Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Coming Together

A little observation made on a walk with a friend the other day.

Eddie, Cassie and I were joined by my friend and her new boy Frank - a rescue greyhound I will tell you more about soon. We had done a lap of the park and my friend sat down to try the new cafe.

Frankie, a young and frisky hound, was leashed but lied down calmly next to our table. Cassie, the independent lady, found some shade to lie in under a tree a few metres away. Eddie was sniffing in some bushes a similar distance from us. All was well.

Suddenly a fight broke out between two dogs further away in the park. We were too far away to intervene (besides having three dogs of our own), but close enough to see and hear everything. A small fluffy on a lead was attacked by an over-zealous staffordshire bull terrier off the lead - the sort of thing that unfortunately happens quite often here in London. The situation wasn't well handled by either owner, and although undoubtedly it sounded worse than it was, the whole thing was very unpleasant. Dogs growling and squealing, people shouting unproductive accusations.

Frank started barking - he is still not entirely comfortable with other dogs, especially when leashed. Besides, who can blame him, it all felt very threatening. In fact, I am sure a few years ago, when Eddie was new, he would have barked too.

Instead, an interesting thing happened. Almost immediately, both Cassie and Eddie came closer. I only noticed after the fray had stopped, that she was now lying next to the table and Eddie was standing by her. The three dogs, my friend and I, were suddenly positioned as a very close group.

A natural enough response, if you think about it, and a sign of good pack cohesion. It made me feel happy and proud that my dogs' reaction to a threatening situation was to come to me and come together. When you have rescue dogs that often don't show that much emotion, this is a welcome sign.

It is also a much truer representation of the dogs' true nature, I think, than the fight that we were witnessing. Dogs, like their ancestors and cousins, are social animals whose survival depends on the peaceful co-existence with other members of their species. Sure, disagreements happen, but assuming most dogs are aggressive is counter-productive and often a self-fulfilling prophecy. Dogs would much rather be friends and allies than combatants, and most dog interaction, often gone unnoticed by us, whether between members in a pack or with strangers, is designed to diffuse any aggression or tension and forge or strengthen bonds.

Asiatic Wild Dogs (Dholes) in a pack.

1 comment:

houndstooth said...

I really agree with you! When we adopted our second Greyhound, I worried a lot about whether they were really happy together. They didn't seem to dislike each other, but I didn't see them really seeming close, either. Then, a few months after we brought him home, we had them together with my in-laws' Labrador. When they were with another dog, they were suddenly a unit. I was fascinated! There were lots of things after that that made me see what a cohesive unit they'd become, but I think it was hard to see unless there were outside influences.