This morning I was happily sitting in my office typing away when I heard a snuffling noise out in the hall. I saw our black dog Leia licking Tika’s ear. Visions of taking Tika to the vet because of an ear infection danced in my head, so I told Leia to stop.
This is a new behavior for Leia, but not a new behavior within the pack. Tika, the golden retriever, enjoys licking Leto’s ears. Apparently Leia saw this process and decided “hey, that looks fun.” Since Tika is her favorite dog, Leia nominated her for the big slurp fest.
After I thought about it, I realized that like people, dogs learn from their peers. I’ve often said that Leto required no training. He just figured everything out. Practically the first day we had him, he realized that all canines have to sit before eating. He saw the other three dogs doing it and learned that sitting is the way to get chow.
Unfortunately, dogs seem far more adept at picking up bad habits than good ones. How many people have ever had a dog learn from another one how to remain silent? Nope. Suppose, you have a sheltie who barks and then you get a new dog who doesn’t bark. Within days you’ll undoubtedly discover the sheltie has taught the new dog just how much fun barking can be. The reverse is also true. If the first dog doesn’t bark, when you get another dog who does bark, the new dog will teach the old dog. Bad habits often trump good habits.
Although dogs are certainly individuals, it’s interesting to watch how the group dynamic can come into play. So I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I find Leto licking some other dog’s ear. I sense more vet visits in my future.