harmonious living with 2 dogs


When it was just Coal and I he obviously got all the attention and we built a very close bond and he would sit on my knee all the time and always stay by my side even when off lead out walking. I tried throwing balls and frisbees for him but he showed no interest, which I put down to him being blind before the Dogs Trust gave him 2 cataract operations to restore his sight so that he can see everything but its a bit blurry, if he were human he would wear glasses! He would walk beside me sniffing everything, he uses his nose a lot which I also put down to his eyesight and peeing on everything taller than him, which is most things! I thought this was a male trait as I have never personally owned a male dog before but I have since found it it is just a Coal thing and not every male pees as much as him, so much so that on one walk my friend and I decided to count how many times he urinated and counted 24! He also likes to poo on high clumps of grass or tree stumps!

What Coal sees
What Coal sees
What normal eyes see
What normal eyes see

Due to him never running around off lead and that he was becoming clingy, I thought he might like some canine company. With my previous dog Tanya, I always wanted to get her a companion and thought getting a puppy for her to train would be ideal as she was very maternal, but that didn’t come to pass. So because I wasn’t sure if Coal would want to share his home with another dog, he gets on great with all dogs but starting his home with one is different to meeting them out a walk when he can walk away when he’d had enough. After I had taken him to the Dogs Trust to meet another dog, which he got on great with, I asked if we could take the dog on a trial basis of a couple of days to see how they got on together in the house was denied and I didn’t want to commit to another dog for life if it was going to upset Coal and make him feel ‘pushed out’  I decided the best course of action would be to foster, so I filled out the fostering form and went home to await their response. After a month I hadn’t heard back from the Dogs Trust so I phoned them to see what was happening with my application, they said they hadn’t been through my application yet as there wasn’t any dogs suitable at that time but they would keep me on record. A few weeks later I was sent an invite to the local Dogs Trust fun day, which I attended and met volunteers from  Staffordshire Rescue Scotland, who had a stall there. Whilst standing talking to them, they recognised Coal as they had originally received a phone call about him as he was in boarding kennels as a stray and was going to be put to sleep so they went to assess him and found they couldn’t take him on because he wasn’t a full staffie but had some paternal terrier in him so they arranged a space at the Dogs Trust for him! So I asked them about fostering and they told me the application was on their website. Once I got home I filled out the application and sent it off. A week later, they contacted me and arranged a home visit. During the home visit they told me they had a 10 month old female that was in need of a foster home so we arranged for Coal and Tess to meet. When they brought Tess for the first time she was curled up so small and trembling violently. At 10 months old she had never been out of the house, never been a walk, spent most of the day in a crate with her food, urine and feaces and had a broom  handle poked through the crate bars at her by a toddler. She perked up a bit when she saw Coal and it was love at first sight for them both.

It soon became apparent that they were inseparable and I had no choice but to adopt her as she fitted in perfectly with my wee family consisting of me, Coal and now Tess. The only problem was that Tess was and still is an attention seeker, I think due to her being starved of attention or her first 10 months, staffies are very human oriented dogs and crave human interaction. So every time I petted Coal, Tess pushed her way in and Coal out of the way! This was exactly what I didn’t want Coal to feel! As Tess had had no training I incorporated her into Coal’s training regime of three 15 minute training sessions a day in the house. They love training! She picks up new tricks very quickly, so I decided every time that she pushed Coal out of the way of getting petted that I would gently push her back and say Coal’s cuddle time then once Coal had had enough then call Tess over and say Tess’s cuddle time. I kept doing this, and eventually she understood. Tess will still try to push Coal out of the way but as soon as I say Coal’s cuddle time she backs off herself and waits until Coal walks away then comes to me. So they both get equal attention and know it. Getting Tess was the best thing I could do for Coal as it brought him out his shell and now when off lead neither are by my side unless I call them but they run around together doing zoomies, chasing the ball or just running around sniffing so not only os his confidence been boosted he is also getting a lot more exercise than he was before Tess came into our lives.

Immediately after getting Tess I did give her more attention as she had been so starved of it previously so Coal wasn’t sitting on my knee as much because Tess was there and he doesn’t like being disturbed once he is comfy! He is now back sitting on my knee – they take turns around. Tess is a typical wee sister though and if Coal is sleeping and she wants to play with him she jumps on top of him! So I am trying to train her to stop that but I have got to wait until she is about to do it and be ready to shake my bell before she does to distract her, Its a nifty bell I have as it has a strap on it with a magnet at the end so the magnet attracts the ball inside the bell, stopping it from ringing when not needed.

