug-tugged on a stuffed dog/tire thingy until he ripped of its head. His first kill. I was proud because this was done during an appropriate play session with me.

Isis has thrown up her dinner a few times since Leo’s arrival. A few weeks ago, it was beef heart and pork, and she wasn’t interested in those meats for a few days. She would sniff and lick it in her bowl and then leave it. Ground turkey still appealed to her, and gradually she’s started eating the heart and pork again. She’s had no interest in the bison kidney I recently procured.

Leo on the other hand, will eat anything. Except if I put liver in his Kong with ground turkey. He works around the liver.

I got 20 pounds of bison neck bones, which were much larger than I anticipated. Imagine that, bigger than an emu neck. Hard to separate too. The people in my raw-feeding coop had to use an ax to separate the frozen bones for distribution. I cleaved a few of them into smaller pieces, but others I gave up on and stuck back in the freezer in 2-foot-long sections. Maybe someday the dogs can eat this together, I thought.

The other day, I gave Leo a smaller section of neck and he gnawed on it for about an hour in the backyard. I put some in Isis’ bowl and she snubbed it.

Last night, however, Leo left the bison neck in the backyard when I brought him in for some playtime/training. I put Isis out back and she started to work on the meaty bone. So it’s not such a fantasy. The dogs can share the large pieces of bison neck…just not at the same time.