Many people own only one dog at a time, but bird dog owners tend to live in multiple-dog households.
There’s a good reason for that. It’s not uncommon to have one dog near retirement from hunting, a dependable hunting dog, and another one just becoming reliable in those endeavors. And often a puppy. That way you always have a reliable hunting dog to use during bird hunting season, which in Maine is from Oct. 1 until Dec. 31.
I’ve owned as many as four Brittany dogs at once, but my population has swelled beyond that on occasion. It’s easy to keep track of the dynamics between just two dogs, but add a third or a fourth or more, and it’s a whole different situation. More than two dogs is not a multiple-dog household. It’s a pack, and I’m the leader.
Body language can be very tricky. What may look like just playing can actually be the beginning of a canine “discussion” about who is in charge. I am especially mindful of how my unneutered male Brittany dogs interact with each other. They are both rather passive guys, but they are father and son, so there is the older dog-younger dog-in-his-prime dynamic to monitor.
Packs have a hierarchy, and a pack whose members understand their positions is well-balanced and happy, and can easily absorb other dogs temporarily.
In my little pack, Sassy has always been queen among the dogs. Doesn’t matter what other dogs come in, even briefly, she wears the crown. I have seen Sassy only once agree to disagree with a dog — another female — that visited our house and would not acquiesce to Sassy’s royal position in the pack. She has never given in, even at 12 years old.
My other female Brittany dog Thistle (2011-2018) kept testing Sassy’s mettle, but my older girl always prevailed in this battle of wills waged through body language. My male dogs Bullet and Quincy are happy to let Sassy be in charge. I consider the boys to be middle-of-the-pack types.
I, of course, must be and am the sovereign ruler of the pack and have learned to use my powers to keep some semblance of order. If I don’t take ownership of the leader role, I know Sassy will. Believe me, that would not be a good thing. She has some pretty strong ideas that do not jibe well with mine. In Sassy’s world, human rules of conduct, possession and timing are stupid.
There are different tools I use to maintain order in my pack.
As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle...
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