Counting the little victories

Around here, I like to take note of the dogs’ little victories — their (often tiny) steps toward progress or a desired behavior. It helps keep the spirits up, particularly when you’re working with a fearful, reactive dog and a psycho adolescent!

Who, me?

Pyrrha’s Little Victories

  • I was walking both dogs home from a play-date with Fiona when we were suddenly approached by three strangers: a man I kind of knew (a friend’s father), who wanted to ask me about dog sitting, and then a middle-aged couple who wanted to meet the girls. I was engaged with talking to my friend’s father, so I didn’t really have time to monitor Pyrrha’s interaction with the couple. Generally, Pyrrha will back away from a strange man who tries to pet her and flatten her ears, and so I’d move her out of that situation. But when I had the chance to check on her, she was cozying up to this couple and lavishing their affections! Color me shocked. Pyrrha was better behaved than Eden with the whole interaction (Edie was kind of restless and whiny; not scared, just antsy). After my friend’s father left, we talked to the couple for a while, and they had a German shepherd who had recently passed away and were so enamored with the girls. They were calm and slow-moving, and I could tell they knew how to greet a dog, and I thanked them for that, noting that Pyrrha was normally frightened with such interactions. They beamed at the compliment, and the husband said, “Dogs just know dog people.” Yes, they do, sir!
  • Pyrrha has also been doing a marvelous job of backing down from little squabbles. Instead of picking up the challenge to growl or snap at Eden, she’s been moving away from the situation or diffusing it with her body language. She’s been a lot more relaxed with Eden lately, which has been encouraging to see. I think they’re finally getting acclimated to one another!
  • It’s always a work in progress, but Pyrrha has also been braver in her interactions with Guion. I never force her to be near Guion, because that would only backfire; instead, we let her make her own choices about whether she’d like to be close to or far away from Guion. Recently, she’s decided to stay in a room with just Guion, even after Eden and I have left. This may sound like a paltry thing, but in Pyrrha’s universe, it’s a big deal! I’ve been proud of her. I also think Eden’s gregarious presence has had a good influence on Pyrrha’s interactions with Guion. You can see her thinking about it: “Hm, this crazy puppy is wild about Scary Man. Maybe he’s not so evil after all…”
  • Never thought I’d see the day, but guess who tolerates nail clipping now?? We had to stop using Maggie’s brilliant method of the peanut butter plate, because then Pyrrha generalized and got terrified of us even opening the peanut butter jar (!). Now, I ply her with simple treats, and she just calmly stands there, munching her biscuits, and lets me clip her nails. She doesn’t enjoy it, and never will, but she tolerates the nail clipping, and that’s huge!
She’s getting so LONG!

Eden’s Little Victories

  • Eden has acquired a new habit of lying down at my feet while I get ready for work in the morning — instead of pacing and whining and clawing at the door until I attend to her. This is a very welcome development!
  • Edie has mastered quiet crate exits, which is encouraging. She is so quiet and polite in her crate now; it’s hard to believe that she’s the same wild beast who would throw herself at the door and cry pitifully. She’s 8 months old now, and I daresay she’s gaining a modicum of self-control.
  • This is not exactly something that Eden has accomplished herself, but thanks to a few months of fish oil supplements, I’m happy to report that her itchiness has gone down considerably. She still scratches herself from time to time (what dog doesn’t?), but it’s nothing like the constant scratching when she first came to us. We’ll probably always have her on the fish oil supplement, but it’s worth it to have a less itchy, more comfortable puppy!
  • Eden is our pup with some resource guarding issues, and we’re still working on that overall, but she has made progress in the toy department. She still doesn’t love it when Pyrrha approaches her while she has a toy or a bone, but she doesn’t pick a fight anymore. We have tried to manage this by limiting both girls’ access to coveted objects and always monitoring their behavior when prized possessions are in the room. She continues to show more maturity and less anxiety about “her” toys and bones, which is encouraging. Still gotta work on the food guarding, though.

Also, can I just say THANK GOD that we’re finally having some pleasant weather?? Everyone in our household is so much happier about this. The dogs want to be in the yard more; I want to take them on longer walks; we have more play-dates; Edie gets to play Frisbee or fetch… everything in life has improved, just because of the weather. Keep on coming, spring!

Happy Friday! What “little victories” has your dog accomplished this past week?


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?

Pup links!

Casey, who belongs to designer Betsy Maddox. Source: Design*Sponge

Dog-related links from around the Web this week!

Tips for the First 30 Days of Dog Adoption. Practical and accessible advice for that first month with a new dog. This is a list I’ll certainly be returning to. (Petfinder)

Best Advice I Can Possibly Give. Thoughts on what it means to be an advocate for your dog. (Success Just Clicks)

5 Rainy-Day Workouts for Dogs. A few ideas for how to keep your dog busy in the house. (Exceptional Canine)

Nail Clipper Desensitization. A step-by-step process of trying to get an anxious GSD to reduce her fear the dreaded nail clippers. This is one aspect of dog grooming that I am not looking forward to, so I appreciate articles like this one! (Peaceful Dog)

Guess the Genotype: Breakdown of Alleles. A scientist’s cleverly organized explanation of the genes that make our dogs look the way they do. (Musings of a Biologist and a Dog Lover)

Creative Peeps 03: Carole + Chai. An interview with the designer of beautiful martingale collars from Huggable Hound. (Pawsh)

Friday Under Fifty. Trendy dog products, hand-picked by Dooce herself. (Dooce)

Zara’s Dog Love. Cute and yet understated canine-centric T-shirts from Zara. (A.G. Out Loud)

The Dogs of Occupy Wall Street. Even the pooches are getting in on the protesting! Some of these signs are hilarious. (The Hydrant)