10 things my fearful dog isn’t afraid of

When you live with a fearful dog, I’ve found that it’s easy to get weighed down by all of their issues. The fears are often the only things you can think about when you consider your dog and watch them interact with the outside world.

Pyrrha by the back stoop

The first day we had her; this is where she hid from us for a few hours.

Pyrrha is our fearful dog, and she will always have fear issues. I’m coming to terms with this reality, but I also want to take the time to consider the ways in which she’s made progress and the things she’s overcome since coming to live with us in May 2012.

This probably seems like a silly list to someone who has a confident, stable dog — and trust me, if I had to list the things Eden wasn’t afraid of, we’d be here a while — but these things represent milestones in Pyrrha’s gradual development.

So, here are:

10 Things My Fearful Dog Isn’t Afraid of

  1. Me! (Now, she treats me like I hung the moon and the stars, but for the first few weeks in our home, she didn’t want anything to do with me. Our relationship has clearly transformed since then.)
  2. House guests. (She’s even not afraid of male house guests anymore, which is a big accomplishment for her.)
  3. Squirrels, birds, and any other small vermin. (Her wavelength: Mmm, mobile snacks!)
  4. Other dogs, when the dogs are in an off-leash context. (Despite her reactivity to other dogs on walks, she actually adores other dogs and loves playing with them.)
  5. The guitar. (Used to hide in her crate when Guion played the guitar; now sees it as a normal part of life.)
  6. Riding in the car. (She loves car rides and has always traveled like a champ.)
  7. Fireworks.
  8. Thunderstorms.
  9. The elderly.
  10. Skateboards or bicycles or other similar moving objects on the street.
The queen

Pyrrha today; a much changed dog.

If you have a fearful dog, how have you seen her or him progress? What are some things your fearful dog isn’t afraid of?

New toy joy (review of Planet Dog Glow for Good ball)

Another way dogs are like little kids: Anything NEW is the BEST THING EVER.

Planet Dog ball review | Doggerel

I mean, look at these dorks:

Planet Dog ball review | Doggerel

Planet Dog ball review | Doggerel

So when we got the Planet Dog Glow for Good ball in the mail from Chewy, the girls were more than a little excited.

Planet Dog ball review | Doggerel

Notably, Pyrrha was really into this ball, and she normally doesn’t go wild over toys like Eden. When we adopted her, she had never played with toys before, so it took her a long time to warm up to them. Which is why these photos of her reveling in the new ball just melt my heart:

Planet Dog ball review | Doggerel

Planet Dog ball review | Doggerel

Eden, however, has a really strong drive for retrieving, so I knew she’d enjoy any new ball. “Enjoy” is putting it lightly; the dog didn’t let this particular ball leave her mouth for about three hours after she stole it away from Pyrrha. Amazing. She’s totally obsessed with it.

Planet dog ball review | Doggerel

The ball is squishy but strong, and Eden hasn’t chipped any part of it off, even after hours and hours of intensive fetching and chomping. It also has a minty aroma, which is intriguing to me. And the ball glows in the dark, which is pretty wonderful if you have an all-night fetcher. Furthermore, there is a hole through the middle of the ball, which could be stuffed with small treats or a narrow chew (about the thickness of a Sharpie marker). And it floats! Which is a great feature if you have water retrievers. Even better, 100% of the proceeds from the ball go to support Planet Dog Foundation, the company’s nonprofit that champions service dogs.

The Glow for Good ball in the 3″ size currently sells for $12.54 at Chewy.com.

Planet Dog ball review | Doggerel

In short, we were thrilled with the new toy, and we will definitely be shopping for Planet Dog products in the future! I’m impressed. And I daresay the girls are too.

Does your dog have a favorite ball? Have you ever used a Planet Dog product before?

Disclosure: We were provided with this ball by Chewy.com in exchange for our honest review.

Little company in all the world


Donna Tartt and her pug, Pongo. (c) Jill Krementz.

“My dog has a number of acquaintances of his own species — as do I — but it is abundantly clear to both of us that there is little company in all the world which we enjoy so much as each other’s.”

— Donna Tartt

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Happy weekend, everyone!

