Where do your dogs sleep?

Whenever we had fosters, all dogs in the house were crated when we weren’t home or when we were sleeping. When we just had Pyrrha, though, she got free reign of the house during the day and at night. Pyrrha is one of the most trustworthy dogs I know with house independence, mainly because she’s fabulously lazy and not the slightest bit mischievous.

By Juju's bed

But since we added Eden to the household, we’ve gone back to crating both dogs, whenever we’re absent or sleeping.

This is fine, because we train all of our dogs, fosters or permanent, to love their crates, but one of the girls’ repeated points of tension with each other is when I come home to let them out of their crates. Pyrrha gets very agitated by my re-entrance and often takes it out on Eden with growling and snarking. To mitigate this, I let them out of their crates and into the yard separately, but it’s always kind of a pain. And I wonder if this would be resolved if they both got to be free when I came home.

The girls

That said, I don’t think Eden is ready for full-house independence when we’re not home, but her foster told me that he didn’t crate her at night (and this was back when she was only 4.5 months old, and notably crazier). She is still very much the puppy, and endlessly curious about things, so for her safety (and the safety of our shoes and houseplants), I still think it’s smart to crate her during the day when we’re not home.

But. I’m debating with the idea of letting both dogs choose where to sleep at night and keeping the door to their room and their crates open, so they could sleep in their crates if they chose (which Pyrrha probably would, although they both love that little rug in front of the French door, as pictured above).

What do you think?

Where are your dogs when you’re not home or sleeping? If you made a transition from the crate to house freedom, how did you manage it? How did you know your dog was “ready”?

Georgia visits and Rainer gets exiled

My husband graduated from his graduate program this weekend, which was very exciting, and my in-laws came to visit, bringing along their sweet pup Georgia (whom you may recall from our earlier visits).

Georgia baby!
Georgia baby is growing up!

She has gotten bigger, but not as big as I thought she’d be! Georgia is about six months old now, and I’d say she’s still only about 30 lbs. For those with goldens or golden mixes, how big would you think she’s going to get? I imagine she may never be much more than 40–50 lbs. Sweet little thing! She is still so spunky, and has such a fun, cuddly personality, and we love her…

… but Rainer? Not so much.

Rainer’s introductions to Georgia did NOT go well. Their first meeting was outside, on leashes, and Rainer ran full throttle into Georgia and got her by the throat. Really bad sign. No calming signals, no politeness, nothing: just straight into attack mode.

I was shaken by this, obviously, as was everyone else; thankfully, Georgia was OK. After things had calmed down, we let Rainer into the kitchen with the baby gate up and kept Georgia on the other side of the gate in the living room. But things did not improve. She tried to sniff him, and he lunged at her, ready to bite. We waited for a while, hoping he could calm down, but he seemed incapable of it; he was just fixated on her and doing whatever he could to knock down that gate and get to her.

This was not behavior that we could manage all weekend in our tiny house, so Rainer got to live in the sunroom for two nights.

Rainer in exile
Rainer in exile in the sunroom.

Rainer still got time outside with Pyrrha in the backyard, and I took him on two walks by himself, so he wasn’t completely isolated, but I know he was sad to not be inside with us. We just couldn’t have him snacking on Georgia, so this was the best solution for the weekend. Sigh.

Kitchen table chats

That aside, however, the rest of the weekend with Pyrrha and Georgia went well. They still get on very nicely, even though they had a few sibling squabbles over toys (nothing too serious and nothing that a time-out for both of them couldn’t fix).

Sniffs
At least these two still love each other.

Pyrrha will be spending a week with Georgia in June while we’re at the beach, so I am of course always glad to see how much they enjoy each other’s company.

Caged beasts
Caged beasts!

Moral of the weekend: Thankful to have taught these dogs that crates are happy places! Rainer, Pyrrha, and Georgia all got treats and kisses when they went into their crates, and they go into them willingly, without a fight. This made the whole dog-separation shenanigans all weekend SO much easier. And easier on my conscience, because I knew that they didn’t feel like they were being punished when they were crated.

The other lesson learned, however, is that Rainer probably isn’t great with small dogs.

Based on my short descriptions of his behavior, what do you think about Rainer’s aggressive behavior with Georgia? It didn’t really look like fear aggression to me. Do you think it could have been territorial aggression? Or just straight-up prey drive? Ever seen such a thing in a dog before? (No signals, no typical dog-greeting behaviors, just straight into attack mode.)

What do you think? And how can we help Rainer with this? I am now frightened for him to meet any small dogs going forward.

Things I’ve learned from fostering so far

We’ve only been fostering for two-and-a-half weeks now, but we have already learned so much!

Trifecta of shepherd protection
Trifecta of shepherd protection: Vera (adoptable pup), Pyrrha, and Brando (former foster)

A few of the fostering lessons we’ve learned:

  • Personality will probably shift over time. I thought Brando was a WILD MAN on the first day–and he was. He was so stressed out. I never thought we’d be able to let him indoors. But after a week, he’d settled down and he turned out to be quite a mellow dude. Likewise, Laszlo was fairly shut down for the first few days, but now he is all energy and play.
  • Baby gates are a lifesaver. The ability to separate the dogs when needed and the ability to keep them in a small space has been an excellent tool. Even though Pyrrha and Brando both could have jumped our baby gate if they wanted to, they respected the barrier. I also keep Laszlo in the kitchen with me while I’m eating or cooking; he can never be too far away from my sight.
  • Our small house has actually been beneficial. Although, yes, having two full-grown German shepherds in a 830-square-foot home is overwhelming, it’s actually been something of an advantage. Brando could never be too far out of our sight! (Cooking in our tiny galley kitchen with both dogs underfoot is another story, though…)
  • Crates are the best! I love crates. Brando didn’t love crates, but he gradually got used to them. I don’t know how people foster without them! We could leave for a few hours at a time without worrying that he was getting into something, going on the floor, etc. (I’m just praying now that we don’t get one of those Houdini GSDs who are able to get out of crates at will. Pyrrha has a touch of that ability–she has sprung herself out once for a gastrointestinal emergency–but thankfully she stays put 99% of the time.) Laszlo seems to have adapted to the crate as well. He still cries a little bit when we put him in there, but he has now been accident-free for four days (knock on wood!) and has been sleeping through the night (thank God).
  • Pyrrha loves having another dog around. Even though Brando would get tired of her, she never seemed to get tired of him! She was like a silly kid with him. Like a silly kid, she would occasionally get petulant and sassy, but she was always THRILLED to see Brando every morning. Very sweet. She also liked to follow him around and copy whatever he was doing, which was good news for Guion, because he got an extra dose of cuddliness from her when Brando was around. While she isn’t so thrilled with Laszlo, the two do have moments of affection.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of routines. Dogs love routines. Especially nervous dogs. Having a set schedule every day has helped our fosters relax and recuperate during their transition period. These dogs have, for the most part, had fairly rough lives thus far. Being able to count on a consistent daily routine helps them settle down and into the family life. This is the prime advantage of fostering, after all: Helping a dog (who has likely had a rough start) acclimate to life with humans.

Obviously, we still have a lot to learn, but it has been a fun journey so far!

Tomorrow, I am taking Laszlo to an adoption event with the rescue. I am sure he will garner lots of attention, being the adorable puppy and all. Here’s to hoping he finds his forever home soon!