Sunday, May 13, 2012

Playing Favorites

Let's talk about favorites.  My favorite dog ever:  Carla.  My favorite human is my husband, The Handsome One.  My favorite turtle is Malcom.  My favorite snack is popcorn.

These are the ' I like you best' categories of favorites.  While fun to talk about, this type of favoritism is not what today's topic will address. 

We will explore the kind of favoritism that helps maintain order within group of dogs.  Playing favorites can be a handy tool for keeping the peace and exerting control.  In other words, bossing your dogs around.

You see, one of the nifty things about being pack leader is playing favorites is built into the arrangement.  Indeed, if you believe in the theory of pack hierarchy, then you must play favorites.

To review, the hierarchy malarkey goes something like this.  Wolves live in groups known as packs.  Somebody is in charge of that group.  He is the alpha and gets to boss around the other wolves and gets first dibs on the best of important stuff like food, places to sleep and mates. 

Hierarchy is elastic and situational.  Elderly wolves who once were alpha, move down the order as younger stronger wolves move up.  The alpha may suspend his dominance in certain situations, for example, he may let puppies invade his space and even take a nip at him.  

Even if you believe that dogs and wolves follow the same hierarchical rules, what cannot be ignored is that dogs and wolves have different lifestyles.  Dogs live with people and therefore must play by people rules.  I am unapologetically anthropomorphic at times, but this isn't one of them.  Dogs obey people rules for the simple reason that they live with people.  It is in their best interest to go along with the human agenda.  People have the thumbs and thumbs give us the edge in our environment.  So dogs cooperate.  Let the human be the alpha.  Sit up to get a treat.  You do what ya gotta do.  (Kind of like how people work to get a pay check).

Some of you may recall, "It Happened in January", where I began the saga of Carla and Lester and Rose.

There we were, THO, me and Carla.  All was peaceful.  THO and I were boss. Carla complied because we were so darn much fun to live with.  Enter:  two puppies.  Carla was not pleased with this new arrangement.  These new creatures were whiny, needy and all around irritants.  Carla was no dummy.  All puppies are whiny, needy and irritating, which is why God made them cute.

Since we were now a gang of five rather than three, a hierarchy developed.  THO and I stayed on top, of course, Carla got second tier.  It happened naturally when the puppies were young but we reinforced it as they got older.  Why?  Playing favorites. 

"Don't bother the big dog"  became a command.  Whenever Lester or Rose got pushy, or cut ahead in line to the backdoor, they were reminded,  'don't bother the big dog'.  (I like to think Carla appreciated this).  As it turned out, as he grew, Lester conveyed aspirations for a higher spot in our hierarchy.  The 'don't bother the big dog' nipped it in the bud.  Why does that matter?  Because I say so.  Seriously, it's like choosing a manager to run one of your departments.  You pick the one you think is best for the job, some other employee's aspirations notwithstanding.

Through their years together, the three dogs got along just fine, thank you.  After Carla died, a new puppy entered our home and the hierarchy shuffle began anew.  That puppy's name was Lois. 

What kind of favorite she is, is another story for another day.


  1. Your dog is beautiful, big, and fluffy.

  2. You've got a great blog to follow! More power to you!

    1. Thanks! I checked out your blog. Murrayhill looks like the sort of clinic I would trust with my dogs.

  3. All three of them are gorgeous dogs!