There is a new Wagline dog and his name is Blue. While he has been part of the Wagline family for a few months now, he has not been properly introduced. Here is the story of how I met Blue, why I decided to adopt him, and how I introduced him into my home.
Why Get a Second Dog?
India is a lot of dog in a small package and I spent a lot of time training her and dealing with her behavior issues so I had not considered getting another dog until recently. Since India is getting older, I began to think it might be nice to have another dog to start training for agility so I can keep competing when India needs to retire. I also recognized that sometime in the next few years, I would have to be prepared for life without India and that having another dog might make that transition more bearable.
But I needed to balance those selfish desires with the fact that India does not really like other dogs and is overly attached to me so integrating a new dog into the household would be a challenge. A puppy might be the best option but since I do a fair amount of puppy training, I am incredibly aware of how much work they are, and know a puppy would not fit into my very busy schedule. Adopting an adolescent or adult dog seemed like a big risk – what would I do if the new dog and India could not get along?
So, I had basically ruled out getting another dog. Then, I assisted the Instructor Training Course that takes place at Animals for Adoption in Accord, N.Y. Trainers work with dogs in the shelter during the course and it is not uncommon for attendees to adopt the dogs when the program is over. I let it slip that I “might” be open to getting a dog.
Since I was assisting, I was not working with any of the dogs personally but on the first day, I walked around answering questions and taking photos as the trainers were introduced to their assigned dogs. I joked with a few that the overly excited dogs they were working with were perfect for me but I knew my house only had room for one crazy dog.
Then the trainer paired with Blue brought him out of the shelter.
And I started to cry.
He was beautiful.
And so not my type – calm, independent and more interested in the environment than the people.
But there was something about him. I talked myself into adopting him that day and then talked myself out of adopting him the next. He was an intact male who liked to mark and since he was heartworm positive, he could not be neutered until his treatment was complete.
Fortunately, I was able to watch him over the course of four days and what I saw convinced me to adopt him. I saw him in a lot of different situations and he was unfazed by everything. Since India is fazed by everything, that was a refreshing trait to witness. He was good at picking up behaviors and was athletic so he had potential to be an agility dog. I also realized that I would probably never have the chance to evaluate a dog as extensively as I was able to do with him as well as receive feedback from professional trainers on his potential. Finally, I could not shake the feeling that if I could not make it work with Blue, then no dog would work.
Bringing Him Home
I brought India to New York to meet Blue so the people from the shelter could make sure they weren’t sending him to a situation that would not be good for him. We walked the two dogs outside and they didn’t show much interest in each other. Then the shelter staff wanted to evaluate them off leash inside. For the most part, they both just sniffed the area but then Blue came up to me and was blocking India from getting to me and India panicked and barked and snapped at him.
As much as I wished it hadn’t happened because India usually warms up to dogs well if their first few interactions go smoothly, Blue’s reaction convinced me that he was the right dog. His first instinct was to back away and give her space. Since India doesn’t pursue dogs (she just wants them to get away from her) it deescalated quickly. The whole thing last about three seconds.
At home, I kept India and Blue separated in different rooms when I wasn’t there and by an ex pen when I was there. At first, I kept a sheet over the ex pen so they couldn’t see each other. I would periodically pull it back a little while giving each of them treats. After pulling back a little more and a little more, the next step was to remove the sheet completely for short periods of time and then for good. I had them lie down closer and closer together, all while giving them both treats.
Then, I had them in the same space for short periods of time. I tossed treats in opposite directions to keep them apart but dropped one by mistake which both dogs went for. Since India’s biggest trigger is dogs coming toward her, she freaked a little but just as he did in the shelter, Blue backed off and nothing else happened. After that, I had them lie on their beds in the same space and gradually moved them closer together. During this time, India started to be more interested in Blue and I reinforced any interactions between them through the ex pen.
Throughout this time, I walked them separately. There are a lot of things in the environment that can make India react and I was concerned that she could either redirect on Blue or that his reaction could cause her reaction to intensify. Fortunately, their walks went well and I began to have them spend more supervised time together.
The whole process took about two months. I was probably more conservative than I needed to be but since there was no reason to rush, I didn’t. I wouldn’t say they are buddies but they co-exist without any problems which is about all I could have hoped for so I consider adopting Blue a success.