Video Analysis – The Obnoxious Pup

Here is a fantastic video for our analysis, provided by dog trainer and blogger, Aki Yamaguchi, or “BCNerd” (love the name!). In it you’ll see three dogs, one an adolescent with the typical over enthusiasm for his age. There’s lots I can’t wait to say about what is going on here, but I’m going to tape my mouth shut and let anyone who would like to play use it as an exercise in observing and describing behavior. (Lots of you loved the idea of us watching and analyzing videos together, which I’m thankful for, because I love doing it too.)

If you want to respond with a comment, and I hope you do, I suggest that you include :

1) An objective description of what is happening. Practice making clear, detailed observations about what you are actually seeing. Hold off on making any assumptions about motive until you’ve done this first. Try doing it yourself before reading the comments. Another interesting exercise is to watch it once and write down everything  you see. Then watch it again and notice if you missed something. (It is almost impossible not to first time around…)

2) Make your best guess about what transpired here. Although we can’t possibly ever know what’s going on inside the dog’s heads or what their motives are, it is perfectly reasonable to give it our best shot. Your summary can be very short, a chapter title if you like, but don’t hesitate to add whatever you’d like about motivation or interesting issues that this video brings up. I think this video stimulates some interesting questions about social behavior and cognition in dogs.

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: More unseasonably warm weather. It is much appreciated, since we have several farm chores to do that require the temp to be over 50 F (painting for one). Otherwise, little Polly (not so little anymore) is at the vet clinic recovering from spay surgery, Nellie is trying to figure out how to get over the fence we’ve put around the bird feeders to protect the birds, Tootsie is thrilled with her new “Treasure Hunt” game that sends her off scenting for kibble strewn about a fenced woodland area while Willie and I do the barn chores. This, by the way, is not just for Tootsie’s enjoyment, it is also a management tool to prevent her from gobbling up cat poop in and around the barn. Sigh. It doesn’t “solve” the problem, but it sure manages my way around it, which is almost as good.

I’m easing Willie back on working the sheep now that I’m back home and King Charles is in with the flock. Rams can be extremely aggressive to dogs, and although Willie handled the last ram well, Redford still went after him several times. I’d rather avoid that now while I’m working on getting Willie’s confidence back. A sex-crazed 250 lb. battering ram is something a good dog needs to be able to handle, but I want Willie feeling a lot more confident before he has to face down with an animal with an anvil attached to his neck.

To avoid that, I let Willie move the flock around on the front lawn yesterday, but I took a huge leaf rake with me (the kind that looks like a big fan) and held it vertically at my side. (Recall the Grant Wood painting with farmer and pitchfork, that pretty much was me, except I’m not skinny.) I kept Willie with me, and only asked him to “Walk Up” on the ram when I was walking 20 feet behind him, rake held up over my head like some prehistoric dinosaur. King Charles took one look  in our direction and walked meekly away. I’ll try that one more time and then see how he responds to Willie without my “head gear.” I’ll also use the sorting chute that Jim built me and work Willie on just some of the flock, along with visiting friends with flightier sheep. Wish us luck, he and I were doing so well together when I left for Texas, it feels like we need to get back into the groove…


  1. Karen says

    Objective: Puppy, older dog (lab?) and border collie come up to greet human. Puppy mouths muzzles of border collie, then the lab, then tries to jump towards lab. Border collie blocks puppy from the lab and then appear to stare down the puppy, but all three dogs continue to wag their tails. Puppy stops mouthing and jumping and sniffs at the lab’s groin for a moment. Border collie gives the puppy another pointed look and the puppy turns away, tail no longer wagging. After a moment the puppy turns back towards the human but immediately appears to lay down.

    My best guess: Border collie and lab initially tolerate the puppy’s obnoxious behavior, but when the puppy keeps jumping at the lab, the border collie first body-blocks the puppy and then gives the puppy a look I could best interpret as “Cut it the f*** out.” Puppy shows appeasing behaviors but continues to show interest in the lab by sniffing the dog’s groin. Border collie looks under and gives the puppy another stern look (which I’ll translate as “Think I can’t see you back there? Think again.”) Puppy goes into full appeasement mode, turning its back on both dogs for a few moments. Puppy does turn back around but, still appeasing, appears to lay down immediately so as to avoid any more Looks from the Border Collie Enforcer.

  2. Nathan says

    This is a great example of an adult firmly, but gently, disciplining a puppy! The puppy is excited and oversolicitous–maybe “obnoxiously submissive” captures it–and starts by licking the face of the adult BC, who does her best to ignore it. The pup then goes on to lick the Lab, who in classic Lab fashion is hoping that “maybe if I ignore it, it will go away” (or maybe he’s too focused on the prospect of treats!). The adult BC steps in and body blocks the pup twice–once from the back of the Lab, and once again around the front. The pup responds appropriately, with an averted gaze and then appropriate gentle slow face licks. The pup still can’t help him/herself, though, and starts licking the Lab’s genitals. The adult BC needs only to shoot a stern glance (“What did I tell you?!!”) and the puppy turns away, this time in an exaggerated submission display by turning his/her ENTIRE body around and facing backward.

  3. Anita says

    I’m interested in seeing more comments and what is actually going on. I have a younger male dog who acts like one of these with my older female dog. She only tolerates it for so long and then she gets irritated. I don’t know what to do/how to calm the younger one down.

  4. Arlyn Sigeti-Lucken says

    In simplest terms, the puppy is trying to engage the older Lab, who wants nothing to do with it. The BC obviously thinks the puppy is being obnoxious and a couple of times, intercedes to say, “Knock it off!” Finally, the puppy says, “Ok, I guess when you put it that way, I”ll stop and try to be nice.”

  5. Cameron says

    Observation: It appears the puppy is greeting the human and the two older dogs have either noticed or have been called by the human and come over to greet as well. The puppy becomes excited to interact with the other dogs, and begins mouthing their muzzles, jumping up (being an obnoxious puppy). The border collie ignores behavior then eventually places himself between the lab and the puppy and gives some sort of warning/correction to the puppy (appears to be visual but could possibly be verbal). Puppy immediately begins to lay down, tail lowered – but still wagging, ears against head. Puppy is still interested in lab and begins sniffing groan area until Border Collie notices and give another glance. Puppy stops and observes something else in the yard until it notices the human again. All dogs have tail wags during the interaction.

