8 things your new dog doesn’t need

Getting to know Brynn
Our former foster puppy, Trina.

Believe me, I’ve been there: You’re bringing a new dog or puppy home, and you want to go absolutely wild in PetsMart. It’s overwhelming; there’s so much STUFF out there these days for dogs. But here’s a secret tip: You don’t need even a third of the things that giant pet store chains sell.

Here are some things we learned that our dogs actually don’t need.

  1. An expensive dog bed. We threw away hundreds of dollars on dog beds, as our dogs and fosters taught us that dog beds are for shredding for fun or destroying with a variety of unpleasant bodily functions. We now just buy lots of old blankets, towels, and comforters from thrift stores to put in their crates. Recycle, reuse! If the blanket gets destroyed, no big loss. The dogs are comfortable and so is our wallet.
  2. Puppy pee pads. Unless you want your puppy to think peeing/pooping inside is fine, don’t try to house-train with these.
  3. Canned food. Unless you have a toothless dog or one with some serious nutritional issues, canned food is really expensive and generally unnecessary.
  4. A choke collar or a prong collar. Please don’t use these on your dog’s neck. They’re not useful training tools and often just teach a dog to have aggressive reactions. Use a front-clip harness instead.
  5. A head halter. Dogs despise these things, for one, and for another, dogs’ heads are very sensitive, and jerking on a head halter to keep them from pulling is risky and often counterproductive. Head halters make walks miserable for everyone, from my experience. Again, check out a good front-clipping harness.
  6. Rawhides. Dogs really like rawhides, but they’re not good for dogs on the whole and can quickly become choking hazards. They are also not fully digestible, but dogs don’t think of them that way. Benebones are a great digestible alternative.
  7. A Furminator. Just use a standard shedding rake. I dislike Furminators because they rip out the guard hairs of your dog’s coat. You can actually make your dog bald in patches if you go overboard with the Furminator. They’re very expensive and not worth it, in my opinion.
  8. A retractable (Flexi) leash. God, I hate retractable leashes. If you ever want me to start ranting on the street, ask me what I think about retractable leashes. You are not giving your dog more “freedom,” you just have no control over your dog whatsoever, you are not teaching them how to walk on a leash, and you will experience some serious leg burns at some point in your career of using these “leashes.” Just say no.
Look what I found
As Eden can attest, sometimes found wood is the best toy of all.

What would you add to the list? What’s a pet product you see that you don’t think is really necessary?

Update from our former foster Kira (fka Trina)

I always really appreciate it when the adopters of our former foster dogs stay in touch. Their e-mails and photos are so heartwarming!

We recently got this e-mail from the family who adopted Kira (fka Trina):

I wanted to give you guys and update on Kira. She gets more accustomed to her new home with every passing day; she is so smart. She loves the snow and is getting big. Attached are pictures of her.

Kira | Doggerel

Kira | Doggerel

Can’t believe how big she’s getting! She almost looks like a full-grown lady. And he is right: She is SO smart. One of the smartest dogs I’ve ever met. So happy that she has found her forever home. We were tempted to keep her ourselves, but I know she’s in just the right place. And that’s the best feeling of all!

Hope you all have great weekends ahead!

Meet Eden! Our new dog (!!)

Yeah. Best Christmas ever: We totally got a puppy. (!!)

A week before Christmas, I got an e-mail from the rescue VP that made my heart skip a beat. She said she had the perfect puppy for us.

We had a crazy fall and early winter, and so we took a fostering hiatus. But I also wanted us to start thinking seriously about a second dog for our household, and I was really picky about this future dog’s personality. Cassie (the rescue VP) knew that I was looking for a “bombproof” young dog to balance out Pyrrha’s fear issues (see this great post by Nicole Wilde). She said that she’d only met one other puppy who was as solid as this one was, and she kept him for herself. This puppy had been surrendered by her family, who had young children and felt that they could not give her the attention she needed.

