Giving the dogs food-dispensing toys early in the mornings is a nice way to get in some needed mental stimulation.
Deuce thinks that every cool toy has his name written on it – actually carved onto it. He can express his preference for certain toys, like the wobbling pin for example, by chiming in with a very high pitch sound. He uses this sound as a way of telling me, and Rio of course, that he thinks the world is unfair and that if he does not have “x” toy immediately well all hell might break loose and…
So the way I have figured this out is to make sure the dogs play with their food dispensing toys in separate rooms. Funny, because they can eat marrowbones and other chewies next to each other. In fact more proper than the Queen Mum drinking tea! But these kibble-happy toys… ah, that is a whole different matter.
I once heard Jean Donaldson say that it makes sense that Border Collies are high on the list of toy guarders. She did not elaborate any further, but if you think of it, guarding is all about wanting something (a resource) at a given time. And Border Collies being obsessive little devils (or maybe they are just super focused!) can be very “opinionated” when it comes to balls and other toys.
So, I don’t sweat it. I give Deuce his rolling pin with kibble behind a closed door and Rio has a selection of toys that we rotate.
One recent morning, as I am filling the toys and escorted Deuce to the room to eat out of the toy, he took a beeline in the opposite direction and went straight towards Rio because he heard her already maneuvering her toy and eating away.
As he is running with speedy steps towards her I rush behind him while hearing his little ‘complaining voice’… “the world is so unfair, woof, woof woof…”
I called him back and escorted him to his designated spot. Rio had stopped eating by now and is just kind of standing next to her toy.
Once Deuce was working on his, I came back to her and began to roll her ball as if wanting to prove to her how fun this was. She was watching me sheepishly after Deuce admonish her about who owns what in this home…
I felt bad for Rio seeing that she was kind of crushed, but I also felt grateful to her for diffusing a situation that could very much escalate into the dogs ‘exchanging words’ as I like to say or even worse.
You see, every time a dog diffuses a potential conflict we should notice that and profusely “thank” the dog for its brilliance and comportment. It is so much easier and fun to have manageable conflicts between dogs instead of conflicts that escalate into fights. Believe me, I know how easy it is to go about our very important and busy day and not even notice what the dog just did.
Rio and I are cool with Deuce being a bit pushy about this particular toy. Rio too has her own “special” toys and other quirky behaviors that Deuce tolerates like a champ.
So as I see it, my job here is to be an adult. And to make sure my dogs learn to accommodate one another or to take the high-road as Rio did. In addition, my job entails telling Rio that the next time the fun toys come out…that her toy is much prettier than Deuce’s, more fun and that I am going to show her some easier ways of extracting the food and that Deuce is going to have to ‘suffer’ without my help.
All this in an effort to rebuild her confidence by making her feel safe since I am in charge and because of this she can go back to having fun with her ball.