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)!

Eden’s parents

We have the unusual experience of having two rescue dogs and knowing their origins and actual birth dates. (This is clearly made easier by the fact that they are both purebred and registered, which is not in itself an advantage, but it just means that record-keeping is more expected.)

With Eden, we also received her pink papers (her German pedigree, issued by Vereine für Deutsche Schäferhunde, the organization that oversees GSD breeding in Germany). This was exciting to me, because we had a few more clues as to where our little girl came from.

The Internet is a wonderful place, because even though I can’t speak or read a lick of German, I was able to decipher the papers and figure out who her parents were (and thus the name of the kennel she came from).

So, here are some photos of Eden’s mom and dad!

Eden's sire.
Eden’s sire, Acky.
Eden's dam, Yvi.
Eden’s dam, Yvi.

Sweet Yvi! Eden looks SO much like her mama. I think it’s so cute. The wrinkles in the face! Don’t you think they look so related? I also love the description of her having “a very loving temperament.” Even though we did not get to meet either of these dogs, seeing their faces makes me feel happy about Eden’s future with us.

Eden standing, 6 months old
Eden, her mama’s lookalike! (With mud on her nose.)

We have never seen Pyrrha’s parents, but the rescue brought in a number of her relatives, all of whom had similar dispositions (very fearful but very gentle; very unlikely to display fear-aggression) and coat colors (light black and tans, almost black and creams).

Do you know what your dog’s parents looked like? Do you see any family resemblance? If not, do you ever imagine what your dog’s parents looked like?

Teaching kids and dogs how to behave with one another

Click for source.

NOTE: This is a piece I wrote a while ago, and since I don’t have any good photos of Pyrrha or any good updates lately, I thought I’d post it to start a conversation. Pyrrha is pretty scared of children, especially infants and toddlers, and this is an area I really want to work on with her. I welcome your thoughts, comments, and advice! — Abby

Despite what this adorable picture suggests, in general, kids are pretty terrible with dogs.

Kids like to tease dogs. Even if they’re just babies and unaware of what they’re doing, kids like to mess with dogs. They like to stick their hands in the dog’s eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. They like pulling the dog’s tail. They like riding on the dog’s back. They like squeezing dogs around the neck to express affection, even though the dog interprets this as invasive and frightening. This doesn’t mean that kids themselves are terrible. They’re often unaware of what they’re doing and how to read a dog’s body language.

Kids have a tendency to freak dogs out, for all the reasons listed above. Kids are really noisy. Their body language can be erratic and unpredictable to a dog. They like to get right up in dog’s faces, in their food, in their beds, on their backs. It’s no wonder that many dogs are afraid of children and that many, unfortunately, lash out in fear-based aggression.

But dogs, undoubtedly, bring (most) children an immense amount of glee. Even babies will light up at the sight of a dog. It always warms my heart when I see this. And there are many dogs who seem to love nothing more than children. (Bo is one of them: He drags me after strollers and runs up to every kid we see, beside himself with excitement, or with the prospect of food crumbs on grubby faces.)

There is a lot of circumstantial evidence that dogs and kids were “made for each other,” but that’s not always the case, and the majority of dogs AND kids need to be taught how to behave around one another. So how do we train them to behave well with each other? It’s not something that exactly comes naturally to either species.

TRAINING KIDS

As someone who doesn’t have kids, I often worry about those parents who don’t train their kids well with regard to dogs. I have responsibility for training my future dog how to act around kids; I expect that parents have the responsibility to train their children how to act around dogs. When we’re out walking, I can’t tell you how many times parents have let their little children run up to Bo to pet, squeeze, or hug him, without so much as a glance at me or a question if my dog is even friendly toward children. Thankfully, Bo is wonderful with kids, as I mentioned before. But what if he wasn’t?

