Saturday, May 2, 2009

Saving Bobby - Learning to play

(Continuing from here.)

Bobby's fascinated with other dogs. That was obvious right from the beginning. Where he can be shy and fearful of people, he never had any problems approaching other dogs in their kennels during the times he was allowed to roam free in the room.

A couple of days ago, it was decided to finally introduce him to another pup who was about the same size and age.

The young Border Collie came in as a stray and is a bit timid around strangers. As you'll see, though, he warms up and bonds quickly with people.

In the first video, the two pups are kept separated by two kennel doors swung open. They're allowed to sniff each other and their reactions are gauged. The Collie is unsure but Bobby is eager to meet. His barking may seem aggressive but it's not. He just doesn't know how to temper his vocalizations for play. He doesn't know anything yet about controlling his behaviour for play.

Earlier on, when his favorite staffer tried to engage him in play by slapping the floor, he got excited and started biting her arms. They were play bites but play bites coming from a 50 pound dog aren't fun. Luckily, she had her thick jacket on. That's why in the video, she calls him "Biter". I think it's kind of cute. Although someone who doesn't have any empathy for dogs reading this will think we're all nuts.

In the next video, the kennel doors are swung out of the way and the two pups are allowed to meet. You can see a bit of the initial, "Huh?" reaction from both pups as they actually turn away from each other and stand there almost like in awkward silence. That doesn't last long, though, and Bobby is suddenly all in the Collie's face, overeager and somewhat overpowering with his nipping and pawing. The Collie spends most of his first few minutes just trying to get away from the unsocialized Bobby. It actually gets a little bit anxious, I think, until it realizes that it can find refuge with the staffers.

Bobby continues to be pushy but now the Collie, feeling safe using the staffer as home base, starts to push back a bit. Watch how Bobby suddenly stops his rude behaviour and tries to figure out this new balance of power. Remember, this is probably the first time Bobby has ever had a chance to play with another dog outside of maybe playing with his sibling - and that's only if they weren't caged or chained up separately their whole lives.

Now it's the Collie who's got the upper hand. Bobby's a little dumbfounded by this turn of events and runs back into an vacant kennel for a time out, still trying to process the meaning behind the other pup's behaviour. Is it trying to hurt? Is it crazy? Is it pretending? Is it fun?

Bobby comes out from the safety of his kennel and decides to test the waters. He tries to give the Collie a nip and the Collie responds suitably. Soon both pups are doing lots of play bows, switching dominant and passive roles, mouthing but showing good bite inhibition - all the right play signals and behaviours. It's quite amazing, really, just how well Bobby does.

Continued here.


Jenn said...

Wow, what a change in Bobby! It's great to see him interact with the collie, and it can only be good for him to see how the collie is comfortable with people. Perhaps gives some cues that not all people are bad and going to hurt him.

Miz Minka said...

Bobby's learning to make friends, yay!! And he wasn't freaked out by all you tall two-legged folks in the run either. I can't wait for more videos of Bobby's progress, do keep them coming, please! :)

onequarterdal said...

That collie pup is good for him!

Way to go TAS staffers, Bobby and stray collie.


Anonymous said...

Amazing videos and wonderful bite inhibition! He looks genuinely happy. I thought I saw his stubby little tail wagging in the last vid. It didn't take long for the collie to teach him how dogs play.

House of the Discarded said...

Loved these sequence of videos, Fred. It really helps to see what Bobby has gone through and the wonderful strides he's making to socialize and be a friend :)


Anonymous said...

awsome job on everyones part. They are really getting somewhere with Bobby.. that is so great!