Dynamics are always fascinating.
Leia and Heidi are establishing the dynamics of their relationship, and it’s up to me to understand them.
Heidi is generally laid back (a wonderful therapy dog), but she has a very intense side to her when it comes to obedience or play. Her prey drive is high, and she thinks nothing of busting through the Invisible Fence, while wearing her collar, to chase a cat or some other desirable prey. Heidi will not aggressively attack, but she thrills in the chase.
Leia, of course, is all puppy. She’s exploring her boundaries, physical, human, and canine. She’s exuberant and loves the challenge of getting Heidi to play.
Heidi is a ball hog and has been known to grab three tennis balls into her mouth at one time. She has two orange Chuckit balls that are specifically HERS and hers alone. Leia may NOT touch those balls!
Leia has a pile of outdoor toys, and she drifts from one toy to the other. They only hold her attention for a few seconds before she moves to a leaf or decides to torment Heidi and try to steal one of her Chuckit balls.
This is when I need to be vigilant and terminate play if it gets too rough.
Heidi does resource guarding when it comes to Leia and her Chuckit balls. Leia treads carefully and goes into stalk mode, slowly advancing like a cat, and then trying to pounce on the two balls. Heidi is a master of the quick grab, stuffs the balls into her mouth and takes off with Leia in pursuit.
Heidi and Leia do much better when there are no toys in the yard. They interact more comfortably. This is when I see Heidi going into what we humans would call “big sister” mode. She is teaching Leia some of the games that she used to play with Hannah.
This morning Heidi grabbed a long twig and snapped it in half. She chewed on one and allowed Leia to take the other half. They lay beside each other chewing happily.
I’ve learned that I cannot train Leia if Heidi is present. Heidi is so eager and biddable that she is obeying my commands and getting in the way; naturally this pulls Leia’s focus away from me and makes it impossible to train. I need to separate them, so I have Leia’s full attention for our mini training sessions which are so much fun. She’s so eager to work for the praise/reward.
Indoors Heidi accepts Leia’s shenanigans if she doesn’t get too wild; if that happens, Leia gets a quick reminder that it is unacceptable behavior.
One of the most intriguing things I’ve observed is when Heidi intercedes if I’m having difficulty getting Leia to respond. The first time, Leia had grabbed hold of my jacket sleeve and would not release. My efforts to apply pressure on the side of her jaws was non-productive. Suddenly Heidi appeared and growled, displaying a dominant movement which caused Leia to immediately let go of my sleeve. This happened again when I was trying to get Leia to give me a toy. A substitute toy or treat were not working. Again, Heidi quickly interceded, and Leia released.
I have always been so fascinated by canine behavior and dynamics. We humans err too often in attributing human responses and emotions to our pets. It’s time to realize that our dogs and cats are NOT our fur babies. As responsible owners, we need to commit to understanding our animals and being the best custodian we can be of their well-being.
That said, I love to read well-researched articles and authentic books about canine behavior. I get WHOLE DOG JOURNAL and YOUR DOG (Tufts veterinary college). Both are wonderful and very informative periodicals, addressing a wide range of health, behavior, and training topics. I also have a few favorite books written by animal behaviorists. Two are THE POWER OF POSITIVE DOG TRAINING BY Pat Miller and THE CULTURE CLASH by Jean Donaldson. Another wonderful author who writes about dogs is Stanley Coren.
Now I ask you dog owners – what do YOU read that helps you better understand canine behavior and guides you in training your dogs?