I wrote a long email to Shiba-L tonight about Secret and then realized “duh, blog post” so here ya go (edited a bit to make more sense to the blog audience)!
Secret (6 years old) came to live with us seven weeks ago. She lived in a backyard in the country most of her life. The city has been a BIG change for her. My daughter and I have a pretty tight schedule, so the best we could do was throw Secret into the mix and hope she could adjust. She’s been dealing with a lot of new sights and sounds and rules and, well, EVERYTHING. On top of all this, she had no training when she arrived. She was housebroken (pretty much anyway) and walks really nicely on a leash (except for balking at crossing busy intersections), but she didn’t have any basic obedience – not even sit or wait.
At first, she wouldn’t take treats. She would sniff at them and turn away. She finally realized – watching Snick devour treats and bits of food – that we were trying to hand her good stuff. Then she turned into a PIG. We couldn’t get her to stop trying to grab everything we had, whether it was meant for her or not. I started reminding ~T~ every night that she needed to get serious about teaching Secret some manners and self-control.
After a couple weeks of just bonding and loving, she started training Secret. Every night she would wrestle Secret into a sit (we couldn’t guide her into a sit with a treat or even nudge her butt down – she would squiggle all over the place trying to figure out what was going on) and gleefully exclaim "Sit Secret! Good girl!" after she managed to hold her in a pseudo-sit position. Finally, after about two weeks of that, the light bulb went off and Secret SAT. Now she sits like nobody’s business! You tell her sit, she sits. You have anything yummy, she sits. You call her name, she runs over and sits. She sits so earnestly that her little butt goes BANG on the floor. During the same time she was finally learning to sit, she stopped peeing in my room. (Five times in the first four weeks, she walked into my room and purposefully peed. Usually when I was loving on Snickers.)
Secret has really bonded with my daughter and follows her everywhere. They are the cutest pair. My daughter does all the training with her and walking her (except first thing weekday mornings). At first, I didn’t do anything extra with Secret because I didn’t want to interfere with their bonding, but now I’m spending more time with her also. She and Snick get along great. They don’t play much, but they kiss each other and sleep side by side and that sort of thing. They eat well together. They walk well together. She’s started going out with Snick and the dog walker even. (I didn’t let him take her for the first month because she was so skittish and unpredictable outdoors.) And, now that Secret is here, Snick isn’t lonely when I’m out, which is the BIG plus in my mind.
She’s been very skittish with new people but she’s making leaps and bounds in that area also and has even shown some affection towards another dog owner that she sees each morning at the dog run. Her personality is starting to emerge now that she’s been with us almost two months and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it. She’s started inviting us to play chase with her if we’re at the run and there aren’t any other dogs there besides her and Snick. She gets playful with us and with Snick at home some now too.
Her personality is decidedly different from Snick’s. He is so confident and self-assured. Nothing shakes him. He’s a serious dog and very standoffish with most dogs and people, but OH SO playful with the dogs and people he deems worthy. Secret seems shy and insecure, but she has a sweet and charming personality when you get to know her. She leans into Snick when they walk side-by-side. He provides the assurance she needs to deal with new situations.
Anyway, I’m babbling now. That’s the history. Here’s the issue… We have one problem with her that I’m not completely sure how to handle. She bit someone in my apartment a couple weeks ago. He’d been around her a couple times already – once just a couple days after Secret moved in and once the night before the she bit him. The night before, he was here for about 2 hours and Secret was following him and watching him intently the whole time he was here. We’ve had a number of other people over also. Delivery people, a friend from work, the dog walker, etc. She’s always very observant, but she never showed any signs of fear or aggression. The night she bit my friend was the same. She was watchful, but seemed comfortable. However, at one point we started laughing and acting ridiculous and Secret jumped up and dodged in and out and BIT him on the leg! ~T~ took her to the side and held her till she calmed down and we attributed it to our sudden weird behavior and her being new and unsure of what was happening. BUT then, about 15 minutes later, as he was getting ready to leave, she pulled away from T, ran across the apartment, and chomped him on the back of the leg! She bit him hard enough – through relatively heavy pants – to draw blood.
I thought about it a lot and decided that she must have been disconcerted by him because the pack order dynamic in the apartment changes when he comes over. He and I have known each other for years and he’s like family. When T and I went to get Snickers, he was driving the car. Snick grew up with him and tends to defer to him as leader (instead of me) when he’s here. T adores him too and I think we all treat him differently than the average visitor. Maybe she was completely freaked out by the shift in pack order and her solution was to try to chase him away? That was my original assessment. I spoke with a dog behaviorist (is there such a thing? a canine behavior expert, maybe?) a few days later and she suggested that now that Secret is feeling like she actually belongs here, she might be planning to assert herself and move up in the pack and she saw him as a threat. Someone also suggested that it could mean Secret is very happy here and she was worried something might change because he was here.
A few days after this incident, there was a photographer here for 4 1/2 hours. She had all sorts of (odd to a dog) equipment and we moved furniture around and did (strange to a dog) things. Secret tolerated most of it really well, but there were a few times when T and I were worried that she was getting over-anxious. We watched her very carefully and distracted and/or restrained her when we thought she needed some calming time.
I’ve asked my friend who was bitten to come by when he can spend some time with Secret and hand feed her and get to know her. I need to see how she reacts to him when he’s actually paying attention to her. The thing is though, I’m not sure if the problem is just about him or if it might be a problem with other visitors going forward. I’m not sure how to find out though without putting other people’s calves at risk! I’m certainly not going to stop having people over because of this, so I need to figure it out.
Now that I’ve written all this and I’ve thought about how much she’s adjusted since she came to live with us, I feel better about it. Hopefully, as she becomes more comfortable with us, we’ll have less to worry about. She’s such a darling little girl most of the time.
If anyone has any thoughts, input, things to look for, advice or otherwise, I’d be happy to hear it.