More on Puppy Development

By thirty days, the pups are already play-fighting. This is the time when they learn not to hurt and to recognize the squeal of the loser. From that time on, the pups follow their mother everywhere. She corrects them the moment they are too forceful by gently biting their heads. Most bitches are good mothers and do not hurt the pup they correct.

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At eight weeks, the pups are venturing and exploring farther afield. They follow their mother if she goes for a walk. They also follow their humans. When puppies, even from different litters, are raised together in a free environment, they learn to get along with one another without serious fighting and to share food bowls. Later as adults, they will switch from bowl to bowl, without as much as a growl, and continue the ritual they learned as pups of licking one another’s muzzles.

     When the pups are ten to twelve weeks old, they are introduced to the adult dogs. They behave respectfully, show submission and the adults readily accept them. Typically, the pups give a high pitch squeal with a terrified accent if the older dog simply takes a step toward them or makes a lunge to signal he wants a clear space around him. The next moment, the pup licks the adult’s chops and frolic around him, not in the least frightened. Some adult males growl and the pups stay away, at least until they are much bigger.

At close to four months, males begin to jostle each other for dominance. What was until now mock fighting becomes more serious. Sometimes it is obvious which one is dominant. When raised in a pack, fights for dominance among males are purposeful but not severe as long as there is a boss dog. By six months, they have sorted themselves into a hierarchy, and are apparently content with it. Apparently, because now and then a lower ranking dog will challenge the one ahead of him. If it appears a fight is starting, the boss dog falls upon the aggressor and trashes him. The offended squealing can be heard half a mile away. This prompts two reactions from the other dog: either flight or help the boss beat the aggressor, only to regret it as the boss now turns on him. All the other dogs howl their encouragement – or is it regret that they can’t participate? – Peace is restored. The dogs are not hurt.

Females, on the other hand, do not start their dominance fights until the males have settled theirs. There are exceptions. Some females determine their places at the same time as the males. They can be gentle, but more often are persistent in their fights, hanging on her opponent until she yelps with real pain. The boss dog does not intervene and only rarely will jump between them, as he does between males. Frequently, just as the fight appears to be over, one female gives a final vicious bite. In a matter of a few days, the contest is usually reduced to two females who might always remain wary of each other.

It is best not to interfere when young dogs are settling their hierarchy. Nor during training is it a good idea to act as “the master”, despite a widely-held belief that one has to dominate the Inuit dog. Dominance is recognized by the Inuit dog in a fight. It would pre-suppose the “master” having a fight with the dogs. Beating the dogs to a pulp does not achieve it either, and the dogs can turn on “the master” at an unexpected time.

The owner best get the respect of the dogs by being consistent in the training. The respected musher can get the dogs to do anything for him/her by using positive reinforcement and letting the boss dog do his job. All the dogs can learn to obey the voice of their trainer, as long as it is consistent.

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