I always walk Pyrrha very carefully around playgrounds and around people with young children. Thankfully, we haven’t had any parents let their tots run up to us (and I think this has a lot to do with breed; Pyrrha looks “scarier” than Bo, the golden retriever, does) and if a kid wants to pet her, they usually ask first. But this certainly wasn’t always the case with Bo. Parents would let their little children run right up to him without asking me.

But: Have you ever had to intervene in a situation between children and your dog? What would you tell the parents, perhaps by way of educating their kids?

Karen London posted a great short list of things she tells children about dogs, covered by the funny but true heading: “Don’t lick the dog,” from Wendy Wahman’s picture book for kids. That book sounds like a great resource for any parent of young children. I feel like I should buy a bunch of copies to hand out to parents on the downtown pedestrian mall here…

The Lab babysitter. Click for source.

TRAINING DOGS

One of Pyrrha’s last remaining big fear thresholds is little children. We seem to have ameliorated her previous big fear, which was greeting other dogs, and she hasn’t snarled or raised her hackles at a dog in two months. I consider this a huge victory! But the kid thing is another issue entirely.

Pyrrha is OK with kids who are calm and move slowly. This, unfortunately, is not many children. She’s submitted to attention from older children, perhaps 5-7 years of age, and she doesn’t seem bothered by pre-teens or teenagers.

It’s the babies and toddlers who really make her anxious. This is, obviously, a really difficult thing to work on. I wouldn’t let my infant around a German shepherd who was scared of babies, and I always keep Pyrrha removed and completely controlled when she’s in the presence of small children. So what do we do? How do I work on exposing her and acclimating her to this fear? It’s not like you can ask an infant to work with you, to make all of its movements calm and controlled, to stop squealing erratically.

She once growled at a toddler who tried to come near her. I removed Pyrrha from the situation and put her inside. It was a scary and disheartening moment. I want a dog who’s OK with little children. But how do we get there?

For those of you who adopted an adult dog, how did you expose your dog to kids? How can we help Pyrrha overcome her fear of small children, without endangering babies or eclipsing Pyrrha’s fear threshold?

As always, I’m very open to your suggestions!

Another weekend trip with Pyrrha

This past weekend, we traveled back to my parents’ house. We had a wedding to attend (one of Guion’s childhood friends) and knew that Pyrrha would be eager to come along for the journey.

A serious car-riding face

She seemed to really like the place when we first visited, and I daresay she remembered the house when we came back. If not the house, she at least was happy to see my parents again and meet my younger brother. I was impressed with how calmly she accepted visitors in a new space. By the end of our time there, she was acting like she owned the place.

Pyrrha and Jak

My dad is her playmate and my mom serves as my surrogate. My mom and I look and move similarly and I think Pyrrha gravitates toward her for this reason. She likes to walk up to my mom and press her nose to her leg. It’s a funny, simple, reassuring gesture. I’m not totally sure what it means, but it’s cute.

By Juju's bed

And Pyrrha was positively ecstatic to be reunited with her girlfriend, Dublin.

Play time

Play time

Play time
Dublin likes to push the swing herself.

Play time

Dublin's intense face

Dublin is a great match for Pyrrha’s energy level, and we like to say that Dublin is Pyrrha’s therapy dog. She’s showing her how to be confident and calm, how to wrestle, how to chase a Frisbee. It’s very sweet. I’m grateful that she’s right next door and always so eager to play.

Through the fence, view 1

Through the fence, view 2

Tired out

Aside from the wedding events, we spent the rest of the weekend with the dogs: Walking them, playing with them, watching them wrestle in the backyard. My kind of weekend!

Watching me through the window

(*You may have noticed a slight increase in photo quality–although not necessarily skill. This is because I just bought my sister’s Canon DSLR off her. I am thrilled with it, even though I have a TON to learn!)

Yes?
Do we have to leave?

Pyrrha meets my parents

With Juju and TT
Pyrrha with my parents.

My parents came for a short visit last night/this morning, and we had a great time with them–Pyrrha included!

