Sunday, June 26, 2011

New Kid on the Block

His name is Mr. Stubbs and we estimate him to be a year and a half old. He's missing a tooth and nearly half his tail. A beautiful animal we thought might possibly be a Carolina Dog. A little over three months ago he decided to visit Cheatham County Animal Control for food. Eventually, he came in. No owner. Wild-caught as it were. The first time I visited, he was calm, he knew the "Let's Go Outside" routine. He didn't bark. He didn't jump. He watched what you did and acted accordingly. He marked certain spots outside. He paid attention to his surroundings using his eyes, ears & nose. He wasn't difficult. Didn't require controlling or anything of that sort. He seemed content and confident. Didn't mind that I had the leash and went with me. I was pretty sure if I took the leash off, he would naturally heel and follow me wherever I went. You would probably describe him as a perfect gentlemen. I visited a second time, with my husband. We took him out for another walk, checked out his tail. We talked about his looks and his behavior. We talked to the Animal Control about his history, verifying that he voluntarily came in. We examined his tail to determine whether it short through natural birth or some later accident. Then we contacted Rachel Nagher, a master's degree student studying Carolina Dog populations under Dr. Brisban at the Savannah River Ecology Lab, who first identified the Carolina Dog in the wild. Eventually Ms. Nagher helped us with on-site verification and we have brought Mr. Stubbs to Mule Shoe Farm to be fostered with the other Carolina Dogs.

This put Mr. Stubbs in the middle of the changing pack dynamics between Wodi, Dora and Carmel. How would his presence affect the relationships of the females? I took him around to be greeted by the males and let the females had their initial look at him. Carmel greeted him with barking, fur raised all along her spine and growling with bared teeth. Wodi and Dora touched noses, sniffed him, let him sniff them in a limited fashion but no aggression that was obvious enough to note. Carmel was having none of this new dog. We put him on a thirty foot run with a twenty foot cable, close enough to the house to observe him, yet out of the front yard territory we have previously observed in the Wodi/Dora dynamics of the past few weeks. Carmel repeatedly charged him, fur raised, bared teeth snarling and growling. He was non-plussed. After the fourth or fifth foray by Carmel, he turned his behind to her and spaced his hind feet fairly far apart and stood there. Letting her run at him repeatedly. She never touched him. Never got close enough or quiet enough to sniff him. At one point Wodi, went up to Stubbs' hindquarters as if to show Carmel how it's done. She surprised the heck out of Mr. Stubbs when her wet nose touched him, but everything between the two of them was quite cordial. Carmel kept on. Eventually we all went inside to discuss the day's events and after an hour or so, Carmel's forays became less rapid and seemed to stop. Sometime in the middle of the night or very early morning, I woke up to the realization that the females were barking their guarding bark they have and it was quite bit closer to the house than usual. When I peeked out the window, Mr. Stubbs was trying to come into the front yard. He had slipped his collar and the females, all three together were preventing him from doing so. Carmel was leading the "charge" as it were. Once he was put back on his line in his proper spot and the collar adjusted, everything settled down to normal and the night was quiet.

Now all three females are back on the porch together. Wodi and Carmel usually sleep together and Dora is not far away. Dora is certainly not banished from the pack at the moment. Saturday morning saw Wodi & Carmel in the whelping box and Dora sleeping in front of the door. Sunday morning saw Dora in the whelping box and Wodi with Carmel under the car. There has been no aggression toward Dora that we have observed since Mr. Stubbs arrived. We will continue to keep an eye on the situation to see how it evolves over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Three Days in a New Territory

This morning, Hunter fed the dogs and the goat. This is how it happened today.

Hunter fed Wodi and Carmel first in the front yard. After they were fed, Dora followed him to Yellow Boy who lives in the field in front of the house. When he returned toward the house, Dora showed hesitation in entering the "Front of the House" Territory. Hunter explained it was as if she was following an agreed upon line. Wodi ambled up with Carmel while Dora was trying to get through as quickly as possible on the northeast side of the house. There is only a nine foot clearance between the house and the hill on that side and it is the side where the puppy den has been for the last three litters.

