Monday, December 12, 2022

Christmas Puppy Playdates

While Christmas is NOT the time to add a new puppy to your house, many people will anyways. Many others will be visiting with family and friends for the holidays and introducing dogs.

How that first introduction goes often depends on the ages and preferences of the dogs that you will be introducing. Your introductions might be smooth and easy if you're introducing 2 older, more relaxed dogs that love to make new friends then go do their own thing. However your introduction might be a lot harder when you have a hyper puppy and an older dog so the energy levels, training levels, and personal space boundaries are drastically different. Here are a few tips that can help you have a Calm Christmas when introducing new dogs.

  • Introduce on neutral territory, outside if possible because it allows for more space. Meeting at a local park or walking trail can make a huge difference. This helps to prevent one dog from feeling like they need to protect their space.
  • Go for a walk together where you can start further apart, on opposite sides of the street or field. This allows the dogs to take turns looking and observing the other dog without rushing them to meet face-to-face. Slowly close the gap, getting dogs closer and closer as their comfort level allows.
  • Plan ahead and do the first introductions before the holiday activities begin! When festivities start, you'll likely be busy with family and friends. While you still want to supervise dogs at this time, you won't want to deal with introductions. Plan a day or two before the festivities where you can focus on your dogs getting to know each other so things will go much more smoothly the day of activities.
  • Provide a safe space for both dogs to go separately for a place to chill. If you use a crate at home, take it with you. A blanket or mat in a corner can be helpful. Having a totally private room where a door can be closed for short periods of alone time to allow dog naps is awesome.
  • Use gates and barriers as management tools to create safe spaces. It's very important to dogs in separate areas where dogs can observe each other safely when you can not supervise them properly. It might make it more challenging for the humans to move back and forth, but it's so worth it. This is especially important during meal times as a single scrap of food that drops on the floor can easily cause a fight.
Our dynamic for this holiday will be spending a very quiet Christmas at home. Then a few days later we will be in Illinois where we will have puppy Finnegan who now lives there plus my boys, Azul & Cam.  Finnegan and Azul have been learning to work together on multiple occasions before this time.  Cam on the other hand doesn't travel the best or greet new dogs the best. Yet we don't really have an option to leave him anywhere and he has visited the farm before and knows all the people who will be there. Our plan is to keep Finnegan and Cam in completely separate rooms of the house at all times with barriers in place. Finn already settles in an upstairs crate for naps so Cam will roam the house when Finn is napping and then stay in the comfy office located right off the kitchen when Finn is out in the house. Plus we have a large outside farm that the dogs can take turns going outside for decompression sniffing and alone time. Since Azul is comfortable around both Finn and Cam, he will be able to go back and forth with both dogs depending on where he is most comfortable. It might be a bit of extra work managing all 3 dogs during holiday activities, but the early planning will make it so much better.

This is how an older dog teaches a young puppy how to play!

Azul is 2.5 (black) and Finnegan is 6 months old. Azul has played with tons of dogs of all sizes. Slow introductions in a secure area outside for off leash running to help them develop a secure relationship of trusting each other & several days of co-habitating helped them to be ready for this play session.


Watch how both dogs have a turn with heads on top, mouthing the other dog. Azul could easily be on top all the time, but he moves under to give Finn a chance to play attack. Whether Azul understands the importance of this or not, this action helps give Finn confidence around Azul.

Not all older dogs will play with puppies like this. Sometimes Azul would rather nap. And that's OK. Play is best when both dogs want to play!

Back up to Day 1

Azul was off leash inside the fence checking out all his favorite farm animals when Finnegan was brought out to the gate which provided a safe place for the dogs to sniff each other. Finnegan's owner is my son who knows how I train and introduce dogs. Issac has also been around Azul since the day I brought him home and was Azul's babysitter as a pup so they are very comfortable interacting with each other. Once initial greetings were done and Azul returned to saying hi to his farm friends, Finn was allowed into the secured area. Both dogs remained off leash with freedom to engage or disengage from the other dog and both Issac and I remained vigilant to watch for even the slightest hint that either dog was not enjoying their time in the environment. Both humans took opportunities to recall and engage with both dogs independently and together.

After about an hour of running the barnyard, the barn and other off leash areas, we headed into the house so the dogs could learn to share that space as well.  Azul was excited to see everyone, but then wanted to slow down for a nap. Finn of course was filled with puppy energy. So we positioned Azul on the corner of the couch where I could play with grandkids and still keep Finn from invading Azul's space. I'm not sure Azul got a good nap, but he did several short naps. And eventually Finn went to nap in his crate. 

** Calm Christmas Tip: It's extra important when you're visiting someone else's house, that all dogs have safe places to rest where other people and dogs will not invade their space! 

For more information about introducing dogs slowly using the FAD (Focus Around Distractions) Method, check out my post with Azul and Miss Willow.


Check out this 12 Dog Days of Christmas Post from our Fun Photo Challenge.




 

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