Case is getting bigger by the day. He was as big as the resident Jack Russells the day we brought him home, thus my desire to get relationships established as soon as possible.
We have five dogs in addition to Case, of varying sizes and ages. I had to allow them to figure things out themselves to some extent, but provide a safe and comfortable management situation for that to happen.
My biggest concerns were our two geriatric dogs, Woops and Beetle. They are both 15 years old, both very hard of hearing, have limited eyesight and don’t get around well. Beetle (Jack Russell) has trained many a young dog, ours and others, and he quickly put the young monster in his place. Since then, Case leaves a wide perimeter around him and Beetle maintains that with frequent rumbles and occasional leaps and barks.
It has had an affect on the old man though. Highly alert in his prime, in recent years he would fall into a deep, deep sleep such that he is terribly startled if he’s touched or bumped. I learned to gently wake him and we had a routine that was comfortable. I have noticed since Case’s arrival, he startles more easily and I feel terribly guilty.
Woops (a Border Collie/Cattle Dog cross) is six months older than Beetle and has lived up to her name by being the most accident prone dog I’ve ever known. It seems nothing can kill her though, so I hope it isn’t the puppy who eventually does so. She does not startle, but struggles more with movement than Beetle does. The deep snow this winter has been especially hard on her and I sure wish Spring would come so life could be more pleasant. She’s got the biggest heart of any dog I’ve ever met: loves anybody and everybody, meeting them all with wagging tail and a slurping tongue. Unfortunately this means that she does not discipline the puppy when he leaps on her and grabs her long hair. I really have to separate the two of them completely. Case has knocked her into the deep snow and she can’t get out; he’ll grab the hair on the side of her face and drag her around by it; and the worst is that she has an enormous tumor hanging off the side of her face. One puncture from those puppy teeth and we’ll have a blood bath. Case doesn’t understand any of this, of course.
I separate them by having Case in his crate unless he’s supervised. Woops lives in our finished basement so I make sure Case stays on the main floor with us when he’s loose. I walk them separately. I do not want Case anywhere near the horses, so Woops continues to go to the barn with me when I do chores and he stays in the house. That’s about as far as she wants to walk these days anyway. When I take Case out, I go out the front door as often as possible (which won’t be possible when mud season finally arrives) so that I don’t have to see her sad eyes when she gets left behind.
Eloise and Nell are able to interact with Case and are teaching him what is acceptable and what is over the line. Eloise is a very sweet little girl who prefers to avoid conflict so it’s taken some time for her to figure out how to play with this little oaf who outweighs her. We’ve handicapped her further by keeping our bedroom door closed. She loves to lie on our bed in the sun and there she could be out of the puppy’s reach. We have decided to lock him out of there, however, to avoid having to pursue him to ensure our shoes are safe and no puddles are left in there. If he’s locked out, she’s locked out. Her remaining safe spot is a trunk in a sunny window that I placed
some dog mats on so she’s comfortable and can see out the window. It’s only a matter of time before he can get up there too so I’m glad to see he’s learning to respect her a little already.This morning I noticed he is learning some wonderful bite inhibition from her. I sat on the floor and immediately had the two of them wanting to be in my lap. They began their face fighting game, so similar to the way the horses play the game! In this case, lips were curled back to expose teeth as they dodged and attacked. Eloise rarely made any contact and when Case did, he was grabbling her long hair only. Once he got an ear and she pounced on him for that so he retreated to my lap and they began again. Of course, she has peaceful times when he is in his crate as well.
Nell was a big concern for me because as far as she is concerned, Ed belongs to her. She adores him and the feeling is mutual. She has been very unkind to Woops in the past if Woops got too close to Ed. Since Case’s purpose here is to be her understudy, we need them to get along. Nell also lives in the basement but she has an enormous crate that she loves so she is protected from puppy teeth when she is in it.
We had to be very careful that she was introduced to him in a way that helped her understand that life was better when Case was around. She could easily have learned to hate him and attacked him the way she does with Woops. Punishing her for that behavior would just escalate her anxiety which would lead to more altercations.
Instead, when the puppy comes near her, we shower her with attention. If Case makes contact with her, we do as well: stroking her sides, talking to her and allowing her an escape if she wants one. Most of the contact she has with Case is when Ed takes them both to the sheep barn. On the walk to the truck, he does his puppy best to get her to interact and is being rewarded with a little play from her. Once in the truck they squabble like siblings about who gets to sit next to dad for the mile to the barn. Although I have not observed it, they apparently all pile into the easy chair in the barn office for some further interactions when things need to settle down in the barn. If Nell needs to work (or Ed needs to work), there is another crate in there for Case with more bones to keep him happy until they are ready for the return trip.
Last, but not least in the dog family, is Ziva, the large Livestock Guardian Dog. So far, we are maintaining a large distance between Case and her. Her job is to protect the sheep, and we want to protect the puppy. They have seen each other at a distance when Case arrives or leaves the sheep barn and Ziva is out with the ewes. If Ziva is in the barn with the sheep, Case stays in the office. He’ll need to have a lot more under his belt before we introduce them any closer than that. In the meantime, Ziva can smell, hear and watch him to get used to his presence.
It’s been a challenge, all these doggie interactions. We need to protect minds and bodies of the senior citizens, encourage good relationships with the middle aged dogs, all while training and allowing exploration with the puppy. Not for the faint of heart.