When Hunter turned the corner toward the "Back of the House" Territory, Wodi followed and waited on the back porch, seemingly for food to be dropped. Hunter didn't put any food out and momentarily, Wodi ran off toward the woods. Carmel stayed behind but so far from Dora's feeding spot that she wasn't a threat.

Dora went to her feeding spot and once the other two dogs were not observing, Hunter put out her food. Next time he feeds he will try passing on the southwest side of the house where there is more space, to get from the front to the back. We will see how than impacts the territories negotiation for the three girls.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Changing Places

This past week saw a change in the porch population. Around Tuesday or Wednesday, we noticed Dora wasn't around in the morning. Dora is the blond juvenile on the right in the photo. The red female is Wodi, Dora's mother.

For several months now, Wodi has been the alpha and Dora, the beta, with Carmel, as the omega female. Dora and Wodi took the top of the porch and Carmel hid under the house. We've gotten used to this arrangement.

When we noticed Dora was gone, we figured she was out hunting. When we didn't see her the next day, we started calling her. Lo and behold, she was hiding up in the brush on the hillside to the left of the house about 300 feet away. She wouldn't approach the porch and I had to feed her away from the others. They would "school" her whenever she got close to them.

There is a shift in pack rank going on. Dora was skinny and covered in ticks on Friday. She took a trip with Wodi and Carmel to the local Animal Control office to help the staff identify Carolina Dogs that may show up. Two males we looked at both tried to mount the girls. A sure sign someone might be in heat soon. Neither male comes here because either one would cause a heat cycle for the alpha female, Wodi. Neither male has been verified as a Carolina Dog, either. The beta female, Dora could also be in heat but not show signs. This could be a reason the pack dynamic is changing.
Carmel has come out from under the house and is her mother's constant companion two days later. She is only 5 months old and thus not a threat to the alpha status. Our pack management question becomes what to do with Dora to not excessively interfere with the natural order of things but also allow her to survive. There is a real possibility that she would perish as the new omega.

Yesterday, I thought about how juveniles in any pack will split off from the main pack at a certain age to form their own groups. Perhaps this is also part of the situation here. I set Dora a double ration near a dog shelter that we are not currently using. This shelter is in the back yard of the house near a wet weather creek that will be dry until late fall. I then placed her food in the creek bed where she would be visually shielded from the other dogs should they decide to look around the side of the house. I tried to set up a situation for Dora to inhabit as her own territory without threatening Wodi's territory.

Yesterday became a turn around day for Dora. She ate and ate well. She no longer looked too skinny. She stopped hiding under the milking table on the back porch (where she had been early in the day) and stretched out on the pavement of the back porch and slept. Not a half awake monitoring sleep that many dogs will do during the day, but a full body, sacked out, long breath deep sleep. She was sleeping in the same area this morning, albeit in a different position.

Today when I fed, Dora accompanied me, careful to keep her distance from Wodi and Carmel. Wodi and Carmel were only interested in the porch territory and did not accompany me on any of my feeding routine. They didn't show any interest in Dora once she went to the side of the house. I fed Dora last. She anticipated where I would go with her food and led me to the exact spot I had fed her yesterday. She had a small pile still there. I added today's food and she immediately commenced eating. This is to be her feeding spot for the time being.

In conclusion, I think the pack rank changed due to Dora's relative age and maturity and this is a natural process to be expected. By providing a safe den area for her to go, she is able to successfully survive and perhaps later have her own family without a challenge to Wodi. What remains to be seen is how long the two home territories; the front and back of the house remain as such and whether we can do the same thing on other spots of our property.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Yesterday, Mercedes went to a new home and today her two sisters were hanging out with Wodi, their mom.
To be more accurate, Crystal was hanging out with mom being groomed and Carmel was sleeping on the porch when I first looked in on them this morning.

Most of the information you read about Carolina dog fur on the web will indicate that because of its characteristic coarseness, the dogs do not have to be groomed much. In short, their coats are self-maintaining. This we have found to be basically true. There is however, a grooming ritual.

Who grooms who may be related to hierarchy. I cannot tell. It is most prevelant amongst the mothers and puppies. I have seen Wodi groom cats who happened to live here. There is not the excessive licking that you see cats do, but rather a nose led exploration of the dog's coat. The dogs make a kind of nibble on various spots. They will often do this to our outstretched hand when we greet them.

