Who ARE you? [Or, We Rarely Get the Dog We Think We Are Getting.]


“They SAID he was home skilled!”

“She stated he beloved EVERYBODY!”

“He was FINE at my home! What did the brand new house owners do to him?

Each coach and behaviorist who does consults hears these phrases regularly. In regards to the “home skilled” spaniel who pees on the rug, the “everyone loving” Border collie who’s afraid of strangers, the Boxer who beloved his crate on the foster residence, however bark/screamed at any time when his new house owners left the home. Understandably, new house owners are dissatisfied when their new canine behaves vastly otherwise than described by the foster residence. Fosters and shelters typically specific frustration when informed of habits issues, and exclaim: “However he by no means did that right here! These new house owners simply don’t know what they’re doing!”

However the reality is, Fido in a single place isn’t essentially predictive of Fido in one other. Context and the surroundings performs as large a job in canine habits because it does in yours. Most likely greater. However let’s begin with us: Are you an identical particular person throughout an intense assembly at work as you’re when having drinks with mates, just some hours later? [Full disclosure: I am not.]

As a result of surroundings performs such a big function within the habits of all mammals, each canine habits advisor I do know hears about canines who behave a technique on the shelter or foster residence, and really otherwise as soon as adopted. In fact, there are many canines who’re context proof–the goofy retriever-type who actually does love everybody, doesn’t care the place they stay, and are superb being left alone. However there are simply as many, who, for instance, depart a foster residence the place they appear relaxed and pleasant to all, who change into fearful and typically aggressive when positioned in what seems like a fantastic residence.

The 2 most typical points I’ve seen over time associated to modifications in context are home coaching and canine’s who depart areas with a number of canines and change into the one one in the home.

Home coaching is the straightforward one. (Observe: Easy doesn’t essentially equal simple.) Simply because a canine has realized to not potty in a single place doesn’t imply that they generalize this data to a different residence. I doubt our kids are any totally different: Absolutely they should be taught to not use “exterior voices” on the neighbor’s  home in addition to in their very own. If I used to be sending a canine off and requested in the event that they have been home skilled, I’d say “Not in your home, they’re not.” Truly, I wouldn’t wait to be requested, I simply inform everybody to imagine that no canine is “constructing skilled” till they’ve tons and many expertise on the contrary underneath their belt. Or their collar. You get my drift.

That is very true of canines who weren’t home skilled at an early age. We received Skip when he was three, and as finest I can inform, he lived in crates or a barn his whole life as much as that time. I belief him 99.99% now at our home (100% if we’re positive he’s pooped proper earlier than we go to mattress), and 100% on the vet clinic. However I nonetheless watch him each second if we’re staying at a motel. He hasn’t tried to carry a leg inside for 2 years, however . . .

Canines home skilled at an early age can often be skilled simply sufficient in a brand new home IF the brand new house owners begin off as if the canine was a pet. (See Love Has No Age Restrict for extra on this.) The bottom line is to grasp that there’s no motive a canine’s mind would perceive that “home coaching” means greater than “solely go exterior the place I stay,” versus “by no means go inside anyplace.”

Way more sophisticated are the canines who’ve been dwelling with a number of canines for years, however find yourself as a single canine in a brand new residence. This may be tough, as a result of it’s unattainable to understand how a canine goes to react to such an enormous change. Let me begin by asking you to think about that you simply’ve been dwelling on Mars for just a few years. The Martians are in cost, and appear benevolent and type. Nonetheless, they’re Martians, not Earthlings. Fortunately, you reside with a number of different Earthlings, who occur to talk the identical language as you. All is effectively, as a result of, though you’re on an alien planet, you continue to spend time with people who converse the identical language and perceive the way you suppose. However all of a sudden, with no time to organize, you’re taken to a different place, the place there are not any Earthlings.

It’s a pleasant place, and the Martians there couldn’t be kinder. You get all the nice meals and a spotlight you would ever need. Nonetheless. You’re alone. Not less than, in some methods it should really feel like that, proper? You’ve misplaced your mates, those who perceive you, and who you perceive with out having to work at it. I’m unsure it even issues if these others have been shut mates; simply being there will need to have made an enormous distinction.

