Lupin has had his second introduction meeting with Glimmer. Yesterday, he and his owner came to my home for the first time so he could start getting familiar with the house and yard, meet Violet the cat, and then, meet my husband.
Overall, Lupin did really well. He showed no negative behaviors toward Violet at all. She responded by watching him quietly from a distance and letting him process everything. He did want to get a little closer to her, but only out of curiosity. She is a new smell to him and he wanted to investigate it. From her safe spot behind the opening at the bottom of the gate to the basement, she allowed him to extend his nose to her to smell and greet her, and she only hissed a little at him when his owner accidentally corrected him.
When my husband got home from work, I took Lupin to the living room to wait for my husband to come in the door. When he walked in, Lupin’s reaction was immediate and very intense. He began barking, growling, and lunging. I did allow the behavior for a minute so that I could observe the dynamics taking place in that moment. What I observed was that Lupin’s reactive behavior was based solely on sight. Unlike he did when he came into the house, Lupin did not use his nose at all.
Everything from environmental changes to the presence – or the absence – of danger is relayed to a dog through scent. So, when a dog uses their eyes first instead of their nose, they risk misreading the information – which can lead to the kind of dangerous, reactive behavior Lupin exhibited towards my husband. This was proven when Lupin was taken to the kitchen, where he could not see my husband. Without visual information, he was forced to use his nose. And within seconds of doing that, he began to calm down.
Once he calmed down a bit, I took him into the hallway, where he could see and hear his owner and my husband talking. I watched him very closely to see if he would use his nose…. and he did. He started barking again a few seconds later, so I took him back to the kitchen, waited him out, and then tried again. We repeated this exercise several times until he finally understood that his behavior was unnecessary and unacceptable. Once he showed that he was consistently using his nose to gather information, he was allowed to be part of things – from a safe distance, of course. Glimmer stayed with my husband, giving him reassurance and calm energy, and Lupin’s body language began to change from being tense and wire-tight to alert but more relaxed.
By the time the session was done, Lupin was calm. He even asked for affection from my husband by going to him and placing his head in my husband’s lap. My husband petted him a couple of times and then I gently and calmly guided Lupin away from him. It was a positive ending to what began as a very intense exercise.
Based on my observations during this first meeting with Violet and my husband, it is my opinion that Lupin needs socialization and desensitization work. He needs to learn to use his nose first at all times, he needs to learn that his choices matter, and he needs to learn that his world is not a dangerous place. He needs to learn to trust and respect his people, and he needs to learn how to relax. He also needs to learn how to be calm around important resources like food and water; that there is plenty to go around. That he doesn’t have to fight for them.
Lupin and his people are coming this evening for a second meeting with Violet and my husband. I expect it to be a much more positive – and hopefully, a more relaxed – experience for Lupin.
Have a great day and a great weekend, and remember: Stay calm and lead on.