Here is a confession: none of the three male dogs I\’ve had in my life–two German Shepherds and one Shitzy-Poo–has ever cocked his leg to pee. The trainers to whom I have mentioned this have given me such funny looks that I have not pursued the matter further.
Wolfie, despite his size, black coat, massive head and general commanding air, was no exception to this rule. That is, until today, when we went on our weekly walk with his friend Gunner and his owner.
Gunner is less than a year old, and almost as big as Wolfie. Until now, he has been the Beta of the pair, and hasn\’t minded it at all.
Being the Beta means engaging in highly ritualized play in which Wolfie always does the chasing, and Gunner always gets caught and rolled and gets up again so Wolfie can chase him some more. It also means that periodically Wolfie holds his head up and looks dreamily into the distance while Gunner, ears back and tail wagging, licks at Wolfie\’s lips.
But because I was gone last week, it had been a fortnight since the two had seen each other, and the minute they met today, it was clear that something had changed: before Wolfie realized what was going on, Gunner was chasing him.
Wolfie eventually recovered his wits and did some corrective dramatics involving a curious high-pitched bark, some flashing of his big white canines, and some bumping into Gunner to get him to back off. This worked momentarily, but soon Gunner was chasing him again.
It was all in good fun, and Gunner was smiling the entire time. But Wolfie wasn\’t smiling. Something was going on with unneutered Gunner\’s hormone levels, and Wolfie didn\’t like it. He rounded on Gunner, flashed his teeth, stood on his hind legs and pushed Gunner away. Then, looking annoyed, he marched over to a nearby bush, cocked his leg, and peed.
After that, they returned to their old rituals, Gunner in front, running for all his worth, Wolfie behind catching, then rolling Gunner, then Gunner taking off again.
By the time he\’s a year, Gunner, who is already enormous for a nine-month-old, will be bigger than Wolfie. By then, he will also have been neutered. I am curious to see what these changes will portend for their relationship.
Will Gunner\’s dwindling hormones help to maintain the status quo? Will his size advantage lead him to challenge Wolfie for the Alpha spot? Or will Wolfie, with his seniority and new leg-cocking skills, retain his place at the top?
Part of me is fascinated by their rituals and displays. But part of me finds their posturing annoyingly reminiscent of certain faculty meetings in my academic past and wishes they\’d get over it, already.