Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Boss

I was walking along the street the other day with the dogs when a woman complimented me on my beautiful dogs.  I said thanks and then she asked how they got along.  I replied they got along wonderfully.  She then commented well but of course one of them has to be the boss and wanted to know which one was.  I replied that I suppose Riley was the "boss" but really there is no conflict between them.  She then replied on how important it was that everyone understood where they stood and was making alpha referances.  I just smiled at this point and moved on.

It seemed obvious to me that she was a firm believer in the "pack mentality" where someone is the alpha leader etc. that controls everything. I am not a personal subscriber to that theory.  I suppose if pushed I would say that Riley is the current "boss" dog in the house.  When Lucy was alive she was the "boss".  In both of those situations I have been lucky enough to never have dogs in conflict.  Is that just good temperment or is there more to the situation?  I do believe in leadership but more from me than from my dogs.  I don't expect one dog to discipline the other.   When we were dog sitting recently the other dog tried to bully Stella out of the coveted cuddle spot next to me and I just let it be known gently that was unacceptable and resulted in nobody having the spot.  She tried that twice and figured out there was no benefit to her behaviour and not an issue for the rest of her visit.  There has been extremely few corrections between my dogs and they have always been very fair so I have not interfered.   Instead I want to provide a comfortable situation where everyone respects the ground rules and each other.    I know that is really oversimplifying things and lots of people have awful dog-dog problems that are not treatable and are very difficult to live with.  My heart goes out to those people because I can't imagine how hard it would be to need to rehome or even crate/rotate between dogs.

I am a fan of opposite sex dogs when possible.  When we were looking to add Riley to our home I knew that I wanted a male because Lucy generally preferred male dogs and if she was gonna have any issues it was usually with another female. When we looked at adding Stella I wanted a female because we often have my mother's dog Sam here and the boys are super competitive but were always good with Lucy.

I also knew not to rush introductions or push for a connection between them.  Lucy was ten and hated puppies so that one had us worried.  She refused to make any eye contact with Riley for three days and then she pinned him when he tried to rush past her out the door.   She didn't leave a mark on him but from that moment on he respected her and within the next week she had fully accepted him.  The only issues we really every had were if she grumped at another dog he would jump in to defend her.

When we added Stella I didn't have any worries because Riley is very good with puppies and small dogs.  Things went well from the start but I was still very careful to give him extra time and space away from the obnoxious puppy who loved to hang on his jowls.   There were lots of moments her prefered to be on the non-puppy side of the baby gate :o).   It actually was good for all of us because it gave him breathing space and also kept her from getting too focused and attached to him before she properly bonded and got focus with me.

Today I am counting my blessings to have harmony in our home without worrying that every move my dogs make is a plot to be the  "ultimate leader in charge".

Puppy Stella snuck in close for a cuddle when Riley was sleeping.

                                                         Lucy and Riley


  1. I think conflict arises if there is no clear leader or if there is inequality in there somewhere. Being number two or three isn't all that important to fight for if you always get everything you need... That's my perspective on it anyway.

  2. Leah is definitely "the boss" dog in our house, but we don't "allow" her to push the other animals around. However, even with our fair guidance, she started having issues with our other female, Meadow recently. But Leah is getting up there now and generally not tolerant of much at all anymore, including our cats, (sadly), so at this point it is more management than anything else, which is as hard as you describe.

    I do believe that the male female combo seems to be the safest, and it is probably the best way to avoid issues between dogs in the firs place. I also believe breeds and personalities come into play. Personally, I think that Labs and Vizslas are more amicable with other dogs(even within the same sex) than some other breeds.