Sometimes You Have to be Honest, Rude, and/or Fib to Keep Your Dog Safe

Sometimes You Have to Do Anything You Can to Keep Your Dog and Others 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.

The pre-snarl face!

The pre-snarl face!

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

Dog on Dog aggression can be Scary!

Dog on Dog aggression can be Scary!

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

Beware of Fearful Dogs they are much closer to their Bite Threshold

Beware of Fearful Dogs they are much closer to their Bite Threshold

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.

aggrI got to the point where that is all I said.  I would stop people about 10 feet away and tell them his story and they would be happy and kind and listen to me.

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!

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Comments

  1. RaD says:

    Thank you for this post, it makes me feel a bit better about our german shepherd. He’s a good dog and I can handle him on walks, but he’s not overly excited about other dogs. He’s fine with people, but those dogs that just wander around off leash make me nervous because if they charge up to us there could be a huge problem. Often times if we see another dog off leash I just re-direct our walk hoping not to have the silly thing actually run up to us. Often times if people see us re-direct they call their dog to them. We use a muzzle, but I’d hate for anything to start up cause our dog has an attitude.

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    Trixie Reply:

    I have the same problem, because my seasonal neighbors come up and DON’T leash their dogs…I have called the cops and the dog warden several times, because their dogs have tried to attack my shepherd, who was on-leash, at the age of 6 months, and now he is very aggressive when he sees other dogs, if they get too close…Even though we have a leash law in NY, they don’t think they have to follow it!!

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    Marina Reply:

    I know what you mean. Here in our village there is one guy living on the main road, his dogs i call them flipsy and tipsy they don’t know the boundaries, flipsy always jumps over the gate crosses the main road (their trucks driving) to get a sniff but most scary is tipsy he is an aggressor most like… unbelievable. Once my mother let her dog out while i was in the village he run after me and my dog then in the park we met flipsy and tipsy and both started immediately attacking the dog of my mother the man tried to get them off by beating them with a stick on their head, did not work. since then my dog is antisocial she needs time specially with older dogs while getting used to a puppy which is now getting mature is not a problem. and i really would like taking my dog to the beach or lake but how can i ??
    In contrast to those two dogs we had other dogs up the road after 3 weeks they stayed inside the garden when i passed the house unleashed and without a real gate or fence. I like this relaxed dogs the most because it made me and my dog feeling relaxed too.

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  2. Amy says:

    It is so nice to know that I’m not the only one who struggles with other people’s “friendly” dogs and finally had to learn how to be rude. I’ve resorted to tell people that my dog is a rescue dog and that’s why he’s reactive to other dogs. And for those dogs who are off leash and invariably not under any type of reliable voice-control of their owners… when their owner says “oh, she/he’s friendly” I usually reply (with my biggest growly voice) “well, I’m not” which will usually back them off right away. Do they walk away thinking I’m the biggest jerk on the planet? Probably. But does it keep my dog, and theirs, safe? Definitely! Thank you again for the article.

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    Lynn Reply:

    I had a German Shepherd x Beagle for 16 years. She was from a shelter and was the least likely dog to bite a person that I have had over the years. However she was very dog aggressive if another dog approached her. She would go for anything, big or small. It was extremely frightening when an off-leash dog would approach and the owner would yell from a distance “He/she is friendly” and I would yell back “mine isn’t” – call your dog”. I had threats of restraining orders, insults from people etc, like I made her that way. There was no changing her. Dog aggression is one of the hardest traits to change. Yet, even in old age, she accepted my children when they were babies and had the gentlest disposition.
    Everyone who has a dog friendly dog expects the same and that is not always the case.

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  3. Pat says:

    Interesting article to read – we have a Scottish Terrier who is the most special, tolerant, patient and loving girl. She has two brothers – both ginger tomcats and is fiercely protective of them and loves them totally but, she is wigged out by small and noisy children so, we find when walking that the only way to get parents and children to back off is too be very blunt and say “sorry, she does not like children and may snap”! This does of course stops them in their tracks. As happens in most households, the time comes when there are no longer little children and I believe we need to respect that our animals are entitled to have preferences based on their own living conditions.

    Thank you for a different perspective into protecting our dogs of all species.

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  4. Pat Sears says:

    sometimes a person doesn’t want to give their dog a name for being unsociable so another
    really good way of getting people to call or go and get their dog away really quickly, is to call out and “Please get your dog quickly as my dog has Anal Furunculosis and it’s catching”.
    Has always worked a treat.

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    Minette Reply:

    hahahahaha that is hilarious

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    Cheryl Reply:

    Anal Farunculitis!!! what an original thought and I will use. My 18 mos old German shepherd (Liberty–Lybee) has learned so much, but a little high strung and 0verly excitable. I have taught visitors the ‘greet’ sign which she knows and when ready- greet with nose to person’s palm up hand followed by a treat and click. Visitors also have been instructed to move slowly (no quick-abrupt movements). For some reason that intimidates Lybee. I find working at both ends (person and dog) meet with more success when the person understands where we are coming from. We still have a great deal of work to do, but she is truly loved and I will do all I can to assist her to uphold the dignity and loyalty of her breed.

