Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dance of the Dogs

For approaching 20 years we have had two black labs at a time, good friends to each other and to us. Our current two are really wonderful dogs, and especially now in our empty nest, the activity, companionship and extra life in the house is one of the really nice parts of our lives. We pay a fair amount of attention to animal behavior, reading up, practicing good interaction styles, etc. Still, there are things they do that just mystify me at times.

The personalities of our current pair couldn’t be more different, within the overall category of black labhood, which is generally, friendly, people-loving, with a desire to please. They are also very food oriented, which makes persuading them to follow the house rules generally straightforward, so long as we remember the incentives (otherwise known as positive reinforcement, or bribes).

We have one alpha dog with a strong desire to be dominant; probably the strongest dominance drive we’ve had in a dog for a while, though this may be distorted by the exaggerated subservient tendencies of the second dog, a rescue who is still easily cowed and has a damaged soul. These two dogs do the strangest dance about sleeping places I’ve seen.

There are two dog pads in our bedroom, which is their second-choice sleeping haunt, their first, of course, being with Shea when she’s home. During times the lights are on, the more passive, afraid dog prefers to be under our bed, in a dog cave. Occasionally, and I don’t see a pattern to when, she prefers the dog pad against the book case, out in the open, but with a solid back.

The problem is that the alpha dog also prefers that sleeping place and claims it as her right a good deal of the time. The under-dog will sometimes stand and look at the alpha dog for many minutes at a time. Sometimes, Hattie gives up the sleeping place, and other times, she just turns her back and goes to sleep. Yet, at night, with the lights out, Sophie, the under-dog, is always to be found in that place. It’s a mystery, this dance thsee two do, and I’d dearly love to understand it.

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