Training goals for January

Attentive ladies

Have you heard? January is Train Your Dog month! Of course, training should be happening all the time (and it is, even when we think we’re not training them to do something), but it’s nice to have time set aside to really focus on those specific training goals.

Accordingly, here’s what we’re working on in our household:

January Goals for Pyrrha

  1. Curbing jealousy directed at Eden. Pyrrha only exhibits this behavior when I’m present, but she can get sassy/cranky (growling, body blocks, scruff biting) with Eden from time to time. *I* seem to be the resource she’s guarding (it’s not exhibited over a toy or food; she never acts this way when Guion is around), and so I confess I’m not entirely sure how to work on this. Anyone ever dealt with jealousy when you’re the guarded resource? What helped the jealous dog?
  2. Crate-exiting calmness. She’s gotten better about this, but we can still work on her waiting patiently during crate exits. Related to her jealousy issue (above), she can also redirect her crate-exiting craziness on Eden (with growls and body blocks).
  3. Avoiding leash reactivity on our walks. Continuing all that we learned from our reactivity class, via classical conditioning. I think she’s making progress, however subtle it may be. We’re also hopeful that Eden’s bouncy, confident presence will be calming to Pyrrha.
  4. Classical conditioning protocol for seeing small children. Pyrrha is frightened of children (about toddler age up to pre-teens), and so our trainer has recommended working on the same classical conditioning protocol that we did with leash reactivity when we see kids. Baby steps right at first (working far away from kids, just when she only perceives them, and then gradually closing the gap)!

January Goals for Eden

  1. Sitting to greet people. We’ve been working on this already, and it’s adorable how hard she tries not to jump. Her whole little body is just quivering with excitement, and she can hardly contain herself when people enter the room. But she’s learning quickly what we want her to do. I think we need to start pairing some extra incentive with it (e.g., food), although the affection and attention when she does sit seems to be working well.
  2. Crate-exiting calmness. Already working on this, and she gets the jist of it, but we can make this behavior (sitting quietly until the door is open) more solid.
  3. Not feeling the need to bark to announce herself in the backyard. As I mentioned, she doesn’t seem to bark nearly as much (or at all) when Pyrrha is in the yard with her.
  4. “Leave it.” I introduced this to her a few days ago, but we need to take some time to repeat and practice it.
  5. “Come!” This little turd really does not want to come to you when you ask her. She doesn’t even respond to the inviting body language (bent down, clapping playfully, even a play bow). She’d rather do her own thing and explore. Again, need to start using higher-value incentives here!
  6. Not counter-surfing. Thankfully, she’s never actually grabbed anything off the kitchen counters (so she’s not getting rewarded), but she is desperate to see and smell what’s up there. Need to work on this in a more patient, concentrated way.

Eden will also be taking her first obedience class near the end of this month, and Guion and I are looking forward to it. She’s so bright and eager to please; I just don’t want us to screw her up!

Are you setting goals for your dog(s) for Train Your Dog month? Do share them! And of course, if you have ever trained some of the issues that we’re working on, feel free to share your advice!

Noisy, impromptu play-date

I wasn’t planning on hosting dogs this weekend, but my friend Sarah (Roland’s mama) called and said that she was dog-sitting a boisterous Plott hound mix and that he could really burn off some steam. So, what better way to do that than a romp in the yard? Pyrrha was certainly ready for it.

Atticus is a feisty Plott hound mix with quite the pair of lungs.

A rare moment of silence

He spent a good portion of the play-date doing this:

Majority of the play date

Baying, baying, and then some barks thrown in for good measure!

I could see the neighbors peering out of their windows, trying to figure out what was going on. Pyrrha and her pack of friends tend to be rather quiet dogs, and so it’s rare to hear much dog noise coming from our yard. After 45 minutes or so, Atticus finally toned down the barking, but by then, Roland had decided that this barking stuff looked like fun and he began to follow suit.

Graceful Roland

Aside from all the noise, Atticus fell in nicely with Pyrrha and Roland, who are already fast friends.

Play time

The trio

Running

Atticus tended to get a bit irritated with Roland and Pyrrha during certain moments, and he’d lash out for a second, but he seemed to be able to recover himself after a time. We occasionally had to pull them apart and give them some space, but they got along without much needed intervention.

Atticus and Pyrrha

After a while, we decided to take the trio on a walk around the neighborhood, to get them to cool their jets a bit, and that was pleasant. And much quieter!

Best buds

Being around a very vocal dog makes you really appreciative of how quiet your own dog is… 😉

The laziest of dogs

The laziest of dogs

This is Pyrrha’s typical posture on any given day — sprawled out on the living room floor. (She looks kind of fat from this vantage point, but I promise you she isn’t… I’m like a pageant mom about her portrayal in photographs.)

We had more delightful house guests this weekend, my dear friend Angela (whom you may recall from a play date with Bo and Zoe) and her boyfriend, Marshall. Pyrrha took to them both very readily. They are both gentle, quiet souls and those are always Pyr’s particular favorites. She kept trying to incite them to wrestle with her, though, by taking their limbs into her mouth. This is probably a habit we should work on with more diligence, because most people aren’t exactly fond of a German shepherd suddenly taking their fingers into her mouth and giving them a playful nibble.

