• An update on life with two rescue dogs

    Two cute dogsIt’s now been 10 months since adopting Leila, and 5 since adopting Max. Life with two dogs is never dull.

    Neither had normal lives. Each was a little over a year old when we got them. She’d spent most of her life at the SPCA, and while we don’t know much about Max’s background – he had recently been brought in by an inspector – it doesn’t seem like he was in a great situation. He had big scars on both ears apparently from flystrike, which still haven’t totally healed to invisibility, and his coat was in horrible shape.

    Bringing home a second dog

    They got along swimmingly at the meet and greet, and we brought him home that afternoon. Later that evening, when she realised he wasn’t leaving, though, she started growling at him. There were some scuffles and scraps those first few days, but they’ve bonded really strongly. He in particular seems to miss her when they’re apart and get nervous (he’s a worrier!) and they get along 99% of the time. I thrive on all the cute moments when they’re nuzzling and grooming each other. And then I sigh at all their tussling; they warned us that he has a rough play style, and she’s totally embraced that. They rough and tumble a LOT.

    Max had a lot of accidents inside to start with, and it took probably close to two months for his stomach to settle, poor boy. Runny poos for weeks upon weeks, and he even had a worm or two when he first came home with us. It took probably three months for his coat to lose its dry, strawlike, shedding condition. Now it’s shiner with deeper, bronzy hues and it makes me so happy to see that.

    Of course they had to teach each other the worst of their habits….

    She never used to go stealing kibble out of the bag (which we used to leave in the laundry room, unsealed) or rooting around in the rubbish bin. Now – after one particularly epic mess in which they tore up a nearly full bag and gorged on a fair bit of it – the food is now off limits in a cupboard.

    He was never the slightest bit reactive to other dogs, but having been party to some of her overreactions out in public, he now echoes her barking and pulling if she reacts. Oh, and he does this weird thing of tucking one paw under the rest of that leg, which she’s started doing.

    There were lots of rough moments for a few months. We’d been making progress with training Leila out of jumping up (at people), which regressed because of Max and his jumping tendencies. Their rough and tumbling was a bit extreme – constantly playing chase around the house, tearing around through the garden and because we got him in winter, lots of mud tracked through the house after racing around outside in the yard. And there are moments of sibling rivalry from time to time.

    The good, bad and ugly

    They are opposites.

    She’s smart and a quick learner, and clean (and quiet). He’s dopey, prone to farts, a snorer.

    She’s fairly good off lead though her recall is definitely not perfect – especially when other dogs are around. Once, winter storm winds blew our gate open during the day, but she didn’t leave the yard. On lead, she’s still prone to pulling until she’s worked off a bit of that initial energy at the start of the walk. He’s good on lead but prone to running away in general – it was a nightmare those first few months. Squeezing through the fence, bolting out the front door, etc, and we can’t trust him off lead yet.

    But she’s definitely the special needs one. They say collies are the most neurotic of dogs, which rings true for her. Her quirks have always been endearing. But one in particular is proving rather trying (well, aside from the carsickness!).

    She’s always been very dog reactive. From the beginning, she’d sometimes freak out if we saw other dogs and she couldn’t interact with them. Pulling, crying, whining, barking, whatever. We were working on it, knowing it would take time to train her.

    Then there was an incident with another dog (long story, she was at a family member’s house with a few of the in laws and one of their dogs, neither of us were there at the time, there was a fight between her and the other dog). She still has a tiny little scar on her face from it. Anyway, since then, her reactivity has only worsened. Now she reacts to almost every dog (previously it was a bit less predictable – small dogs usually, but sometimes larger dogs were okay).  It’s a real shame and unfortunately there is no overnight solution. It’s a work in progress, and I can’t lie, that progress is slower than I’d hoped. We may get some professional help soon. Between that and the fact we can’t trust Max off leash, my visions of fun and carefree outdoor adventures have been dialled way back. Even daily walks often require prep and planning when you own a reactive dog.

    I don’t even want to think about what we’ve spent on them to date. I reckon it’s reasonable for two medium sized dogs, but as with any regular expense you add up over time… eek.

    Worth every cent, though.


  • Thinking about … expanding the family

    I didn’t grow up around animals. I didn’t even like dogs until I spent time volunteering on an Italian farm and fell in love with the five dogs who lived there (two have since passed away, RIP).

    Adopting a dog was literally one of the first things I did as a home owner, and we’ve always envisioned having a couple of dogs around.

    The time isn’t right just yet to add a second dog to the mix, though I’m starting to think about it and plan ahead. We’re working on getting Leila better trained right now – mainly around walking on lead, as she can be a bit of a handful sometimes.

    She loves human attention but she also loves other dogs and I’m sure she’d love a companion. Obviously she’s been an only child here so far (unless you count the chickens) but she shared her space with another dog at the SPCA for a long time.

    My main concerns is around the logistics of walking two dogs (hence wanting to get her more trained) and whether I’ll be able to go running with both at the same time. We have plenty of space so I’m not worried about having enough room for two. Doubling up on some things – bed, bowl, kennel leash etc – will be an initial outlay but then it’ll just be food and maintenance.

    Getting the right dog will be important. Probably a male this time, and of similar size or a little larger (she isn’t a fan of small dogs). One that is a little lazier than her, but can still keep up with her for the most part. I’d like to adopt again – I have a bit of a soft spot for boxers, though they’re rare in shelters here and there don’t seem to be any boxer-specific rescues in NZ.

    Has anyone gone from one dog to two? What was it like?