Keeping your house clean with two big dogs

Housekeeping is one of my constant battles. I adore having a clean home, but there are always two furry forces working against me.

Happy babies

These gleeful minions.

The amount of fur they produce daily is just mind-boggling — not to mention the various puddles of drool and water and clumps of clay. (We, living in the South, have the great misfortune of not having soil, like normal people do; oh, no, we have red clay instead. It is the devil’s sediment. It’s on everything. And it makes gardening a particular form of back-breaking misery.)

Furthermore, big dogs can be quite destructive. The two of them have utterly ravaged our exterior doors with their scratching and clawing and begging to get in. They also, in their fervor to be with us, punched out a glass panel in our former storm door. Charming.

So. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years to preserve my sanity and the dogs’ happiness.

  • Sweep constantly. One of these days, we’re going to spring for a Dyson, but for now, I just sweep constantly. We’re lucky to have all hardwood floors in our house, which are a blessing when it comes to cleaning up after dogs.
  • Clean the kitchen floor at least twice a week. I clean our floor on my hands and knees, like a washerwoman of yore. This makes me feel better about my life.
  • Floor runners (long, narrow rugs) at entryways. The standard rectangular rugs don’t seem to do much to catch eight paws running in from the yard. But runners? Brilliant. They cover so much more ground and pick up a lot more from muddy paws. We have an old, thick, braided runner in the basement, where the dogs usually come in, and it’s served us immensely in our battle against dirty floors.
  • Protect rugs with old towels on rainy days. When the weather is bad, I cover the few rugs we have with old towels. This works for a while, until Eden decides that the rugs are playthings set out just for her pleasure and enjoyment.
  • Or, just don’t have rugs at all. Dogs and expensive rugs just don’t mix, in my experience. If you can help it, just have hardwood floors everywhere. Personally, I find trying to keep carpet or rugs clean with dogs is a continual battle. So we only have two rugs. And they are woven jute (e.g., natural-colored/easily disguise mud and fur).
  • Wash dog bedding regularly. Our dogs can’t be trusted with expensive, padded beds, because they treat them like pinatas, so they sleep on piles of old blankets, pillows, and towels. These are fairly easy to launder, and if they have accidents, it’s also quite easy to isolate the affected bedding.

Here’s my big question, though, about housekeeping with dogs:

Pernicious Reddish Dust

I think I might be the only one with this problem, but I want to crowdsource this one. I can’t find anything online about it.

In every room where the dogs exist, we have fine layer of filthy reddish-colored dust on every surface. This was not a problem at our previous houses, where we just had Pyrrha. I’m beginning to think Eden is the culprit, because once we brought her into the home, this film of red/brown dust started appearing on everything. I know it’s dog-related, because in rooms where the dogs don’t go (like upstairs, where we have our guest bedroom and my studio), there is none of this horrible dust. It’s heavier than normal dust, and it almost adheres itself to things (like the covers of my beloved books, and papers, which it completely fouls). Am I crazy? Has anyone else experienced this? What could it possibly be?

How do you keep your house clean with pets? What are your favorite tools or tricks?

Watching Fiona, waiting for snow to melt

We had a lovely, loooong weekend here, waiting for the snow to melt. My parents came up and helped us with a lot of home improvement projects, and we were dog-sitting Fiona, so we had lots of fun with the three girls.

Walk with these 3 crazies. Sweet shades, @jfarkle.
My dad and Guion walking the three crazies.

Pyrrha and Eden were very sweet during the busy weekend, and Fiona is always a joy to have around — and the perfect energy-level match for Edie.

The girls

Eden and Fiona would play for hours in the yard, hardly taking a break to breathe. It’s so fun to watch them wear each other out.

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Pyrrha, meanwhile, liked to do her own thing. She’d wander around in the yard with the young’uns, and occasionally join in their games of tag, but for the most part, Pyrrha likes to keep to herself. I was especially interested to note how comfortable she was with my parents, particularly my dad. While he was installing our new disposal (YAY), she was at his side constantly — surely thinking she was being a great help.

Pyrrha consults while Jak installs our disposal.

The little ones got tired very quickly! Which was blissful.

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As a side note, I particularly noticed this weekend that Pyrrha and Eden have been doing very well together. For a few weeks there, I was worried that we had two dogs who didn’t like each other. There was a lot of daily squabbling, and I felt tense about their relationship. But over the past few weeks, they have been so great together: calm, appropriately playful, respectful of each other’s needed space, etc. The tension is way down, and they seem to genuinely enjoy each other now. I think we were just going through a settling-in period, and they were just figuring each other out. After all, we’ve still only had Eden since the end of December, so I imagine they’re still learning about each other — but they’ve been making great progress, and I’m proud of them. Thanks to you all for sharing your stories and advice about living with multiple dogs (particularly two females)!

