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?

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Pup links!

A classy lady and her terrier, January 1957. Source: Flickr, click for link

Desperately Seeking Distance. A thoughtful post on how to evaluate a shy or fearful dog’s relationship with distance. (Fearful Dogs Blog)

Do Dogs Have Gender? Kristine writes a really interesting post on how we treat our dogs based on their sex. Do we culture them to act like “boy” or “girl” dogs? Great thoughts here. (Rescued Insanity)

Rez Dog Biographies. Photographer Steven Sable’s moving series of the homeless and/or neglected dogs who live on Native American reservations in the American West. It’s easy to forget that there are still many “feral” dogs living in the U.S. (Steven Sable)

Dogs of the Selby, Part 1. A collection of the fashionable dogs as seen through the lens of The Selby blog. (Miles to Style)

Top 10: Beautiful and Artistic Dog Portraits. Always love a good dog portrait! Have you ever hired a professional photographer to take pictures of your dog? I’m tempted to call up our fabulous wedding photographer, Meredith Perdue, who is also a respected pet photographer, once we get our dog… (The Hydrant)

Weaving Machines. A fun checkerboard photographic montage of dogs doing weave poles. (Paws on the Run)

Top 6 iPhone/iPad Apps for Pet People. I don’t have one of these fancy smartphones/devices, but my husband does. When the time comes for our dog, I imagine I’ll be convincing him to get a few of these handy apps. (Pawcurious)

You’re Fooling Yourself. This photographer walks around San Francisco and takes photos of dogs tied to things, waiting for their people. He writes often hilarious meditations on what the dogs might be thinking. This one particularly made me laugh. (Dogblog)