Lazy summer play with Roland

Play date with Roland
Roland!

This past weekend, we had Roland (aka Pyrrha’s BFF) over for a play-date. But we forgot that dogs are SO lazy in this Southern, summer heat… and so there was a lot more lounging than playing going on.

Play date with Roland

Still, I know the girls always enjoy having a friend over — even if everyone was fantastically lazy.

Play date with Roland

Play date with Roland

It’s always nice to have Roland visit, because Pyrrha is so familiar with him that I’m never worried about how she might react when he comes around. She is always at ease when Roland is over.

Eden is still learning how to chill out when dogs visit. We usually help redirect her insane barking and leaping by giving her a ball to chomp on; this keeps her engaged without going overboard and, importantly, it keeps her quiet.

Play date with Roland

Does your dog have a best dog friend? The kind of dog that you’re always at ease about?

Pyrrha has a play-date of her own

One of the interesting results of having a second dog in the house is that Pyrrha’s play style has changed. Since adding Eden, she has (1) become more testy in our yard when we have dogs over, and (2) become less engaged in play, particularly if we’re not in our yard.

Pyrrha and Fiona get to play

Both of these consequences have been interesting and frustrating at times. This past week, we had to take care of Fiona for the evening, and I decided I’d just take Pyrrha with me. (Side note: Eden’s play behavior with Fiona has become increasingly untenable. Essentially, she takes advantage of Fiona’s strong submissiveness, and won’t let Fiona off the ground for the first 10–15 minutes of every play-date. This, obviously, has made Fiona rather fearful of her. We’ve been trying to work on this, by helping Eden calm down with a “pack walk” — with Fiona at a distance, and they only get to greet each other when Edie is in a calm, collected state — but it’s still a work in progress.)

Pyrrha and Fiona get to play

That said, Fi and Pyr had a lovely evening romp together. It was fun to see Pyrrha really enjoy herself with another dog (without her pesky little sister tagging along). She actually played with Fiona, something she hasn’t done since Eden joined the family. Pyrrha seemed genuinely happy to play chase and tag with Fi, and Fiona just adores Pyrrha (kind of like a little girl looking up the cool, older girl in school). It was very sweet to see them together.

Pyrrha and Fiona get to play

In short, the evening was a good reminder that it’s sometimes a good thing to break up the sisterhood and let the dogs do things on their own.

Do your dogs behave differently when they’re not with their canine siblings? Do you ever create solo outings for this reason?

A four-dog play-date

We hosted a springtime play-date, and these three good-looking dogs came over:

Loki, the Newfoundland

Four-dog play-date
Loki.

Josie, the German shepherd

Four-dog play-date
Josie. (I love her; she’s a little pocket shepherd!)

and Finn, the Llewellin setter (Finn’s first time coming over to play with us!)

Four-dog play-date
Finn.

I did not get any good photos of the play, so apologies. It was hot, so the pups were doing limited romping and lots of moseying around the yard, looking at each other.

Finn was a little bit nervous about the play-date, and Loki didn’t like him much. It was the first time I’d seen Loki testy with another dog, which was interesting. My best guess is that it has something to do with the fact that Finn is intact. Also interesting: Eden went into her first heat the very next morning after our play-date, but the boy dogs did not care about her at all. Finn was enamored with Josie (who is spayed) and could not leave her alone! Josie’s mama said, “I think she must smell nice to the boy dogs; they always love her.” Indeed! Josie was an all-star, just rolling with the punches, putting up with any brattiness from Eden (and reacting calmly when Pyrrha tried to start something with her). Good girl, Josie. Wish you would rub off on our crazies!

Four-dog play-date
The shepherd girls check out Finn, who is a little unsure of their advances.

As I alluded to above, Pyrrha did not attend the play-date, sadly. She did not interact well with Josie (totally Pyrrha’s fault, and not Josie’s), which was sad and surprising, as the two of them played together beautifully the first time they met. She got all up in Josie’s grill and started posturing with her (putting her head over Josie’s shoulders and giving a really intense, bug-eyed stare), which escalated into snapping and growling. I intervened quickly and put Pyr inside for the duration of the play-date. Usually it’s Eden that I’m more nervous about with new dogs. Sigh.

Pyrrha’s play style has changed since we added Eden to the household. She’s gotten more tense about other dogs in the yard and simultaneously more standoffish during play time. She still seems to enjoy having other dogs around, but she seems less at ease about negotiating introductions/greetings. After the initial meeting is over, Pyrrha is fine, and coexists peaceably — but if she can’t get over that initial hurdle, she just escalates her anxiety. I don’t know what this means or how I can help her.

It’s a very specific issue, but do you have any ideas what could be making Pyrrha more testy? Have you ever seen this play dynamic change when you added a new dog to your home?

Four-dog play-date

Weekend play-dates with Roland and Loki

The dogs enjoyed a busy, action-packed weekend, which included two play-dates.

On Saturday: Play-date with Roland!

The good dogs at the play date. Eden not included.
Roland and Pyrrha greeting friends.

All the dogs seemed kind of lethargic about this play-date; they shuffled around each other and seemed generally sleepy. But at least they got some time outside together, checking each other out and just chillin’.

Play date with Roland

It was a warm, humid day, so maybe the temperatures slowed everyone down?

On Sunday: Play-date with Loki!

Play date with Loki
The young stud, with slobber.

