Counting the little victories

Around here, I like to take note of the dogs’ little victories — their (often tiny) steps toward progress or a desired behavior. It helps keep the spirits up, particularly when you’re working with a fearful, reactive dog and a psycho adolescent!

Who, me?

Pyrrha’s Little Victories

  • I was walking both dogs home from a play-date with Fiona when we were suddenly approached by three strangers: a man I kind of knew (a friend’s father), who wanted to ask me about dog sitting, and then a middle-aged couple who wanted to meet the girls. I was engaged with talking to my friend’s father, so I didn’t really have time to monitor Pyrrha’s interaction with the couple. Generally, Pyrrha will back away from a strange man who tries to pet her and flatten her ears, and so I’d move her out of that situation. But when I had the chance to check on her, she was cozying up to this couple and lavishing their affections! Color me shocked. Pyrrha was better behaved than Eden with the whole interaction (Edie was kind of restless and whiny; not scared, just antsy). After my friend’s father left, we talked to the couple for a while, and they had a German shepherd who had recently passed away and were so enamored with the girls. They were calm and slow-moving, and I could tell they knew how to greet a dog, and I thanked them for that, noting that Pyrrha was normally frightened with such interactions. They beamed at the compliment, and the husband said, “Dogs just know dog people.” Yes, they do, sir!
  • Pyrrha has also been doing a marvelous job of backing down from little squabbles. Instead of picking up the challenge to growl or snap at Eden, she’s been moving away from the situation or diffusing it with her body language. She’s been a lot more relaxed with Eden lately, which has been encouraging to see. I think they’re finally getting acclimated to one another!
  • It’s always a work in progress, but Pyrrha has also been braver in her interactions with Guion. I never force her to be near Guion, because that would only backfire; instead, we let her make her own choices about whether she’d like to be close to or far away from Guion. Recently, she’s decided to stay in a room with just Guion, even after Eden and I have left. This may sound like a paltry thing, but in Pyrrha’s universe, it’s a big deal! I’ve been proud of her. I also think Eden’s gregarious presence has had a good influence on Pyrrha’s interactions with Guion. You can see her thinking about it: “Hm, this crazy puppy is wild about Scary Man. Maybe he’s not so evil after all…”
  • Never thought I’d see the day, but guess who tolerates nail clipping now?? We had to stop using Maggie’s brilliant method of the peanut butter plate, because then Pyrrha generalized and got terrified of us even opening the peanut butter jar (!). Now, I ply her with simple treats, and she just calmly stands there, munching her biscuits, and lets me clip her nails. She doesn’t enjoy it, and never will, but she tolerates the nail clipping, and that’s huge!
She’s getting so LONG!

Eden’s Little Victories

  • Eden has acquired a new habit of lying down at my feet while I get ready for work in the morning — instead of pacing and whining and clawing at the door until I attend to her. This is a very welcome development!
  • Edie has mastered quiet crate exits, which is encouraging. She is so quiet and polite in her crate now; it’s hard to believe that she’s the same wild beast who would throw herself at the door and cry pitifully. She’s 8 months old now, and I daresay she’s gaining a modicum of self-control.
  • This is not exactly something that Eden has accomplished herself, but thanks to a few months of fish oil supplements, I’m happy to report that her itchiness has gone down considerably. She still scratches herself from time to time (what dog doesn’t?), but it’s nothing like the constant scratching when she first came to us. We’ll probably always have her on the fish oil supplement, but it’s worth it to have a less itchy, more comfortable puppy!
  • Eden is our pup with some resource guarding issues, and we’re still working on that overall, but she has made progress in the toy department. She still doesn’t love it when Pyrrha approaches her while she has a toy or a bone, but she doesn’t pick a fight anymore. We have tried to manage this by limiting both girls’ access to coveted objects and always monitoring their behavior when prized possessions are in the room. She continues to show more maturity and less anxiety about “her” toys and bones, which is encouraging. Still gotta work on the food guarding, though.

Also, can I just say THANK GOD that we’re finally having some pleasant weather?? Everyone in our household is so much happier about this. The dogs want to be in the yard more; I want to take them on longer walks; we have more play-dates; Edie gets to play Frisbee or fetch… everything in life has improved, just because of the weather. Keep on coming, spring!

Happy Friday! What “little victories” has your dog accomplished this past week?