As the sun dips towards the horizon, I pick up my grooming basket. It's time to migrate outside, to the grassy, cool lawn and the shade of the "White stinkwood" tree. There we'll settle down and enjoy some time together.
I brush each dog in turn:-
starting with 12-year-old Tammy, then Toby (my 2-year-old teenager) and then
my new little sunbeam - Lexi.
Three dogs, three very different generations and three very different needs!
As if is on cue, all three dogs follow me out of the house, onto the patio and onto the grass. Tammy and Toby have fully accepted Lexi into their ranks. In Toby's case, his attraction was instant, but Tammy, in her usual matriarchal way, preferred to ignore the newcomer for the first few days and stayed well clear of the action - always at least 5m from the two younger dogs.
Slowly, over the past 24 hours she's moved closer and I was delighted when I came across her and Lexi lying quietly together too. I am really pleased about this. You see, Tammy is elderly now and battles with arthritis. (except when she is playing with Toby in the lawn) Sometimes it's even difficult for her to get up off the ground, so I can understand her reluctance to instantly embrace little Lexi.
However, in the cool of the afternoon and in the mood of bonding, Tammy thaws. In the following video, you will see Toby being the main instigator of the play. Lexi plays constantly, but needs to be encouraged into communal play. You will notice how Toby tries to bring Lexi and Tammy into closer proximity. Also, If you watch very carefully, you will see how Tammy subtly controls matters from a distance.
(Notice her 'shake' at "1 minute,12 seconds" - a clear directive for Toby to lower the level of play.... )
In my years of observing my own Golden Retrievers, it's amazing how quickly I pick up on the nuances. This particular growing bond is one of the most beautiful I've seen.
Certainly, if you know your dogs well, training for the home environment becomes a lot easier. I have treats (for all three of them) with me constantly - rewarding each specific behaviour I want. For example, when Toby sits quietly, when Tammy moves closer, when Lexi lays down in her crate, or comes running when I call, it's time to lavish them with praise. The more rewards I give, the more my dogs want to do what pleases me.
Thankfully, the training that Tammy and Toby have received over the years has allowed me a foundation for manipulating (at the moment) some of the bonds between the three, and teaching the older two how I want them to behave around the new pup.
Meal times get tricky, because I have to honour the hierachy - Tammy first, Toby second and only then little Lexi. With each presentation of the individual food bowls, each dog has to do something for me. In the adult dogs' case, they have to sit first and sometimes offer a paw or do another command for their food. You can just imagine the impatience of the 8-week-old little newcomer as she watches all this... she jumps and barks her confusion. The temptation to move towards the older dogs' food bowls is very high indeed.
During the first few feeds she continued to bark in frustration. She still barks, but we've had a major breakthrough...Lexi now 'sits', ever so sweetly, before I put her bowl on the floor. It's been a case of waiting patiently for her to calm down, sit and look at me first. She's cottoned on fast. Admittedly, it was hard for both her and me in the beginning (I felt sorry for her and was tempted to give in) but I resisted my own temptation and performed the sequence to plan.
Feeding times are now a breeze...
I have three contented dogs although it's wise to remain vigilant.
I am sure there'll be hiccups at some stage in the future, but for the moment, the bond between my intrepid trio is forming and solidifying. I can't be happier!
I hope you enjoyed the video.