Saturday, September 15, 2007

Two weeks in & Dog related reading

Two weeks and all is well.

As you can see the girls are getting along ok. Not to say there haven't been any squabbles. One last week over a scrap of food (Jenny doesn't like to share.) and one today due to overstimulation during a play session. It happens. They are still always supervised and are doing pretty good. I am doing some behavior modification and using management to deal with the resource guarding. I am very happy with how well they have all meshed together at this point.

I wish I had my camera with me the other day when Jack and Jenny played a game of tug with a rope toy. Jenny, unlike Missy, actually plays tug. She doesn't grab the rope and give the death look provoking Jack to give it up and walk away like Missy does so it was a blast to watch. Jenny apparently believes she CAN get the toy from Jack using force alone. Silly girl!

On another note: For anyone interested in dog behavior there is a great magazine I came across called Off-Lead and Animal Behavior. I have gotten the last two issues and I really like the info they provide.

Bark magazine also has some good info and Patricia McConnell PhD. writes a fantastic behavior column regularly I really enjoy. Not to be missed are also the articles by Patty Khuly DVM. (also known as Dolittler. Blog link at right.)

Of course if you are in Maine I highly recommend the Downeast Dog News monthly paper too. I am unsure of the complete area they cover but there are advertisers from throughout New England so it is pretty wide. (And you can get a subscription too!)

Happy reading!


Riley said...

They make a cute pair of sisters. :]

Jack and Jenny playing tug sounds too sweet for words. I demand pictures of that. :] He must have a good 100 lbs. on her!

What do you do when you have a squabble over food or a toy? Thankfully they are few and far between in our house as well - and when they do happen, they are just a lot of displaying and noise - but when they've occurred, all I've done is clap my hands/grab a doggie butt to separate and then taken away the item in question. I'd love some tips on preventing them in the first place!

Also, at the risk of sounding Milan-ish, does it mean they're challenging each other for the position of alpha?

Marie said...

I'll try to get the pics. :-) Jack is 120 lbs and Jenny is 18 so yeah, he's got a few on her.

Prevention is about watching their body language and telling them to leave it when you see the signs of a problem coming up. Sometimes management comes in where you'll remove the item as soon as you see the signs or make sure they both have something else to do. (so redirect one or both) In the case of over arousal, simply calm both dogs down so they do't get carried away and miss a body signal between them that can start a squabble.

They normally aren't challenging for alpha pack status over items. They are simply fighting for that item. In a clear alpha/subordinate pair though usually the one in charge just gives a look and the other walks away. (unless the item in question has high value to both dogs) It may mean they feel more equal to each other. In my house the 25 lb frenchie rules, even over Jack. Jenny is still learning this. I find it is most common for females to be the leader within a mixed gender pack.

In a dog pack or pair, status is usually fluid. Meaning one may be the boss over toys and the other over food or it can be whichever one feels like they can defend that item for that specific moment. It isn't usually a bid for status later though. (* see below)

As much as we like to know which dog is in charge in our packs it can change everyday depending on the dogs involved. The important bit is that they all know WE are the real pack leader. So we need to be consistant and clear about the rules we set down and follow through every time. Pack leaders are benevolent, not violent. So positive methods by us are recommended.

(Typically dogs with status related agression aren't secure in their status hence the violence they use to get their point across. A true secure pack leader is confident with their status and uses only looks and postures to communicate clearly.)

Generally squabbles are quick and look very dramatic but aren't serious. No one really gets hurt. It's more of an aggressive body display coupled with vocalizations and grabbing. It is when they escalate and there is damage or are frequent that you may need to do some serious behavior modification. (It helps to teach the dog being growled at to move away from the other dog since that is a clear warning signal. BUT it is important to know that the dog being growled at didn't start it with the hard eye contact between dogs.)

* In dogs with status related aggression it usually surfaces over many things, not just items or food. It can also be walking out the door, not moving away from each other when close, anything that the dog trying to seek status decides is an infraction. Those squabbles can become serious quickly depending on how the other dog reacts.

I hope that makes sense. Status and pack dynamics between dogs is a subject that is somewhat controversial in dog training circles. There are many theories on it out there. Some feel it is very important, others don't think so at all. I think it depends on the dogs you have. (the dogs don't read the books after all VBG)

I believe all situations are different and there can be a huge difference in pack dynamics based on breeds as well. Some breeds are natually more dominant or tenatious after all so that can be an important factor. Not to mention the social skills they make or miss in their early weeks of development too.

Anyhow, I hope that answers your question. I guess that qualifies as a "it depends". VBG Though from what you describe I would say no in your case.

Have you seen the new show "It's me or the dog" on Animal Planet yet? Victoria Stillwell is the trainer and uses positive methods. It is fantastic. Friday nights at 9 if you get a chance.

Hope Jenna and Apollo are both well.

Riley said...

Thanks so much Marie! I read that three times to take it all in but I think I get it. :] I was just curious if squabbles were a serious indicator of me doing something wrong in "leading."

Between Apollo's sensitive stomach and the fact that 99% of our squabbles were over high-value treats (you know, you buy two treats for two dogs, but one always wants what the other has), we've just stopped giving them chewies. It's probably healthier for them in the long run, as I've read about those sorts of things being chemically processed.

I bartend Friday nights but will definitely set the DVR to record that!

Will we see you at Fur N' Foliage? :]

Marie said...

Fur N Foliage, most likely yes. :-)At least I plan to be there anyhow.

I don't give chewies either unless it is stuffed kongs when they are crated or can be very closely supervised. The occasional deer leg during hunting season but that is outside and one at a time, again to keep them seperate. Nylabones are popular in my house for chew time. Even those can be wanted by more than one at a time though so again they have to be watched. I keep alot of them handy of various types to cut down on the "hey I want THAT one" issue.

In dogs (and kids) one could live by the mantra-squabbles happen. VBG