Playing with Heath

On Sunday, sweet Heath came by for a brief play-date, relieving Pyrrha from her weekend of boredom. (She was cooped up inside with me while I slowly recovered from whatever upper-respiratory-nastiness this is.)

Play date with Heath
Handsome Heath!

Isn’t he handsome? He has such a beautiful mane and manly coat.

It was unseasonably hot, so the dogs tired out rather quickly, but I think they had a great romp.

Play date with Heath

Play date with Heath

Play date with Heath

I love the goofy faces they make in the middle of play:

Play date with Heath

Play date with Heath

Play date with Heath

Play date with Heath

Tired, happy pups! Taking a break for some kisses.

Play date with Heath

Play date with Heath

We hope to have Heath over again soon!

Play date with Heath! #golden #gsd

Hosting a doggy play-date

In love
Crazy eyes in love. Heath and Pyrrha.

As you probably know by now, one of Pyrrha’s favorite things is playing with other dogs. We’re really grateful for this, because it evidently brings her so much joy, and there are so many other things that make her so scared. So, we have gradually turned our backyard into an occasional dog park. Here are some of the things we’ve learned about hosting a play-date!

Play-date with Ozzie
Ozzie and Pyrrha.

BEFORE THE PLAY-DATE

Cap the number of dogs, and know their personalities

I think, due to the size of our yard, and to the various complicating factors, four to five dogs is the max number of dogs we should have in the yard at one time. It helps knowing the personalities of the dogs coming, too. For instance, when we have rowdy adolescent males come over, we probably won’t invite a new puppy or a senior dog (and vice versa). It’s helpful to have a general idea of the canine personalities that are going to be in the mix. If you don’t know, we’ve preferred to play it safe and just invite one dog over at a time.

Set out a bowl of water

Nothing gets pups tired like wrestling and playing tag! We’ve found that, regardless of the season, the pups get thirsty very quickly.

Poop scoop

No one likes to accidentally step in a land mine.

Put away any toys

To avoid any tussles over toys, I like to clear the yard of anything that could potentially cause a possessive scuffle. (Even though dogs, like children, will usually find something to pick a fight over, such as that enticing stray stick…)

Play-date with Juniper
Juniper and Pyrrha.

DURING THE PLAY-DATE

Be vigilant and watchful during introductions…

As I’ve written about recently, we’ve become very careful and mindful during dog introductions. This is usually the most tense and delicate part of the play-date. If introductions go smoothly, usually, the rest of the play-date will too.

… but don’t zone out entirely

Keep an eye on the dogs. Watch your dog’s behavior and watch for any warning signs (such as stiff body language, hard stares, etc.). I particularly liked this post on The Unexamined Dog about watching for pauses during play. Healthy, happy play sessions should have lots of little rest periods. Be ready to break the dogs up to give them “time outs” if needed. We learned this with Roland and Pyrrha; they would occasionally play too hard and too long, and then the play would start to shift into frustration and annoyance. We’d intervene, call them apart from each other, and then in five minutes, they would be OK to play again.

Get those leashes off

If introductions have gone smoothly, dogs naturally play better untethered! (Although we may let them drag the leashes for a few minutes in the beginning, just to make sure that everyone is at ease.)

Sunday play-date with Roland
Chomp! Pyrrha takes a bite out of Roland’s leg.

AFTER THE PLAY-DATE

Take a nap!

Pyrrha finally meets Bo
Bo and Pyrrha.

Do you ever host canine friends at your place? What have you learned from your experiences?

Post-snow play

It snowed Sunday morning, but by the time Pyrrha had her friends over, the snow had melted and left a pleasantly chilly sludge. But the dogs, clearly, did not mind.

Dear Heath showed up first, followed shortly by Loki, who is now HUGE (probably 80 lbs.). Do you remember when he was just the little guy?

Do I have to go home?

Loki is not so tiny anymore

The boys are back in town

Sniffs

Heath and Loki

It’s usually just a blur of color-coordinated fur.

Happy puppy faces

Big bundle of color-coordinated fur

Trio

Our new addition was baby Nell-abell, our neighbors’ sweet, three-month-old puppy. She is the most confident, spunky little thing I have ever seen! Here is the pack checking her out, with great interest:

New girl in the yard

I was worried that she was going to be scared by all of the big dogs, but she really held her own and jumped right in there with them. She was also especially adept at ducking and avoiding collisions when the chase games got a little crazy. She is a smart girl with a great personality. I mean, look at this face! So funny.

Nell's face!

Nell-abell particularly hit it off with Loki. The pair were an absolute delight to watch: the biggest dog and the smallest dog in the yard, utterly smitten with each other.

Nell-abell and Loki

Love between Loki and Nell

Love between Loki and Nell

Love between Loki and Nell

Roland also came by at the end. He is perfect for wearing Pyrrha out, as their favorite play method with each other is a frenzied game of tag around and around.

Roland checks out Nell

Pyrrha was certainly worn out after two hours of play! That was the goal, after all. (Pyrrha also did better with the puppy than I thought she was going to do. She wasn’t as gentle with Nell-abell as Loki, but she did seem to temper her behavior to Nell’s size and age, which was heartening for when we go meet Georgia in a few weeks.)

Wiped out after the play-date

Looking forward to more play-dates and continuing to grow her circle of friends!

Pyrrha and her young suitors

We enjoyed a lovely Sunday play-date with Heath, the handsome golden retriever, and Loki, back for his second round.

Sweet Heath

Heath showed up first and he was a perfect match for Pyrrha’s energy level. The pair did a lot of rolling around, kissing snouts, and chasing. They were a delight to watch.

In love

Ears flying

Look of adoration

Handsome dude

Here Pyrrha displays her best “be pretty!” for Heath’s mama, the Keeper of the Treats:

Be pretty

Essentially, they ended the afternoon completely smitten.

Conspiring

Young lovers

Loki showed up later and then it was all one big love train.

Butt-sniffing train

Trio at play

It’s fun to watch Loki, the baby, gain confidence and work his way into playing with the big dogs. (Although, at 55 lbs. at 5 months, Loki will very soon be THE big dog.)

Loki is getting bigger

As you can expect with two young, unneutered males, there was also a lot of humping going on, but Pyr didn’t seem to mind it much. She’d take it in stride and then turn around and give the boys a taste of their own medicine.

Ganging up on Pyr

Puppy play-dates! Always the highlight of my weekend. Hope to have Heath and Loki back again soon!