Sunday, July 24, 2011

Visiting Jenn & Mary

Two weekends ago, I took Chandler down to Hamden to visit my friend Jenn, and her new roommate Mary. They're both agility enthusiasts, with separate canine families of multiple dogs. Jenn was a great help to me when I first got Chandler, because she has had multiple English Shepherds. The purpose of this visit was to see Jenn and Mary's littermate English Shepherd pups, Jure and Pace.* I'd met them a month or so ago, but at that time Chandler was still recovering from his iliopsoas injury, so I didn't get to see as much of them as I would have liked.

That's Jure on the left and Pace on the right.

I will admit I was a bit concerned that Chandler would not be thrilled by tweenage puppy hijinks. It wasn't that I was worried that Chan would get impatient and hurt the pups. As far as I can tell he's more on the marshmallow end of the English Shepherd temperament spectrum. It was just that he has gotten a "WHY do we have to hang out with toddlers?!?" attitude on several past occasions.

Apparently I didn't need to worry.


Chandler had a great time running around Jenn's backyard with the pups, leaping into and out of their stock tank dog pool, begging for dog treats, and being a good role model for the pups. (Not that they have a lack of good role models, as Jenn and Mary collectively have a total of 10 dogs.) The pups had a great time too. Chandler is a distant relative of theirs; I believe they share an ancestor about five or six generations back, but with Pace and Jure he got to play the role of the "cousin" who is a lot of fun.

Pace: I'm gonna get him!!!!

My friend Laurie was also visiting the pups with her English Shepherd, Helo. He is actually the pup's grandsire. Helo is more reserved than Chandler, and the pups both respected his wishes to be left alone. They have some very good canine communication skills. Besides, why bother Helo when they could always mob Laurie and fling themselves at Chandler instead?

Hi Laurie! We all LOVE you!!!!!!

Helo ended up resting in the shade and watching the show.

Helo: Good, they're chasing you, not me.

Truthfully, the pups were also testing to see just what behavior they could get away with around Chandler. Pace spent some time trying to sidle toward Chan's rear and hump him, an action which Chan disapproved of. In contrast, Jure kept trying to fling herself into Chandler's face and lick at his muzzle.

Geeze kid, you're in my face again?

Chandler endured these hijinks with a lot of patience, although he probably could have stopped them by flattening the puppies just once. There are many possible reasons for this. At four and a half months of age, the pups should still have their "puppy licenses" to behave badly around adult dogs. There is also Chandler's temperament to be taken into account. He's an easygoing clown in many ways. I've had an English Shepherd breeder describe him as "kind" after observing his patience with her own pup.

Yet as I looked over the photos of the day, I noticed more and more instances of Chandler using subtle signals to control the pups. There are a lot of direct gazes where I think he is telling the pups to back down...just a little. I suspect he was sending a message that playing with him was allowed, but the pups had to follow some rules.

This is one of those photos that seems to show a "look".

I think this may be a good working theory, because Chandler also spent some time demonstrating that he was not a total marshmallow during the visit. He might put up with Jure in his face and Pace's fledgeling attempts to boss him a bit, but he was quite ready to get bossy if the situation needed it. The second that he thought the pups' wrestling matches were getting a bit out of control, he ran straight in and broke it up. Watching Chandler's behavior with the pups was very illuminating, in many ways.

Incoming playground police!

The day finished off with a socialization trip to Petsmart and a stop for ice cream. For me, the biggest challenge of the day was fastening my seat belt while juggling a sundae and fending off two highly interested puppies. Jure and Pace did not get any of my ice cream because they were being pushy. Chandler got some whipped cream because he was lying quietly next to my seat. Overall, it was a very good day.

*Please note that getting two littermate puppies is generally NOT recommended by dog trainers. Jenn and Mary are experienced dogsport people, and they essentially have separate households within the house. While the pups do see each other daily, they are not always together, and they both get a lot of individual attention and training time. For a more detailed explanation of why getting two pups at the same time is a very tricky proposition, please see Raised By Wolves excellent blog post Take Two, They're Small.

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