I was TERRIFIED of dogs when I was a little girl. I remember when the fear began, and I think I’ve recounted it before. My father adores dogs, like I do now. When I was about 6, we were living in a tiny apartment, waiting for our new house to be built. A doberman (my father’s favorite breed) and a rough collie lived in the complex, and Dad liked to take us outside, just to watch the dogs play. One evening, I was completely knocked over and trampled by the dogs (who were just having a case of the zoomies, and not paying attention). I thought they were out to kill me, and I was extremely scared of dogs from then on.
But in a few years, some magical, inherent dog-loving switch turned on–I don’t even know what it was–and I became OBSESSED with dogs, kind of like I am now. I started memorizing dog breeds when I was 8 or 9. I gave complicated advice to the neighbors about what kind of dog they should get, based on their lifestyles. I started a dog-walking business, just to have an excuse to spend time with dogs, since my parents were reluctant to get us one of our own.
And yet I didn’t get a dog of my own until Emma, when I was about 14. I had to wait a long time for her, and I feel like I had to wait even longer for Pyrrha, but I still love to see little girls with dogs. It warms my heart.
All that to say, here are just some cute photos of girls and the dogs they love, culled from my Pinterest board, Woman’s Best Friend.
Thunder, Fireworks, and Noise, Oh My! An adult dog who has developed a thunderstorm phobia… How do you help them? Certainly caught my attention, because while Pyrrha isn’t bothered by storms or fireworks now, I wonder if she could be in the future? (Reactive Champion)
Focus: Riley and Lexi. Britt Croft is doing a series of photos on her two yellow labs, Riley and Lexi. I love these shoots and how often these dogs participate in mirroring behavior! They are hard to tell apart! (The Daily Dog Tag)
“Keen-see.” The sweet relationship between a toddler and her very tolerant bulldog, Kingsley. (Rockstar Diaries)
Foundation Fun. I don’t really know what these dogs are doing, but they are having so much FUN! I love it. (The Elite Forces of Fuzzy Destruction)
Catch O’ The Day. That is one BRAVE dog. I cannot believe he just plucked that awful-looking, gnarly fish out of the water. I am so impressed. And his expression looks like, “Eh, no big deal. I do this all the time.” (Wootube)
Bliss Paws Collapsible Travel Bowl. I like the look of these travel bowls (although I wonder how big they are?). I’m not overly thrilled with the ones we bought Pyrrha, as they’re crushable cloth and not nearly as waterproof as they advertised. Do you use a travel bowl that you like? (Dog Milk)
Truckin’. More honest, helpful advice on taking a long road trip with one’s two beautiful, active Aussies. (Raising Ivy)
As you might have divined from those last three links, Pyrrha and I are taking our first road trip together tomorrow! We are driving the 5 hours together to my parents’ house, so I can help my sister with her wedding plans. Thankfully, Pyr rides very well in the car, but we’ve never taken her in the car for longer than 45 minutes, so this will certainly be an experience! I’m bringing lots of water and soothing music for both of us. Stories to come!
Dog-related links from around the Web this past week:
Are All Dogs Monsters? Kristine sagely reminds us that all dogs can bite and we should never take that fact for granted. (Rescued Insanity)
Preventing Dog Bites. Patricia McConnell throws in her two cents about how to prevent dog bites. Reading body language is key! (The Other End of the Leash)
Dog’s First Camping Trip. This post caught my eye, because we’ve discussed taking Pyrrha camping with us in the coming months. Anyone go camping with their dog? Any tips we should know about beforehand? (Go Pet Friendly)
We’re now officially four months away from moving and welcoming a dog into our new home. After a year and a half of concentrated waiting, four months sounds unbelievably close.
In this interim, here’s my (overly ambitious?) four-month plan for our future dog once we bring him/her home. I’m hoping to work through The Power of Positive Dog Training, which has been my favorite step-by-step training manual I’ve read so far. All that said, here’s the game plan!
MONTH ZERO: Goals for the months leading up to the move and adoption
Move into new place! Make home as dog-friendly and dog-proof as possible.
Interview GSD owners, meet some area GSDs.
Send out applications to various GSD rescue organizations. Make home visits, speak with foster parents, and meet prospective dogs!
Sit down together and establish house rules for the dog (furniture, bed, room privileges, etc.).
Figure out our daily care schedules for the dog: Who will be home when, if we need a dog walker, etc.
Give Guion a crash course in positive reinforcement dog training! And pretty much an overview of… everything I’ve learned in a year and a half of canine study.
Start buying dog supplies! I’m really excited about this, even though I know it will be a lot of initial expenses.
Choose a vet. Get recommendations from other pet owners in town.
MONTH ONE: Bringing the dog home!
Learn new name (if needed. I have a feeling we’ll probably want to change the dog’s name. We’re both kind of particular about names… And I feel like a lot of the GSDs I’ve seen in rescue have rather silly ones).
Get acclimated to house rules: House-training, daily routines, rules about furniture and certain rooms, etc.
If needed, gradually transition to a healthy and high-quality kibble + weekly supplements of fruits, vegetables, rice, and beans.
Carefully train and transition to avoid any separation anxiety.
Evaluate potential problem areas (possessiveness, shyness, fear-based aggression, excessive barking/boredom, fear of inanimate objects, thunderstorm phobia, etc.).
Create cautious and mannerly introductions to different dogs. Think of other calm, responsible adult dogs to introduce him/her to. Bo and Zoe would be great dogs to start with.