In other Pyr news: Last month, we switched her over to a grain-free kibble, and maybe I’m just deluding myself, but I think we’ve already been seeing the benefits. Her coat is much glossier, her poops are smaller, and her enthusiasm is only enhanced for meal time (that thin line of drool while she sits and waits for the bowl). After I lauded the benefits of grain-free kibble for weeks, Guion finally agreed and thought it was worth the extra $10 a bag for the health advantages. So far, a very good choice.

Also, Pyrrha issued a protective bark for the first time! I’m kind of celebrating it a bit. To me, the fact that she feels protective of our house and yard tells me that she is feeling more confident and secure. This is reinforced by the fact that she has never barked protectively before. She’s barked in fear, to ward off a dog behind the adjacent fences, but this was a bark directed toward a far-off person in the street, which said, “Hey, I see you! This is my place!” It’s still a very uncommon occurrence — as she still doesn’t bark when she sits in our front window and watches people and cars pass — but I see it as a sign of her increasing confidence.

Hope you and your pooches are well and enjoying a pleasant start to your weeks.

Lounging around, barking at cats

Squirrel patrol

Things have been a little quiet around here on the blog, mainly because my real life has been so insanely busy lately. But rest assured that Pyrrha is still doing well and being her typical goofy self.

Her latest thing: BARKING!

But only a little bit. Compared with your average German shepherd, I think Pyr is very quiet—in that she never barks. The only times I’ve heard her bark are when she’s playing with Dublin. She usually just slinks around the house, whines very rarely, and is otherwise a silent dog.

So, I was surprised early this week when I heard her barking in the backyard. I went out to investigate, and it turned out that we had an intruder. Albeit a 10-pound calico intruder. The neighbor has a very old, cranky cat who likes to hang out inside our fence, under shrubs, or under the shade of Guion’s hop tree, which sits just outside the fence. Pyrrha’s tail was swinging back and forth wildly and her hackles were up and there she was, facing the cat, barking.

And how did this curmudgeonly cat feel about this vocal display from the 70-pound German shepherd? Completely nonplussed. The cat just sat there in the yard, glaring at Pyrrha. And Pyr, our big, brave girl, was so uncertain of this cat’s behavior that she finally turned away and slunk back toward the house. So much for a confrontation and a cat deterrent.

Guion wishes she were more assertive toward this cat, because the cat likes to dig up the seedlings in our garden and uses our plots as its personal litter box. It’s nasty. But the cat doesn’t have a bit of fear toward Pyrrha. The cat seems to understand that Pyr is all bark and no bite… Oh, well!

Hope you all have pleasant, cozy weekends!

Pup links!

An Afghan hound and her lady in Paris. Source: The Paris Apartment

Fascinating dog-related links from around the Web this week…

Concerns about Unleashed Dogs. Karen London reflects on how we, as a community, should respond to this ever-growing social issue. Even though I’m always tempted myself to take a well-behaved dog off leash, I know I shouldn’t if it means that people with aggressive or untrained dogs can do the same. (The Bark blog)

The Evolution of Barking. Why did domestic dogs start barking? Here’s a summary of recent research on the topic, which I find quite interesting. Part of this research was briefly discussed in “Dogs Decoded.” (The Bark blog)

10 Things You Must Know about German Shepherd Dogs. A brief collection of the background and personality of this beautiful breed, which I am more and more leaning toward. (In Style Dog)

When Internet Memes Collide. Inter-species friends! That is one adorable and tolerant sheltie, to play so well with that squalling–but evidently delighted–infant. (Pawesome)

Polar Bear Befriends Dog. More inter-species friends! This blog should be proof enough that nothing delights me as much as YouTube videos of creatures from different species playing together. (The Premium Pet Blog)

To Barney’s New Family. A touching letter from a popular mommy blogger to her Scottish terrier’s new family. She made the wise decision to surrender the dog after determining that he did not fit well with their family and that she could no longer adequately care for him. It’s a heart-wrenching decision, but it happens so often, especially among young families with babies and poorly trained dogs. (Nat the Fat Rat)

Cousin. Famous blogger Heather Armstrong snaps a photo of a dog in Bangladesh, who accurately displays the prototype of the ancestral domestic dog. (Dooce)

Spay, Neuter Programs Are Paying Off. This year, fewer than 4 million dogs and cats will be euthanized, down from nearly 20 million in the 1970s. Let’s keep up that decline! (Ohmidog!)

Drunk People Are Buying Adorable Puppies They Won’t Want in Five Hours. Now this is a really terrible phenomenon, but at least the pet shops–unethical as they are to be selling puppy mill puppies–are creating an ordinance against it. (Daily Intel)

Teach a Dog to “Hold”: The Consequences. A totally precious–and obedient–Newfoundland proves how good he is at this command. (NewfandHound)

Can My Dog Make Me Healthier? All dog lovers can already answer this with a resounding, “YES!” Stanley Coren presents some evidence. (Psychology Today)