One thing I really appreciate about Bowpi is how completely stress-free she is (for me) when socializing with other dogs. I have never worried that she will react inappropriately, violate anyone’s personal boundaries, or start something she can’t handle.
She has a knack for putting most other dogs at ease, and charming and engaging playful ones.
She plays best with dogs that are a similar size.
And while she will play with larger dogs, they tend to overwhelm her fairly easily.
I have noticed in recent months — and been able to capture on camera — that she does know how to assert herself, at least with non-Basenjis. If bigger dogs rush her or come on too strong, she will make faces or bat them off.
Just the lightest, quickest curl of the lip is usually enough to stop onrushing young dogs with too much playful energy, like the long-haired German Shepherd below.
I think she only pulls these faces when the other dog isn’t actually aggressive, just too exuberant for her preference. When she’s truly scared, she’s usually a lot more stiff, in contrast to the loose, playful bats she offers this young pup who was getting a little too mouthy for her liking.
I can probably count the total number of well-matched play pals in Bowdu’s entire life on two hands.
This is one of them.
When we first met Ah Su the Taiwan tugou several months ago, he caught our attention because he looked suspiciously like a Shiba mix. It’s definitely a possibility, given the popularity of Shibas in Taiwan. He has quite a slender build and relatively elongated form, though.
Ah Su was willing to play rough with Bowdu, rising to the challenge of his smack talk. Bowdu is really vocal when he plays, and he gets too intense too quickly for most other dogs who don’t seem to understand his body language.
But, like last time, Ah Su instantly connected with him.
There was a lot of butt-grabbing and mutual body-checking. I thought it was interesting that Bowdu actually let him get away with clutching his rump, but it seemed clear that this was done in the context of play, since Ah Su wasn’t actually humping him. Bowdu kept dropping and rolling to shake or kick him loose, but then he’d reengage by whipping the weight of his back end against Ah Su’s side. They truly made for a strange pair, especially with all of Bowdu’s growling.
Our tough guy was rather easily winded. He seldom gets the chance to exert himself like this with other dogs.
Before they parted ways, Bowdu had to get one final “word” in.
We’ll see you around, Ah Su!
In a conversation with another Basenji owner at the dog park, she asked, “How’s the pit bull population here?” As in, the park. It was her first visit.
Without hesitating, I answered, “High.”
And I added, “But the vast majority of pit bull owners that come here know what they’re doing. They’re here to socialize their dogs, and we haven’t really had any problems with them. We run into several every time we’re here.”
These big dogs that we met on Thanksgiving are a case in point. I started watching them because all three were extremely vocal, mouthy dogs. They were growling and pummeling each other as soon as they met. But even though they sounded vicious, it was clear that they were just playing. It helped that all three were pretty well matched, and as a bonus, their people were right there watching them the whole time.
Raider, the black and white pit on the left, was in the middle of it all and having loads of tongue-flapping fun. Every now and then, Max the Mastiff would be pulled aside when his people sensed he was getting overstimulated. He lives with the brindle Chester, and while the two play very well with each other, they supposedly have a tendency to gang up on other dogs, especially when the play gets rough.
Bowdu wanted to cut in and referee at points, but the big dogs paid him no mind. In the below shot, Max is in time out, but Raider and Chester just knocked into him, causing him to twist against his collar and make Bowdu jump backwards. It looks awkward, but everything was under control.
See? Back to playplayplay.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to handle dogs this large and energetic, but it’s definitely nice to admire them from afar.
And up close, too!
We’ve run into Louie, an Italian Greyhound, a few times with similar results: Louie comes skipping towards Bowpi, jabs his pointy snout into her crotch, and causes her to yelp and scamper away. Absolutely aghast that any bella donna could reject him, Louie will follow Bowpi until she starts nipping at him. Eventually we’ll fall away from Louie’s pack, allowing Bowpi to recompose herself.
Apparently, that’s how the routine goes on the other side of the bridge. But when Louie and Bowpi met on the grassy half of the dog park, she responded a bit differently. Though she put up some initial resistance …
… she finally succumbed to his wiles.
BIG Deerhound brother intervention: Oh c’mon kids, have you no decency? We’re in public!
Yup, Louie’s a real ladykiller. Sweeps ‘em off their feet, toys with ‘em for a bit, then leaves ‘em swooning in the grass.
Though I’m having trouble pulling myself back into a school year frame of mind, things have quickly gone back to normal for the Bows. Since the Doggy Daddy doesn’t drive, they missed out on their daily dog park visits while I was gone. However, both of their skin irritations improved steadily in my absence. Hmmm…
I hate to admit it, but it seems pretty clear that the outdoors that we all love so much does contribute to their allergic flareups.
So it’s some kind of trade-off. Quality of life versus perfect skin? As long as we can keep things in control, I think they’d rather have their visits to the dog parks.
Here is a handsome pair of Whippet brothers whom we frequently run into. I love how prominent Bowpi’s ridge appears as she anticipates their approach.
A curious, gentle muzzle in her face…
They stand quite a bit taller than Bowpi, though they don’t seem that much bigger.
I think she was playing it safe this time, as she had gotten overzealous the last time she initiated play with another sighthound. Just a couple days ago, we ran into our Sloughi friend at another dog park. Bowpi was the one who actually goaded the Sloughi into a game of chase, but there’s no way she could have outrun the leggy young dog. She accidentally got trampled at one point, shrieking in fright.
(Warning: loud wind in the video — turn down your speakers if you find it as annoying as I do.)
Video taken 18 August 2011
As soon as Bowpi tapped out, the Sloughi diverted his attentions to a larger German Shepherd in the vicinity. Bowpi took a second to collect herself, but she went trotting off right after them again. She’s funny in that she gets overwhelmed easily, but rebounds quickly and will carry right on as if nothing happened.
We’ve never forced the Two Bows to physically interact, except for group walks or car rides. They’ve pretty much always been free to determine their own space in relation to each other, to be as close or as distant as mutually permitted.
But I think they’re learning.
Video from 8 March 2011
Haltingly. Awkwardly. They’re learning to speak each other’s [body] language.
I think we could all use a master decoder, though…
Video taken 30 December 2010
After nine months together, this is the most that Bowpi has ever tried to play with Bowdu. Those of you with rambunctious puppies and dogs that tumble all over the house are going to watch this video and say Uh, so what?
Well, it’s a big deal to me. It’s a big deal for both of them, too.
The most they usually do is take naps on the futon together (without touching), or get really excited and circle and bump each other when it’s time to go to the park or when someone comes home. But they don’t really interact.
Bowdu seldom plays properly, preferring to roughhouse and play tug-of-war with blankets and ropes with the humans — these are totally NOT Bowpi’s games. So when she reached out to “bop” him on the head and he responded with a playful bounce, this was a new level of engagement for both of them. This continued for half a minute before and after the video, but they didn’t keep it up before parting directions again.
Bowpi is shaking and throwing all sorts of nervous/calming signals (like the sneeze) because I think she’s usually a little afraid of Bowdu, who is very vocal when he plays, at the same time that she WANTS to be accepted by him. Actually, she behaves the same way, reaching out with her paws to me or the Doggy Daddy when we come home. She stretches her forelegs towards us, and then we pet her, and she quivers a little with excitement with her ears pinned back. Then she spins in a tight little circle and reaches out again for more attention.
Sure, other dogs will paw at you for attention. Bowdu does this too, sometimes. But sometimes I think Bowpi’s really using those front legs as arms — which the Doggy Daddy had to remind me, dogs don’t really have…