I didn’t get super shots, because I took out the old camera (didn’t want to ruin my DSLR with any water damage), but here’s Pyrrha’s first encounter with snow! The kid loved it. It made her positively giddy. (Video proof below.)
Eating snow is also a very absorbing game (even if we just got a small dusting).
Pyrrha and Guion are still working on their relationship, but they’ve been having fairly successful play time together in the evenings. These photos are from a few weeks ago, but you get the idea.
Guion has reported to me that she will never initiate play or respond to play invitations from him if I’m not home. When I’m at work, he says, Pyrrha usually sulks around the house and just coexists with him.
Part of this is due to the fact that she’s a very mellow dog by nature, especially during the first half of the day. At night, however, she starts to get frisky and wants to romp, wrestle, bark, and gnaw on human limbs. We’ve tried to capitalize on this by having Guion play with her during those bursts of energy (hence these dark, blurry photos on my old camera).
The one issue I can’t seem to solve is this: Pyrrha refuses to go outside if I’m not there. Even if she has to go, she will wait for hours until I come home. If Guion opens the door for her to the yard, she literally runs away from him in the opposite direction (often retreating to the safety of her crate). He has been good about never forcing her, but we’re kind of at a loss as how to fix this. If I’m home, she will go outside with him, but only if I’m nearby and even then, her body language is very hesitant.
If he absolutely has to get her outside, he has to put her on her leash and walk her around the outside of the house to the fence! It is very weird and getting a little ridiculous.
All of you are way more experienced than I am, so I’m seeking your dog wisdom here! What do you think is going on? How can we help Pyrrha overcome her fear of Guion opening the back door? I’m all ears!
This past weekend, Pyrrha and I took our first road trip together, to visit my parents, see my siblings, and help my sister with her wedding plans. It was a five-hour drive and Pyrrha handled it like a champ. She slept for the majority of the trip in the back of our little hatchback (which is now coated in wall-to-wall fur). I was very proud, and knowing she was peacefully dozing made me a lot less anxious.
Here are a few recaps of what Pyrrha did over the weekend:
Meeting the family
Pyrrha got to meet lots of family members this weekend, and she did great with everyone. In total, she met my sisters, my sister’s fiance, my grandparents, my aunt, uncle, cousin, the neighbors and the neighbor’s two young girls. Whew!
A few observations: She still warms up to women much faster than she does to men, but after she’d met everyone, she seemed to treat the family with an equal mix of tolerance and occasional anxiety. She became especially fond of my mom. My guess here is that my mom’s body and body language very closely mirrors mine, and I think this makes her feel safe and comfortable. Pyrrha’s other family favorites turned out to be my dad (who speaks dog fluently and loves dogs as much as I do), my mom, and my sister’s fiance, Alex (shown in the last photo). Alex is calm and quiet and has been around German shepherds before. I like to believe that Pyrrha sensed this.
Dublin, Pyrrha’s therapy dog
One of the most encouraging parts of our weekend away was Pyrrha’s interaction with Dublin, the neighbor’s chocolate lab mix, who acts as my father’s surrogate dog.
I wasn’t sure if they would get along at all. Dublin reacts somewhat negatively to new dogs in her territory, especially new female dogs. Add that with Pyrrha’s anxiety about new dogs, and I suspected they wouldn’t be able to interact at all.
So, this is just one more example of Pyrrha proving me wrong and exceeding my expectations. We let them sniff each other through the fence for a bit, and then we let Pyrrha into Dublin’s yard, off leash. All of us humans stayed outside the fence.
Within a minute, after the preliminary sniffs and some tail-tucking from Pyrrha, the two were romping like old friends. It was so heartwarming.
Pyrrha just fell in LOVE with Dublin. (I also couldn’t help but wonder if it had something to do with the fact that Dublin very closely resembles Camden, in color and build.) They spent most of their weekend together and I think Dublin really helped build Pyrrha’s confidence. She was so happy and relaxed whenever Dublin was nearby.
The farmer’s market
On Saturday morning, we took Dublin and Pyrrha with us to the farmer’s market. It was a fairly busy and overwhelming crowd, but Pyrrha handled it like a champ. Again, I think it helped her so much that Dublin was right next to her and was taking it all in with such calmness and apparent lack of concern.
Pyrrha met lots of dogs that morning and didn’t show any signs of extreme fear. I was so proud! I think holding her leash very loosely has improved these interactions tremendously, not to mention that I’m so much calmer about dog-to-dog interactions now.
