Behavioral Mutations

Lily, Trip & Bean

Accept, as I do, that among the wonderful features of the creatures that they are, dogs are creatures of habit and habits can be formed in a variety of ways. Further, since they inhabit our homes and lives, it is our job and responsibility to shape them into what we want (using positive methods of course). It seems to me a wise thought that once shaped into your minimum standards, that you use powers of observation to note mutations as they might occur and decide if they are

a) beneficial or useful or desired in which case you randomly reward them;
b) neutral/don’t matter and no one gets hurt and you can reward or ignore; or
c) behaviors that probably should be redirected/reformed because someone can be annoyed or worse — it can be downright dangerous for either dog or others.

I realize because dogs are a major passion of mine, I spend extraordinary amounts of time, often even brief glances throughout my day, observing my own pack of three — Lily (nearly 9), Trip the JRT (nearly 7) and Bean the ESS (just turned 5). If I had to give you a quick summary of their personalities, I’d say Lily is the protective and moody but ever so loyal and loving large mix; Trip is a clown and I still haven’t ever seen him meet a dog he didn’t like (whether that other dog liked him); and Bean is loyal, true, and not too smart but very well behaved dog. They are of course much more than that, but their essences are as above.

I noticed a few weeks ago a new habit that formed when feeding time came around. I can’t say what started it, but now that it’s there, I’m trying to pay attention to each meal (twice each day) to see how, why and what it mutates into (let me just preface it by saying that it definitely fits into “b” above).

Here’s the scenario:

When it’s feeding time, the dogs scoot to their “assigned” location: Lily by the fridge; Trip in a crate in the dining room/office; and Bean on the dining room/office floor by the doorway into the kitchen. Two bins of their food (Lily eats Flint River Ranch Senior Plus and the boys eat Flint River Ranch Fish’n’Chips) are stacked near where Lily eats and either my oldest daughter or I feed them. Trip gets 1/2 cup, then Bean gets his cup, and Lily gets her 1.5 cups. Trip dives into his food, and here’s where it gets interesting — Bean just lays there staring at his food even though he’s given an “okay” cue which means he can eat and he used to do so, but the mutation started where he just lays there and stares at his bowl as Trip is chowing his portion; then Lily gets hers and starts digging in. Bean (you can say “okay” as perky as possible a dozen times to really assure him that it really really is okay to eat already you odd little dog) just stares. When Trip finishes his food, and he makes the slightest move to leave the crate (I have really carefully watched this from many angles without interfering), Bean makes one slight little growl and then dives in. It seems the real “okay” cue for him is the movement of the Jack Russell Terrier finishing up his meal (which takes very little time I might add…about 45 seconds).

So I’m going to keep watching. And waiting for the mutation. If I remember, I’ll update the blog to report on the action.

Dogs really are such odd little creatures!