In the legend of Tristan and Isolde, once the lovers have been discovered by King Mark of Cornwall they were forced to flee his wrath. They were living in a wood and King Mark came upon them fast asleep with Tristan’s sword between them. King Mark realised the lengths to which they had gone to guard their love for each other, and so left them alone and forgave their treachery.
Having somewhere safe to sleep is really important for our puppies. They come from their original home where they lived with their mum and their siblings to move into their home with you where no such comfort exists. Puppies in a litter often sleep in a puppy pile, close comfort for each other. The way they regulate their temperature is to move away from the pile when they get too hot.
Studies have shown that dogs are able to relax more deeply and sleep more soundly in the presence of others (Kortekaas & Kotrschal, 2020). This led to lower arousal levels and better coping mechanisms for loud noises. Sleep is required for keeping emotional health functional, and a lack of sleep has an influence over emotion-related behaviours (Bolló et al., 2020). It therefore makes sense that to prevent behaviour problems from developing in our puppies we should ensure they feel safe while they sleep and get a sufficient amount.
When she first came to live with us, her and Tristan were not kept together, so I slept in the room with her. This meant that when she felt the need to toilet I could quickly get her out to help her toilet training. If she felt she needed reassurance about anything, I was there to comfort and soothe her. If she was thirsty, she could toddle off to get a drink. It’s not forever.
Puppies need a LOT of sleep. We built it in to Isolde’s routine. When I was working on the computer, she had the opportunity to sleep, but I was still nearby to attend her needs. We played games, did some training and had exercise built into her routine, but always before she was due to sleep things were kept calm, arousal levels were kept low and sleep was much easier.
It wasn’t long before Isolde could sleep through the night. And now she has her knight to keep her company. Tristan didn’t need as much sleep as Isolde, but as they get older, her needs are decreasing and his increasing.
If you need help with activities to help you build a routine for your puppy, please feel free to get in touch. I can offer one-off sessions or a block of six puppy sessions on an individual basis in your own home.
Bolló, H., Kovács, K., Lefter, R., Gombos, F., Kubinyi, E., Topál, J., & Kis, A. (2020). REM versus Non-REM sleep disturbance specifically affects inter-specific emotion processing in family dogs (Canis familiaris). Scientific Reports, 10(1), 10492
Kortekaas, K., & Kotrschal, K. (2020). Social Context Influences Resting Physiology in Dogs. Animals, 10(12), 2214.
Welcome, if you have stumbled across this or actively looked for it, here we are. Isolde is my young German Shepherd Dog who joined the family on the last day of May, this year. You can see her here, settled on the grass in the garden with a toy she took a liking to. The toy belongs to Tristan, our older boy, and it was he who helped us give Isolde her name.
Tristan and Isolde is a tale set in the mystical time of King Arthur, a time that is an obsession of mine. Tristan was a Knight of the round table, known for his gallantry and prowess as a fighter, who took part in the quest for the Holy Grail. Tristan was adopted by his Uncle, King Mark of Cornwall, and when his uncle needed someone to fight on his behalf against an enemy from Ireland, it was Tristan who did so. After his success in the fight, King Mark was betrothed to the Irish princess, Isolde, as part of the peace treaty so he sent his nephew back over to the scene of his victory to bring back his young bride. Isolde was given a love potion as part of the bridal gifts, to help her and King Mark have a happy and successful marriage. However, it was Tristan and Isolde who consumed the love potion on the boat on the way home, and they became smitten with each other.
What does that have to do with dogs? Apart from an obvious pairing of the names, there are parallels in the story that I hoped to recreate in the home. My Tristan is a gallant dog who has been known as a bit of a fighter. I needed to be sure that bringing another dog into his home would end in love, not war. Sadly, concocting a love potion is beyond my capability, so I had to craft my knowledge and experience as a dog trainer to help the bonds form between the two.
Introducing Isolde to Tristan was not an instant thing. Before Isolde arrived, we set up our home with her new crate, puppy pen and made sure all the things a puppy was likely to be attracted to were moved out of the way. It meant that the changes were not immediately associated with the puppy, and Tristan had time to get used to the new layout before she arrived.
Tristan and Isolde did not meet each other when she first arrived. Isolde had had a long journey, was moving from the only home she'd ever known, had left both her parents and her siblings, and had no reason to trust the humans that she now found herself living with. We needed to be sure that she knew we could be relied upon. Tristan needed to know that he would still get the care and attention that he deserved. Both dogs needed empathy for their situations.
Over a period of two months, Tristan and Isolde were introduced to each other. They inhabited different rooms in our home and then swapped over so that they could use their powerful sense of smell to get to know each other. They could see each other through a glass door, and through their crates and puppy pen. All interactions were carefully managed so that neither felt any pressure to behave in any way that could be seen as dangerous or inapproriate. When they were allowed in together, it was for short periods, so that emotions couldn't run too high or flip into over-arousal.
Today they are best of friends and thick as thieves. My love potion worked. If you want any help with introductions between two members of your canine family please feel free to book a one-to-one session.