Since moving to the new place, Izzy and I have settled down and are now meeting new people (and dogs), both in the neighborhood and in life. The good part is that we have a much more positive life now (Izz y’s life has always been good, but mine . . . well, suffice it to say I was ready to commit hari kari in my last job. It’s much easier being my own boss!).
At first, we explored every inch of the neighborhood, meeting those dogs/owners who walked at the same time we did. There’s a twenty-something woman who walks a cockapoo named Callie (who Izzy likes a lot), a middle-aged guy who lives with his girlfriend and walks her Shih-Tzu named Little Man, a woman my age with a Bichon mix that looks like Izzy’s cousin, and several people who have young and energetic Pitbull mixes and a pair of twin dachshunds. I’m sure the people introduced themselves to me, but to tell the truth, I remember the dogs’ names but not the humans’.
Izzy has discovered that he likes ‘overlooking’ the neighborhood. He perches on the bed in the guest room overlooking the parking lot and lets me know whenever someone walks by or a strange car pulls in. He takes his job very seriously, like any good ‘guard’ dog. I wonder sometimes whether he thinks I need his protection or whether he would do it even if I wasn’t home. Of course, it helps that he has a new squeaky ball he can take upstairs with him.
Meeting the new neighbors and their dogs (whether from his perch on the second floor or on our walks) has become our part-time gig. There’s a protocol in meeting dogs. Izzy’s often on a retractable leash (I let him run out to the end of it on our morning walks because I figure it’s his best chance of getting exercise), so I need to reel him in when I see another dog coming. He loves going over and “saying hello,” and usually, that’s all he needs. He’ll go on his way happily after just a few moments of sniffing and doing his puppy bows. But I won’t go near another dog with him unless I call out to the owner first. If there’s any hesitation in answering the question, “Is your dog friendly?”, we’ll keep our distance. And reading the other dog’s body language is important — no matter what the owner says.
Body language that tells me the other dog’s attitude:
- Tail down/relaxed (not tucked) or wagging: means the dog is relaxed and open to meeting someone new
- Ears back and tail tucked: the dog is nervous or frightened. Any dog with those body language attributes might be fearful enough to snap at someone in order to protect itself. Fear often sets a dog into a zone that might result in an attack.
- Head up and listens to owner: that’s a great thing, but if the dog is more intent on pulling at the end of the leash than listening to its owner, that’s not a good thing.
- Lays down and shows stomach: submissive dogs are easy for us to meet (Izzy usually doesn’t lie down for any reason other than a belly rub when he’s with me, but other dogs might do that — and that’s a great thing).
- Sniffing and puppy bows: getting to know each other means dog sniff butts. Though it sometimes grosses people out, it’s dog language, so that’s a good thing.
So far, so good with all the dogs. However, it’s a different situation with the kids in the neighborhood.
Last week, we went on a walk and a group of kids who were playing outside came running to meet Izzy. “Look at the puppy! Let’s pat the puppy!!!” The kids, aged 6-12, came toward Izzy with their hands out.
Not the way Izzy likes humans to come at him.
Since he’s scared of hands reaching for his head, I corrected Izzy and pulled him behind me while I talked to the kids.
Little Mikie (the 6 year old) wanted to know Izzy’s name, so I told him, and then I explained that dogs like to sniff people so he should stand still and let dogs look at him before he reaches out.
“Give him your fist,” I told Mikie. “Not your fingers.”
“Like this?” Mikie caught on fast, and instead of ducking away, the way Izzy usually does when meeting new people, my dog wagged his tail and sniffed at Mikie. Thankfully, the older kids learned quickly too, so when they encircled Izzy, he sat his butt down and looked at each of them, one at a time. But I knew that being surrounded wasn’t exactly comfortable, so we moved on quickly. Hopefully, the next time we see the kids will be easier for my Izzy and he’ll be able to accept his new kid-friends.
And then there is Louis. :-) Louis is a new person in my life and someone who will probably be spending a lot of time with Izzy and me, so it was important that the first visit with Izzy would be a calm one.
Izzy has a habit of barking at a new person who comes into the house, and I have to correct his behavior, getting him to sit and stop, before I’ll pay attention to the new person. Sometimes even after I get him relatively calm, I can walk away and Izzy will revert to barking and jumping. That’s not a good thing.
Louis came into the house in a calm fashion, speaking briefly to Izzy, but not reaching for him until Izzy calmed down. After about fifteen minutes, Izzy decided the new person was boring, so he went to lie down on the living room floor with his bone. Success.
I’m sure we’ll still be learning the new people and dogs in our life, but so far, Izzy’s doing great. And so am I.