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Stop Caring What Others Think and Stand Up for Your Dogs

It’s almost dog bite prevention week, so I want to talk to you guys about one of the keys to reducing dog bites (as well as making life better for your dogs all around):

You need to stop caring what anyone else thinks about you and your dog.

If you do this, you will free yourself up to make better choices on behalf of your dogs. When you make better choices, you are setting your dogs up for success in our crazy world. And when you do that, they are less likely to get into trouble which they will wind up paying for big time.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Stand up for your dogs. Be assertive in protecting your dog’s physical and mental health, as well as the safety of those around them. 

2. When you’re not sure if your dog can handle something, always err on the side of caution. Choose management over “I don’t know, so let’s find out!”

Dogs need us to do both of these things more often, so that they don’t feel like they need to take matters into their own hands teeth.

Obviously, dogs need lots of other things from us too: socialization, training, proper management, and a never ending supply of peanut butter that they can roll around in like it’s a canine version of that scene in Indecent Proposal. People also need to learn how to read their dog’s body language,  understand stress and fear, and not screw their dogs up in general. But we’ve covered that before, here and all over the web.

What I’m talking about now doesn’t really have all that much to do with the dogs. It’s about us humans and how uncomfortable many of us are with being forceful, direct, and making unpopular choices that we’re afraid will make people not like us. This is causing some problems for our dogs.

Too often we choose not to speak up for our dogs, even as things take a weird turn. We recognize that our dog is uncomfortable with the hyper kids running circles around them. We suspect that the unfamiliar dog approaching our dog isn’t as friendly as their owner is claiming. We don’t know if our dog is ok with the cleaning lady entering the house while we’re gone. But we allow it anyway.

We allow our desire to be perceived as friendly or nice or easy going to override our own gut instincts or what our dog is trying to tell us. Our desire to be liked – to avoid being seen as unfriendly or rude or “bitchy”  – is powerful stuff.

It’s so powerful, that humans will choose to ignore their own instincts and proceed into potentially dangerous scenarios, just so they don’t make a bad impression.

Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear, says that unlike other living creatures, humans will sense danger, yet still walk right into it. “You’re in a hallway waiting for an elevator late at night. Elevator door opens, and there’s a guy inside, and he makes you afraid. You don’t know why, you don’t know what it is. Some memory of this building—whatever it may be. And many women will stand there and look at that guy and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to think like that. I don’t want to be the kind of person who lets the door close in his face. I’ve got to be nice. I don’t want him to think I’m not nice’.” More on that here. 

If we’re willing to walk right into a metal box with a stranger that totally scares us just so we won’t be seen as rude, imagine how difficult it is for many people to be assertive on behalf of their dogs with nice folks at the park, their neighbors, visitors, family, and friends. We’re willing to deny our fear around murderers. It’s no wonder we’re not comfortable speaking up for ourselves around people we pass on a dog walk.

The problem with our discomfort is that dog bites often happen when we are:

1. In denial about our dog’s limitations and/or their behavior issues. To be a good advocate for them, dogs need you to see them as they are, in the present.

2. We know their limits, but we still hesitate to take action.

And the flip side of suspecting or knowing your dog has issues and not speaking up is:

3. When we are in complete denial that our “good” dogs would ever bite someone.

Number 3 is a whole blog in and of itself. This blog is really about the first two points. But I’ll sum up #3 real quick for good measure:

All dogs have the potential to bite. ALL of them. Breed, size, age, zodiac sign – doesn’t matter. Push any dog hard and long enough or in just the right way (You mean it’s not OK for my 2 year old to crawl into my “good” dog’s crate while he’s sleeping?) and they run out of options and will bite. So don’t push any dog’s luck. Don’t allow them to be treated roughly or inappropriately or fail to properly supervise them because they’re such “good dogs.” Your dog needs you to stop thinking they’re a robot with no limits and respect their boundaries. Don’t fool yourself. Your dog will appreciate it if you help them out by setting them up to be good.

When we let dogs bite, the dogs pay for it. They might hurt a person or another dog or get hurt themselves. They might cause your home owner’s insurance to drop you and then you can’t keep your dog. They might be declared dangerous. They might make the news and inflame the public into calling for a ban on all dogs that look like your dog. They might be taken from you and euthanized.

