An expectant look

Halloween buddies. #germanshepherd #guionlookslikeabaldwin

Although I won’t necessarily call this a “look of love,” I think the expectant way that Pyrrha is looking at Guion here is very sweet. Their relationship, as you know, is a constant work in progress. We’re always celebrating the little things she does to show that she’s not still terrified of him.

The other night, while I was working in the kitchen, Pyrrha went straight up to him with her bouncy toy and invited him to play with her. She didn’t even glance at me first. They played together for a few rounds of fetch, which is about her normal stamina for the game. This is such normal behavior for so many “normal” dogs, but in our house, it’s a cause for celebration! We enjoy the small signs of progress in this quirky family.

Meanwhile, life continues to be insane, but I hope things will settle down soon. There are promising things on the horizon! Updates to come!

Hope you and your pups had a fun and safe Halloween and a happy weekend to come!

September training and behavior goals

More for my own sake, I’m going to start a short, monthly series here to record my training and behavior goals for Pyrrha. At the end of the month, I’ll make a brief progress report. This is more for keeping myself in line than for anything else, because if you write it on the Internet, then you have a faceless mob to keep you accountable. Right?

Get it, P. #kisses #loveandfear
Kissing Dad!

I don’t consider myself nearly as hardcore as the majority of you, so we’re going to keep our goals simple for now.

September Training and Behavior Goals for Pyrrha

  1. Take a reactivity class at Canine Campus.
  2. Practice behavior modification techniques to reduce on-leash reactivity toward other dogs. Crossing the street, treating for just looking at dogs, and ME taking deep breaths and loosening my body language and grip.
  3. Practice off-leash recall in the front yard. (More on this soon.)
  4. Improve and sharpen the command “Stay.” Get more consistent on this. (Sometimes I use the word “wait,” which is clearly not helpful to anyone.)
  5. Keep practicing calm exits from the crate. Particularly as we are with Draco now, work to mitigate her behavior so that she doesn’t grumble at him when she moves from the crate to the door. She has a habit of basically messing with him when she exits the crate to go to the backyard: growling, jumping in his face. I don’t think it’s aggressive, because she did this with Rainer, too, and he never responded in kind; it’s more an expression of nervous energy or maybe even jealousy? I don’t know. Whatever it is, I need to start training some impulse control and get her to cut it out.
  6. Improve her relationship with Guion. Get advice from Deven (our trainer) about how to accomplish this? I am kind of at a loss. He feeds her, he slips her bacon, he tries not to engage with her at all unless she initiates it… but she is still very fearful of him. After a year. Sigh. It’s kind of disheartening sometimes.

What are some of your goals for your dog this month? And if you have any training tips for me, feel free to dish ’em out!

Meet Draco!

Last night, we picked up our new foster Draco (aka Tyr)!

First night with Draco

Draco is a 2-year-old who was rescued from an animal hoarding situation in West Virginia, where he was living in filth with 54 other dogs. Thankfully, the other animals were farmed out to rescues, and Southeast German Shepherd Rescue picked up Draco and his brother, Oro (who was just adopted!).

He was quite nervous when we picked him up (back legs shaking) and whined a bit in the car, but after a while, he settled in very nicely.

First night with Draco

First night with DracoI, for one, have never met a shy dog who was so quickly willing to be affectionate with people. He was way cuddlier with us in a few hours than Pyrrha even is, after a full year of living with us. As you can see, he found his spot on the couch right away:

I'd say the new foster is settling in nicely. #draco #gsd

My idea of a good night: wine, "Breaking Bad," and a shepherd sleeping in my lap. #draco #gsd

He slept like this in my lap for a full episode of “Breaking Bad.” Aww.

Pyrrha got a bit nervous during their introduction, but Draco is clearly an expert at calm, calculated avoidance. He didn’t show the slightest sign of anxiety or aggression toward her initial reactive display. He seemed to know exactly what to do to tone her down (a talent I imagine he acquired by having to survive in a house with 54 other dogs).

First night with Draco

He was still nervous about the new space, but she was quickly ready to play with him. She threw some desperate play bows and side taps his way, but he just wasn’t in the mood for playing last night.

First night with Draco

First night with Draco

First night with Draco

This morning, however (after a fairly scared, whiny night in the crate), he was ready to ROMP in the backyard, and they have been playful and sweet toward each other ever since. We are grateful! It’s always kind of a gamble how new dogs will interact with one another.

First night with Draco

In all, we think he is a total sweetheart and we can’t believe he’s still waiting for his forever home! Feel free to share photos and information about him with anyone you know, who may want a gentle, laidback dog in the southeastern United States.

First night with Draco

(Sometimes, when my glasses aren’t in, I can’t really tell them apart. Ha! As you can see, they have very similar markings and are almost the same size [Draco is a bit taller].)

First night with DracoWe are looking forward to getting to know this sweet dude!

Interested in Draco (aka Tyr)? Check out his adoption bio on the SGSR website!