In our pack, that nibble might look like a close mouth bite, but it is really just a nibble. Special attention is paid to the ears when grooming which explains to me why their large ears don't require extra maintenance on my part. I think this is what they do to us or try to when we sit down on the steps of the porch. I have also noticed that the males are not typically involved in this activity.

This morning Crystal and Wodi were involved in grooming. Wodi was checking Cystal's coat and ears while Carmel was sleeping on the porch in the favorite orange chair. A little while later, Carmel was up and out with her mother and sister. Wodi was grooming herself and Crystal was grooming Carmel who seemed to be disinterested in this activity. A little bit later Carmel groomed Crystal with the enthusiasm of a 14 year-old cleaning his room. After a half a minute of this, both Carmel and Crystal curled up. Carmel actually closed her eyes and was "sleeping" the way dogs do. Crystal got up and was grooming her again. And she didn't seem to care much. Didn't even open an eyelid.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What's all the fuss?

Came home about 8:30 or so this evening and everything seemed to be normal with the girls on the porch. As we settled in, there seemed to be some commotion amongst the porch community, but didn't seem to be too much. I looked at the 2 of the puppies barking. They were facing the north hillside, and the adults, Wodi and Dora, seemed rather disinterested. Not elaborately feigning disinterest, the ladies were looking at the puppies but not moving from their cozy spots. As time went on, the barking grew more frequent. It was the kind of bark that tells you something is out of the oridnary. It doesn't sound like the hunting bark or the get out of my space bark or any of the other various vocalizations these dogs make.

As the intensity and loudness and particpation in the barking grew, it became impossible to sit still and do nothing. So I from my computer spot and Jim from the TV spot moved toward the door. What we found was the females guarding the porch from one of the male dogs, Hoover. Hoover had twisted his cable until it frayed apart and gone visiting. The girls were not about to let him on the porch. He came up to me readily and although the older ladies settled done abit, the younger pups, especially Carmel a.k.a. Crawfish gave a warning bark from under the porch in her spot she likes. Crystal also growl/barled a warning. We took Hoover back out to his run in the back of the house and emergency repaired his cable so as to keep the peace tonight.

The cable we use for his run is the heavy duty twisted cable for the larest size dog. It is the strongest cable outside of a chain that we can put him on. We learned from experience with our older male that even this strength cable only holds them on their lines just so long. Usually they break it when one of the females is in heat and isn't paying "enough attention" to the male. Through careful observation, we have been able to break the twisted cable cycle. Once a female chooses whichever male she wishes, we put them together in a kennel until her cycle is finished and then everyone goes back to their normal order.

Before we get up in arms about the lack of free movement the males have, let us consider what will happen should one of them or both them be loose. One word. Death. Whichever male is free will attack the unfree one. If both are free then fighting happens at the nearest convenient spot. Hoover and Yellow Boy are evenly matched and would surely kill each other. That would not be a desireable outcome for our pack. So one lives in front of the house, Yellow Boy and one lives in the back of the house, Hoover. Both are on generous runs. Neither can see the other which eliminates the mutual posturing they would do, if they were close enough for visual challenge, not to mention the twisted broken cables that would result. Ideally we would like to securely fence two 10-15 acre sections of property and allow each male their own area and their own pack. We are working on the fenced areas as a long term goal because the fencing requires a fairly sizeable investment of time, money & labor.

Feeding today

Today, Jewel, our youngest, fed the dogs around 11am. I noticed that Dora, Mercedes, & Carmel followed her out to Hoover's spot atthe old elm tree and then followed her back to the front porch. In the big pile of food for the puppies, Wodi & Dora, there was a quick order established. Wodi rolled Dora and then ate with the three youngest puppies: Carmel, Mercedes & Crystal. Dora sat a few feet away on the other side of the front door, ostensibly dozing on the porch.

When I say Wodi rolled Dora, that means she established her dominance by standing over Dora while Dora rolled over an exposed her belly. Since this was a food situation, it is more likely that Wodi snarled at Dora. I actually didn't see the action, but heard the quick yelp and observed Dora sitting by herself.

In about ten minutes, the puppies and Wodi were done feeding. About half the food was still on the porch for later and Dora had moved off to somewhere else.
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