Life became a little more interesting for our team back in 2016 when we welcomed two very round, very uncoordinated, and very cute baby dolphins to our family. Tug was born to Dinghy on September 25th and Jett was born to Jessica on November 24th, just shy of two months apart. Both male calves were sired by Alfonz and have grown up together over the past five years. During that time, we’ve been able to get to know them and watch their personalities change and develop.
Dinghy in labor with Tug on September 25, 2016.
Despite having the same father, Jett & Tug have very different personalities. Getting to know their unique characters and their likes and dislikes is incredibly rewarding and has allowed our team to build strong relationships with both calves. In this blog, we would like to explore some of their personality traits a little further and share with you the two youngest members of the DPMMR family.
Quick Note on Anthropomorphism - Anthropomorphism is defined as the attribution of human characteristics to non-human entities (or in this case, non-human animals). As behaviorists and caregivers, we do our best to avoid being anthropomorphic, as it is subjective by nature and can cloud our judgement when interpreting animal behavior. However, without anthropomorphism, it is extremely hard to think about, relate to, or understand animals and their behavior. We could write an entire blog on anthropomorphism (and perhaps we will!), but for now… please read the rest of this blog knowing that these are simply interpretations and perceptions of two of our animals written through an anecdotal, casual, and conversational lens rather than written with scientific scrutiny or accuracy.
Despite having an overprotective mother, Jett tends to be more on bold in general when compared to his brother. His trainers have described his personality as bold his entire life, particularly when it comes to his interactions with people and other dolphins. The only time that Jett might be considered timid is with environmental changes and some enrichment devices.
On the flip side, Tug is much more timid with his interactions with other dolphins and people. Despite his timid nature in a social setting, Tug is actually quite bold when it comes to his environment. Tug has always enjoyed the beach behavior and is confident sliding out of the water. He also never seemed to have an issue coming over to a submerged platform or swimming over it, a task that was somewhat challenging at first for his younger brother. Furthermore, whenever there are changes to the dolphin environment (such as installing new floating platforms, shade structures, or introducing novel stimuli and enrichment devices), Tug seems to be the least affected and is bold in his explorations of changes. Interestingly, what one brother is bold with, the other is typically timid about.
Tug shows off his athleticism.
One of Tug’s nicknames is “Hotwheels,” and that is because he has one speed… FAST. Tug is easily one of our most athletic dolphins and seems to find it reinforcing to jump higher, swim faster, and generally outperform any of the other dolphins when it comes to athletic behaviors. Jett on the other hand seems to have inherited the “work smarter not harder” trait from his father and isn’t as interested in jumping higher or swimming faster. If you are comparing the two brother’s athleticism… Tug would take home the trophy in every “event.”
Jett hanging out with B.B. who is slightly more dominant in the social structure.
When it comes to dominance, Jett is undoubtedly more dominant than Tug. In fact, despite being a 4 year old at the time of writing this blog, Jett is one of the most dominant animals in our pod and seems to have no qualms trying to “steal” fish or toys from any of the other dolphins in his lagoon. Dolphins are highly social animals and use body language to communicate with one another or to establish and maintain a social hierarchy. If another dolphin higher up the ladder with Jett attempts to put him in his place, Jett has an uncanny resilience and appears unaffected by their discipline. On the other hand, Tug is our most submissive animal in the Pod and pays extra attention to social behavior between dolphins, often swimming over to his mother for comfort or protection.
One thing that both dolphins share in common is how smart they are. However, the two boys appear to their caregivers to be smart in different ways. For example, Jett excels with cognitive tasks that require him to think abstractly about a concept or behavior that his trainer is asking him to complete. Not only does he do well with these types of behaviors, he finds them incredibly engaging. If Jett could go to school, he would most likely be a straight A student! Conversely, Tug seems to be more “street smart” and does well with solving problems on his own. Although Tug can and is learning cognitive behaviors, it seems to take him a bit longer to grasp than Jett.
Jett checks out an underwater camera.
Tug is significantly more patient than Jett when it comes to most interactions. For example, Tug is content to wait for a period of time while the trainer focuses on another task (retrieving a toy, talking to a guest, focusing on another dolphin’s needs) and will wait patiently for the trainer to be ready to continue with session before moving on. This is potentially because he has spent so much time working with the same trainer as his mom growing up and has had to be patient while the trainers focused on her care. Whenever teaching Tug a new behavior or interacting with him, he is not easily frustrated and will be patient while you work to communicate what you are trying to teach him. Most new trainers will start off their career by working with Tug because of how patient he is by nature.
Jett on the other hand is not as naturally patient and prefers to be the center of attention all of the time. Although he is learning to be patient, it doesn’t seem to come as easy to Jett as it does to his brother. Further, when Jett is learning a new behavior he can quickly lose interest if he isn’t succeeding in the learning process. When Jett wants to do a behavior, he has no problem swimming out to complete the behavior, even if it isn’t his turn! Nonetheless, teaching Jett to be patient is one of the most rewarding parts of working with him. “Patience is a virtue,” they say, but it wouldn’t be at the top of our list of adjectives to describe Jett.
Jett as a calf "marching to the beat of his own drum."
With the other personality traits we’ve described, it probably doesn’t come as a shock that Jett is more independently motivated. That is… he is happy to do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it. You could say Jett “marches to the beat of his own drum” and if Jett doesn’t want to do something, he is very likely not going to do it. Tug, however, is very eager to please and seems to like working with the trainer to do the correct behavior or achieve a goal. If there was a behavior Tug wasn’t as motivated to do, chances are he would still participate to try to still get the behavior correct. Don’t get us wrong, both dolphins love to work with their trainers and get visibly excited when they get told “good job” for completing a task. There just appears to be a difference in the motivation behind "why" they do certain behaviors.
Tug "creating" his own behavior.
Tug is naturally creative by nature and often adds his own “flair” to the behaviors the training team ask him to do. . Its not uncommon to ask Tug for a behavior that is well established and for him to offer a completely novel behavior (see above). Beyond being creative in his interactions with trainers, Tug can be quite inventive when interacting with his toys and “creates” many new and novel ways to interact with enrichment devices all on his own. Tug is undoubtedly his father’s son when it comes to how creative he is.
Jett can be creative, and when it comes to making vocalizations, we notice Jett can “create” many different noises without being prompted. However, the majority of the time, Jett seems to prefer to do the exact behavior that is asked of him without adding his own flair (which is great from a training standpoint!). If you throw a ball in with Jett, chances are he will kick it around with his fluke or carry it in his mouth, a relatively straight forward way of interacting with the ball. Like we mentioned though, Jett can be creative and sometimes will do something so creative that his caregivers end up pondering how his young mind could come up with something so complex.
Tug as a Calf.
Based on physical looks alone, both Jett & Tug are two of the cutest “baby” dolphins we have ever seen. As soon as you get to know them, you can’t help but falling in love with both of their unique personalities. It is somewhat interesting that despite having the same father, the two dolphins can be so different... but we aren’t complaining. To us, we have the best of both worlds with this dynamic duo.
We're looking forward to continuing to watch them grow and witnessing first-hand how their personalities continue to develop and change in the coming years.