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  5. Lucy says:

    Thank You! I thought I was the only one dealing with this. I have worked very hard with my dog agressive boy. He has learned to walk through the park and city streets with his back pack on, focused and enjoyable. But too many people let their dogs run free in the park and I am always left feeling like a dirt bag because I ask them to leash their dogs (yes it’s the law). If I see a dog approaching (instead of it coming over the hill) I have time to refocus his attention and all is fine. I don’t want another dog to get hurt or my own dog to get hurt because some people think all dogs are friendly. I will remember Amy’s comment – “well, I’m not”!

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  6. Jeannie says:

    We have a complicated dog household and two of our dogs have controlled and supervised interactions within our own home, for different reasons. One is the dog you would expect to be aggressive – she is a small pit bull who is dog aggressive only out of fear, never assertively on her own, but because she is a pit people respect their distance and she does wear a basket muzzle when we leave our property. The other dog though is an older Dalmatian. She is deaf and very reactive to certain stimuli that catch her off guard. She isn’t so much aggressive as snarky and irritable if she feels put-upon, and she might as well be wearing a kick me sign. Not every dog that provokes an aggressive interaction is the obviously aggressive dog, and people who assume a strange dog should be just fine interacting freely with their dog are not understanding dogs. It isn’t always going to be the obviously aggressive dog who initiates a problem.

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    Mary Reply:

    I have a 5-month old small female red nosed pit bull. She is very sweet and at this point not aggressive to dogs or humans. I have been taking her to work at my office since she was 2 weeks old and bottle feeding her. One nice thing about a pit bull is that no matter her lack of aggression, most people keep their dogs and themselves away until they ask permission to approach. (Laughing) not sure if that’s because I definitely give the vibe that I will not tolerate my puppy becoming aggressive or hurt because of stupid people and their dogs! We enjoy parks & I take her to stores, but I haven’t taken her to a dog park–not sure I even like dog parks anyway! Thank you! I’m really enjoying all of your comments!!

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    Minette Reply:

    I have mixed emotions about dog parks too!

    I like to train my dogs in them and if I have a super social dog, but I also know dog body language and I understand the risks.

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  7. Terry says:

    Thanks for your post. I have a 16 month old DS rescue. We have been working on her aggressive behavior. I live in a development neighborhood, but moving to the country with more space. When walking Sammie in our neighborhood, I use a back pack with a little weight on her. She ignores people and other dogs and struts proudly and relaxed. I can stop and talk to people and she sits at my side. People respect the fact that she is working and do not try to approach her. Without the back pack, she is more interested in what is going on around her and people are more likely to try to approach her. She has a “safety” zone and is ok with people as long as they don’t invade that space. When talking to people I stop them before they get too close, Sammie sits next to me and is ok while I talk. When we are up north in the country, she has more space and she is a lot more relaxed on our walks even without the back pack. She definately prefers being in the country. We go through obedience every day and have tried socializing her more each day. She seems to stick to her safety zone. On one of our walks, a large, loose dog charged us barking, showing teeth. The owner did nothing…just watched even as I yelled at him to get his dog. The dog jumped at Sammie and Sammie immediately pinned it on the ground. She did not bite, but held the dog down. The loose dog submitted. If that dog had been more aggressive it could have been ugly. It happened so fast. I had words with the owner, who just burshed it off. People!! As much as we try to train and protect our dogs, ignorant people exist.

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  8. Judy says:

    I also have a rescue Belguim Malinios,he is just 2 yr. Has little trouble listening to me. My husband has no problem though. He is afraid of children even teens, so he has had little dog or people interaction for we are rural.
    He doesn’t even care when get’s invisible fence shock to run and meet dog’s on walks past our house.Yes I have lied from day one but not totally. I just tell them even though he is 2 ft. tall and 80 some pnds. he is a puppy just learning and DOES NOT listen to me please stop let me coax him back in his yard, and apologize for holding them up. Most are very considerate others YES give me the Geez girl get a grip, teach him some manners!

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  9. patty says:

    I have a dominant female who does not tolerate dogs coming into her face and staying there. She will be snarky and correct their rude behavior. Of course, other dog owners think she has the problem. We have a problem in our neighborhood right now where a dog owner doesn’t have a fenced in yard and a stray dog that took up with them runs off when they let him out to potty. The dog will also charge over to us as we walk the neighborhood. The owner states “he is friendly”. But my girl may not appreciate him getting in her face and she may not be not be friendly. And that dog is intact which can make him more territorial. It is rediculous how many irresponsible, clueless dog owners exist. People should take pride in dog ownership and be the best owner they can be for their dog. Train it, treat it like a dog-not a human, and learn as much as you can about dogs and THEIR body language. And then listen to them!

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  10. Carol says:

    Thank you. I have two rescue dogs, brother and sister, that were found on the street. They were so aggressive towards other dogs that the pound put them on the kill list. No one told the rescue group that took them. They put them with their others dogs and they were fine. However, I’ve worked with them for three years now and they still react to an aggressive dog. My female is most aggressive but I realized about a year ago that her aggression is from fear. We’ve come a long way but a dog came after us about two months ago and got her on her back. They were growling but not biting. I got him off but she has regressed a bit. I didn’t react fast enough because the dog knocked a child down and I was distracted. I’m always telling people my dogs aren’t friendly when they want to bring their dogs over to introduce them. Off leash dogs are the real problem.

