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.
Still, I know the girls always enjoy having a friend over — even if everyone was fantastically lazy.
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.
Does your dog have a best dog friend? The kind of dog that you’re always at ease about?
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’.
It was a warm, humid day, so maybe the temperatures slowed everyone down?
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 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?
We were so thankful for a bright, spring-like weekend here, after what has felt like the longest winter ever.
The girls got to spend tons of time outside — taking walks, hosting play-dates, playing Frisbee.
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.
Here’s to hoping for many more sunny, warm weekends! We surely need them.
How were your weekends? Did you get to take any excursions?
This past Sunday, Roland came over for Pyrrha’s last puppy play-date at the old house.
As I’ve mentioned, Pyrrha has been neglected lately, due to the craziness of our lives and the all-consuming task of packing, so this was a much-needed play session. Sunday was also so cold (sunny but a high of 34 F, which is too cold according to me), so it was nice to let the pups burn off some energy while watching them from the comfort of the sun porch.
We’ll miss this yard, but we’re certainly excited about continuing the play-date tradition in our new space!
We had the pleasure of dog-sitting Roland this weekend. He’s a regular at our house, and we love having him. As I’ve mentioned before, he and Pyrrha get along beautifully, and Roland is very fond of Guion. He’s a very easy keeper, and we were very glad to have him around to romp with Pyrrha. She’s needed some canine company lately!
We love this weird little dude! We’re always tempted to keep him when he comes…
In any event, he’s a good model for the kind of second dog we’d be looking for: Very mellow, affectionate toward Guion (even preferring Guion over me), relaxed with all kinds of people and children, loves to play with Pyrrha. One day, we hope to find a Roland-esque pup of our own!
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!
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.
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…)
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.)
AFTER THE PLAY-DATE
Take a nap!
Do you ever host canine friends at your place? What have you learned from your experiences?
As you know, we have learned the hard way from some dog-to-dog introductions (see Rainer attacking potential adopter’s dog) that introducing strange dogs to each other is a very important and delicate process.
Most of you probably have already heard these tips before, but here are some of the things I’ve had to remind myself of, repeatedly, when introducing dogs to each other.
Calm yourself first
Especially after the Rainer incident and seeing how badly introductions can go, I get SO nervous about new dogs meeting. Pyrrha, obviously, picks up on this, and this only ratchets up her anxiety. The big thing I’ve had to teach myself, every time, is to slow down, BREATHE, and loosen up. I close my eyes for a second, I take deep breaths, I loosen my posture and my grip on the leash (not entirely, but so that Pyrrha isn’t feeling any tension on her harness or collar). Dogs reflect our moods and study the nuances of our body language so much more than we even realize. Putting myself in a calm state is always the first thing I have to do when introducing new dogs.
Truly “neutral” ground is hard to find
All of the advice you read says to let the dogs meet on “neutral territory,” but I’ve found that this is quite difficult. Fosters are often just dropped off at our house, and even if we went to a nearby park, there’s still the possibility that Pyrrha would see that as “her” territory. Thankfully, Pyrrha has never shown signs of territorial protection/aggression (she is not very shepherd-y in that way), so our strategy has been to keep the dogs leashed and far apart in our spacious front yard, and then if that observational period/meeting goes well, we transition to the backyard and let them drag their leashes for a bit before unhooking them. Have you been able to find and utilize “neutral” ground when introducing new dogs?
Don’t try this alone
Always have another dog-savvy person help you! Particularly if you don’t know the dogs’ backgrounds (as if often the case with foster dogs who have come straight from the shelter). My husband is usually the one who helps me introduce our fosters to Pyrrha. Talk to your helper in advance about what your strategy is going to be (e.g., you walk that way, I’ll walk this way, and then we’ll see how they do, etc.).
Resist the urge to let them meet face-to-face
This is a hard one, and this is why the “walk apart from each other for a while” method is repeated. Most dogs are naturally going to pull you straight up to each other, and this is how the fights can start. I wasn’t sure how to pull off this “walking apart” business, but the best strategy I read seems to be to have one handler-dog pair walk in front of the other, kind of staggered, and then switch places, let the dogs sniff where the other dog has been, and carefully observe the next step:
Study that body language!
Brush up on the subtleties of canine body language, and watch for those calming signals (or, more importantly, the lack of calming signals). Be extremely wary of stiffened postures and hard stares. The slightest shift in a dog’s movement can signal a transition toward either play or fight mode.