    Guess: The dogs come over to greet the human and the puppy gets excited about the attention and possibility for play. The older dogs are tolerant and used to the puppy, but at that moment they are more interested in the human. Once the puppy becomes “obnoxious” or overly excited towards the Lab, the Border Collie appears to give a correction (visual/possible verbal) and the puppy tries to appease the Border Collie with certain behaviors. However, the puppy is still eager to attract the attention of the Lab and begins sniffing the groin area until the Border Collie notices and give another glance (possible verbal correction). Puppy then appears to look away and avoid eye contact (ears still laid down) until he returns to lay down by the other dogs in front of the human.
    This looks like a group of canines that live together and play frequently. The older dogs are tolerant of the puppy but still from time to time must reprimand him and teach him “correct/appropriate” levels of play they are willing to endure.

  6. Jane says

    It appears that the two older dogs are coming to, and are interested in the person filming. The young dog appears oblivious to the person and is trying to engage the two older dogs in play…and is being a little obnoxious. Both older dogs give the adolescent the message that they aren’t interested in playing right now, but he persists with the Lab dog. The older BC is stepping in and correcting the young dog, getting him to leave the Lab alone with “space pressure” and facial/ head signals. The young dog gets the message from the BC, and settles down.

  7. Carolyn says

    This was fun. I took the clip second by second and wrote down what I saw. I have about 2 handwritten pages of notes, so I won’t bore anyone. The funniest thing was that my first note for most seconds says “Dog 2 (the Lab) same.” But that is a Retriever for you, a riot can break out around them and they really don’t care.

    My description would be (attempting not to interpret) that a puppy (pup) is muzzle biting an older dog (Border Collie (Dog 1)). A second dog (Lab (Dog 2)) comes to the front of the picture and the pup begins to jump at his face and lick his mouth. Dog 1 moves between the puppy and dog two and the puppy moves away. The puppy once again begins to jump at Dog 2 and lick (?) at his muzzle. Dog 1 moves muzzle close to the pup and the pup turns away. Then pup starts sniffing Dog 2’s groin for 5 seconds. Dog one turns toward and looks at the pup and the pup turns away and spends next five seconds looking away while dog 1 looks toward person (?) with camera. Oh by the way, throughout the whole thing Dog 2 is looking at human and maintains a happy relaxed expression.

    My interpretation is that the pup wants to play while the adult dogs want to get onto what ever is going to happen with the human with the camera. Dog 1 is ignoring the pup and then when the Lab comes over to see human the pup starts trying to get the Lab to play. Dog 1 does not want the Lab to play with the pup, and keeps attempting to get the pup to leave the Lab alone (even though at times it looks like the Lab may start playing). The pup finally starts an intense sniffing of the Labs groin possibly in an attempt to get his attention in a way that is less likely to alert dog 1 or in a way that will annoy the Lab enough to get a reaction. Dog 1 notices what the pup is doing and gives the pup a stern look and the pup finally gives up.

    Why does Dog 1 not want the Pup to interfere with the Lab? Is the Lab old and infirm, is the Lab a special friend of Dog 1 and Dog 1 thinks the Lab should only play with Dog 1? Does the pup regularly bug the Lab and the Lab being a Lab never stands up for himself? Maybe Dog 1 knows that they need to be calm for something to happen with the human?

  8. Bobbie says

    The adult BC sees the “person” at the fence and comes over. At the same time the Lab sees the person and trots up to join the BC. The puppy does the puppy looking for food behavior putting her muzzle into the muzzles of the older dogs. Puppy is not interested in the person. Puppy body drags both older dogs (sweeps his body against them –not quite a dominant hip slam). Puppy play bows to both dogs, then bats to engage the Lab who turns his head away. He ignores the puppy. Puppy is too excited and the BC moves between the Lab and the rambunctious puppy to calm him. He continues to try to engage the Lab and after jumping up on his head, the BC attends to the puppy and moves between the Lab (who is still watching the person) and the puppy, drops her head and puts her nose into the puppy’s face (BC style!). Puppy drops, then is distracted by the scent of the Lab. Puppy sniffs first between the dog’s front legs and then back to his groin area. After picking up the urine scent, puppy stands faced away from the person (and camera). After a few still seconds, he turns around and seems to be more calm. He crouches to the front of the Lab.

    What is happening? Finding place. Puppy is unsure of where he is in the pack. He is submissive to both dogs, but the BC is the one to calm the situation. And she does a good job. The Lab never stops watching the person. (Because that puppy caught the urine scent of the Lab so quickly, it might be good to have a vet look at the Lab.)

  9. liz says

    Some generalizations of dogs’ behavior:
    Black/White BC- primarily closed mouth, direct eye contact with pup, mostly wagging tail tho somewhat stiff, steady calculated movement towards pup, alert ears fluctuating to flattened ears often during interaction w/ pup
    W/B BC (pup)- loose body and wags, near constant movement on horizontal and vertical plane, licking, smelling, ears back, some lowering/crouching effort
    Yellow Lab- averted gaze from other dogs, upright posture tho loose, relatively loose wag, open mouth except for single interaction where the BCs met head to head below Lab resulting in closed mouth, tongue flick, increase in blinking; squinty, soft eyes, very limited movement

    Generalizations of motive:
    B/W BC- Social graces are not this puppy’s strong suit, am I the only one who cares?
    W/B BC- OMG, everything is fun, am I the only one who cares?
    Lab-ish Dog- I am so not a BC, but they’re cool as long as I can maintain my Zen…

  10. em says

    I have to say, from your description, I was expecting much more obnoxiousness!

