Busy life, busy pups

Babies

Life has been so busy around here (lots of travel, house guests, events, etc., just beyond our normal work/life madness) that I haven’t had much time for blogging. I hope to write some more thoughtful posts soon, but in the meantime, I’m afraid all I have are some cute pictures and mini-anecdotes.

Recent dog/life lessons:

Cherries Are Toxic to Dogs

Our neighbor has two mature cherry trees that branch into our yard, and so we had this abundant harvest of red cherries for about a month. Guion made wonderful cherry cobblers, and we were thrilled with this unexpected boon. The dogs, unfortunately, were also thrilled, and loved to go harvesting for fallen cherries themselves. Cherries, as with most stone fruits, are toxic to dogs (the pits contain cyanide!). Eden was gobbling them up before we could stop her, so we had to erect a temporary fence situation in the yard. (She was experiencing lots of diarrhea and some mild vomiting. Lots of pits found in her crate…) Now, she’s fine, and we’re all relieved. But I can see she’s still scheming how to get in there and get her forbidden fruits.

If you’re curious if you have any toxic plants in your yard, the ASPCA has a wonderful and very comprehensive resource on this: Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants.

Walks Are Therapeutic for Dogs and Humans

I’ve been away from home for some time, for family travel and business, and coming back to see the girls is especially sweet. Pyrrha, in particular, acts like I’ve been resurrected from the dead after I return from a few days’ absence. Such unbridled joy! Such wonderment! Such mauling of the legs and face! We take walks as often as we can now, to release my stress and to channel their energies. Nothing I enjoy so much as walking the dogs — even if the walks are short (to avoid other dogs), even if the weather is bad, even if they have to stop every second to smell every sixth leaf. The walks are always good.

Pyrrha Is Better with New People, According to New People

It’s hard to observe behavioral progress sometimes, which is why house guests can be such helpful barometers. We’ve recently had a lot of guests, and almost all of them have said one thing: “Wow, Pyrrha is so much calmer and happier — and less scared of me. What’s changed?” And I’m still surprised to hear them say it, because many days, I just see a dog who is ruled by her fears. But she IS doing so much better, and it’s so heartening to hear this confirmation from external sources.

I think Eden — wild, demon-possessed Eden — deserves the credit here. Her love of Guion, her exuberance toward strangers, and her overall playful attitude have influenced Pyrrha in a seriously positive way. No, Pyr will never love Guion like she loves me, or think that strange men are super-duper fun, but she may continue moving in a positive, confident direction. And that thrills me to think about. Maybe we’ll keep Eden after all… 😉

As summer marches on, what’s new in your lives?

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The busy little puppy

We’re having fun with Eden, even if she drives us crazy sometimes.

Bitch face
Bitch face.

Cracks me up. Despite what this photo may suggest, the girls are actually doing very well together. Pyrrha is even starting to tolerate Eden lying next to her or even touching her while they are both dozing (something she formerly could not put up with from any dog).

Out with the girls

We’ve also been reminded that most normal adolescent dogs need more exercise than Pyrrha does. (Pyr has always been a very lazy shepherd, rather uncharacteristic of her busybody breed.) If we want to be able to eat dinner in peace, the puppy needs a walk, preferably one that takes an hour. (How do people with full-time jobs live with puppies?? Something I have yet to figure out.) Nothing wears her out like a walk. Yeah, she and Pyr can play chase and wrestle in the backyard for an hour, but a walk is the only thing that leads to some peace and quiet around here.

Basement living

What are your favorite methods of wearing your dogs out? How do you manage it with your full-time job?

Hope that you have bright, peaceful, long-walk-filled weekends ahead!

Out with the girls

Weekend recap (and behavior update)

Disgruntled, I

We spent our Easter (and my birthday) weekend at my parents’ house for a mini-family reunion. While I was too busy (or lazy?) to take photos, we did spend lots of time with Pyrrha, taking walks and observing her on-leash behavior.

Behavior Notes

  • She spent the majority of the weekend hanging out with her girlfriend Dublin, which was nice. The two of them get along well, as they always have. They’ll wrestle for a few minutes, perhaps fight over a toy or an old bone, and then go lounge in separate corners of the yard.
  • She had some GI issues over the weekend, which I won’t go into further, but I am beginning to think that our girl has a sensitive stomach. I’ve finally learned that she can’t handle rawhides or most chews. I want to try deer antlers, though, because I’ve heard those aren’t as upsetting. Do any of you have a dog with a sensitive stomach? Do you have any chews/bones that work for your dog? She LOVES chewing and she adores bones, so I hate to deprive her of them entirely, but they make her so sick.
  • Her on-leash reactivity was mostly OK. We walked her with Dublin (a confident, no-nonsense dog who isn’t rattled by anything) several times, and Pyrrha did not have any aggressive reactions to any dogs that we passed or encountered. This was encouraging. There was one moment, however, when she was on-leash by herself with me, and a leashed dog walked down the street. Pyrrha barked at this dog, but that was the only response.

