Dog life lately

We’ve been having fun with our pups, even when they drive us crazy. I’ve so appreciated hearing from so many of you with your tips and tricks on puppy raising, daily walks, and allergies. Collectively, you have a wealth of knowledge, and I’m always so thankful to receive your comments.

Home security system
Home security system.

Here’s what’s been happening lately in our new multi-dog household:

Pyrrha the disciplinarian

Home security system
That side eye from the baby.

I’ve known this about Pyrrha, particularly with our younger fosters, but she likes to play the role of school marm/elder sibling disciplinarian with puppies. It speaks to her inner dog, which is really just a curmudgeonly old lady. If I chastise Eden, Pyrrha likes to follow up on my admonishment by chasing her down and growling/grumbling in her face. Sometimes she grabs Eden’s scruff too, by way of a larger warning.

Essentially, I’m not sure if I should intervene when Pyrrha displays this behavior. Pyrrha lays off after a few seconds, and Edie is always unharmed (and then will usually just go back to whatever unwanted behavior she was carrying out). My best guess is that this is a behavior that older dogs exhibit toward puppies, and I imagine it will fade as Eden matures, but I don’t want to unwittingly let them fall into a bad habit if I can stop it now.

What do you think? Is this problematic? Do your dogs ever “discipline” each other?

Eden the disc dog

Work from home
Guys. I am biased, but she is CUTE. Even with her raggedy tongue.

We have discovered that Eden loves playing Frisbee! She has a high retrieving drive, so my husband made a good guess that she’d enjoy chasing a disc. She’s addicted! Eden is still learning how to jump and catch it, but she’s learning the game very quickly. No shepherd can really compete with a border collie or aussie in this realm, but I think it’s going to be a game that she can enjoy for a long time. Guion was so inspired from teaching her that he went and immediately bought her $40 worth of the high-end dog discs (Jawz, by Hyperflite). Ha! #spoiledpup

I don’t have any good photos or videos of this yet, so for now, here she is with her other favorite toy: an old gourd, left over from Halloween.

Little Miss Packrat's favorite toy: an old gourd. #weirddog #ediebaby #vscocam
Such a packrat. Not a disc but an old gourd. And one of my socks.

Fence as a frustrating barrier

Our new yard is bordered by unfenced yards. In particular, our various neighbors on the left have several small dogs (an ancient maltese, some tiny poodle mix, and a Jack Russell terrier, from what I can tell) who they let roam (without leashes) through various yards and straight to our fence. This drives Pyrrha CRAZY. Her behavior is a mix of reactivity (frustration mixed with fear) and some desire to play. Eden is just excited to have visitors! We’re trying to figure out when these dogs are released, so that we can time our potty breaks differently, to avoid outbursts. Meanwhile, it’s kind of frustrating.

Daily walks

Daily walk
On a walk.

We’ve been working on daily walks, something that I confess we didn’t do with Pyrrha. Yesterday, we walked for an hour on the trails near the river, which is always heavily populated with dogs and children (Pyrrha’s top reactivity triggers). Overall, I’d say it was a successful visit. As usual, Guion walked Edie, and I walked Pyrrha and looked like a total lunatic, armed with my treat bag and clicker and my constant scanning of the horizon for kids or dogs.

Edie walks in front of us, so she gets to encounter people, kids, and dogs without watching any fearful reactions from Pyrrha. This strategy has worked well for us so far. Eden got to meet a laid-back, friendly hound, and the introduction went very well. The hound was on a retractable leash, however, so I kept Pyrrha very far away from him. There were lots of dogs out, but we were able to avoid any reactive outbursts, which is a victory in my book for Pyrrha. Edie continues to be bothered by nothing, which is an encouragement and in keeping with how we have perceived her personality over the past few weeks.

