I'm Robbie Thoughts of a dog owner

Hi! I'm Josh!

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No. 7  

No. 2 - May 2001

» A second dog comes into the home:
the elder dog as friend and teacher «

Before I give myself over to my thoughts this time, I would like to thank all those who have shown me - by their reactions or emails - that somebody has actually visited my homepage. It's a continual pleasure for me.


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Robbie has now been in our home for more than five months and it is a new experience for me to see how the relationship between Josh and Robbie develops and how formative it is for Robbie - almost more so than between him and we humans. Actually, that is obvious. If one of us humans were to grow up with another human together with elephants, we would orientate ourselves to the creature of our own species rather

  than to the elephants, wouldn't we?  

The very beginning was difficult.At the start there was actually no visible relationship. We were prepared that Josh would sulk for the first weeks after a new family member appeared but even after several weeks nothing changed in his behaviour. Josh was reserved and did not play with Robbie at all - but did nothing against him either. Sure, Robbie was allowed to go to Josh's food bowl - in fact, Josh made room for him. Robbie was allowed to occupy all of Josh's favourite places, everything was accepted. In this respect, Josh behaved quite naturally; the puppy still had free rein. With one exception. If Josh came to me for some fuss and to be stroked then Robbie had to keep away, otherwise he was warned off immediately. Otherwise nothing happened to him. However, every request for Josh to play was ignored. Josh simply did not react to Robbie. That gradually depressed us. However, we also felt that this could be Josh's way of protecting Robbie because Josh is very strong and wild when he plays and maybe he didn't want to injure the little one. I know that sounds very anthropomorphic but I really feel Josh is capable of such consideration.

Maybe, however, there was another obstacle for Josh, i.e. that he had the impression that Robbie was somehow "excluded". Jeremy held himself back a bit because I felt Robbie should be imprinted on me, and probably as well, it was a bit irritating for him to have to take care of this cheeky little bundle of energy. In addition, the puppy was not allowed everywhere in the house until he was not house trained. Also he shouldn't run up and down our - rather too steep - stairs and, consequently, Robbie was confined to the ground floor. However, Jeremy has his study on the first floor into which Josh, of course, could follow him. Somehow Josh seemed to be in solidarity with his boss Jeremy and left Robbie out - until we recognised this and changed it immediately. Now Robbie was allowed - under supervision -  into the living room and into the study, but not yet into the stair area. Also, Jeremy spent more time with him and for Josh this seemed to be permission to get more involved with Robbie.

The dogs' relationship develops. From then on, the relationship between Josh and Robbie changed.

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1. Josh as an image and idol . From the start, Robbie wanted to do everything which Josh did and to get everything which Josh got. What's puppy food with lamb compared with adult food with lamb from the same company? Everything in Josh's food bowl in the hall obviously tasted better than out of his own food bowl in the kitchen. That ended because both now have their bowls in the kitchen.


Robbie started lifting his leg to wee when he was 3 1/2 months old. He had seen Josh do it and wanted to be as grown up as him.

When, at 4-5 months old, we started taking him for short walks, he naturally had to smell everything and do everything that Josh did even if he had no idea why it was good.

It was always lovely, and often funny, to see how this little squirt copied Josh. As Josh is a wonderful dog, he is also in every respect a desirable role model (apart from agility where he goes crazy but I don't take him with me to agility any more).

As an experienced dog, Josh knows that when I have clients he gets a reward (Markies or suchlike) at the beginning of the hour. After this, he lies down under my desk and sleeps for the next 50 minutes. Robbie picked that up from him very quickly. It is impressive how important it is for a puppy - even for Robbie in spite of his great self-confidence - to have an adult dog as a role model. And correspondingly also, to have a good teacher on hand, one that spares time for the puppy and has good characteristics himself.

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2. Josh as friend and playmate . As already mentioned, we had hoped that Robbie - who I got at the end of November - would have a playmate in Josh. But that did not happen. The puppy course was due to begin in March. So, what could be done? I was lucky to the extent that I knew Petra from our last puppy course and she had a Border Collie called Zeus who was only 4 months older than Robbie.


So began our meetings at the fenced training ground. We met as often as possible so that Zeus and Robbie could have a romp, chase one another and fight one another - both enjoyed it. Josh did not join in - he accompanied us on our walks around the ground or observed them both while they fought. That's still how it is now...

Josh and Robbie developed their own "games". They have never fought playfully but they have developed other games. When you watch, it is as if they have developed certain rules and in such a way that both have fun.

Josh is also Robbie's protector. If sometimes I tell Robbie off because he ignored my 333rd "NO" for chewing the table leg, then along comes Josh who might be in another room in the house and pushes himself in between Robbie and me in order to calm me down and thus to protect Robbie. In this way, Josh also taught me when something was too much or illogical in my behaviour with Robbie.

Now, even though Robbie is more than 7 months old and so puppy protection in the narrow sense is over, Robbie would be - as far as Josh is concerned -  allowed to eat from Josh's bowl (theoretically, because we don't allow him to do it). He is still allowed to sleep in Josh's basket while Josh lies down somewhere else (where he often used to lie before) and they often lie much closer together than they ever did before.

3. However, most impressive for me is how Josh is an active teacher for Robbie. A while ago, I sat down for the first time this year to do some weeding. Before, Josh had always made use of this to place something to throw near me and which I, now and again, would throw for him. Now he did this again while Robbie stood near him and barked at him. Josh kept disappearing into another part of the garden - followed by Robbie - and would then came back and the game carried on. After he had directed Robbie three times to another area where other toys lay around, Robbie actually came for the first time with his own thing to throw and laid it down for me. He had understood the game (or was it a job?) and played Josh's game with me. Josh stood in the background and wagged his tail as if he wanted to say proudly "Now then, what do you think of how quickly I taught Robbie that?". Even when I invited him to do so, Josh did not join in the game any more but just watched proudly how Robbie played with me. 

  Click to enlarge... That's how it usually is when I train Robbie in a bit of heel, bring etc. in the garden. Josh watches us but keeps himself apart. If, in between times, I go to him and invite him to play our old tugging game, he walks backwards away from me, shakes his head and is only happy again when I do something with Robbie. However, it is also clear that he in no way feels neglected but that is exactly how he wants things to be. In fact, it cannot be ruled out that, what we regarded as a game with him, he regards as a job and that he wanted to teach it to the young one and then pass it on to him to do.  

Viewed from the natural state, Josh trains the youngster in what his tasks are - or will be - in life and in the pack. In nature, every game is at the same time a preparation in a skill which the animal will need sometime in the wild in order to fulfil his tasks and thus to stay alive. Whether a working animal like a Border Collie now herds sheep or follows trails or takes on other small jobs, it is in the end - in his eyes - probably a "job". Obviously, at 9 years old, Josh has found a new job, i.e. to educate Robbie. I can only hope that Robbie learns a lot from Josh because Josh is the most wonderful dog you can imagine!

Now, that all sounds very well but there are at least two conclusions which can be drawn from this and they are:
  Click to enlarge... 1. You should observe the "first dog" closely when you want to introduce a second one because the youngster will learn a lot from the old one. As an aside - with several dogs, that is to say a small pack - this is different again.  

2. One thing has also become clear to me, with a well-functioning relationship between dogs, the relationship of the second dog to the humans does not have priority. It is, therefore, very important that you do a lot with the second dog on his own so that the relationship or connection to the human is strengthened. But that's another story...
Until next time                                               Andrea     



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