Norman Allan
   science and philosophy       writings       gallery       history and misc.     biography         blog


Observing Dogs:

Dominance, Pecking Order, and Concord in the Pact


Lucky is a cattledog. When he was one year old he met Smokie, a two year old cattledog, up at Taylor Creek. Lucky was then still "intact"/unneutered and they went at it a round, before we separated them. Smokie was a robust blue healer; Lucky was a slight teenager by comparison and got the worst of it, though there was no substantial damage.

The next time Lucky met Smokie was roughly a year later. Lucky had been neutered in the interim and now, when they met, he groveled, and then they didn't interact much.

For the next several years we met Smokie roughly once a year at Taylor Creek. Lucky showed him adequate respect. Smokie might growl, though all in all they paid little attention to each other.

Last summer (2006) Lucky was seven and a half when we met Smokie again. On this occasion Lucky went out of his way to grovel ostentatiously to Smokie, squirming on his back. Then he did it again, groveled ostentatiously. And again a third time. After that they played quite uintensely for a while, but then the playing got a little too intense for Lucky, Smokie a little bit too pushy, and Lucky gnashed in this face, growling some. Smokie backed off. And again, this happened three times, Lucky snapping in Smokie's face inan apparently aggressive, dominant sort of way. And then they were sated, and sat quietly.

So, in the pack, once the pecking order is established and the alpha dog feels confident that he will not be aggressed, there is concord in the pack, and the beta dog is free to assert itself. Lucky's initial obsequence to Smokie that understanding and thereafter Lucky assertiveness ("Enough!" he displayed) was not taken as a challenge to Smokie's "dominance".

I thought that was interesting.