Distractions as cues, day 17: a rope

Session 1, breakfast in location 2 (5m rope):

I don’t know how much of a role the weight of the long line plays in our success. So rather than taking it right off after letting it drag, I’m going to cut it down over the next couple of sessions until I have an off-leash dog.

The first step in this direction was to get some cheap rope – it’s the same length as my biothane line. I don’t want to cut up my biothane line because it’s the only one I have right now, and they are hard to come by here.

In today’s breakfast session, I am starting out with the rope the same length as the biothane line and dragging. This rope is much lighter than the biothane line – so in case the weight mattered in our success, I want to be able to step on the rope and stop Game – so I start out with a long enough rope.

I didn’t have to step on the rope! Yay! Before today’s dinner session, I’ll cut off a piece: raising criteria fast but in small increments.

Session 2, dinner in location 2 (4m rope):

I cut off a meter, and still got a nice response. Tomorrow morning, I’ll cut another meter.

By the way, I know she cues off the kibble and not the location in general beause this is a location we walk past between 4 and 6 times a day (need to in order to get back to or out of my place). She only shows the behavior during our training sessions. On the other occasions, she’ll go straight to the fence she can stick her head through to see if the intermittent cat is there (unless she sees or suspects the intermittent cat on the left)!

Distractions as cues, day 16: are the results replicable?

Session 1, breakfast in location 2:

They sure are! You go, Game! Switching from a recall cue to the long line made all the difference! The kibble pile is back to its original size, and there are no cats around – and I get the same behavior!

Session 2, dinner in location 2:

After learning that I can replicate the result in this morning’s session, I’m raising criteria. No need to stay at this stage; she’s got this! I drop the long line and let it drag (when this learner understands something, I can raise criteria fast, but need to keep the increments small). From now on, I’m also making sure I have more than just one hot dog on me in case Game would like to offer another check in after the first one. No need to always release to the pile of kibble right away, since it is lower value than my hot dogs.

Distractions as cues, day 15: a new Game plan

After pondering my behavior chain, I’ve decided to take out the recall cue and try to break the chain: I switched the very fluent recall cue out for the less fluent long line (reaching the end of the long line is also a cue to reorient/return, but I haven’t used the long line in forever). So I let Game approach the familiar kibble pile, did not say anything (she reached the end of the line and hesitated), clicked the reorientation and reinforced with a hot dog from my hand, followed by a release to the kibble pile.

Two things may happen going forwards: I might get a new behavior chain of run to the end of the line to get clicked and come back, eat a hot dog and then the kibble. OR Game may start hesitating before reaching the end of the line. That’s what I’m hoping for: prediction (cue transfer) based on reaching the end of the line. We’ll see. I’m just experimenting here, and I don’t know what is going to happen.

I’m also considering doing some marker cue work around my outside kibble pile, and CU Give Me A Break (GMAB) with high value treats around the pile of kibble … but only a few long-leash-stop sessions further down the line. First, I want to see what effect the long line is going to have – or not have! – on Game.

Session 1, breakfast in location 2:

Session 2, dinner in location 2:

WOW! I did not feel the leash tighten the way it did in the morning! Which is a little bit crazy; I’m suspicious of this working so fast and exactly the way I hoped it would. Reviewing my video, the leash looks less loose than it felt. I am going to stay at this stage for at least one more session to see if I can replicate the result.

Reasons I’m suspicious here:

(1) the intermittent cat must have been around, because Game stops eating to look for the cat. She may already have been smelling the cat when we approached our kibble pile. And animals are already a cue for her to stop. So I may be seeing her response to the presence of a cat, not her response to a pile of kibble. Cats trump kibble. (I can’t see the cat, but Game either smells them or thinks she sees them. If she didn’t, she would not stop eating mid-kibble.)

(2) The kibble pile is smaller than usual because I’ve already worked on a bunch of unrelated things today, and this is all that’s left of Game’s dinner.

