Monday, April 04, 2011

Doggie woes

I love my dog. She is the meekest, sweetest thing. I have never heard her growl at a soul. She rarely barks. When the cat torments her by hovering around her food bowl, she coughs at him. 

But we have an issue with other dogs.

My niece put this in a way I hadn't thought before - fear agression.

She's really timid, you see. And so when we're walking, if we see another dog, or if we go past a house where a dog is outside, she stops walking to my left and hides behind me. There are some dogs we meet that she is okay with. And she loves playtime with her buddy Belle, but that's because they've been friends since she came to live with us (and if there are any issues, they work it out).

But it has made things...interesting, let's say, when we meet other dogs and owners on our walk. Because most of those dogs want to investigate. And she's already nervous. So I watch very carefully and if I see her lip start to curl and her body tense it's time to back off. Sometimes she growls and snarls if the other dog is too much "in her space". And I don't know what to do about it.

I've taken to cautioning owners...she's friendly but timid and she gets overwhelmed. Which is true. I mean if I were wearing a dress she'd be hiding underneath my skirts. With small dogs, she's okay until they decide they want to jump up. With big dogs...well, if you had someone twice your size barrelling down on you, how would you feel?

But it does irk me that I have to explain. It irks me that a lot of people - not everyone, of course - think it's perfectly acceptable for their dog to come charging out to say hello because he's friendly. And they don't understand when I say my dog is afraid. One example is at the park the other night. There was a beautiful Burmese there (I adore that breed!). Burmese Mountain Dogs are gentle giants and this one was lovely. But playful and after some sniffing Dreamer had had enough. It is why I left her on leash. Burmese are HUGE. And Dreamer is simply not outgoing. The flip side of it was meeting a Westie yesterday. Dreamer showed signs of wanting to say hello, so I let her, and just watched. The Westie had great manners. After a brief round of polite sniffing, both dogs went back to sit beside their owners.

So I'm left wondering what I should do to help her. She's 8. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Is it acceptable that she puts other dogs in their place when they get a little too exuberant? Is some owner going to totally wig out on me someday?


  1. Hi Donna:

    I’ve trained dogs in the AF and this is what I would suggest:

    Protect your dog by telling anyone with a dog that approaches that your dog is sometimes a ‘fear biter’. As a fellow dog owner, if I am told this and my dog is 100 pounds and the other dog is only 15 pounds, I will still keep my big dog away from the little one. This should make sense to all dog and cat owners.

    Good luck,


  2. Thank you, Vince. That's essentially what I've been saying. If she gets overwhelmed, she may get snippy.

  3. That's my westie! He's a very patient and polite guy. He will wait until she gets used to him, and I'm sure she will warm up to him. Everybody usually does.

  4. It IS Dexter! He was lovely! I was actually talking to my sister (who is a vet) about him last night!