Youngster Makes a Quick Dashaway

The youngster in the middle here is a seven-month old male pup. He’s on good terms with both his parents. He greets both parents, and then Dad, to the left, “puts the youngster down.”

Dad has been out of commission for several days, at least during my observations, due to an injury he sustained either from an aggressive dog or possibly from a fight with a raccoon: his face and head have lacerations, and he limps on both his left legs. I’ve noticed that injured coyotes lay low for a while. Because of his recent absence, he may have a need to re-establish his position in the family hierarchy, which may be why he puts this pup down. The youngster submits easily.

Mom is to the right. She has just finished a pretty amazing harsh attack on this youngster’s female sibling.  Is this youngster fearful of the same punishment which has just been dished out to his sister?

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Charles Wood
    Nov 14, 2013 @ 10:01:20

    Janet I may see this video a little differently. But I’m not at all sure. There is an element in the son’s greeting of his mother that captures my attention and that element may or may not be important to understanding this particular interaction between these three coyotes. That element is the son’s licking of Mom’s mouth. Mouth licking is typically the way a coyote child asks a parent for food. With that possible interpretation of mouth licking in mind, let me review the action in the video.

    In the video the son first looks to Dad as Dad approaches. Does the son show his Dad some teeth in those quick moments? That isn’t clear. Next, the son turns to lick his mother’s mouth. Is that a solicitation by the son of food from his mother? Dad continues on toward mother and son. The mother neither produces food nor objects to being mouth licked. Then Dad arrives.

    Dad opens his mouth and shows teeth as he arrives. The son’s attention diverts to his father. The son finds Dad’s mouth open with teeth showing. It isn’t clear to me in the video if the son tried to also lick his dad’s mouth. If so, did the son then also ask his dad for food? Also, as the son turned to Dad, did the son show Dad some teeth? It isn’t clear. What is clear is that Dad pinches his son’s muzzle, twists it, and puts the son down. All three then stand fairly still for a few moments. The interaction between the three presumably over, the youngster makes a quick dash away.

    I wonder. If the son had tried to lick his Dad’s mouth, then Dad putting the son down may have been Dad saying no to that request for food. On the other hand, if the son instead of trying to lick had really showed teeth to Dad when Dad arrived, that certainly could have offended Dad. Earlier, if the son had showed teeth to Dad before Dad even got there, then that teeth showing of the son to his father could have set the tone for the son’s subsequent encounter with a likewise dominance showing Dad. On the other hand, Dad may have simply wanted to discourage his son from asking Mom for food.

    Part of my fascination with coyotes is that the more I see, the more possibilities there are to explaining their behavior.

    Reply

    • yipps
      Nov 14, 2013 @ 13:28:05

      Hi Charles —

      My reading is that, since this coyote male pup has always been totally complacent and submissive, at this stage I don’t believe he’s showing teeth as a communication device or challenging the established order. This pup airplanes his ears often, keeping them low, indicating that he’s not going to be a challenge to anyone.

      However, I have wondered if this mother might have been trying to “toughen up” the female pup she beat up? Getting her ready for dispersal? Doing her a favor? This male pup, having observed that treatment, may be learning the lesson vicariously. IF he did show teeth — which I didn’t see — could he be developing some protective measures even against his parents? Let’s see how it develops!

      Reply

  2. Charles Wood
    Nov 14, 2013 @ 17:52:12

    It’s tough for a coyote parent. On the one hand the parent needs the child’s cooperation/submission in receiving from the parent some important life lessons. On the other hand, the parent needs the child to become independent, to not drain the parent of hard won food. My Mom coyote once encouraged/demanded of her son Mister that he be the one to message my dog and me to leave. She stood behind at the ready to protect him from my dog and me should it be necessary. In fact, my dog barked at Mister, and Mom came running in “Not to MY baby you don’t bark!” As Mister over time became more confident, he was able leave his parents.

    Once it became known that wolf packs consisted primarily of related individuals (parents and children), a lot the prior description of pack behavior with its emphasis on dominance/submission became less meaningful. That’s because generally in nature any child is dependent and submissive to its parents, and dominance/submission between parent and child is expected, part of a family dynamic.

    Previously, the idea was that dominance/submission/power established a pecking order for food, with stronger and weaker individuals competing to eat first, etc. In a captive wolf pack, like those first studied and from which our ideas of canine behavior were strongly influenced, competition for food with its dominance and submission did dominate the ‘pack’. Dominance/submission became the primary lens through which we interpreted canine behavior. In fact, in a dog pack like Caesar Milan keeps, dominance/submission and pecking order do reign supreme among the unrelated individuals that comprise his pack; and we’re encouraged to interpret all canine behavior according to a power model derived from studies of what amounted to dysfunctional zoo animals.. We had also overlooked, I believe, that in giving primacy to a dominance/submission/power model to reveal to us the otherwise hidden workings of a canine pack, we are adopting a description of canine society that sounds a lot like the kind of society that human men, under our patriarchal social systems, have adopted, with its emphasis on a hierarchy based on alpha male competition for wealth and power. In its first attempts, studies of canine behavior found there only a description of ourselves at our worst where power and competition are almost worshipped, the idea of love and cooperation as the social glue that reveals the hidden workings of a canine social unit falling by the wayside. Attempts to observe a primarily power based social order in wild canines failed, packs as we had been encouraged to regard them evaporated and instead we have not a pack, but a functional family unit where parents have power because their children aren’t grown up yet! The idea of power and competition as the primary bond between canine ‘pack’ members is no longer considered meaningful. What we have instead are dynamics within a family group where parental love and authority are the contexts that more fully reveal the hidden workings of a canine ‘social unit’.

    Reply

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