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    Minette Reply:

    You can try getting those leashes that say NO DOGS or CAUTION so people will see that from a distance and hopefully be more respectful!

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  11. Jean says:

    There is very little place in society for an aggressive dog. Many unsociable, fearful, chronically unhappy dogs are not helped in any way by weak, sentimental “oh-but-I-rescued-him” owners and pose a danger to everyone who has the misfortune to encounter them. As a vet, who has seen much of the results of keeping such unpleasant and untrustworthy animals, I would suggest that euthanasia is the most humane approach for many of them.
    If nobody can safely approach your animal, it should not be out in public. If it cannot be out in public, and you do not own a large tract of private land, then have some sense and have it put down.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Whereas I agree with this in many ways, dogs can’t be helped if they are never socialized.

    I like basket muzzles that keep everyone safe while working with the dog.

    My dog that was fearful of people never bit anyone, but if I had locked him up on “land” where he never saw anyone he would have gotten terminal with aggression. It was better to socialize him while keeping people out of his box. He certainly did not need to be euthanized, although I have seen dogs that should.

    My dog aggressive dog was the same. She was completely under my control, it was the off leash dogs that were taking our rights away.

    She also never attacked another dog.

    There is a line to draw and most people may not have what it takes to own a dog like this, however locking them away only ensures more aggression and more problems later when the dog is full grown and more unstoppable.

    Euthanasia is not the answer with all dogs that suffer these problems.

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    Jean Reply:

    I agree with you, mostly.
    Note, though, that I did not suggest locking dog-aggressive dogs up at all. I also did not suggest that euthanasia is the answer for all of them.

    I think that it is interesting, though, how societies differ in their approach. I live in Ireland in a rural area where traffic is minimal and most of the dogs I know ramble around pretty safely. I usually walk my dog off-leash unless we are in town (he is polite and balanced with superb recall) and have only once ever experienced aggression from an off-leash dog.

    When I see a dog and person approaching in the distance, I try to see if the dog is on or off-leash. If it is off, I can be virtually certain that it will be a pleasant encounter. On-leash? Half the time confrontational, hysterical and snappy.

    While obviously a dog that is already unsociable must be leashed for the safety of those around him, there is no doubt in my mind that there occurs a significant change in the mindset of an animal that is tied onto its owner.

    [Reply]

    Jean Reply:

    I agree with you, mostly.
    Note, though, that I did not suggest locking dog-aggressive dogs up at all. I also did not suggest that euthanasia is the answer for all of them.

    I think that it is interesting, though, how societies differ in their approach. I live in Ireland in a rural area where traffic is minimal and most of the dogs I know ramble around pretty safely. I usually walk my dog off-leash unless we are in town (he is polite and balanced with superb recall) and have only once ever experienced aggression from an off-leash dog.

    When I see a dog and person approaching in the distance, I try to see if the dog is on or off-leash. If it is off, I can be virtually certain that it will be a pleasant encounter. On-leash? Half the time confrontational, hysterical and snappy.

    While obviously a dog that is already unsociable must be leashed for the safety of those around him, there is no doubt in my mind that there occurs a significant change in the mindset of an animal that is tied onto its owner.

    For many dogs, it may be possible for them to get adequate exercise on-leash. But in the case of a high-energy dog such as my setter, he can no more get sufficient exercise walking beside me than a horse can while being hand-walked.

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  12. I own a young shi-tzu, nearly 11 months old. When she was a 3 month old puppy she was terrified of other dogs and people. she started a puppy class (at 3 months) now she is in the intermediate class..she is not overly friendly, and has begun to bark at everyone, especially another dog, this has become disruptive in the class. I don’t know how to stop her from barking…any advice???

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    Minette Reply:

    teach her to be quiet on command. Search this site on the right hand side there is a search bar where you can search how to teach her to be quiet.

    I would also first schedule some one on one lessons with your trainer to build her confidence first and then work with a small group of dogs.

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  13. Warren Drye says:

    Glad you like “Mals”! I just had to put down my police trained 18 year old Mal about six months ago(she was gunshy and could not be used but I had her 16 yrs.thank God, most wonderful dog I ever had and hardest thing I ever had to do to put her down. Didn’t think I would ever want another dog but Adoption Agency for “Mals” talked me into it and have had a nine year old “Mal” now(acts like a three year old and has the strength of one)about four months.Only trouble I really have is we have a house cat and cannot have “Paris” in the house without being on a leash. Have a heard of goats too and when in house on leash, spends half her time looking out window at them. She wouod KILL our cat if I turned her loose so I had to build a 12’x12′ kennel she sleeps in and spends most of day in but I take her everywhere I go if possible. Is there a cure for her and the cat? The other “Mal” was cat friendly and they slept together. She was a Police dog in every way except gunshy and was easy to handle.”Paris” is very headstrong and will jerk your arm off on a leash, trying to teach her to heal now but difficult. She weighs about 50# and gets in my lap if she can and have to tie her leash in back seat of car or gets in my lap while driving.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Love the Mals!!! So much fun to own and such a challenge!