Dog bites aren’t the only consequence, of course. When we don’t step up other not-so-great stuff happens, like we put our dogs into situations that make them stressed and miserable. Or they have a bad experience with another dog and then they become a DINOS. But this post isn’t about dog behavior. It’s about us and our malfunctions.

Sometimes, we have to step out of our comfort zone in order to be effective advocates for our dog’s safety and health. Do not let others pressure you. Stop caring what anyone else thinks and just do what you know is right for your dogs.

Channel your inner Ron Swanson:

ron swanson

Now, I recognize that there are things that happen that are beyond our control. Also, I understand that sometimes we genuinely think we’re making the right choice and it turns out to be the wrong one. And of course, I want you to socialize, train, and do new stuff with your dogs, which means that inevitably there will be goof ups. I get it. That’s life.

What I’m talking about here is when you’re hesitant to do what you know needs to be done or when you’re afraid to err on the side of caution because you think it’ll make you look like a “square.”

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you all permission to stand up for yourselves and your dogs. You have to do it. Your dogs need you to do it.

The next time someone tries to force themselves or their dog onto your dog, you’re going to boldly step in front of your dogs and say “STOP.”  Say it like you mean it. Then drop the mic and walk away.

The next time someone comes over to your house and you’re not sure if your dog will be OK with them, you’re going to put your dog in another room or in their crate or on a leash.  When your friend visits with their little kids or the landscaper needs to use your bathroom or the police* bangs on your door, you’re not going to hold your breath and see what happens.  You’re going to tighten up your core muscles and say, “Please wait while I put my dog away.” When they say, “It’s OK, I love dogs”, you will hold your ground and follow through with the plan.

And the next time you’re at the vet or the groomers and you don’t like the way they’re handling your dog, you’re going to say, “We need to do this another way.”I struggled with this one. But I’m over it now. Same thing goes for trainers. If you don’t like they way a trainer is working with your dog, you’re going to say, “Thanks, but we need something different.”

Yes, the other person may say nasty things to you or about you. They might call you a “bitch.”  I want you to not care. Because in that moment what you really are is your dog’s hero. You just took their well-being into your hands and acted with conviction. You made the right choice and they’re safe because of you. Bravo.

And who cares what people call you?  As my future BFF Tina Fey says, “Bitches get stuff done. Bitch is the new black

Tina Fey

Look, the other person will get over it. They might not even care at all. For them, the discomfort of dealing with hero-you won’t last long. Even if it does, even if your neighbors think you’re kind of stand-offish, it’s not rocking their world.  But for you, the consequences of not standing up for your dogs might be long-lasting and deep-cutting. Set those limits, then don’t give a hoot what anyone thinks about you.

p.s. There are other ways to set limits and not giving a crap what anyone thinks, like: if they need it, walk your dog with a muzzle on. You will get weird looks. But you don’t care, cuz you’re being Safety First.

Hey, I know this is uncomfortable for some of you. But I know you can do it because you love your dogs.

If it helps, I want you to think of me standing next to you, cheering you on as you stand up for your dog’s needs. I’m five feet worth of NJ/Philly-loud-talking-feistyness and I don’t give an eff about saying “No” to anyone if it means making sure my dogs don’t get into trouble or have a bad experience. So picture me there beside you the next time you need a boost. Know that every time you make that tough choice to stand for your up dogs, I’m yelling, “Rock Star!!” just for you.

Now go get ’em Tiger.

* You have the right to secure your dog before letting the police enter your property.  ALWAYS do it.

Want to give this blog to your clients or friends? Here’s a printer-friendly PDF version: Stand Up For Your Dogs

  1. Bravo!! Bravo!! Outstanding post!
    I’ve always said that many of our dogs who have certain labels (aggressive, shy, etc..) really aren’t problem dogs. They have people problems – rude intrusive people problems.

    May 10, 2013
    • Thanks! And you’re right!! Those dogs needs ballsy owners to stand up to those rude intrusive people problems ; )

      May 10, 2013
  2. Sam Tatters #

    The number of times people look at me like I have twenty heads when I ask or tell them not to do something that involves one of my dogs is insane. In fact, I had a mini-rant on my last post:

    May 10, 2013
  3. katwayp #

    Outstanding post! And yes, I’ve gotten funny looks. But i don’t care as long as my babies are safe.

