I have two dogs amongst my many animal friends at home. One dog, Tango, a Beagle Mix is mellow and calm. We constantly test his tolerance of other animals and he consistently wins our trust over and over again. Our other dog, Iza, is a Spaniel Mix. Spaniels, as I’ve learned, can be very aggressive and reactionary as many dogs of any breed can. The term “Spaniel Rage” comes from Spaniel mixes suddenly turning on the hand that feeds it. All dogs, although rarely, can be susceptible to Spaniel Rage at any time in their lives. It’s most common in purebred Cocker Spaniels from which the term was derived. We have always been cautious with Iza around other animals and introducing them in our home.
We aren’t the type of people that let their animal family members “work it out.” When we adopted our senior Domestic Short Hair grey tabby, Taco, we did introductions as instructed by professionals. We had Taco separated in a different room. Eventually, we allowed Taco and Iza to view each other through a separated parchment still in two rooms. We did this process of socialization for months. Some dogs take less or more time than that. We weren’t in a rush and based the scheduling of the socialization based on progress rather than time.
Tango had no issues with Taco and learned right away that he was to leave Taco alone. Taco hissed at him once and that was it. Tango is a very submissive listener and knows how to keep the peace. Iza has always been reactionary. We didn’t think we could get her acceptance of Taco. It’s been over a year since we brought Taco, the cat into our lives and Iza has learned indifference when it comes to Taco. She walks straight past him whenever in the same room and in fact purposely looks away from him whenever we are watching her. We still do not leave them unsupervised and alone. We still aren’t taking chances, but know that Iza wants to please us and she knows that we don’t want her excited around Taco.
The chickens were another story. Both Tango and Iza are chasers. Tango, due to his good-natured disposition, knew right away what we expected from him. It was instantaneous how well the chickens and Tango got along. They are not best friends and don’t get to cuddle, however, Tango keeps his distance and so long as he does this, the chickens aren’t scared of him.
Iza was a much different story. She was super-excited the moment we got her. We tried keeping her on a leash and allowing her to view them while the chickens were still safely in their coop. After a few minutes of this process, Iza would get hyper again and we’d end the socialization session. Eventually, the wonder of them grew less and she was able to observe the chickens in their coop and controlled on a leash.
Iza also had plenty of experiences observing the chickens throughout the timespan of a year. We would keep her safely contained on an upper deck of the house while the chickens roamed free in the backyard. This allowed her to see them in their natural habits and chicken movements while keeping them safe from any sudden movements Iza might be tempted to make.
During the first year of the chickens lives with us, we would sporadically socialize Iza on a leash as the chickens roamed freely in the yard. Eventually, we were able to walk Iza past the chickens without any curiosity or quick reflexive movements. This is what we wanted, an indifferent calm approach.
Yesterday, after over a year, my husband put a trust in Iza and brought her over to the chickens without a leash. My heart jumped when I saw Iza race across the yard with all her speed. When she reached the chickens, she immediately halted and began sniffing the ground. It was a wonderful shock and my heart lifted. She had learned what we expected from her and it was time to trust our dog with the other animals. We will always supervise and have our presence deter her from making any costly choices, but it’s a huge step in our family environment and a huge step for a dog like Iza.
She still goes on a barking frenzy when she sees my husband wheel the coop around the yard. We have a portable coop that was made for moving around the yard so the chicken poop can fertilize different areas. Still, this is progress.