Pups’ Growing Dominance or Just Affection Allowed by Mom?

I’ve noticed in the last few months that the dominant female in a group of coyotes I watch, although still very protective when it comes to defending her family, appears to not be as assertive or in-your-face about it as she once was. I see her less often these days than I used to, and when I do see her, I feel that there is less dominance in her as compared to several months ago. For instance, she will often get up and leave her perch instead of continue to monitor when certain dog groups walk by. Even so, the year-old pups still look up to her for guidance, and they always greet her ecstatically when they meet her on a path after, probably, only a few hours of separation.

I’ve noted that within her own family her dominance seems to be rather casual, and wonder if this is normal within a family.  Or, could it be a phase? There were no new puppies this year, which could simply be a coyote’s method of controlling the population, or, it could mean that this coyote is getting weaker older. Within her own family, I’ve noticed that care, concern, love and affection are supreme: these are really uplifting to see, and I see them all the time. It may be that the several instances I’ve seen of the mother’s apparent casual dominance, or tolerance, in certain situations has nothing to do, in fact, with dominance, and has everything to do with family ties and affection.

Both younger coyotes have put a paw up on top of their mother’s muzzle, and their muzzle over hers. As far as I have seen, it is the dominant one whose paw and muzzle is always on top. My own dog made this very clear to me once. We went to a pet store where Park lay on the ground, Sphynx-like with forelegs extended. The owner, whom my dog had never seen before, came up and put her hands on top of my dog’s paws. He reacted ferociously, withdrawing his paws from under her hands and moving away — it scared us all. My dog was always very obedient and did what I asked of him quickly. However, even when I put my own hand on his paw, he would smile at me and then slowly lift his to be over mine!!

The other thing I’ve seen is one of the male pups mounting his mother. Both of these instances — the paw on the muzzle and the mounting — look much more like expressions of extreme affection than expressions of dominance by the pups, so I’m wondering how and if the dominance factor fits in here.

The latest item of relevance to this is when I saw the mother’s ears airplaned out to the side and down when in the presence of her pups. In my own dog, this always indicated that the dog was succumbing, maybe under duress, to whatever was going on: a kind of resignation to the circumstances which included a knowledge of what was going to eventually happen. As an example: We had a little female cattle-dog mix. She, of course, was the center of attention always. Then, one day we were walking in Golden Gate Park when a filthy, bouncy little  four-month-old puppy began tailgating her. This was “one of the many events” that occur on walks and was exciting only to that extent for my little dog. We scanned the place for an owner — there was none to be found. We decided that we should take the puppy to the SPCA. So we put our dog into the car, and then the puppy. The minute our dog saw that this puppy was coming home with us, she decided that she would flee — she did not want to put up with this dirty and mannerless homeless fellow.  There was no aggression or growling on her part, rather, she simply tried escaping the situation by attempting to jump out the car window — fortunately she didn’t make it. Her ears went way down and out. We ended up keeping the puppy, which Cinder was never happy about, because, as I later figured out, she knew, right from the start, that this puppy would become the dominant one and that her unique status was going to be compromised.

I wonder if the coyote mother might have a similar inkling? She, however, is not going to flee because these are her own offspring and this is her territory. Could the ears down indicate her own forbearance for now? Maybe there will come a time when she will snap, when she will lay down the law, when she will ban them from her presence. The time for this is not now. These are just thoughts that occurred to me based on my own limited observations on coyotes and my own dogs. I’m sure that these behaviors will fall into place as I see more.

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