Saturday, June 28, 2014

How Dogs Play

Lexi and Betty are best friends.  The two of them can play the whole day through - and they have!

Here is Lexi in the "Let's Play" position.  Anyone with a dog will recognize this pose.  Not everyone understands what constitutes "playing" for dogs, however, and with good reason.  Playing, for a dog, is a bit like practicing their life skills.  Different breeds have been bred to have specific skills; retrievers are bred to retrieve things, pointers point at things, herding dogs herd things, etc.  These same behaviors are used when they are interacting with other dogs for the sheer fun of it, which is as good a way as any to define "play".  
Not all breeds enjoy doing the same things.  My two terriers are completely uninterested in retrieving balls, for instance.  Terriers were bred to chase down and kill vermin, so Socrates and Lexi enjoy chasing and fighting. To complicate things even further, dogs like Socrates and Lexi are mixed breeds, and each has an unknown genetic heritage.  What this means is that they have an unknown mix of skills. Betty is also of unknown origin, but Betty and Lexi also like to chase and wrestle. When they play it often looks a lot like they are fighting to the death!

They are actually having a great time "pretending" to kill one another. What is interesting is that Betty and Socrates don't play this way; Betty will roll over immediately if he ever tries to play.  There are only a few dogs Betty will play with.
With Lexi, though, Betty gives as well as she gets!  That's one scary face on her, isn't it?

When things get too rough, Betty has a unique method of calling a time-out.  First she digs a hole in the dirt . . .

Then she lies in the whole and refuses to interact with Lexi or with anyone.

Betty stays in her little "den," until she is composed and ready to return to society.  It is really a sophisticated and complex group of behaviors that allow her to call a halt to unacceptable interactions while allowing her to calm herself.  As far as I know, it is behavior unique to Betty.  

I may be wrong about that, though, because I don't know what breeds make up her heritage.  She looks a bit like a Carolina Dog, a bit like a black cur, or maybe a red cattle dog.  She has some herding dog ancestry, for sure. She will often do the "Crouch/Stalk/Stare" like a Shetland Sheepdogs when she is playing, which is another example of playing as practice for real life.  Of course, isn't that true for all animals - including humans?  I think so, but I'm no expert. I just enjoy watching dogs interact. To me it's intensely amusing and endlessly fascinating.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Heartache Happens When You Fall in Love!

The dog business can be hazardous to your heart.  I fall in love with all my dogs, but Gemma and Mac, my soft-coated Wheaten Terrier pups, were the light of my life.  Here is one-year-old Gemma posing with the flowers.

Little Mac is just six-months-old.  Watching him grow up these past few months has been a joy.  Soft coated Wheaten Terriers get lighter with age, so pretty soon you wouldn't recognize him from this photo.  But right now he is just a big, soft, adorable teddy bear!

Lexi is probably six to nine months older than Gemma, but they were great pals despite the difference in age and size.  Lexi was VERY protective of both Gemma and Mac, and she would get in anybody's face if she thought they were in danger.  They never were, but Lexi didn't trust any other dogs that got too close.  She obviously had no clue that Gemma was three times her size, either!

Here the three of them are taking a break from the hot sun.  Notice that Lexi is being ever so vigilant as she protects the puppies!

Mac is a fast learner.  By the time this photo was taken, he would run to me every time I called him.  My own dogs take their sweet time if there is something more interesting around!  In any case, I sincerely hope Mac and Gemma will soon return to us because I miss them terribly - and I bet they miss us, too!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dogs Playing Ball

Big Heather and little Hoover.  You wouldn't think to look at them that they might be troublemakers.  They're actually NOT troublemakers, but they tend to leave a ton of trouble in their wake wherever they go.

All Heather wants to do is play fetch.  Constantly.  It's her normal behavior.  What was new here was Mac's interest in playing ball - Mac's very intense interest in playing ball!

What was also new was Gemma's intense protectiveness towards her little brother, Mac.  As soon as she understood that Mac wanted the ball, she went after Heather with a vengeance!

In her enthusiasm, she even crashed into Heather as she tried to snatch that ball from her mouth.  

It didn't stop with Heather, either. Gemma and Mac were just as outraged when Hoover managed to snatch a ball!

Lexi eventually had to step in and tell Hoover to stop teasing the puppies, regardless of the fact that the puppies were five times larger than he was. It was not clear whether or not Hoover got the point.

Although he certainly knew he was being scolded from every angle, I don't think he understood that the ball was off-limits to a little squirt of a newcomer such as himself.

Once Mac had control of the ball, all he really wanted to do was flaunt his ownership of it.  He taunted poor Heather mercilessly by making sure she could see it was Mac's ball now and forevermore!