All of your comments and advice have been immensely helpful. I am planning on re-reading Control Unleashed and trying LAT with her on our walks in the neighborhood. I think your suggestions that her aggressive display is a function of fear/trying to act tougher than she actually feels is accurate. Dublin’s presence on our walks suggests to me that Pyrrha felt “protected” by Dublin and thus no need to put on a show for other dogs; with baby Laszlo, however, I imagine she felt like she needed to guard him against other dogs, OR she felt more nervous and unsure about what to do with other dogs when she was with a puppy companion.

Anyway. More to come on this issue, I am sure. We are traveling AGAIN this weekend, this time to visit Georgia and my in-laws! So, more dog stories to come!

Waiting her out

Downtown mall walk
Sniffing around Court Square.

Last Wednesday, Pyrrha and I took a long walk downtown–to visit Guion at work, and just to get out and stretch our legs for a few hours. I love these long, quiet walks with her. I feel like my mind is able to unwind after a day at work. I love watching her gain confidence on our walks, with her mouth hanging open and her tail swishing back and forth.

On our way downtown, we encountered a woman and her gorgeous malamute/shepherd mix. He had the coloring and build of a light sable wolf, although he was about Pyrrha’s height. As they approached, Pyrrha tucked her tail and bared her teeth at the dog. I started to apologize to the woman, but she said, “He used to do that all the time, too,” pointing to her handsome dog. I was surprised. He looked so calm and friendly.

We started talking, and it turned out that she’d adopted Chino about three months ago and he’d made great progress since then. I loosened Pyrrha’s leash as I talked to the woman. We discussed rescuing, our shy dogs, and the progress they gradually make. Throughout this conversation, Chino was placid and unconcerned by Pyrrha’s toothy display–and, as I was relieved to note, his human seemed to be equally nonplussed.

Downtown mall walk
Nearing the downtown mall.

Perhaps two minutes passed, and suddenly Pyrrha’s tail unwound; her hackles released; and she threw down a goofy play-bow in front of Chino. He responded in kind, and then the two were happily romping along the sidewalk (while we were trying to keep them from darting into the road). She even started kissing his ears. My dog, in a state of utter fear just a minute ago, was now smitten with this stud of a canine. We had to actually drag them apart, so we could continue on our merry way.

As I walked away, I turned to Chino’s human and said, “Thank you for waiting her out. That means a lot to me!”

I explained. Most dog owners, when they see Pyrrha’s lips curled back in fear and those bared teeth, gasp and run in the opposite direction, trailing their dogs behind them. I don’t blame them. A German shepherd in that posture is a fearful sight to behold. Because of this, however, Pyrrha rarely gets to move beyond that threshold of fear into that state of initiating play. Most people aren’t willing to wait it out.

But Chino’s lady was–and I was so grateful to her for that. Pyrrha needs all the positive dog-on-dog interactions she can get. They are hard to come by. I hope we’ll continue to run into Chino and his person, so my girl continues to learn that there isn’t anything to be afraid of after all.

Have you ever been grateful for someone–even a stranger–who understood your dog’s special needs?

Pyrrha and I visit Guion at work

One of the things I’ve been learning about Pyrrha is that she needs a lot more exercise than she lets on. (She’s a healthy 1-year-old German shepherd, after all!) Most of the time, she lazes around the house, getting up only to patrol the front windows or wander into the kitchen to see if we happen to drop something tasty.

However, it’s clear that she has a whole reservoir of energy that’s lying mostly untapped. I think she could run for hours, were she so inclined. In an attempt to tap into this hidden energy reservoir, I decided to take her on an hour-and-a-half walk last week. After I got home from work, we decided we’d walk downtown to meet Guion at work and run a few errands with her.

An evening walk
An evening walk.

Walking with Pyrrha tends to be somewhat slow-going at first, because she has to smell every other plant and shrub and piece of trash. For now, I’m very lenient toward this behavior. I know some people who only give their dogs permission to sniff on command, but I don’t see sniffing as a vice; rather, it’s her way of reading the daily news. In time, I think I will introduce a command to get her to leave something alone or to move on, because she does have a tendency to linger, but for now, the walks are slow, because the girl is laboriously sniffing.

An evening walk
Alert! A dog ahead!

Despite the fact that she’s very new to leash walking, I think she’s in really good shape. She’s very responsive to me while on leash and doesn’t pull (except when a squirrel or bird is tempting her). The main thing she needs to learn about leash manners is not crossing in front of me constantly and tripping me; she has a bad habit of walking right in front of one and stopping. Anyone’s dog ever do this? How would you train away from that behavior?

Guion works part-time at a wine co-op downtown. He manages the quiet office there, so once we arrived, he invited us in while he closed up. Pyrrha seemed fairly anxious about this new space, but after she patrolled the borders for a few minutes, she laid down by the door and started to calm down.

Pyrrha visits the Wine Guild
Visiting “Dad” at work!
Pyrrha visits the Wine Guild
Checking it out.

After we helped Guion close up, we went to the library (where she waited outside with Guion) and then Pyrrha and I walked home. It was a beautiful, balmy summer evening and I was only too happy to spend a large chunk of it walking my good dog.

I think we’ll keep her.

Pyrrha visits the Wine Guild
What a good girl.