Observing puppy temperaments within one litter; one dominant puppy, one submissive puppy
I made the decision to breed Meadow, not only for her obvious beauty, but for her calm and submissive temperament. This breed, the Shiloh Shepherd, is supposed to be bred with sound temperaments as a priority, and Meadow fit the bill. Everyone that meets her remarks how sweet her personality and behavior are around people and other dogs.
Here she is taking a rest at the dog park with a complete stranger. You can tell she is in a calm, submissive state by the way she is holding her ears back, her tail down, but not between her legs, and her head in a normal relaxed position. She is giving off calm, submissive energy, panting gently as she welcomes affection from the woman. This behavior is what you want to see in your dog.
Here she is again, relaxing with more strangers. The fact that this person is a man makes no difference to her, nor does the fact that he is wearing sunglasses which cover his eyes. I mention this because some people claim their dogs don't like men, or they don't like children, or they act strange when someone is wearing sunglasses. Meadow, however, remains relaxed.
Meadow has always behaved submissively in our household. Taking her out of the house to socialize any chance I got helped to make her submissive in public as well. Socializing your puppy, or new dog, is one of the most important things you can do to maintain a sound temperament. This needs to start as a young puppy.
One time we had an autistic man visit us for Thanksgiving dinner. Meadow stuck by his side all day long, giving him extra attention and tenderness, as if it were her job to make sure he was looked after that day. The house was crowded with over 40 people but she chose to stay near him most of the time.
Besides my personal tests for checking her temperament, Meadow was also tested by a trained professional named Christi Yonavick of Ridgewood Shilohs. She passed her CGC, Canine Good Citizen, with flying colors. That is just one of several tests that need to be conducted and passed in order to breed a Shiloh Shepherd dog.
Once Meadow passed all of tests, the next step was to find a sire, or male dog, to mate with. With the help of several other breeders that I regularly seek out for guidance, I chose Noah (shown below) to be the father.
I was assured Noah had a sound temperament and he also passed all the required Shiloh Shepherd tests. He was a good sized dog and although he had a smooth coat, not plush like Meadow’s, I chose him without a second thought.
Finally, the day arrives. Only two puppies, but they were handful enough. From birth there was a clear difference in the pups. Chase (sable pup) was born first at 1lb, 3 oz and Shadow (black pup) five hours later at a mere 11 oz.
The two puppies are both girls. Both have smooth coats like the sire, Noah, but one is a gray sable like the mother, and the other is nearly solid black. The dam's father was a black Shiloh, so you just never know what you're going to get. At one point, the black girl, named Shadow, had other colors, a white spot on her chest, and what appeared to be tannish legs. But, at 4 months old, she had a solid black, smooth coat. Chase, the other pup, went from gray sable, to a mixture of gray and brown sable.
Immediately, I noticed Chase (gray sable) was the stronger of the two. She'd crawl right over Shadow (black) to get to the nipple she preferred. Or, sometimes she'd push Shadow off a nipple that she wanted. Shadow could do nothing about it at this time. She was simply too small.
Over the next few weeks, Chase continued to dominate the scene in the whelping box. But since there were only two pups and eight nipples to choose from, Shadow slowly but surely started to catch up in weight and size. However, this didn't happen until about 4+ weeks into the growth process. By the end of their first week on this earth...
At 2 weeks old, Shadow was still only 1lb, 13 oz
and Chase was 2 lbs 13 oz. Shadow (black), still very large for nearly two weeks old, but just not as obese-looking as Chase.
See just how fat a two-litter puppy can get? Chase at almost two weeks old reminded me of a tick. Chase clearly looks larger than Shadow. It appeared, for several weeks, that Chase was surely the dominant one of the litter. However, we are about to discover, size means nothing.
When we fast-forward to 4-5 weeks of age there are unique observations that could be made for each pup. Although I believe that dogs do not share the same emotions as humans, for the sake of defining the way I saw "personality" or temperament differences, I will use words that actually refer to humans.
At this point and for the next few weeks, the only "personalities" that could be observed, were Chase overpowering Shadow if she needed to, simply as a result of the size difference.
At this stage of development, Shadow appeared to be more shy and more serious. Along with this behavior also came the act of being more independent. She would choose to go into her crate to get away from the commotion in the kitchen. (I should mention here that I have three children, one cat, two grown dogs, the mother Meadow being one, a 2-yr-old Min-Pin the other, and of course, the two puppies at this point in time.) Above, Shadow hiding away in her crate. Little did we know at the time, this pup was showing signs of a dominant type.
