Tuesday, July 12, 2011
On the Behavior of Dogs.......
When we emerged for our daily dog walk, sometime before 9 AM this morning, we were greeted by overcast skies and a temperature of about 75 degrees. However, it was not the 75 degrees of late autumn, or, around here, of early winter. It was not a 75 degrees with clear, crisp skies, with a slight breeze that might add just a touch of a refreshing bite. This was 75 degrees with thick, heavy, humid air, much closer to today's low temperature than what will be today's high. I knew sweat would be rolling off me before we had travelled very far.
Today is also trash day. Pickles loves trash day, as long as we dont meet any big, loud trucks. On the walk, once we got off our property, she fell right into walking mode. I have her on a leash, but it hangs loose, and she walks along side of me with her head about at my knee. I was looking around, not really paying attention when I felt a tug on the leash. Pickles had stopped. Not only had she stopped but she was rubbing her shoulder and then her whole side into the pavement, in the remnants of some liquefied detritus from a garbage truck. It was only then that I noticed the smell - aided by the heaviness of the air it was overpowering to me. But to Pickles the Dog, it was heaven on earth. A sweet ambrosia. Eau de Garbazhe. I paid more attention as the walk continued.
As we approached the railroad tracks across Praley, I heard a dog bark. That's not unusual, there is a dog up on the corner of St. Germain who frequently barks, but this bark was coming from a slightly different direction - in the same general direction I was planning to walk. I always pay attention when I think their may be strange dogs about.
Pickles' behavior on a leash is different from her behavior off a leash. On the leash, we walk past barking dogs (either behind a fence or chained up) and she pays them no mind. She might look at them, but she doesnt bark at them or go crazy or try to get to them. She just trots nicely along, giving anyone who notices a misguided impression that she's a good dog. If we meet another dog walker, and they're on the other side of the road, same thing. The other dog might be going crazy, but Pickles doesnt even seem to notice. If a dog is loose and approaches, Pickles wants to play, but she's not too pushy about it.
Off the leash, it's another story. We don't routinely let her run loose, but she keeps a good look out in the house. If another dog, cat or person comes on our property, she goes ballistic. She can also get very excited if she's riding and we see another dog. Once when she was a puppy, she jumped out of the window of our truck, while it was moving (slowly, thank heavens) past a neighbor's dog. They stood there face to face about a foot a part and barked at each other.
So, why is she so docile on a leash, and so excitable when she's not on a leash? I've had this long standing "dog behind a fence" theory of behavior, which I also apply to humans. My theory is a dog tends to be more aggressive when there is no possibility of physically confronting the object of the aggression. Or conversely, when there is no possibility of the object of the aggression physically confronting the dog. Substitute human for dog, for a more general application of the theory. I don't know if this is true or not, I've done no studies, no dogs have filled out questionnaires. And obviously this would not apply to dogs who may be sociopaths or psychotic, just your normal goofy tail wagging bone chewing dog. But I think it's true.