Squabbling in a multi-dog household

OK, time to crowd-source a question for those in multi-dog households:

How often do your dogs squabble, tussle, or fight?

Bitch face
Bitch face.

I think “squabbling” is the best word for what I’m thinking of — that irritated grumbling at each other that dogs do when a dog gets too close, accidentally steps on a paw, or is just plain annoying. Squabbling is definitely distinctive from fighting; a squabble ends pretty quickly and no one emerges injured. Teeth may be bared, but they are sparingly used. (A dog fight, on the other hand, is one of the most horrific things you can see or experience, I think; you’ll know it when you see it? Dogs won’t be torn apart from each other; they are tussling to injure.)

Pyrrha and Eden squabble on a perhaps daily basis, and to date, I have had to prevent 3 almost-fights from occurring. They get along, however, about 90% of the time. Is this normal? Or is this a bigger concern about their fundamental compatibility?

Surrounding factors:

  • Pyrrha is 2 years old and spayed.
  • Eden is 6 months old and unspayed (planning to spay her when she’s 10 or 11 months old).
  • Pyrrha is sensitive and anxious; Eden is confident and feisty.
  • Both dogs dislike backing down, but Eden is more willing to back down and listen to Pyrrha’s grumbles, which often helps defuse situations.
  • Eden will give Pyrrha muzzle licks in gestures of friendliness; Pyrrha submits to them.
  • Pyrrha play-bows to invite Eden to play in the yard. On the other hand, Eden initiates play by jumping and nipping at Pyrrha’s face.
  • Pyrrha is overall very tolerant (95% of the time) of Eden’s peskiness and adolescent annoying behaviors (allows Eden to playfully nip at her, nom on her ears, etc.).
  • They are always crated when we are not home.
  • They are crated in the same room, but their crates do not touch each other (on opposite walls).
  • They can eat in the same room, but they will resource guard from each other if something exciting or novel gets introduced. Pyrrha is usually the first one to back down if Eden challenges her over a resource.
  • Pyrrha can be possessive of me, but no fights/squabbles have involved me directly, from what I can tell.
  • They can drink from the same water bowl simultaneously with no issue.
  • They can sleep near each other with no issue, but Pyrrha will grumble if Eden tries to snuggle. (Pyrrha will do this with all dogs, though.)
  • We separate them from each other if we can sense tension building (moving them to other rooms, or one goes outside while one stays inside, etc.).

I know that they are beautifully behaved on weekends, because they get lots of exercise. We hardly have any squabbles or tussles on weekends. So, exercise and mental stimulation is definitely a mitigating factor.

But my fundamental concern is, What if they just don’t like each other? What if they never like each other? We’ve had Eden for almost a month now, and I’m not sure if this is something that will improve with time, stagnate, or intensify.

UPDATE: As I write this, they are playing happily in the backyard (play-bowing, lots of open mouths and happy expressions, lots of looseness). Yesterday was a squabble-free day, because they both got to run with Fiona for about 40 minutes. I’m realizing that all of this is closely linked to exercise and mental and physical stimulation, so I clearly have work to do to improve their access to exercise.

What do you think? How much squabbling is too much? How have you dealt with tension between your dogs?

The sisters are bonding

We’ve had a great second week with our new addition, despite the wretched cold weather, and we’re having fun (even if we’re all a bit exhausted)!

Pumpkin is good for dogs, right? #mischief #doglife
Sharing an old pumpkin they found in the yard…

The girls are getting on well! They love to wrestle and play tag. It’s always fun for me to watch how Pyrrha adapts her play style to the dog. Like most German shepherds, these girls like to play ROUGH; they go for the throat. Eden also seems to like boxing, so there’s been a lot of that going on lately too.

But when they crash, they crash hard… and the peace and stillness is magical

Finally wore them out. #tiredpups #gsdlove

We’re thankful for our new, crazy little baby, and we’re looking forward to getting to know her better! Hope you all have pleasant weekends. And hey, here’s to SPRING! It cannot come too soon…

Sleepy babies

With love from the Origin Story Shepherds, Pyrrha and Eden!

Pyrrha’s best Christmas ever (Part I)

We had a very busy Christmas, and I’d like to say it was Pyrrha’s “best Christmas ever,” because she seemed to be so happy and confident (most of the time)!

Christmas shepherd is all tuckered out.

Part I: Visiting my in-laws and the house of three dogs (Pyrrha, Georgia, and Adelaide)

Having three young dogs in a small, one-story house lends itself to craziness, but I was proud of all three dogs: Pyrrha, Georgia (my in-laws’ 1-year-old “petite golden retriever”), and Adelaide (my brother- and sister-in-law’s 5-year-old cockapoo).

