Sunday walk by the river: Reactive vs. confident

We had lovely, unseasonably warm weather this past weekend, which was very welcome. The dogs got a ton of exercise, and they were very calm and content. They seem to enjoy each other’s company more when they get lots of exercise; both of them were getting along beautifully, initiating play sessions appropriately, with no disagreements to be had.

Babies on front porch after #dailywalk. #germanshepherds

On Sunday, we took them on a long walk by the river near our house. As I’ve mentioned before, on the busy stretches of the trail, our strategy is to have Guion walk Eden in front, and I walk Pyrrha behind, working on our classical conditioning protocol the whole time. Because of this, I get to enjoy the walks less, because I’m constantly on high alert for her two triggers (other dogs and small children), but I think it’s been a good strategy.

River walk
Eden and Guion, trailblazing.

There were LOTS of dogs out on Sunday, as I expected, and Pyrrha did pretty well, all things considered. She only had one outburst, when two women with four dogs came close to us and let all the dogs stop and stare at Pyrrha, and I had nowhere to turn (except into the river!). (The dogs were friendly, but Pyrrha just can’t handle the proximity.)

I’ve been taking the clicker with me when I’m working with her on walks, and I think this has been helpful in signaling to people that I don’t want them and their dog to approach us. I hear people say, “Oh, she’s working with that dog,” and then they keep moving. Sometimes, when we stop to let dogs pass, some people seem to assume that we’re waiting for them and their dog to come greet us. The clicker seems to be helpful in communicating that this is not the case, and that we are training here.

River walk

Pyrrha’s anxiety lessened as the walk went on, too, which I was glad to note. Even though we kept passing dogs, near the end of our long walk, she was far more relaxed about them passing and was accepting treats a lot more gently and readily.

River walk

Eden continues to be unfazed by everything! She met kids, a man in a wheelchair, other dogs, and other people on the walk. I’m thankful for the abundance of good experiences she’s had so far, as they continue to increase her confidence and her already firmly held belief that the world is FUN and AWESOME and EXCITING.

I confess that I sometimes get jealous of these two, Guion and Eden, who get to lead the way and have happy interactions with people and dogs. I get stuck behind with Pyrrha, trying desperately to keep her from reacting. And if she does react in fear, she just looks like “another aggressive German shepherd.” Sometimes I want to wear a signboard on walks that says, in big letters, “SHE’S JUST SCARED; SHE ISN’T A KILLER.”

The confident, stable family members at the river. #rivannatrail #ediebaby

I try to look on the bright side. At least she’s not reactive to adults or teenagers. Pyrrha loves being outside and taking walks. And she actually loves other dogs — just not when everyone is leashed. And at least we have one shepherd who can be our breed ambassador, the friendly, goofy baby who loves everyone. Sometimes it’s hard to stay encouraged, when Pyrrha’s progress seems so microscopic. But I just have to keep believing that she is getting better. And take a deep breath. And just enjoy walking the dog.

Dog life lately

We’ve been having fun with our pups, even when they drive us crazy. I’ve so appreciated hearing from so many of you with your tips and tricks on puppy raising, daily walks, and allergies. Collectively, you have a wealth of knowledge, and I’m always so thankful to receive your comments.

Home security system
Home security system.

Here’s what’s been happening lately in our new multi-dog household:

Pyrrha the disciplinarian

Home security system
That side eye from the baby.

I’ve known this about Pyrrha, particularly with our younger fosters, but she likes to play the role of school marm/elder sibling disciplinarian with puppies. It speaks to her inner dog, which is really just a curmudgeonly old lady. If I chastise Eden, Pyrrha likes to follow up on my admonishment by chasing her down and growling/grumbling in her face. Sometimes she grabs Eden’s scruff too, by way of a larger warning.

Essentially, I’m not sure if I should intervene when Pyrrha displays this behavior. Pyrrha lays off after a few seconds, and Edie is always unharmed (and then will usually just go back to whatever unwanted behavior she was carrying out). My best guess is that this is a behavior that older dogs exhibit toward puppies, and I imagine it will fade as Eden matures, but I don’t want to unwittingly let them fall into a bad habit if I can stop it now.

What do you think? Is this problematic? Do your dogs ever “discipline” each other?

Eden the disc dog

Work from home
Guys. I am biased, but she is CUTE. Even with her raggedy tongue.

