Is Frankie looking for a game?

Frankie is perverse.

No sooner did I post last week about how it was okay that Frankie didn’t show any interest in other dogs, then what does he do but show interest in another dog. It’s like he knew I had written off his doggie social skills and wanted to prove me wrong.

This was not a new dog that moved him out of his comfort zone, mind you, or a female in heat, but a 13-year-old male miniature poodle named Latte whom we often see on the trail. Frankie usually does his shy-away shuffle when we run into Latte, but suddenly on Sunday he was terribly interested in sniffing his butt. Not once, not twice, but three times, as though determined to show me this enthusiasm for greeting wasn’t an aberration.

It was more concentrated butt sniffing than I’ve seen Frankie do in the entire time he’s been with me.

I told our trainer, Crystal, about it. She was unimpressed. “Maybe Latte ate something really interesting,” she said. What might that have been? Wild boar? Hebrew National franks? Latte is 13, not to mention a miniature poodle. His owner is unlikely to have changed his diet dramatically.

I also find it hard to believe that no other dog we’ve encountered has ever dined on anything sufficiently enticing before.

Perhaps Frankie is looking to round up a group of guys of his own age and skill level for a poker game.

Or, in true terrier fashion, Frankie was being perverse.

21 thoughts on “Training Tuesdays: Suddenly social?”

  1. My dogs aren’t overly consistent. Sometimes they are super interested in meeting other dogs, sometimes not. And just when I think I know which dogs they will like, they change it πŸ™‚

    1. Those pups! Just when you think you’re finally figuring them out they pull a bait and switch….

  2. hahahahah. When did I expect I would be reading a dog/blog because I knew I was sure to get a good laugh?! These are getting funnier and funnier~. And Frankie definitely is getting to be a yonker-wonker. He reminds me of the father character on Everybody Loves Raymond, or some version thereof.

    1. Why thank you, Diane. I’m happy to hear I’ve successfully conveyed Frankie’s devilish — or curmudgeonly — character.

  3. Ah the law of parsimony. It can be such a drag! The law of parsimony states that when given a question, the most scientific explanation is most likely the simplest unless there are data to suggest otherwise.

    Not being there when Frankie sniffed Latte’s rear, the scientist in me has go with the most parsimonious answer. I have a dog-reactive dog named Lola. She can get along with some dogs (SOME being the operative word here), but mostly she just wants any other new dog to go away. Does that mean that Lola won’t engage in some butt sniffing? No, but if I see her especially interested in a certain dog, my mind immediately goes to the most parsimonious answer- that this particular dog has a very interesting odor. Whether that is due to where the dog spent their day, what they ate, or their general overall condition- we will probably never know!

    However, if Frankie’s butt sniffing becomes a pattern with Latte for several encounters over a period of several days or even weeks- then the evidence will suggest the less parsimonious answer- that this little anti-socialite is on a path toward becoming a social butterfly. Now how sweet would that be!

    For the record, it doesn’t matter much why Frankie is sniffing, if the act itself is reinforcing for any reason, he is likely to do it again. If he continues to sniff, other dogs are going to be more friendly toward him which if reciprocated by Frankie will take on a life of its own that will shape Frankie to become more affiliative. However, if Frankie was butt sniffing due to a new or different odor- and that odor disappears- the reinforcement for butt sniffing will go away as well.

    Let’s keep our fingers (and paws) crossed!
    Crystal Saling, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP

    1. Crystal, since we’re talking science — and not my writerly fantasies — I should add some data. Latte did not respond to Frankie; in a role reversal, since it’s generally Frankie who does this, Latte pretty much ignored him. So I don’t know whether that was reinforcing or not. I will say that we saw Angel, the other miniature poodle of Frankie’s acquaintance, earlier today, and Frankie didn’t attempt to socialize, so it’s definitely not a breed attraction.

      And then of course there was that counter-counter conditioning with the burrs in the park and the sound of the tow truck in my backyard that probably squelched any nascent social urges… But that’s another post.

