Friday, November 27, 2009

Kick Me

The turkeys have been bullying Sophia.

She's the largest dog here. She's the only one who has ever seriously injured another animal. (Forgot about all those murdered groundhogs for a minute there ...) Her people routinely take down bad guys, both for fun and for real. Yet the birds see a giant "Kick Me" sign on her ass.

Last week they got her cornered on the front porch; we looked out to see her cowering against the door, hackled from occiput to tail-tip, growling and snapping. The birds were not impressed. We had to let Rosie out to serve them, as she does in this clip.

Yet tiny Rosie, and even tinier Cole, easily drive or gather the turkeys, put them up in their coop, and generally keep order in the flock. The turkeys don't even think about giving any crap to any of the English shepherds. Notice the space they give Pip and Rosie in the clip.

At the moment they are cooped most of the time -- not for stalking the German shepherd, but for their serial acts of vandalism and hooliganism up in the village.

The neighbors didn't tell me about the "visits" -- or the turkey crap on their Weber grills, broken porch tchotchkes, stolen pet food -- until they'd been at it a week and developed a habit. When my neighbor came to tell me about the attempted theft of his Christmas lights, Rosie, Cole and I had to drive them home from over half a kilometer away.

This a long way to chase a dozen turkeys.

Now I only let them out for about an hour before bedtime, when I can keep an eye on them.


  1. Has Pip ever corrected Sophie for harassing the fowl?


  2. My golden would be going nuts if she saw that many turkeys that wouldn't fly away.

    She flushed her first turkey at four months of age, and she's been crazy about them ever since.

    I don't know how she'd do with turkeys that keep coming at her.

    The neighbors used to have a dozen guinea fowl that would attack my golden boxer in a phalanx-- a screaming phalanx. Those birds had her entirely buffaloed, and this was a dog that loved to kill skunks.

    I suppose that guinea fowl do this screaming phalanx behavior when they are confronted with a leopard, and because leopards are a strongly motor pattern dependent predator that rely on the element of surprise, they are probably more likely to call off any attack against the guinea fowl.

  3. No, because Sophia has never harassed the fowl.

    The defensive aggression you see here is only the second time I've seen her even interact with them. The first time was last week, when they got her cornered on the porch.

    If the birds keep bullying her, one of them is going to get killed. I'd be okay with that if I thought that (a) the other turkeys would learn anything from it and (b) Sophia would not learn anything untoward from it. However, all that I know of avian and canine cognition suggests the opposite would occur.

    You can see that Sophia actually retreats behind Pip at one point -- Pip is standing in a sort of neutral, sort of "none shall pass" posture oriented to the turkeys.

    And the point where Pip briefly approaches and contacts Sophia looks more like a packmate welfare check than anything else. Pip and Moe are keeping a very calm demeanor through some very over-the-top action here.

    The ES are certainly annoyed by Sophia's default drunk & disorderly behavior, but they seem to keep pack and species loyalty when it comes to the feathered street gang.

    I have a forlorn hope that Rosie can model "calm assertive energy" with the turkeys for Sophia -- but as you can see, Sophia doesn't seem to be paying much attention to how Rosie does it.

  4. Guineas can be nasty. Mine were respectful of the dogs and humans, but bullied my chickens.

    They were delicious.

    But I'll need to get some poults in the spring, as the ticks have exploded around here.

    I plan to get a lot of poults, brood them in early spring, let them roost in the run-in shed instead of with the chooks, accept that there will be some losses from owls, etc., and after the first hard freezes take stock. Maybe keep some brood stock if they behave, otherwise eat/sell them in the fall.

    The turkeys do the same loud, intimidating phalanx, but with some major differences. They are much larger and taller -- taller than a big dog -- they look even bigger when displaying, and they are extremely tame/fearless of humans, so they don't run away when I come after them.

    They respect the hell out of Rosie and Cole, though.

  5. I love the part where Sophia hides behind Pip. Truly amazing how those birds don't even think about coming after the ESs.

  6. Oh, save yourself the torture of guinea fowl- get some bantam chickens. I've grown up with them and although my parents' nine acre place was 3/4 woods, we never had a tick problem. They love to find those little bloodsuckers and eat them! Plus they give you eggs.

    Miare Connolly

  7. But guinea fowl are a delicacy called pintade.

  8. Two things i noticed in this video that I found interesting. It could have been the angle, or I could be wrong but it looked to me as if the turkeys initaly started to posture at the ES (I am sorry I don't know their names) but it was unaffected. Then the shepered 'broke' and couldn't resist responding. The rest looks like compulsive antagonizeing. The turkeys can't resist needleing the sheperd and the sheperd can't resist getting excited. I see the result of much better self control.

    Jacob L'Etoile

  9. Jacob, you are dead-on.

    Sophia is the most self-control deficient dog I've ever had the challenge of working. Her lack of self-control pisses off the people around her, pisses off the English shepherds, and apparently, pisses off turkeys.

    I've had to accept that this is a temperament trait, and substitute command-based control -- which I do have with her, and which was not actually that difficult to attain -- for any autonomous ability to master her impulses.

    In contrast, the English shepherds are rather poorly trained to commands -- because they control their own impulses and are sensitive to context and social communication.

  10. Heather,
    I thought that might be the case. I am working with a dog in need of self control. It is going well though. Mostly I think he just needs lots to do and time to mature. He is a big goofball lab. We also have an elderly mini dachund and I think the lab 'gets' the need for self control based on the following story: Lab is playing with dach and gets too excited/rough, dach gives a little 'too much' snarl and lab goes and mauls his bed, then returns to play nice with the dach. I have seen this type of behavor a couple of times and to my un professional eye it says 'I know I can't get too intense with you, let me blow off some steam and get back to you':)
    Jacob L'Etoile


I've enabled the comments for all users; if you are posting as "anonymous" you MUST sign your comment. Anonymous unsigned comments will be deleted. Trolls, spammers, and litigants will be shot.