I really love walking our girls, even if Pyrrha’s fears occasionally mean that we have to cut our walks short, take weird routes, or appear rude to children or dog-walking neighbors. I’m thankful that we have a reactivity protocol in place to help her, and I’m always thankful for days in which she has no outbursts. And, of course, we’re also thankful for our new, confident little baby, who balances the scales.

Playing with Fiona + shifts in Pyrrha’s play style

Play date with Fiona! #doglife @sallie516
Playing with Fiona!

In our new house, we live even closer to Fiona, so it’s been fun to have play-dates with her. So far, Fiona is the only play-date guest we’ve had in the new house; we need to get out more invitations!

Something I’ve noticed with Pyrrha’s behavior with Fiona: Since bringing Eden into the family, Pyrrha has markedly changed her play style with Fiona. She is frankly kind of a bully to little Fi. Fiona is extremely submissive, and she spends the first 10 minutes of every play-date on her back, belly-up, lying very still and letting our bossy girls sniff her to death.

Once she starts to run, however, Pyrrha chases her and rough-houses in a way that she doesn’t with other dogs; she even humps Fiona, which is a behavior Pyr rarely exhibits. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s a definite change. Eden and Fiona, meanwhile, play beautifully together, as they have similar (high!) energy levels. Eventually, Pyrrha just lets them chase each other in circles and then just goes and does her own thing.

Have you ever seen your dog change his or her play style? What do you think caused the shift?

Synchronized sleeping. #babies #doglife #vscocam
Synchronized sleepers.

We’re thankful for our girls, issues and all!

Big challenge coming up: We’re hosting a housewarming party with 50+ guests in two weekends. Socialization gauntlet! I think Eden can handle it; Pyrrha could if there are no children and no one wants to mess with her; but we’re going to have the crates and a quiet room ready just the same. Whew!

Hope your weeks have been going well!

Puppy punk
This photo also says a lot about their general demeanors.
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19 thoughts on “Dog life lately

  1. Cute photos! That one of Eden at the top – so adorable!
    Moses and Alma are synchronized sleepers, too.
    I’ve actually found dogs that discipline (within reasonable, healthy limits) to be a help sometimes. For example, Moses really liked to hump other dogs. He still does occassionally, but not nearly as much as he used to. We’d interrupt it, since it’s fairly rude behaviour, but if there was a dog who would give him crap for it, all the better! The dogs can communicate to him better, quicker, and more clearly than we can, so if they’re willing to tell him what he’s doing is inappropriate (without escalating), I’m happy to let them – he’ll learn faster. Often the other owner will apologize for their dog “being mean”, but that’s not necessary. Let them do their thing.
    But dogs who are the overall “fun police”, not just correcting bad behaviour, but getting bent of shape when dogs are running around or wrestling and otherwise exhibiting normal play behaviour – that’s another issue.

  2. Such beautiful girls! The synchronized sleeping is just too much!

    Dio tends to police playing a bit. He will stand off to the side and bark, and only with Coal and Bea – not any other dogs. He does have some anxiety issues, and it seems to be his way of releasing tension when Coal and Beatrix are playing.

    Between Eden and Pyrrha: if Pyrrha if going after Eden after you have already corrected Eden…I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s almost like Pyrrha is saying “Yeah! You have to listen to me, too!” in a big sister type way, you know? I can see how in the future that could turn ugly, especially if Eden says “Look, enough already!”

    The only times my dogs have “disciplined” each other have been along the lines of a growl when one is lying down sleeping and another wakes them up wanting to play. It never escalates beyond a growl or the offended dog looking/turning away. Now that’s not to say my dogs haven’t fought. THEY HAVE FOUGHT. In a neck biting, blood drawing, dogs screeching type way, all do to reactivity issues and redirected biting.

    1. Thanks; this is really helpful context. Squabbling and even fighting is part of a multi-dog household, I’m coming to learn. Our girls have not had a fight yet, but I have definitely intervened when I felt like things were escalating. We still watch them closely. Pyrrha has never tended to be a member of the “fun police” so far, but with Eden’s new membership in the family, I’m wondering if it’s a trait she’s developing.