(3) I changed kibble – not on purpose, but I ran out, and couldn’t get my usual brand. So this is a different brand of kibble and may be lower value than my original pile. I don’t think it is lower value, given how enthusiastically Game has been working for it today and yesterday. But then again – who knows. Game loves to work, so kibble offered to her within a training session she enjoys may have a different value than kibble found on the street. (While the behavior of eating food found in the street is pretty high on her list of priorities, working with me is usually even higher. It wasn’t when she was a puppy and adolescent, but it is now that she is an adult.)

(The breakfast kibble in this session was the same as the dinner kibble. The reinforcer from my hand is still an entire hot dog. When she reoriented a second time, I would have rewarded again, but I only had that one hot dog on me.)

In any case – tomorrow morning, I’ll repeat and see what happens!

Distractions as cues, day 14: a break from the distractions-as-cues project, and remedial marker cue work

Today, while still thinking about how I wanted to change my distraction-as-cue strategy and considering various options, I did some remedial marker cue work rather than using the kibble pile as a distraction. Since I’ve already mixed marker cues into these sessions, I might as well use today’s day off the distracion-as-cue project to clean up the strength of my markers! (The cut in the middle of this video is when I get up for a kibble refill). Tomorrow – back to distractions as cues!

My rule of thumb for this learner is to change strategies if I don’t see results in about a week. I’ve been more stubborn with my original approach, and stuck with it longer than I normally would, because it worked so fast and so well indoors. This reinforcement history on my part caused me to try once more yeserday, for example. Had I not seen the results in the first location, or if this was my first location, this would likely have shaved 2-3 days off the time I spent on this approach.

It’s good to stay aware of our own tendencies in this respect! Do you tend to abandon strategies too early, before giving them time to work, or do you tend to stick to the same approach for a long time, even in the absence of tangible results?

It’s not only that every human trainer has their own tendencies in this respect – so does every learner we work with. Knowing both our learner and ourselves well is what gives us the best results. In real life, getting to know a new learner takes time. But we can meet them with an awareness of our own tendencies – that’s half the battle dance party!

Distractions as cues, day 13: more whole hot dogs, and time to change the Game plan

Session 1, breakfast in location 2:

She actually didn’t eat any kibble even though my recall happened late – she just touched it and then turned on a dime right as I called. I waited till the last millisecond to call her this morning, hoping she’d choose to do an auto-return! But … not yet. Let’s see what tonight holds in store for us!

Session 2, dinner in location 2:

A relatively slow approach the first time (trotting rather than running). However, this doesn’t necessarily mean anything. We’ve had an active day of hiking and training. No auto-return – so we will change gears!

I might take a day off this project as I think up the next strategy I want to use (and ponder where I want to take this behavior, and whether I want to keep working on it). I’ll keep you updated! Btw, what I say in the end is that Game just had a street meal, not a straight meal. No straight meals for anyone – streetfood only! This little town has the best Quesadillas I’ve had in all of Mexico!

Distractions as cues, day 12: what if I’ve built a behavior chain?

Session 1, breakfast in location 1:

I don’t think you’ll see the fireworks-induced slight concern in Game’s body language – but I certainly see it before and after this session. Thursdays are not our best days.

Session 2, dinner in location 2:

Today, Game gets an entire hot dog from my hand after the click. Yep, I know, she’s a vacuum! It takes her only a second to inhale that hot dog! This was certainly higher value than the usual hot dog piece: you can see that in the way she hesitates and looks at me after eating it. Maybe there’ll be another one?

Is it a behavior chain?

I generall stick with an approach for about a week. By then, if I’ve worked on it daily, I want to see measurable progress. In my first location (inside), I’ve succeeded in turning the visual/olfactory cue of the pile of kibble into a cue to return to me. In my second location (outside), I’ve seen what I’ve interpreted as glimpses of progress – but nothing tangible. And it’s been a week outside. It’s time to start looking at other possibilities. And there is a BIG one: behavior chains.

