The Story of Effie: The Need for More Training

October 30, 2013 | By Mellie Test

"Just keep swimming" continues to apply.

These three dogs have each nestled into a cozy burrow in my heart; they are part of my unit. I've heard others describe their dogs as inconvenient or time-consuming or exhausting or expensive, but while being responsible for another creature (or several) is a responsibility, to me it's also some sort of calling. Psychoanalyze or guffaw all you like — I am an "animal person."

If I wanted "easy," I'd have one very small, calm dog who could be toted on an airplane or carried in a shoulder bag. That's all some people can handle. Instead, I know my capacity. And I am willing to be at capacity in order to provide for these creatures.

[caption id="attachment_948" align="alignright" width="150"] She's a good dog![/caption]

I feel lucky. Lucky to have the love of these creatures. Lucky to be able to care for them and my four year old son on my own. Lucky to have found Effie, bringing with her the amazing Abby and Sara, who have luckily provided so much moral support and advice, gratis. Lucky to continually be connected to new heart-full individuals, willing to share their resources and learnings (such as two of Abby's friends, Kikopup and Lori of La Dolce Doggie).

I'm keeping the dogs separated again during the days and while we're sleeping at night. My busted ankle in its boot should allow me to give them walks (Ronan and Stucky together, then Effie on her own) again, though they'll be short. When Ronan and Effie see each other, he tucks his tail and turns away, so I don't feel it's time to force them to mingle. All this talk about thresholds and caution...

I do want to point out that I am not punishing my dogs; I don't see them as dangerous or "bad dogs." I've received comments to the effect of, "I met your dogs and they're sweet; why do you punish them by keeping them apart?" I insist that taking things slow and being cautious does not mean I'm afraid of my dogs. Allowing them to ease into cohabitation isn't punishment. Instead, I'm taking responsible action and precaution versus haphazardly throwing them into situations and forcing them to cope when they may not be ready or properly equipped (through training, for instance).

We've all experienced overwhelm at various points in our lives, and we've all reacted badly when pushed past our tolerance limits; I'm giving the dogs space so that we can all avoid reaching overwhelm (which dramatically exacerbates reactivity).

In keeping with the space idea, it's also important to make sure the dogs have one-on-one time. Since the dogs aren't getting walked as much (due to my ankle injury), they need added exercise and individual attention. In Abby's experience, individual attention really improves the way her dogs manage themselves once back together.

Check back for more specific behavioral cautions and training suggestions from Lori of La Dolce Doggie!

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