OK, our resident wonderdog, Chick, is leash-reactive. What this means is, when walking on leash and surprised and confronted by another dog, especially an off-leash one, a little switch flips in his head, and he gets defensive. Sometimes even aggressive. The interesting thing about leash-reactivity, though, is that it often is not correlated with a dog’s general dog-friendliness. This is certainly the case with Chick, who is otherwise a lover—or at least a tolerator—of all beings canine.
Still, the stakes were high when we brought Lolita home. We didn’t know her history, and though she had shown to be generally dog-friendly or dog-neutral at the shelter, she had a sad collection of scars littered across her face and front paws. The scars could tell any number of stories: fighting, abuse, under-fence digging, etc. Her first night, we kept the two dogs completely separate, but let them sniff each other’s belongings to get accustomed to each other’s scent. I took Lollie out in the yard alone, and she met our neighbor’s dog, Flash, through the fence. She was super excited to see him and showered him with kisses. A good sign.
Over that evening and the next, we brought the dogs together very slowly, reinforcing every positive interaction with plenty of bribery and love. We allowed a series of very short sniffs between the dogs, but never more than a few seconds. A joint walk went well, and an open-door visit session through a baby gate resulted in a very wet face for Chick, who was lick-bathed by Lolita. He looked a little sheepish afterward, but didn’t seem to mind the rather soggy attention from his new sister.
Next, the dogs went off-leash together in the yard, and when that went without incident, everybody came indoors. Other than a decisive woof from Chick when Lola tried to climb onto him (a signal she immediately understood), there was no drama. The two happily snacked on treats and trotted around the house together for the rest of the evening.
Vigilance continues, but outlook is positive.