We have discovered that Eden loves playing Frisbee! She has a high retrieving drive, so my husband made a good guess that she’d enjoy chasing a disc. She’s addicted! Eden is still learning how to jump and catch it, but she’s learning the game very quickly. No shepherd can really compete with a border collie or aussie in this realm, but I think it’s going to be a game that she can enjoy for a long time. Guion was so inspired from teaching her that he went and immediately bought her $40 worth of the high-end dog discs (Jawz, by Hyperflite). Ha! #spoiledpup

I don’t have any good photos or videos of this yet, so for now, here she is with her other favorite toy: an old gourd, left over from Halloween.

Little Miss Packrat's favorite toy: an old gourd. #weirddog #ediebaby #vscocam
Such a packrat. Not a disc but an old gourd. And one of my socks.

Fence as a frustrating barrier

Our new yard is bordered by unfenced yards. In particular, our various neighbors on the left have several small dogs (an ancient maltese, some tiny poodle mix, and a Jack Russell terrier, from what I can tell) who they let roam (without leashes) through various yards and straight to our fence. This drives Pyrrha CRAZY. Her behavior is a mix of reactivity (frustration mixed with fear) and some desire to play. Eden is just excited to have visitors! We’re trying to figure out when these dogs are released, so that we can time our potty breaks differently, to avoid outbursts. Meanwhile, it’s kind of frustrating.

Daily walks

Daily walk
On a walk.

We’ve been working on daily walks, something that I confess we didn’t do with Pyrrha. Yesterday, we walked for an hour on the trails near the river, which is always heavily populated with dogs and children (Pyrrha’s top reactivity triggers). Overall, I’d say it was a successful visit. As usual, Guion walked Edie, and I walked Pyrrha and looked like a total lunatic, armed with my treat bag and clicker and my constant scanning of the horizon for kids or dogs.

Edie walks in front of us, so she gets to encounter people, kids, and dogs without watching any fearful reactions from Pyrrha. This strategy has worked well for us so far. Eden got to meet a laid-back, friendly hound, and the introduction went very well. The hound was on a retractable leash, however, so I kept Pyrrha very far away from him. There were lots of dogs out, but we were able to avoid any reactive outbursts, which is a victory in my book for Pyrrha. Edie continues to be bothered by nothing, which is an encouragement and in keeping with how we have perceived her personality over the past few weeks.

I really love walking our girls, even if Pyrrha’s fears occasionally mean that we have to cut our walks short, take weird routes, or appear rude to children or dog-walking neighbors. I’m thankful that we have a reactivity protocol in place to help her, and I’m always thankful for days in which she has no outbursts. And, of course, we’re also thankful for our new, confident little baby, who balances the scales.

Playing with Fiona + shifts in Pyrrha’s play style

Play date with Fiona! #doglife @sallie516
Playing with Fiona!

In our new house, we live even closer to Fiona, so it’s been fun to have play-dates with her. So far, Fiona is the only play-date guest we’ve had in the new house; we need to get out more invitations!

Something I’ve noticed with Pyrrha’s behavior with Fiona: Since bringing Eden into the family, Pyrrha has markedly changed her play style with Fiona. She is frankly kind of a bully to little Fi. Fiona is extremely submissive, and she spends the first 10 minutes of every play-date on her back, belly-up, lying very still and letting our bossy girls sniff her to death.

Once she starts to run, however, Pyrrha chases her and rough-houses in a way that she doesn’t with other dogs; she even humps Fiona, which is a behavior Pyr rarely exhibits. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s a definite change. Eden and Fiona, meanwhile, play beautifully together, as they have similar (high!) energy levels. Eventually, Pyrrha just lets them chase each other in circles and then just goes and does her own thing.

Have you ever seen your dog change his or her play style? What do you think caused the shift?

Synchronized sleeping. #babies #doglife #vscocam
Synchronized sleepers.

We’re thankful for our girls, issues and all!

Big challenge coming up: We’re hosting a housewarming party with 50+ guests in two weekends. Socialization gauntlet! I think Eden can handle it; Pyrrha could if there are no children and no one wants to mess with her; but we’re going to have the crates and a quiet room ready just the same. Whew!

Hope your weeks have been going well!

Puppy punk
This photo also says a lot about their general demeanors.