    May 10, 2013
  4. i’m a fellow dog walker and 100% agree. thanks for voicing!

    May 10, 2013
  5. you KNOW I love this! I love everything about this. Every.Single.Word. Great job!

    May 10, 2013
  6. Fabulous post. I DEFINITELY struggle with this. I have a DINOS and an all-star (therapy) dog, so both of your points hit home here.

    My favorite line…”Because in that moment what you really are is your dog’s hero.” Our dogs already think it – so let’s come through for them!

    May 10, 2013
  7. barksNpurrs #

    Best post ever…….OH YES!!!!!….THIS HAD to be said !!! We are the ONLY ones to keep our dogs safe & it’s our duty, job & promise to them !
    I always say, “There are good bitches & bad bitches. Good bitches speak up for the right reasons.” In this case, to protect our dogs!
    Keep on bitchin’ !!!!!

    May 10, 2013
  8. craft fear #

    Thank you for saying this.

    My dog is a greyhound mix, runs 35 mph, and has been leash aggressive since I adopted him at age 5. I always plan for the worst, because if I don’t hold onto him, I won’t be able to catch him. I can’t imagine anything other than protecting him at all times, or being ready to protect him even in my pajamas when someone knocks on the door at 8am.

    May 11, 2013
  9. Great article and I can think of occasions when I have not made the better choice. I am putting a link to this page. : )

    May 11, 2013
  10. WOOT!!!

    May 11, 2013
  11. This is now one of my most favourite posts. Brilliant and supportive. I especially love the reference to The Gift of Fear, a book I read many years ago and which I believe all people, especially women should read.

    I sometimes have a hard time getting my clients to stand up for their dogs for these very reasons you have listed. I stand up for my dogs (and other people’s sometimes) every day and with practice it gets easier. This blog post will now be part of my education of others on how to be their dog’s hero. Bravo.

    May 11, 2013
  12. NancyB #

    Terrific post! I am always surprised as a dog “owner” and dog walker the situations other people will put their dogs in. I’ve definitely had people think I was overreacting when I protect my dog (or client dogs) from their dogs in various circumstances, but I am responsible for my guy and the client dogs and need to do what’s best for them.

    I too read “the Gift of Fear” and wish all people, especially women, would read it.
    THANKS for a great post and for all the good comments.

    May 11, 2013
  13. Thank you for the super nice feedback everyone! I noticed some of you mentioning you’d like to share this with your clients, so I made a printer-friendly PDF version of the blog. The link is at the end of this blog and at the bottom of the handouts page:

    May 11, 2013
  14. Great post!

    May 11, 2013
  15. Bravo!

    May 11, 2013
  16. GREAT post! It IS important to advocate for us dogs! Jen says she lives by Tina Fey’s motto. She’s pissed off a lot of people in her life. And they can just get over it.

    May 11, 2013
  17. Mary Rabbe #

    Love this!! Thank you.


    Mary Ann Rabbe, Booking Agent Sundreams Productions 609-304-2162

    May 11, 2013
  18. This is a great article. And its never too late to learn. I tried multiple methods on my dog and he hasn’t held a single grudge even though some never worked. Read books. Hire a trainer. Be skeptical but be open minded. It took me 3 years but my dog and I now look forward to walks because we understand each other and are prepared for dealing and/or escape. I’m a proud avoider and bitch! And its worth mentioning, you can do it without ever again saying no to your dog.

    May 11, 2013
  19. Thank you! I have recently learned this and have learned to cope with the dirty looks and whispered comments about my rudeness. And in return, Bella is learning that she can trust me to handle the situation so she doesn’t have to. I am tired of other people’s good intentions setting my dog back in her development so from now on, call me what you will. My dog will call me her hero.

    Thank you for reinforcing that.

    May 11, 2013
  20. Just shared this on my dogwalkers page ( Hope that’s ok as this sums me up beautifully. 🙂

    May 11, 2013
  21. handvolldackel #

    Do I wish people would only look dirty and whisper insults – I usually get yelled at for being a crazy bitch. I don’t care, I channel my inner Xena, keep my dachshund save and my nerves a lot calmer. I also let him avoid whatever he wants to avoid – I might see an old Labrador who can barely walk, he sees a dog looking like the dog who threatened him last week. I’ll be at his side, no matter what.

