A while back I had a client’s dog staying with us for board & train.
As I was attempting to play with Deuce and Rio and our friendly visitor, I realized that the lab is running hard after the “sacred” orange ball. Deuce and Rio are also running and now I am worried that the little- tank of Labrador is going to crash into Deuce. Oh no!
Both males get into a minor … “It’s mine!”, “No! She kicked it for me” kind of a thing. We continue to play with the ball. And once again there is a minor exchange of “words” surrounding possession of the ball.
I get smart and I go to fetch the second orange ball – now partially destroyed. I call the lab and I throw the ball for him down the driveway. Off he goes after it. Good, now I can play with Deuce and Rio as we normally do.
Occasionally, the lab, Gator, turns to our game and goes after the ball. I call out to both my dogs to let him have the ball and they kind of looked relieved that they do not have to compete with Gator over the ball and are running back to me.
Yes, yes, yes pups! Well done! I slip them both a piece of dried liver that I happen to have in my pocket to thank them for diffusing and taking the high road.
I continue to send Gator for his own ball down the driveway with everybody minding their own ball.
On the occasion that Gator decides to join “our party” I let him run full throttle after our ball and I ask my dogs again to just let him have it.
Situations like these are great learning opportunities for all involved. I get to practice with my own dogs’ important behaviors such as stop engaging with (you can fill in the blanks here of all the things dogs love to engage with and that on occasion can be a problem for us). I am also teaching my dogs to share. Really. Dogs, just like people, have favorite stuff that they like to claim their own and they are not always ready to “just share” with this new dog that is now in their space.
If we want our dogs to have polite manners towards others we have to teach them what that looks like! On these same lines, I am a big fan of telling the dog what to do instead. Say I tell Deuce and Rio to “leave the ball” then I proceed to call them to me so that we can begin the game again with either the ball that Gator has graciously brought to my vicinity or incorporate the second ball. In this manner, not only am I avoiding conflict, but I am also teaching my dogs that listening to my requests pays off. I will make sure that they get to play too even if Gator has not yet learned the rules of our games and it is being a bit of a putt by running full speed toward the ball.
Life and our dogs give us so many opportunities to teach and learn. Even the most mundane of circumstances are golden opportunities to either teach something new or continue to practice what we have taught before. In addition, we get to experience dogs being just dogs… animal planet in the comfort of our home…