Christmas 2013
All three dogs clamoring for treats from Papa Mike.

Particularly, I was proud of how well Pyrrha and Adelaide did together.

Christmas 2013
Adelaide!
Guard dog cockapoo. #thinksshespeople @tracydare @windleypratt
Guard dog cockapoo.

Both P and Adelaide are anxious dogs, and when they first met, they seemed to make each other more anxious. Pyrrha seemed especially perturbed by Adelaide’s body language, as it is quite hard to read (her eyes are hidden by hair, her tail is docked very short, and she is quite small).

Christmas 2013
Adelaide with her grandfather.

This time around, they coexisted much more smoothly. There were a few exchanges of growls from time to time when one of them felt cornered, but overall, I felt like I was able to relax a lot more and not have to constantly keep tabs on Pyrrha during our stay.

Adelaide wore a Thundershirt during busier days, and that also seemed to help her a lot. She seems to really enjoy wearing it and even gets excited when Win (her human dad) pulls it out. Adelaide and Pyrrha figured out how to maneuver around each other, and they even laid near each other on separate occasions. They were also pals on our walks, always running to sniff the same spot.

Christmas 2013
Adelaide in her Thundershirt, checking out the presents.
Christmas 2013
Brother Win giving some love to Adelaide and Pyrrha.

Georgia and Pyrrha remain great playmates, and they wore each other out during our stay. Georgia never seems to tire of throwing herself at Pyrrha’s face and inviting a wrestling match. It’s pretty adorable.

Christmas 2013
G and P on guard.
Christmas 2013
G and A.

We also got to take the pups on lots of walks around the neighborhood, which they all very much enjoyed.

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013
Love Georgia’s little photo-bomb here.
Christmas 2013
Her ambivalent ears.

A house full of happy, largely peaceable dogs: No better way to spend a holiday!

Coming up next: A recap of our Christmas, Part II!

A three-dog family vacation

Our Labor Day weekend was very pleasant, and we spent our days doing a lot of dog-wrangling, as we ended up with a three-dog household.

My brother-in-law and soon-to-be sister-in-law brought along their 4-year-old cockapoo Adelaide!

Adelaide
Adelaide!

Adelaide is such a sweet little thing. She has a tendency toward nervousness, and gets particularly anxious about men, but she’s very cuddly and much more willing to warm up to them over time than Pyrrha is.

Adelaide makes it hard to tell which end is which. #thisisarealdog #cockapoo
Hard to tell which end is which.

She was a bit nervous coming into the house, which is absolutely fair, seeing as it was being run by crazy-dogs Georgia and Pyrrha. Although they eventually brokered a peace (which meant just ignoring each other), Adelaide and Pyrrha continued to make each other anxious throughout our weekend visit.

I think there were a few things going on:

  1. Adelaide and Pyrrha are both anxious dogs. Anxious dogs just tend to make each other more anxious.
  2. Size differential. Pyrrha has a good 45–55 lbs. on Adelaide, and she can also been kind of pushy/gregarious in her play. This, naturally, made Adelaide pretty fearful about her.
  3. Mixed signals. Adelaide, as you can see, is hard to decipher; her eyes are not visible and she has no tail to speak of. Pyrrha was throwing play bows at her, but this usually just solicited growls from Adelaide, and Pyrrha often didn’t have the sense to back off, and instead would growl back, creating a situation that we often had to intervene in.

All of these issues aside, however, Adelaide and Pyrrha were able to coexist peacefully by calculated avoidance of one another. They could pass by each other calmly and walk around the yard together without incident, so we were all assuaged by that (even though I continued to keep a very close eye on Pyrrha).

Georgia and Pyrrha, meanwhile, continued to be bosom buddies and playmates.

Georgia dog
Georgia, that little sprite!
Girl talk
Sharing secrets.

Adelaide was happy to observe and get the lay of the land.

Adelaide

Adelaide and her dad
Adelaide and her dad.

Watching Adelaide eat

Too lazy to play? #pyrrhagram #georgiadog #puppylove

All in all, I think we’re happy that the family dogs get along, now that we have all three of them in the mix! I hope Pyrrha and Adelaide will continue to get more comfortable with each other as time goes on.

Summoning the dogs
Summoned by the Keeper of the Treats (aka my father-in-law).

Soon enough, we were on our way home, although I’m sure Pyrrha missed all the action and her playmates.

Road tripping it. #pyrrhagram

Such a good traveler. Ready to be home! #gsd #germanshepherdHope you all enjoyed equally fun and pleasant weekends!