- my dogs, my world
- My name is Lesli Hyland. In my forty seven years on this earth, my home and my heart have been graced with the company of twenty dogs. Many came to me as seniors. All of them taught me something and helped determine the course of my life. I am a dog trainer because of them. I met my friends because of them. My husband and I are are forever bonded by our mutual connection to them. As a dog trainer I have access to other people's dogs and I am allowed to share in their unique relationships. The dogs make me a better person by forcing me to closely examine my motivation, my actions and my choices. Everything I do affects their behavior, safety and happiness. It is an awesome responsibility. The dogs keep me honest.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
The more I learn, the less I know
Those of us who make a living helping people with their dogs are pretty well educated for the most part. Some of us have many, many years of work experience around dogs. Some of us have degrees in science and behavior. I, for one, am very good at reading canine body language and am adept at seeing red flags in a puppy's behavior. BUT I am not a dog breeder. I have had limited experience raising puppies from birth and observing nature at work in the form of the mother/ puppy relationship. To date I have raised 3 litters - all foster litters from my local shelter. I am no expert!
The first litter I raised was born to a young Mom who had 9 pups and did the bare minimum with them - meeting their needs but not spending alot of time with them. She did bond strongly with one of the pups whom she had long term contact with though. And I knew several of the puppies into their senior years, including my own Pogo who is still with us at 14.5 yrs old!
The second was born to a seasoned Mom who cared for her pups very efficiently and lovingly, but did not really play with them much and who had to be separated from them at 4-5 weeks due to being heartworm positive and needing treatment herself.
And now we have Mamacita and her 3 pups. They have been an education for sure!
At 2 weeks old these pups would growl like little raccoons when picked up. Uh oh! I stepped up the amount of handling they were getting to desensitize them and hoped for the best. They improved. They opened their eyes fairly late and when they did, they began growling, then latching hard onto their mother's face! Uh oh! They were 3 weeks old. This had me pretty worried. They weren't playing. They were stiff and intense. I contacted several breeders including a terrier breeder, she basically shrugged it off saying I should handle them alot and let Mom sort them out. Okay...I watched and worried. I noticed that their "aggressive" displays did not upset Mamacita much. She waited the tantrums out, then firmly continued whatever she had been doing (cleaning their face or whatever). I followed her lead and did the same when they grumbled at me. I just kept them elevated gently until they calmed, then put them back down. They started kissing me after settling. That made me feel better!
As they got older and more rambunctious , one pup stood out from the others as quite fearless and bratty. Mamacita began targeting her with very rough play. The puppy was not playing back. She was defending herself vehemently. Mama was merciless, darting in and grabbing with her teeth then retreating. She was clearly playing but it seemed like she was antagonizing the pup. Frankly it concerned me, so again, I consulted several dog breeders and some respected behavior people. Mamacita started playing that way with another puppy too, treating the 3rd puppy more gently. I sent out the following video clip and my concern was confirmed by the responses I received. rough play? (click here)
"Yikes" pretty much summed up the feedback I got! :-P Though one breeder (experienced with terriers) stated that she saw nothing unusual in the clips.
As recommended to me, I interceded when Mamacita's behavior seemed 'over the top'. I continued to worry, but somewhere deep inside I felt like there must be a purpose to her behavior. Though Mamacita was young and inexperienced, I couldn't help but wonder if she knew exactly what she was doing! Though I admit, to all intents and purposes it simply looked like she was tormenting the poor pups!
The pups are pushing 7 wks old now and it gives me great pleasure to watch Mamacita play with her babies now. Yesterday they romped together for a solid hour in a completely appropriate manner. Her pups did not over react. She did not push them to the brink. I let out a big sigh of relief. "Tolerance" is a word that one of my behavior savvy friends had mentioned. "You want pups that develop tolerance" , she stated.
I think that is EXACTLY what Mamacita was trying to instill in her pups by her seemingly badgering play behavior. And it appears that she has been successful!
Check them out:
appropriate play (click here)
more play (click here)
I will continue to learn from them .