Why did Sensi decide to take charge of the situation I described in Wednesday's blog?
The energy that both Jazzy and I were emitting left him no other option. Jazzy was acting fearful and very unstable. And I, worried about Jazzy, was behaving in the exact same manner.
Dogs, at least nine out of ten, are born followers — not leaders. This is necessary in the wild so that cohesive packs can form.
In the wild, there is usually a rigid hierarchy to a pack that rarely changes. However, it is only stable because the pack leader(s) keep order. If that order were to be more loosely kept, the canine roles would change swiftly and frequently.
This is because dogs naturally step up to the plate and change roles with the goal of keeping the pack successful and cohesive. It is no different in our homes.
However, we humans, unlike wolves, do keep loosely structured hierarchies. And our dogs are always stepping up to the plate when they don’t feel we’re providing leadership. Unfortunately, most dogs are very uncomfortable with this role.
Sensi most certainly is.
I’m not sure why he took it on successfully in that day’s instance. Perhaps Jazzy’s presence instilled some protectiveness or confidence in him that he doesn’t normally have on walks.
Previously, the scenario would play out like this:
Sensi and I walk along, minding our own business. Dog runs out at us. My heart is pounding, I’m nervous and fearful and don’t know what to do. Sensi latches on to my energy and also becomes unstable, tucking his tail, crouching and looking fearful.
The dog’s owner tackles their dog just in time to avoid a bite from Sensi, whose fear is escalating to aggression because he’s entering fight or flight mode and, being that he’s on a leash, flight isn’t an option.
That’s way it always played out in the past, and I’m not sure why he took the pack leader role on that particular day, but it certainly isn’t characteristic of him.
I did learn from Sensi, though, that his behavior is how I am supposed to be behaving. Instead of becoming scared and tense, I needed to be taking control of the situation.
Sensi, after all, looks to me for leadership and on our walks, I simply had not been providing it.
One thing is for sure, you don’t want your dog assuming the leadership role. Most dogs, like Sensi, don’t know how to handle it and will behave in ways that are aggressive or otherwise undesirable. If that dog who jumped the fence and charged us had not understood Sensi’s body language, he would’ve been greeted with an attack.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about what the dog who charges at you is communicating, and on Monday, I’ll explain how I handle charging dogs.