COCHLANS training bell
COCHLANS training bell
loops round fingers and hidden in palm
loops round fingers and hidden in palm
extra strap has magnet in it to stop bell ringing
extra strap has magnet in it to stop bell ringing

The strap can be wrapped round your fingers and the bell hidden in your palm so the dogs can’t see where the sound is coming from. It is made by Cochlans and I bought it in the Just Dogs shop in Stockbridge, Edinburgh but they have a website – http://www.justdogsshop.co.uk. They are a brilliant little shop and donate to different dog charities each month. They stock unusual things that I have never seen elsewhere like Leanlix treats that look like a tube of lipgloss, so easy to always carry. When your dog earns a treat, you let them have a few licks of the stick. There are several different flavours this one pictured is cheeseburger, but there is also bacon hotdog sweet potato pie and cupcake to name a few and come in a larger size also but I wanted a selection of flavours to try so bought the Spring Training pack of six. Just as well they are low calorie though as the first time I tried it with Tess (who is very food orientated!) she bit half way down the tube and ate half of it, but also squished the plastic casing so I couldn’t get the rest out! I learned after that to present it differently to them and say lick!

low calorie treat made with natural ingredients
low calorie treat made with natural ingredients
cheese burger flavour small Leanlix stick
cheese burger flavour small Leanlix stick

I try to give them each one on one attention, so during the day at different points I will take one in the bedroom with me and get them up on the bed so I can play with them and cuddle them separately as if I do it in the same room as both of them, they both want me to play/cuddle them at the same time. Its just as well I have only 2 dogs as I don’t know how I could pet 3 or four at once only having 2 hands unless I learned to use my feet lol! I think it is important to give them individual attention so they know they are both loved the same. I was going to say especially for the first dog (Coal) as I didn’t want him to feel he was being replaced in any way (he is a very sensitive boy) but I think its just important for Tess as don’t want her feeling she’s not as good as Coal or second best. I have a great individual bond with them both. I always had the bond with Coal because it was just me and him but with Tess of course we bonded but it was a different kind of bond at the beginning as I was fostering her so was keeping myself prepared to say goodbye to her at some point and during this time she really bonded well with Coal and wriggled her way in to my heart so I couldn’t bear to say goodbye so adopted her! It is great playing with them together with a hand on each but the individual time is special.

As Tess was so attention starved when she arrived after she settled in and felt she was here forever she started trying to bully Coal, not by growling or being aggressive towards him but very subtly giving him little signals and looks which stopped him coming up and sitting beside me, moving off my knee and not coming into my bed at night. It took me a while to pick up on this especially because Coal had went over on his leg whilst running after a ball so had his leg in plaster for 6 weeks which felt like ages to me but to the dogs, on the basis that 1 human years is the equivalent of 7 dog years, must have been roughly 9 months! and you could tell as the time went on Coal retreated into himself more so this blinded me to what Tess was up to, but when I realised I banned both of them from my bed at night and from sitting next to me on the couch during the day. Then, because I missed them, I started alternating who got on the bed /couch each night/day then gradually Coal started wanting back up on Tess’s days whilst Tess was up so I allowed them to go at their own pace and now Coal is coming up more and more whilst Tess is up and I don’t see Tess giving him any signals except the odd one and I just place my hand in front of her eyes to stop the vision or shake the bell to distract her and allow Coal to do what he wants and he has now fully regained his confidence that he lost whilst his leg was in plaster, which has taken a while but as I said before he is very sensitive unlike Tess who’s a wee tuffie but I wouldn’t have them any other way. Training is an ongoing task throughout the lifetime of the dogs as their personalities change as they mature and develop, it is not just a puppy class. Dogs enjoy having a task to do so they feel they have accomplished something, it keeps their brains active, which in turn tires them out.  It is said by many trainers that 20 minutes good training is equivalent to an hours walk because they are having to think and by using their brain are expelling energy and builds their confidence the same way walking does.

Tess picks up training really quickly as she is so food orientated but Coal is a fussy eater so he prefers to be praised than treated. The favoured trick of both of them is high ten, where they jump up on their back legs and hit both my hands with both their paws, they get so excited after doing it. `they can both roll over, give paws, give other paw, high 5, high 10, stay and because Tess picks up things quick I have started her on dancing tricks, she can figure 8 through my legs spin , standing spin on her back legs and she plays dead for as long as I tell her to only moving her eyes to keep them on me.

I am so pleased Coal has built his confidence back up and isn’t standing for any nonsense from Tess and sticking up for himself when need be although he is such a gentleman and if he gets a treat first he waits to make sure Tess is getting one before eating it and if he reaches the ball first he looks at it until Tess gets there and lets her have it of if Tess is trying to take it from him, her just drops it and lets her have it then runs off with another toy and Tess is learning to share just needs to learn to be a bit more polite about doing it rather than pushing the toy into Coal’s mouth whilst he is yawning!

Gotta love ’em!

tug of war?
sharing a ball!
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