(My dad and Eden.)
“This you’ll call sentimental — perhaps — but then a dog somehow represents — no, I can’t think of the word — the private side of life — the play side.”
— Virginia Woolf
How I love my Woolf, always hedging, always qualifying, but almost always accurate. She certainly loved her spaniels, and she wrote a really perceptive and charming novella from the perspective of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel Flush. Highly recommended to literary dog lovers.
Hope you have playful weekends ahead!
You people know: Having dogs is not the best strategy for making it onto the cover of Good Housekeeping or House Beautiful. Our furniture and our floors are covered in an almost constant coating of fur (German shedders). The floor is almost always muddy and/or slick with the sheen of slobber or dribbled water from the bowl. We’ve basically given up on finding all of the stray bits of kibble that are hidden under crevices after nightly feedings from the puzzle toys. You get my drift.
But the one thing we do to help keep our home life reasonably sane is keeping the dog toys to a minimum.
Like your beloved dogs, I imagine, Pyrrha has more toys than she actually needs. But we keep them all in this basket in a utility closet. This means that Pyrrha can’t see her stock of playthings and she can’t go and pick one out at will.
Our strategy is to rotate her toys on a regular basis. She usually has one or two toys out to play with at any given time. That’s it. This accomplishes two things for us:
1. Our tiny house isn’t strewn with dog toys, which are often walking hazards.
2. Pyrrha gets SUPER-EXCITED about being reintroduced to old toys! Just like a little kid with toys: If they’re out of sight, they’re out of mind. This also means that we don’t have to keep buying her toys to keep her interested and engaged; we just “recycle” the old ones.
What are some of your strategies for keeping your dog-friendly house a people-friendly zone?
Our weekend with Guion’s parents and their new 12-week-old puppy, Georgia, went so very well!
Georgia was a bit nervous having Pyrrha around at first, but in about 15 minutes, she had warmed up and the two became fast friends.
Much to my delight, Pyrrha was great with Georgia. She was much gentler than I expected and she seemed able to temper her energy level and play to Georgia’s size and age. The two of them had lots of wrestling sessions indoors and then played hide-and-seek and chase in the backyard.
We had a freak snow on Saturday (the day before had been 60 degrees F), but the pups loved it. Georgia particularly liked eating mouthfuls of snow and ice.
All in all, Georgia is a precious, spunky puppy, who is very cuddly and sweet. She has a lot of spirit and attitude, and I’m looking forward to watching her grow up.
It’ll be interesting to discover how big she gets, as we will visit again in early April. I was so heartened by how well Pyrrha did, too, and am thankful that she has a new playmate in the family.
We enjoyed a lovely Sunday play-date with Heath, the handsome golden retriever, and Loki, back for his second round.
Heath showed up first and he was a perfect match for Pyrrha’s energy level. The pair did a lot of rolling around, kissing snouts, and chasing. They were a delight to watch.
Here Pyrrha displays her best “be pretty!” for Heath’s mama, the Keeper of the Treats:
Essentially, they ended the afternoon completely smitten.
Loki showed up later and then it was all one big love train.
It’s fun to watch Loki, the baby, gain confidence and work his way into playing with the big dogs. (Although, at 55 lbs. at 5 months, Loki will very soon be THE big dog.)
As you can expect with two young, unneutered males, there was also a lot of humping going on, but Pyr didn’t seem to mind it much. She’d take it in stride and then turn around and give the boys a taste of their own medicine.
Puppy play-dates! Always the highlight of my weekend. Hope to have Heath and Loki back again soon!
Today marks Pyrrha’s four-month “anniversary” with us.
I have nothing special to report here, except that this dog is really funny and sweet. We love her a lot. I would never have dreamed seeing her so confident and relaxed; she is such a different dog from the one she was in May. The dog who hid from us in various corners of the house now comes to greet us with a wagging tail and kisses every day. The dog who slunk around behind me on walks now leads the way with a confident, curious posture. The dog who cowered with every passing dog on the street now wants to greet (almost) all of them.
She’s been very rambunctious and spunky lately, too. I think part of this has to do with her squirrel-catching encounter, and I’d attribute the rest of her blooming personality to the fact that she’s been very friendly with Guion lately. Last night, HE was the only one she wanted to play with. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. It’s the little things, you know? She opens up more and more every day. We are so happy to have her.
