I've had the opportunity over the last few days to keep a good friend's dogs, Charlie and Dakota, while the family moved from one house in town to another. My friend has been concerned about the stress that both dogs have been under due to all of the packing, real estate showings and schedule upheaval that a major move causes. Both dogs have been amped-up over the last few months and sparing them the move day craziness was a no-brainer.
Charlie and Dakota have stayed with me before, so fortunately, the risk of adding more stress by being away from their family was low.
Charlie is an 11 year old terrier mix who is typically pretty laid back and loves playing with Snickers. He's taken the Savvy Dog experience in stride and reacts either neutrally or is slightly playful with the other dogs who come to "school". He and Jackson had an accidental "argument" one night last spring when Jackson jumped off the bed in the dark and landed on top of Charlie. Oops - not a pleasant experience for either of them. But since then, they've chosen to peacefully coexist.
Dakota is a 7 year old Australian Shepherd who really enjoys taunting her cat-sister Buttons at home. (or could it be the other way around?) At my place, the cats are also a source of obsession, but she has learned to honor a firm "Leave It" so drama is usually avoided. As far as playing with other dogs, Dakota usually prefers not to and in typical shepherd style, tries to keep them from playing with each other!
Based on discussions with my friend, I was expecting both dogs to be a little on edge and maybe a little clingy. What I didn't expect was how differently the stress seemed to have impacted each of them, at least within the context of being away from home.
The normally laid back, happy-go-lucky Charlie has apparently channeled his inner "bad-ass" to deal with the stress. I immediately noticed when loading the dogs in the car that Jackson did not want to approach Charlie at all. He exhibited major "calming signals"; turning his head away, avoiding all eye contact and would only get in the front seat to ride, which he typically never chooses to do. There was no growling or obvious outward signs that I detected, but Charlie was clearly giving off a signal that he did not want Jackson near. And with the exception of Snickers, who wrestled around with him as usual, the other 7 dogs that Charlie came into contact with over the next 24 hours reacted to Charlie in a very similar fashion. Again, no outward signs of aggression, but definite signs of avoidance and giving Charlie his space.
Dakota, on the other hand, has actually been calmer and less obsessed with the cats and keeping the others from playing. She and Jinxx, my laid back black cat, were almost chummy, with Jinxx choosing several times to remain close to her on the bed rather than snuggling up to me. And Dakota would calmly lay by him, her usual obsessive "ninja stare" replaced with closed eyes and just an occasional sniff. She stuck fairly close to me, but wasn't really clingy or nervous. It's almost as if the familiarity of being here had a calming effect compared to the "weirdness" that was going on at her own house over the last few weeks.
We can only speculate what's really going on in our dog's minds and it really doesn't matter that we fully understand it. What we can do is recognize that stress does exist for dogs and can change their behavior. Our job is to try and determine how we can either reduce their stress or help them through an unavoidable stressful situation.
In the case of Charlie and Dakota, their Mom has done her best to minimize their exposure to strangers in their house for showings by getting them out of there when possible and taking them to work on occasion. But furniture being moved around and belongings being packed up was an unavoidable change for them, so having them hang out somewhere familiar during the major part of the move was smart. There will still be a lot for them to adjust to in the coming weeks, but hopefully, the worst is behind them. And I've been told that there are lots of yummy treats in store for their introduction to the new house...which is really, really smart!
As far as the start of my weekend goes, I ended up with 4 extra dogs last night. (as they typically do, the move took longer than anticipated, so Charlie and Dakota stayed over an extra night, overlapping with another "sleepover" appointment.) Everyone was tired, so it was a peaceful Friday evening. But I did get a kick out of feeding time this morning at 7am and just had to snap a few photos. Here's the BEFORE shot:
And 2 minutes later, here's the AFTER: (Shelbee, the 14 year old mini-daschund, was still snoozing!)
Happy Saturday to all - have a great weekend!