Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Puppy has Arrived

Padawan and I have welcomed the newest member to our family: our very own little Boston Terrier, Penny.

I'd like to say it's been a graceful transition. We are in day two, and Choo Choo is no warmer now than she was yesterday. In fact, when Choo Choo is on the couch with us and Penny gets pulled up, she will face her head the other direction and refuse to acknowledge her presence.

Worse, Choo Choo has displayed remarkably aggressive behaviors that she's never showcased before. The main concern? Penny wandered into the bathroom, which is where we've always kept Choo Choo's food and water. Unlike most dogs, Choo Choo has never scarfed her food and nibbles daintily throughout the day, so her bowl is never empty. She's never shown any signs of guarding before: I can literally stick my hand in her bowl and pull it away and she will just let it go. But the second Penny stepped into the bathroom, my Choo Choo lunged for her bowl, laid in front of it, and snarled.

It was not a cute snarl, like when she plays with Padawan and tugs at her toys.

This was a viscous, my hackles are up, stay the hell away from my stuff snarl. It made the fine hairs on my arm and at the nape of my neck stand on end. I've never encountered this behavior before, so I just picked her up and told her no, then scooted her out of the bathroom.

Later, Penny happened to toddle by Choo Choo when she was chewing on a rawhide dental bone. Not interested in the bone or Choo Choo, she just strolled by. Choo Choo dropped the rawhide and snarled again. This time when I reached for her to correct the behavior with a firm "no", Choo Choo snapped at me.

The behavior only extends to Penny. At the dog park, Choo Choo is as social as ever. Today we even ventured into the large dog enclosure where she promptly made friends with two huskies, a shitz tsu that lived with the huskies, and some type of huge fluffy white dog that looked like a cloud. Kira Dog, of course, was there, keeping Choo Choo from escaping into small openings in the fence she could squeeze through. For all that Kira is poorly trained, she's a smart dog and I adore her. (Despite the wolf scratches she left on my arm last year that are still scarred into my wrist.)

From small dogs to huge dogs, my Choo Choo is warm, welcoming, and absolutely fearless. (As long as she's not on a leash: when meeting other dogs while on the leash Choo Choo is anxious and tends to growl or bark.) We suppose the problem she nurses against Penny is because this puppy is in her home, on her furniture, playing with her people.

We tried to ease Choo Choo into the whole thing. We took her to Dallas to pick up the puppy, let them gamble about with the rest of litter together to get acquainted. We let them lay next to each other on furniture that was no ours. The trouble didn't actually start until we got into the car, which is Choo Choo's territory, an extension of our home.

Sometimes, when Penny is asleep or looking the other direction, Choo Choo shows interest and will sniff and wag her tail at the puppy. That goes well until Penny tries to kiss her face. Choo Choo is incapable of allowing any dog get in her face: her reaction is always to growl, and if pressed, to snap. She does not bite, though. That is important. She doesn't aim to hurt: only to send the offender away. That's better than a dog that does bite.

Padawan and I are unsure how to move forward. We don't want Choo Choo to ignore the puppy: the idea is for them to be companions who live and play together. We are avoiding punishment. When Choo Choo reacts badly, we say "no", and when she does something good we reward the preferred behavior immediately with love, affection, and treats. However, I really think that this new behavior is something we're going to have to have worked out with a trainer.

In the meantime, Penny is a rolling, wiggly ball of energy and we're very pleased to report she got a perfect bill of health from the vet, and we're already socializing her with as many people and known and safe dogs as possible. 

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