Because she's reactive, I always assumed that Maisy didn’t really have very good social skills. I mean, why else would she act like such a jerk to other dogs? (For the record, I don’t actually think Maisy is a jerk, but at the risk of anthropomorphizing- again- I imagine other dogs think she is sometimes. Lunging, barking, and growling when the other dog is acting appropriately isn’t very nice, after all.)
It turns out I’m wrong. She’s actually got decent social skills, barring the barking and lunging, of course, and she’s quite good with puppies! I found this out when my friend Robin got a German Shepherd puppy named Via. Robin’s philosophy on socialization is to introduce a puppy to as many stable adult dogs as possible. Personally, I don’t know that I’d call Maisy “stable,” but Robin apparently trusts her enough to expose Via to her, and I trust Robin (she also teaches our reactive dog class).
So the girls have been playing together. Well, maybe not together, but definitely in tandem. I’ve got two videos of them playing to share. They were taken a couple weeks ago, when Via was about 10 weeks old. The first was taken during the first five minutes or so of the play session:
Now, what I love about this video is how calm and relaxed Maisy is, despite the fact that Via is a bit exuberant at times- Via loves to play with her paws and Maisy… doesn’t like that so much. You can see that Maisy tends to look or move away when this happens- subtle communications which say, “Puppy, that’s too much.”
When Via inevitably ignores that (she’s not much for subtlety yet), Maisy does a very nice job of escalating the warnings, first with a small snap, and then with a larger snap and lunge. She's actually quite patient, and puts up with a lot more from Via than she does from adult dogs. In addition to that, Maisy doesn't go over the top. She makes her point quickly, then moves on, making these corrections not only appropriate, but quite fair, as well.
This second video was taken about 15 minutes later:
As you can see, Via is getting tired. She’s begun barking, and in response, Maisy becomes stiffer and a bit quicker to snap at Via. Even so, Maisy remains fairly patient with Via, and prefers to de-escalate the situation by disengaging from her. We ended the play session shortly after this happened because Via was getting overly aroused, and Maisy was getting stressed, which isn't good for either of them.
Interestingly, Maisy’s corrections never quite work. Via usually momentarily stops what she was doing, but generally comes right back to swatting at Maisy with her paws, or biting her tail (oh, that tail is just too much temptation for a Schutzhund-bred puppy), or whatever naughtiness earned her a correction. I suspect this happens both because Via is very confident and because Maisy just isn't- she'd rather avoid a confrontation if she can.
I’m very curious to see how their relationship develops as Via grows older (and bigger!), especially since Maisy tends to be the most reactive towards large, dark-colored, prick-eared dogs. I’ve always suspected that Maisy’s reactivity is due to fear and anxiety, although I wasn’t quite sure what she was scared of.
Based on her interactions with Via, I’m beginning to think it’s because Maisy just doesn’t have the self-confidence needed to defend herself at close range. She could be a lot firmer with Via and still be appropriate and fair, but she just doesn’t seem to have it in her. Maybe she’s decided that the best defense is a good offense: if she can keep the scary dog away from her, she’ll never have to worry about defending herself.
At any rate, Maisy is good with puppies, and that makes me very happy.