Sometimes You Have to be Honest, Rude, and/or Fib to Keep Your Dog Safe
Let me explain!
I have had many dogs over the years from Service Dogs (all that I took from shelters), to police dogs, to dog aggressive dogs, to kid aggressive dogs, and just basic human aggressive dogs and I have worked with even more!
Growing up my parents always taught me to be honest. If, as children, my sister or I lied about something we would get 10X the beating (yes my parents were physical sometimes) than if we admitted to doing something we knew was wrong.
It didn’t take too many beatings for me to learn #1 don’t do anything that would get me in trouble and #2 if I did, NEVER lie about it. My mom use to say the number one thing she despised was lying.
We were also taught never to speak unless spoken to, to be extremely quiet (my mom had migraines and so we were very quiet children), to respect our elders and never to be rude to anyone! It didn’t matter whether the person was older than us or younger we were to be kind, patient and caring to everyone we came across.
I think we did develop into caring and loving adults (I am still a little more quiet and shy than I would prefer but so many years of conditioning is hard to change!)
But I have learned through my experiences and my career working with difficult dogs that sometimes people just don’t listen even if your dog is baring teeth toward them.
And, we have this horrible fear of admitting to the truth and telling people the flaws our dogs have. Heaven forbid someone judge us or our dog!
So over the years I have learned some tactics that keep my difficult dogs and my client’s difficult dogs safe from naïve, overly affectionate and judgmental people.
Sometimes You Have to Be Honest
So there I was the other day in Petsmart getting a new crate for all the travels I have in my near future!
My little girl Fury was happily by my side heeling and giving me eye contact and focus (for more on teaching that skill click here), and running through some of her obedience skills.
I was even able to drop her leash and she was listening perfectly!
When a nice older lady began to approach us with a young Dachshund, and asked (thankfully from a distance) if her little dog could socialize with Fury.
Now I must confess that Fury is a great dog, in no way is she dog aggressive, but she can be short tempered if other dogs get up in her face. She is very much a “female dog” when it comes to being on top and the dominant one of the bunch.
And when she gets irritated she simply flashes all her pearly white teeth at the other dog. This usually turns people off of her right away 😉 So I have learned that letting other dogs get in her face is not the best experience for any of us.
She could have been fine, or she could have bared teeth and growled at the little dog.
I know why the lady asked, because she could see how obedient she was being. But this just wasn’t a good idea. So, I said “No, She can be very dominant and bitchy sometimes”.
And the lady was grateful she had asked and I had been honest, I too was thankful she had asked and didn’t merely presume.
Did she judge us as she walked past? Probably! Do I care what she thinks about Fury and me? Nope! Because I think it is better to be honest and judged harshly than to have my dog take a nip at her dog or hers at mine.
In this case, honesty was best.
Sometimes You Have to be Rude
I know, I hate even saying that but people that have never dealt with dogs with behavioral problems often don’t even think about what they might be exposing fearful or aggressive dogs to.
If someone has a dog that is social with other dogs, they think all dogs are social… so they have no problems letting their dogs run off leash and into the faces of other dogs. It doesn’t occur to them that another dog might kill their dog for such behavior.
When I was 18 I had 2 Rottweilers and one was very dog aggressive. She and her behavior problem with aggression is the reason I became a dog trainer. I hated that I seemingly had no control over herself if there was another dog within 100 yards of her, so I spent hours, weeks, and months at dog training classes learning how to handle her and desensitizing her to other dogs in a controlled environment.
This work carried over into her real world and on walks and I was able to control her; but if someone else’s dog came running up to her off leash I was afraid an attack would ensue. So I carried “Dog Stop” spray and I had to learn to be RUDE to people so that I could save my dog and theirs.
If I saw a dog coming at us I could get her into a down or a sit and then I would yell at the owners of the other dog to get their dog so I didn’t have to spray it in the face to keep a dog fight from happening.
This almost always enraged the other person, because even though their dog was off the leash and breaking the law they thought it was my dog that was the problem!
I promise you I was horrified and ashamed, that I had to resort to being rude and that my dog was aggressive. But, in all honesty I was trying to save both of our dog’s lives and my dog deserved to be walked as much as any other dog because she was under my control!
I learned very quickly if I was nice and yelled “Please come get your dog!” people would almost always respond by saying “Oh she/he loves other dogs!” to which I would say “But, my dog doesn’t” to which they would have another retort about it being fine.
I learned that people don’t listen sometimes unless you are rude or “straight to the point”.
And Sometimes You Have to Fib
Okay, so I told you about the lying and being beaten as a child for it. So this one makes me uncomfortable too, but people just don’t listen.
I had a Belgian Malinois that was terrified of people and if pressed he would become aggressive. It was his way to feel in control; that fight or flight feeling and if he couldn’t “flight” he would certainly resort to fighting.
So, I already knew how to deal with an aggressive dog and I knew how to have control over him. We worked tirelessly on socialization and working closer and closer to people so he could learn that he wasn’t going to die.
He had this problem when he was an 8 week old puppy and suffered from it for years.
And, he was especially CUTE with some long flowing hair and curls he was just adorable and a breed that wasn’t very well known; which encouraged people to want to pet him.
And it took me awhile to desensitize him to people, so the last thing I wanted was for him to feel like he needed to growl or protect himself.
It didn’t matter what I said to most people; “He is scared of people” “He doesn’t like being pet by people he doesn’t know” “He doesn’t like people” “He is aggressive”… people always assured me “They were “good” with dogs” or they had always had a “gift with dogs” and then they would continue forward.
That is when I would have to get rude and scare them off. But I hated getting rude if I didn’t have to, especially to kids that were running toward him but I also didn’t want him to ever bite someone.
So I learned by lying a little that people would respect my lie.
So I got use to saying to people; “He can’t see very well at all and so people approaching him or hovering over him to pet him terrifies him”
This seemed to work. Children understood the basics of being “blind” or not able to see and adult humans weren’t able to think of a comeback that would allow them to do it anyway.
My dog learned he didn’t need to get defensive and after a few months his aggressive tendencies went away to the untrained eye (I never trusted him or pushed him, it was my job to keep him and other people safe).
Sometimes I think it is easier to just put the dog in a basket muzzle and then no one will ask to pet him. They will shoot you dirty looks… but I don’t care what people think and basket muzzles keep everyone safe.
So if You Have a Difficult or Aggressive Dog
Do what you have to, to keep them from getting a bite or doing something that would risk their lives.
Be honest, be rude, lie if you need to, use a basket muzzle so that you can keep everyone safe. Safety is the most important thing when you don’t own a perfectly social dog!
I have also seen leashes that will tell people when they can pet and when they can’t you can do a search and find those online to help you in your struggle!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.