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  14. Anna says:

    You mentioned’Stop Dog Spray’ Is that like pepperspray? Is it legal to use?
    My 2yr old rescue mix was attacked by an off leash dog when we were walking. The owner was walking at a distance as well and his dog wouldn’t listen.I was screaming which didn’t make things any better but I was scared and Bell was cowering (she is fearful of loud noises, sudden movements etc) He apologized when he finally got his dog off of her but I wished I had handled it differently although I’m not sure how. Would stop dog spray have helped or would I have gotten my dog by accident? How does it work? I have never heard of it before? Thankyou.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I believe it is citronella spray but yes, it is touted to work well on aggressive dogs.

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    Becky Reply:

    You could try a mixture of 50% vinegar & 50% water. Spray into the aggressive dogs face. It will startle them and sting a little but not harm them.
    Carry a small spray bottle at all times – you never know when you will encounter a dog who is not socialized.

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  15. Sheryle says:

    One of my Golden Retrievers was a lovely dark red girl named, “Boomer.” She was very mellow and loved to “talk” to folks who entered the house – in a low rambling guttural roll. My daughter took Boomer to live with her for a couple of years, and when she returned her to me, I recognized that she had taught Boomer to smile! From that point on, when someone came into my home, Boomer would come up in an ambling stroll, “growling” with “teeth bared.” It shook people up, and I rapidly had to explain that she was smiling and saying hello. LOL. There are some tricks that dogs just shouldn’t learn!

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    Minette Reply:

    I trained a Service Dog once, he looked like a collie mix but he would yodel like a wolf when he came up behind people!

    He was totally social, but yeah, I had to try and get him to be quiet prior to placement 😉

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  16. margie says:

    Good points from everybody. The problem I encounter from the public is that they tend to think of dogs as ‘children’ who want to meet other children. I have a pack of 4, and only 1 of them is actually happy to encounter other dogs. Jake (a lab/shepherd mix) loves everybody and everything, so he is a good role model for Lupe (Belgian malinois), Sigh (poodle) and Harry (schnauzer). Lupe in particular tends to cringe if people make quick movements so I always watch her closely. One idiot, a full grown man, actually grabbed her from behind at Petsmart, yelling, oh what a beautiful dog! The next thing he knew, he was facing the business end of a very scared Malinois. Luckily when I snapped my fingers at her, she whirled around behind me but wow, she was ready to go. The idiot said my dog needed to be around more people. I said, no, she needs for people to show respect and not grab her. (I didn’t say it very nicely either since I’m not very well socialized either). My point is that my dogs and I form a pack and anybody else is an outsider. That’s how dogs see the world. I don’t pet other peoples’ dogs, I don’t talk to them or make eye contact & they don’t seem crushed by the experience. I don’t want to keep my dogs at home just because other people don’t know about dog psychology. And dog parks? Don’t even get me started!

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  17. Linda Kendall says:

    Thank You. I have an unpredictable very cute little dog and people think cute is nice. Thank you for makeing me feel better about lying.

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  18. Bliss says:

    My 5 yr old male pit bull adores people but has dog aggressive tendencies which developed at around 2 years old when a german shepherd started fence fighting. My pit is very strong at 70 lbs. but will wag his tail furiously when a group of elementary children run towards him. Loves it.
    He can, however, sound like the dog from hell when he growls at other dogs. My dog has never bit anyone or any dog but I would not bet the ranch on another dog being aggressive near me. Our development has a lot of off leash dogs, who look like they are probably sweet but they unnerve my dog. These other dogs do not scare me, but it is not fair to my dog. A lab once charged across the street at us. His owner was no where in sight. I had my dog stand and ignore it until the lab barked. This got my dog barking. I was not in the least afraid (probably stupid) but rather my maternal instincts kicked in. I got my dog to sit and I was commanding the lab who did go home. Interestingly I could feel my dog and the lab submit to my being the protective leader. Later I returned (without my dog) and rang the doorbell at the lab’s house. I explained to the owner, who was relying on those underground electric fences which do not work (particularly if one does not have properly charged batteries) that his dog was probably just curious but he unnerved my dog. The man looked like he barely heard me. What got his attention was when I explained that if I his dog had started a fight I would have been forced to drop my dog’s leash and his dog could have been seriously hurt. The owner looked like he was at least focusing when I told him that. To reinforce it I told him that in other words, we would become his dog’s worst nightmare. I sensed that the owner resented us but I made my point.

    [Reply]

  19. June says:

    This is the best article I have read in years… thank you so much..

    [Reply]

  20. Luann says:

    To Minette

    Two weeks ago I was at my favotite park and an off leash dog charged at my dog. I used the dog spray to avoid a fight, but my dog was upset and pulled my back out. I tried having her behind me and I was yelling at the other dog.
    Then a woman came minutes behind her dog and said he was friendly. I told her that my dog is not and the law is on leash only. I was very upset and still on anti inflamatory and pain medicine for my back. I cannot go to that park anymore because of off leash dogs and it’s not fair.

    I always tell people that my dog is not friendly and by that time it’s to late. I might use the blind dog excuse so people feel more guilty if their dog approaches.
    Even when out everyone wants to pet her so Now I keep a service vest on her at all times, and tell people she is not allowed to be touched.

    I always leave and tell owners that it’s not your dog’s fault and to think about that.