    May 11, 2013
  22. Great post!

    I think a lot of confusion in people’s mind in their relationship with their dog is that so many people are taught to believe by society that a dog’s job is protect their people. This idea makes people believe that their job is to sit back and let the dog do all the work.

    Of course, we no longer live in caves or forests. We live in homes and towns and cities with other people and other animals. Somewhere along the way the tables have been turned, and now the jobs are switched. Now, our job is to protect the dogs, but somewhere along the way, the majority of people never got the email bulletin.

    I remember reading a book in my thirties about being a woman warrior. The title escapes me at this point, but the whole idea was very helpful. It helped me to bring out that warrior side that was very suppressed that can be helpful to change the outcome of many situations.

    I think if we remember that our job is protect our dogs and not the other way around, it will help in situations when our dogs are in jeopardy. A common sign posted on so many side
    gates is “Beware of Dog!” However, we should change the sign to say, “Never mind the dog, Beware of the Owner!”

    May 11, 2013
  23. THANK YOU for posting about this issue – my dog is adorable (and hence gets a lot of attention from strangers) but sometimes fearful & reactive – and my being “rude” to neighbors and their dogs has absolutely been the hardest part of having him.

    May 11, 2013
  24. Yes yes yes! Very well said.

    May 11, 2013
  25. k9mythbuster #

    One of the best articles I think I’ve ever read regarding the care of our dogs. Nothing is more important than protecting them from the world they share with us. Well done and shared.

    May 11, 2013
    • Ribbons only go so far on walks (and aren’t used at all in certain scenarios…for ex: dogs don’t wear them in the house for when visitors come by). So no matter what we put on our dogs, it’s still 100% up to us to stand up for them and communicate their needs.

      May 12, 2013
  26. Genevieve #

    Thank you. Sometimes my leashed dog is approached by unleashed dogs while we’re out for a walk. The owners always tell me “Oh, it’s ok, he/she is friendly!” and I promptly reply, “Well I’m afraid mine isn’t, so could you please restrain them while we pass?”. I get the funniest looks, as though I’m being rude, even though I’m the one following my town’s leash laws. It took me awhile to be honest with myself about my pup’s boundaries but our lives have been much easier since I did.

    May 11, 2013
  27. When you allow children to play inappropriately with dogs, they are practicing unsafe behavior around dogs. Your own dog may not object, but someone else’s dog may, and the kid ends up bitten. Children need to be taught safe behavior around dogs – for their sake and the dog’s.

    May 11, 2013
  28. I absolutely advocate for my dog. The problem lies in the complete disregard of leash laws in my area. I have an APBT that I plan on keeping forever. The idiots with their “friendly” dogs have systematically ruined every park and even my neighborhood. I have called the police and nothing has changed. Right now we can take a rare walk, but we usually play ball on our well-protected staircase. My dog got into a minor fight with a rude dog years ago (another female dog, lesson learned) that was completely my fault. Every dog that has run up on us on walks was well received by my dog, but that will only happen until it doesn’t. When that happens my dog will be blamed, not the aggressive/rude/undersocailized and off-leash dog that started the fight. My girl has doggy friends that I can trust, but she gets very anxious around unknown dogs (think high pitched whimper-whining and straining at leash). We’ve been working on it with dogs on the other side of fences on the rare chance we can go out, but what about when that aggressive/rude/undersocailized and off-lash dog comes running up…

    P.S. No dog trainers within 500 miles…except Petco…

    May 12, 2013
  29. I’m a total BITCH and proud of it! Fab post – well done! Big clicks to you.

    May 12, 2013
  30. Well said, I have just shared this on my facebook
    I tell my clients the same thing all the time.

