The New Boys on the Block
Last week, two new male Painted Dogs joined Imara and Lucy, mother and daughter females, in Painted Dog Valley (This video explains why they’re here and where Imara’s other pups went!) The five-year-old males, Kwasi and Masai, came to Cincinnati from the Perth Zoo in Australia. Kwasi has the more visible yellow ‘tear drops’ on his face and 2 black dots on the right side of his tail. Masai has a completely white tail and his yellow coloring looks a bit paler. They came from a multigenerational pack which at one point had 21 other dogs. Because of their upbringing, these boys are well versed in proper dog etiquette. Since they had been present for at least one litter of puppies at the Perth Zoo, they should have a good understanding of their roles whether it is as the father or as a helper. So far, both dogs seem to be mild-mannered gentlemen.
Before fully introducing the males to the females, we gave them some time to get acclimated to the layout of the exhibit and the indoor holding area. They could smell and hear the girls, but could not see them. We did not give visual access on the first day because that can actually turn excitement into stress. Leaving them with just their sense of smell and the ability to hear the girls, lets them know they are there but also gives them a chance to explore their new surroundings without distraction.
The behaviors of all 4 dogs indicated, right away, that they wanted to be together. There was quite a bit of trying to get to each other and vocalizing in a positive way. Staff prepared to do introductions the following day. Based on the information we gathered about the boys while they were in mandatory quarantine and the in-depth knowledge we already have of the females, we decided the best way to do it was to put all 4 dogs together at once in a somewhat controlled environment. There are multiple ways to do introductions, like putting just the alpha pair together first and then adding the subordinates or even doing one on one introductions, but we felt that the dogs would do just fine being put together all at once.
Things could not have gone better! Imara, Lucy’s mom, ran the show. I have said in the past that she hasn’t really played the alpha female role well thus far. Boy did she make me eat my words. I was so impressed with how she took charge of all 3 dogs, especially with how she handled Lucy. I think the addition of 2 young males kicked in her alpha instincts. She was fantastic at guiding, correcting and protecting Lucy when needed. Imara also let the boys know they could only push so far when investigating her daughter. Lucy, never having been introduced to new dogs who aren’t related, was a bit lost and scared with the situation. However, Imara would put herself between the boys and Lucy when they were being too pushy and when Lucy felt comfortable and started to act inappropriately with the males, Imara would guide her away from them. There was no aggression at all, which is extremely rare when painted dogs are introduced!
After the pack calmed down from the intial excitement and were more relaxed, keepers gave them access to the outdoor exhibit. There we observed all sorts of fun behaviors. Lucy would play with the males, and Imara seemed particularly interested in Kwasi. They were doing a lot of ‘wheel barrowing’ behavior. This is where one dog nuzzles under the other and flips them into the air. This is Imara’s way of flirting. They also did a lot of rolling and scent marking. Kwasi reinforced his higher status with his brother by pushing him away and biting his cheek. This does not hurt him. It’s all part of the dog etiquette that will help the pack to be stable. At this point, it looks like Kwasi will be our alpha male and Imara is retaining her status as our alpha female. It’s a very exciting time at Painted Dog Valley. We hope you can come out soon and see our new pack!