So, on a very rainy Sunday, I went to meet Cassie and pick up Eden!

Settling in nicely. #fosterpuppy #gsd
Eden!

We met at Petco, and I was instantly impressed by Eden’s confidence, friendliness, and utter lack of fear. From Pyrrha and our GSD experience so far, I’ve come to expect shyness from every German shepherd I see, and here was a little girl who didn’t have an ounce of it. She greeted everyone who walked in the door with wags and kisses.

Eden (fka Eva) was evaluated for police work when she was brought in, but failed the police test for not having high enough drive and being too friendly. Which is totally fine with me! But the evaluator did say that she thought Eden could be perfect for therapy work, owing to her strong orientation to people. I really thrilled to hear that; I’ve always dreamed of having a dog who could do therapy service, and Pyrrha certainly isn’t suited for it.

Sweet little Edie
Eden in the kitchen.

We still have two weeks to make everything official (the rescue’s policy of having a trial period) but… all signs point to this girl being THE ONE. Guion is always more level-headed than I am with puppies, and so I think it’s good that we have this period of being able to decide about her, but I think he’s also smitten with her.

Interactions with Pyrrha

Wrestling

Eden plays with Pyrrha very nicely, and Pyrrha treats her with a mix of joviality and crankiness (which is always her way with puppies; Pyrrha, despite only being 2, has some aspects of old lady grumpiness with the whippersnappers).

Girls

Rainy walk with the new foster puppy! #probablykeepingher #gsd #puppylove

They love romping together in the yard (and sometimes in the house), and I think Pyrrha will really warm to her. Edie is also good about respecting Pyrrha’s space (and Pyrrha is good about letting her know when she’s crossed the line). As with all of the other fosters we’ve had, I have to be conscientious about helping Pyrrha with her jealousy issues regarding me and other dogs, but she’s been good about keeping them in check. Her main tendency is to be the taskmaster/bullying older sibling with young’uns, which is a behavior I myself exhibited as a child, so I’m familiar with the signs. But Eden is very happy and forgiving of Pyrrha’s occasional grumpiness, and she thinks Pyrrha is a delight.

We took them on a 2-mile walk around town on Wednesday, and they were great together. Eden’s happiness and friendliness to everyone seemed to let Pyrrha loosen up. We’re still working patiently on Pyrrha’s leash reactivity issues toward other dogs, and Eden has already shown strong signs of being a great young role model for Pyr.

Settling in nicely
A respectful puppy.

Eden’s Background

From my research and from the existence of Eden’s pink papers, I’ve been able to determine that she came from a Maryland breeder and schutzhund competitor. Eden’s parents were both imported from Germany, and both are titled in schutzhund (her father holding a Sch3 title). Their hips and elbows both passed as “normal” by the German breeding standards, which was good to know. She does have more angulation than Pyrrha, which I hate, but she moves and runs solidly.

Studying Eden's movement

Getting a purebred rescue is always a gamble, so we’re lucky to know this much about Eden. (And can you believe that a puppy of this caliber was turned into a rescue?? It happens!) German shepherds are famous for their health issues, and this is a risk we knew about when we started looking at GSD rescues. We know nothing about Pyrrha’s parents, except that they were from the (weaker, unhealthier) American show/companion lines and not bred well (an unscrupulous backyard breeder who wanted to euthanize all of his dogs because he was tired of them). Despite this, Pyrrha is healthy, and we are blessed. We know more about Eden, but we also have high hopes for her healthy future as well.

Her Personality

Sweet little Edie

She is an absolute doll.

And she’s a funny, playful, floppy bundle of energy! Whew! She wants to play ALL DAY long. I’m really grateful for Pyrrha, who can wear her out in the backyard with games of tag and wrestling matches, because I can’t keep up!

