Today I went to my new home. Leaving the shelter was amazing! I was very nervous there. Everything was loud and different around me. What would my new home be like? I was hoping I would have quiet time to check it out. After all, I’m in a new place with people I don’t even know! But that’s not what happened. The very first thing that happened was a large, strange dog came running at me. I was shocked and I didn’t know if he was friendly or not. So I growled. Then strangers crowded all around me, touching me without asking first. I’m not sure if I’ll be safe here.
Newly adopted dogs need safe time to decompress and not to be rushed to greet others.
Today I went to the dog park. At first I was excited. There was green grass and a big place to run. But when we stepped through the gate, a lot of dogs ran up to me and swarmed all around me. I got worried and snapped. I just wanted them to give me some space! I got more comfortable once I wasn’t the center of attention. I even made some new dogs friends. But then another pushy dog started to pick on me. He barked in my face, nipped at my ankles, and stood over me. I didn’t like it. I told him to stop and he wouldn’t. It scared me! I was hoping you would help me get away from him. When you didn’t, I lunged at him because I didn’t know what else to do. I’m not so sure about meeting new dogs now.
Don’t gamble with your dog’s well being by putting them in social situations you can’t control, (dog parks included) and advocate for your dog’s safety.
Today an off leash dog rushed me. I heard you tell the other humans about it when we got home. You told them it scared you but that it ended up OK because the dog didn’t actually bite me. But I wasn’t OK! I was hoping you would understand that just because I wasn’t bit doesn’t mean it didn’t terrify me. This was the first time I realized that anytime we are out walking, a scary dog could run up and try to hurt me. Now I’m worried when we go out on walks that it might happen again so I scan for other dogs and bark at them as soon as I spot them.
Consider your dog’s mental well being just as much as his or her physical well being.
Today I met a child. She was loud and didn’t act like any other humans I knew. She stumbled when she walked and yelled loudly. When she touched me, it wasn’t soft. She grabbed me and I thought she was scary. I was hoping you would notice that I was really uncomfortable like when I wouldn’t look at her and started to freeze. Even when I moved away, she followed me. When she wouldn’t stop, I nipped her. Now I am scared of all kids.
Monitor ALL dog/child interactions while teaching children appropriate dog manners.
Today I went to training. I was barking and snapping at people and dogs. You didn’t know how to get me to stop so you hired a nice lady to help. I was so thankful when you listened as the teacher explained that I was just scared and needed your guidance to feel safer. As we practiced together, I learned that I didn’t need to panic when meeting new dogs and people because you would protect me and help me when I needed it.
Seek help from a qualified dog trainer who will assist both you and your dog in making better choices.
Today I went to the vet’s office. At first, I got really scared. When I peered around the corner, there were two other dogs who barked at me. I wasn’t sure I’d be safe. I was so thankful when you brought me back to the car to wait my turn instead of making me wait inside. Then when we did go in, you gave me really yummy treats which made me feel better. Now I can’t wait to visit again and get more snacks!
Make vet visits more enjoyable by avoiding interactions with other dogs (who may be sick or injured) and bringing your best treats.
Today I got a calm massage. I was used to playing, jumping, and wrestling with you so I assumed you wanted me to be energetic all the time. But today you decided to gently pet me and speak in soothing tones instead. I was so thankful to have the chance to fully relax and enjoy a different way to hang with my human. Instead of being over the top excited whenever humans are around, now I know sometimes I can just be calm too.
Practice calmness with your dog as much as you practice excitability (if not more).
Today I growled. A strange man was approaching us and I got scared. You had me on the leash so I knew I couldn’t run away. And I don’t know how to say words that would tell you I was afraid. So I growled. I was so thankful you understood that I was feeling fearful and didn’t let the man come any closer. When you bent down next to me and reassured me with petting and praise that I was ok, I felt a lot better. Next time something scary happens, I’m going to look to you for guidance.
Your dog’s behavior (growls included) is their language. Listen to what they have to say and take action if they communicate they are uncomfortable.
Re-read each of the above scenarios putting yourself into your dog’s shoes:
- Arriving in a new place with strangers only to be bombarded with unsolicited interactions
- Stepping into a park only to be rushed by a large, unruly crowd
- Walking down the street when suddenly a person runs towards you aggressively threatening you
- Meeting a strange acting person who invades your space and won’t leave you alone
- Going to a class where someone who speaks your language can finally help your family understand your needs
- Not being forced to wait in a doctor’s office where you are scared and nearby patients seem aggressive or unstable and then getting cookies during the exam
- Enjoying a relaxing massage from your favorite people instead of always engaging in high energy activities
- Communicating your discomfort so that a friend or family member can help you feel safer
These are important life lessons your dog wants you to understand. As trainers who specialize in behavior modification for dog facing all kinds of issues from manners to aggression and fear to anxiety, getting you to recognize how your dog experiences the world around them is what our training is all about!
If you have a dog who is struggling with a problem behavior, get in touch! Our experienced trainers will help you learn how to speak dog and transform your pup into the happiest, healthiest, and most well behaved dog they can be.
–Erin Kramer, Tug Dogs Owner