Two things can happen in set-ups like this: you can either get a cue transfer (which I’ve been aiming for: new cue (pile of kibble) followed by old cue (recall) should eventually turn the new cue into a cue for what used to be cued by the old cue. This is what I planned on, and what happened inside the house.

However – there’s another possibility: I could have been building a behavior chain of run around the corner and up to the kibble in order to get recalled, in order to get released to the kibble (or get to eat hot dogs and then be released to the kibble). It is entirely possible that Game has developed the superstition that running up to the pile of kibble is what she needs to do in order to set the entire progress in motion – as if there were a big kibble-pile-shaped button she needed to push: my recall cue marks the button push, which unlocks the reinforcement galore: hot dogs and kibble, praise and freedom to go look for the intermittent cat after.

We consciously build behavior chains all the time, for example in trial prep when we backchain towards a final big reinforcer that will be given at the end of a (far more complex) routine. If we set things up just right, the dog will perform the entire routine in order to get that final reinforcer – even a dog who is not intrinsically motivated to do the behaviors that come before the reinforcer. If I want to build a behavior chain, I will first work on all the parts independently to get fluency, and then chain them together like beads on a string, connecting them to a final large reward.

At this point, I truly wonder whether this is what’s going on with Game and the kibble pile outside. It would make sense, and here’s why. I have successfully turned environmental stimuli into cues in the past – among them critters, sheep, and all kinds of other animals, both in my own dogs and in student dogs. There’s one crucial difference though: in these scenarios, the reinforcer (chasing the critter; herding) is generally unavailable until after my release cue. There is little reinforcement history for chasing off cue. It’s under stimulus control because that’s how I’ve set up from the start. With students who already have a strong reinforcement history around freely accessing a particular stimulus, I will often implement a strict management plan as we work on turning that stimulus into a cue: no more free access to, say, chasing squirrels. I’ll want to convince the dog that chasing squirrels will become available – but only after either a cued behavior or a voluntary check-in, depending on the specific training goal. The management piece (no free access to that same reinforcer) is something I stress while we work on the training plan. The longer a history the dog has of freely accessing their reinforcer, the longer we’ll have to manage and train because we have to overcome all that history, and convince our learner that the reinforcer isn’t available “for free” anymore.

On the other hand, when building a behavior chain, I will work on all the links in the chain independently, getting them fluent and giving each its reinforcement history before chaining them together (for example, if you are working up to an obedience routine, you will train each behavior and give it a strong reinforcement history before chaining them together into an entire run).

Game is practicing one link in what could be a chain every day: freely accessing food out and about.

Reinforcement histories

I managed to get the cue transfer just fine in the house with Game. She has a history of not being able to access food in the house when I cook or eat, and of not finding random food unless there is a cue to look for it. This history may have set her up for success: in the context of the house, there is no reinforcement history for random free food.

Outside, it’s a different story. As I mentioned earlier, I let Game scavenge to her heart’s content when we’re out and about. It’s a dog thing she loves doing, and she rarely gets sick. So I don’t worry about it, and let her enjoy the things she finds (unless it’s human poop, because it grosses me out if my dog is going to stick their nose into my face later that day). Everything else – go for it. When she is on leash, I will tell her what a lucky girl she is when she finds something, and wait until she has finished eating. I’ll simply adapt her daily food ration when she eats out a lot. When I used to live in the center of Guanajuato, a guesstimated 10% to 30% of her caloric intake was scavenged on any given day. The rest was provided by me.

There are times when I test if my recall or leave it cues or marker cues are still sharp, and then I’ll interrupt her from eating or call her back right before. But that would be an exception rather than the norm.

My idea for this particular experiment was to only use a single environment outdoors, and always use the same food (kibble of a brand she doesn’t find out in the world). I thought I could get a cue transfer result in this location even though I let her scanvenge elsewhere.

Why have I not implemented a management strategy?

It’s just a deal breaker to manage the scavenging while I teach the kibble pile as a recall cue. She enjoys scavenging, and I do not want to take it from her. I am only teaching the kibble pile cue transfer to show you all how I would do it, not because I actually need it. If I needed this behavior, it would be a different story, and there would be strict management.