We were even ambushed by a stray dog on our way over there. It was a rangy-looking basenji-esque mix without any leash or collar. We attempted to throw a leash around his neck, but he growled at us when we approached. He was very friendly to Dublin and Pyrrha, though. Not sure what will happen to that little guy, but I hope he finds a safe place. He seemed very self-sufficient and confident about town, though.
At the lake with Dublin
On Saturday evening, we took the dogs on a brief hike around the lake. Dublin, true to her retriever heritage, LOVES the water and loves retrieving anything you throw into it. Pyrrha, as we’ve learned, is decently scared of water. But after she watched Dublin diving in, she even waded in herself. She freaked out when she went too far and could no longer stand, but she very eagerly waded. Which I take as progress.
Sometimes I think Pyrrha is a normal, confident dog hiding in the guise of a shy dog. (Or maybe that’s just what ALL shy dogs are…).
Last week, we had to get our roof replaced. I was not so sure how Pyrrha would handle this, but I imagined she would be rather upset by the whole ordeal: A team of strange men walking around and on top of the house, making loud noises, etc.
But here’s what happened: She was initially nervous and slinking around when the roofers arrived the first day. As I was leaving, my husband alerted me to the fact that one of the roofers brought his dog along (without asking or notifying us about it at all) and left the dog–a medium-sized mixed breed–in our backyard. I was kind of peeved by this news. Who brings their dog along to a construction job, without asking anyone? I had to leave for work, slightly disgruntled, but thankful that Guion was going to be around for part of the afternoon.
Fast forward a few hours: Guion calls me at work. “What do dogs look like when they’re trying to play with each other?” I laugh and he says that he’s let Pyrrha into the backyard to meet Blacky, the creatively named roofer’s dog, and things seem to be going well. Pyrrha apparently raised hackles and snarled a bit at first, but then she started throwing Blacky some play bows and soon, the two were chasing each other around the yard. I was thrilled to hear it, and happy that it went well, considering that I would have never attempted such a thing.
The next day, I walked out into the yard around noon to talk to Guion and Pyrrha followed me out. One of the roofers was sitting in a chair in our yard. I didn’t see him at first, and I was nervous how Pyrrha would react (normally, with growling, hackles up, slinking away, etc.). To my utter amazement, she walked right up to him, sniffed his hand, and wagged her tail. I was SHOCKED.
“Guion, has she met that guy before?” I asked my husband.
“No,” he said. “She’s never seen him; I’ve never even seen him before.”
Pyrrha proceeds to lay down at this man’s feet and look calmly at the two of us, wondering, I’m sure, why we were gaping at her with our mouths open.
“This dog is shy?” The roofer said, when I called out to explain her behavior, and possibly warn him. “I don’t believe it!”
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?
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)
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 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)
Pyrrha isn’t very familiar with toys and hasn’t shown an overwhelming interest in them. She has a squeaky octo-fuzzy-thing (a gift from Bo and his mama!) that she sleeps with in her crate; she is fond of a tug toy I made of some of Guion’s old T-shirts, but she still is warming up to the whole concept of playing with humans.
I’ve heard a lot of good press about the Cuz ball, and so I bought one before we brought her home. She wasn’t very interested in it when I first introduced it to her, but last Thursday night? Girl was ALL ABOUT that ball. It was so much fun to see her play and seem genuinely delighted in a toy!
I think the brilliance of the Cuz is how unpredictable it is. Those little feet make it bounce in strange ways–and its size is just big enough that she can’t get the whole thing in her mouth perfectly, which makes the chewing challenge even more enticing.
We played for a good half hour before bed, which might not have been the best timing on my part, because then she was pretty riled up when we put her in her crate and started to cry about it a bit. She seems most playful at night, though. Evenings have been our most successful times to entice her to play with us/toys. I wonder if this will change. I’m not sure what it is about nights that make her more willing to play, but I hope that willingness to romp will extend throughout the day as time passes and she continues to gain confidence.
If you have a dog who wasn’t initially interested in toys, what was it that got him or her excited to play? Any other recommendations for games or toys to entice a shy dog?
“All animals, all beings, deserve respectful consideration simply for the fact that they exist. Whether animals think and feel, and what they know, is irrelevant. Reverence and awe for creation should guide human actions, along with a humble acknowledgment that humans have limited knowledge about the mysteries of our own existence.”
Reverence and awe for creation: A beautiful and important sentiment.
Happy weekend, everyone! Pyrrha is opening up more and more each day. She has actually started to PLAY, which is so heartwarming that I can’t even talk about it without wanting to tear up a little. But more on that later. Take care!