Eden is both food AND toy motivated, which is fun to see, and she’s a very quick learner. This little brown-noser has learned to sit sweetly whenever she wants anything, because it’s clearly a strategy that’s been working well for her. She LOVES toys, and especially toys that she can fetch. She has a retrieving drive like a labrador! But she makes fetching fun for us humans too, because she’s already learned to drop the ball at your feet and wait in a sit or down position for you to throw it. I’m impressed.

We were tempted to keep Trina, our last foster, as you may recall, but I can already tell that Eden has confidence and soundness in ways that exceed little Trina. Trina was awesome, and she’s so happy in her new home, but seeing Eden is also a reminder that Trina wasn’t exactly what we were looking for.

SO. Still anxious to make it official, but I think she’s IT! I can’t believe we found her. We’re SO grateful to Cassie and to Southeast German Shepherd Rescue; what awesome, thoughtful, hard-working people. We’re so thrilled!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

SIDE NOTE: DOGS PICKING UP UNWANTED BEHAVIORS?

With regard to Pyrrha’s progress, now is a good time to add another dog to the house. If we had tried to bring in a permanent new dog even six or eight months ago, I’m not sure that Pyrrha would have been ready for it. Pyrrha has gained enough confidence and made enough progress in her other fear areas (Guion, strangers, other dogs) that I think we’re at a point at which Eden can be a good influence on Pyrrha, instead of Pyrrha being a bad influence on Eden.

The main thing I don’t want Eden to pick up is Pyrrha’s leash reactivity toward other dogs. For those of you with multi-dog households that include a reactive dog, has this ever been a problem for you? (The reactive dog making the non-reactive dogs reactive.) If so, what have you done to mitigate such copying behavior?

Foster update: Trina! (Now Kira)

We recently got an update from Kira (formerly Trina) and her family! They say she is doing very well and loving her life with them. The family sent this photo of her in her new dog bed:

Kira (fka Trina) in her new dog bed. It looks like she's wearing a Thundershirt here, and I'm not sure why; they didn't mention it.
Kira (fka Trina) in her new dog bed. It looks like she’s wearing a Thundershirt here, and I’m not sure why; they didn’t mention it.

I can’t believe how big she is now! She almost looks like a full-grown lady.

I love hearing from adopters of our fosters — particularly when it’s about a foster that we were tempted to keep ourselves. But I think we really made the right choice for Kira. I had five different adopters that I had to choose from, and I feel confident that she’s with just the right family. They are young and active; they work with her on training; and they have her practicing agility already. (I got a phone video of her practicing with her agility tunnel in their backyard! So cute. She clearly loves it.)

She’s such a whip-smart puppy — maybe one of the smartest dogs I’ve met — and we’re so happy that she’s in the right place. Warm, fuzzy feelings.

And now back to moving/packing madness!

Do you ever hear from the adopters of your fosters? Does it make your day like it does mine?

Good luck, Trina!

This brilliant, sharky, sweet little puppy is on her way to a happy life with a young family!

Trina the shark

Trina the shark

I am happy to report that Trina (soon to be named something else, probably) went on trial with a family who has a 9-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old lab mix, Belle.

Trina the shark

The meeting went quite well; Trina was nervous about Belle at first, and kept barking at her, but within a few minutes, she was her typical wiggly puppy self, and did her best to make Belle love her. (Belle wasn’t so sure, but she seemed tolerant, kind of like a mannerly dowager.)

As you can see, I think our crazy little girl has found her happy ending!

Trina went on trial today with her new family! #happyendings #dontbecry
Trina with her new family.

Semi-related life update: Because we recently learned that our landlords are selling the house we’re living in (BIG sad face), our housing situation is kind of up in the air right now. So we’re going to take a hiatus on fostering. I’m sad about this, but this is the best decision for us right now. We’re hoping that the stars will align so that we could buy our first house — and then, of course, we could keep fostering easily — but everything is uncertain right now. I’ll keep you posted!

Hope you all had nice weekends! I’m still basking in that fuzzy feeling after seeing another foster happily adopted. It’s such a nice, intangible reward.

