Today we say, "Mahalo!" to Suki for staying at Kamp K-9 and teaching all of us more about dogs and especially about the wolf in all dogs. Thanks to Koa and Atticus, a three-way wrestle-fest took place before the afternoon pack walk and was a chance for me to observe and have a video record of instinctual play time. You can be sure that if you didn't know anything about dogs it would be quite upsetting and disconcerting to watch -- and listen to -- how they all play and the interaction of the group.
However, before and after they all seemed as if they have been around each other forever and, in a way, they have -- they're all from the canis species and they all understand each other. It's only when humans interfere with (and not regulate) the play does it become unbalanced.
A dog in a new environment that shakes, shivers, and tries to jump on their owner is not afraid. They are going through a processing of what it is like to be a normal dog instead of what they are used to, and they have a tendency to gravitate to the weakest energy pack leader. Some owners will then pick up their dog, shield them from the perceived "threat", and start telling their dog, "It's okay," in a high pitched voice which accomplishes two things: 1) it reinforces the dogs' belief that the energy is weak, and 2) it shows the other dogs that the handler's energy is weak... all of which can have instantly devastating effects in the form of a bite or aggressive tendencies.
I was quite happy to realize that none of the pack was gravitating to me, they were simply being dogs. This doesn't mean I didn't have to regulate the intensity, it just means that aside from regulating intensity I didn't tell them how to play. Instinctually, they play like they fight or hunt prey in the animal world. Two Ridgebacks cornering and chasing a wolf hybrid who is way more nimble and faster on the sprint than they are is a sight to see. Plus, in Suki's case, she can hold her own against all of them; it's just that they all never gang up on one unless that one is unbalanced or has a weak energy. Starting to see a connection now?
Amazingly, Suki would then target Atticus for correction when he started play fighting with Koa, especially when Koa wanted to stop. In fact, she was pretty adamant about it in behavior and sound. Want to know what "assertive" looks like"? Keep watching this blog for a video showing you exactly what message Suki wanted Atticus to have. And Atticus, being a mostly balanced one year old, knew it was time to give her what she wanted.. to "knock it off, youngster!"
So, until next time, stay calm, assertive, and let them play! Thanks again, Suki! See you soon!