    What I Observed, very briefly: Pup licking and mouthing at Border Collie, mostly at lower jaw, bumping and jumping a little bit. Border Collie was mostly still, mouth shut, not engaging in tooth fencing. Border collie lifts his head away from pup, but posture is fairly relaxed, tail wagging most of the time. When Lab approaches, pup bumps and jumps, mouths and paws at his face, mostly at his lower jaw. Lab is more responsive, opening mouth in a relaxed way, wagging tail, shifting a bit back and forth along with pup, but makes no effort to actually engage in a game with pup- attention is still focused forward (on human?). He allows the pup to bump him a bit, but immediately returns his attention forward, lifting his head up and away, but with more motion to the side and less vertical than the Border Collie showed. During the interaction with the Lab, Border collie moves between pup and Lab and attempts to catch his eye with a direct stare several times. When the pup makes eye contact with border collie in front of Lab, pup tucks his ears back and lowers his still wagging tail, then quiets and lies down. He pops up after a moment, and sniffs the Lab’s chest, then moves to sniff his genitals, keeping the Lab between himself and the Border Collie. Pup’s energy is much calmer during this sniff. The Border collie shoots another direct stare at pup, but it is not entirely clear that the pup sees this-perhaps there was a growl? Pup turns and stares into the yard while the older dogs keep their attention focused forward (on human?). Lastly, the pup turns back forward and lies down, perhaps at a prompt from the human, without attempting to engage the older dogs.

    Interpretation: These three are clearly comfortable with one another. The pup is annoying the older dogs, but mostly because the older dogs appear to be trying to focus on the human. The Border collie is gentle but somewhat bossy and slightly more aggravated by the pup’s excited motion, particularly when directed at the lab, rather than at himself. The Lab is gentle and patient with the pup, uninterested in the pup’s interactions with the Border Collie. The pup is excited but gentle and submissive, initially mildly irritating to both dogs but very responsive to correction. Both older dogs appear comfortable managing the pup, with the Lab doing so more passively by mostly ignoring unwanted play and the Border Collie more directly, with body blocks and eye contact. The pup seems comfortable and respectful of the older dogs, if slightly more comfortable with the Lab, more respectful of the Border Collie.

    I love these exercises! Welcome back from TX!

  11. Susannah says

    BC to human: Nice to see you
    Pup to BC: You’re the greatest! Be nice to me!
    Lab to human: Ohh Hi great to see you! (aside to Pup – cool it)
    Pup to Lab: Ohhh Hi now YOU’RE the greatest!!!
    BC to Pup: Cool it. No I mean it, just cool it.
    Pup to both: Look, I’m cooling it, I’ll just go down here and…
    BC and Lab to human: What can you say, these youngsters!
    BC to Pup: Cool. It. Now. Thank you.

  12. diana says

    i see the lab offering a yawn, multiple turn aways and look aways, lip licks and shortening of eyes.
    the bc also lip licks, splits up the lab and younger dog multiple times (sometimes just with her presence), and also freezes/slows her movements at times.
    the puppy eventually slows her movements and offers calmer interactions, which i interpret to mean that the two older dogs were very effective with their calming signals.

  13. Molly Y says

    Observations broken down by dog:
    – head up, ears back & tail held high wagging in a stiff, tick tock fashion when greeted by Pup
    – BC gets knocked out of space when Pup changes focus onto Lab
    – then BC starts focusing on Pup with eyes, ears back, tail still high over back
    – then something triggered the BC to get more involved and block Pup in phases
    – initially phase, BC used just a stare
    – phase two, BC moved into Pup’s space by maneuvering around Lab but still used only his stare
    – phase three, BC decides to use whole body to block Pup (I think BC even used his mouth w/ Pup)
    – BC then stares at Pup, and as soon as the Pup starts to lay down BC glances away, which seemed
    to take the pressure off the Pup (he stood back up)
    – Then BC relaxes (tail comes down, softer wag, ears up, and even takes a step backward)
    – The glance back under Lab appeared to be more of a check in on Pup

    – Trots up w/ tail parallel and wagging softly
    – but as Pup approaches, Lab’s tail goes straight up and wags stiffly, head held high w/ ears back
    – Lab opens mouth, Pup licks inside (Lab’s mouth is open panting through most of video)
    – BC gets involved; once BC blocks Pup, then Lab’s tail comes down & softens, but his ears stay back
    – Lab stays in relatively one spot for whole time; BC even has to move around him/ can’t move him; it is like he is king and he leaves the BC, as the sheriff, to keep everything in order
    – Lab lets Pup smell/lick genitals (I wonder if something in the smell is what finally settled Pup?)

    – Wags his whole body, not just his tail; his tail stays parallel with the ground
    – Pup is very mouthy, wants to lick mouths of BC and Lab
    – Ears are back most of the time
    – He slumps his shoulders a little when around BC, but not around Lab
    – Tucks tail when BC focuses on him
    – Doesn’t jump on BC but does on Lab
    – Looks away most times the BC is focused on him
    – Stops smelling when BC glances at him from under Lab
    – Gets quiet & still, tail down & not wagging (almost like he is thinking) after smelling/licking Lab genitals

    Guess: Human appeared on scene and the dogs wanted access to human. What transpired was the sorting out of their social order. I think the social structure among these three is the Lab is the lead (king) but he leaves the dirty work to the BC (that is it’s BC’s job to maintain order). So BC tolerated Pup’s behavior until Lab (king) came onto the scene. Then it was BC’s job to get Pup in line. Once Pup was in line, BC relaxed.

  14. Wendy W says

    The Tail’s the Tale

    Pup is trying to engage with the BC and then the yellow dog. Neither of the adults want to roughhouse with pup, and BC splits pup off a number of times, giving a couple of direct looks for extra measure (in the world of social work, we call these the “house parent” look). All dogs are pretty much at ease with one another, with an absence of warning postures (no short lips, no hard eyes, no hackles raised, no stiffness, no extreme postures, etc.). BC is doing a great job of shutting pup down without becoming too much of a fun police. My guess is that the pup still has a fair bit of puppy license left and that both adults are cutting pup a lot of slack.

    But I thought the most interesting thing was the tails of the two adults. Throughout the clip, the height of their tails and the rate of wag is almost exactly matched. It’s hypnotizing! My guess is that yellow dog and BC have been close pals for years, to the point that they quite easily mirror each other. I wonder how they do it?

  15. Doug says

    It appears to me that the Lab is a senior citizen dog. The BC gently chastises the puppy (closed mouth, ears back) for jumping on it’s head. When that doesn’t work the pup then decides to try Grampa. Gramps is fairly tolerant (mouth wide open) but the BC decides to gently remind the pup to quit being a jerk. What the BC does reminds me of is a splitter when he goes behind Gramps to once again remind the pup to back off. Well, puppy just can’t control himself yet so the BC goes under Gramps and reminds him once again with a little bit of a hard stare and puppy appeases him with a lick on the mouth and a wiggly body and then lies down temporarily. After some brief pee pee sniffing the pup turns his back to them (displacement behavior?) while the BC shoots him a couple of quick looks as if to say I mean business and then the pup finally settles down.

