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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Playing with Shyla

Shyla and I are taking a class to try a new way to address her fears. It involves me playing with her. Ideally, we'd play together, just the two of us, without toys or food involved.

We've done a bit of this in the past but not much.

I'm finding it to be incredibly hard to draw her into play without any toys being involved. Then, I realized that it's parallel to how she interacts with every dog on Earth besides R. We've had puppies come to visit many times. R wrestles and fake bites along with them for hours on end. In contrast, without toys being involved, Shyla has no clue how to interact with other dogs or puppies.

R knows how to make other dogs not feel threatened by him. He repeatedly throws himself on his back to "self-handicap". I've never seen Shyla lie on her back either when playing with other dogs or with me.

When we first knew Shyla, she didn't even want to try to play with other dogs - she'd go hide in the bedroom when they came to visit. Now, she wants to try but her overtures are not successful. In this photo, Shyla had just tried to get the puppy to chase her as she carried the nylabone. Shyla eventually gave up and let the puppy have the bone. Shyla is lying in the background.

On the very next day after one of the puppy's visits to our house, we met the puppy and her humans on a trail. Shyla again tried to play with the puppy with slightly more success than in our house. She tried to get the puppy to chase her and was successful. This was Shyla zooming in a circle around us.

And this was the puppy, about 20 yards behind Shyla. The puppy sprinted her heart out but there was no way for her to keep up with an athletic grown-up like Shyla.

The puppy was so cute and beautiful as she ran through the snow. She's growing up so fast!
That was a partial success for Shyla. I'm very glad that Shyla is now trying to play with this puppy.

In the meantime, we thank our lucky stars that Shyla has such a wonderful big brother. She trusts him completely, and they play together almost every day.
For our "fearful dog" class, I'll be continuing to try to figure out how to get Shyla to play with me. I'll let you know how it goes! Do you all have favorite games to play with your dogs?


  1. that last photos just makes my heart hum with happiness. so glad she is playing with that beautiful puppy and the class sounds like fun for both of you. good luck with finding ways to tempt her. we have had 4 dogs, 3 played and Baby would not play, not even with toys. she lived to be 16. she did play with her brothers by running and chasing but not as in with toys

  2. Oh, this is a good idea! And it sounds like continued one on one meetings with the puppy would be good, too; each time the pup will be bigger and better able to play with Shyla, and by the time she's grown, they will be fast friends and playmates :) My little dog like to play chase with me, lol! I chase her, then let her chase me. Unfortunately, at 12, her little heart is starting to give her trouble, so not too much play anymore :(

    1. It's so hard when you can't do something anymore that you both loved so much. Chase with your little dog sounds like tons and tons of fun! Shyla likes to play chase with other dogs but not with me. We'll figure out games that she likes to play with me.

  3. We are so happy to see that Shyla is having more fun with the puppy! Our play seems to always include treats or her tennis ball. We can't wait to see more of your play with Shyla, KB!

  4. I bet that was so cute when she ran with thee puppy. She is doing so well.

  5. My Willow is a little shy/reactive with most dogs. When we got our Bob, we made sure Willow was comfy with him.

    Bob and Willow play a LOT. We call Bob's favorite tactic "steamrollering", because he throws himself on the ground on his back and rolls toward Willow. He's hilarious. :D

    Good luck with the non-toy play with Shyla!!

    1. Your pair sound hilarious with the "steamrollering" game! I hope that you've videoed it!!!!

  6. Such fun photos and we love that last one!

  7. Hari OM
    It is so joyful to see our dogs play. Jade was taught to play-fight by her 'big brother'... Jasper Cat!!! Seriously, he was brilliant with her; but, being a cat, he also learned how to get her into situations for which she could take the blame and he was the picture of innocence &*> Siblings. YAM xx

  8. Play can be a real challenge with shy/cautious dogs. It's encouraging that Shyla is trying, in her geeky way, to initiate play with the pup. I'd be interested to know what class you're taking now - Habi at 13 is past much playing, but I like to keep a list of good resources.

    In her anxious youth Habi was very play-challenged; she did eventually learn to play-bow and romp with ever-patient Bandit and later boisterous Obi, but her romping would escalate pretty quickly into rough play which I'd then step into and break up. She just didn't have good play abilities. I bless both Bandit and Obi for their tolerance of her attempts and their willingness to try to include her.

    Some dogs are just wallflowers, and that's OK too. One of my favorite sayings is "God made the elephants, but he made the rabbits too". Shyla has come a long way under your patient tutelage.

    Chris from Boise

    1. Shyla shares the trait with Habi of getting very rough in her play with R if we let things escalate. I suspect that Shyla didn't have enough socialization with other puppies or with dogs who had good play skills when she was young. I wonder if the same was true for Habi?

      We are taking a Fenzi course called "Dealing with the Bogeyman - Helping fearful, reactive, and scared dogs". The instructor has a website ( Her blog is there, and it contains some explanation of her approach. She's also working on a book now. I'll let you know what I think when we get through the course.

      I love your attitude about accepting beings as individuals - and letting them be wallflowers if they so choose. I would be totally fine with Shyla being a wallflower except that she doesn't seem to want to be a wallflower anymore. Yet, she doesn't know how to navigate social situations with dogs or people. That's been a big part of my motivation to make another stab at helping her. She *wants* to be able to comfortably play with other dogs and make friends with humans. I hope that she can someday!

  9. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Shyla sweetie keep trying!!!
    I like to play with mom's mind.....does that count? I keep her guessing. MW...their first cat was
    PREDICTABLE...always slept in the same spot, liked 2 flavors of Fancy Feast. What I gobble at breakfast, I turn my Feline nose at tea time. I'm Madi only one made and the mold was cracked after me.
    Hugs your bfff

    1. You are the only Madi in the world. There will never be another like you! Don't mess with your mom's mind tooooo much!

  10. That last photo is just so endearing. The three here play together WITH toys, but their favorite toy is each other:)

  11. I will be following your new endeavor with great interest!

  12. We love that last picture. It could melt the coldest heart.

  13. Luke and Sheba used to play together a lot, and I miss that. He tried to play with Cricket some too, but their size (and age) difference made it difficult. I have tried playing with him like a dog would - no toys - but he's kind of rough for me!
    Those two are so beautiful together, it really does melt the heart!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  14. We can tell Shyla is happy and content,, thats for sure,,, and she is brave to try new things!


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