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.
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Lorraine Smith is behind Train with Lorraine dog training; training with science and empathy.