LGDs1 Poor Moses, I imagine if you could ask him, he’d say yesterday was the worst day of his life. He continued to be very distressed in his first 24 hours, and barked almost continuously all night. :-{ He stayed by the gate, drooling and foaming at the mouth; and wore a path pacing, as if even though he is now in a six-acre pasture, he’s imprisoned in a 6×8 kennel of his own mind’s making.

It’s at these moments you think, hmm, maybe this isn’t going to work. Kirk was frustrated last night for a while, the constant distressed barking wearing on his nerves. But we reflected on how terrified Bronte was during her integration, how much barking she did at first, and how she has adapted and become a happy dog. Later Kirk said, maybe he just needs a few days and he’ll settle in. Phew. I’m hoping so.

Of course you feel bad putting a dog through this. But Moses has limited options for his future. His breeder reported that he never enjoyed being a show dog, being on the road always stressed him. He was uncomfortable with dogs edging up next to his space in a crate and frequently had conflict with other intact males. With the small and shifting allocations of personal space that show dogs must inevitably accept, his life was unavoidably stressful for him. But now, if he can get through this next difficult period of days, they may be his last bad days. His quality of life here holds a lot of promise for what he needs most: space, structure, consistency, and calm. My only lament is that I can’t explain that to him!

Part of Moses’ reluctance to explore was because Bronte switched from being curious to indifferent to inhospitable as the day wore on. She guarded her food dish and treats I was handing to both of them (and normally she doesn’t eat hand-fed treats!). Then she became possessive of my attention, and finally chased him away when he approached the sheep’s enclosure. He gave in each time, with her in hot pursuit; forcing him back to his little corner of the pasture as she asserted her ownership of the place. LGDs3

A couple of times I thought I heard them fighting, and rushed outside, only to see them ten feet apart, just grumbling at each other vocally. It occurred to me this is maybe a bit like integrating grizzly bears. 😀 Guardian dogs are different. They have a loving side and a playful side like all dogs, but they also have a very edgy side. Especially when they are pushed or stressed, they are quick to resort to violence to communicate displeasure and settle disputes. There is an unpreventable reality that they are probably going to have a couple of fights as they work out their relationship. When working between them, I have been mindful of the risk of getting hurt should they get “into it” before I can get out of the way! With small, shy dogs, I might be tempted to loll around on the floor with them to make them comfortable. But I have an instinct to stay on my feet and in an agile stance when these two are close together! 😉

So today I focused on eliciting from Bronte the friendly and casual behavior I want out of her, and which she usually displays. I spent time with the two of them, playing with her, requiring her to lay on her back and be rubbed while letting Moses sniff her. And letting him just be in the presence of her while she was being silly, without too much pressure. He warmed up to this and relaxed a little. I saw him give more responsiveness to both of us, showing a little tail wagging and interest. And then I saw him lift his head to smell the breeze. Good. He’s gone from panicked to present, at least.

I decided to leave it at that for today, and walked off with Bronte following me. And then I noticed Moses following us, cautiously, tentatively, quite far behind. So, I held Bronte’s collar to ensure she wouldn’t chase him again, encouraged him along, and we went on a little walk, together (sort of) up and down the pasture. This was a very big step in the right direction- the two of them experiencing companionship, no matter how subtle. And Moses beginning to be curious about his surroundings, being observant, for the first time. That shift in attitude from I wish to be teleported out of here –to– where am I and what is this place? is an important one, it is a signal of acceptance, and coping.

LGDs2Once we’d walked for a while and I could see him tiring, I casually walked him back towards his corner, to make sure Bronte wouldn’t have opportunity to chase him back there. And halfway there, I let go of her collar. She drifted ahead, and the two of them walked side by side for a ways. Nice.

Later when I was doing chores, he tried to approach and Bronte had a chance to chase him again. <sigh> But it was more half-hearted this time, and when he scuttled back to his corner, she let him be. So I repeated the whole let’s-walk-together exercise again, and things were fine. So I’m hoping that the desire for companionship inside of both of them will eventually win out over this initial drama! 

I’ll try to get some better pictures of them soon. Today all I had was my cell phone.