Major politics between Nishi and the adopting mum

A mum and her puppies have turned up at our exploring site. Every morning when we go there, the mum shows that she does not like us being there. The puppies are cautions, except for this one. Nishi has managed to make friends with her, as you can see in these slightly old videos. Tiggy is still working through her issues with them and that's another story for another day.

Today we met the dogs again. The mum seems to be "adopting". Her group of "puppies" seems to have grown from 3 to 5. No two of them look alike and they seem to be of slightly different ages. Still, she is the one in charge, the mum!

For some reason, all 6 of them came charging at us today. I was able to get them to stop charging (I am so glad Turid taught me hand signals that I can use on these free ranging dogs). Then the friendly one came forward, suddenly seeming to remember that these are the "friendly dogs". My dogs did not seem to be in the mood. Tigger charged at her and Nishi ignored her. Nishi instead pottered about a bit and then went up to the mum and they seemed to have a major argument. It looked bad and I was wondering if it was time to panic. At that point, Nishi calmly turns around and walks away from it all, looking utterly unflustered. I know the other dogs were not hurt because Nishi cannot open her jaws to bite. But the mum definitely looked flustered and she seems to have called her entire gang away. They all trotted away, the friendly one reluctantly following.

It was the first time I witnessed my dogs getting into a fight with a "pack of streeties" and I am strangely calm about it. It was not pointless violence. It seemed like a very specific argument. The mum has never liked Nishi and Tiggy and it seems like today she felt emboldened to come after us, perhaps because her "seemingly adopted puppies" are large enough for them to look intimidating. The puppies still seem to be a bit clueless about her strategy and the little white one is still in her own little world, completely enamoured by my two. Mum seems to have realised that her "army" is not really ready yet and decided to stick to posturing.

The most fascinating of all, though, was Nishi's interaction with the mum. The reason it did not fluster me is because I could see that Nishi had deliberated over it. She had signalled furiously to get them to calm down and had patiently waited for them to first calm down. Then she walked straight into the heart of the pack, seeming to know fully well what she was doing. When she walked out of that mess, my heart was in her mouth, but it looked like she had just done a mike drop!

I could speculate for hours on what happened and why it did. But theories apart, what is blindly evident is that the social lives of dogs is very complex, intricate and rich. It would almost seem arrogant to assume that dog-relationships are limited superficial mindless chasing of each other. Given enough space and freedom of choice, their true social inclinations emerge and things slow down enough for us to observe.

Observation is the only way for us to understand our animals. All ethologists are great observers and observation can be learnt skill. I'm afraid, with rapid urbanisation has resulting in a generation of us that has not been as much in touch with animals and so are losing our intuition. Streeties can be our way back "in". Make time to stop and observe. Document it, send it in, let's discuss it...learn to become a citizen scientists (as Dr. Bekoff phrases it). If you love streeties, you will love studying them.


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