But since I don’t: in any other context, she has been continued to be allowed and encouraged to freely access whatever food she finds. The food she finds is also usually higher value than the kibble she’s currently on. So in a word – she has a VERY strong and long reionforcement history of freely accessing high-value food. And I may simply have been wrong about the fact that I could still teach a cue transfer in this one outdoors situation where she doesn’t usually find food.

I’m going to give it one more day (tomorrow), with entire hot dogs from my hand, and unless I see a result by tomorrow night, I’ll move on to a different strategy.

What would a cue transfer result ideally look like?

The result I want to see looks like the video below: Alicia and Dylan are currently working on recalls, following the protocol laid out in Calling All Dogs (an FDSA class I teach twice a year). They are at the stage where the dog is off leash, but the distraction is being protected by a barrier. Alicia uses a wire crate to keep the distraction safe. Dylan does not have a strong reinforcement history of freely accessing the kinds of distractions Alicia is working up to. In this case, the distraction is a bowl in the crate. Because we have practiced recalls away from the bowl (and other things) so often in different locations, first on a long line, and then with the crate, Dylan predicts Alicia’s recall here: he approaches the crate, notices the distraction, remembers that it reliably predicts a recall, and returns to Alicia before she has a chance to call him!

Alicia has not been aiming for this behavior – she has just been aiming for recalls off distractions. It happened anyways because that’s how cue transfers work when our reward is high value and our training and management are being consistent! That’s what I expected to see in Game by now. I am starting to suspect that we are not going to get that cue transfer with the kibble pile – but patience, grasshopper! I’ll give it one more day.

Distractions as cues, day 11

Session 1, breakfast in location 2:

This video is a bit grainy because I had to turn the brightness way up – it’s early today and still dawn out.

Session 2, dinner in location 2:

Nothing much to remark except the speed: trotting rather than running towards the kibble. (And yes, I have two sweaters, not just one.)

Wanna work on this or similar behaviors with your own dog? Join me in Out and About at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy!

Distractions as cues, day 10

I just realized I published my write up for day #10 before day #9. So I’m switching around the order these posts will appear on my blog so future readers don’t get confused! Day #9 – the one I skipped! – can be found here.

Session 1, breakfast in location 2:

This time, Game started hesitating before reaching me when I called her: she is starting to expect the “okay” release to happen! This is excellent information: I want her to keep thinking “Come all the way back” thoughts after her recall. So next time, I won’t immediately release with “Okay,” but do a tossed “Get it” or click hot dog. The positives: Game is continuing to approach the kibble in a trot rather than a flat-out run. Thoughtfulness is what I expect to happen before the cue transfer.

Session 2, dinner in location 2:

It’s raining men! Hallelujah!

I’m doing two “Get it” hot dog tosses to ensure Game keeps coming all the way back after my recall cue.

If the above video doesn’t work in your country due to copyright issues, here is the same video without the song:

Unless I’ve got something interesting to say after releasing Game to the kibble, I’ll cut my future videos once she gets there to keep my videos fast and easy to watch!

If you want to work on this or similar behaviors with your own dogs, join me in Out and About at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy! Or check out any of our other classes! Game and I are having fun in Nicole Wiebusch’s Heeling class at Gold this term! The plan was to also follow Sara Brueske’s Bomb Proof Behaviors at Bronze … but we’ll have to catch up with this one during the break! This term is a good reminder for me that when I’m teaching, podcasating, writing daily blog posts and house hunting, there really is only one class I can keep up with as a participant. Otherwise, I’d have to skip my daily long nature walks – and they are non negotiable. I need my off-leash time!

Distractions as cues, day 9

Session 1, breakfast in location 2:

I love that Game watches me and waits for my release to the kibble cue – even though I’m a little slow to release this morning! Good girl!

