Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Developing Social Skills or the Appearance of Dominance

The pups have undergone a huge change in the last few days with regards to their social skill development. Prior to this, we didn't see much in the way of social communication either among the pups or between pups and adults. Yesterday, there was a big change with pups soliciting adults, adults really correcting pups, and pups exhibiting dominance displays among each other. What does all this mean? Basically, that life has gotten even more interesting than it was before :-).

There has been a recent trend among positive dog trainers to downplay or even deny the existence of dominance in dog-dog interactions. I think this is a subtle or even overt put down Caesar Millan, who talks some about dominance (but even more about leadership). Personally, I think it's total hog wash. Watching pups develop in these early weeks, dominance displays are frequent and obvious. I've always seen dominance displays as a fabulously sophisticated way for dogs (wolves, coyotes, etc) to establish a leadership hierarchy with no or only limited amounts of violence. Like the establishment of human society, dogs use dominance to establish rules, status and manners. It's not a negative, it's a positive that we should be in awe of.

You'll see some puppy tiffs in the videos, one where Miss Pink corrects Miss Yellow and then just starts decking everyone around her. Another of her and Miss Red having a moment. These tiffs give the puppies practice in communicating their needs and status without hurting another puppy. You'll see them use all of the signals that adult dogs use--height, head and tail position, mouths and vocalizations. They get up on their toes and even bounce to get higher, arch over the other pup with their tail as high as they can get it, they grab and snarl. All of this is not only normal but an important set of skills to learn well so they can be subtler in the future. But first, they are practicing with rather coarse attempts.

The pups are also being taught key lessons by the adult dogs. You'll see them soliciting Corey and Dreamer, licking at their mouths. With Corey, this results in patience and tolerance but with Dreamer, it results in her regurgitating her meal for them. Don't worry, I spared you the photos/video of that! But all of these efforts are the beginning of polite greeting of adult dogs.

In video Day 31-32 066, you'll see Mr Blue make a serious mistake, playing tug with Dreamer's teat. She uses a quick and immediate correction to put an end to that behavior, and then goes on with playing with him and the other pups. He learned his lesson and nursed quite politely the rest of the morning. I also tried to get some photos of Dreamer playing with the pups but my camera isn't quite fast enough. There is some video but it doesn't quite capture the entire exchange.

Enjoy the videos and see if you can see the pups learning how to speak "dog." You'll see more and more of it over the coming weeks. Which is your favorite interaction?


Sandy Z. said...

Interesting and timely that you talk about "positive training". It's been a discussion point on various lists. Never thought that it's a "dig" at Cesar but makes sense. I've been watching the videos up to this point and find the development fascinating! When this subject comes up I also think about the children that appear to be reared without correction--unfortunately not usually good thoughts. To me it would seem the fair thing to do would be to provide clear guidance and direction, routine and consistency with kindness. Obviously (as demonstrated by the videos/Dreamer) if a correction is needed it can get the point across quickly and often does not need to be repeated (unless you're talking about a human 2 year old ;-)

sionag black said...

I love your blog. I also resonate (sp?) to your comments re "positive" trainers who do not use the word "dominance.". Not sure what that is about. Your video examples are great! What a good mom is Dreamer!