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!

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