On a sweaty, sun-shiney, famously hot Cola Monday, July 9th, 2018, Pawmetto Lifeline Medical Director Mike Kokernak drove Lio over to our house, Lio’s head undoubtedly pressed up against the car door window so as to give Mike a hint to roll it right on down. Cue, then, a heck of an ear-flopping, jowl-flapping time in the wind and a smooth highway ride to Lexington. This would be the beginning of the first day of Lio at our house for a 4-month foster period (set to end November 9th, by the way, unless he finds a forever home by then).
But with Lio coming into our home, we needed to make sure we handled the “multiple dog” situation correctly.
First things first. Lio and our dogs don’t have a “bond.” In fact, they aren’t all that crazy about each other. Ava and McClane are practically inseparable, but ’tis not the case for Ava and Lio, nor McClane and Lio—nooo way. However, Rebecca and I can provide some pretty clear insight on Lio’s preferences and needs when it comes to the commonly asked question of “what about other dogs in the home?”
Now, allow me to briefly introduce Ava and McClane, our pups, for the purpose of this post about a sort of “roommate-ship” we have among the two dog “parties” within our household. Meet 5-year-old German Shepherd/Chow boy, McClane, adequately named after Die Hard John McClane—hey, maybe he’d never had glass shards embedded deeply into his feet, but he’d definitely been through quite the troubles before finding peace through rescue: heartworm positive, shot in the foot, hit by a car, as thin as a rail, intestinal parasites, and ehrlichiosis (tick-borne infectious disease). John McClane enough. Today, McClane’s a belly-rub lovin’, Kong-slammin’, home alarm system with an affinity for “giving paw” to any person who has the pleasure of meeting him. He himself has come a long way with resource guarding his meals and high-value treats. McClane likes other dogs—particularly females, smaller dogs, and those who aren’t overly active.
Here’s Avalon “Ava,” 5 (or 6? Ish?), cattledoggy, staffy, husky, chowy lass (ehhhhh, let’s make this easier: “All-American Shelter Dog”). She’s unabashedly a mama’s girl, a wader of the water, and a snuggle session extraordinaire. We knew we had to have her in our lives and home forever after one sleepover, a special “PJ Party” night away from Pawmetto Lifeline. She and McClane hit it off in a heartbeat! Ava likes other dogs, but can play rough. She is remarkably good at reading other dogs’ cues and body language in interactions, though. (This would come in handy the first week we had Lio.)
When Mike came over with Lio to the house, it was imperative that we establish at least familiarity between the dogs even though they all had met in the Pawmetto Lifeline indoor dog park twice just one and two weeks before. We chose to start with a very matter-of-fact, very natural walk with all three dogs on leashes down our street. And we are thankful we did! Walking as a pack seemed to be the safe way to go.
Since this walk, here’s what we know and have learned about Ava and McClane and Lio’s relationships to date:
- Lio has continued to walk alongside other dogs on a walk. Maybe not right next to them, but alongside them with a couple feet to have to himself (we don’t blame him). He likes getting moving. He enjoys the fresh air. He’s also good on a leash with the right human control and involvement, which we’ll discuss in an upcoming post. He isn’t leash-reactive like he was barrier-frustrated on adoption row at Pawmetto Lifeline. Ultimately, these walks are a nice opportunity to provide exercise for all simultaneously.
- Animal Care Specialist Leon Panoo will tell anyone this until he’s blue in the face (and I agree with him): “Like I always say, Lio is fine with other dogs as long as they don’t get in his face or mess with him.” It’s true; if Lio’s unsettled, his ears pin back and he gives “the side eye.” He’s not a fan of being in too close of a proximity to McClane in particular.
- Which leads me to this: McClane does not seem to appreciate Lio on his turf. We’re working on counter-conditioning right now with him, to change the way his brain perceives Lio’s presence. When Lio is outside and comes up to the sliding glass back door letting us know he wants to come in after playtime, McClane charges up to the door, growls, and barks at Lio. It’s as if he sees him as a threat.
- No. Toys. With. Other. Dogs. Around. Lio. EVER. PLEASE. Lio “marks” where a toy is, even if he’s not actively playing with it. On one of the first few nights with Lio, I’d cleared up all the toys on the ground in the backyard including a rubber ball with which Lio had just played. I nested/disguised it among some items on our wrought iron table on the back patio. Lio was already outside and we brought Ava out to join him. He stood next to the table after a few moments, and when Ava trotted toward it (with what I believe was with ZERO intention of getting the ball that was on top of it), Lio perceived her arrival at the table as her coming to steal his toy; let’s just say that he definitely let Ava know that the ball was his.
- Ava and Lio can be outside together. They don’t really engage, actually. More like coexist in the same space. Since the aforementioned “ball atop table” incident, Ava keeps her distance from Lio. From what I can tell, she’s not scared of him, but it’s like in her head she knows to tell herself, “okay, okay, fine, he needs his space…”
- We rotate the dogs in our house. It is an extremely rare occasion that all three dogs are in the same exact space of the house at one time. If Ava and McClane are outside in the fenced backyard, Lio is free to roam the whole house. If Lio is in the backyard, Ava and McClane have the whole house to themselves. If Lio is eating a meal in his room, his door is normally shut unless Ava and McClane are in our room with the door shut. When Ava and McClane are eating their meals downstairs, Lio is up in his room. Sound complex? It is, but it’s what we do to make it work to create an environment for Lio that’s not a kennel while he’s still up for adoption.
Rebecca’s dog Annabelle wants to play with other dogs, and is incredibly social. Rebecca had to most separate Annabelle and Lio while she fostered him, but it was in everyone’s best interest. Completely understandable.
For Lio, a home with no other dogs at all would be first choice. If there is another dog, a very laid back, non-intrusive demeanor is much, much needed.
It’s safe to say that Ava, McClane, and Lio are “roomies.” Roommates. They live in the same home, but they’re not heavily involved with each other, they’ve got their own schedules, and they all have separate goals and needs. Okay, fine, they don’t share a mini-fridge though.
Lio’s Foster Mom
Check out all of Lio’s special blog posts in his series: http://pawmettolifeline.org/blog/category/lios-adventures/
Check out Lio’s very own Facebook album: https://bit.ly/2wozmas