The Fan Hitch Volume 6, Number 3, June 2004

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

Editorial: Who Are You and What Do Want?
Fan Mail
F.I.D.O.: Ludovic Pirani
Geronimo's Travels
The Breeding and Maintenance of Sledge Dogs: Part I
How We Met Tom
Dog Yard Tips
Setting a New Standard
In the News
Behavior Notebook: Qiniliq and Sunny
IMHO: Unnecessary Roughness

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Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

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Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

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              Editor: Sue Hamilton
              Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
The Fan Hitch Website and Publications of the Inuit Sled Dog– the quarterly Journal (retired in 2018) and PostScript – are dedicated to the aboriginal landrace traditional Inuit Sled Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. 

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Page from a Behavior Notebook.....

Qiniliq and Sunny, up close and personal     Hamilton photo

Qiniliq and Sunny

by Mark Hamilton

Qiniliq was devastated by the loss of his boss dog, Puggiq. He had been quite happy with his social position at the bottom of Puggiq's pack. Puggiq had been extremely indulgent of the young dog. Corrections had been few and invariably bloodless. Finally, because of his lowly social position, the young dog had no experience in decision making with the exception of initiating play behavior.

Sunny's arrival was a momentous event in Qiniliq's life. Once more he had a male playmate, which was both a subordinate male pack member and an admirer all rolled up into a single red package. Qiniliq initially engaged Sunny in gentle, puppy to puppy, peer games but his size and perceived status in the eyes of Sunny meant he was immediately thrust into the decision making position as well.

Qiniliq adopted the same indulgent, playful behavior pattern Puggiq had used in raising him. Even as Sunny increased in size, Qiniliq would playfully allow himself to be pushed to the ground and chewed on by the younger male and Aqsaq, the adult female in the small pack.

Aqsaq, always interested in domination and control over any other dog, soon began to increase the intensity of her "play" with Qiniliq on these occasions. We wondered about the social consequences of Qiniliq's unwillingness to defend himself from Aqsaq during these onslaughts.

Aqsaq also seemed to show a preference for Sunny, allowing the junior male more access than she would allow Qiniliq. It appeared to us that she was trying to manipulate the young dog, seeking to make him into an ally against Qiniliq. If successful, this had the potential to leave Aqsaq in control of the pack.

Because Aqsaq is driven to dominate all other dogs, as Sunny got bigger she began to "get on his case" for minor infractions both real and imagined. To our amazement, while Qiniliq would not respond to Aqsaq's attacks on himself, he began interrupting Aqsaq's attacks on Sunny. In each successive episode his actions became more and more determined, until his response became crashing into Aqsaq hard enough to bowl her over. At that point he would either pin her or chase her away.

Sunny, by this time actually somewhat taller than Qiniliq, initially used the occasion of Qiniliq's interventions as his opportunity to escape Aqsaq. Then he began to offer his vocal support for Qiniliq. Finally he decided to actively assist Qiniliq, and Aqsaq received a couple of decisive but almost entirely bloodless corrections from the two boys before giving up her attempt at manipulating Sunny into being her ally. At that point Qiniliq's approach had resulted in him having both a happy playmate and an ally.

Relationships, however, are processes that are rarely static. Sunny, as a consequence of his interactions with Aqsaq, began to recognize his own size and strength and began testing his social position during play with Qiniliq. We recognized this change in Sunny's behavior before Qiniliq did and encouraged Qiniliq to respond to Sunny's provocative actions. Pretty quickly the responses required by Qiniliq were quite intense, although even these events were bloodless, true to what Puggiq had taught Qiniliq years earlier.

Many years ago, in response to my question about a social climbing young dog and my boss dog, Jayko Ootoowak told me, "Help the one you want to win". Now, taking that advice to heart, I began grabbing Sunny's tail and pulling him off balance whenever he seemed to have advantage in his tussles with Qiniliq. Over the course of a week or two of this, their relationship began to stabilize. Sunny decided he no longer had any current interest in elevating his social position.

Qiniliq, however, appeared to have noticed that I had been assisting him in his tussles with Sunny. Now, whenever I was training Sunny to sit and wait quietly for me to put his food bowl down (something we do to ensure our social position with young or challenging dogs), Qiniliq would come over acting in the role of enforcer. Fortunately, Qiniliq is a quick learner, and it only took one correction from me to extinguish this behavior.

For now, things are stable in Qiniliq's group. Qiniliq (three years old)  has matured into his role as boss dog. Aqsaq (eight years old) has allied herself with Qiniliq and Sunny (eleven months old) is happy to be subordinate to Qiniliq. Perhaps Sunny and Aqsaq will choose to determine social order at some point, and it will be informative to observe Qiniliq's actions if that happens, but for now the group is stable.

From left to right - Sunny, Aqsaq and Qiniliq          Hamilton photo

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