Tilley was on the receiving end of a full frontal display this morning. This was a very rare occurance and one that needed some attenion. All the dogs were on the bed with us as is customary in the morning. They had their tidbits and were re-curling to go back to sleep when Tilley thought that she smelled something over near Luke. Typically Luke only gives the slightest of freezes if he is perturb by her snorfling around; this morning he was not in the mood. As I watch closely; he displayed all of his front teeth and growled. Tilley could not hear the growl; nor was she watching him. Immediately I touched Tilley to get her attention and told her to knock it off. Not hearing warnings is something I'm becoming very aware of.
The important factor in this event was that Luke not be scolded. He was simply communicating his feelings and on seeing the body language; he may need to be off the bed a bit more as his head tends to grow from time to time. Tilley was in his space but he has never in all of his 9.5 years minded this. If it was Jessie doing the rummaging she would have got a very loud growl and tooth display and she would have not heard or seen it either. This blog is about canine communication and human intervention.
I have written about this often but everytime I hear a new story I feel obliged to write again. This is such a sad story and one that I hear far too often and I can never seem to tell enough people. New dog vs. old dog. A family adopts a new puppy; the family already has an adult dog of approximately 6-8 years of age. Each time the puppy crosses the line with the adult dog it growls and is immediately corrected by the owners (first mistake). Everyone then lavishes love on the new puppy and shuns the adult (second mistake). As the puppy grows it becomes more obnoxious and the adult dog is feeling unsettled; it attempts again to reprimand and is in turn punished(third mistake). The puppy is now a year old and when it pushes the older dog a fight ensues. Family members are bitten; the younger of the two dogs is bitten and the adult dog severely scolded (fourth mistake).
Now there is tension between the dogs; the new dog may have never had any thoughts of being the top dog but the owners gave it that spot very clearly. Having been stopped dead in her tracks when attempting to teach the new dog where she stood; the older dog was feeling the need to speak louder. Each time she needed to escalate her lesson because the humans were mixing everything up. Then there was another fight; many people were bitten in this fight. The younger dog received a ripped ear and the older adult dog? The dog they had lived with for over six years; the family dog? She was sent to a shelter where by now she has been euthanized.
The fact is that humans do not come equipped with the knowledge that is needed to clearly understand canines. Many people translate all dog behavior into human behavior which is completely wrong. As a human parent; would you want to stand back and let your children make all the rules? I for one would not and neither does an adult dog. By disciplining the adult for trying to teach a puppy you do several things wrong; and they can all be detrimental.
1. You lower the status of the adult dog; clearly sending the message that the newcomer does not have to listen to the adult canine.
2. You give a puppy more status than they should have.
3. You create a need for more force; the adult dog needs to correct the mess you are making.
4. You create a monster so to speak; with no rules and regulations many puppies become very obnoxious.
5. You set these dogs up; for the final disaster.
This could have had a happy ending; had these humans had a clue to what they were doing or had the good sense to call in a professional. These are some of the heart wrenching stories; dogs being dogs and humans reacting blindly. Our human nature tells us to defend the victim; the one taking the brunt of harsh punishment. Good common sense in a human world; but wrong in the dog world. It is the right of an adult dog to dish out discipline; this is how puppies learn. They learn how far they can push and if they cross that line; they quickly hear about it. With the more naturally obnoxious puppies; there is often alot of lessons to learn and it can get loud. And as guardian it is our job to step in and help educate; supporting the top dog.
If you see the list of 5 errors; they all start with YOU. It is the humans who are at fault here. The dogs were being dogs; and the dog paid for the humans negligence and lack of canine expertise. There really should be a manual to read before getting a dog or two. I cannot count the number of times that I've heard of people getting mad at the adult dog who attempts to scold a puppy. I often tell people who have a new puppy to go find an adult for a few lessons in life. You would never, ever see the wolf pups running the pack.
**With regard to disciplining; I am not speaking about dog fights or attacks. I am strictly referring to discipline in order to educate. Tilley was told this morning for snorfling too close to Luke; that is just plain rude and she knows better. I didn't like that Luke gave Tilley a toothy growl but I am glad he did; it let's me know that he is maybe getting a bit testy in the morning. Good to know.