    Sincerely,
    Luann

    [Reply]

    Vera Reply:

    I am totally over people whose off lead dogs come hurtling up to my on lead dog, with hackles up and growls emanating from bared teeth. These people then say ‘He’s friendly’!! They should not be allowd to own a dog when they cannot even read the body language of their own canine let alone that of mine. My response has usally been -‘well mine dog is not’, but I think from now on I will say that I am not friendly – and growl! It is law to have a dog on a lead where I live so I don’t know how they get away with it really!
    Cheers
    VERA

    [Reply]

  21. Tom says:

    Minette, There has been a lot of bashing of un-leashed dogs here by folks with dogs on-lead. I’m in Colorado where there are a lot of public lands and hiking areas. Many popular trails do not have leash laws and most dogs are off-lead. I hike frequently with my three dogs off-lead and encounter many, many other off-lead dogs and there humans. Literally – NEVER are there incidents when all of the dogs are off-lead. The only dogs who EVER have problems are the ones on-lead tethered to their fearful humans. Now, maybe their dogs do in fact have aggression issues, but I suspect their dogs would do just fine if they were off-lead. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, dogs gotta run. What do you think? Thank you for your very interesting articles!

    [Reply]

    Diane G Reply:

    That is great that you have the room to allow yoru dogs to run. Many of us live in more urban areas. When we venture out to the rural “playgrounds” many of our dogs can’t just go off leash.
    We just don’t have all the opportunities to train our dogs to go off-leash.
    Those who do “must” be able to recall their dogs. Using the excuse that your dog is friendly, is just a cover up for unfinished training. There are people who are deathly afraid of dogs and they shouldn’t have to be excluded from these rural areas just because they may encounter a loose dog.

    The reason that society has so many problems with having dogs around them is the inconsiderate folks who think that their dogs are not a problem. They don’t/can’t recall the dogs when asked or don’t clean up after them. Dog owners need to realized that they have to accomodate other persons comfort zones. It is very important for all of us dog owners and non-dog owners alike to get along.

    [Reply]

    Tom Reply:

    Hi Diane, thanks for your reply, and I agree with everything you have said. I guess the point I am offering is that it is a two-way street. To be sure, dog owners need to have their dogs under stellar voice control, or on-lead. And it certainly takes some work before a dog should be off-lead. And in a leash-only area, always on-lead. We agree on all of this. But at what point should the on-lead dog walker take some responsibility for the fear and anxiety that they MIGHT be putting on their dogs? I think that their dogs sense this fear and so, act out at other dogs.

    As I mentioned, on our off-leash trails, if anyone is having problems it is the on-lead walkers. So if one person out of a hundred is afraid of dogs and complains that the trails should all be leash only, is this fair for them to set the policy? How about if it is one out of a thousand? Ten-thousand? You might see my point…how far do we go allowing a small minority to set the policy which caters only to them? Just a question to stimulate thought and conversation. I’m not being too articulate here but I hope you see what I mean. Thank you.

    [Reply]

    Aileen Reply:

    I agree with you Tom. A nervy owner makes the dog worse. Dogs need to play with each other. We are only their minders and should give them space when we can. I live in Ireland and have a rescue dog. I take him to a forest area to let him run free. He’s young and needs this type of exercise. It really bugs me when he and another dog are only getting to know each other but the owner goes frantic.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    People don’t understand dogs, that is why we end up with so many problems!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Tom,

    I use to live in CO too!

    Yes, people often make their dogs worse, yes sometimes the dog would do better off leash. But sometimes they are on leash because they are in training and not capable of being off leash… they shouldn’t be banished to their homes, they are the ones being responsible.

    But there are some dogs that are dog aggressive or prey driven and they deserve to have a life if they are under the control of their owner. The problem happens when the off leash uncontrollable dog runs up on the dog aggressive controlled dog that the owner has been working with diligently.

    I HAVE had my dogs off leash 😉 and still do occasionally but my dogs listen to me consistently and know not to rush dogs or socialize with them before they come off leash.

    I often train in dog parks not allowing my dogs to interact or rush other dogs and teaching them control when they are rushed. Only when they can accomplish this can I trust that they will be good on walks etc.

    But I also know that there are plenty of ways to exercise a dog on leash and in safety.

    People should realize every time they take their dog off leash and he rushes another dog he could die and if you think you can control your dog or you are okay with that then that is the risk that you take!

    [Reply]

  22. Cheryl says:

    Hi,
    I love the ideas I get from your blog. I have 2 Yorkies that have both had wild animals 9a racoon and a bobcat)attack them and as a result have become
    very afraid of other dogs.
    Just as has been brought out most people think their dogs are good and even when I tell them mine are not it doesn’t deter them. They do not see small dogs as a threat and so do not change their plans. I may use some of the ideas others gave for slowing other dogs and owners down when they approach.
    Thank you so much for the great ideas.

    [Reply]

  23. John Catenacci says:

    I have always owned golden retrievers, which are big friendly dogs (one reason I prefer them) and, like any big dog, they NEED to be walked off lead to get the amount of exercise any big dog needs, leash laws or no leash laws. It is ludricrous to think one can have a normal (not neurotic) large dog without this kind of daily exercise.

    Fortunately, I like to walk off trail and in the woods and fields and can do this regularly without running into other dogs very often.

    Having said that, reading all these posts made me realize I am being a jerk to leave my dog off lead when I see other dogs in the area. It is assuming too much. Most of the time it will not be a problem but there could be times when it could be a big problem. So, i concede, I have to put my dog back on lead if other dogs show up.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    No dog NEEDS to be off leash!

