The Pain (and Power) of Shunning

This is Rey

A tan reddish and white corgi winking for the camera

Rey can sometimes be a bit of a snot rocket.  Really she can be a bit of a resource guarder if you want to get all technical.  With other dogs.  She’s lovely with people.  Except she likes to guard them.  From other dogs.  And food, and toys, and places to sleep, and door ways, and water dishes, and you get the idea.

Rey has stayed with us a number of times over the past couple of years.  And she really likes Zora.  REALLY likes Zora.

The last time Rey stayed with us, compared to the times previous, though her resource guarding had gotten much worse.  But her owners were receptive to feedback and they worked with her on it a lot.

So this stay she was really appropriate and not guardy for the first 4 days.  Then Monday came.  With non stop torrential rain for 12 hours.  We didn’t go for a walk.  The dogs napped all day.  Rey was still good.

Until Tuesday.  When she regressed to her old ways.  And guarded the water dish.  And some toys.  And the kitchen table.  And the back door.

Tom decided he wasn’t going to come out of the bedroom until she decided to play nice.  And Zora decided she was going to pretend Rey didn’t exist.

Wednesday found Rey a very sad little red corgi.  Neither Tom nor Zora would acknowledge her.  At all.  She was being shunned to the max.

Rey assumed Zora would want to play their usual morning wrestle game.  Nope, Zora wouldn’t even give her the time of day.

Rey assumed Zora would play their usual chase games in the yard.  Nope, Zora walked right past her without a second glance.

Rey was very confused.  Why don’t they like me anymore?

She came over to me with her sad corgi moves.  “Sorry kid, that’s what happens when you don’t share.  No one likes it.”

Cry “They don’t like me anymore?!”  It is very pitiful when a little brown corgi cries.

She tried all manner of things to get Zora to talk to her again.  Appeasement behaviors.  Wiggling.  Play bows.  Invitations to chase.  Nothing worked.  Zora maintained her position that Rey was not to be acknowledged. (Tom still refused to come out of the bedroom unless he knew Rey was behind a gate).

A full day of being ignored by 2 dogs she likes very much and Rey has gotten herself back on track.

This morning Zora decided to give her another chance.  Rey was delighted.  “She LIKES me again!!”  Racing and wrestling ensued.  Then some sharing of toys.  Happy wiggling.  “Zora likes me again!!!” I’m not sure I’ve seen a dog so relieved in a long while.  “She likes me again!!”

Rey a tan reddish and white corgi with a happy panting look having just had a racing wrestling match with her corgi friend Zora

Zora is more forgiving than Tom, Tom is still saying “brown corgi?  What brown corgi?  No brown corgi here.  Stupid corgis.” Though he as at least decided to come out of the bedroom.  Which is progress.  (Tom really does think corgis are devil spawn.  Zora slightly less so than others, thankfully.  He secretly likes Zora though will never admit it if asked.  Rey he puts squarely in the ‘devil spawn’ category.)


0 thoughts on “The Pain (and Power) of Shunning

  1. I love this. Sometimes with young horses that are bossy or have poor ground manners, they are put out into a paddock with some other horses to give them some education. The other horses, often mares, will soon put the youngster in it’s place and it seems to work wonders for how they are when they come into the barn and are around humans.

    1. That’s really cool! The power of same species education. With dogs, many dogs in my experience don’t have the social skills Tom and Zora have, or at least take different approaches usually involving some level of escalation/confrontation. Which can sometimes (often depending on the nature) backfire, especially with dogs like Rey. Because she cares so much about Zora, Zora shunning her seems to have been super effective. knock on wood. it’s been insanely cool to observe I have to say lol. If people tried to do this wouldn’t work well at all likely. Likely the same with horses.

      1. I think I first heard “being mean won’t keep them keen” in reference to rewarding dogs during training; as in don’t try and make the dog do 20 tricks for a tiny pinky fingernail sized treat. I can relate, I’ve seen people do that, and even maybe a few times myself when running out of treats, haha! (Oops, only one treat left, let’s see what we can do with this, LOL.)

    1. there are often, to any behavior, many sub-types of it happening in other contexts, often to a lesser degree but those behaviors contribute to the coping skills the dog has in their toolbox and threshold to various stressers. So while Rey wasn’t necessarily resource guarding at home, she was doing a number of sub-set behaviors that set her up for being more likely to practice resource guarding once with other dogs. So I had her owners work on a number of skills and practices with those behaviors that were pervasive in the home and other non-dog involved environments. Behavior doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Which is a blessing and a curse 😉

  2. I laughed so hard after I finished reading this article because it is extremely relatable. The same thing also happens among human beings. You are considered as “mean” when you always protect your things from others no matter whether their intentions are good or not. Being mean and selfish is also a great way to destroy any relationship. That is the reason why I see a human being in Rey. She tends to protect his stuff, but he still yearns for attention from his friends. I think this is also an excellent way for pet education. Maybe he does not like to follow our words, but his peers have the ability to teach him how to behave decently. We can clearly see the changes in Rey in this story. He was a mean dog that protected his toys from his friends. Nevertheless, when Zora and Tom ignored him for his behaviors, he actively asks for their attention again. This story has a good ending, by the way. He has gradually realized that sharing is caring, and that makes his friends come back to him.

    1. Thanks for reading and your comment! the nuances of dog on dog communication and social structure are incredibly fascinating. Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

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