Friday, February 23, 2024

Making New Friends

 Making New Friends: Relationship Building with Azul, My Little Boy Blue & Adora "Belle" Chaos

A common mis-conception is that dogs, being social individuals, should simple love everyone; human, canine and other pet species. But just like humans, dogs are individuals with unique personalities and simply don't enjoy the company of all other personality types. I'm a person that can find something in common with nearly every person on the planet. My husband, on the other hand, has a small tribe of family and friends that he interacts with and prefers to ignore most other humans on the planet. Our dogs are individuals that should be able to have some choice in the matter of who they interact with and how they choose to interact with other individuals. I'm going to skip discussing the topic of dog vs dog reactive behaviors for this blog as that it a whole series on it's on. For this blog, I'm going to focus on how to introduce a new puppy to the family and let relationships develop with time based on the individuals involved. Here are a few key points:
  • In order for individuals to develop any relationship, they have to first feel safe in the environment where the relationship building will take place.
  • Relationships don't follow a specific timeline or training planning, each relationship develops at it's one speed and can only become strong if all parties are given the time they need to develop trust.
  • No relationship is perfect 100% of the time and is subject to change based on each individual's mood, health, and feeling of secure attachment.
  • No two relationships are identical to a different set of relationships. Comparing relationships or having an expectation that the same type of relationship will be had with a new individual is unrealistic.
In case you don't want to read the whole blog and just want the fun stuff!  Check out this edition of Azul TV where you can watch Azul and Belle building a relationship and watch how they play changes over time.

In order for individuals to develop any relationship, they have to first feel safe in the environment where the relationship building will take place.

Azul has lots of experience dealing with puppies, some of which barked alot, were extra bitey, didn't communicate very well, etc. While he's not fearful of puppies in general, I would say he has a hard time trusting a puppy to follow the household rules. There is good reason for this!  Puppies rarely come into a new house already knowing the rules!

When Belle first came to live with us, she was super tiny despite being 8 wks old. Azul didn't trust her and was also afraid that he'd be in trouble if he hurt her. In the past year, Azul has had a few encounters with obnoxious adolescents that didn't listen to subtle communication and didn't know when it was time to back off and give space. And even though Azul never hurt these adolescents, he learned that I disliked his behavior when he told them it was time to back off with stronger body language. The first few weeks Azul was afraid to get close to Belle.

Management should always be in place when you bring a new puppy home! What that management looks like will depend on the layout of your house and the individuals involved. 

We typically convert our laundry room into a puppy paradise where the other household dogs can watch but not interact with the puppy. However our laundry room is the coldest room of the house and Belle was not a fan of cold temps. Her crate got set up in the living room the first day. 

We soon learned that Azul was also afraid to be in the living room with Belle's crate set up in the corner by the main door in/out of the room. I also had a large crate and playpen set up in the office at work to keep Azul and Belle separated as needed. I ended up changing the set up at work, making the playpen there smaller and taking a portion of the playpen home. That allowed me to move the crate out of the main living room into a side room near my recliner and section off a fairly large part of the room for crate and playpen together. This made Azul feel safe and allowed Belle to spend her time near the family.  I could trade places spending time with Azul and still be within eyesight of Belle and vice versa.

As their relationship developed the management tools slowly disappeared as both dogs could feel safe around the other dog.

Training was a big part in helping Azul and Belle feel safe together!

While the management took place they took turns doing simple behaviors and getting treats with a barrier between them. They also had short sessions of supervised play in the big training room where Belle felt safe standing on the trampoline which put her up higher. We used the training room at work to begin training together without barriers. You can see what some of that training looked like in this video: Taking Turns with Azul & Belle

Relationships don't follow a specific timeline or training planning, each relationship develops at it's one speed and can only become strong if all parties are given the time they need to develop trust.

In the early days, Azul acted as though he were afraid he would accidently hurt Belle. While he felt safe with her behind a barrier, he didn't really want to touch or be touched by Belle. Azul loves playing with his best buddy Maverick so we had Mav over for a destressing play session where Shanna could snuggle Belle while I played with the boys. Once they had their fun, Maverick got a chance to meet Belle. Mav and Belle took an instant liking to each other had a few mini play sessions that Azul was able to watch. 

In the car, Belle rode in a crate to prevent her from invading Azul's space while I was driving. During a rode trip with another human driving, I was able to sit in the backseat with both dogs and help Belle learn to lay near Azul without invading his space. This built additional trust in their relationship. On that trip, Azul was able to watch Belle playing with my son's dog Finn who happens to be one of the adolescent dogs that invaded Azul's pace prior. Management prevented Azul and Finn from having issues during the holiday trip and Belle was able to spend time with both dogs. Once we came home from that trip, Azul starting trying to play with Belle more and more. On that trip I injured my back and spent a few weeks recovering with nothing but short potty outings and no leaving the house which lead to bored dogs that needed to an outlet. That is really where their relationship started to develop! Azul showed Belle that he was able to get low and play at her comfort level and Belle showed Azul that she would listen to his subtle communication and give space when he asked for it. Much of the Azul TV episode above involves their play sessions during this time of my healing.

No relationship is perfect 100% of the time and is subject to change based on each individual's mood, health, and feeling of secure attachment.

For at least a full month if not slightly longer, Azul and Belle were never left alone without barriers in place. Not only did it help Belle with potty training, but it ensured that negative feelings wouldn't develop when a human wasn't there to help if either one of the dogs began feeling unsafe. Slowly over time they started staying alone for short trips such as a bathroom run for me while they were napping in the same room or while I cooked food and could watch them from the kitchen.

