Best Friend or Barky Liability?

Best Friend or Barky Liability?

In a world ruled by walkers, survivors must surround themselves with those they trust and who can help keep them safe. Bad choices are often made, leading to betrayal or fatal mistakes. With my slightly skewed priorities, this makes me ask one question: Where are the dogs?

the walking dead dogsIn our reality, every time a major natural disaster occurs, there are people who refuse to evacuate because many shelters don’t accept pets. Others leave behind nearly everything else, but pack their vehicles to the dome lights with animals.

So far in The Walking Dead, we’ve seen virtually no dogs. I believe there were a few shown slinking around the streets of Atlanta, but the only ones I remember being the focus of anyone’s attention are the “little-fluffies” tucked in their doggie bed at the nursing home protected by the Vatos. Is this how it would be?

Many dogs would fail to survive the early days. Their owners might be unable to return home, and some would flee without their pets. If the dogs were unable to escape their houses, they would eventually perish. Some pets who were outdoors or able to find a way out would become prey to other animals. We’ve seen walkers eat horses, rats, woodchuck, and (sadly) at the beginning of season two, dogs. (Thanks Iain for finding that reference – and disturbing photo – for me!) So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised not to see many dogs wandering about, but I would have expected to see more.

the walking dead guard dogs on patrolIn urban areas, where wild game doesn’t exist and food sources are dwindling, survivors would eventually begin to hunt dogs. I imagine they’d be relatively easy targets, given their ingrained inclination to trust humans. In fact, I wrote this element into my own apocalyptic novella. I hated it. You might not believe me, but I’ve given this way too much thought. I would honestly starve before I would kill and consume a dog. Still, I recognized it as a likely scenario in the story, so I included it.

Cats are another story. Feral cat colonies exist nearly everywhere, in both urban and rural areas, but they are way harder to catch than most people realize. Which makes me also wonder why we aren’t seeing more feral cats slinking around.

Felines aside, I’m a true-blue dog person, and I know you can never discount people’s devotion to their canine companions. Shouldn’t we see at least some dogs accompanying groups of survivors? I would certainly try to bring my dogs with me and keep them safe. Yes, I’d have to find a way to feed them, but it would be worth it.

Wouldn’t it?

On one hand (or paw, as the case may be), dogs could be a huge liability. In addition to feeding them, most dogs bark. In the case of my dogs, they bark a lot. We know walkers are attracted to sound. What would the primitive survival instinct sparking in their brain stems tell them about barking? It could be “Yay, sound! Let’s eat!” But in their human lives, walkers would have known the sound of a barking dog served as an alarm. This might continue in their primitive reptilian brains as “Uh-oh. That sound means our snack-packs know we’re coming, so we should shamble as fast as our decomposing joints will allow in the opposite direction.”

That being said, babies and small children make noise and are hard to control, too, yet everyone seems determined to haul them along through the countryside.

On the other hand, dogs could be a significant benefit. Sure, not a crazy, out-of-control yap-monster…but perhaps a more cooperative canine? Dogs are our companions, giving us comfort and acceptance when no one else does. But they also evolved to work by our side.

Dogs have senses which greatly exceed ours. Their eyes are sensitive to movement, their ears are far more acute than those of humans, and their noses are so much more advanced it’s hard to calculate. Many breeds, especially if trained, could be of enormous benefit in the quest for game.

The Walking Dead  DogsIn the area of security, their eyes would detect a rustle in the woods or the flicker of movement between buildings which would be invisible to their bipedal companions. This would be especially true at night, when people are nearly blind. Their (adorable, scratch-worthy) ears would pick up the distant shuffling of festering walker-feet while they were still far enough away to allow the luxury of escape. If the humans were attuned to their dogs and paying attention, this early alert system could save many lives.

And those wonderful doggie noses! I must assume walkers don’t smell all that great, what with the rotting and absolute absence of personal hygiene.

This brings me to a quick side note. Where does all the flesh the walkers eat end up? Does it just sit and rot in their stomachs? They’re dead, so I’m guessing “no metabolism.” I’ve never seen a walker, um, eliminate digestive byproducts, so I’d expect them to eventually swell up and burst from all the yummy, bloody goodness they’ve consumed. But enough about that, as I’m grossing myself out.

Back to those dog noses. The advantages of having these marvels of evolution working for you would be immeasurable. Dogs would quickly develop an aversion to the undead, especially if their people knew anything at all about training and reinforced appropriate responses. Imagine approaching a building full of food or supplies and knowing well before you enter whether there are “Dead Inside.” And, as previously mentioned, dogs would be valuable when it came to detecting and locating delicious, roastable wildlife.

dog attack walking deadI’ve been surprised by the lack of dogs in The Walking Dead, even on Hershel’s farm. It’s true the wrong dog might get you killed. But the right dog might be the thing that tips the survival scales in your favor.