    May 12, 2013
  31. Probably the most powerful & emotive piece of writing I’ve read in a long time. My mantra to clients is ‘your dog will only trust you if you take control, so they don’t have to’. Thank you for putting it so eloquently. I will be sharing like an assertive dog owner 😉

    May 12, 2013
  32. Diane #

    Just a few minutes ago I was out on a walk with my dog, who tends to bark and lunge at bicycles. I saw someone on a bike coming up the street, so I stopped at the corner, put my dog in a sit, and started feeding him pieces of dried sweet potato. Then the bike dude came up onto the sidewalk right before he was about to cross the side street, meaning he would’ve been within inches of us if he stayed on the sidewalk after crossing. I gave him the “Oh HELL NO” look, shook my head, and waved him around, not caring if he thought I was a lunatic or a bitch. He went back onto the street, and my dog stayed calm. If I hadn’t done anything to redirect bike dude, it could have been a really bad situation.

    May 12, 2013
  33. kimba #

    This actually made me weepy, it hit so close to home. Thanks for your support and help. My Jim is never going to be ok in “normal” situations, and though I like to think I’m a good advocate for him, I can do better. Thank you so much.

    May 12, 2013
  34. Love the post – love the other supportive comments, too!

    May 12, 2013
  35. Trina Swan #

    Thank you for the bit about muzzles! One if our dogs, Biggles, wears a muzzle when we’re walking him. He’s not good with other small furry types! He’s great with humans but so many parents go to cross the street with their kids until we explain that he’s really a loving dog and would love a pat! We’ve recently learned that he won’t be with us for much longer and we are, understandably, devastated. He was a rescue fog and basically was left to get on in life on his own, if he was ill he had to deal with it. For the past 4 years we’ve given him the best we have to offer and he is a different dog to when we got him and will miss him terribly, as will our other dog who will be bereft without him!

    May 12, 2013
  36. Wow. I really really needed this just about now. I have someone who claims she knows it all about dogs (she’s about 60 and a drinker). I don’t care for how she approaches my dogs and said something recently. Thanks to reading this, I will say something EVERY TIME. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 12, 2013
  37. Sue #

    This is such a great post that I don’t know where to begin. I have 2 Goldens that are great with people, but not so much with other dogs, so when we’re walking at the park, I always put myself between them and the other dog(s) until we have all passed each other. Or, if the situation warrants it, I just step far off to the side with my girls and have them sit & stay at my side. My 3rd dog is a Corgi/Black Lab mix who’s great with other dogs but not people. So, we’re working with her.

    May 12, 2013
  38. Angela #

    So true, I learnt very early on that being “pleasant and smiley” while others created uncomfortable situations was bad for me, for the dogs and the trust I was trying to build with my two rescues. One looks cute and silly but he’s got very low tolerance. The other is not so pretty but has low confidence. Having dogs has taught me so much about myself – I don’t allow people to walk over me and I truly appreciate when love and respect comes my way.

    May 12, 2013
  39. Dawn Rubick #

    Thanks so much! I really appreciate your words. I have 2 whippets that I will defend against any dog, person, kid, car, whatever. Behind my house is an open space that people use (agains the law) as their personal off leash dog park. Every day dogs run up on my fence at the my dogs. My whippets understandably, bark like crazy. I used to apologize to the people in the field, even though it made me angry they were there, more angry they had off leash dogs, didn’t pick up after them, let them run up and jump on my fence, etc. But at some point I stopped being apologetic and just got really, really angry. Those people were totally disrespecting my boundaries, my dog’s boundaries and putting all our dogs at risk. So I started asking people to please put their dog on a leash as this is a leash required area. That usually got a nasty face or ignored. Then demanding they put their dog on a leash. Nothing. Finally, one day, I went completely insane on the worst repeat offender. Brought a camera, got in his face and demanded his address so I could report him to the police and started taking pictures of him. Told him I would no longer tolerate his behavior. He screamed at me, called me every name in the book. I did not back down and actually recorded the whole thing. Told him I would not allow him to antagonize my dogs in their own space that way (probably used a whole lot of bad words.) He turned around and walked away. I did report it and nothing was done. But that guy now walks on the other side of the river, WITH his dog on a leash.

    It took a lot for me to work with my little female to get her over her fear of people and dogs. I’m not going to let idiots who can’t be bothered to drive to a dog park threaten my dogs in their own yard!

    Thanks for helping me feel better about my response on this one. It really IS hard to have people call me a bitch about it. But I know I am doing the right thing to defend my dogs.