Session 2, dinner in location 2:

In fact, unlike I say in this video, there IS progress to report, and I see it more clearly as I’m watching this video back: not only is Game going around the corner more slowly than in earlier sessions – she is trotting (rather than running) the entire time now! And you can see that while her nose points towards the goal (the pile of kibble), the ears are up and back: she is expecting me to call her and actively listening for it! This is not a dog barreling towards a pile of kibble! She’s getting slower and more thoughtful! Love my bestest girl!

Wanna work on this or similar behaviors with your own dog? Join me in Out and About at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy! Registration is still open, and we’re having lots of fun in class!

Long version of village dog dinner time: population size discussion

By my definition, a community dog is a dog who is not attached to one particular owner, but part of the (human) community they share a space with. In some scientific papers, community dogs are referred to as unowned free-roaming dogs. The dogs in this video are community dogs in a village of approximately 1000 people.

A village dog, by my definition, is a free-roaming dog who lives in a village. Village dogs can be both owned or unowned, and owned and unowned free-roaming village dogs rub shoulders during the day. At night, the owned free-roamers will be home with their human family while the community dogs will wait for their dinner, and then find their own places to sleep. (In this particular village, lots of food stands are empty and covered at night, and they are easily accessible, and provide shelter from the elements. This is likely where at least some of them sleep.)

Interesting side note: I have not seen community dogs in cities. In my experience, urban free-roamers are usually owned.

Community dog population size

The community dog population is likely stable over time. That is to say, there is likely a certain number of dogs the niche the community is able to support, and it is fairly consistent. Let’s say (just picking a random number here) the community dog population is 10 dogs. Why would it be 10? Because there is enough food for 10 dogs. These dogs are intact, so they are having puppies (mixing their genes with owned village dogs), but this does not make the community dog population grow.

Throughout the day, they scavenge at food stands and find the chips and other food dropped by kids on their way home from school, and at night, they get fed by one or two people like Veronica in this video. Neither Veronica nor the kids are going to produce more left-overs or drop more food when there is a new litter of puppies on the ground. They share a space and share resources, and this is what it’s always been like. Nobody sees it as their obligation to support an ever-growing number of dogs (this would be as strange as supporting an ever-growing number of rats).

How does the population size stay consistent despite the fact that everyone is having puppies? Well, over 60% of free-roaming puppies die before they reach reproductive age themselves. This isn’t a shocking number; it’s similar for wild canids such as wolves. So only about 40% of all puppies even get to a point where they have the chance to permanently join the community dog population.

The community dog population sometimes opens up a spot: this happens when someone in town loses a dog, or maybe their kid really wants a dog, and they have the time, space, and resources to get one. So they’ll take one of the community dogs out of the population, and this dog will now become an owned village dog who eats at home and may or may not be free-roaming (most are, but unless they live very close to Veronica’s quesadilla stand, they are unlikely to keep coming back there once they get food at their house).

Let’s say someone just took a dog out of the community dog population. Now, there are only 9, which leaves one spot open – for example for a puppy to fill, like the white puppy in this video (*). A spot will also open up anytime one of the community dogs dies. How do they die? For example of age-related issues (the life expectancy of community dogs is lower than the life expectancy of pet dogs, just like the life expectancy of wild animals is significantly lower in the wild than in a zoo), because they get run over by a car, or are injured by a car in such a way that they can’t recover without veterinary care. Or if they happen to have or develop an illness that will kill them without veterinary care (cancer, diabetes, heart worm desease etc.). What happens to the rest of the new puppies? Well, puppies are cute. So some community puppies will immediately become owned village dogs because the humans know that the puppies are community puppies and can be claimed.

This particular village doesn’t generally have tourists, so it is unlikely that anyone gets stolen. The puppies who don’t become owned village dogs or find an open spot in the community population may make it to the next community over, and find an open spot there. Or they may get run over. Puppies don’t know what they are doing yet, and they are small. Even though drivers in this town generally look out for the dogs, the tinier you are, the harder you are to see, and if you don’t know that you shouldn’t fall asleep under a bus about to drive off … well. I’d venture this is the most common cause of death for puppies (but I do not have data on this).

