Sunday, 18 December 2011

Settling In

Stella has now been with us just over four months.  I have loved her from the moment she came into our family and that just continues to grow.  Riley is wonderful with her and I am very happy with how she settled into our home.  I thought things were great so I guess that's why I have been somewhat pleasantly surprised to notice some recent changes.  In the past few weeks Riley has really begun to play with her (see prior blog post play with me).   They had a minor moment this week where Riley disciplined her when she pounced on him while he was sound asleep but after a day of subdued behaviours they are back to where they were and she seems to have learned a little more respect for him.  Riley has really embraced his inner puppy in a lot of ways which totally cracks me up even when that naughtiness sometimes makes me crazy.  The increased play behaviour means I have had to work on a few more "ground rules" for when we just want some peace and quiet. 

Hubby is wonderful with all the animals but really we have them because it's what makes me happy.  He likes to quote "Happy wife, happy life :o)".  He loves them but is not nearly the animal crazy nut that I am.   When Stella was new to our home I think he was sometimes a bit overwhelmed but they have developed their own wonderful bond over the last months.   It makes me smile to hear him talking away to her telling her what a good puppy she is or walking by and seeing them snuggled together on the couch.

Fred has been pretty comfortable with Stella for the past few months but Desi has still regarded her with great suspicion.  Desi was a year old and terrified of dogs when we got her.  She has become much more comfortable with dogs but will never be like Fred who has been around dogs since he was a tiny baby.  The past few weeks have shown a big change in Desi's comfort level with Stella.  She is still cautious but has finally come back to hanging out with us on the couch in our family room.  She even is willing to snuggle when Stella is also on the couch  which is a huge step for her. 

My mom visits about once a month for up to a week or so and brings her dog Sam (Riley's littermate).  Sam really was not thrilled with having a puppy around but now has accepted Stella as a family member.  I worried that there would be some jealousy because both dogs want to hang out/play with Riley but the three dogs get along great.  Stella is delighted to have another dog to bound after through the bushes on our walks but knows that Sam isn't as tolerant as Riley and respects his boundaries.

Lastly we have had a few walks recently with a good friend that has a dog-reactive dog.  Her dog has come a long way in the last year and loves Riley.  He has been the only dog in years that she has trusted to be walking off leash with hers.  She was worried her dog would go after Stella and that would prevent us from enjoying our walks together.  I am happy to report that we have now enjoyed two successful walks together where we heavily reinforced her dog's good choices and Stella showed great body language for the situation.   We start each walk with some parallel walking and then her dog stays on leash for the first 2/3 of the trail portion while Riley and Stella are off.  Each time Stella came close or her dog sniffed Stella we rewarded and praised.  The last 1/3 of the trail walk the leash was dropped and all went great and her dog even made some play gestures to Stella. We finished with more parallel walking.  We will continue that pattern for a while until we have a strong history and gradually introduce more managed freedoms.

It's been interesting to see the family "pack" gel together.  I'm sure we have lots more bumps in the road ahead as we move on from puppyhood into the teenage phases but I look forward to many adventures together.

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