March 07, 2022
I have mentioned how we have been puppy sitting our friend’s Sheltie over the last week. The routine he began with has altered as he has become more comfortable with the surroundings. When he first arrived, he was met by the cat next door (at our front window) and challenged by the two dogs behind our back yard. Initially, he would patrol the front by prancing along the edge of the yard when we let him outside. The change came when the neighbor’s cat showed up across the street and he ran into their yard, forcing us to call him back. Eddie now seems to think anywhere in the cul-de-sac is fair game. That means he will take off on a wider patrol and we call him back to keep him close. At least he is willing to return.
When I looked online, I found many animals identify territories or ranges they patrol. Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior, usually with a focus on behavior in natural conditions, and viewing behavior as an evolutionarily adaptive trait. In ethology, territory is the area that a species of animal normally defends against related animals, and animals that defend the areas they patrol are referred to as territorial. Territoriality is not shown by most species, and more common is for a group of animals to confine to an area (not defend) of home range. These home ranges often overlap with different groups of animals, and the groups tend to avoid each other. Members of the group use vocalization to advertise their territory and scent marking to let others know of their presence. That is why a dog sniffs everything, to find who has been there.
Eddie is also used to having a large, fenced backyard at his house, which we do not have. Still, he does enjoy being on patrol on our back patio. There were some lively “vocalizations” in the beginning when our neighbor’s dogs were outside. Now more often, these dogs will continue to bark and stir up the entire neighborhood, while Eddie stands and watches or even ignores them. He seems to be confident in his own space and does not need to create a vocalized claim.
THOUGHTS: I find it interesting how Eddie’s behavior has changed in the week he has been with us. When he arrived in this new territory, he quickly made his presence known. Still, he stayed close and limited his area to patrol. Now that he is comfortable, he has a greater range and seeks new smells and challenges. At the same time, he no longer seems to need to challenge the other dogs, knowing they are unable to enter his space. Humans hold this same instinct to create and defend territory. At times this is done with saber rattling (vocalizations) and at times by drawing lines in the sand (scent marking). Unlike the animal groups which recognize and avoid interaction, human interaction may result in physical violence toward the other. Humans are one of the few species willing to kill to exert territorial control. War never creates a lasting peace. Instead, it requires a willingness of both sides to listen. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.