Most of what it takes to own a non social bee of a pup is easily comprised into a small list of daily habits. These are what Brett and I have found to be most effective:
1) Patience is key. Dealing with a non social bee of a dog takes patience. Becoming angry doesn’t help the people involved and definitely doesn’t help fix the pup’s behavior at hand.
2) Practice positive reinforcement. In our pup’s case, non-socialite tendencies are heightened by fear and anxiety. Introducing harsh and loud voices when her behavior is undesired just reinforces her idea that the situation warrants fear and anxiety. We instead, encourage her to seek information on how to respond to a situation from either Brett or myself and reward her when she does so or when she visibly relaxes during a tense situation. We talked about this another time here.
3) Avoid sticky situations. This seemed counterintuitive to me when Brett and I began our journey with reading dog training books upon Inca’s arrival into our home, but let me tell you…it really works! Inca started out by either guarding me or our food. Brett and I responded by not letting the dogs into the living/dining area at all while food was present. Even though Caya’s behavior around food wasn’t causing problems, the rule needed to extend to both pups. This worked like a charm. Eventually, Inca learned from all of her other encounters with all of us that she didn’t need to guard me or the food and now she does neither.
4) Stop being self conscious about what your non socialite pup cannot do and figure out what they can do! Our non-socialite pup is not ready to be taken to lovely outdoor, neighboorhood events where lots of new dogs and people will be around (though Caya is…maybe we’ll just leave Inca at home until she’s ready?) but she’s a really great pup to play with and to chase around the back yard. She is a snuggle bug of a pup, loving and playful. She can always be counted on to bark at “intruders,” she’s getting great at going on walks and runs around town, and she is a great friend for Caya. 🙂
5) Be aware. I can now tell immediately when the attitudes have shifted between our two pups. Usually, Inca is tired and has decided that the dog bed and the surrounding floor space are hers and hers alone. When I recognize it, I immediately shift her attention elsewhere by making her respond to some sort of command, be it come or shake. This redirects her energy into doing something positive and she forgets all about her earlier discomfort.
6) Be realistic of your pup’s abilities. I take our two pups to the dog park when I know I will have the most control over what happens…when there are as few other dogs as possible. This has been a wonderful training tool. This way, Inca becomes accustomed to small numbers of new dogs at a time. The most important part of our trips to the dog park though is my assessment of our surroundings. When we arrive, I keep Inca directly to my side as we do on walks. I let us all into the holding area (air lock to the park? haha) and take off the pups’ leashes. I then spend a few seconds watching the way that Inca and any dog on the other side of the fence interact. If the other pup seems nervous by Inca’s nervousness…snappy, presence of mean hackles, etc….then I’ll put my dogs into the small dog play area where Inca and the pups in the larger area can still share a fence but not have direct contact with one another. The other day I did this and after a few minutes of running back and forth along the fence together, it was clear that the pup on the other side just wanted to play, despite Inca’s occasional snappiness. Today, we arrived and there was one other dog. A little while later, when new dogs arrived, I didn’t have the luxury of already being in a situation to quickly quarantine my own pups, but I was close enough to the fence to be able to verbally talk to the other dog owner. Everything seemed fine though, the new pups arrived in the park and Inca was fine and dandy! Excited for the new arrival, a bit hesitant around the larger dogs but played and ran all the same (until she got too hot and started shade hopping…can you see her in the picture below?). 🙂
While having a less social dog has its draw backs, Inca has been a wonderful and loving part of our home from the minute she arrived. From her waggles, eye-sniffs, her toddler-like ability to put anything in her mouth, and her fun and playful relationship with Caya…she is well loved here by all 🙂