Spay/neuter clinics

Let’s say you, an outsider, come into this town, learn about the stable community dog population and consider the fact that most puppies don’t make it a tragedy. You decide that there is a problem, and you are going to solve it. Your own background culture preaches spay and neuter, so you start a fundraiser and get a spay-and-neuter-clinic to come to this town, say, the first and third weekend of January. It’ll be in the churchyard, it’ll be free, and you start putting up posters to advertise it in November. The posters say to bring your dog to get them spayed/neutered.

What’s going to happen the first and third weekend of January? People are indeed going to come and get their dogs spayed and neutered for free. Some of the dogs who’ll end up spayed/neutered will be pet dogs (dogs who would not have contributed their genes to the community dog population in any case because they are not allowed to roam free). Most of them will be owned free-roaming village dogs, simply because most village dogs are owned free-roamers. So their genes were part of the village dog gene pool in the past, but won’t be in the future. Will there be a community dog at your spay/neuter clinic? Unlikely, unless you go out of your way to catch one and bring them to the clinic yourself. In any case, the vets you fund-raised for will have spayed and neutered a whole bunch of village dogs by the end of the second weekend, and you will feel good about yourself.

Does the population shrink?

Here’s the thing though: this is not going to make a dent in the size of the community dog population. The niche can still support 10 community dogs, and that means that there will always be 10 community dogs. Why? Because there is no way you’ll spay/neuter every single dog in the village. So you have decreased the gene pool by spaying/neutering owned free-roamers, but you are not decreasing the size of the population because there are still dogs having puppies left and right.

Even if – and this is not a realistic scenario – you managed to spay/neuter every single dog in this village, you would not decrease the size of the community dog population. The community dog population will stay at 10 for as long as the niche is able to support 10 dogs. How? Well, you’ve spayed/neutered everyone in this village, so there are no new puppies being born in this village right now. But the moment one of the existing village dog dies – a spot opens up, since there are now only 9 – someone else is going to fill this spot. If it is not a puppy being born in this village, it will be a dog from the next village over. This dog will likely not be spayed/neutered. Alright – so far, they are the only dog who is intact in this village. But if they are female, once they get in heat, a male dog from the next village over will pay her a visit. And now, you’ll have a bunch of puppies. There is now less supply of puppies in this village, so it’s entirely possible that all of these puppies become owned free-roaming village dogs right away. And they are all intact. You see where I’m going with this? I don’t know how to mathematically model this, but the thought experiment shows (I believe) that spay/neuter clinics do not impact population size in countries where dogs generally roam free. If you are reading this and know how to visualize the scenarios, go for it!

Yep, I have an opinion on this …

I’m not a vet, and I am not telling you whether to spay/neuter or not spay/neuter your dog(s) – that’s between you and your vet. I’m also not telling you whether to let or not let your dog roam free. This is between you and yourself (and maybe between you and your dog, but mostly, let’s be honest, between you and yourself. You are your dog’s benevolent or not-so-benevolent dictator, after all, and you are the one with the opposable thumbs who does or doesn’t open the gate.)

There is one thing I will tell you though: in my opinion, the fact that there are and always will be 10 (hypothetical number, remember) community dogs is not a problem. I am an outsider, and I am not going to organize any spay/neuter clinics.

I don’t come from a background culture that preaches spay/neuter – I come from a country where it is illegal to remove a dog’s reproductive organs unless it is medically necessary. It is possible that this is part of the reason I don’t see the consistent 10 community dogs as a problem – I don’t know. It is very likely part of the reason I do not spay or neuter my own dogs.

I don’t ever want biological kids and my periods are always painful, my gender identity is not feminine and I have zero emotional attachment to my reproductive organs. And yet, I have not spayed/neutered myself (even though it would be nice to not have periods). Since I don’t experience gender dysphoria, a surgery like this seems excessive. So why would I subject my dog to it?

