Sunday, December 23, 2007

Singing Shih-Tzus

For Christmas, I bought one of the singing and jiggling figurines from Hallmark. The one that caught my attention was the snowman and his little dog who sang and howled to Jingle Bells. So, I picked it up and brought it home.

Well, little did I know that Bruiser was an aspiring chanteur. He is so enraptured by the little ornament, whenever I ask if he wants to "sing", he runs to the couch, perches on the arm over the figurine, and waits for me to turn it on. He then barks and howls as best he can to the tune. He has taught himself how to howl like the little dog figure at the end of the song and is quite proud of his vocal abilities.

Rocki doesn't "sing". However, he does jump up on the chair with Bruiser, wag his tail and generally provide moral support.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas...not just for humans!

Our festive mood begins as we haul up the Christmas decorations and start the process of decorating our home for the holidays. Of course, our ever-astute pooches pick up on our mood and their excitement translates into tearing around the house, jumping on tables and chairs, and attacking all the new items that appear in their territory.

I took a picture of Bruiser, our oldest, guarding the fluffy Xmas decoration against Rocki's sneak attacks on most inanimate objects. Bruiser has appointed himself "big boss" of the house and general security, ensuring his brother doesn't get into anything he himself doesn't feel like getting into. In this case, because Rocki was having so much fun with this toy/ornament, Bruiser has decided to watch over it...that is, until he feels like attacking it himself.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Should you get a second dog?

Deciding to get Rocki was not something that I did out of the blue...I had read a lot about bringing a second dog into the home and talked to a lot of people who had more than one pet. This is what I learned...

The general consensus was to get a second dog while the first was a year old or younger. This was because he had not yet established the home as his "territory". Male dogs are territorial as they get older, but female dogs can also be territorial and, if they are old enough, they can be worse than male dogs.

We were approached by someone we knew who had a 7 year old female Cocker Spaniel named Coco. She was a lovely dog and I agreed on the condition that if Bruiser, who was about 8 months old at the time, appeared to be uncomfortable in any way, we would not keep Coco. We brought Coco home and kept her on the driveway as I had read that you introduce the dogs on neutral territory and keep them on leashes so you can pull them away if need be. Bruiser, who was less than half the size of Coco, approached very carefully and, when he got closer to her, took a submissive posture. Coco turned her back on him the whole time. He slowly crept toward her on his belly and when he got close, she growled at him...not menacingly, but enough to tell him to back off. Bruiser backed off a bit, wagged his tail and started to creep towards her again. This time Coco let him approach and we thought we could see how the two of them behave in the house together. We brought them in and then Bruiser changed. No longer did he adopt a submissive pose...he stood tall about a foot away from Coco. She did not like it...she turned toward Bruiser and snapped at him. Bruiser jumped back and started to bark at her. At that point I told my husband to remove Coco from the house. Perhaps over time Coco would have taken to Bruiser, but I wasn't going to take the chance that she could hurt him. She was older...he was still a pup. It was obvious to us she had no patience for him and just wanted to be left alone. That was not going to happen. Sadly we brought Coco back to where she was living. Although on the drive to our home and back she was very docile and affectionate, she wasn't that way with Bruiser.

However, bringing a second dog into the home is never a piece of cake. Even though Bruiser was about 10 months old when we brought Rocki home, he was NOT amused. He went from a cuddly, docile, friendly little boy to an angry, stressed animal. Rocki was 9 weeks old when we brought him into the house. Bruiser came and sniffed, and then he got so angry and stressed that large gobs of saliva hung from the fur around his mouth. He went on his mat and stared. I could not even approach him...he growled and ran away. It was like we had abandoned him and he was completely lost. If I tried to touch him, he ran away. He refused to eat or drink. He did nothing but sit and stare. One day when the garage door was open, he actually tried to run away. Thankfully our neighbor caught him and he was content in her arms. But when I came to get him, he growled the whole time I touched him and jumped out of my arms the first chance he got. Thankfully, it was in the house!

This behavior went on for about three days. On the fourth day he started to drink and ate a bit of food. I was still not permitted near him. Luckily, Rocki didn't do much more than sleep because he was so young. Bruiser did stop by to sniff a bit more and got to the point that he would creep up to Rocki's bed and watch him sleep. If Rocki woke up and looked at him, Bruiser would take off. Finally, by day 5, I was able to pat Bruiser and he was eating again. He finally stopped salivating and began taking a genuine interest in this little furry creature that arrived in his home. He had at this point come to the realization that Rocki was pretty helpless and his first gesture of friendship was when he took a piece of his dog biscuit, held it in his mouth to soften it, and then dropped it in front of Rocki. After that, he became Rocki's father and big brother, always letting him eat first and guiding him along in the "rules" of the house. For the first five days it was touch and go, and I wasn't even sure at that point if we could keep Rocki, but Bruiser stepped up to the plate and became Rocki's guardian.

Everything I had read said to have a separate food and water dish for each animal so I did just that...two water bowls and two plates. The theory is that each has their own plates and portions so there is no fighting or competition. So on the first day, I put Rocki's puppy food on one plate and Bruiser's dog food on another and let them to their dishes. Both immediately went to the puppy food plate and sniffed. Then they both cruised over to the dog food plate. Rocki decided he liked Bruiser's food better than his own and decided to try and eat it. Bruiser shared with him, even though Rocki couldn't chew the food and dropped most of it on the floor. Then the two of them travelled over to Rocki's puppy food and Bruiser took a couple of bites and Rocki finished the rest. The two of them then headed over to one of the water bowls and shared it. I continued to make two plates every day until Rocki was over puppy food and every day was the same scenario. Finally, after watching the two of them share one small plate and then go to the next small plate, I got one big plate, put their food on it, and to this day the two of them share food. So again, you can read about what you "should" do, but in the end it's what works out best for both of your pets.

So getting a second animal is always a game of chance. You must be prepared to watch both animals at all times, monitor their behavior and reactions, and have an abundance of patience. Most importantly, you must be prepared for the fact that this new arrangement may not work out and if that is the case, then the second animal will have to be returned.