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

The slow and steady work of making associations (Week 3, Reactivity Class)

Notes from Week 3 of the Feisty Fidos class
Deven Gaston, Canine Campus

I missed writing up a Week 2 recap, but you can read the fundamentals of this class on my Week 1 post (which I recommend, for anyone who has a reactive dog).

As Deven said, “This class is about as interesting as watching paint dry.”

Because that’s the long, slow, hard work of classical conditioning and making new neural pathways. During the past two weeks in class, we’ve just worked on clicking and treating (that’s where the operant conditioning mix comes in) the dogs for perceiving the trigger of another dog in the room.

Week 2, we worked with Deven’s shy, reactive dog Surprise, who remained still and didn’t want to make eye contact with any of the class dogs. (We’re all separated out in different rooms, and Surprise is walked around the center of the room.) This week, Deven brought in her bouncy, friendly mini Australian shepherd Rumba. Rumba was more of a challenge for the class dogs, because she was more active and clearly wanted to engage. (Rumba particularly seemed to want to meet Pyrrha!)

We practiced Patricia McConnell’s “emergency u-turn” several times each, in the class ring, and then we worked for the rest of the class on just clicking and treating for perception of Rumba, over and over and over again.

This class was a good reminder of two things:

  1. This is slow and steady work, and hundreds of repetitions are needed.
  2. Practicing this behavior “in the wild” is much harder, which is also why it takes so long to recreate these pathways.

But we’re in it for the long haul!

Getting to know Brynn
Pyrrha and Trina.

 

In other news:

We have been doing more evaluations of Brynn/Trina, and I think we’re not going to keep her, for a number of reasons. I know, after all of that fanfare!

Essentially, she is a lot more naturally shy than we thought. She’d been getting so confident and comfortable in our home that we were pretty fooled by her behavior, and kind of shocked during our outings to realize that she is naturally pretty fearful of new people, children, and other dogs on walks. She’s also afraid of getting in the car and strangers. (I think her super-relaxed behavior on the Downtown Mall that first night may have been influenced by drugs?? Ha. She had just been spayed a day-and-a-half ago at that time, and I think she was still pretty out of it, which led to her reallllly chill demeanor, despite the craziness of the environment.)

Again, these are not black marks on her personality, and we will continue to work with her and socialize her, but we are looking for a genuinely confident, “bombproof” puppy. Trina is not that, but she will still be a wonderful puppy for the right home.

As much as I want to keep her, I also know that I don’t want two leash-reactive, shy dogs. So. A hard decision. More on this later. It’s been a bad week, whew.

Getting to know Brynn

Meet Brynn (Trina)! Our tempting new foster puppy

You guys. We are in trouble. I think I really, really want to keep this puppy.

Now that is some well-practiced cuteness. #fosterpuppy #gsd
Brynnie!

Here’s the story: Friday night, this little lady got dropped off with me; I was volunteering with the rescue on our pedestrian mall, where we had a table and were passing out information about the rescue, raising money, etc. Brynn (who is called “Trina” by the rescue, officially) showed up in the back of an SUV with a bunch of kids, just wagging her tail and looking around. I thought that being on the mall would be way too stressful for her, but she hung out there for three hours and was a total rockstar.

We put that cute vest on her and, naturally, drew tons of attention to the booth!

Oh, man. This little lady is a huge temptation. #fosterpuppy #gsd
Wearing her donation vest.

She met tons of people of all ages, shapes, and sizes; children, whom she happily kissed and showed no anxiety about; and other dogs, spending most of her time playing with Titan, the rescue VP’s bombproof sable male.

We wore her out at the event, and then brought her home to meet Pyrrha.

Hard day of play for little baby. #puppy #guionsaysineedtowaitaweekbeforewedecidetokeepher

The introduction went perfectly, and the two of them have been playing beautifully ever since.

Brynn ADORES Pyrrha and wants to be with her every second. Pyrrha tolerates this puppy love with admirable patience, but she also seems to genuinely enjoy playing with her in the backyard.

