This series of photos speak volumes about dog empathy. We were privileged to be part of its heart-warming experience. Jolene is the big American Bulldog, and as big as she is, her heart is even bigger. She proved that yet again when she returned to dog boarding with us here at Furever Pet Care. This stay happened to be at the same time Maltese Shih Tzu puppy Oscar came for doggie daycare.
Expert Dog Empathy
Since he is still a young puppy, there are many situations that are brand new to Oscar. Meeting a large dog is certainly one of them.Its an amazing scenario for Oscar – one only gets one chance to make a first impression!
And its an experience that Furever Pet Care can provide in a safe controlled environment, with a dog we’ve known for years.
As you may know from other entries on our blog, Jolene is a super sweet American Bulldog. She lives with her older sister Macey, a toy Poodle. In addition to her gentle nature, she has had plenty of positive time with wee dogs. She has stayed with us here at Furever Pet Care many times now, so we know her well.
Like all proper meet and greets, we start Jolene and Oscar’s first meeting outside and on leash. We have one dog with one handler on neutral ground.
The two handlers walk down opposite sides of the street. Depending on the dogs responses to one another, the handlers gradually reduce the distance until the dogs are comfortable walking side by side.
Jolene and Oscar did fine in relatively short order, mostly because Jolene knows what’s the what.
Proper Introductions are Key
The next step involves coming into the back yard. Both dogs remain leashed, but we drop the leashes while the dogs wander. Notice that Jolene is pointedly ignoring Oscar. That allows him to approach her on his own time.
He gradually gets a little braver, and closer, so Jolene looks at him. She keeps her body language loose and unthreatening.
At this point, we move inside. The leashes are still on, but dropped, so we can intervene and guide if necessary. But Jolene is so wise, and has so much dog empathy, she is all over this meet and greet without much need of us.
She gets low low down, and stays absolutely still. She knows her size is more impactful in a small room.
As Oscar approaches, she remains still, lying down, until he is good and comfortable.
Without any cue from us, she figures Oscar is ready for her to sit up. He jumps back, barks, but settles again. Curiosity brings him back close pretty quickly.
Slow and stead wins the race – Jolene stands. Oscar barks – hey, this gal sure is tall!
I’m sure Oscar is thinking “wow look’it how tall … three times as tall as me!” Our little dude rises to the occasion too. Success!
Now Oscar is comfortable enough to share a meal right beside his new big friend! Especially since Jolene is one terribly sloppy eater, so he might even get a chance at a far-flung kibble bit!
Happy pack ensues!
There will still be work ahead for Oscar and his pet parents to ensure Oscar does not become reactive to big dogs, or any other dogs for that matter. Fearful reactivity to other dogs can be dangerous for tiny pups as well as just a big ol’ drag for every person and creature involved.
Happily Oscar is coming to doggy daycare regularly, and is enrolled in our Petsmart puppy training class too. With that kind of regular exposure, he is well on his way to catching up with Jolene in developing expert dog empathy.
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