      1. I think that ignoring him COULD actually be reinforcing. This is often a calming signal. When Jasmine encounters a shy or fearful dog, she will pretend there is no dog anywhere within 100 miles. She’d go aside to sniff something interesting on the ground. This “I’m no threat to you” gets through quite quickly when she does it and the other dog soon goes over to sniff her butt. She then knows the exact right timing to sniff him a bit too. Few minutes later they will be playing or interacting happily.

        I can’t know whether Latte did that for Frankie’s benefit, but he well might have. This in itself WOULD be reinforcement for Frankie.

      2. Latte did react: he let Frankie sniff. As Neil Peart said, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

        I’m with Crystal – one sniff does not a trend make. This is animal behavior, not the stock market. πŸ™‚

        It is very nice to see though. His curiosity over…whatever…overcame his cautiousness, he indulged, and he didn’t get clocked for it. The next time he may be more apt to take a chance.

  4. Too cute! I can say my dog will eat just about anything including bird feathers I pulled out of his mouth last week. Gag.

    1. Well, if it’s any consolation, all that dietary variety probably makes your dog very appealing indeed to discerning butt sniffers.

  5. LOL Keeping you on your toes! πŸ™‚

    I think it potentially could a breakthrough in making. I think I would have them meet some time soon again to see what happens.

    I too agree that he probably didn’t have Hebrew National franks for lunch πŸ™‚ And agree that some other dogs you met over time might have.

    To me any changes are always of note.

  6. Now a moment of pedantry: we rhetoricians know the principle of parsimony as Ockham’s Razor, the opponents of which formulated an anti-razor stating that where simple explanations don’t suffice, posit more! In today’s case, I posit that Frankie’s non-butt-sniffing may not indicate that the butt-sniffing was anomalous, but that today he was distracted by burrs. Poor Archie is a magnet for them, having the same coat as Frankie, and the irritation and pain they cause distract him from all his usual extremely social behaviors…so keep hope alive!

  7. Boy, do I have astute — not to mention erudite — commenters! The law of parsimony, Ockham’s Razor, anti-razors…

    I will of course defer to those who know far more about dog behavior than I do, i.e., besides Crystal, Jana and Eric (who raised the level of discourse to include ethics). Whew.

    I should add that the always-erudite Clare was privy to some inside information, i.e., that I was still pulling and cutting the burrs that Frankie got tangled in yesterday out of his hair today and that this fact might have had an impact on the encounter with Angel this morning.

  8. Well, what ever the reason, at least it was a polite sniff that ended well.

    Lilly will get all wiggly and show interest in other dogs, then still SNARK at them when they respond in kind. Talk about bait and switch!

    She is the queen of mixed signals. That’s why we continue to follow a no-visiting rule in public. That way she never wonders if she has to meet this dog or that dog. Unless it’s in a formal behavior mod situation, she doesn’t have to interact with other dogs.

    That’s not to say we don’t get rushed by overly friendly or rude dogs, but we try to avoid them.

    1. Although it must be frustrating to observe Lilly’s behavior, in a way it’s kind of a relief to know that we’re not the only one who offer mixed signals to our dogs. Not every dog is a master of direct communication to her peers!

  9. It’s interesting that you’d given up on social behavior on Frankie when this occurred, isn’t it?

    Perhaps your lack of attention or worry about the circumstance of Frankie meeting another dog had something to do with his behavior?

    I’d agree with the trainers that one instance of social behavior is not a trend. However, if you can identify anything that was different about this situation from previous opportunities for social behavior, you may have some clues about what allows Frankie to be comfortable.

    I may be projecting too much as I have certainly found that my behavior influences how my dog and some dogs I walk respond in certain situations. πŸ˜‰ But I do think it’s worth considering whether your relative comfort played a role here.

    1. I don’t think I behaved any differently because Latte is a regular who I know won’t bug Frankie — and also my resignation to his antisocial behavior was just “on paper,” i.e., writing about it articulated what I’d been thinking for a long time.

      I did try to find Latte this morning to see if I could duplicate the experiment. No luck!

  10. I’ll be interested to hear if Frankie develops an on again off again interest in other dogs, if it’s only Latte, or if this was just Frankie just keeping you guessing:)

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