Azul had a health issue that made him not want to play as much while he didn't feel good. Thankfully by that time, Belle had learned Azul's subtle signals for giving space and was glad to provide him space when he needed it. This too, helped to increase their trust in each other. I knew Azul really didn't feel well when he was only playing with Mav for short spells and then would back off and watch Belle and Mav play. Azul received the medical help he needed and started to feel better without any negative interactions stressing their relationship.  I'm thankful for that!  But it could have easily gone the other way if Belle didn't respect the boundaries Azul taught her gently.

Now after 2 months, I feel that Azul and Belle have a secure attachment to each other.  They are able to be together, enjoy being together and doing fun things together. They trust each other to communicate clearly with me and with each other.

No two relationships are identical to a different set of relationships. Comparing relationships or having an expectation that the same type of relationship will be had with a new individual is unrealistic.

I'm going to use Azul mostly as a frame of reference for this point as he has longer standing relationships then Belle does at her young age.  Azul and Belle have pretty unique relationship going. They are comfortable together, but also very comfortable doing things without each other. Frequently they get separate walks and outings with me. We free feed, so there are always 2 bowls out with kibble available and they both eat out of both bowls just not at the same time. Azul has meds right now that get delivered in a bowl with special treats and that is done in the bedroom or outside where Belle doesn't have access.  Azul has always loved to eat out on the porch so he's loving those special treats. I still supervise bone time when it comes to their special bones or treats, but both are great at staying on their blanket while the treat is enjoyed and waiting to be released when everyone is done. They have a few non-special bone treats and food balls that are always available and both enjoy as they please.  That's pretty uncommon for dogs to be that comfortable sharing resources.

As I said early, Maverick is Azul's best friend and has been since they were young.  Their relationship is filled with high energy games with lots of running and limited resources because the arousal level runs so high in these moments. Another friend of Azul's is Betsy Ross.  While Betsy and Azul enjoy some high energy games, they are also totally comfortable relaxing together and just hanging out. The relationship between Azul and Maverick has a much higher arousal level then the relationship between Azul and Betsy.

Taking a look at Azul and Cam (our previous dog), their relationship was very different as well. While they could easily function around each other, they both had different loves. Cam loved to play ball and sniff on our property, but loved simply being near me more. Azul doesn't care for ball at all and prefers tug, while sniffing our property is cool, he really loves exploring a wide variety of environments. They could easily live together, but they didn't have much in common with each other.

When Roz came to stay, it was clear to see that they both loved backyard zoomies, chewing on sticks, and WrestleMania. Azul and Roz definitely shared a typical brother/sister relationship. Azul loved to tattle on Roz when she was about to countersurf or chew on something she wasn't supposed to. That's something Azul has never done with anyone else.

The point is none of these relationships are exactly the same as any of the other. Yet for some reason, as humans we tend to expect a new dog in the home to step right in and fill the void from previous dogs we've had in our life. That is a very unrealistic expectation.

That's why it's so important to me that Azul and Belle figure out their relationship. Of course they need guidance and help sometimes. Just like humans, dogs can have squabbles or disagreements, it's our job to give them the skills to understand each other and communicate their needs.

A good example of this is when Belle gets excited because Azul just entered the room, she will launch at his face. She is basically asking Azul to play. If Azul agrees to play he blocks her launch with a bow and WrestleMania begins. If Azul doesn't want to play, he simply steps away and turns his head away from Belle deflecting the launch. At this point, Belle respects his decision and will back off, finding something or someone else to play with. For the most part, I want them to work it out. But I also want to be there to support them, preventing any major disagreements that might happen, especially as Belle goes through adolescence.

If you haven't watched it yet, scroll back up to watch the Azul TV video above to see how their relationship grew over their first 6 wks together.

And reach out to me if you need help setting up your household to help your dog or dogs learn how to develop a healthy relationship.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Yooper Paws Nosework Club

Yooper Paws Nosework Club!
This is a group dedicated to Canine Scent Detection Enthusiasts. Members of the group can attend practice sessions with other teams to enhance skills and grow as a human/dog scent detection team. The Yooper Paws Nosework Club is open to all nosework disciplines and skill levels. We will focus mainly on searching for scents, objects, and people, perhaps adding in searching for other dogs when available.

Joining the Club
Once the Intro Workshop or Searching for Scents Class has been completed, you'll receive an invite to join the FB Group: Yooper Paws Nosework Club. This is where practice sessions will be coordinated. Practice Sessions will cost $10 per session or $40 per month. There will be at least 1-2 sessions per week except for holidays, vacations or extreme weather.

We use a traffic light theory system for the Yooper Paws Nosework Club allowing all dogs regardless of their reactions to people or other dogs to participate. All activities can be tailored to your team's needs.

Intro to Nosework: 

The Intro to Nosework Workshop is now available online for you to work through at your own pace. 

Intro to Searching for Scents:
In this class, you will learn the basic foundations for teaching your dog how to search for a specific scent. We will focus on the basic starter scent of Birch to teach your dog about scent value, creating a find indicator, and develop teamwork skills. Then you can decide if you want to pursue competitive nosework, service dog medical alerts or keep it as a fun enrichment activity for you and your dog. This class format is designed to help you get lots of practice developing firm foundations for any type of nosework you want to do.
The cost is $125 which can be paid via PayPal, Venmo or Cash before the first class.

To register for the Searching for Scents Class and/or join the Yooper Paws Nosework Club, please fill out this form.

Thank You for registering, you will receive an email within 48 hrs confirming your registration. 
If you have any questions, please email us at

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