We have a new puppy. Our local animal shelter was at capacity, and we’d been contemplating adding to our pet family, so we took the plunge and brought Charlie home.

In general, Mollie and Charlie have adjusted well to each other. One area of occasional conflict, however, is the dog toys.

Mollie has a couple of favorites from the Before Puppy times, and I bought a few new toys when Charlie joined us. My plan was that he’d have his toys, and Mollie would have hers.

What’s happened, however, is that they both want to claim them all.

Sometimes, one of them grabs a toy from the other and runs off. Sometimes, they follow each other, taking a passive-aggressive approach while Moose or Dr. Pooper or Blue Dog is held captive within their teeth. At other times, they’ll stare at each other in a quiet attempt to guilt the other into relinquishing control.

Typically, I leave them both to work it out on their terms, but I do sometimes step in to help them with this process of learning to share. I’ll offer them both a toy when it’s play time, and I referee when necessary to ensure peace. Occasionally, I’ll take Froggie, Mollie’s favorite, away from Charlie and give it back to Mollie, and then distract Charlie with a different toy.

What’s interesting to me is that this situation is not that different from when my sons were little and learning to share their toys. Of course, teaching young humans to get along with other humans involves circumstances and options that don’t apply to dogs. And I recognize there’s a bit of anthropomorphic action going on in the way I evaluate and approach the dog behavior. But there are undeniable similarities.

I’m encouraged by the fact that, after struggling to gain control of a prized possession, Mollie and Charlie will often playfully run around the backyard, taking turns being the chaser and chasee. Once that game is finished, they’ll explore the fence line and trees together, sniffing and digging in the leaves and dirt. When playtime is done, they’ll both search for a comfy napping spot, sometimes near to each other, sometimes apart, and they’ll settle in and drift off into a mutually contented snooze.

Here’s to dogs and what they can teach us about the foundational elements of successful pack living.

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