First vet check up.
MONTH TWO: Settling in
Attend a training class as a family. The PetCo and the PetsMart in town offer training classes, but there’s also an independent dog training studio nearby that sounds very promising.
Work steadily and consistently on leash manners, if needed.
Practice basic commands together: Sit, down, stay, heel, wait.
Make introductions to as many types of people as possible. Aim to have these interactions be incredibly positive.
Begin walking in bigger, busier areas, like the downtown mall and other parks.
First bath. Also train for exposure to grooming, nail clipping, etc.
Target problem areas identified in Month 1.
MONTH THREE: Working hard
Practice car ride manners.
Work consistently on basic commands, adding a few others to the repertoire.
Once I feel comfortable with his or her mannerisms toward people, spend some time with calm, trustworthy children.
Keep working to eliminate any problem areas.
Have some play-dates with other neighborhood dogs.
Begin training for a reliable recall.
MONTH FOUR: Adventuring out
First family hiking excursion!
Keep honing basic commands until they’re solid.
Take some runs together.
Try swimming (in a river or creek?) for the first time.
Work consistently on recall abilities; test with a long line in a field.
Add to trick repertoire.
Practice working with a Frisbee.
I’m sure I’ll look back at this and laugh at all that I thought I could achieve. But it’s a start! Any thing you would add? Do you think I’m being too ambitious? Or do you think there are important goals that I’ve neglected? Do share! As always, I’m eager to learn from you.
No, I didn’t get a dog for Christmas. But I did get to spend a lot of time with dogs, namely Aoive, Dublin, and Dally, whom I’ve mentioned before.
Aoive, my in-law’s English springer spaniel, has suddenly mellowed out in her old age. I say “suddenly,” I guess, because I haven’t seen her in a long time and her calmness surprised me. She is now 8 and her muzzle is graying and her eyes are drooping. It makes her look sad and stately–but the girl still knows how to have a good time. We took a long walk together over the holiday and even ended up running toward the end. She was eager and happy and, as always, very snuggly in the living room.
Later in the week, we traveled to my family’s town and spent most of our week with the borrowed dogs Dublin and Dally. Even though my father is as dog crazy as I am, my parents don’t have a dog of their own (due to my mother’s influence and protectiveness of her heart of pine floors). My father’s surrogate dog is Dublin, who adores him. My sister Grace was dog-sitting Dally, the neighbor’s gorgeous (and regrettably plump) 10-month-old Golden retriever, who is an absolute doll.
More photos below!
We also got to see the 3-year-old Marley, my cousin’s handsome and well-mannered chocolate lab. (Marley is the puppy featured with me on my “About” page.) It made me really happy to see such a trim and healthy lab; so often, labs are unmannerly blimps. But Matt, my cousin, is a very conscientious owner and has trained Marley very well. He’s a delightful boy.
OK, that’s all for now! Back to catching up on life…
We had a peaceful and very pleasant Thanksgiving with our families this year. Along with all of the food and family time, I also got to spend some quality time with Dublin, my family’s surrogate dog, and Aoive, my husband’s family’s dog.
Dublin is our neighbor’s chocolate lab mix, whom my father has practically adopted as his own. Dublin’s family was out of town for the weekend, so we were watching her. She spent most of her time at our house throughout the weekend, and so I got plenty of time with her.
I woke up early on Thanksgiving morning and took her for an hour-long walk/run through the local university campus. We chased squirrels and tromped through the woods and had such a peaceful, happy hour together. For all of her muscular energy, Dublin is very good at moderating her strength to the person who is walking her. I’ve seen her walk slowly and calmly next to her young charges, ages 6 and 10, without pulling at all. With me, she walks a little more briskly, but it’s never uncomfortable. I think this quite a skill for a young dog to have.
On Friday morning, my mom and I took her on another long walk through town and she was a great companion on the walk. (She did exhibit some gastrointestinal distress, however, which was clearly the result of all of us being too indulgent with her on Thanksgiving.) She politely greeted a shimmering pair of West Highland white terriers on our way back. Their human was apparently impressed with how calmly his dogs were when they met Dublin. That’s generally Dublin’s effect on humans and dogs, I think: She just chills them out.
Later on Friday, we went to visit my wonderful in-laws and there had a reunion with the beautiful Aoive. I hadn’t seen Aoive in quite a while, and I was startled by how much gray she had accumulated along her muzzle and face. She is about 8.5 years old now, but you’d never guess it. Her coat is still the softest and most velvety coat I’ve ever felt and her energy is seemingly boundless.
That to say, she was on her best behavior for all of us over the weekend. When she’s in the house and can’t be next to Windy, my mother-in-law, she stays tethered to an armchair. If Windy is out of sight, Aoive instantly gets anxious. I’ve never seen a dog more attached to one person than Aoive is to Windy. But this extreme attachment seemed quite moderated this weekend.
On Saturday morning, all of us took her on a 2.5-mile walk around the local reservoir. It was a gorgeous, warm, and sunny day, and I think we all had a marvelous time. Aoive even got to wade along the creeks and banks. She was taunted by a flotilla of Canada geese and agitated by their serene movements just a few feet from her snout. But the prospect of having to actually swim in the reservoir was enough to keep her just frantically pacing back and forth along the bank.
Big lessons learned: I’m thankful to have dogs in my life. Even though I don’t have one of my own yet, I’m thankful for the ones that I get to encounter when we visit family. They bring a lot of light and joy into all of our lives.