Saturday, February 20, 2010

Year of the Dog, VII: "I Wanna Be Cesar Milan!"

I've never been around a pack of dogs before. I've had one dog. I've had two. But with the arrival of Daisy the Boxer, we apparently are now an official pack.

There's a definite pack dynamic. Kitty the Boston is leader, unless she is approached by my wife or me. If so, she immediately exposes her belly, the classic submissive pose. Daisy has moved to second rank, and Doc the Boston boy has been demoted to third. Doc is resentful of his demotion, however. He has taken to marking the spots where Daisy displays her lack of complete housebreaking.

The dynamic is most visible when I feed the three. I feed Daisy in the kitchen. I feed Doc and Kitty in the bathroom. (I love tile floors.)  Daisy will leave her dish half-finished. She moves to drive Doc away from his food, unless I am there block the door. If I stop her, she will wait until I allow her into the bathroom to check Doc's dish before returning to finish her own food.

The food dynamic between Doc and Kitty is different yet. I cannot place their dishes too close together without sparks flying, but they otherwise they are content to eat in peace until Doc finishes his dish, which he invariably does first. At that time, he will stand as close as possible to Kitty's dish and stare at her. The result? Kitty's mothering eventually gene kicks in, and she allows him the last few bites.

Lately I've permitted Daisy access to the bathroom when Doc and Kitty are eating. I use my voice and a small stick to keep her away from Doc. (Note #1: Daisy will not attempt to drive Kitty from her food.) (Note #2: For PETA members, I do not hit or beat Daisy with the stick; I simply hold it in front of her, touch her lightly, and say "Back!")  

Daisy learned to sit at about 12 weeks; she learned "Wait" a few days later; now that other training is kicking it, I thought it time to attempt to shape pack dynamics the three apparently aren't able to sort out among themselves without tooth and fang.

An example of that relatively nonviolent process is displayed in how the three move through the door to the outdoors. Kitty goes first. Daisy stands back three or four feet until Kitty is outside. Doc sits and waits until Daisy exits, and then he ventures out.
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