What do you think? How else might dogs be beneficial (or detrimental) to a group of survivors? Larger dogs could be used to help carry things, like water. Could they be trained to attack walkers, taking out the legs and hindering their ability to reach you? Could they guard injured people or small children, giving an alert if walkers ventured into the vicinity? Would you take your dogs with you?

I certainly would.

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15 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    February 23, 2012

     The problem is if they attacked the walkers then surely they would get infected forcing you to have to put them down. It would be like a scene out of I Am Legend :(

    Reply

    • Avatar
      February 23, 2012

       But, unless I’m mistaken, we haven’t seen any evidence of any species other than human being susceptible to infection. So probably no zombie dogs, even if they bite a walker or are bitten.

      Reply

  2. Avatar
    February 23, 2012

     Just imagine zombie dogs! That would be absolutely terrifying. I somehow don’t think they would be as slow as the walkers are in the show. They may even react differently to it making them even faster. Like I say, terrifying!

    Reply

    • Avatar
      February 23, 2012

       It would be like Resident Evil, the zombie dogs. They were awesome, however in real life it would be a much different story. Like you say – Terrifying!

      Reply

  3. Avatar
    February 23, 2012

    My daughter and I were just having this conversation! I will make sure she reads it too!!

    Reply

  4. Avatar
    February 23, 2012

    I would bring her, and have to muzzle her, she is a yappy little thing, but I adore her.

    Reply

    • Avatar
      February 23, 2012

      The yappiness would attract the walkers, that’s the only downside :(

      Reply

  5. Avatar
    February 24, 2012

    My dogs would definitely be with us. Saints would prove completely beneficial. Besides, I couldn’t go anywhere without them.

    Reply

  6. Avatar
    February 24, 2012

    Okay so although there are some amazing points here to credit a dog as an asset, I must say this; dogs bite! If a dog were to bite a walker would the dog then become a four-legged walker as well? Maybe that’s why we are witnessing the absence of canines and felines. I’m thinking that in order for this show to work (and fit into a sitcom time slot) that animals are very minimal in the series because the producers would have had to deal with the inevitable. Animal walkers!!! Is the disease specific to humans? These are things that I have wondered since the beginning of The Walking Dead. Also, why on earth do zombies eat? It’s not like they really NEED to eat if they are already dead! So many questions, and no one to ask! lol Is it a bad thing to wonder what life would be like if there were a zombie apocalypse?  I know one thing, because of this show, I would be a survivor! Let’s just hope that if it ever does really happen, we are blessed with “Walkers” like the slow moving specimens in TWD, rather than the rage-ridden “Runners” of 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later!

    Reply

    • Avatar
      February 25, 2012

       You bring up a lot of great points here! I also wondered if dogs could become infected. Like you say if this was to ever happen lets all pray they are slow and mundane like TWD. If they are anything like 28 days later, we are all screwed!

      Reply

    • Avatar
      March 10, 2012

       That actually does happen in the Resident Evil movies…a whole huge murder of zombie crows, it was crazy!

      Reply

  7. Avatar
    February 26, 2012

    I was just having another read over this post before going to sleep (Yes, reading over posts on this site is now officially part of my routine) and I got thinking. What would be the best breed of dog to have in a zombie apocalypse?

    Obviously a Chihuahua or something similar like the Vatos had would be no use. Im thinking a German shepherd would be one of the most beneficial, especially one that is well trained!

    Reply

  8. Avatar
    March 08, 2012

    Hell Yes! I’d rather have my dogs by my side then most people. 

    Reply

  9. Avatar
    March 10, 2012

    –But in their human lives, walkers would have known the sound of a
    barking dog served as an alarm. This might continue in their primitive
    reptilian brains as “Uh-oh. That sound means our snack-packs know we’re
    coming, so we should shamble as fast as our decomposing joints will
    allow in the opposite direction.”–

    In this show as well as others, it’s been shown that zombies have absolutely no survival instinct, so I doubt this situation would occur. If it did, I think that would make zombies even more terrifying in a way…that would mean they have some level of intelligence/responsiveness other than a mindless hunger! Which could eventually make them into greater predators…

    I love this article though! Dogs, and animals in general, are very important to me. I think there would definitely be more groups in a “real” zombie apocalypse, especially military/police K-9 units who would likely survive. I think it would require highly intelligent, well-trained animals to help the humans survive. The yappy non-working dogs would, unfortunately, be more of a detriment than an asset.

    As a point to the question of dogs biting walkers and becoming zombified, the ones used for detection of undead/hunting/protection of the group would be trained NOT to bite zombies or anything that smells dead, just in case.

    Reply

  10. Avatar
    April 16, 2012

    I was just thinking about this very thing! As an animal lover I totally think that a well trained dog would be such an asset in this zombie environment. If they’d have had a dog at the quarry camp, they would have known about the walkers way before they were right next to the camper chomping on poor Amy! 

    Reply

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