      1. You’re welcome! I’m glad you could get something from it.

        I do think scuffles are part of a multi-dog household; just like (human) siblings would behave sometimes.

  3. No advice from me about multi-dog issues, although I will say my go-to resource for “What is my dog communicating?” is Patricial McConnel.

    As for the back yard, I would start putting money aside to get a more opaque fence. Especially if things escalate–the very last thing you want is the kind of aggression/frustration that has one of your dogs turn on the other one. Not saying that it’s likely, but it has been known to happen. In the meantime, somewhere on YouTube there is a beautiful video of one of the well-known positive trainers using the Premack principle to train away fence running. I’ll look for it.

  4. I love reading your updates! As a mom of a fearful/reactive dog, I think your walking technique is super inspiring! We hope to get a 2nd well-rounded dog eventually and I was always nervous as to how Ru’s behavior would affect a new dog coming in. By walking your confident dog in front, you’re keeping her personality in check while Pyrrha can see how confident she is as well. Love this idea!

    1. Thank you! Yes, it’s something we’ve been watching closely, because we don’t want Pyrrha’s fearful reactions to rub off on Edie. So far, I think this strategy has been working well for us!

  5. Morgan changed A LOT when we brought Küster home. As a matter of fact, I think that is the single biggest trigger in her behavior change. She was a fabulous puppy nanny until he got to be around five months old or so, and then he began to challenge her authority. My husband would not let them work it out (and I think possibly they could have, but I’m not sure) because he absolutely positively will not let anything potentially dangerous in any way near his dog. But, the two of them have had a couple of skirmishes and it wasn’t pretty. I would say that if Pyrrha’s behavior makes you uncomfortable, tell her to knock it off. She needs to know that YOU have things under control.

    One other thing. We were warned about not letting Küster do things that were too high impact by his breeder until he was a year old. Their bones are soft until then. I wouldn’t say don’t play frisbee with her, but I would say be careful not to let her get too much air before she lands. I probably sound all preachy, but in case you haven’t heard it, well, there it is! Sorry if I sound like a wet blanket!

    1. Thanks! This is very helpful; I always look forward to your feedback! I have heard the same thing about frisbee/young bones (esp. for GSDs); right now, we’re just throwing it for her and she just runs after it (no jumping). I appreciate your advice!

  6. My mini Aussie (female) will correct both of my male dogs, another mini Aussie and an Aussie/Border Collie mix. I just let her as she does not hurt them but does a lot of vocal grumbling and a bit of nipping. She does this when I say we are going outside and they are not waiting at the door as she thinks they should be and when we are outside in the backyard and I call them in if one of them does not come in right away and ignores me then she goes and gets them. She is the smallest and they both fear her grumpiness and obey her quickly. If I scold one of them for chewing a pencil or such or getting into something she joins in with some scolding of her own.

  7. They are so completely gorgeous! I’m glad things are going so well. And congrats on the long walk with no reactions… that’s a huge victory! As for the discipline thing, yes. Emmett disciplines Cooper and only one time did it escalate to the point that I stepped in. Otherwise, they’re pretty good at administering/accepting appropriate corrections.

    The yard thing makes me crazy. Loose dogs running up to the fence is so dangerous, and for dogs like my Lucas or maybe even Pyr, I feel like that frustration unravels so much hard work. I see folks have made some good suggestions. All I can say is I feel ya’ and good luck.

  8. Big fan of your blog and gorgeous dogs (recovering reactive GSD owner here). I know this is an older post but I wanted to chime in anyway. Since your neighbors let their dogs roam free, have you tried spraying them with the hose before they approach the fence? Seems like the most humane way to keep them away from your yard (I figure the owners won’t be willing to change their habits) and incidents like that could really be hindering Phyrra’s progress since from her perspective, not even her home is truly safe from strange dogs.

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