  16. Beth with the Corgis says

    What I found interesting was that the pup seemed to calm considerably when the adult BC sniffed the corners of the pup’s mouth.

    The pup was being obnoxiously obsequious with the food-begging related behavior (nearly stuck his whole face in the lab’s mouth at one point). But it took many watches for me to pick up on how the adults were correcting the pup. It seemed that the lab corrected by ignoring inappropriate behavior completely (something we humans are encouraged to do with pups). The adult border collie did some herding-type work to move the pup in space.

    What struck me most is how responsive the pup was to very minor corrections; many adolescents certainly don’t get the message from a little body-blocking. I’m guessing that either the pup is naturally submissive, or there have been some more serious corrections doled out by the adult border collie in the past and the pup has learned to get the message early, or hear it louder later on.

    And the adolescent has reached that delightful age where adult dogs can’t stand him and he’s too rough for most puppies, and so is usually only successful at playing with other adolescents. Sort of like teenaged humans. :-)

  17. says

    0:00 – 0:17 In front of a gate, excited puppy tries to initiate play with BC, gently mouthing the BC’s muzzle, while the BC ignores him. Puppy has lowered body position, clearly very submissive to the BC. When the Lab comes over, the puppy immediately turns to him to initiate play by licking his face and jumping about. Lab gives a yawn while trying to avoid the puppy. The puppy insists. Lab very gently mouths the puppy’s muzzle. BC makes a forward move, as if to put his muzzle in there, but does not go all the way. However after the puppy jumps up, placing both feet on the Lab’s head, the BC goes around the Lab and body blocks the puppy. The puppy lowers his head and makes a wide semi-circle, showing the beginning of the “lay on the ground with belly up” move. Immediately the BC looks at the human, so the puppy, with a glance at the BC, goes back to the Lab and play-mouths the Lab’s muzzle. Through all this the Lab does not look at the puppy, and focuses on the human.
    00:18 – 00:28 BC now focuses on stopping the puppy. There are two interactions in front of the Lab. (does the BC give a tongue-flick during the first? the video is too fast for me to see). During the second, the BC gives a bark or snap. Puppy stops the exuberant behaviour and gives some quick licks to the BC’s muzzle. BC points his muzzle firmly at the pup, pup lowers his body to the ground. BC looks away, pup stands up again still focused on the BC, head lowered. He gives a sniff (lick?) to the Lab’s chest as well. BC takes a step back.
    00:29 – 00:47 BC’s first one and then both ears come up as he looks at the human again. Puppy turns to Lab’s groin. BC turns his head slightly towards the puppy, when the puppy continues he gives a more pointed look under the Lab’s belly, and the pup turns his head to the other direction. Then the puppy turns his head towards the dogs and the human again and his ears go down. Then he lies down.

    Note: The BC might have growled in any of the instances where his mouth was closed. If so, from his general body language I would assume it was a very low-volume growl.

    Dogs are familiar with each other. Lab is very gentle, easy-going and non-dominant. Dominant, confident, BC has the role of “enforcer” of the “rules”. Puppy is being a super excited adolescent. He has a dominant character. (I use the word “dominant” in a good way)
    I assume the dogs are excited because someone is at the gate so they expect either play or to be let it. The pup tries to initiate play with the BC but seems to know his chances are slim. He is being respectful, as he recognizes authority. Once the Lab comes, the pup becomes much more pushy. Lab wants to be left alone. BC understands that and tries first with a subtle cue (attempting to put his muzzle between them) and then with the body-block to separate them. Pup tries to appease the BC, then goes back to the Lab (but keeps an eye on the BC on his way there).
    As soon as he bothers the Lab, the BC turns his attention back on the pup, and this time either barks or air-snaps at him, which subdues the pup. Again pup tries to appease the BC by laying down. When the BC turns away the pup initiates some sniffing, still hoping to get the Lab to interact with him. BC wants to focus on the human, but keeps an eye on the pup. BC sees that the pup is sniffing for a bit longer that it should, and gives him first a subtle (slight turn of head) and then a more intense (look under the Lab’s belly) cue to go away. Puppy turns around at the beginning of the second movement, so as to appear non-threatening. His ears go up as he is looking at the garden, but when he turns back towards the dog his ears go down again indicating that he knows he’s still in trouble, so he lies down.

  18. Susanne says

    Fun! I loved reading all the observations and interpretation. What a great idea. The dogs showed such effective communications, with calming signals and what I would call distance increasing signals, and they were received so well by the younger dog (with the spot on his/her head). I wonder if the long coated Border Collie has had this very conversation before with the younger dog (head spot) because it looked very much like the manners instructions my young dogs receive from their dams and other adult dogs in our group. Sometimes in our group the oldest dogs, who are often the most tolerant of the teenagers, seem hesitant to be so firm (maybe they are just tired!) with the youngsters so the adult dogs will do just what this Border Collie seemed to be doing and butt right in and say “Yo, kiddo, calm yourself!”

    I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

  19. Kim says

    The young dog is pestering the yellow dog. Yellow dog says “please leave me alone.” Cattle dog steps and in warns off the pup, telling him to knock it off. The pup retreats feeling chastised, then returns to politely check out the yellow dog. Then he falls into line and focuses on person taping as other dogs are doing.

  20. Carolyn says

    Maybe because I am a Golden person, I think the interpretations of the Labs behavior are interesting. Some people see him as King and some saw his as the submissive member of the pack.

    I have to say I liked the King and Sheriff metaphor because I have that situation in my house. My Golden (8 y.o.) we call the Princess and my Golden/Sheltie mix (6y.o.) I call the Lord High Sheriff. I have to add that I own and live on a private dog park. Everyone thinks that Duff (Golden/Sheltie) is the dominant dog because he is loud and is always trying to get other dogs to behave. But Duffy lives for Selli (Golden) and is always submissive to her although Selli, as a good Golden and princess, has no interest in being dominant over Duff.

