Sunday delivered the most beautiful spring weather. We spent the whole day outside with Pyrrha, mowing the lawn, tending to our plants. We ran a brief errand and bumped into our friends James and Sara and their Great Pyrenees mix, Silas. We told them about Pyrrha and said we’d be hanging out all day in the yard if they wanted to come over and bring Silas.
At this point, I knew that Pyrrha reacted fearfully toward other dogs on lead, but I’d heard from her foster that she was great with them in open spaces. I figured that this would be a good interaction, especially knowing that Silas was super-calm and steady. Enter my first dog-parenting misjudgment.
We were in the backyard with Pyrrha when James, Sara, and Silas showed up. As soon as she saw Silas, she EXPLODED. Snarling, barking, growling, hackles up, teeth flashing everywhere. Thankfully, James and Sara are as calm as their dog is. I didn’t know what to do, but James encouraged me to lead her to the back of the yard and then let go. He then released an unleashed Silas and I held my breath.
Pyrrha did not lunge at him, which I was afraid of, but just started slinking around him, sniffing him. If he ever faced her, however, she started snarling and growling again. But Silas was SUCH a champ. He was the perfect dog for her, because he refused to respond to any of her bitchiness. He’d just saunter away and let her do her thing.
After about 10 minutes of Silas studiously ignoring her, she started to calm down and they began to coexist together. They certainly weren’t going to play with one another, but they were happy to be side-by-side and even face-to-face for the rest of the afternoon.
What I Learned: I definitely underestimated how Pyrrha might react to a new, big, strange dog in her new yard. Silas was THE best possible dog to meet her like this, however. I think he may be a critical part of her rehabilitation. And James and Sara were awesome, too; they didn’t take Pyrrha’s behavior personally and knew that she’d get over it. Which she did.
I’m listening to your majority opinion now, and I think all of you are right: Pyrrha still just needs more time to calm down and adjust and grow in confidence. There will be plenty of time for doggy play dates. For now, we just need to work on some basic bonding and training. But the afternoon wasn’t nearly as disastrous as it could have been, and I daresay she was almost disappointed to see Silas go at the end of the day. I think Pyrrha and I both learned a lot. So, a thousand thanks to Silas and his wonderful humans; you guys deserve dog socialization medals.
I am going to take it slow with Pyrrha for now and politely decline any future, well-meaning invitations for play dates. However, I feel like the fact that she was able to happily coexist with Silas after some time bodes well for her future. She can get there eventually, but for now, we’re going to start with some more basic bonding work instead of rushing her into the presence of new dogs.
Those of you with shy dogs, how did you gradually introduce them to other dogs? What are some of your recommended techniques?
I’ve been SO excited and relieved this week, because we have made our first big step toward adopting a dog: Moving!
We found a new place to rent and our lease will begin May 15. I cannot WAIT to move in!
Here are all of the reasons why this place is totally awesome for us and for our future dog:
Our landlord is a really cool young woman with three dogs herself (including her fiance’s blue heeler), so she’s totally dog friendly and fine with us having a dog! She is also a volunteer at the same SPCA that I volunteer at, which has been a neat connection. We definitely bonded over that when we met.
You can’t see it in the picture above, but the house comes with a sizable fenced-in yard, which I am thrilled about, because it is REALLY hard to find in this area.
Plus, the extensive garden plots are outside the fence, which means Guion can carry on gardening projects without being disturbed by the dog or worrying that the dog will tear them up.
It’s in the exact neighborhood we wanted: Calm, quiet, and easily walkable to downtown.
The house is a 6-minute drive from my current office. THEN, when my office moves to its new location in early 2013, I’ll be only a 15-minute WALK to the office. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.
The location of the house will also make it possible for me to leave work at lunch (my dog-loving boss has already given me approval for this) to come home and take the dog for a mid-day walk. I’m also hoping this will be a sell for the rescue agencies.
The house is also just a short walk away from our city’s greatest park: It’s 280 acres of wooded natural glory and it’s just a skip away from our location. The park and the surrounding trails, woven through by a beautiful river, are really dog friendly and I can’t wait to explore them with our future dog!
We can afford it! That’s the big one.
There are other reasons, I’m sure, but these are the significant ones that come to mind right now. I feel like I can breathe, having this big decision already made. The countdown to May 15 begins! 3 months, 1 week, and 5 days…