Jason has started what I hope to be a new feature on his blog: Monday Pets. He’s promising to delve into the behavior/cognitive abilities of the non-human animals we share our homes with. This week, he takes on dogs and their play behavior. In the post he mentions that he has to buy his dog (or, at least what I assume is his dog) a new toy squirrel every week.
That got me to thinking about Shiloh’s toy preferences. Now, as I’ve stated, Shiloh is an odd dog. I’m no vet but I’ve had dogs for most of my life and now after 12 years with Shiloh would be inclined to think he has a canine version of autism (if such a thing exists – perhaps I’ll go into all of his behavioral symptoms to explain why I think that’s the case at some point in the future).
But for today I’ll just talk about his toy preferences which are very specific.
He is only attracted to toys that squeak (I’m talking about solo play here, btw). Toys with a squeaker are savaged until the noise maker has been destroyed and then they are forgotten. His focus when it comes to such toys can be intense, with him chewing for hours on end (assuming the toy is sturdy enough to handle the abuse) and one one or two occasions he has even wet himself rather than stop attacking the toy.
I would suspect that the squeak elicits some sort of kill response from him except for one piece of evidence. Shiloh enjoys chasing chimpmunks (whose warning chirp sounds remarkably like a squeak toy) and on at least two occasions has had the opportunity to actually get grab one in his jaws. Both times he released it, unharmed, immediately and with surprise.
In terms of other play behavior Shiloh enjoys fetch and seems to use it not only for play but (given his general reluctance to petting by anyone other than me) also seems to use it as a tool for establishing/maintaining social bonds. If he gets anxious or I have to discipline him he’ll frequently go for a fetch toy or act in a way to try to elicit me to throw one. It seems to be a way of communicating “I know this was a stressful situation but we’re still cool, right?”
The fetch instinct is apparently fairly unusual for beagles (they’ll chase just fine but tend not to come back) and was totally organic on his part. He chased and retrieved to my amusement without any encouragement or prodding.
Shiloh will not play any sort of ‘tug-of-war’ and, in fact, will not but his mouth on any toy I have in my hand. While I didn’t encourage such play in him as a pup I don’t recall actively discouraging it but it simply doesn’t compute for him. That’s generally a good thing.
While Shiloh has been a bit of a challenge, his behavioral issues provide an interesting view of canine behavior because many times they’re so exaggerated.
Today Jason continues the dog theme with a discussion about dog growls. Again, Shiloh provides a great learning experience and over the years I am well attuned to the meaning of his growls with or without visual clues. His food/territorial growl is very different from his play growl which is very different from his stranger growl.
His barks, similarly, are very distinct (at least to me) and I have a high degree of confidence I can understand them even when he’s out of sight.
While the differences and very noticeable to me, Mrs. TwShiloh was unable to distinguish them for a few years and is only now able to distinguish them (and not to the degree that I can which is understandable).
Now for a beagle with a manic focus I can tell you that regular squeak toys do not last long in our house. They typical toy will generally not survive more than 15 minutes of his attention (and no, I’m not exaggerating). I find the kong wubba to be a very satisfactory and sturdy toy, well worth the price. While he has ‘killed’ several we have one that has defied him for several months at this point.