  21. Rose C says

    Adolescent black and white dog being very playful, displaying no respect for boundaries, was all over the Border Collie’s face. The BC moved his (or her) face away with mouth held closed but essentially stood his ground. Brown Lab-looking dog comes towards gate (obviously the BC and the Lab knows the person behind the gate). Adolescent dog does the same thing to the Lab, was all over mouthing and pawing his face with the BC paying close attention to the overly playful dog. Lab dog moves away his face and body away from the playful dog but seemed ‘more tolerant’ of it than the BC. Adolescent dog continues being ‘obnoxious’ and BC finally started intervening by moving forward toward the playful dog driving him away from the Lab. Playful dog tries to go back to the Lab and continue with this type of play as BC continues to ‘follow’ him with close attention. Playful dog still goes for the Lab’s face and BC puts a stop to the behavior by leaning forward and holding still (applying pressure). A period of ‘relative stillness’ at 0:20 and the overly playful dog gets the message, brings his nose around and below the BC’s and moves back to sit and lay, gets back up and this time was not all over the Labs’ face anymore. BC still being aware of the playful dog’s actions. During the whole interaction, all the dogs’ ears were pulled back and their tails wagging (BC’s wagging tail slows down when he was intent on/with the adolescent dog).

    My own interpretation:
    BC and Lab knows and live with each other and black and white playful dog is a visitor. Lab is an older dog and BC takes the role of being his defender. Besides their dog ‘personalities’, the difference in the response and tolerance of the Lab and the BC to the black and white dog’s playfulness could also be attributed to their breed, Border Collies being more space-sensitive while Labs are generally more like ‘pet me and hug me all over, please’ type of breed.

  22. Cheryl says

    I’m most interested in what exactly happens at :18. My view of the BC’s mouth is obstructed by the bar (or my vision is really poor) so I can’t see exactly what happened. It doesn’t seem like there was any contact made, but I can’t tell for sure. It looks like the pup went to muzzle bite the BC and was summarily shot down. IMHO, that was the precise moment that the pup “got the message”. The pup’s body language immediately shifted from an obnoxious pup who will submissively push the limits of patience to clear deference toward the BC, and more mollified gestures toward the lab.
    The BC reminds me of my last dog whom we called “The Constable”.

  23. carolynrox says

    Tricia, Yes I saw something “new” each time I watched and rewatched the clip.

    For my observations (and simplicity), I have given numbers to the dogs:
    1 = young BC with more white than black
    2 = Yellow Lab
    3 = older BC with more black than white

    During the very first shot, 3 is seen lip licking. Next second 1 does a muzzle grab to 3. 3’s ears are back, and tail is in neutral position. 1’s body is very loose and wiggly. 1 is in deferential position to 3. Then 1 licks 3’s mouth repeatedly. 3 moves head back/away from 3 . 2 jogs over and splits 1 and 3. 1 starts repeatedly licking 2’s mouth, especially the commisure, and crowding 2’s personal space. 2 yawns wide and tries to move away from 1. 1 jumps on and paws 2’s face. At this point 3’s body is tense and posture leaning forward, mouth is closed and STARES at 1. 1 rolls its ears back and turns head away. 3 body blocks 1 twice away from 2. This “stare” is very clear as 3 displays a big change in demeanor (e.g. ears move forward to neutral position) whenever it looks away from 1. For a moment, 1 slows its movement down and stops licking 2. Then 1 switches to sniffing 2’s neck and then urogenital region. At 0.37 seconds, 3 quickly stares underneath 2’s belly at 1. 1 turns head away, rolls ears back, and faces the opposite direction from the camera for approximately 9 seconds and is more stationary. Once 3 started body blocking 1, 2’s body was stationary, panting softly, tail was in a neutral position and wagging softly.

    I’m sure I still missed SEVERAL observations, so I’m looking forward to your write-up.

  24. Luisa says

    Two dogs at first, immature boy and adult female. Adult male joins group. All three appear familiar with each other, and comfortable. Young one is all over the adult male, licking and then pawing the older dog’s face as youthful excitement escalates. At about 9 or 10 seconds the female has had enough, steps in to break things up with stiffened posture and a body block, pup clearly gets the message, she reinforces, pup acquiesces, curves body, she shoots him one last under-the-belly look and he takes care to gaze off into the distance, and calm ensues.

    Anecdote Dept: I’ve seen this sort of thing in my household, and the Fun Police are always adult female border collies. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to set one off. The presence of two dogs playing quietly and happily together will occasionally trigger a teeth-baring intervention. The “guilty” party — that is, the one who gets reprimanded — is usually a male, and not always a pup. Humans don’t need to be present for the Fun Police behavior to kick in. And humans can, and should, IMHO, step in before the Fun Police get carried away. Which they sometimes do. There’s no bitch like a border collie bitch… Anyhow, that’s just based on my own observations at home.

  25. LaDonna says

    What a fun video to interpret. I just observed this very same scenario last weekend while introducing an adult Dalmatian to an 8 month old Dalmatian and a 9 year old mixed breed. It seems adult dogs are much better teaching a pup respect than we are. Rather than do a technical comment, I think I will just do a doggie verbal script.
    Puppy to adult BC—“hello, hello, hello, who are you, wanna play, wanna, play?”
    Adult BC—“geez, what a brat, can’t someone teach this pup some respect?”
    Lab comes to see what’s going on.
    Pup to Lab—-“hello, hello, hello, wanna play, wanna play, wanna play?”
    Lab—-“What and who is this little monster? Just go away you rude little thing.”
    Adult BC to Pup—-“OK, that’s enough, knock it off”
    Puppy to self—“Geez, what a grump. OK, how about I just sniff a bit?”
    Adult BC— “Fine, good plan”
    Pup to self—-“These two are a big bore, perhaps I will just look around some”.

  26. Deborah says

    I see a border collie puppy that is trying to engage his elders that are focused on something besides him. Typical older puppy behavior, and wanting to get attention. I believe the older BC is probably female, maybe his mother, and because she has done this correction many times, the puppy responds we;;. The lab is probably a male and he is very tolerant of the puppies behavior. I think that this is typical teenage behavior. I think that all of the dogs behaved in an appropriate manner.

  27. Kerry M. says

    I’ve got to go to work in a bit so I can’t do the objective description yet. But I did want to discuss what I think will be the most controversial or at least, variable answer. Why is the black BC stopping the puppy from interacting with the older lab?

