Monday, March 17, 2008

Two's Company....

We're pleased to report that we've acquired our second dog, and that, touch wood, it's going well so far.

Even when we got Ellie, we were thinking about getting a second dog, but we were advised against it then, as it was important for Ellie to be able to focus upon us, and not the other dog.

We needed a second dog to have quite specific qualities. Obviously, first and foremost, it had to get on with Ellie, as there is no way on God's earth that we would sacrifice her happiness or safety. It had to get on with other dogs and with people, as there are many other dogs in our area. It had to be a confident dog that could lead Ellie "by example". It had to in our quite small set of preferred breeds. This all called for a more mature dog, as opposed to a young pup. We felt that Ellie would have perhaps taught a young pup her own quite nervous responses. It didn't have to have perfect manners as we enjoy our training.

After quite some searching, we narrowed it down to another Border Collie and a German Shepherd. After some consultation, we learned that the Border Collie was a prolific fence jumper. As we have dogs either side of us, we felt this was perhaps too much of an issue. That was a shame, as he was an incredibly looking dog, and just full of bounce.

The GSD however, seemed worthy of closer investigation. A great many emails were fired between us and the current owner, and we all felt that it was worth seeing how the two dogs got on. A meeting was set for Monday 17th. We had agreed that if the two dogs didn't take to each other, then the GSD would be going back home with the current owner. If they did, then we would give it a shot. Luckily, neither they nor we, were in a desperate hurry to move things forward. The dog had to come first in both cases.

I had told the owner in advance that I would be performing tests on the GSD to make sure he was as she claimed he was, and she was perfectly fine with that. I felt awful doubting her word (she had assured me that he's really just a big soft giant) but when you go through a private rehoming, as opposed to through a rescue-centre, you have to take the extra time and effort to get to know the dog, as indeed the rescue-centre workers do. It is swings and roundabouts as to whether it's best to go through a rescue-centre, or whether to get a dog before it goes into the rescue-centre. Some dogs can be ruined by a stay in a shelter, whereas, obviously, for some dogs, it can be the making of a great new life. In the GSDs case, the owner had him from a puppy, and so it would have been a shame to subject him to a shelter, where he might have developed traits as a result of that.

After the owner of the GSD had taken a three hour or so trip to get to us, we met in the local playing field. I figured that would be best as if they didn't get on there, there was no way they would get on in the confine of our home. They did get along in the field, and off-leash too. This also gave me good opportunity to test the GSD to evaluate what we were getting. His recall wasn't great, for example, but I managed to rub him all over his body without any adverse reaction. I also got to test his training levels. They're not great, but we neither asked for, nor expected perfection.

Once we had finished in the park, we loaded the dogs into our respective cars and pulled up outside the home. If there was going to be a flashpoint, I expected it to be in our hallway, as it's quite narrow and long, and so the dogs would have little room to escape each other. We sent them through, and they were fine, other than almost knocking our telephone table over in excitement.

Once we settled, if any dog was the problem, it was Ellie. There was a lot of teeth showing when the GSD approached, and she nipped him a couple of times. The GSD just moved out the way and went about his business.

We then asked our neighbours to let their dogs out into their garden, as we wanted to verify that he didn't go dog-crazy if confined behind a boundary. Again, the GSD was fine, The neighbour even held his little dog over the fence. The GSD leant against the fence to investigate, but no more than that. He's an incredibly placid ol' boy. (He's four years of age and so he's seen enough of the world not to have to get worked up at the slightest things he sees.)

So, we all decided that it was worth leaving him with us. We're now really on a "probation period", I suppose. Jan and I have sort of agreed to give it until the end of April to let them settle in to one-another. If anything drastic happens before then, then we will call the previous owner and take it from there.

So far, things are going quite well. Of course, there have been a couple of flash-points, such as the first night of feeding, but I think if there was a score being kept, they've both evened out in terms of disciplining the other. They did both lay on the sofa together yesterday, briefly.

You might wonder why I'm referring to the GSD as, well, "the GSD". It's because, as I wrote above, we're giving it until the end of April to confirm that he's suitable for us to keep. If we do, then we will almost certainly change his name. Given his lack of training he will have learned to ignore that name in terms of training, and so we will rename him, and let him start with a clean slate. This isn't written in stone yet, but it's highly likely.

It hasn't really affected Ellie that much. She obviously walks around him with caution, but then it's only been two days. She still cuddles in with us on the sofa at night, she still has the bed with us, and so, for the most part, nothing much has changed.


snoutbeagle said...

Wonderful news! Congratulations!

There are some ups and downs to the two-dog adjustment period for sure (I think there was even more for me than for my husband or either of our pups!) but once things settle it's so much fun being a family of four and you can't imagine it any other way.

Best of luck and have lots of fun ... and stay patient. It all smooths out in the end!


Xsara ... said...

I really hope this will work out for all of you and and for the GSD. However I was wondering, why did the previous owner decide to give him away? Were there any problems with him or just for personal reasons? Anyway, I hope the GSD will find a family to love, I think you will get so attached to him by the end of April that giving him away won't even be an option. Ellie should get used to it, if the dog is behaving nicely and everything is really the same for her. But it's a good idea to give it a try before making such a big decision.

Happy Holidays to all of you!