Also: Don’t be afraid to tell the other handler what signals you’re noticing. I wish, wish, wish I had done this with the dog that Rainer attacked; I should have told his owner, “Your dog is giving Rainer a really hard stare. This probably isn’t a good idea.” But she couldn’t see that — and I couldn’t see what Rainer was doing. And so we ended up with a fairly serious dog fight. The dogs are already communicating with each other silently; as humans, we should remember to communicate with each other verbally about what we’re observing, otherwise we can both miss some pretty clear signals that the dogs are giving off.
Off-leash behavior vs. on-leash behavior
Once dogs have passed the on-leash greeting portion and seem to be amiable toward one another, I like to transition them into a spacious fenced area for them to be off leash together. As we know, leashes build tension, and dogs can really have the freedom to interact naturally with one another when the leashes are off. I like to let them drag the leads for just a few minutes once in the fence — in case something does escalate, we can intervene with more agency if a leash is still attached. But once things seem to be going smoothly, leashes come off, and we stand back and watch and let the dogs do their thing.
Roland specifically, but you know Pyrrha fits that category too.
We’ve had a nice week dog-sitting this chap, and I know Pyrrha will be sad to see him go on Sunday night.
He has been a very easy keeper, and I think I may also have to prevent my husband from trying to keep him. Guion and Roland have become very attached to each other! Roland gives him a grand greeting every time Guion walks in a room, and if Guion dares leave the house, Roland whines and wails and mourns. Last night, when Guion left, Roland cried and cried, and then jumped up on the couch and laid with his head on the windowsill in the most heartbreaking and forlorn fashion. Naturally, Guion is basking in the love and attention from a dog who is uniquely focused on YOU (something that he has truthfully never received from Pyrrha, who acts like I’m the Only Person in the Universe). It’s a powerful thing, feeling that dog love… And isn’t it funny how quickly dogs can form attachments? It’s always heartwarming.
What do your weekends have in store for you? I’m looking forward to reading, weeding, and taking the pups on long walks before Rols goes home!
More photos from our week with Roland (which was, as you can see, very leisurely):
This week, we are dog-sitting one of Pyrrha’s best friends, Roland. She, of course, is delighted. And they have been wearing each other out!
I think Rols is missing his family (especially his human dad, of whom he is particularly fond), but he has been settling in nicely. He seems to prefer men, so Guion is really enjoying all of the doggy love from Roland (something he still rarely experiences from Pyrrha). Roland, meanwhile, tolerates Pyrrha’s antics, and they like to play bitey-face under the table whenever they’re inside (which can often prove dangerous to human limbs).
You’d think I’d know this by now, having a rotating door of dog friends and fosters, but I am always surprised at how truly individual each dog is. Roland has his own set of quirks and habits, just like every other dog. It’s a good reminder that we can’t always be so universal in our approaches to dogs; a tactic that works for one dog may not work for another. Every canine personality is so complex and unique — rather like people.
That said, here are some little traits of Roland’s that we’ve noticed.
Cute Roland Quirks
Softest, silkiest fur! This little dude has to have had a lot of spaniel in him (I see Brittany, because of the eye color; what about you?). I don’t think I’ve ever met an adult dog with such silky fur.
Whining. We haven’t had a dog who whines around, and it always surprises me, because I think he’s been injured or is in great distress. But Roland seems to whine even when he’s happy. Or maybe for attention? Demand-whining (like Maggie was referencing, except it’s much quieter than demand-barking!)?
Not a fan of the crate. But we’ve been treating him for going in, like we do with all the dogs who live with us, and I think he’s getting used to it.
Does not like going outside. This is a weird one to us. He seems fine being in the backyard once he’s there, but he really balks at having to go from the sunroom into the yard. I’m not sure what the fear trigger in the sunroom is, so we’re investigating.
As previously, mentioned way more fond of Guion than of me. This is especially cheering to Guion, because Pyrrha vastly prefers me (and Rainer before her). He’s basking in the attention from Roland.
Gentle and calm on walks. We met three little kids yesterday who were really interested in the dogs. They were very polite, and asked if they could pet the dogs. We let them pet Roland first, because he’s so easygoing, and he was great with the attention, and then, when the kids asked, I let them slowly approach Pyrrha. She licked their hands and cheeks, which was nice, and then I let Pyrrha back up and give her some “breathing room.” Overall, a good Pyrrha/child interaction, which is something we always celebrate! I think Roland’s calm demeanor may have helped her loosen up in the presence of three little kids.
Overall, Roland is an easy keeper! We are happy to have him for the week, and we know Pyrrha is as well.
Have you ever had a live-in dog “boarder”? How did that experience go for you and your dog(s)?