Ich bin Robbie Thoughts of a dog owner

Hi! Ich bin Josh!

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No. 7  

No. 6 - August 2004



Josh and Robbie – my two boys... I'm repeatedly asked if they get on with each other. Now, thank goodness, I can reply to this in the affirmative, but this was not always the case.

In the year 2003 Robbie was allowed to mate for the first time. On the one hand I was, naturally, happy about this. On the other hand, however, I hoped that this would go off without any major problems. It just so happened that the bitch was on heat at a time when I was shepherding with Robbie at a place which was near to where the breeder lived. The mating went without any problems. Robbie knew immediately what should be done, where and to whom and everything seemed to go as planned. I then showered Robbie and, the next day, went herding again.

On the evening of the following day I drove the 400 km back home again where Josh greeted me happily. However, as I opened the rear door for Robbie, Josh became rigid and went into the garden with measured steps and raised hackles. He knew exactly what had happened. I let Robbie out of the car. He ran into the garden and wanted to go to a toy which always lay around somewhere. In a flash, Josh shot out from the side and attacked Robbie with a vehemence that I had never seen in him before. As Jeremy and I were both in the garden, we grabbed a dog each and pulled them apart. We then put them on their leads and kept them at some distance from each other, and calmed and rewarded them etc. when they came close to each other. That night, I slept in the guest room so as to keep the dogs apart because their mood was very tense. I had been completely surprised by the righteous anger of 12-year old Josh; I had never seen my generous, friendly old dog like that. However, the fact that, by mating, Robbie had not complied with the pack hierarchy, had been too much for him and he wanted to put that straight in the sharpest possible way.

Over the next few days we were careful and gradually let the dogs approach one another again, and after three days everything seemed to have calmed down.

However, on Saturday, I came back from shopping and, as I drove into the garage, I let Robbie jump in so that he wouldn't run in front of the car. Josh came running up as I got out. Then, as I opened the rear door... see above! Obviously, Josh connected this with the Wednesday experience – or maybe there was still a residual smell in the car from Robbie's fling – anyway, just as I thought that they'd got over everything, it all started off again. Robbie ran into the garden to get a toy and, immediately, Josh jumped on him, then Robbie on Josh and the scrap was on again. Once again, we separated them. Robbie had a hole in his chap and Josh had one in his.
The time that followed was very difficult. We only let the two together if they were being watched and I lived in fear of a fight.
What had clearly changed was that neither picked up a toy if they were both in the garden. Also, Robbie did not mark over where Josh had marked. Both avoided looking at each other and kept their distance.

Walks were the most neutral because, although they were relatively near to one another on the leads, both were occupied and on neutral territory. We very consciously rewarded everything which reinforced the peaceful proximity of the two but I always kept an eye on them both. It was a good two months before the atmosphere was relaxed again. However, it took even longer until they picked up toys in the garden if they were both outside as this was, obviously, too closely associated with the two fights. For a long time too, Robbie did not mark over Josh, and I consciously did not permit it if he tried. Josh should definitely remain the superior.

There are very different views and opinions on this. In my emergency, I asked for advice from the BC list and received differing replies, because dogs are very different and what works for one need not work for another. In extreme cases it can happen that one of the dogs has to be given away as they would otherwise always fight with each other. No way did I want that. I wanted a peaceful pack where I permitted no fighting. I, being the boss, would sort out any problems and I know that with my two that that is what they prefer. If, for example, one has a particular toy near him which belongs to the other and the other wants it, then the latter looks at me saying "Please!" - and I get the toy for him because I, as the boss, can take everything. Thus conflicts are avoided.
Some people may think that one should let the dogs fight it out. I cannot agree with this at all. As the boss I do not accept any fighting and, apart from this, I am not prepared to risk injury to the dogs. I want to be able to leave the two dogs together on the back seat of the car without any worries. They should respect each other. Josh is the elder and sees his job as being to guide Robbie, i.e. to observe him during training and, on my request, to show him how to do something if Robbie does not understand what I mean. Robbie wants to work, while Josh prefers to be on watch. Thus, each gets exactly what he wants and they agree on what each does.

Now, Robbie is 4 years old and Josh nearly 13. The question of who is the superior is hard to answer. If you watch them, it is apparent that they treat each other with a – shall we say – "male" roughness. One marks first, then the other marks over it. One marks and the other pushes in under the raised leg to the place of the smell. If there is a loud noise, Robbie looks at Josh to see if everything is OK. On the other hand, when a couple of rockets were fired off recently one evening, Josh lay down for the first time with Robbie in the cellar – where Robbie likes to sleep in summer. The relationship seems somehow to be equal, whereby one has to say that Josh was always very generous and actually only showed his superiority in the fights mentioned above. I think about the fact that in some wild wolfpacks, when the pack leader becomes old he voluntarily retires to a position of teacher and thus gives up his position without any fighting. I hope that this will also be the case with Josh and Robbie, or may be it already is...

I have drawn the following conclusions from this experience:

  1. When I come home with Robbie after a longish absence, I first joyfully greet Josh and then we all go for a walk together where they can smell each other on neutral territory and ensure that nothing untoward has taken place. By the way, Robbie always greets Josh happily nose to nose whereas Josh calmingly (or piqued?) turns his head to one side΄.

  2. I am not really interested in mating Robbie as long as Josh is alive or not castrated. Peace in the house is more important for me than being able to say that Robbie has offspring. Besides, I have no desire to have to hand the mating fee straight to the vet.

I love my boys and I simply want our time together to be good, to have fun with them and also to work. Thank goodness that's how it is again now and I hope that it remains so!



P.S.: Comments on my thoughts are welcome at all times:







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