There Are No Alpha Dogs Here

Rock and Candi
Rock and Candi

My family and I love to watch the interactions and negotiations that go on between our two Labrador Retrievers, Rock and Candi. Their relationship has changed and evolved over time. We have had them since they were 4 months (Candi) and 3 months (Rock).  They both just celebrated their one year birth days on February 14 (Candi) and March 1 (Rock).

The way they coexist depends a lot upon their history, size, and personality, that is if you think a dog can have a personality. I definitely do. Candi, the female, is the oldest. On first glance, she seems to be somewhat timid, subdued, and even aloof at times. Rock comes off as the boisterous one in need of attention in the form of hugs, pats, rubs, etc. Technically Candi started out as the bigger one in terms of size and length, although on appearance she seemed to be smaller. She is leaner, which, I thinkg gave the impression that she was smaller. That Candi would be laid back and Rock, somewhat high strung was our initial assessment when we signed the adoption papers. Not so. Not so.

Candi turned out to be more excitable as a new puppy. She made the most noise in the morning alerting us to the need to go potty. Her little hips and tail wagged the most when greeting us, so much so, that her back paws twisted as if she was doing the twist.  For the first couple of weeks, she was the one who tinkled a little, with the excitement, as puppies are wont to do. All in all she started out as the most high strung. She also proved to be the alpha dog, or the one who showed the most dominance. If Rock came close to her food bowl or attempted to compete with her for a treat or chew toy, she was the one who would growl at him and bare teeth.

Overtime as Rock grew bigger in size, he began to assert his dominance by challenging Candi for those same treasured items. He also started with the humping. Interestingly, she would try to hump him too, to assert her dominance. That is funny to watch because she leaner and smaller. I think he began to learn that he could use his size to assert power. Candi started to give in. We began to see Rock as the alpha. This did not last long. Candi began to reassert herself. She loves to play with Rock. While Rock loves fetching, Candi loves to be chased. Instead of trying to fetch the ball, she will, instead, go after Rock while he is trying to fetch the ball, stick, or frisbee. It is fun to watch her tackle him and try to take him down. Candi would much rather have Rock chase her than some object.

In the evening while we are watching TV, they both settle down on their pillows. We noticed a practice of Rock’s that really intrigued us. He will sit directly across from Candi and  stare at her. Then he will growl some and make these sounds, similar to the sound a human makes when yawning loudly. He will move closer to her and then take one paw and start tapping her on the face and head. He will then change paws and tap with that one. To witness this is to see a very peculiar site. Candi will sit there, look at him and then nip at his paw or turn over as if in submission. As of late, she has started to strike at him as if to warn him to stop. We have noticed her go through this same ritual, but not as often.

Another peculiar interaction occurs when they notice other dogs walking down the street from the vantage point of our family room window. This also occurs when seeing the dog that lives behind us. They both will begin barking. Candi will run from window to window or from on end of the fence to the other. She will alternate between barking and this coughing like sound. Rock will bark also, but strangely he will also start barking at Candi. She then will commence barking at him. It looks as if he is jealous of whatever she is “saying” to the other dogs and wants her to stop. She seems to be telling him to lay off.

They are an interesting pair to watch at the dog park. Candi is more confident while Rock is the more timid. You would think the opposite would be true based on how they act when on a leash with the gentle leader.  While on the leash, when Rock sees a dog he begins to jump and want to approach. When at the dog park, he stays near us or Candi. However, Candi is the reverse. She is more timid on the gentle leader. At the dog park, unleashed, she literally runs with the big dogs. She is as my husband says, ” a scrappy girl.”  No time is wasted letting the other dogs know not to mess with her. If they show any inkling of trying to mount her or any other dominant behavior, she snaps and scares them off.

Rock and Candi are like ying and yang. Neither is dominant over the other 100% of the time. They are constantly negotiating their space and terms of engagment. Sometimes Rock prevails and at other times Candi does. It is clear that they are pretty much inseparable. They make a great team.  I could go on and on about these two. They are an important part of our family.


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