Introducing a Tiny Terror to Another.
After two days of keeping Clara in the office, it was time to help her socialize with something other than a giant prancing dog. Maui was having a blast with her, but it looked more like Maui was happy chasing a small animal that can snarl and playfully bite back. Maui's probably satisfying his own prey drive with her, while also playing with another dog. Clara's body language, such as slapping her two front paws on the ground, spinning around, and even biting Maui's hind legs, just like any other dog would. Maui would always be ready to play, but the playtime is over when Maui decides to go out of the office.
Clara would go back to her bed and curl up. Sometimes, she would stare up the window and growl before barking. It was time to introduce her to the cats. I wondered if it would be a better idea to introduce her to the kittens and Friday, but I instantly thought that if Clara did anything bad to the kittens, and Friday saw, that mama cat would deliver the full wrath of all feline mothers unto Clara. Instead, I should introduce Clara to my calmest cat, but the problem there is our calmest cat, is Friday, the queen mother.
I had little choice. Mars might fight Clara the instant Clara shows any aggressive behaviors. Saturn would just run off, so Friday, who is less likely to fight and more likely to stay, is the best choice. I'm sure I've started the gradual introduction already as Clara has been exposed to their smell and their sounds for two solid days. That should be plenty of time for the supposed next phase.
I prepared my training equipment and placed Clara in the crate then took her to the dining room where Friday was hanging out. As expected of Friday, she didn't bother with any interactions, but Clara was already growling. I soothed Clara through the crate door, but the opposite happened, she growled louder. I took my hand away and stayed quiet. Clara looked at me as if suspicious, and as soon as she stopped growling, I praised her and gave her a treat for not growling. I just let Clara bask in Friday's near deafening silence. The mama cat's probably appreciating some quiet time away from her kittens. I almost feel sorry that I'm using her to train Clara.
I went away to do a few things and after about half an hour, Friday finally moved. I noticed Clara's body language in which her tail was tucked and she wasn't standing as sharply as she did with Maui. As far as feline body language goes, Friday could not care less. She just looked at Clara on her way back to the living room and sashayed back to the baby gate and catered to her children.
I opened the crate and soothed Clara. The dining room and living room are a bit foreign to her, so I let her explore the place a little. In case Clara sees the kittens, there is a large net-reinforced pet gate so they are safe, and so is Clara from Friday's potential wrath. I pray this goes well and Clara doesn't have a horrible experience with cats.
Clara explored the dining room, but as soon as the kittens started making noise, it instantly attracted her attention. She slowly made her way to the living room, but so far isn't barking. I was ready with my treats, hoping to praise and reward any good behavior she displays.
She eventually found the baby gate and saw Friday nursing the kittens. She approached them cautiously, she walked like the floor was sticky. I was watching Friday, waiting for any kind of defensive behavior, but to my surprise, she's not even batting an eyelid on Clara and instead did the slow eye-blink on me before cleaning one of her kittens. Perhaps my presence was an assurance?
Since Clara wasn't barking, nor growling, I clicked my clicker, instantly catching her attention, and I rewarded her with some of the dried liver. I left Clara there in the living room for a while after, as she's displaying a surprising amount of calm behavior. I supposed the introduction process is complete, but something gnawed at the back of my head.
Clara might be acting like this because her original owner isn't around. I worry that all my effort will be for naught when she's back with her owner and she starts feeling defensive. I guess the only way I can assure a change is to get her desensitized to the presence of other animals. Getting Clara used to Friday turned out to be easy because Friday doesn't care about anything else but her litter. Seeing that everything went well, I waited for Friday to get out of the baby gate and see how Clara interacts with her.
After a while, it happened. Friday got up and quickly hopped up the gate and wanted to make her way outside through the cat flaps. Clara still looked quite scared, so I soothed her as we watched Friday go outside. I decided that it was time to call it a day and I led Clara back to the office. Tomorrow, I will try to introduce her to the outside, where Saturn and Mars reside.
The next day, I let Clara hang explore the living room and the dining room again. She's really curious about the kittens. They would sometimes walk towards the baby gate and Clara would dig her nose into the net as if determined to inhale the kitten. Friday didn't seem to care the slightest bit. I wonder if she just thinks it's like Maui, just another harmless dog. My wife wondered if it's because she could smell our smell on Clara, so Friday may think Clara's part of the group.
After feeding her lunch, it was time to let her out into the yard. I place her back into the crate and made my way outside. Maui was happy to see Clara and was pushing the crate with his nose. Clara was wagging her little cut nub of a tail and I let Clara out. Immediately Maui wanted to play with her. They did this thing where they snarled at each other, as if fencing with their open mouths, but the snarl was high-pitched. Eventually, Maui bolted off and looked back at Clara, likely initiating a chase. I was so worried at this point because unlike the small space of the office, here Maui can gallop, which means if he runs over Clara, she could get seriously hurt. I had to calm Maui down whenever he starts getting a bad case of the zoomies.
Before I knew it, Maui went to a grassy corner of the garden and laid down. I guess playtime for dogs just ends as soon as one of the dogs gets tired of it. Clara decided to walk and explore the concrete part of the yard, perhaps trying to look for a safe space, but the inevitable happened. When a small thing moves around the yard, it gets the attention of the creature hanging out on the top of the walls. Mars descended the walls and slowly stalked Clara, trying his best to hide in the grass.
Mars has a strong prey drive, perhaps the strongest in the house. He would come home carrying a large rat and just leave it in the yard for me to bury it as fertilizer. Sometimes it's birds and on one rare occasion, a squirrel. My garden flourished because of the prey he delivers, but that drive is now focused on Clara. I think that Mars has a chance to really hurt Clara and I instantly felt worried.
I had to get Mars' attention. He was bigger than Clara and Mars has taken out prey that was just slightly smaller than her. I had to also call Clara's attention so she could get visual contact with Mars. Immediately, Clara started growling and I could understand why. Mars was unfazed even though I was already holding him. He continued to stalk Clara, so I instead went to Clara's side and soothed her, giving her plenty of positive distractions and also shielding her from Mars. Half of me knew that Mars was just playing around as this was the exact way he approached Maui.
I kept the counterconditioning training consistent so that Clara can get used to Mars. Thankfully, Mars hasn't done anything other than stalk around and after a while, I called it a day both for safety reasons and to keep Clara from getting too stressed out. This gives her extra time to digest what just happened, and I'll continue the desensitization training tomorrow.