Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Year of the Dog, VI: Pack Dynamics

We have two adult Boston terriers who have seniority in this house. Daisy the Boxer is the junior member of the pack. My wife is big on "pack theory," and when anything upsets the dynamics of the household -- anything, that is, involving the dogs, she says "You've got to remember they're pack animals."

This applies whether the dogs are sorting out their place on the bed, who gets a treat first, or who goes first out the door. And the leader of the pack is Kitty, the older female Boston. Daisy will not go through a door until Kitty has led. Daisy will not lay upon the worn afghan thrown on the floor in my sitting room unless Kitty allows her to do so. Daisy will, however, drive Doc from his food dish and take his meal.

Kitty has never done that. In fact, Kitty often allows Doc to finish her meal. He will not take it from her. He simply finishes first, moves to her dish, and stands close by until her apparent mother-instinct kicks in, whereupon she moves away and allows him to clean her dish.

Daisy will finish her meal -- three cups or more -- and then, if allowed, rush to where Doc is eating and simply drive him away from his dish. I can feed Doc and Kitty together, but now I must feed Daisy in a separate area, and then block her access to Doc.

But Daisy makes no attempt to drive Kitty from her dish. I know there is something other than physical force involved. There's growling and snarling, obviously. But I cannot hear nothing distinctive in Kitty's growl that might dissuade Daisy from attempting to annex Kitty's food. Both Bostons weigh around 20 pounds and stand perhaps 12 to 14 inches at the shoulder. Daisy weighs close to 30 pounds now, and she's almost twice as tall.

It's interesting to observe, this sorting out of who is the leader, who controls the food. It's interesting to see that the dynamic continues outdoors. Kitty leads. The other two follow. Oddly though, we have been able, at least so far, to keep Daisy from following Kitty's lead when strangers approach. Kitty hates intruders, friendly or otherwise. Daisy, conversely, greets everyone happily, eager to be petted and praised.

And that's easier on us human members of the pack.

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