This past weekend, we had the pleasure of hosting our first canine house-guests: Scout and Sadie. Scout and Sadie belong to my longtime friend, Kathryn, and her new husband, Jeff. They all came up to visit us for a beautiful, autumn-like weekend in the mountains.
Admittedly, I was a little nervous about how Pyrrha would handle living in our tiny house with two unfamiliar, big dogs. The verdict? She LOVED it. I think Pyrrha really wants a canine sibling.
Pyrrha was particularly taken with Scout, a big, sweet lab/vizsla mix. Their temperaments seemed well suited to each other and they spent most of the weekend kissing each other’s faces and rough-housing, aka generally falling in love.
Sadie, the gregarious boxer/shepherd mix, was kind of a different story, but she and Pyrrha eventually coexisted. Sadie is a very active, vigilant little lady, and she did not take kindly to Pyrrha romping with her brother. Whenever Pyrrha would initiate play with Scout, Sadie would intervene and snarl and snap at Pyrrha. This behavior gradually diminished, as Sadie is also very distracted by light, shadows, butterflies, and just about any other small movement…
On Sunday morning, we took the new dog pack on a beautiful hike to a mountain orchard nearby. All of the dogs were champs, even if they were a little too eager about the hike (dragging us up and down the mountain).
They all did very well when greeted by lots of different people, dogs, and even children. Pyrrha is anxious around small children, but I think the presence of Scout and Sadie was very calming to her, and she accepted the attention of numerous little kids without complaint or displays of anxiety. (This particularly was exciting to me, as Pyrrha’s anxiety around little kids is her most concerning behavior to me right now.)
All in all, we had a fun, raucous weekend with the dogs. It was so encouraging to see Pyrrha exist so peacefully with other dogs. She seemed just delighted to have them around, too. After they left and we came back inside, she asked to go outside and started patrolling the perimeter of the yard, looking for Scout and Sadie. I’m surely reading too much into it, but I think she was a little mopey when she realized they were gone. We will have to have them over again soon! Or just get Pyrrha a furry brother…
Have you ever had canine house-guests? Would you?
When we decided that we wanted a German shepherd, I sought out everyone I knew who had one. Marcy was one of those people. She is responsible for bringing young Bo to his lady, Liz, and so she’s a familiar feature in my community dog constellation.
Marcy has had German shepherds for years, and she is currently living with 3-year-old Ozzie, who is just as sweet and majestic as he can be. Many months ago, before I even knew about Pyrrha’s existence, I went to visit Marcy, meet Ozzie, and talk to them about the trials, tribulations, and joys of German shepherd ownership. They were both a great help to me in our journey toward rescuing Pyrrha. (And Ozzie officially solidified my desire for a long-coat GSD…)
On Tuesday night, we thought it might be nice for Pyrrha to finally meet dear Ozzie. Ozzie is one of those rare, lucky dogs who gets to go into the office with his human, and so Marcy brought him by after work.
I won’t lie: They had a rough initial greeting. Ozzie was already unleashed in our backyard when I went to let Pyrrha out. He came rushing into the sunroom to see her and she flipped out—hackles, snarling, lunging at him. I was a little concerned, but after we pushed them both into the yard, and Pyrrha got over her initial displays of fear, they were best buds.
What I’ve learned from this: Pyrrha does much better meeting a dog in a neutral space, with a very loose leash. She met Zoe in our front yard and there were no fear displays at all, and the pair transitioned very smoothly into the backyard. To date, our most frightening initial encounters have been when Pyrrha was in the backyard and another big dog came in (see: Silas). I will be sure to follow this protocol for all future play-dates at our house.
It was great to keep the company of another GSD person, however. Marcy is so experienced with the breed that she wasn’t disturbed at all by Pyrrha’s initial “greeting” of Ozzie. She could tell that Pyrrha would be fine in a minute, and she was. Marcy also wasn’t frightened by the way that Pyrrha plays, which is with a lot of flashing teeth, paw smacking, and play growls. “This is just the German shepherd way,” she said, while watching them rough-house. Watching two GSDs play could be a terrifying thing to witness for someone who had only been around gentle hounds, but Marcy thankfully knew what was up. Again, I’m so grateful for other dog people who know how to read Pyrrha and wait her out.
These two are such a good example of the big difference between a black-and-tan and a black-and-red GSD. Pyrrha’s coat looks almost white next to Ozzie’s deep tones!
More play photos:
Hope we’ll get to do this again soon!