Speaking of Donna Tartt, has anyone read The Goldfinch? If so, what did you think of it? My thoughts about it are on Goodreads, the website that I am most deeply obsessed with…

How do you break up with your vet?

Have you ever broken up with your vet? If so, why? Care to share your experiences?

“The Veterinarian,” Norman Rockwell.

I’ve not totally made up my mind to do this, but I’ve been thinking lately about finding another vet. It’s not for any serious disputes, though. In general, they’ve been great, and they’re always very responsive when we have issues. We were in their office every week in April, for various issues, and they were supportive and kind.

So, why am I thinking about breaking up?


  • Distance. It takes us about an hour by car, round trip, to get to them. This exhausts me. And it’s an added expense.
  • Sometimes I question their knowledge base. Naturally, I do not have a vet degree, and so I trust them… but with all of our health issues lately, sometimes I felt like I was the one pointing things out or suggesting tests or treatments. That made me feel uneasy.

But maybe I’m crazy, because:


  • Seem to be cheaper than most local vets, who cater to the rich pups (our town is wealthier than we are).
  • Really sweet, all-female staff.
  • Have worked with lots of shepherds from the girls’ rescue, so they are very familiar with shy German shepherds.

I don’t want to break up with them, because they are so nice, but Guion wants to. He’d prefer to go somewhere nearby, and he also feels like their advice sometimes doesn’t make sense. What do you think? Am I crazy for even considering it?

How do you train in a multiple-dog household?

I am a lazy trainer.

This is perhaps my least favorite attribute of myself as a dog owner. Now that we have two, I’m finding it even harder to make time to work with the girls on new behaviors. Since the nipping incident,* our commitment to working on P’s classical conditioning protocol for reactivity has been strongly renewed, and that has been encouraging and motivating. But everything else? Eh. Not much progress.

We tell people all the time, “Oh, Eden is SO smart,” and then they say, “Really? What can she do?” Umm… she can sit… and maul you at the front door when you come in? Oh, yeah, and she’s also really good at digging giant holes in the backyard… Yeah. Definite second-dog syndrome sufferer.

(*Side note: Thank you all for your gracious and kind comments about the nipping incident. You were honest with me about the difficulties we’ll continue to face with Pyrrha and children, but also encouraging that this is something we can continue to work on and be very vigilant about. Meant a lot to me.)


The babes.

One of my main training dilemmas/deterrents right now is the difficulty of training one on one.

Pyrrha is extremely attached to me — as in, obsessive level of attachment. She is uncomfortable and anxious if I’m not in her line of sight at all times. This is one of her many fear burdens. Eden, being much more laid-back, is fine doing her own thing, but she also doesn’t like being excluded from the action (and will voice her discontent quite enthusiastically).

What I’ve done in the past, when I want to actively work on new behaviors, is crate one dog, and then go into another room with the other dog and close the door. What’s happened so far is the crated dog pitches a fit with lots of barking and crying, either from mere separation or the knowledge that someone is getting treats and it isn’t them. This usually results in the dog being trained feeling rather distracted by all the commotion beyond the door.

Potential solutions I haven’t tried yet:

  • Give the crated dog a high-value bone or stuffed Kong, in the hopes that this will distract her
  • Train out in the backyard, in the hopes that this will reduce crated dog’s distress and minimize the noise distraction
  • If I’m working with Pyrrha, ask Guion to go play Frisbee or fetch with Eden, if he’s home (this solution has limited applicability, however)

I know there are little videos and podcasts on how to train with multiple dogs in the room at one time, but those dogs have killer down-stays and self-control, neither of which our pups have mastered yet (see introductory text: “lazy trainer,” etc.). So, those things need to happen first before we can reliably work on simultaneous, double-dog training sessions.

I really do want to work on this and renew my commitment to our girls. They could be SO much better trained than they are, and I take full responsibility for that failure. A partial motivation to revisit this conundrum is that I’d like to take Eden to an intermediate training class with our beloved trainer, but I don’t want the trainer to be disappointed by how little Eden has learned since we were last in class! Yeah. Chalk it up to the strong motivator of Dog Lady Shame.

So, help! Those of you with multi-dog households: How do you make solo training time happen? Even if you don’t have several dogs at home, how do you think I could manage this more effectively?