    I think the puppy’s motivations are pretty clear – play is awesome! So is the lab’s. If I don’t look at you, I can’t see you. If I can’t see you, I can’t play with you. If I can’t play with you, you can’t play with me.

    My feels-good answer would be the black BC is standing up for the too subtle yellow lab. My everyone-is-inherently-selfish answer would be the BC is jealous and feeling left out. My Occam’s-Razor answer is that the BC just wants a quieter environment. I don’t think there is any way to tell for sure from one video or even maybe multiple videos, but like most people, I still enjoy guessing.

  28. Paul says

    Yes, lots of fun. Much as been said, so I will limit my comments to things I didn’t see emphasized previously. The BC only acts when the puppy starts jumping. It’s as if it’s his dividing line between acceptable puppy behavior and too much. The puppy never jumps on the BC. Guessing this line was previously established by the BC. Interesting that the BC intervenes on behalf of the Labrador, enforcing behavior for the pack not just himself.

  29. Jen G says

    Fun exercise! I’ll try not to repeat too much of what was already said. From the lab, I saw gaze averting, lip licking, tension yawn, ignoring, and steady tail swinging. From older BC, much the same, with added herding away of young pup (body blocking) – was that muzzle punching from her to pup or just nudging? – steady tail swinging as well. Young pup, muzzle biting, muzzle licking, lip licking, ears back, physical interaction with lab with paws over labs head (dominance, rough play??), cowering behaviour (appeasement), back turned and ignoring, over-intense genital sniffing.

    I missed the freezing that others mentioned. Yes, now I see it!

    Interesting to me was the tails – both the lab and the older BC had their swinging tails higher during the interaction with the pup – still swinging, and not stiff, but higher – and then lower when just gazing at the human.

    Was the pup doing all this to get the human’s attention? ‘Look at me, see what I can do!’ or trying to place him/herself higher in the chain, or just being puppy and wanting to play. All. The. Time. Older BC was definitely tired of the antics and was communicating ‘Cut it out. Cut it OUT!’ but in very measured terms. No snarls or lip curls that I could see. And God bless the lab.

  30. says

    The first frame of the video the older BC licks his nose. What was going on before the video started? Did the nose lick have something to do with the human or camera on the other side of the gate? All the dogs begin with a nice loose posture. The lab approaches from the other side of the yard, the pup is doing a lot of licking and mouthing to the older BC. The older BC glares at the pup and the pup turns his attention to the lab. As the pup is mouthing the lab, the older BC licks his nose again. The lab keeps turning away from the pup and yawns. Pup continues to pester the lab, the older BC lifts his paw. The oblivious pup jumps up on the lab, smashing his in the face. The older BC licks his nose again. The pup keeps mouthing and licking, then moves away from the lab for a moment. The older BC skirts the lab to body block the pup. As the pup turns around he comes face to face with the older BC. The pup tries to move around the older BC, but the older BC stays between the pup and the lab. I can’t quite tell because of the video quality, but I think I see the pup licking his nose as the older BC stares him down. The pup looks away. The Pup slinks away for a moment and then heads back when the older BC gives another glare, the pup looks away again… but heads for the lab anyhow. The pup begins to pester the lab more. The Older BC gets inbetween the lab and the pup and the pup finally seems to get the hint and starts toning down his behavior. He backs off for a moment, trys to come back, the BC points at him, he backs off they go back and fourth like this for a moment.. then the pup gives the older BC a quick lick, looks away, quick lick, looks away. During this interaction, the lab is lip licking, turning away, blinking (uh, hey guys… you’re too close). The pup lays down for a second, till the older BC looks away, the he gets up again to pester the lab. Older BC looks at the pup agian and the pup turns his attention to licking the labs genitals and after the older BC glares again, he stops. I am not sure if the pup stopped licking the labs genitals because the older BC glared, it looks like the pup is stopping right before the older BC glares…

    The older BC gave a lot of small signals before getting pointy with the puppy, the lab also gave lots of small signals that the oblivious teen didn’t catch. You need to sit that pup down and make him do video analysis, so he learns to see signals ;p

    I want to know if the older BC is protective of the lab with other dogs, or if he was just sick of puppy.

  31. Alexandra says

    Fun! I wish I had more time to type up a proper look at this as you’d requested, but in short this puppy wasn’t nearly as obnoxious as I was expecting from the lead in 😉 My quick interpretation is that the puppy is doing typical young dog appeasement/obnoxious attention seeking behaviors to the older dogs to try to get them to play (licking/biting their chins, wiggle dance in front of them). Both older dogs offer some subtler signals to get the puppy to cool it (head turns, yawns), but after a point (puppy jumping on lab’s head), the border collie has had enough and responds by splitting the puppy from the lab and staring at puppy until he settles down a bit. What a nice group of dogs!

  32. Janice says

    Well, I am going to start by pointing out that calling this exercise “the obnoxious puppy” is already an interpretation of motives that focuses more attention on one of the participants rather than a description of events. A more accurate title would be 3 dogs at a gate.
    Next I am going to add some tools so that I can write a good description. Since I don’t know the geographic markers, I am going to say that a dog facing the gate is facing North. If the dog turns to the right, I will label this West and if it looks left, I will label this East. Next I will break the space in front of the gate up into 4 zones, with zone 1 being the quarter to the farthest west, Zone 2 being the half way point to the quarter point and so forth. Now I can identify where the dogs are in space. Next I will decide what body movements I will record. For simplicity, I will break the dogs into three quadrants–the tail section, the mid body and what shape it is and the head. I will number the dogs, Dog 1 being the mostly white dog, Dog 2 the black and white dog and Dog 3 the beige dog. Lastly I will decide the time signature. These dogs can complete a movement in under one second. But for simplicity of this exercise, I will stick with one second intervals. With better equipment to stop and start action, one could do smaller increments.

