Friday, July 11, 2008

Wow - playing with both Toby and Shelby! At once!

I've always played with Toby and Reba at once. They don't share toys - Reba grew up her entire life without having another dog in the house... so she never learned to share her toys and when we got Toby, that never changed. However, they both want me to play with them if I'm playing with the other. So sometimes we alternate between me setting one aside while I play with the other and then alternating or playing with them both, just one on each side with different toys. It's a bit of a coordination problem but it works. Toby and I play a laid back version of tug, with me shoving up against him with my shoulder to make it harder on him as I tug the toy along the ground, and then Reba and I would play with her chasing my hand.

I've never been able to play with any other dog in Toby's presence, let alone with him on the other side of me. That sends him right over threshold. However, earlier today while he was out I finally got Shelby loosened up back to the happy dog she can be and she started playing. She jumped the first few times mom moved but then settled into chasing a toy that I dragged along the floor. After Toby came in we stopped playing again... I didn't want to risk it. Which was fine by her, she went back to her place on the couch. Then Reba went crazy. Just darting around the room barking after her ball (she'd knocked it out from under the table and it was scooting away from her). This inspired Toby to want to play. I've never gotten him to play when there was another dog anywhere near him... he might bite at the toy if I ask, but that's it. This time he was asking for it even with Shelby sitting on the couch 3ft from him! So I asked Shelby to stay and played with him.

He was completely relaxed (our inside games aren't revved up at all, they're quiet just giggly games we play) so I asked Shelby to come on over to my other side. Which she happily did for cuddles while I continued playing. No problem. He saw her coming but went back to the game. So I grabbed the toy I'd been playing with her earlier with and started playing with her. This one took a bit more concentration than my Toby/Reba games because Shelby is faster and can actually see her target. But both dogs played calmly for quite awhile. It wasn't until one end of Toby's tug toy came loose and zoomed in the midway part that Shelby wanted to see what Toby was playing with. He never stopped playing, he just growled at her and shoved himself around me tucking his head and toy out of the way, but he was still loose. I just slid in between them and refocused her on the other toy. We had no other problem. Once done both dogs just spread out on either side of me for cuddles.

Toby still isn't 100% sure about her with everything... but he's not 100% on anything. Ha! Nor am I. For the most part though he's very relaxed with her. He won't tolerate as much from her as he does Reba - for example, Shelby can't bark without sending him over the edge and he'll pounce/play bow in his rude, lab-full-body slam. But we've been managing it, using a lot of splitting before he can get too close if he looks like he's getting excited and he's staying calm. She can do her happy jig in front of me, jump on me while on the couch, and trot after me. She can't run yet, no noises, and she can't play solo with me (though we're still working on having him relaxed while Reba plays solo with me... so that's a work in progress, I'd never expect it with a new dog). Shoot, I didn't expect any of this but it's awesome to watch his progression. Even mom has been spectacular with this (my brothers too, dad works during the day so he doesn't have to deal with me in the room with the dogs - a good thing because he's convinced my only problem is that I'm not strict enough the first time). Unlike her normal 'bad dog' routine if she has to do anything, she's started just simply stepping between the dogs if Toby gets too antsy. She doesn't lean over him or point at him or anything, just steps in between and continues on. That's normally enough to erase any tension between the two and they will follow who ever stepped in the middle.

Shelby's parents are coming to get her today. A bit depressing all around. She's such a doll of a dog and she's getting a kick out of so many things. She's never had dog toys really... a tennis ball in the backyard and that's it. Believe me, I've asked. I got her one for Christmas a few years back but it squeaked... not a loud squeak but enough to annoy her mom. So she's learned that we have whole boxes of toys! She won't play with them on her own, but she likes to rifle through and pull out some and just set them outside the box. Then of course Reba rounds up all of her balls to horde and Toby takes his tug toy out of the room. But they do leave her the rest of the toys to arrange by the boy. Then I put them back and she does her happy jig and takes them all back out. She's also starting to run around the house with me (when Toby's outside)... it's nice seeing her confidence come out when she does it too. And then there are the trick times. She looked so lost yesterday when I was running our two through a bunch of tricks. She knows sit and shake, but I started luring crawl for her so she didn't get bored doing the same things. It's nice watching all three of them relax and do silly tricks together for me. Though I will say, old dogs learn tricks incredibly well. Shelby's picked up on crawl AND spin so far.

I'm sure she'll be happy to see her family tonight but we'll sure miss her. She's such a charmer.

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