My dad quickly won her heart by giving her a new rawhide and then wrestling with her in the grass for the better part of an hour. It was so heartwarming to see her play with such energy and vigor, so much like a “normal” 1-year-old dog! My father speaks dog, and all canines seem to instantly recognize this. I wasn’t sure how they’d interact, but I shouldn’t have been nervous: Pyrrha became a big fan of his after only 10 minutes.

Saying goodbye
“Grandparents,” saying goodbye.

Pyrrha was also very quickly enamored with my mom. It was so interesting to note how differently she treated them, though. She seemed to rapidly make the distinction that my dad was for roughhousing and my mom was for gentleness and cuddling. She’d sidle up to my mom, nuzzle her leg, even sit in her lap, but then turn around and give a play bow and invitational nip to my father. Very amusing.

The weather was beautiful last night, so we decided to take her to the downtown pedestrian mall for dinner. She was fabulous. Still a bit antsy when another dog would come toward us, but we didn’t see the extreme crouching and tail-tucking that we’d seen in the past. Pyrrha calmly laid down at our feet under the table, even though there was a sheltie mix at a table a few feet away who was giving her the stink eye. We were very proud of her and I think she was pretty tired by the night’s end. A great way to end yesterday, which we realized was our official adoption day. Trial is over; she’s officially ours!

Tomorrow, a bigger trial, though: Pyrrha will meet my boss’s 7-pound Pomeranian who may be our house guest for next week. If you pray, prayers are appreciated! I’ll keep you posted…

Pup links and a soapbox

A Kennel of Dogs print, by Woop Studios. Source: Design Sponge

Studying Kids and Pet Allergies. This is a confirming study–apparently, if you’re born into a home with dogs, you’re less likely to develop a pet dander allergy later in life. (The Bark blog)

Custom Dog Stamps by Kozue. I love stamps, woodcuts, and dogs. So, I guess I need one of these stamps. (Dog Milk)

Siro Twist Pet Bed. This bed is so attractive and designer-friendly. Too bad it’s $460. Because you know if you bought your dog a $460 bed, he’d never sleep in it and prefer the pile of old towels by the back door. (Pawesome)

Holy Imprinting! Imprinting is always totally adorable. Especially when it involves a Pembroke Welsh corgi and two yellow ducklings. (Cute Overload)

Not Enough Time. I would just like to add my rousing agreement to this post from the Inu-Baka blog–and step up on a brief soapbox. I am always astounded by people who bring dogs into their lives with seemingly little thought to how much time dogs need and deserve. Clearly, as the writer here points out, you can have a full-time job AND be a great dog owner. If you say that your full-time job keeps you from caring for your dog, you don’t care enough about your dog. And you should never have gotten a dog in the first place. For anything that we prioritize in our lives, we will make time for it. I make time for my husband because he matters to me. I make time to read because I love to read. I will make time for my dog because I will love my dog and want what’s best for him.

I once heard a new dog owner talk about how dogs were so much better than children because “unlike kids, you can leave a dog in a crate for 12 hours and it’ll be fine.” I think my mouth fell open. No, that dog will NOT be fine! This is borderline animal abuse. And yet so many people think this is an acceptable way to “live” with a dog.

I always get a little nervous when people come into the SPCA looking for dogs as “companions” for their young children. I feel like many parents believe that dogs come pre-programmed to be a child’s best friend. Nothing could be further from the truth. The great “Lassie”-like dogs you see are great because of extensive training, attention, and care. So many people adopt cute puppies for their kids and then, less than a year later, those same puppies are back in the shelter–confused and abandoned–because people were totally clueless about how much attention and time a puppy needs.

Judge your schedule very carefully before bringing a dog into your home. This is something I tell other people and I tell myself regularly. Adopting a dog is not a carefree or temporary commitment. Don’t get a dog if you will abandon it a year later. Dogs deserve better.