    How do you think dog aggressive dogs survive? Should they be allowed to run off leash??

    They just need stringent exercise and training which can be done just as well on leash as off. check out this article and notice in the video both of mine are on leash! http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/exercise/

    But yes, my recommendation is to leash if there are other dogs anywhere near! Dogs should not be off leash unless you have total control over yours!

    [Reply]

    John Catenacci Reply:

    I have no disagreement about training on leash of course.

    But, a dog gets just as much exercise on leash as off? You must be insane or living in a delusional world or perhaps you have never walked a dog off leash so you don’t know what they do when free to meander.

    You would have to run with your dog on leash for several hours a day to achieve the same outcome I get in an hour out in the woods with my dog climbing over logs, breaking brush, etc.. And if you are a runner, that would work. I am not. Most people aren’t. Walking a dog on a leash – plan on all day!

    This is really not even remotely debatable. When I walk my dog OFF LEASH (as I always will when we are alone and in the right setting for it) he covers about ten times more ground than I do. It is the way they naturally are.

    Finally, what about when someone takes their dog hunting, which I do? I would hope you would not expect a hunting dog to be on a leash! If you do, this discussion no longer has a point. Well, hunting is not any different than what I do every day except I do not have a gun with me.

    For urban people with urban minds in urban environments, the leash IS king, as it must be. But, not in my world.

    Having said this, I do see it is important for me to control my dog when others are around – for everyone’s sake.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Clearly you did not watch the video.

    And I won’t have discussions with people who must resort to name calling and nastiness 🙂

  24. MJ Wood says:

    Thank you so much for this timely article. I just had a run in with a very abusive women who’s dog was off leash. I was subjected to a very serious verbal assault all because I asked her to leash her dog in a public park that requires dogs be leashed at all times.I have a rescue dog who is frightened and excited all at the same time. She has been to classes and goes to day care during the week. We are trying our hardest be responsible owners Why do people get so offended when they are asked to follow the law??? I agree with Tom that dogs need to run, but we all need to be on the same page as to when and where that occurs. If the laws says dogs should be leashed then leash your dog!! It is a shame that we have to become so “creative” to protect our dogs from people who show no respect for the law or for that matter, no respect for what we have tried to politely asked them to do or not do to our dogs. Thanks

    [Reply]

  25. Dinah says:

    Tom, you are fortunate to live where there is lots of space for dogs to run off-leash. Other towns don’t have that luxury so have on-leash laws to protect the animals and people from harm. If everybody obeyed the laws, whether all on-leash or all off-leash, there wouldn’t be these problems.

    [Reply]

  26. Sandra says:

    I appreciate all the replys to this topic… but although I’ve had the same problem of dogs “off-leash” running up to my 2 “on-leash” dogs.. there is an even worse problem here. I have seen many dogs totally out of control, running in our park with the owners running & calling after them. When I yell at them that there IS a LEASH LAW, I get cursed at. I have seen many of these dogs then run into the street into oncoming traffic! I yelled at one woman that her dog was going to DIE & it was going to be HER FAULT! At that, she cursed me out… I feel bad for the dogs, not the OWNERS! In the last 3 months I have piced up 2 dead dogs out of the street! It breaks my heart.

    [Reply]

  27. Marjorie says:

    This is a very good article. I have problems with loose dogs. An aggressive loose dog caused one of my dogs his life. You see he was fine with other dogs until a vicious dog bit him then my dog became dog aggressive and eventually people aggressive. I worked with him continuously to over come this. But stupid people letting their dogs run loose made this impossible nd eventually caused his death. The pup I have now is very friendly and I attend to keep her that way. Loose dogs all ready caused one of my dogs his life and I will do whatever it takes so this does not happen again. This stupid people never learn. One told me to do what I had to. I wonder what this person will say when they say this to the wrong person and their dog gets hurt.

    [Reply]

  28. John Hogan says:

    Great article!! I have a dog-aggressive dog and I’ve experienced all of the above! It’s somewhat consoling to know I’m not the only one! Thanks! J.

    [Reply]

  29. janet amighi says:

    DOG TESTING COULD HELP

    Well I am at the other end of the story- the bad guy who lets her dog off leash. He is friendly but I agree its unfair for him to rush up to other dogs even though he comes back to me within 2 seconds, its still 2 seconds too long.
    But many dogs need to run, to sniff, jump into bushes and over logs. He works hard training, but he needs his off leash times. Where to go? I try to find places with few dogs, but here’s what I think.

    There should be parks or trails restricted at certain times to dogs which pass a “friendly and under control” test and get a certificate for it.

    I don’t like dogs rushing up to me and jumping and their owners yelling “come come” as effectively as if they were speaking Russian. But the answer shouldn’t be that you have to either own your own woods or always keep your dog leashed.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Unless you have total control you dog should not be off leash; and you risk your dog’s life every time he could rush up on a dog aggressive dog.

    Dogs can get plenty of exercise on leash like I mentioned in the article and video I posted.

    [Reply]

  30. Venetia Stanley says:

    I really enjoyed this article plus the responses from other people. I am printing this to give to my youth participants at the shelter, because today we talked about just this type of situation.

    Thanks.

