A four-dog play-date

We hosted a springtime play-date, and these three good-looking dogs came over:

Loki, the Newfoundland

Four-dog play-date
Loki.

Josie, the German shepherd

Four-dog play-date
Josie. (I love her; she’s a little pocket shepherd!)

and Finn, the Llewellin setter (Finn’s first time coming over to play with us!)

Four-dog play-date
Finn.

I did not get any good photos of the play, so apologies. It was hot, so the pups were doing limited romping and lots of moseying around the yard, looking at each other.

Finn was a little bit nervous about the play-date, and Loki didn’t like him much. It was the first time I’d seen Loki testy with another dog, which was interesting. My best guess is that it has something to do with the fact that Finn is intact. Also interesting: Eden went into her first heat the very next morning after our play-date, but the boy dogs did not care about her at all. Finn was enamored with Josie (who is spayed) and could not leave her alone! Josie’s mama said, “I think she must smell nice to the boy dogs; they always love her.” Indeed! Josie was an all-star, just rolling with the punches, putting up with any brattiness from Eden (and reacting calmly when Pyrrha tried to start something with her). Good girl, Josie. Wish you would rub off on our crazies!

Four-dog play-date
The shepherd girls check out Finn, who is a little unsure of their advances.

As I alluded to above, Pyrrha did not attend the play-date, sadly. She did not interact well with Josie (totally Pyrrha’s fault, and not Josie’s), which was sad and surprising, as the two of them played together beautifully the first time they met. She got all up in Josie’s grill and started posturing with her (putting her head over Josie’s shoulders and giving a really intense, bug-eyed stare), which escalated into snapping and growling. I intervened quickly and put Pyr inside for the duration of the play-date. Usually it’s Eden that I’m more nervous about with new dogs. Sigh.

Pyrrha’s play style has changed since we added Eden to the household. She’s gotten more tense about other dogs in the yard and simultaneously more standoffish during play time. She still seems to enjoy having other dogs around, but she seems less at ease about negotiating introductions/greetings. After the initial meeting is over, Pyrrha is fine, and coexists peaceably — but if she can’t get over that initial hurdle, she just escalates her anxiety. I don’t know what this means or how I can help her.

It’s a very specific issue, but do you have any ideas what could be making Pyrrha more testy? Have you ever seen this play dynamic change when you added a new dog to your home?

Four-dog play-date

Thankful for a sunny weekend

We were so thankful for a bright, spring-like weekend here, after what has felt like the longest winter ever.

P on the deck
Happy P on the deck.

The girls got to spend tons of time outside — taking walks, hosting play-dates, playing Frisbee.

Best friends reunited
Best friends reunited.

We got to have Roland over again, which was fun — particularly for Pyrrha. It always interests me to note how the dogs do seem to have preferences for other dogs. Eden and Fiona, for example, adore each other and could (and do) play for hours on end without stopping. Pyrrha is interested in Fiona, but doesn’t engage with her much (even though Fiona is frequently trying to curry favor from Pyrrha). But when Roland showed up, Pyrrha was ecstatic: happy yips, play-bows, shoulder taps, etc. Entirely different behavior than when Fiona comes over.

Beggars
Begging from Brian (Roland’s human).

Here’s to hoping for many more sunny, warm weekends! We surely need them.

With her prey
Eden with her “prey” (killed the neighbor kid’s soccer ball).

How were your weekends? Did you get to take any excursions?

Last play-date at this house

This past Sunday, Roland came over for Pyrrha’s last puppy play-date at the old house.

Last Locust puppy play date
Rollz.

As I’ve mentioned, Pyrrha has been neglected lately, due to the craziness of our lives and the all-consuming task of packing, so this was a much-needed play session. Sunday was also so cold (sunny but a high of 34 F, which is too cold according to me), so it was nice to let the pups burn off some energy while watching them from the comfort of the sun porch.

Last Locust puppy play date
An invitation to dance.
Last Locust puppy play date
An aggressive-looking kiss.
Last Locust puppy play date
A paw in the face.
Last Locust puppy play date
Flying ears and tails.
Last Locust puppy play date
Romping.
Last Locust play date! These cuties. #pups #gsd #roland
Besties!
What goobers. #doglife #funnydogs
What goobers.

We’ll miss this yard, but we’re certainly excited about continuing the play-date tradition in our new space!

Last Locust puppy play date

In which Pyrrha has an uneasy “play” date with Silas

Sunday delivered the most beautiful spring weather. We spent the whole day outside with Pyrrha, mowing the lawn, tending to our plants. We ran a brief errand and bumped into our friends James and Sara and their Great Pyrenees mix, Silas. We told them about Pyrrha and said we’d be hanging out all day in the yard if they wanted to come over and bring Silas.

Pyrrha in the freshly mowed lawn
Pyrrha, sitting in the freshly mowed lawn.

At this point, I knew that Pyrrha reacted fearfully toward other dogs on lead, but I’d heard from her foster that she was great with them in open spaces. I figured that this would be a good interaction, especially knowing that Silas was super-calm and steady. Enter my first dog-parenting misjudgment.

We were in the backyard with Pyrrha when James, Sara, and Silas showed up. As soon as she saw Silas, she EXPLODED. Snarling, barking, growling, hackles up, teeth flashing everywhere. Thankfully, James and Sara are as calm as their dog is. I didn’t know what to do, but James encouraged me to lead her to the back of the yard and then let go. He then released an unleashed Silas and I held my breath.

Silas, I love you
Silas, being his wonderful, chill self.

Pyrrha did not lunge at him, which I was afraid of, but just started slinking around him, sniffing him. If he ever faced her, however, she started snarling and growling again. But Silas was SUCH a champ. He was the perfect dog for her, because he refused to respond to any of her bitchiness. He’d just saunter away and let her do her thing.

Dogs, coexisting
The dogs, somewhat coexisting.

After about 10 minutes of Silas studiously ignoring her, she started to calm down and they began to coexist together. They certainly weren’t going to play with one another, but they were happy to be side-by-side and even face-to-face for the rest of the afternoon.

What I Learned: I definitely underestimated how Pyrrha might react to a new, big, strange dog in her new yard. Silas was THE best possible dog to meet her like this, however. I think he may be a critical part of her rehabilitation. And James and Sara were awesome, too; they didn’t take Pyrrha’s behavior personally and knew that she’d get over it. Which she did.

Dogs and James
Silas relaxes; Pyrrha sniffs out James.

I’m listening to your majority opinion now, and I think all of you are right: Pyrrha still just needs more time to calm down and adjust and grow in confidence. There will be plenty of time for doggy play dates. For now, we just need to work on some basic bonding and training. But the afternoon wasn’t nearly as disastrous as it could have been, and I daresay she was almost disappointed to see Silas go at the end of the day. I think Pyrrha and I both learned a lot. So, a thousand thanks to Silas and his wonderful humans; you guys deserve dog socialization medals.

I am going to take it slow with Pyrrha for now and politely decline any future, well-meaning invitations for play dates. However, I feel like the fact that she was able to happily coexist with Silas after some time bodes well for her future. She can get there eventually, but for now, we’re going to start with some more basic bonding work instead of rushing her into the presence of new dogs.

Those of you with shy dogs, how did you gradually introduce them to other dogs? What are some of your recommended techniques?