    Second 01
    D1- facing W, in zone 2 and 3, parallel to gate head up with mouth open around muzzle of D2
    D2- facing N zone 2 head up body perpendicular to gate
    D3 facing N in background. moving N at trot toward gate
    Second 02
    D1 facing W zone 2 and 3. Parallel to gate. body is in half circle curved to left. tail at rump level to the left of dog. head slightly above shoulder level, nose not visible
    D2 Zone 2 facing N perpendicular to gate. nose elevated, tail curved over back, slightly to dog’s left.
    D3 approaching zone 3 perpendicular to gate facing N. tail at rump height left of dog

    Second 03
    D1, Zone 1,2. facing W, head elevated, mouth open encircling muzzle of D3. rump lowered, tail at rump height
    D2 Zone 2 and slightly into zone 3 body facing N head turned E. Mouth closed. is touching or colse to throat of D1. tail curved over back
    D3 Zone 3 between dogs 1 and 2 -head elevated mouth partly open. tail elevated and slightly to left

    Second 04
    D1 on hind legs oriented toward D3. Zone 3 and 2, Facing W/SW mouth open, tail down
    D2 zone 2 body mostly north but a bit NW, Head turned E oriented to front leg of D1 tail not visible
    D3 at border of Zone 2 and 3 body oriented N head turned W mouth open tail elevated, slightly E

    Second 05
    D1 has now rotated body to be facing E zone 3 and 2. on hind legs with upper body elevated and oriented toward muzzle of D3 mouth open body between D2 and D3
    D2 zone 2 and 3. body oriented N/NW. Head East with ears pointed back. Tail curved over back
    D3 zone 3 body N head N/NE head elevated, mouth open in contact with D1 tail elevated and E of dog

    Second 06
    D1 zone 3 and 4 body facing E head elevated and nose touching lower jaw of D3 tail elevated
    D2 zone 2 body facing N head N tail over back
    D3 moving E body zone 3 head entering zone 4 tail elevated tip of tail in zone 2 mouth closed

    Second 07
    D1 has re-oriented and is facing W again. Zone 4 and 3 mouth open and oriented toward muzzle of D 3
    D2 body facing N zone 2. head lowered facing NE oriented to face of D1
    D3 body zone 3 oriented N Head elevated oriented W mouth partly closed tail elevated straight from back

    Second 08

    I think I am going to stop now rather than doing the entire 47 seconds. But this is what I would call an observation. I have observed and described what I have observed, nothing more or less. I have not interpreted, embellished, imagined or second guessed the behaviors. I have not used any words like “insist” “hesitant””obnoxious,””ignore” “body block,” “greeting” or “food soliciting behavior”, although those may be true, they are not an observation or description. At least that is my understanding.

    I think that humans are really the “story-telling” species and we our default behavior is to use our considerable story telling abilities to use stories we have heard to explain everything we encounter into another story line that we created as we observe. That is how we best remember things. But it is completely open to interpretation based on what stories we have learned in the past and blinds us to what is in front of us in the present.

    Since we all observed the same thing, the observation part of this exercise should have been very similar (except for the basic parameter that we designed to accurately describe the action–such as I used with arbitrarily decided zone and directions and broke the behaviors into what happened in each second. But, without considering these tools, we should have all had a pretty much identical observation of the same behavior sequence. And if we all had the same observation then we have something that is a point of commonality for interpreting the behavior. And this observation could be compared to another behavior sequence with some validity. Some of the descriptions that I read did observe the behavior but used different tools than I did.

    But many did not and that is because as humans, we can’t help but include our storytelling into our description. And since our stories all come from our own experiences, they are all different and so we get a lot of story telling and not a lot of actual observing of what the dogs did.

    I think that this is an excellent example of how we can see the same thing but not really observe it similarly and when we come up with interpretations, they can be different between different people, due to our past experience, our story telling and our inability to actually observe what is happening without our personal interpretation coloring our observation. This then turns into a behavioral Tower of Babel because we can’t agree on what it means if we can’t even observe the same thing.

    Is this what you intended us to learn with this great little exercise?

  33. Rebecca Rice says

    For ease of discussion, the border collie with more white is “Junior”, while the other is “Blackie”

    Junior starts by mouthing at Blackie, who ignores the behavior. Junior then mouths the lab, paws at the lab after the mouthing is ignored, circles the lab and gets backed off by Blackie, circles back around the group. Blackie gives a face-on look with the ears back, Junior lies down briefly, then gets up and does a sniff of the lab’s chest and genital region. Junior then stands calmly facing the other way.

    Best guess: Junior’s “puppy pass” is expiring, and Blackie is insisting on more polite behavior when Junior gets excited, so that the gate will be opened and they can go through it.

  34. jan2bratt says

    I saw the BC gently reprimanding the pup while the Lab ignored him. also I thought maybe the pup was licking the labs genitals and then turned his back and was analyzing the taste, possible doing that thing they do, maybe it is called fleh, something like that. Possibly what he learned is that it’s an old dog, better settle down like the BC has been telling him. Non dog people probably wouldn’t notice the BC corrections.

  35. Melissa L. says

    Baby playing with adult BC, chewing on face. Baby moves to Lab when he approaches and gets more excited, rambunctious, and ends up jumping up on Lab. Adult BC intervenes and gets between Baby and Lab and gives him the eye/stiffens body. Baby puts ears back/appeasement and lies down. After a second, he tries to start things up again with the Lab and adult BC stops it. Baby then sniffs Lab’s genitals and adult BC looks under lab and apparently gives a more serious look or possibly vocal warning. Baby calms down and faces away from the camera/person and the other dogs.
    Chapter title: Teaching Manners. I agree with Luisa that the adult BC is probably a female. I can see in the video that the other two are males. Motivation of the adult BC? Theories offered by others are protecting the older dog or establishing the hierarchy. Who knows? It may just be that she has a shorter fuse. Could it contribute to the well-being of the pack to keep play levels tamped down before things get out of control and a fight results? I’ve often wondered what is behind the Fun Police behavior.