(*Also: Thanks for all of your great advice about how to get Pyrrha more comfortable going outside with Guion. We are going to try some of the things you recommended and I will be sure to keep you posted!)
Pyrrha has made a lot of progress with Guion lately. For the first few weeks, she seemed very nervous around him; she’d watch him like a hawk whenever he was in the same room with her. As the third week rolled around, we both were somewhat dismayed that she hadn’t warmed up to him yet. He wasn’t going anywhere, after all, and probably spent more time with her during the day than I did.
Her obvious preference for me made me feel pretty guilty. After all, I was the one who was really begging for a dog, and then we get a dog who barely gives my tolerant husband a second glance? I felt awful. She was all wiggles and wags and smiles whenever I walked in the door; Guion got a sideways glance and a slinking posture that moved her into the next room.
Last week, we started pairing Guion with her most high-value treat, dried liver jerky (or something like that; a gift from our neighbor). Guion was the only one who was allowed to give it to her. That worked like a charm; she started to follow him from room to room, but this time out of a spirit of eagerness instead of watchful anxiety. He feeds her whenever he is home with her and gives her lots of gentle attention and affection.
The other night felt like a breakthrough, too: We were out in the backyard and she was in one of her crazy, playful moods. She normally invites only me to play with her; she’d never initiated play with Guion before, but on this particular night, she wiggled right up to him, gave him a play bow, and started dancing around him. Guion and I were both overjoyed. Soon they were both on the grass, wrestling around and playing Pyrrha’s version of fetch (which involves the human throwing an object, Pyrrha chasing said object, and then Pyrrha returning to human without said object). She played with him in that rough, goofy style that I’ve seen her do with other shepherds–lots of teeth, lots of tongue lolling about. (She even snuck up behind him and gave him a play bite on the back of his neck. He let out a yelp, which was sufficient correction. But then she just came back for more.)
She still has some warming up to do with him, but I feel like we’re already making great strides.
Did your dog need any help warming up to a particular family member? What did you do to help him or her feel comfortable with this person?
Dog-related links from around the Web this week:
12 Simple Rules for Dining Out with Your Dog. Pamela’s great list of tips for those who want to dine out with the pooch. We’ve taken Pyrrha out to eat with us twice now, and she’s done very well, but I think that was purely out of luck. We could certainly use these bits of advice and work on training her in that environment. (Something Wagging This Way Comes)
Ready to eat. Bowdu sings for his supper! This is adorable. Now only if I can get Princess Pyrrha to act with similar enthusiasm at meal-time… (The House of Two Bows)
Chix-A-Lot Friday: How Play Changed My Life. A great post from Chix about how lots of play and lots of exercise transformed his behavior. A good reminder. (Love and a Six-Foot Leash)
Sometimes Dogs Aren’t Sad. Karen London points out that we often misinterpret dogs’ body language as indicating that they are “sad,” when in fact, they’re just calm or checking everything out. (The Bark blog)
The Adventures of Jack and Samantha. A guest post from two hiking greyhounds on Tinkerwolf. Beautiful photos and beautiful dogs. (Tinkerwolf)
The Responsibility of Rescues/Shelters. Tena reflects on the duty that rescues have to make sure that dogs are going to homes that are well-suited for them, e.g., don’t send a young Jack Russell terrier to an elderly couple. What do you think about this? Do you think the majority of rescues do an adequate job of matching dogs with compatible homes? (Success Just Clicks)
Which Type of Player Would Your Dog Be? Do you love or hate dog parks? I’m on the fence about them; I know we won’t be taking Pyrrha to any dog parks anytime soon. Maybe one day. How do you feel about them? (Dog Obedience Training Blog)
Rescue Me. My husband’s cousin is a great blogger and mom to sweet Jack, who is on the autism spectrum. Here, she reflects on their dog Mason and how much he’s meant to their family and to Jack. Really touching. (Reinventing Mommy)
To Be What They Are. I loved this post by Louise, about letting our dogs just BE what they are, permitting that expression of their lovely personality, however strange or exhausting it might be. Such a great exhortation for us as we raise our dogs. (Raising Ivy)
20 Most Adorable Animal Lists of All Time. It’s time to laugh now. Some of my favorite lists in this well-curated collection: 50 Corgis Super-Psyched about Halloween and, of course, 50 Photos of Basset Hounds Running. (Best Week Ever)