Chase above, always out in the open in the middle of the commotion; never choosing to take a breather in her crate. Chase at 4+ weeks was much more people-oriented, a big comedienne, performing all sorts of hysterical acrobatics. She would seek out affection from humans and other dogs and was much more dependent than Shadow. She would cry for long periods of time every time she had to be put in the crate. She never went in the crate as a decision of her own. When I tried to separate the two pups into individual crates, the crying would go on for hours until I finally gave up and put them back together. I figured her new owners are going to have to go through this with her when they bring her home; why let her go through it twice? This pup was showing signs of a submissive type, with insecurity issues (hence the crying when left alone).
Shadow, the more dominant of the two, would have to be coaxed into showing affection. What we did not realize at the time was that pack leaders do not come to followers for affection. By the human coming to the puppy for affection, in the dog's mind, his followers were coming to him, reinforcing the pup’s leadership. While Chase, the other puppy, constantly and freely came to the humans for affection.
As for the way they behaved with each other, Chase usually instigated play sessions. Because she was still a pound or two bigger than Shadow, she would overpower her most of the time. That's about the time I noticed that Shadow, after having had enough of Chase, would retort with serious biting and vicious behavior. Chase would squeal and run away. Then she'd leave Shadow alone for a time, but never for too long. Shadow would react with force again and again to scare Chase away. Shadow would plop into her crate for a nap, leaving Chase to torment the kitten instead. This clearly shows Shadow as the dominant type. Shadow was telling a follower she was not in the mood for play. To display this much dominancy at such a young age tells one that Shadow is a natural born leader. This pup will need an owner who truly understands what it means to be your dog’s pack leader.
During car rides, Chase ALWAYS got sick and threw up. Shadow never did. Perhaps this had to do with anxiety more than just a physical motion sickness. After all, Chase did cry usually throughout the entire ride (showing signs of insecurity). Shadow was usually silent, finding a place to nap and fall asleep. Chase ALWAYS devoured all of her food in an instant, and then tried to get Shadow's or Meadow's or the cat's or anyone else's food that was still being eaten. Shadow, on the other hand, ate much slower, taking time to pick out the best parts first and then finished the hard kibble last, if at all. Often she would leave half her food in the bowl. Chase would then gobble it up. To this day, Shadow eats finicky, and Chase devours her food. Chase consumed almost twice the amount of food that Shadow does and weighed more than Shadow.
Here they are, Shadow on the left and Chase on the right, resting and cooling off in my air-conditioned car, at seven weeks old. They are happy and submissive with one another. They have both been well exercised at this point. Any issues that may have been showing up tend to disappear after a good long workout.
From this stage, 6-8 weeks, the biggest differences, besides the crying and the car sickness, were during walks on the grounds of my property. Shadow was a true explorer; independently searching the grass and trees and trying to trail-blaze the thicket that divides my property from another land owner (more signs of a born dominant type). She would emerge with tons of burrs all over her coat which was a real job to get out. Chase, on the other hand, often clung close to me, following my footsteps with hers and always keeping an eye out for where I was (signs of a submissive type; this pup was following her owner, her leader). Shadow seemed to not care less. In Shadow's mind, she WAS the leader.
The fighting had become much more intense at this stage too. Shadow’s retorts on Chase's playing became more and more vicious sounding and I would intervene, pulling them off of one another. It simply sounded too scary and serious for me. I thought they may hurt each other. I wondered what these unique behaviors meant as far as temperament potentials for when they became full-grown dogs. At the time, it appeared to me that Chase was the instigator of these fights, while Shadow simply became better at ending them. When in reality, as I later discovered, Chase had relentless play on her mind. It was Shadow that turned it into a fight. She was a leader and she was telling her follower to back off. Had Shadow been a more submissive type, she would have resorted to other methods of telling her littermate she did not want to play, other than reacting with vicious behaviors.
This picture shows Shadow dominating Chase in one of their play sessions.
I knew I was going to keep one of the puppies, and I decided on Shadow. It was getting closer to the time that Chase was going home to live with her new owners. I knew I had to say goodbye to Chase and my heart was breaking. Luckily, I knew the buyers. They are neighbors of mine, and live on the same street. This made saying goodbye much easier because I knew we'd see her again, fairly regularly.
