Refereeing the Ref

An English professor once told me that once and Australian Cattle Dog learns the rules of the house s/he reinforces these rules when the other dogs in the household act up. My Blue Heeler-Coonhound mix never enforced the rules. She was more interested in following her nose (which got her into a lot of trouble) or chasing cars (which got her into a whole lot of trouble).

My purebred ACD, on the other hand, makes sure my Rat Terrier and my mom’s Toy Poodle mix mind their manners. She doesn’t mess with my Shih Tzu though. As the queen of the house, my Shih Tzu makes sure my ACD minds her manners.

At first I was afraid when Shelby would pin one of the smaller dogs down. The smaller dog would cry and I’d yell at Shelby who would let the dog up and go about her business. I never saw any aggression when she did this so I was puzzled. Gradually I realized that there was a pattern to this. Whenever the Rat Terrier or Toy Poodle mix got wound up she would pin the “offending” dog down until it calmed down.

Case in point: Yesterday mother and I were working outside. I passed the gate where the dogs were lined up and Ebony, the Poodle mix, began jumping on the fence and barking. When she wants something, Ebony employs an annoying high-pitched bark that goes down into the ears and slaps the eardrums around. It’s painful. Well Ebony started this and Shelby quickly pinned her to the ground and then let her go, not before Ebony let out a squeal. I quickly reassured Mother that Ebony was misbehaving and Shelby was letting Ebony know that.

I’ve been wondering if I should curb Shelby’s habit of refereeing the other dogs. She doesn’t hurt them, and she instantly lets them back up. At one point in time the smaller dogs would act like Shelby was killing them, now they let out a squeak and then return to being annoying. The yelps are always from being caught off guard.

Most people would deem a dog like this aggressive. Strangely enough, any dog that makes another dog yelp is considered a threat. Perhaps this is the reason why I feel I need to correct Shelby despite the fact she is reinforcing our house rules. I don’t want anyone to think that my dog is aggressive and a threat to other dogs.

Part of me says, “Let her be. The smaller dogs may not always listen to the human, but will usually listen to the bigger dog.” The other part of me says, “People will look down on your dog. They will think yours is a threat to their precious pups whose poop doesn’t stink. Don’t take her to the dog park, just let her play with her sisters at home.”

I’m still not sure which path I’m going to take. The refereeing is getting less and less frequent. For the most part, all four of the dogs get along. I guess they’ve learned to accept each one’s quirks. Perhaps I should do that too and not worry too much about what other people think. Besides, I’m not the only person who has a dog that loves to referee other dogs. And thinking about it, a referee isn’t a terrible thing.

Well, I guess I know what path I’m taking.

Until next time…make sure those young whippersnappers are kept in line.


About Siege

Hi, I'm Siedra. I live in eastern Oklahoma with my six dogs and my rats. I'm a writer, and scrapbooker/mixed media artist. My life revolves around my dogs, so I decided to blog about them and pet parenthood in general. When I'm not working, or writing, or scrapbooking, or hanging out with my dogs, or thinking about any or all of the above, I'm probably asleep. View all posts by Siege

2 responses to “Refereeing the Ref

  • bondeddogblog

    As long as you are keeping an eye on the dogs to make sure the referee isn’t getting out of hand I think it is ok to have a natural “boss”. Does she try to be bossy out of the house/with other dogs? That might be something you need to explain to other dog owners before letting her play with them.

    Our 2 smaller dogs wrestle each other and sometimes it looks quite violent but they are always under control and very respectful of each other. I wouldn’t want them playing with someone else’s dog that way but our first trip to the dog park proved to be successful. Our older dog (who is twice as big) likes to police the dog wrestling with barking but I think they take it as him cheering them on.

    • Siege

      No, her refereeing isn’t getting out of hand. For the most part she’s very good with the other dogs. She just isn’t fond of rough playing…that or rough playing triggers her herding instincts.

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