    [Reply]

  31. Linda says:

    I also have a “dog agressive” dog. It is embarrassing to walk her around the park where other dogs are walking with thier owners. She barks and jumps and goes crazy. I have tried treat distraction and walking off course and putting her into a sit, but it is a struggle. She was rescued at about 6 years old. I have had her for a year and continue to work with her. I continue to hope for a happy solution. She is fine off the leash with no others around. Living in the city those moments are few and far between. I hope we all find the solution.

    [Reply]

  32. Debby says:

    Haily is doing well w/her training except when she is on leash & sees another dog. She then pulls & barks uncontrollably. I cannot stop her no matter what I do. Off leash she does great with other dogs and comes when called. If I call her and put her on leash she’s back to the same behavior. Any suggestions as how I can stop this. I’m real frustrated with it
    Thanks. Debby

    [Reply]

  33. Fianna says:

    Thank you for this post. I walk dogs for a living, and this has happened quite a bit to me. I have done all of what you suggest, though the blind lie is quite clever! It is true, people just don’t listen. And, I have found that pitbull owners seem to be the ones that just don’t understand that it isn’t about their dog, or anything against their dog at all. I don’t have any ideas that pits are more likely to attack than any other dog, but the pitbull owners seem to get very defensive. This actually happened to me just yesterday, where a pitbull came running across the road towards us, and I was lucky I had my daughter to hold back the dog we were walking, so I grabbed the pit by the collar. When the owner came out he made a big deal about how his dog was not aggressive, and he didn’t seem to hear my concerns (or notice that I was not the least bit afraid of his dog, who I had by the collar, and was actually petting…. it was a very sweet dog), which were, number 1, his dog almost got hit by a car, and most importantly, that the dog I had WAS prone to dog aggression. The dog I had was one of those sweet looking cocker spaniels. Believe me, that pretty cocker would have made minced meat out of that pit! I love pits, and all dogs, and know that you need to be aware of each dog for himself, and not by breed, or anything else. These are the things we need to educate people about, so they know to keep control of their dogs.

    [Reply]

  34. Carolyn says:

    PEOPLE DON’T LISTEN! I’m 78, walk with a quad cane and have two Cairns, 8 & 10. At rest stops out on freeways I walk my pair on leash and often encounter off-leash dogs and owners who don’t give a sh…! No matter what I say, or do, in rush their dogs. The cairns are OK as long as the dogs stay in front of us and stop at a sociable distance. If the dog(s)push in the Cairns growl and dig in. They know I’m unsteady and have I overlook the fact. My best defense is to push the quad cane in the oncoming dogs face. Now the owner usually comes unglued, yelling “mean-spirited old bi…” The situation usually calms down, I say my thank you to the ‘One Above’ for still being upright and the Cairns and I go about our business. Usually. One time last fall I’d taken the time to enjoy lunch at a nearby picnic table and in squealed Highway Patrol.

    I had to point out “ON LEASH” sign, explain incident, lost maybe 20 minutes of road time and only when I asked officer to file incident report on the other owner did things calm down. Go figure. Officer said, good day, I loaded the Cairns into our van (they had calmly sat and watched the whole debacle, I slowly backed up, flipped off the offending owner and headed out. (Forgot to mention along with being 78 I’m a scotch, Irish, German REDHEAD.)

    [Reply]

    Wendy Walbrecht Reply:

    Hehe.

    [Reply]

  35. June Pound says:

    Hi Minette
    That was a very popular article and goes to prove that things are the same no matter where you are!
    I can relate to the problem of people letting their dogs run up to yours when on lead. I have had Shepherds for nearly 40 years and they are naturally extremely protective of their owners. So a strange dog running up into ‘their space’ is almost always in danger of being, my word for it is ‘reprimanded’. What I can never understand is, why do the owners of the offleash dog not realise that their dog is the problem, not yours.
    Dogs seem to have their own protocol for inspecting a newcomer if they are all offleash in a dog friendly park and it is wonderful to watch. In general, the approaching dog will stop at a certain point and drop, I think that this indicates it is asking permission of your dog (and you) to approach further. Your dog, if it is friendly, can then quietly approach the other dog and socialise.
    However an uncontrolled overexcited dog racing up to you and your dog could be reprimanded neatly, by a well socialised dog, and a gentle nip or a growl. Gemma, our current dog, is wonderful in all situations. In the house she sounds ferocious but, the instant we say it’s alright Gemma, she relaxes and kisses the other person to death! Fortunately we have not ever been in the situation where we have needed protection but I have no doubt that she would read our body language and react accordingly!

    [Reply]

  36. Milli Denney says:

    Very helpful article! I have tried to find the leash you mentioned but without any success. Is it possible to point me in the right direction? Thank you in advance.

    [Reply]

  37. Susan says:

    I recently read about “The Yellow Dog Project,” which promotes giving notice that a dog needs space, by placing a yellow ribbon or something yellow on the leash as a signal that the dog needs space. The project is trying to make this the international symbol not to approach a dog.

    “What Is Yellow Dog?
    The Yellow Dog Project was created to bring awareness to the general public about dogs who need space while training, recovering from surgery, or being rehabilitated.” The website is below:

    http://theyellowdogproject.com/The_Yellow_Dog_Project/Home.html

    [Reply]

  38. Valerie says:

    Can’t find a site for the leash you mention. Can you help me find them?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    http://www.friendlydogcollarsaustralia.com/

    [Reply]

  39. Kerry says:

    It was interesting to ask if the other person was judging you. I have two very energetic Jack Russell X Mini Fox Terriers. We walk everyday. There are lots of other walkers (mostly on leash) and I always ask if the dogs can say hello. If another person says no, I don’t think anything of it except that they know their dog and are doing the right thing in telling me. I respect their decision and them for being honest.

