Friday, September 30, 2011

House Dogs

One of the more unusual things I do in the Stardancer kennel is rotate dogs around through different housing arrangements.  I have a nice combination of pens and rotating swivel tethers, and one of those pens attaches directly to the garage, making it convenient to let the dogs in that pen into and out of the house.  I frequently bring however is in that pen inside to visit.

I think that by chaning the dogs' houses and environments from time to time, it helps minimize resource guarding issues.  Please note that the word is "minimize", not "cure".  It won't make such issues go away, but I think it does help prevent them from escalating or in the case of younger dogs, from developing in the first place.

It also helps the dogs be comfortable in a variety of different housing set ups.  Some mushers prefer to house soley in pens, some soley on tethers, and so forth.  I think the more environments in which a dog is allowed to settle and become comfortable the more versatile the dog can be when other environmental factors change, for example when asked to camp out on the trail.

I also like giving the dogs the opportunity to make their own decisions, within reason.  If two dogs want to share a pen I don't worry about which two unless they have had issues in the past.  Then I may intervene to move one or the other.  That's pretty rare except in the case of a couple of our team members. 

To give the dogs an opportunity to chose, I usually let them make their choices when we've returned from a training run.  I just unhook the dogs from the drop line, and let them wander about until they pick a place.  I house dogs in pens in pairs, mostly a male with a female, to minimize conflicts.  The pair in the "garage pen" are usually the designated house dogs for the time they are living in that pen.

I enjoy having dogs in the house, and there is also a practical reason for giving them a chance to get some one-on-one time (or two on one time) with me.  If a dog should escape his or her primary confinement system and someone sneak out of the kennel perimeter fence, if they enjoy being inside they are more likely to come to the door or hang out close by. Mostly, though, I just like spending time in the company of dogs.

Last night, Beau and Selene decided they wanted to be together in the "garage pen".  They are a very nice combination together.  Both are very social both with other dogs and with people.  I've never known either of to be involved in a truly serious fight over anything.  As our handler Ted once said, when those two are together you can almost feel the love exuding from their enclosure.

Neither Beau nor Selene have spent a lot of time inside.  Beau has more "house time" than Selene because he was quite ill a couple of years ago, and was kept inside to recover.  Selene has a very thick, downy coat and she tends to get hot very quickly when inside.  Even when she comes indoors, Selene seems to prefer to remain downstairs, stretched out on her belly on that nice, cool, laminated hardwood floor.  Both generally prefer to be outside with their canine buddies, and it generally requires a bit of coaxing to get thim to come in.

Last night was remarkable, because both dogs were anxious to come inside for a visit.  Once inside, Beau dashed up the stairs to the living area, and Selene clearly wanted to follow him, but was intimidated by the steep stairway.  Amazingly, Beau noticed her hesitation, and came dashing back down the stairs, sat beside her for half a count, and then bounded up the stairs again.  As he repeated that behavior five or six times, it seemed obvious to me that he was trying to show her how to climb the stairs.  Finally, she "got it", and both dogs went bounding up.

After snuffling about for a while the two settled down very nicely.  Selene was panting pretty constantly, but curled up under me feet and seemed to revel in having her ears scratched and belly rubbed.  Beau sprawled out on the carpet and was content to just hang out for a while. 

Selene, literally underfoot.

Beau sprawled out on the carpet

While I was messing around with the camera I noticed something that struck me as kind of unusual.  Selene is bi-eyed (obviously) with a glaciar blue right eye and a dark amber left.  Not only is the pigment in each eye different, but the reflection of light off her retinas in flash photographs (the "red eye" phenomenon in humans) is also of different colors.  Her blue eye reflects red, while the amber eye reflects the florescent blue that is commonly seen in dogs. 

Now I have to wonder whether each eye detects different light spectrums?  I doubt I'll ever know, but it is a matter of curiosity. 

OK, I have other things to do before I can run dogs today, so I'll let this go for a bit and either expand on it or post another entry into my Blog later on.

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