There’s a road near my house that I call the Gauntlet, because it contains large dogs barking madly behind most of the gates. To walk down it with an anxious dog is nerve-wracking. To do so with three dogs is exciting, to put it mildly.
The road starts with a Rottweiler on the left, closely followed by a German Shepherd on the right. Then comes the most difficult part, with a German Shepherd cross Malamute on the right and three large dogs opposite. Then there are more Rottweilers and other dogs on the right, and lastly more German Shepherds.
When I adopt a new dog, this road is always the most difficult to walk down. If my dog is calm, the reaction of the other dogs is less severe, and we manage to pass by them without too much of a problem.
Little Monkey, however, will always project anxiety and her unsocialised, unbalanced state. The other dogs pick up on her body language and energy and react even more vigorously than usual. It has taken me the whole 7 years I’ve had her, to be able to walk this Gauntlet with impunity. Yet she still reacts on occasion; leaping in the air, twisting, barking, and in general freaking out.
Mr Spaghetti Legs mostly minds his own business, only now and then responding to the other dogs. He is dominant, after all. A quick tiny tug on the lead and a “Stop that!” is all it takes to snap him out of it and continue the walk calmly.
My worst experience of the Gauntlet was when I walked Madam and Little Monkey. Madam was having none of this nonsense from the other dogs. She went for each and every one of them, lunging towards them and barking back, giving as good as she got. Basically she said, “You wanna piece of me? Come and get it! I’ll take you all on, with one paw tied behind my back!”
And she would have too – and won!
Unfortunately, this had a very detrimental effect on poor LM, who was already freaked out. Now she felt caught in the middle of a dog war. So here am I, crossing and re-crossing the road to avoid the barking dogs behind their gates. At the worst place, where there were dogs on both sides of the street, I checked there was no traffic and started walking down the middle of the road, to be as far away as I could from these dogs. Even so, the dogs barking madly, and Madam’s retaliation were just too much for the poor anxious LM, and she simply sat down right there in the middle of the road and refused to budge.
I thought for a second, then just started to run. This snapped her out of it, and got us through the difficult part as quickly as possible. And I never walked Madam and LM that way together again.
I pondered Madam’s behaviour afterwards. I knew she was dominant, but not an Alpha female. I figured a Beta maybe? Lately, I have more information on the Beta’s role. Apparently, they are the fighters in the pack. They will go out and defend the pack, while the Alphas hang back out of harm’s way so they can survive to re-propagate the pack. It explains so much.
And poor LM? She is dominant, anxious and unsocialised, but in a wild pack, she would still have a place. She is an excellent hunter, and would provide for the pack. They in their turn would tolerate her and let her eat a few scraps. Would she be happy? Absolutely! Everyone just wants to belong.