Thursday, March 19, 2009

Play Time with the dogs

Watching dog dynamics
The other day the weather was so gorgeous that I just sat out on the patio and watched the dogs play. Indy– a 9-month-old golden, Molly– a black and tan Rottweiler mix, and Sally– a border collie mix went through quite a dominance ritual as they played.

There's a lot to be learned about behavior from just watching dogs. Who's the dominant one? Who is the most submissive? The answers fell right about where I expected them. Indy, though big, is the youngest, and he was happy-go-lucky and landed in the middle of the pack order when all was said and done. 

But Sally and Molly spent a lot of time maneuvering around each other. Molly decided to dig a hole in the shade and lay down. As soon as she started digging, the other two came over. Indy joyously joined in and they played and dug. When Sally showed up, Molly respectfully stepped aside and let Sally have the spot. Satisifed that Molly was sufficiently submissive, Sally walked across the yard and went back to sniffing with Sugar, a blind Aussie that stayed out of the negotiations. Indy romped all over and went back to digging as soon as Sally left. 

Molly trotted back and began digging again, started circling, and laid down. Here comes Sally, who stood over Molly just looking at her. Her stare intimidated Molly, who got up and walked over to a distant bush and watched Sally settle into the spot. After a minute, Sally was satisfied, and left again. 

Molly came back. The routine was repeated several times. Finally Sally ignored Molly, and Molly circled a few times and settled into her freshly dug hole. My doxie Desi trotted over and sat next to her. She didn't even think of leaving when he arrived. Desi was not the top dog on this day. 

I guess Sally decided she'd made her point, or maybe Molly had won by getting the hole in the end. What do you think? 

The photos here show Indy and Molly digging, Molly and Desi, and Sugar and Sally resting by the corral. 

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