“I CONTROL CANINE SELF CONTROL. WHEN IT COMES DOWN TO IT, THAT IS IN FACT WHAT IS THE UNDERLYING SUBJECT TO IT ALL.”
in the room for a visit that when in the room, we let all the dogs out of their crates and there was a general friendly free-for-all with Briards everywhere... running over the tops of the beds, falling all over each other, sharing toys, playing tug of war, etc. This person asked if she might come to the room to see this spec- tacle. She had literally never seen more than one Briard at a time because of fear of fighting amongst the dogs. To our hotel room she came. Her mouth dropped open when she entered the chaos of the room which was in high social activity... with no fights and no one trying to kill anyone else. It was as much an eye opening experience for me as it was for her. Eye opening for her because it was so foreign to her own experience, eye opening to me because it was so foreign to her. Here was con- crete proof that not all Briard owners lived this way. When asked to write this article I reflected for a long time about what it took to make multiple Briards live in harmony. It is an issue which holds a big place in my professional and personal life. Personally, because I live with mul- tiples. Professionally, as a dog trainer because I am frequently called to coun- cil families with multiple dog problems. The issue spans any breed or combo breed in varied environments. Amongst intact animals same sex tensions are most common. Hormones making a substantial contribution as do the social impact of the humans participating. Weak leadership forces someone to have to be in charge. Weak leadership on the part of the humans foists the responsibility on to one of the dogs. God help you if it is a leader who is best at bullying or a leader who has a close competitor vying for the position. The best dog leaders are the benevolent dictators. The ones who hardly have to move an eye lash to reinforce their own position. The best dog leaders are the ones with a quiet intangible strength recognized and respected by the others. I had a bitch once named Dot (Ch Deja Vu Ease On Down The Road
HT ROM). She was an unassuming, humble little tawny girl, but Dot had an unwavering sense of herself from birth. Dot spent her 13 years demon- strating no overt leadership. She spent her life on the couch, often wedged in the middle between her mother Zoe and grandmother Tinsel. Dot’s position was inherited from her grandmother Tinsel. Tinsel was much the same in her rule. When Tinsel died, Dot basically slid into home plate and never missed a beat or perceptively changed her demeanor. No one thought anything of it unless there was something at stake. Then everyone cleared out and showed reverence for Dot’s position. She hardly moved a muscle to accomplish the task. Yet she was completely biddable and fit in anywhere and at any time. When Flynn came along, Dot taught him not to step foot beyond the edge of the living room carpet. Dot and Flynn would play a game every morning. She would be in her spot on the living room couch, Flynn would mosey in and touch the edge of the carpet with his toes. Dot, without raising her head would slightly show him her teeth and Flynn would back off. After about three attempts of putting his toe in the water and get- ting the same response, Flynn in glee would take off on a racing path around the dining room table a few times. Dot never blinked an eye or changed her breathing pattern. As the years moved along I support- ed Dot in her role as chief and benevo- lent dictator. This was a subtle reminder to all the others that she had privileges and power they did not. It kept perfect harmony between my own intolerance for any displays of power or assertive- ness from all others except Dot (there were few from her over the years—she didn’t need to flex her muscles—it was an understanding amongst all the dogs that she was the queen). In the years since Dot, there have been others in charge here. Of course, I am the big cheese and top banana and make and enforce the rules. But there is always one dog in charge—it is
almost always a female (they are decid- edly smarter, therefore more suited for the job). I control power points and potential locations of tension such as crowding areas in the house (hallways and door- ways are typical flare points, especially between dogs who are close to equal and who have tension between them at times). I control feeding. All dogs eat in the kitchen together—not in their crates. This is a social time where they must defuse any social tensions and learn to inhibit guarding and edginess with each other. Bowl guarding and food guarding is unacceptable; but likewise, staying in your own bowl and finishing your meal is an unbending rule. I control indoors and outdoors. It is regulated by me; who comes and goes is under my choice and guidance. Racing outside and ambushing the next ones out is not allowed. Displays of aggres- sion, subtle messages or signs or indi- cations of “dark thoughts” are never, ever tolerated. I control canine self control. When it comes down to it, that is in fact what is the underlying subject to it all. It is all about the canine species adapting to living in a human’s house with the human at the helm of expectation. Con- sequences are given in the form of cor- rections with nylon choke collars and leads if need be. No electronics or cattle prods here. Just old fashioned deliber- ate and careful and thoughtful manage- ment with positive and negative con- sequences as back up. And lastly, basic command training so the dogs know when they are being spoken to and that it holds meaning, not begging. Do my dogs act like wild and crazy maniacs? Do they obsess over squirrels and chipmunks? Do they bark when someone comes to the door or make holes in toys and suck the stuffing out? Do they jump on my head if I lie on the floor or fling themselves in the laps of visitors? Do they dig holes in the yard or carry around a dirty sock? Of course— all of the above—they are dogs.
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