Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Debate Dominance

So I found myself searching the net for information on managing dog dominance after another frustrating walk with Gryffyn.  She's getting better--no doubt.  But she has been getting a little harsher on her brother and sister in the house--nipping them, keeping them out of rooms, worrying about their proximity to her food.  I'm always watching her and trying to determine what is herding and what is dominance, and how those two issues intersect. 

Betty is the unequivocal alpha dog of the house.  She is calm, but will give them the slap down when she's had it with the corgis acting out.  Sometimes she just comes down on them when they are playing to establish whose boss.  A couple of times she actually bit Gryffyn a little too hard and, after taking Betty to the vet, realized that our shelter cattle dog has the beginnings of hip problems.  So now we can determine her pain level by her patience with the corgis.  She's a very long suffering dog, often giving us a look that seems to say, "you know, it could have just been us and we would have been happy...but you had to get THEM."  Then she walks back to her pillow.

So in my search I found the inevitable dominance discussions which are COMPLETELY WRONG for our dogs--i.e. the pack leader sleeps on the bed (Rhys, the unequivocally low dog on the totem pole, sleeps on the bed every night); the highest position is by the pillows (Rhys sleeps on the pillow every night); the lower dogs sleep on the floor (Gryffyn sleeps on the floor and Betty actually sleeps under the bed).  Sigh.

I think that the question of dominance is complex with corgis because they don't actually see themselves as in an hierarchy--they see themselves as part of a partnership.  So the power negotiation is more nuanced--even Rhys, the sweetest of dogs, has clear ideas about when things should happen and complains LOUDLY if they are not taken care of (such as, watching tv during the day is UNACCEPTABLE because we only do that IN THE EVENING). 

Gryffyn's behavior on the walks (extreme anxiety to get loose from the leash when another dog gets in sight, displacing aggression onto Rhys if she can't get loose, biting our ankles if we aren't setting her free, trying to chew through the leash) all seem like fear/aggression issues to me.  We have had success modifying her behavior with other people...although just slightly.  She's just a little mellower. 

It's a fascinating puzzle, but for now the 'face prison' stays on for the walk!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Corgi Drive By

Those of us with corgis in the city are very familiar with a particular type of incident--the corgi drive by.  Most of the time it's cars slowing WAY down and looking at the corgis, pointing, smiling, and then speeding by.  When Rhys was little it was like walking a rock star--and, quite honestly, although he has grown into a VERY handsome dog, he was not the cutest puppy.  He had a skinny rat tail and no curls anywhere.  But still cars would slow, point, smile, and sometimes yell 'I love your dog!' out the window.

Walking Gryffyn puts a new twist on the corgi drive by.  The cars slow down, people smile, and then they see the muzzle.  Usually this results in a dramatic facial shift, either into laughing or into mild fear.  I think it's the dissonance between Gryffyn's extreme cuteness and the tiny 'face prison' as we call it.  It's a barbie dream muzzle, but a sign of potential danger still.

What amazes me is when it doesn't even phase people.  They come running up, wanting to pet her, talking about how cute she is--all the while she's attempting to leap at them, teeth bared, snarling.  Now Gryffyn is a very sweet girl...in the house.  But OUTSIDE she is very fearful of everything.  In some people's minds, though, the cuteness seems to cancel out all possible danger.

So my godson and I were walking the three dogs and we had a new spin--a woman stopped her car about 20 feet ahead of us, opened her door, and started talking to us.  She has a corgi, she said, that she adopted and that the dog has always nipped and bossed an herded to an extent that sometimes ends up with someone bit a little too hard.  She saw Gryffyn's muzzle and thought, maybe, we had an answer--a magic bullet to the issue.  I could only nod at her story, reinforce how great it was that she kept the dog and keeps working with him, and, then, when she asked for my help directly I said "you are not alone, that's all I can tell you." 

We have had some significant successes with Gryffyn this past year.  Her stomach is much better since we have put her on the prescription diet, she hasn't had a seizure since we got the right level of her medicine, and she is safe outside with the muzzle on.  Although this may seem like a lot to deal with, when I look at her, with her big brown eyes and her big ears, and she leans into me and licks my hand, I can't imagine a better dog in the whole world.