    May 13, 2013
  40. Jenell Brinson #

    Excellent! As a dog show competitor for decades, with mostly large breeds with strong personalities, maneuvering through crowds, exercising at roadside parks, etc, protecting my dog became second nature for me. I think ‘dog parks’ where dogs are allowed off leash in presence of other dogs is one of the most gosh-awful ideas I’ve seen yet! It is asking for disaster! Thankfully, I love where I do not have to negotiate neighborhood streets full of other dogs daily to exercise my dogs!
    Will take exception to one thing in your article, though. As also a professional pet groomer for 30 yrs, I take exception to, or at least add caveat to, the comment about groomers, that if you don’t like the way a groomer is handling your dog, stop them and tell them to do differently. Now if you ARE a skilled dog owner, ok, but very few skilled dog owners take their dogs to groomers Its mostly pet owners who can’t even get their dog to stand for them brushing it! Many of the dogs are spoiled, and will bite in a heartbeat when someone actually expects them to behave, or accept something they do not like. Most owners that insist their dog will not bite at the groomer, without reasonable provocation, are idiots in denial, and the same ones that insist to house guests their dogs won’t bite, even as the little devil threatens to sink its teeth into their leg! As a groomer, yes, I had owners insist that I not use a muzzle, or other restraints they didn’t like. I never abused the pet I groomed. But I had to insist for both my safety and theirs I be able to restrain them, AND use such firmness as necessary, to get the job done.

    May 13, 2013
    • Jenell, I understand just what you mean about clients not really understanding their dogs/being in denial that they’ll bite, etc. – thank you for bringing this up! I know that some owners can be difficult and even make things much worse for their dogs by ignoring professional advice or insisting on an approach that isn’t appropriate/safe. As a dog walker, I’ve experienced this too. Sadly, there are some dog owners that don’t yet know what’s best for their dogs. So, in some cases, professionals need to stand up for the dogs too and help owners understand how they can work together to make things better and safer for everyone involved.

      My target audience for this blog are folks that understand their dogs pretty well (I have some really skilled, smart readers!) but are uncomfortable speaking up when they know something isn’t working/isn’t safe. For example, there are owners that are embarrassed to tell vets or groomers to use a muzzle – they suspect their dogs need it, but hesitate to suggest it.

      Thanks again for the good feedback!

      May 13, 2013
  41. Reblogged this on Zerobites Dog Training.

    May 13, 2013
  42. Chloe #

    This is a great post. Dog walker here–I have to be the ‘bad guy’ all the time, but that’s fine the safety of my dogs comes first. I have been called all sorts of bad names but at the end of the day I have the right to walk my dogs past your dog without incident. And by the way it would be great if you the ‘dogs will be dogs’ person with the bully dog, could teach your dog the simple command “Fido, COME”
    This I believe is the main problem. Dogs do not have a recall so the owner blames our dogs instead for not being tolerant.

    May 13, 2013
  43. Kathy #

    So I saw this blog entry and put off reading it. And today took my small dog, Scooter to the park early this morning because the odds are there are few other people/dogs there also. I’m walking my dog for a few minutes and I see a women with 5 or 6 large dogs out on the baseball field so I walk in the opposite direction. As I do this I see she has her dogs off leash (against the law) and she’s not in control of one. I work on getting Scooter back to the car and her dogs come toward us while she’s yelling at them. Scooter sees the dogs coming and starts barking, lunging, etc. I manage to back into the tennis courts and close the gate while she gathers her dogs and leashes them.

    I’m taking Scooter back to the car and she follows me. She starts telling me how I need to socialize my dog and have I ever taken him to the dog park. Apparently she is a dog walker and wants to give me advice. Scooter is secured in the car now but still going off. I’m stammering basically saying he has fear issues and I’ve done everything. She tells me his behavior is not fear. She says I seemed frustrated. The whole time I’m thinking that I should have read this blog entry.

    Ugg!! I never say your dogs are off leash and they charged my dog. I didn’t stand up for my dog or myself. I’ll be bugged by this all day.

    May 13, 2013
    • I’ve done the same thing, it is literally being struck speechless by unbelievably RUDE behavior. She simply went on the offensive by being offensive because she knew she was wrong. At least now you know who NOT to let walk your dog she sounds like someone I would not let near me. Glad both of you are safe.