Important aside: I fully support everyone’s right to have surgery. It should absolutely be covered by your medical insurance, and it is fucking aweful that the US has started taking these rights from the trans community. Fuck this fascist shit! I’m just saying I don’t want surgery myself. Anyways, I digress.

… or two …

I do not see free-roaming dogs and their life expectancy as a problem, I believe, because I’m under the impression that most community dogs are living a good life while they are alive, even if most puppies don’t survive. Sure, they may have fleas, which is annoying. They may have a bearable load of endoparasites they don’t notice much. But other than that? They have a lot of freedom, they eat better than my own dog (who is mostly on kibble), and they have active social lives and both human and canine friends. Death is a natural part of life – I don’t see it as tragic if a dog dies at a young rather than an old age as long as they don’t suffer, and the life that they did have was a pleasant one.

(We need to define/operationalize “a good life” as well as “freedom.” If you’re reading this – share your definition in the comments! Does it differ depending on the species you are talking about?)

… or three.

I am clearly projecting my own values on these dogs, and I am trying to stay aware of it. I personally value life quality A LOT, and life quantity not all that much. That, I believe, is the reason I see things the way I do: not a problem; just life. I also value personal freedom greatly, and “safety” (something else that needs to be defined/operationalized) relatively little. And I can’t stand it when someone tries to control me or doles out unsolicited advice.

Based on my own values, I am okay with the way community dogs and owned free-roaming village dogs live their lives, reproduce, and do their thing. It’s not my place to intervene into their lives, physical integrity, or reproductive behavior.

The video (finally, we’re talking about the video!)

The video starts just after Veronica, who runs a (most delicious!) quesadilla stand, has doled out the dogs’ dinner. Every day, throughout the day, she fills a bucket with leftovers, and in the evening, she’ll add whatever won’t be used anymore the next day. She and her granddaughter clean up, and then, the last thing they do before they go home: they empty out the bucket for the dogs. The dogs will start coming by and waiting around 6pm, when Veronica closes the place. The dogs’ dinner is around half past 6, when everything else has been cleaned and put away.

What do they eat, you wonder? Here in this video, the bucket contains intestines (chicken hearts – those are first to go, stomach – probably venison, liver), sheep bones, veggies (among them chili peppers, which are the red things the dogs only eat in the end), and tortillas de maíz. It’s pretty much what you’d feed your dog if you were feeding a home-cooked or raw diet.

Veronica knows the dogs, and they all have names, typically referring to a physical characteristic of theirs (for example, the little curly one is “Chinito” – literally “little curly guy”). Veronica also knows the dogs’ personalities. The brindle male with the black back, Wilson, is one she keeps in check: he used to beat the other dogs up and not let them eat until he was done. You can see this in the video: some of them don’t dare to approach the pile while Wilson is here, and Veronica will come back occasionally to shoo him away. He doesn’t show any food guarding behavior towards the other dogs, but based on their body language, we can tell that they are being tentative around him. (They are not afraid of Veronica, even though it might look that way because she stays close as long as Wilson is close – they are all sociable towards people.)

The only dog in the video who keeps a respectful distance from Veronica is Wilson: he has likely had a close encounter or two with that very bucket she is swinging at him. It is no longer necessary for her to implement punishment – he knows, just based on her coming closer or talking to him, when it is time to retreat. You can see him keep an eye on Veronica just like the other dogs are keeping an eye on him.

The female who only approaches the food towards the end and occasionally jumps on me is my friend – I don’t have a relationship with any of the others. However, that female may have had a memorable encounter with Wilson in the past because she doesn’t even think about approaching while he is around. You’ve met her in a previous video:

The white puppy is also particularly interesting. See how they’re experimenting with what they can get away with around Chinito, who has a bone the puppy would very much like for themselves?

(*) Foreshadowing: this very puppy is going to also be taken out of the community dog population, and become an owned free-roaming dog. You are going to meet them again under different circumstances in a future video.