Weird, funny dog

Such a weird, funny dog. #dogsitting

Roland specifically, but you know Pyrrha fits that category too.

We’ve had a nice week dog-sitting this chap, and I know Pyrrha will be sad to see him go on Sunday night.

He has been a very easy keeper, and I think I may also have to prevent my husband from trying to keep him. Guion and Roland have become very attached to each other! Roland gives him a grand greeting every time Guion walks in a room, and if Guion dares leave the house, Roland whines and wails and mourns. Last night, when Guion left, Roland cried and cried, and then jumped up on the couch and laid with his head on the windowsill in the most heartbreaking and forlorn fashion. Naturally, Guion is basking in the love and attention from a dog who is uniquely focused on YOU (something that he has truthfully never received from Pyrrha, who acts like I’m the Only Person in the Universe). It’s a powerful thing, feeling that dog love… And isn’t it funny how quickly dogs can form attachments? It’s always heartwarming.

What do your weekends have in store for you? I’m looking forward to reading, weeding, and taking the pups on long walks before Rols goes home!

Let me in, dude. #rolandMore photos from our week with Roland (which was, as you can see, very leisurely):

Waiting for Guion to come back. #rightathome #dogsitting
Waiting for Guion to come home.

What? #doghouse #dogcrazy

Dog napping. #dogcrazy

Floor time.

Guion's devoted sous chef. #doghouse
Guion’s devoted sous chef.

All the sleepy pups. #germanshepherd #gsd

How do you stay motivated to train your dog?

Confession time: I am a really lazy dog trainer. All of the rest of you put me to shame (at least, from what I can tell by reading your dog blogs).

Ready to play at sunrise. #pyrrhagramI get even lazier about training Pyrrha when we have fosters. A lot of energy is expended just teaching the fosters basic things (simple house manners, crate acclimation, walking on leash, etc.) that Pyrrha’s own training usually gets lost in the shuffle. We get a few “puppy push-ups” or exercises of pre-learned behaviors, but that’s it. I mean, how often are you guys training a day? From the sound of your blogs, it sounds like all the time, like hours and hours every day. I feel embarrassed at the tiny amounts of time that I actively “train.”

Having the treat bag has helped a lot, actually. Keeping it stocked and in an accessible place reminds me to keep training and keep Pyrrha engaged.

Waiting for someone to drop some food. #pyrrhagram

Lately, we’ve just been working on little things:

  • Leash reactivity with other dogs. This is a new-ish behavior (started exhibiting maybe in February of this year), and it’s not entirely consistent (some dogs don’t bother her; others do), and I am a little overwhelmed and unsure of how to fix it. I think I need to re-read Control Unleashed. I have also signed her up for a small, individualized reactivity class (“Feisty Fidos”) with our trainer at Canine Campus, which will start in the early fall. So I am looking forward to that as well. I am grateful to have been in touch with our trainer about this issue.
  • Baby steps toward off-leash recall. We have a long-ish driveway, and so every night now, Pyrrha comes with me to get the mail on a loose slip-lead. When we turn back toward the house, I drop the lead, and she gets to saunter or run back to the front door. She’s been doing very well at this, and if she strays too far, I call her back and she returns to my side. Baby steps toward off-leash recall! I am not eager to try anything more adventurous at this point. This is a safe space for her to learn this behavior (and the fact that she still has a lead draped around her neck means that she can’t get TOO far ahead of me).
  • Improving her relationship with Guion. For reasons that are still unclear to us, Pyrrha’s relationship with Guion has regressed since Rainer left. She seems more scared of him now than she did six months ago. I’m really not sure why this is. I think part of it, frankly, is that Guion just doesn’t engage with her even a fraction as much as I do. I feed her all of her meals, I’m the primary trainer, I groom her, I walk her… he just needs to get more involved, and I think he knows this. We were much more vigilant about it when we first got her, and we recognized that she was afraid of him (mainly because he was male), but we’ve been lazy about it, and she’s regressed, so it’s time to step up our game.

So, how do you stay motivated to keep training your dog(s)? Do you write down lists of what you want to teach them? Do you have a daily training schedule? How can I stop being so lazy about it??

As always, eager to hear and learn from each of you.

Brando update

Poor ol’ Brando got neutered yesterday, so he’s still really out of it.

Dazed and confused: Brando post neuter

When he got home, he stumbled around the house and would freeze for minutes at a time, just staring at nothing. Sweet dude!

Dazed and confused: Brando post neuter

This morning, he was livelier, although still weak in the back end.

Dazed and confused: Brando post neuter
Couldn’t keep his little tongue in his mouth… so cute.

On the flipside, an unexpected advantage of the presence of an affectionate foster has made this little lady more attentive to her human dad:

Leaning on Guion

Leaning on Guion

But here’s the UPDATE:

Brando is moving to another foster home this weekend. Cue big sad face.

