WHEN BETTE MET DAVIS


Davis is a unique little puppy. Not only was he brought into his home during unusual times, but his house mate needed a very particular sort of puppy. Davis’s early life has taken place with a backdrop of Covid-19 lockdown measures in the UK, which has meant that raising him may not have gone as expected. As well as that, his house mate has significant issues with other dogs. She has always been anxious and used to rely heavily on her soul-mate, Oscar, for confidence.


Sadly, he died over a year ago and Bette had struggled ever since. She felt uneasy around other dogs and could only tolerate a few, if they were carefully introduced. She missed Oscar and her mums realised that she needed another dog in her life. They felt that she would only be able to adapt to a puppy (rather than an older dog), and that the puppy would need to be very carefully integrated into Bette’s world so that she could cope with him.


That’s when they got in touch with us. They wanted support working with Bette because they knew they needed to help her feel more confident so that she would be ready to adjust to a new pup. They worked hard with her for a month to get her to a level where she was calmer and more relaxed in general. As a result, her sleep patterns improved, her attention-seeking reduced, barking out of the window became less of a spectator sport (!) and she became a lot more settled. The best updates we had of Bette were photographs of her asleep on the sofa – because that’s what she should have been spending most of her time doing at 9 years old.



FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT


Enter Davis. We needed to make sure that their first meeting was calm and stress-free for both of them, because first impressions count. If a first meeting goes well between dogs and puppies, they’re likely to be much more easy around each other from then on.


Since meeting us, Bette had learned the joy of the Sniff Trail. Sniff activities are one of our most useful tools when working with all dogs – once the nose is working, the brain is being calmed and soothed and the whole system is flooded with ‘feel good’ emotions. Bette had a daily Sniff Trail, which meant that we could use sniffing-out tiny scattered bits of food as a calming activity with both dogs. This would help them both feel at ease around each other. However, Bette also had a history of food-guarding with Oscar, so we needed to introduce the two of them without the sniff trail at first - instead, Davis was placed in his pen, which was a completely new environment for him. He was given a few moments to sniff and explore this new grassy world before Bette came into the garden.


Bette was brought into the garden slowly and given plenty of time to watch Davis sniffing around at a safe distance. She was on her harness and lead and was allowed to look at him as much as she wanted until she chose to approach him calmly. You can see from the video how successfully this first meeting went, which meant that they were soon able to be brought into their home together. There was some excitement and frustration on Davis's side, and some mild anxiety on Bette's side, but both of them were able to manage their emotions because the meeting was kept short and Bette's mums made her feel good for choosing to be calm and move away from the puppy if she felt uncomfortable. You can click on the video clip to see how well their first meeting went.





KEEPING IT ALL CALM

Once inside, Davis was introduced to his indoor pen, while Betty was given access to other things that she finds calming. She had chew toys around, was able to use a stuffed kong to soothe herself and could watch Davis at a safe distance. After both of them had a safe sniff of each other with the pen acting as a barrier between them, they settled down to sleep within minutes. This was exactly what we had hoped for – calm, happy hounds who felt comfortable with each other and were able to have safe space away from each other.


Within a very short time, dog and new puppy were contentedly sleeping in the room together. This was their first meeting and the rest of the following week went really well. You can follow their story in this blog over the next few weeks to see how to raise a puppy during lockdown, when Bette and Davis’s mums will be telling their story themselves so that you can see all their highs and lows.



HAPPY PUPPIES RAISED DURING LOCKDOWN

A lot of owners of new puppies are understandably worried about raising their puppies in this strange new world but they don’t need to be. In fact, if anything, we’ve only seen good things coming from this situation because puppies are now being raised in the way that we’ve been advising on our Puppy Programme for several years. Instead of flooding puppies with over-exposure to new things, people and dogs, our puppies are being gradually exposed to new things. It’s happening in ways that puppies can manage: slowly exploring their world at their own pace and getting used to their homes and gardens in their own time so that they’re completely confident before going out into the wide world.


We’ve always suggested starting small – getting puppies and kittens used to one or two rooms and small sections of the garden at a time means that they’re a lot calmer than the ones who get exposed to too much too soon. We advise it with new rescue dogs as well. Young animals and new rescue dogs are much more settled and have fewer issues as a result. And, although several months of confinement is longer than we would ideally want, the lack of social experiences at the moment can be catered for in other ways.


As long as you make sure that you’re compensating for the reduced physical contact with new people over the next few weeks, your puppies will be fine. Keep following this blog and our Facebook page to find out all the ways that you can help your new puppy become a calm, confident and well-socialised young dog.


If you would like support with a new puppy, from preparing your family to meeting them before they come home to getting through the first months calmly and happily, please email me on f.ember2@gmail.com for information about enrolling on our Puppy Programme. You can also find information here:


https://www.fernemberdogbehaviour.com/puppy-programme


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Fern Ember Dog Behaviour

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