"Houston, We Have Lift-Off"
STUDIES IN CANINE BEHAVIOR
14 September 2005
The one advantage of having this rotating supply of dogs in here is that it has given me the opportunity to really study dog behavior in a way that I wouldn't get if I just lived with Sheila and Kimba. The two of them have worked out this interaction that is pretty consistent, but when you add a third dog into the mix, it gets interesting.
Pepper, for instance, is a real character. He has bonded very closely with me and sleeps in my lap at night. Sheila really wants him to play, but he doesn't seem to have the "fun gene" in him. Maybe it's his age--maybe, at about 7, he's just a crotchety old man. He and Sheila wander around the yard together, but Pepper just isn't into the "chase me around the mulberry bush" sort of play.
Where it gets interesting is with Kimba, who doesn't seem to mind Pepper as much as other dogs we've had here. But there has been this jockeying for position under my desk, which has been Kimba's cave for a very long time.
The first day, you may recall, I was pleased that the two of them seemed to share the space.
Turns out it was an uneasy truce. They have never fought, but if Pepper gets to the office first, he claims the desk and Kimba sleeps on a towel on the floor. If Kimba gets here first, she has stopped sleeping completely under the desk, but sleeps with half of her body on the rug and half on the linoleum. This has the effect, in Pepper's mind, of blocking access to the office and he'll stand in the kitchen howling because he wants in and that big brute of a Kimba won't let him. I'm sure there are "words" exchanged, but never audibly.
Mealtime has also become interesting since Pepper arrived. For one thing, Pepper came with a very bad sneeze (maybe I caught my cold from him), so he has to take antibiotics twice a day, which I give him in pieces of hot dog. The other dogs also get pieces of hot dog, just to keep it all even.
But when it comes time for an official meal, Kimba gets fed in the dining room, Pepper in the kitchen, and Sheila in the family room. Kimba and Sheila long ago worked out a system where by Kimba finishes her food first and then goes into the family room and sits behind Sheila, waiting for her to finish so Kimba can lick up any crumbs.
But now Sheila won't eat her own food because she's so afraid that I'm sneaking treats to Pepper in the kitchen, and Pepper won't eat if I'm not in the kitchen with him. If I sit in the family room, Sheila will eat; if I stand in the kitchen, Pepper will eat. But if Pepper comes into the family room while Sheila is eating, there is growling involved, so it's an interesting juggling act I do to get all the dogs to eat. Then, of course, if Pepper has come into the family room to check and make sure I'm there, Kimba may steal his food while he's gone.
Sheila "speaks" non-verbally as clearly as if she had the power of language. She wants so much for Pepper to play with her. She'll crouch and run away, trying to entice him to chase her. When that doesn't work, she'll get a toy and bring it to him and throw it up in the air, frustrated that he ignores her.
She has also figured out that I don't like her to bark outside. We've had complaints from neighbors if she barks too early because she barks right by their bedroom window, so I'm very aware of her barking before about 8 a.m. She doesn't bark a lot, but when there are other dogs in the neighborhood who bark, or if a dog walks by, or if there are garbage men in the area, she does.
I've begun to think, however, that she has figured out that if she
barks, I'll call her inside and give her a treat. I started calling her when she
barked and then after she came inside, I would give her a treat and tell her what a good
dog she was for coming. But she started coming in and expecting a treat, so we're
now going with intermittent rewards. Sometimes she gets a treat, sometimes she gets
petted, sometimes she gets nothing. I'm determined to prove I'm smarter than she is,
and it doesn't always work.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
More of Peggy's tulips