A picture is worth a thousand words...Mavis, Bristol, Tori and Emma
There is one breed of dog that inspires the same fear and aversion that the American Pit Bull Terrier does and that is the dreaded Jack Russell Terrier aka Parson Russell Terrier. I have had to face a startling reality this week. I am a closet JRT fancier with the potential to be a hoarder. Yes, it is true, I love these little freaks.
Pound for pound they are the same powerhouse as the Pit Bull with the same intelligence and over the top capacity for love. Unlike the Pit Bull, I am not sure they ever wind down. I have yet to meet one that could be considered a couch potato. In observing these little demons, I have witnessed periods when they will lay in your lap, or your favorite chair, but it is more like a moment of meditation to decide what they want to do next than actual repose. They are the ultimate Terrier in that they are not for the faint of heart.
I have one, Action Jackson that came into Safe Harbor from a "pet shop" because he was impossible to housebreak. He is now the world's smallest stock dog and feels something like a brick when you pet him. A.J. may not be housebroken but he has found his niche in life. Like any good Terrier, he knows no fear and attends to his duties with gusto.
Enter Mavis.....we met at the Sikeston Area Humane Society and of course as soon as I looked into her eyes I was smitten. I know beginning a dog evaluation from the eyes is not scientific but it has served me well in the past. In the case of Mavis, she has eyes so soft and sweet you can fall into them and drown. In a nutshell, she is one of the most loving; people oriented JRT's I have met since Frank at the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri. I could no more walk away from her than I could have performed root canal on myself. She is also red zone dog aggressive.
Mavis is destined to join the Boot Healers training program in Charleston. Because she has just been spayed, she is doing her recuperation at my place. We must also address the dog aggression issue before she goes and what better place to teach pack manners than with an existing pack? I can hear the laughter because anyone that knows my pack knows I have one of the finest set of socialization dogs on the planet which includes the Queen of the Universe, Emma. At the time of this writing, I have yet to introduce the other Queen of the Universe, Mavis. (Go ahead, laugh)
The only time I have had to observe her dog issues was in the Sikeston Shelter. I do my evaluations in different categories and tend to keep shelter observations in one file, while beginning new files on home observations. Alice and I had a moment on Wednesday to do the first introduction of Mavis with Bristol.
Bristol is the only male in the family besides A.J. and my horse which do not live with us. He learned at eight weeks it is best to roll into submission with girls because they will eat you. He loves all dogs and could not wait to meet the new comer. This will be his first actual foster dog as he is the newest member of my pack. He was thrilled to be the first dog chosen to meet our guest. That was short lived when Mavis proceeded to attach herself to his lip making him squeal like a little girl. Any hopes he had of a playmate were dashed and again, he learned girls are to be approached with caution. They really will eat you.
Tori will be the next introduction, she is my nurturer. While Tori is not normally a reactive dog, she does have pure bulk on her side. Her nick name is "Sea Cow" and it is well earned. Tori's answer to a disruption in her pack order is to lay on it. If you have never had a Sea Cow lay on you I can tell you first hand it makes an impression. It is a rare thing that any dog challenges her more than once.
The final introduction will be Emma. As I mentioned, Emma considers herself to be Queen of the Universe. As a point of fact, so does Mavis. I can only describe this anticipated meeting as the clash of the titans. I keep going back to the line in the movie of the same name when Liam Neisom declares "Release the kraken". That is the best description of what introducing two dominate females is like. Give me two intact males any day of the week but two females will fight to the death on general principle. That is why it is important to do an introduction of this sort in a very different way.
I begin by putting the leash on both and going for a walk. They must both recognize my control before learning to respect each other. I put myself between them, with the added control of the leash, as a way of insuring they know my authority is not to be questioned. In my pack, I am the alpha and I have zero tolerance of challenge.
The trainers in Charleston have been exploring the intricacies of pack order in the dogs we have had in residence down there. We were presented with a female exhibiting some of the finest alpha female qualities we have had to date. This has opened discussion on dog behavior versus simple "sit/down" dog training. When working dogs of unknown backgrounds, it is not enough to have a dog that responds to commands. We are rehabilitating dogs to insure they do not come back into the rescue/shelter situation. We also must provide dogs that are the best companions in a world that still considers dogs disposable. That means looking beyond the human perspective into the dog's perspective.
I have mentioned before the dangers of humanizing dog behavior. In order to produce a dog capable of living in our world we must distinguish their natural tendencies from what we teach them. This is how we produce solid canine companions cherished by their families.
I look forward to sharing updates on Mavis's progress. She is destined to be one of the most amazing dogs we have produced and someone is going to reap the benefits of having a dog that will provide years of enjoyment.
In the meantime, if you hear a loud explosion in the north, it is nothing more than my two girls coming together in Terrier unison.
UPDATE: The attached photo was taken within the first 24 hours of bringing Mavis into my pack. Since doing the initial introductions there have been no incidents of aggression. This is what maintaining pack order is all about. Preparing yourself to lead the pack is the first step. Taking the time to educate yourself and train your dogs is the ultimate sign of a responsible pet owner.