Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mouthfuls of Hair

The relationship between Remy and Kirby is still under negotiation. From day one, Kirby has been remarkably tolerant of Remy. Kirby wants to play and always comes over when Remy comes out of his crate, but I think Remy is a little more gonzo-puppy than Kirby wants to handle most of the time. Remy, who is now 11 weeks old and growing like a weed, is relentless in his attempts to tackle Kirby. He seems to think that pouncing on Kirby from behind and proceeding to grab and twist wads of Kirby's long hair is great fun. Kirby has always enjoyed a good wrestle as much as the next dog, but he's never encountered such a hair-puller. And the fact that Remy is now the same height as Kirby adds a whole different dimension to the puppy attack.

Remy has learned "leave it!" and is now very good at NOT chewing our shoes, rugs, etc. Amazing how quickly he learned those house rules (I hope this sticks). The one "leave it" he does not listen to is about Kirby. I take that back, if we are standing right next to both of them and we catch Remy just about to pounce, a forceful "leave it" tends to make him abort the attack. But if we look away for one second, it's hair-pulling time.

All this makes me feel a bit sorry for Kirby, but it bears remembering that when we brought Kirby home as a puppy six years ago he was absolutely relentless in his attacks on Baxter. But at the time, Kirby barely came up to Baxter's knees so his ability to de-beard his big brother was limited to a few jump-and-grabs. Baxter was remarkably tolerant of Kirby, even though he wasn't particularly happy to have him around for the first few weeks. He would even lie down so that Kirby could wrestle with him. We always treated Baxter as the elder (he was seven when we introduced Kirby as a puppy) and, from our perspective at least, Baxter was always the top dog. But that didn't stop Kirby from attempting dominance over Baxter for the next six years. He would steal Baxter's toys (Baxter always let him) and Kirby would attempt to climb on top of Baxter when the big guy was sleeping. We sometimes called Kirby "Little Napoleon" for his big attitude.

Perhaps due to this upbringing and Baxter's gentle nature, Kirby has always been fearless around big dogs. When we were first thinking about getting another Griff puppy and took Kirby over to visit with some adult Griffs, he attempted to dominate all of them, even the intact adult male. So our biggest concern about bringing a puppy into the house was that Kirby might be a little rough with the puppy.

Much to our surprise, the opposite has been true. Kirby's immediate reaction, when we introduced them in the motel room that first night, was to hide under the bed. He growled and let Remy know that the underbed was Kirby's realm. But when we got home, the sacred under-sofa realm of Kirby was immediately violated by Remy and, much to our surprise, Kirby didn't defend it very assertively at all. He growled, but never laid a tooth on the puppy, even when Remy was chewing on Kirby's ears, moustache and tail. When Remy pounces on him now Kirby always looks up at us with the same "please help me" look Baxter used to give us when Kirby (or our toddler neice) had hold of his moustache. And when Remy latches onto the scruff of hair on the back of Kirby's neck and won't let go, Kirby hardly fights back.

Right now they're close to the same size (Kirby weighs more and is a lot stronger, but Remy is taller and more agile).  It won't be long before Remy is too big to fit under the sofa, so Kirby will get his safe haven back. For now, though, we've had to gate the stairs and give Kirby the upstairs during the times Remy is out of his crate. Sometimes Kirby sits at the gate and begs to come out and play. This lasts all of five minutes before he's had enough of Remy's antics and Kirby asks to go upstairs again.

Concerned over how much we should intervene, I posted the question to the Griffology group on Facebook (a group of people who share their photos, stories, trials and joys of living with Griffs) to ask for advice. Some said to let the two dogs duke it out (within reason). Some said Kirby was just giving Remy a pass because he recognizes that Remy is a puppy and once he gets older, Kirby will be a bit more assertive with him. Some said we need to pull Remy off when he gets too rough with Kirby and assert our human dominance, keeping the puppy as the low dog in the pack. What we've ended up doing is a combination of those things. Sometimes, as one person suggested, we just keep a leash on Remy and use it to pull him back when he's trying to jump on Kirby (this is much to Remy's frustration and Kirby's relief).

We have achieved detente on a limited basis. The one time they will lie down side by side is when they both have a giant rawhide roll to chew on. But that can only be for short, supervised periods before someone (usually Kirby) rips off a chunk and tries to swallow it. Remy still has little baby teeth, so it takes him a lot longer...

I look forward to the day when these two can play together and sleep curled up next to each other. I know Kirby would like that. He always wanted to cuddle up next to Baxter and kept trying even when Baxter wasn't particularly interested. I honestly think he would do it with Remy right now, if the little guy would just give him a break.

Patience Kirby. Patience.

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