How I can walk two German shepherds by myself

I am not a very big or strong person (I have weighed about the same as some of our male foster dogs, for example), and so walking two dogs solo has always been a challenge for me — especially if the dogs don’t have impeccable leash manners.

Christmas 2013
Pyrrha in the Freedom Harness. (It’s not usually this loose-looking; I think we need to tighten the straps a bit for P.)

Pyrrha is good on the leash, but I wouldn’t say that’s because we trained her well; she’s never really pulled much, and she just wants to walk slowly and smell everything. However, if she’s scared of something (or about to have a reactive episode), she will lunge. Introduce: the Freedom No-Pull Harness, manufactured by 2 Hounds Design. Our trainer told us about this harness, and I am SO glad she did.

Sunday walk by the river
Freedom Harness from the back.

The harness has a front and back clip, with a slight martingale-esque/cinching action from the back. The straps under the dog’s front legs are made of velvet (yes), so there is both a cushion and a reduced likelihood of the straps rubbing or burning the skin. And the harness comes in a veritable rainbow of colors! (I wanted to buy Pyrrha the pink one, so that she’d look less scary to people. Guion balked at this, but I think it’s been helpful for her public image. We bought Eden a standard black one, however, to appease her dad.)

The harness is also very easy to put on the dog, which is a big bonus for us. One of my least favorite activities at the SPCA, when I volunteered there, was trying to put a traditional harness on a dog who was about to explode from excitement. Lots of scratches to the face. Not so with the Freedom Harness!

Out with the girls

As you can see from the following photos from our recent walk, I’m able to walk both of the girls by myself with little struggle. 

Out with the girls

Out with the girls

Out with the girls

Obviously, no product is a substitute for good training — and we’re working on that too. But this harness is a great place to start — there’s no yelling, pulling, or bribing involved! The dogs just figure it out.

Out with the girls

When I walk the girls solo, I clip the leashes to the front of the harnesses, because this offers me the most control. Eden is still getting used to it — when she tries to pull and feels the resistance, she starts to pick her feet up high and prance like a pony; it’s adorable and weird — but she’s figuring it out very quickly.

The Freedom No-Pull Harness is available on Amazon, as well as through other smaller retailers. We bought ours through our trainer at Canine Campus. The harness, along with the two-ended leash, will set you back about $35-$40, depending on the size of your dog, but I think it’s worth every penny!

What makes walking your dog(s) more bearable? 

Disclaimer: I was not provided with these harnesses for review, nor was I asked to write this! We bought these harnesses with our hard-earned cash. 🙂 I just love this product and wanted to spread the word. 

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.

Meet Rainer!

Meet Rainer, our third foster from Southeast German Shepherd Rescue!

Rainer in the kitchen

Rainer is a sweet, shy boy who was brought into a rural shelter as a stray. That’s all we know about him! The shelter estimated he was 10 months old, but I think they were on crack, because he has to be much, much older than that; his teeth are pretty worn down, his muzzle is quite gray, and he doesn’t have even an ounce of the kind of puppy energy typical of an adolescent GSD.

That side eye! Kills me.

He is quite shy and withdrawn. He acts so much like Pyrrha did when we first got her: very curious about everything, can’t stop pacing and patrolling. But, like Pyrrha, he has a gentle disposition. He is nervous about people approaching him, but he calmly submits to petting and attention when approached slowly.

As you can see, below, he didn’t have much problem approaching Guion on his own initiative in the backyard:

Getting some love from Guion

So far, his interactions with Pyrrha have been GREAT, something we are so thankful for! They were both pretty nervous for the first few minutes and ignored each other in the yard for about 15 minutes — tons of calming signals being thrown around (curves around each other, lots of sniffing, lots of avoidance, lack of eye contact).

But then Pyrrha started throwing around some play bows, and within a few moments, Rainer had warmed right up!

Bonding with his foster sis

They are very trustworthy in the yard together. I watched them a lot last night and this morning, and they seem very well suited to each other. He’ll romp when she wants to romp, but he also does a good job of deflecting her invitations if he doesn’t want to play.

Rainer strolling

Last night, I took them on a walk together around the neighborhood. Guion couldn’t be at home, but I could walk them quite easily by myself. Rainer was so gentle and easy to lead on the leash, for a dog who had presumably been a stray for quite some time. We passed several dogs, and although he was very excited by them, neither dog barked or lunged, which I was very happy about! Pyrrha’s presence seemed to be calming to him, and he followed her very readily.

It is very funny to me to watch Pyrrha be the model of confidence for another dog! Never thought I’d see that day.

He was pretty rough last night in the crate. He barked for about an hour between 12 a.m. and 1 a.m., which was zero fun times for everyone. Obviously, just quite scared and overwhelmed. However, I think he really has the capacity to calm down and get acclimated to home life.

Rainer in golden light

Right now, my primary concern for Rainer is his health. I am eager to have him get a full vet check soon; we are both a little worried about his hindquarters. He walks very gingerly up and down stairs and seems to have a lot of weakness back there. His balance is also poor. Guion will be taking him this morning to get him a thorough bath and nail clipping, so he’ll also be on the lookout for any other bodily issues.

All that said, however, Rainer is such a sweet boy! What an easy dog. For a shy stray, I think he has a TON of potential, and I think he will be ready for a forever home soon enough.

If you are interested in adopting Rainer, fill out an application at Southeast German Shepherd Rescue!