At eight weeks of age, Chase was collected by her new family. Randy, the new owner, was very impressed with how well she already walked on a leash, was used to the crate, and was able to relieve herself as soon as she walked outside to the specified areas. Some puppies still need to be taught this after purchase, but luckily I worked on these girls from the moment they could walk outside.
Randy had a terrible time the first few nights. Chase, needless to say, was very homesick for Shadow and her normal home. But with the help of his young Rottie, Holly, Chase moved through this stage with relative ease. She has an extreme attachment to the Rottie to this day.
Meadow, the pup’s mother, never behaved dominantly. She was more like Chase. I thought I needn't study the work of a dog behaviorist such as Cesar Millan because she never showed any signs of aggression. I did, however, have a problem with her pulling on the leash. I started to read about the way Cesar gets a dog to walk nicely on a lead. That's when I learned that I had a future problem on my hands with Shadow. All the things I had been warned about had begun to become true. Shadow's dominance was in fact starting to turn into aggression at more regular times.
Both dogs are exercised daily, but Chase is exercised more. We continued to get the pups together. When they would see each other, the play sessions resume as if they never left one another. I have trouble with the way Shadow behaves with Chase. Randy thinks it's fine because they are just playing. This is true. But I simply don't like to see my puppy, Shadow, dominating Chase so much and with such determination. I believe it shows a sign of dominance issues, which can easily switch to aggression, arising in the future.
I can do nothing but conclude that my puppy, Shadow, is the dominant one in the litter. She is constantly trying to overpower Chase, and she is the one who starts the fights. Chase seems to be playing during these bouts, but I think Shadow is taking it much more seriously. And the fact that she always has to be on top proves to me that she is dominant. And unless I learn how to handle this type of energy in a large breed dog like the Shiloh Shepherd, she will continue to try to dominate other dogs, and even me. If she believes that she is the most dominant pack member in my household, she will without a doubt cause problems in the future. Dominance always turns into aggression if the dog believes that she is the pack leader. I learned from raising these pups that size of the dog means nothing, and you cannot depend on a specific breed to come with a certain dominancy level. That is to say that just because Shadow is a Shiloh Shepherd does not mean that she will automatically be a submissive type like her mother, Meadow. Meadow was simply born with a different energy level than Shadow. Born within each and every litter there will be the submissive types, the dominant types, and those types in-between. One will never be able to breed out all dominant types. These different energy levels are there because they are animals. Nature says among dogs there must be types that will be leaders, and types that will be followers to make up a stable pack in order for the species to survive. Dogs were born to live in packs by nature. For a pack to survive, there must be an order and the pack must work together for its survival. This is Mother Nature which gives this instinct to the dog. Man cannot remove the animal from Mother Nature.
Both dogs need exercise every day, walking with their owners as the pack leader. In addition, they need discipline, rules to follow, and limits as to what they are allowed to do. Only then can they receive love and affection. Once again, this order follows Mother Nature. Humans cannot change Mother Nature, but rather must follow Mother Nature. It will be especially important for me with a dominant type dog. I learned this from the book I read called "Cesar's Way." I also watched many of his DVDs. Now I believe I know what to do in certain situations that I never knew before. And these new actions on my part are helping Shadow become more balanced and less aggressive.
Shadow had been barking at other dogs when we walked. I have learned to immediately correct this behavior and now she is much less aggressive. Sometimes she doesn't even notice the other dogs. I try to catch her when she first shows signs of looking like she MAY bark. I want a calm and submissive dog. I don't want a dog that is unpredictable and vicious. I have found Cesar Millan resources to be invaluable help for Shadow's dominance issues with other dogs AND here at home. However, there still is a problem with dominance over Chase when we get the dogs together. I will continue to work on this issue with her sister.
The mother and father of these pups were both of sound temperament. Even a dominant type can be kept in a calm, submissive state of mind. This is all done very humanely, no yelling, no hitting. The owner needs to understand how to act like a canine pack leader, communicating with their dog in a way dogs can understand. They need to know how to read their dogs and know when to correct the dog and when not to. Timing is everything when you are communicating with a dog. It is the responsibility of the dog's owner to seek professional help and become educated in how to handle the issue, or a powerful breed like the German Shepherd Dog or the Shiloh Shepherd may become a dangerous problem the owner never expected. Little dogs have the same issues, even more so, as humans tend to see less of a reason to correct bad behavior in small dogs. It's simply a fact that larger dogs cause more damage, however, small dogs need owners who follow these guidelines just as much as large breed dogs.
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