Play date with Loki

Both girls were ECSTATIC when Loki showed up.

Play date with Loki

Pyrrha hasn’t seen Loki in a long time, and this was Eden’s first time meeting him — and her first play-date with a dog who was significantly larger than herself. Needless to say, they were both very enthusiastic about the presence of this handsome dude.

Play date with Loki

Play date with Loki

Play date with Loki

Play date with Loki

Play date with Loki

Play date with Loki

Play date with Loki

Play date with Loki

Play-Date Behavior Question: Eden has the very annoying habit of incessant barking when a dog comes over to play. I think it’s a bark that stems from excitement/overstimulation, but it’s super-annoying, and I think it really unnerves some dogs. What can we do to help her with this? Have you ever experienced this in your dog?

Play date with Loki
Three happy (begging) pups.

Thankful for a sunny weekend

We were so thankful for a bright, spring-like weekend here, after what has felt like the longest winter ever.

P on the deck
Happy P on the deck.

The girls got to spend tons of time outside — taking walks, hosting play-dates, playing Frisbee.

Best friends reunited
Best friends reunited.

We got to have Roland over again, which was fun — particularly for Pyrrha. It always interests me to note how the dogs do seem to have preferences for other dogs. Eden and Fiona, for example, adore each other and could (and do) play for hours on end without stopping. Pyrrha is interested in Fiona, but doesn’t engage with her much (even though Fiona is frequently trying to curry favor from Pyrrha). But when Roland showed up, Pyrrha was ecstatic: happy yips, play-bows, shoulder taps, etc. Entirely different behavior than when Fiona comes over.

Beggars
Begging from Brian (Roland’s human).

Here’s to hoping for many more sunny, warm weekends! We surely need them.

With her prey
Eden with her “prey” (killed the neighbor kid’s soccer ball).

How were your weekends? Did you get to take any excursions?

Play-date with Josie the German shepherd

Playdate with Josie

Sunday, we had a much-needed play-date with beautiful Josie. Josie is a 1-year-old German shepherd from a well-respected local breeder (Blackthorn Kennels), and her human mama was the one who bravely brought us our very first foster, the hulking sweetheart Brando.

We have been talking about getting our shepherd girls together for a long time, so I’m glad that it finally happened!

Playdate with Josie
What’s your name? (Cracks me up.)

The girls had a great time together, as you can see! They wore each other out quickly, which was wonderful.

Josie has a comparable play style with Pyrrha, who can be a little bossy with other girls. Josie didn’t mind, however, and was able to perfectly match Pyrrha’s love of wrestling and chasing.

Playdate with Josie

Playdate with Josie

Playdate with Josie

We hope to have sweet Josie over again soon! We always love making new dog friends.

Playdate with Josie
Pretty shepherd girls.

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

Puppy play-date at dusk

Last week, we had a bunch of young ‘uns come over to romp: Howie and Fiona joined Pyrrha and Trina for an early evening play session.

(It was getting dark, and I am still a bad photographer, hence all of the blurry photos. These are the best ones I got, seriously.)

Blurry puppy play-date
Meet and greet.

Pyrrha, at 2 years of age, was the oldest dog in the pack, and so there was lots of fun, floppy puppy energy!

Blurry puppy play-date

Trina was a little nervous about everyone at first, but after about 5 minutes, she warmed right up. Howie and Trina particularly seemed to enjoy each other, and Pyrrha was obsessed with Fiona. It’s funny to me how they kind of pick their “favorites.”

Blurry puppy play-date
Sharing the water bowl.
Blurry puppy play-date
Sallie goes with the puppy who matches her hair color.

Despite my poor photography skills, I think everyone had a great, tiring romp. Nothing better than an exhausted little shark (cough, cough, TRINA).

We’d love to have this bunch of puppies over again soon!

Blurry puppy play-date

Play-date with Fiona the puppy

This past weekend, Pyrrha got to have a play-date with a new friend: Fiona the puppy!

Play-date with Fiona
Fiona!

Our good friends Chris and Sallie recently adopted Fiona, and she is a bundle of joy. Fiona, who is probably about 6 months old, was found wandering alone as a stray about two months ago, in the countryside near our town, and Sallie’s friend picked her up and took care of her for a few weeks.

Fiona’s background is anyone’s guess, but the interesting fact is that she was found wandering near a farm that breeds Rhodesian ridgebacks. She’s obviously too tiny (about 15 lbs.) to be a full ridgeback, but her coloring is very interesting, no?

Rhodesian ridgeback. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Play-date with Fiona
Fiona in the backyard.

Although she doesn’t have the hair growing backward up her spine, she does have hackles that extend all the way from her shoulder blades to the base of her tail. Regardless, whatever she is, she sure is CUTE!

The girls had a great time together, as you can see.

Play-date with Fiona

Play-date with Fiona
Love these faces!

Fiona’s personality and play style reminded me a lot of Georgia’s, which is, I’m sure, part of the reason why Pyrrha got along with her so well.

We brought Draco out to meet her, but he seemed fairly uninterested in the play-date. He sniffed her a few times, and then he asked to go back inside. Ha! Never had a dog opt out of a play-date before, but I’m totally cool with that. We let him go inside and relax.

Play-date with FionaWe hope to have Fiona over again soon! I’ve already been thinking about good personality mixes for future play-dates. I think Fiona and Pyrrha would be great with Howie and Roland

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?