I was walking my old girl Little Monkey after the rains, through the local patch of forest by the soccer field.
I noticed a large number of Guinea Fowl milling about under one of the trees, so was watching them in case they did anything daft, when a black and white Border Collie suddenly appeared running straight for the birds. The dog saw us and was about to change direction and run up to us instead.
I had to stop this, so quickly put LM behind me and faced the collie, emanating in dog language, “Back Off!”
Fortunately my ‘dog’ is good and the Border Collie got the message and just waited.
By this time I had LM in a full down (with a loose lead, for all those people I meet on my walks who tell me that dogs react because they’re on the lead!)
Finally a young guy appeared, jogging. He ran straight past us, ignoring me and making no attempt to call his dog. I just stood there, between the two dogs. After a while the Border Collie ran after his owner.
Phew! Encounter averted.
We carried on with our walk, towards the Guinea Fowl that LM would ignore.
We had only gone a few steps when suddenly, again with no warning, there was a massive beige dog galloping towards us. It was just there out of the trees. This dog was bigger than my friend’s Greyhound. I’m not sure what it was; Greyhound cross Great Dane cross Hound of the Baskervilles?
It would have to run right by us to carry on down the path.
This is when I had a split second to react in.
I knew with absolute certainty that LM was going to charge this dog. The suddenness of its appearance and the fact that it was running towards us, was more than enough to flick that reactive switch in her little brain. It wasn’t its size, but these other factors. She would react the same way to a Chihuahua; and has done so in the past!
Here was my dilemma.
LM was going to charge the dog.
If I kept hold of the lead she was going to wrench my right arm and shoulder – again.
This was going to hurt – a lot!
I wasn’t going to go through that amount of excruciating pain again if I could help it.
I had that millisecond to assess the giant running dog.
I read it as not overly dominant and non-aggressive.
I placed LM’s lead over her back, in a vain attempt to save it from dragging through the newly wet ground and getting dirty.
She shot off, as I never doubted she would do, charging the giant dog and barking. AwffAwffAwff.
She stopped just short of it, without making contact, as I knew she would.
The giant dog stopped dead in its tracks.
Then LM circled round behind it, feeling a bit overwhelmed now she was so close to it.
The giant dog just stood there, no doubt wondering what was wrong with LM! Luckily I had read it right. It was well-balanced and non-aggressive.
The two dogs sort of interacted a bit, then the big dog ran off after his absent master, leaving LM dragging her lead through the dirt.
I called her and made her come all the way back to me (only a few metres) because she had run off after all.
LM Always looking for trouble
Then we carried on our walk, with me shaking my head again, over the behaviour of my ancient unbalanced dog, that is forever going to be reactive!
And though this has taken a long time for you to read and even longer for me to write, the whole incident was over in seconds; the decision on what to do, in a split second!
So just how quickly do we react? Apparently it takes our brains about 152 milliseconds to act on a thought.
post script: I have written many times in the past as to why LM is like this. Short answer, she was not socialised for the first eighteen months of her life, before I adopted her. That part of her brain did not fully develop and then never would. Taking her to dog socialising classes every week for the whole eleven years that I have had her, has definitely helped. Our own Dog Whisperer says Little Monkey is the most difficult dog he has ever come across; and he has helped hundreds of dogs over the decades. LM mixes with all sorts of dogs of all ages, breeds, sizes and social abilities, but she is never going to replace that “missing link” in her brain.
That’s OK though, because she is my Little Monkey and is very much a part of the family. After all, she accepts me just the way I am.