That is my speculation of why shelters, fosters, trainers and consultants see so many “However he NEVER . . . ” circumstances. (I feel I’m going to coin a brand new diagnostic right here: The “buthenever syndrome.”) All environmental modifications are anxious, even ones through which the canine’s life is tremendously enhanced. It’s nonetheless a change. However nothing like having your Earthling equivalents disappearing, and being by yourself in Mars.

No marvel we see so many canines with Separation Nervousness who have been superb within the foster residence when surrounded by six different canines, however not when left utterly alone. Or canines who’re fearful of tourists at their new place once they’d by no means met a stranger once they lived in a kennel. I don’t wish to overstate this–many behavioral predispositions will be simply seen in all environments, though they could maybe be exaggerated as soon as despatched to a brand new residence. Nevertheless it does clarify a lot of why some canines seem to behave so very otherwise from a shelter or foster setting and are positioned as a single canine in a brand new residence.

So. What to do? First, it’s crucial to get our expectations in line–it’s very tough to understand how canines are going to reply after going from a canine pack to a human-only household. I simply talked to some good mates with a brand new canine, suggesting that they consider the primary weeks as an journey and an experiment. Who is aware of how Georgie will behave after the primary days or even weeks of shock begin to fade away? If he’s shy, will he specific that as protection and again away from guests till he relaxes, or will he go after them–weapons blazing–utilizing offense to guard himself? Will Snowflake be okay for a lot of the day when you’re gone to work, if the home is an unlimited, empty cage after you allow? We simply can’t know till a while has passed by; in the meantime, our job is to help the canine as finest we will and be taught who she or he is on this new surroundings.

            Our canines reside with extra-terrestrials . . . We have to be so complicated.

Secondly, I’d prefer to recommend that canines coming from a multiple-dog scenario right into a single canine residence be given much more time to regulate. I suppose this goes again to expectations–and understanding what an enormous shock it have to be to go from one surroundings to a different. (See The Stress Consider Canines in regards to the profound and prolonged impact that stress has on physiology and habits.)  I like that many shelters and fosters recommend holding issues extraordinarily low-key for a number of days after canines first arrive. For canines from multiple-dog houses, I might like to see canines left residence alone to be surrounded by acquainted scents, and left in cozy, safe-feeling areas for actually just some seconds initially. I personally take the identical perspective with separation anxiousness as I do with home coaching when a canine involves a brand new residence–Job One is to forestall bother, beginning on Day One. (See I’ll Be House Quickly about stopping Separation Nervousness.)

I’ve no analysis to help my speculation that canines coming from multiple-dog households/services typically discover it a bit more difficult to regulate than different canines do. It’s simply the robust impression I’ve gotten after 30+ years of working with behavioral issues. (Query: Wouldn’t this be a fantastic matter for a thesis? Reply: Yeah!!!) I put this out to you then, curious what your expertise has been. Have you considered whether or not your canine got here from a spot with different canines, or a single-family, all-human residence? What’s been your expertise if canines come from a pack and change into the one canine?

As I write, I notice I’m burying the lead right here: Mainly, I’m arguing that one of many greatest modifications in a canine’s surroundings, from one place to a different, is whether or not there are different canines there or not. Soar in right here–we’d love to listen to from you.

MEANWHILE, again on the farm: Some extra images from Arizona, together with this shot Jim took of me and the view, whereas strolling round Windy Level Vista on the drive to Mt. Lemmon north of Tucson.


Two extra photographs of birds from the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.  First, a Cactus Wren, flying free on the grounds. We noticed Cactus Wrens each the place, in Phoenix and Scottsdale. They’re large for wrens, placing to take a look at, and, typical of all wrens, busy, busy, busy.

Jim took this {photograph} of a Hooded Oriole inside the massive aviary, such a fantastic shot!

Right here’s the view from the yard of the home rented by our expensive mates. (Meg and Randy: We’re SO grateful!) I grew up all the time understanding what “. . .the purple mountains majesty . . . ” meant.

I’ll depart you with one thing extra present: Thanks King Arthur to your Swedish Almond Coffeecake combine. I get to fake it’s hand-crafted cuz one has so as to add a number of issues, has to knead it and let it rise twice, so, it’s hand-crafted, proper? Who cares whether it is or isn’t, as a result of it’s DELICIOUS.

Right here’s to scrumptious in your life too!

And bounce in along with your ideas about canines from “packs” to single houses; I’m so curious what your expertise has been.






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