First morning with Brynn (Trina)

First morning with Brynn (Trina)
On the tail! Killing me with cuteness.

First morning with Brynn (Trina)

As you can see, they also love wrestling together.

First morning with Brynn (Trina)

First morning with Brynn (Trina)

Based on her size (38 lbs.) and the vet report, we think she’s about 4.5 to 5 months old.

She was dropped off at a shelter in Gastonia, NC, by her owner, citing conflict with his/her insurance policy. And that’s all we know about her. Based on her outgoing personality and general looks, she seems to have been well cared for. Her lack of shyness also makes me think she was somewhat well socialized (although it could also just be that she has a great personality, which she does).

First morning with Brynn (Trina)

Brynn walks beautifully on the leash, and we’ve been taking her out on strolls every night since we got her. Her only (SLIGHT) fear seems to be moving cars (she just trots away from them), but we’ve been practicing some behavior modification to help her with that. (And, frankly, I’m kind of OK if she doesn’t want to get near moving cars!)

She looks very sound to me, and her vet check-ups didn’t show any cause for concern. As with all rescue German shepherds, you’re pretty much not going to get a well-bred animal, but she looks really great, all things considered. I particularly like that she does not have a sloped topline or those exaggerated hocks, and her face is also very nicely proportioned.

First morning with Brynn (Trina)

Why do I care about all of this for the foster puppy? Well, because I want to keep her. As you may recall, our motivation for fostering was to find a great puppy to add to our family. Our qualifications were a happy, outgoing, bright puppy with no shyness (to balance out Pyrrha’s more extreme anxieties). We were also looking for a mixed-breed male, which, clearly, Brynn is not. So.

First morning with Brynn (Trina)
(She looks like she has a lump under her chest, but that’s just hair from where she was shaved for her spay.)

Here are my internal pros and cons for keeping Brynnie.

PROS

She’s:

  • Outgoing and confident
  • Healthy
  • Gets along wonderfully with Pyrrha
  • Super with children (was briefly fostered with them before us)
  • Great with other dogs
  • Intelligent
  • Active
  • People-oriented
  • Very responsive
  • BEAUTIFUL

CONS

She’s:

  • Purebred
  • Of essentially unknown origin
  • Land-shark-y (but aren’t all GSD puppies at this age??)
  • Not “bombproof” necessarily (e.g., was a bit wary of a toddler on our walk last night but was fine with tons of little kids coming up to her on the pedestrian mall)

First morning with Brynn (Trina)

(As you can see, my “cons” side is weak!)

Guion (husband) wants to spend more time making this decision (because he is rational and not as swayed by puppy breath as I am), so we’re going to give it another week before we make the final call.

But what do you think? Should we keep her?? Or should we keep waiting?

Happy ending for Draco (now Otis)!

This week, I got the most heartwarming e-mail from Jamie about Draco, who has been renamed “Otis.” Almost made me shed some happy tears!

The e-mail, below, was sent with this photo:

Otis (fka Draco) and his sister Gabby!
Otis (fka Draco) and his sister Gabby!

Hey Abby!!!

Just wanted to check in with you guys and let you know that things are going great!  After repeatedly calling him Otis, he is starting to come when called and responding well.

The first night, the cat scared him to pieces but they have come to just look at each other and for now walk the other way. Gabby and him are doing great. They are snuggle buddies. Gabby likes to use him as a pillow.  Otis does not let her out of his sight. I have to let them out together and he stands beside her while she pottys then walks her back to the door then he turns around and goes to the bathroom then comes in.  It’s quite the sight to see. ❤

Thank you again for everything!!

I think our sweet, cuddly boy is set for life! SO happy.

In additional foster news, we get to meet our new foster puppy tonight! She was named Trina by the rescue, and she’s a 6-month-old black-and-tan German shepherd. And that’s all we know! Photos to come!

Hope you all have great weekends!