Why? Because the rescue organization needs us to foster a puppy right now, and we are one of the foster homes with a more flexible schedule (e.g., able to come home in the middle of the day).

We are very sad to not continue being a foster home for Brando, but we are also confident that he will be adopted in no time at all.

Dazed and confused: Brando post neuter

We will miss you, Brando!

Updates to come on our NEW foster, who sounds like he’s a feisty little puppy!

If you are interested in adoption Brando, fill out an application at Southeast German Shepherd Rescue!

Play-date with Roland

We had beautiful and unseasonably warm weather this weekend, so it was a perfect occasion for Pyrrha to have a friend over. We invited the recently adopted Roland, who was brought over by his surrogate handlers, my friends Celeste and Casey.

Break for some butt sniffing
Hi! What’s your name?

As you can see from the photos, Pyrrha and Roland were very well-matched. They got along beautifully, with no fear issues or squabbles from either of them.

Racing up from the back

Tongues a' flying!

Rounding the bend

Gimme dat

Guion, throwing a stick for the playmates

We all laughed about how dogs treat objects like small children. Their reasoning goes like this: If the other dog has a stick, I MUST HAVE said stick, even if I don’t particularly like sticks. Pyr and Roland went back and forth with this general gambit for some time. Thankfully, our yard has a plenitude of sticks, so they were never bored.

A very successful play date

Rest time

At the end of the session, they were both tired and happy—and covered in each other’s slobber. (Roland also had some grass stains from sliding on his pretty white fur.) Watching dogs play is one of my all-time favorite hobbies. I could do it all day! And Pyrrha certainly needs more of it in her life. Very happy to have found another great local playmate for Pyr.

The kitchen beggar

As soon as we start cooking dinner, this is where you can find the dog:

The stoic kitchen beggar

Our kitchen is very tiny, and so she’s constantly in our way, but what a cute, fuzzy stumbling block!

She pretends like she’s being a great help to us.

The stoic kitchen beggar

When she doesn’t get scraps, she goes and sits by the back door and pouts. Just look at that mask of stoicism:

The stoic kitchen beggar

In other Pyrrha news:

  • She has been doing really well with Guion lately. Her fear of him continues to diminish and she initiates play with him much more often. He even gets tail wags when he comes home! It’s heartwarming to see her progress in this area.
  • Trick-or-treaters were handled with aplomb, if occasional fear. We kept her at arm’s length from any of the kids, but she was able to see and sniff in their general vicinity and she didn’t growl or display any excessive fear, which I felt was a small victory.
  • Her fear of nail clipping has gotten worse. I haven’t changed tools or tactics, but she is SO panicky now that I can’t even get her to hold still. I’ve been treating her for when I touch her paws and touch her paws in the presence of the clippers, but then she refuses all treats when I actually try to use the nail clippers. Any advice here? I think I just need to start back at square one?

Selective amnesia with male house guests

Pyr and Rosa
Pyrrha and my friend Rose.

Whether she likes it or not, Pyrrha is becoming a veritable veteran of hospitality. We’ve had a glut of house guests this fall (almost every weekend!) and Pyrrha has just learned to roll with it. This past weekend, our good friends Kemp and Rose came to stay with us. Thankfully, like most of our friends, they are great “dog people” and they quickly won her over.

She’s still not exactly Miss Casual when new people show up, but Pyrrha has made great strides in warming up and gaining confidence around strangers who stick around for a few nights.

One weird thing: She seems to have something of a short-term memory with overnight guests, especially if they’re men. After an hour, she will have warmed up to a new man and be willing to lick his feet, initiate play with him, etc. But the next morning, when he comes out of the bedroom, she acts like she’s never seen him before and runs away from him. (She’s occasionally done this with female house guests, too, but it’s a more common behavior with men.)

Any idea what this could mean? Does Pyrrha have a mild form of selective amnesia?

I know that she’s more scared of men in general, but I’m not entirely sure how to explain why she’d be scared of a man she was buddies with the night before. I guess it’s all about warming up gradually over time? She’s still, after all, working on her trust and confidence around Guion, and he’s been here with her from Day One.

Oh, well. Our sweet, weird dog.

Blooming personality

Those ears

Today marks Pyrrha’s four-month “anniversary” with us.

I have nothing special to report here, except that this dog is really funny and sweet. We love her a lot. I would never have dreamed seeing her so confident and relaxed; she is such a different dog from the one she was in May. The dog who hid from us in various corners of the house now comes to greet us with a wagging tail and kisses every day. The dog who slunk around behind me on walks now leads the way with a confident, curious posture. The dog who cowered with every passing dog on the street now wants to greet (almost) all of them.

She’s been very rambunctious and spunky lately, too. I think part of this has to do with her squirrel-catching encounter, and I’d attribute the rest of her blooming personality to the fact that she’s been very friendly with Guion lately. Last night, HE was the only one she wanted to play with. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. It’s the little things, you know? She opens up more and more every day. We are so happy to have her.