  36. Trisha says

    Thank you Janice, you are exactly correct when you mentions that, by using the word “Obnoxious Pup” in the title I am already making interpretations. Good call, I actually burst out laughing when I realized what I had done. I have been fascinated by the range of descriptions and interpretations (and combinations thereof). I’ll write more in the next blog, but I hope that many of you have found this to be a worthwhile exercise. Part of my motivation was indeed to remind us all to distinguish between observations and interpretations. It is important for all of us to make that distinction. However, I will also argue in the next blog that we need to make interpretations once we have accurate descriptions, that they are not always problematic, and that the very purpose of visual signals IS for others to make interpretations. The challenge, of course, is to know when you are making them and what influences your choice. Not to mention how accurate they might or might not be…

  37. Angela says

    I have a slightly different take on this, which I admit may be influenced by the dog-dog relations in my own house which consists of an elderly Lab and several BCs. I got the impression that the youngster may not be as comfortable with the Lab as he is with the adult BC, and I wondered if this was an example of what I’ve heard termed (I believe I read it on this blog, in fact) “aggressive obsequiousness.” In the first few seconds of interaction we see with the other BC, he is lip licking and wagging his tail – he’s excited, but more at ease with this dog. I think the intensity of his “greeting” goes up when the Lab approaches – much more body movement and jumping, more physical, he even puts his paws on the Lab – it just seems a bit more frantic than his interactions with the BC. There are no (self-initiated) pauses, and it takes a few reminders from the BC before he can leave the Lab alone, at which point he has to totally turn away from the situation. My interpretation is that the young dog is more comfortable with the adult BC, but less comfortable when the Lab approaches, and I wonder if he is actually feeling a bit too much social pressure and is wanting the Lab to move away from their space at the gate.

  38. Amy W. says

    Observations: Older BC tounge flicks, closes mouth, and flatten ears when younger BC bites/licks his muzzle. After younger BC takes his mouth off older BC, BC turns nose/head up and slightly away.
    Younger BC leaves older BC and begins jumping/biting at Lab’s mouth. Lab yawns, turns head/body away from young BC several times. Young BC jumps and paws Lab in the face, then bites Lab’s mouth and sort of hangs on for a second.
    Older BC intervenes multiple times with a stern look and forward motion toward the younger BC and wards off younger BC from the Lab. (Also, noticed that prior to the final intervention, young BC barks at older BC’s interruption).
    After fourth stern look/forward motion by older BC, younger BC licks older BC’s muzzle, looks away, and lays down.

    Interpertation: Young BC seems to want some rough and tumble play. Also, young BC seems to “test” the older BC a little bit – mostly thought this when younger BC barked at older BC.
    Lab wants nothing to do with Young BC, possibly because he plays too rough.
    Older BC seems to be serving as the play ground monitor, keeping the younger BC in line. Wonder if the older BC is possibly younger BC’s mom?

  39. says

    I see three dogs coming to the fence in a greeting fashion. The young BC is licking the mouth of the older BC jumping around energetically while the older BC is trying to move his/her head out of the way. An older Lab comes close to the fence and the puppy turns his playful energy towards the Lab. The older BC places his/herself between the pup and the lab blocking the pup from the lab. The older BC gives a few staring glances and the pup calms down for a bit then sniffs and maybe licks the Lab’s genitals then starts jumping again. The older BC gives an other stare but the pup doesn’t see it and calms down on his own.

    I see three friendly dogs. The BC pup is displaying normal exited playful energy towards the two older dogs. The lab is patient and tries to move out of the way, the older BC has had enough and corrects the pup by putting him/herself between the Lab and the pup and by giving the pup a series of long stares. The pup calms down which leads me to believe the BC has probably nipped at the pup a few times in the past when staring was not enough.
    BC’s seem to be a breed who do not like a lot of out of control energy. Probably because keeping a flock of sheep or cattle calm is their job.

    Seems like a very normal interaction between different aged dogs who live together.

  40. Jennifer says

    So fascinating! I’ve watched it several times now, and there’s such interesting stuff going on. The yellow dog is so focused on the person filming he barely even acknowledges the puppy, even though it’s bugging the heck out of him! hehe. The adult BC is so focused on the puppy. She/he is clearly trying to keep it in line. The puppy is classic puppy-crazy – all over everyone! I can’t wait to see how you interpret this behavior.

  41. Alexandra says

    I noticed a lip-lick fairly early on from the Border Collie… I wonder how much the puppy’s incessant wiggling is irritating to a motion-sensitive herding breed? But otherwise I saw a tolerant Lab and a classic “must manage everything” Border Collie working together in their own ways to enforce calm, appropriate behavior from an older puppy.

  42. Starfire says

    Puppy submissive but exhuberant greeting. 1st to other BC mouth wanting to do an insert greet but BC not wanting to participate. Lab approaches, similar behavior shoves muzzle into Labs mouth, Lab presents a calm down yawn signal..”please chill out”, Puppy still reactive until other BC steps in to body block front and then rear with “eye”. Lowered response from Puppy, but still “testing” the waters….finally other BC appears to first give antoer eye with a slight lip lift, puppy goes to rear of lab to give a I’m okay/your okay sniff, tries to approach front, and the Other BC probably gave a low vocal warnign this time that really drove the message home to “settle down”. Have watch my litters of pups when they interact with mom, and how mom will try to calm down the orver active pups with a paw hold or body shove, then give eye on the more heavy body shoves or foot holds, then as a last resort uses the vocal ques.

  43. Laura A says

    I haven’t read anyone else’s comments so just giving it a stab. Looks to me like a situation where 2 adults dogs are teaching a puppy good dog manners. The lab and collie look like they are older and have had a relationship for some time. It look like they are bonded well with the human on the other side of the fence because of their focus and the waggy tails. The puppy doesn’t look so interested in the human so may be a new addition still developing relationships with its human friend. Being a typical puppy it just wants to play in the pesty way they often do (mine was mental with every dog it saw before it learned manners). It looks like the puppy is very mouthy and kind of combining play mouthing with the food begging posture. Both dogs are very tolerant of the puppy. The puppy mouths the collie first and even encloses the collies mouth with a wee pressure bite. The collie is quite calm but freezes for a second. As I have no sound with the video, I have to guess but I think the collie may have given a little growl to let the puppy know it wants it to back off because it seems to get some type of a vibe as it lets go and turns away.

    The puppy then turns its attention to the lab. The lab tolerates a lot of mouthing from the puppy and at one point yawns a bit (expelling a little frustration?) and tries to resolve the situation by turning its head away. Eventually its had enough and I think the lab gives the puppy a little pressure bite on its nose to get it to stop. Meanwhile, the collie is becoming a bit concerned (bit of lip licking going on) about its friend and steps in. It begins to challenge the puppy’s advances toward its lab pal and fends off its advances. Suddenly the puppy stops (I think it likely another growl may have been given by the collie) and changes to appeasing face licking. The puppy then has a sniff of the lab and then looks away. It has gotten the message and even takes a ‘submissive’ posture. The two adult dogs have done a wonderful job of teaching the puppy with a calm and assertive approach!

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