    [Reply]

  40. Rachel says:

    Can someone please please please tell me the breed of the brindle dog in the second photo (the pre-snarl face)? I have never seen another dog look exactly like my Brandi, I honestly thought that was her until I realized I did not recognize the other dog! She was a rescue dog and we have never been able to identify her breed(s).

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    She is a dutch shepherd 🙂

    [Reply]

  41. Josh says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, I’m learning new ways everyday!

    [Reply]

  42. David says:

    I agree on most of the topics of the article. I have a rescued shar pei coming from an illegal breeder who used her for a non stop breeding of fake “pure shar peis” puppies. It took time to gain her confidence but she is absolutel fearful as concerns as relationships and contacts with unknown persons and animals, developing an aggresive actitude toward them, with unespected outbursts. So obviously I NEVER walk her unleashed. In spite of my attempts, people are really shallow considering my warns and all the time they try to get closer, sometimes with children, to touch her funny tale or just to play with her…so I start sweating trying at the same time to get away from the situation. Sometimes we have been attacked by other unleashed dogs and in that case, my dog showed a very impressive submissive actitude with no any attempt to dare stop the aggression. On the contrary, a friend of mine could be easily bitten in case of an attempt to touch my dog.

    [Reply]

  43. Jane says:

    I have a rescued coyote X blue heeler, about 6 or 8 years old, who’s been with us for almost 4 years. She came to us with a broken tail and a seizure disorder, undiagnosed but seemingly resolved (she hasn’t had a seizure for more than a year and a half). She is fearful of anything long and narrow, loud noises and cameras.

    She’s crazy-smart, learned basic commands quickly and submits easily to all of the family including the cat but not the 14 year old female black lab, both of whom were here first (from babyhood). When kenneled while we’re out of town she is always allowed to play with other big dogs and there has never been an incident of even a snarl, though she tends to stay close to the humans on duty. But at home with the lab she has a huge personal bubble which the lab has never learned to stay out of, despite being attacked several times now. Because she’s so old I’m becoming fearful for her safety, because once the pretty mutt starts she is deaf to all commands that she otherwise obeys.

    On leash we steer her away from other dogs, tell people to say hello but stay away, and scold the off-leash walkers for endangering everyone. I know my girl would kill a small, aggressive, yappy dog very efficiently. When she sees another dog or a stranger on our property, she plants herself between us and the stranger and “panic barks”. I have no doubt she’ll bite someday if we aren’t vigilant about keeping her safe, though she hasn’t yet. We invite new friends into our home with her outside where she can see but not approach, and when everyone is calm we allow her to come in to be introduced. We instruct people to turn their backs to her until she is calm and sitting without too much wiggle.

    My main concern is for the old lab. She won’t be with us much longer and needless to say, I don’t want to break up any more fights. I walk around anxious all the time, which probably makes things worse. Is a basket muzzle the only solution? This is one of the most amazing dogs I’ve ever known, and I just want to keep her and the lab both safe and happy.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You may just have to keep them separate.

    I would never allow my old dog to be mistreated that way. I would keep them apart and do shifts inside and outside and in crate and out so that there was no conflict.

    If after 4 years it is not better I think it is time to make a more drastic change, find a behaviorist to come over and witness the behaviors and put you all on a behavior modification program.

    Or separate them so the lab never gets attacked.

    I don’t think wearing a muzzle constantly is a good fix, it can be used occasionally or for a few hours a day but not all the time.

    [Reply]

  44. Dee says:

    Thank You! I feel so much better after reading your post. I have a three year old Yorky who has taken a dislike to Vietnamese people which is a bit awkward as we are currently in Vietnam. She has become aggressive and barks and growls if they even look at her. She is fine with every westerner that we meet but just goes nuts at the locals. I have not been a huge socialiser and most of her formative years its just been her and I due to my place of work and so its not really her fault, its mine. But I was starting to feel really bad about it and now I think its time to just tell people to leave her alone and over time get her socialised a little more. Fortunately we leave Vietnam in a few days and I am hoping we can really address these issues when we are in a different location and the locals will walk away if she growls rather than baiting her which is what happens here.

    [Reply]

  45. Dot Parsons says:

    We are lucky in New Zealand, lots of off leash areas to walk dogs.
    I think part of the problem is that owners think of their dogs as being children. I have 2 B/C , working types, people friendly and under control.
    We do Agility as well as Obedience. But then on walks you meet dogs totally out of control. One jumped up and pierced my skin to bleeding point.
    Also the new PC attitude towards children is rubbing off on dog training.
    Dogs like children need discipline.

    [Reply]

  46. erika says:

    Thanks for this article! I have a Yorkie mix and an English bulldog. The Yorkie is very dog-aggressive. It used to be only when she was on the lead but she’s progressively gotten worse off-lead as well. When I walk the two together, people are usually nervous about my bulldog so they keep their distance. Little do they know that it’s the Yorkie who’s the mean one.

    [Reply]

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