      December 22, 2013
  44. Many times it is other people that ignore me. My dog loves people, but does not like other dogs coming up when I am around. I have no problem telling people to keep their dog at a safe distance from my dog, but it is just like they just want to test if I am telling the truth, then get upset when my dog growls. I try my best to keep her from stressful situations, I think they should get rid of the leashes where people just let the dog keep going forever until they push a button to make them stop. It isn’t fair to my dog when they don’t listen to me and just let their dog keep getting closer to mine. It puts their dog at risk of getting into a fight. That also puts me in danger of getting bit also. Sometimes if other dog owners would just listen and pay attention to their own dogs, tense situations could be avoided.

    May 13, 2013
  45. Couple more thoughts.

    If more people would stand up for their dogs, then folks like us (who *are* protecting our dogs) wouldn’t seem like the oddballs. People would stop having this weird since of entitlement to pet strange dogs.

    I’ve watched people restrain their trembling dog while strange children gathered around and petted the poor dog.

    Parents are teaching children at a very young age to approach people with dogs (I can’t count how many times I’ve seen parents practically shove their toddler towards me and my dogs). What is this teaching kids? – As long as the stranger has a dog, he or she is safe to approach… And then of course these kids grow up into adults who think they are suppose to touch every dog they see.

    Your elevator analogy was interesting. I used to teach human relations courses. I had a person in class tell me that she had a bad feeling about a guy on an elevator but she didn’t want the guy to think she was prejudiced (they were difference races), so she got on anyway. And she was assaulted 😦

    May 13, 2013
  46. Great advice, will be sharing this with my husband.

    May 14, 2013
  47. Great post ! i try my best to do what is right for my pitbull took him to the vet today told the ppl there they need to put the cats and dog that runs loose in the vets up they just look at me crazy and didnt move to do what i ask the lil dog went into a room and i shut the door i was like i said you may need to put your dog up just in case they didnt still so i just did it myself isn’t thast crazy ask em to do something and they just stare at you like you are crazy but had my dog bit that one they would have been ready for me to pay for the damage done to their lil vet dog yet it would have been their fault for not doing what i ask.

    May 14, 2013
  48. Kristen #

    I loved this article!

    Im the owner of a american staffordshire terrier, who, unfortuniately has a few behavioural issues. So, I can really relate to what you’re saying. I am always super careful and never take any risks when it comes to my dog. There have been numerous times when a person will approach us, and want to pet him, but I always say “No, that’s not a good idea, he’s not good with strangers” and maybe it makes us look bad, but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if he ever bit someone and had to be taken away and euthanized.

    I wish there were more people like you in this world, most people see their pets as accessories, and if they’re not perfectly behaved, they get rid of them. People call me crazy or a bitch, or both sometimes….but seriously, who gives a f-ck what other people think or say, I’m protecting my dog. So yay to being a bitch! 🙂

    May 14, 2013
    • Hi Kristen, I know what you mean. I live with a shy pit bull and I have to put his needs first, even if means missing out on a chance to change someone’s mind about pit bulls in general.

      That brings up a good point: This blog was written for ALL dogs, but if I were to say anything specific to pit bull owners it would be: our dog’s needs have to come before our desire to change the public’s perceptions of pit bulls. Meaning, don’t force your dog to be an ambassador for all pit bulls if it puts them into situations that make them uncomfortable or they can’t handle. Always do what’s right for your individual dog, even if it means missing the opportunity to change someone’s mind about pit bulls (or their owners).

      Keep up the good work!

      May 14, 2013
  49. Reblogged this on the balanced pack and commented:
    Do you get nervous when you approach a dog, or a known dog and owner. Stop being fearful or nervouc of what others will think of you and your dog, it’s your due diligence to take control or suffer the consequences! If you’re training your dog, take pride in it. Tell on comers when they ask to pet or introduce dogs “No, sorry. we’re in training” and continue on your way. STAND UP FOR YOUR DOGS!

    May 14, 2013
  50. CarterCrew #

    I love this! I considered myself overprotective of my babies due to their breed (pitbull) but now I see that I am a responsible pet parent. I have put my babies away when we had to deal with the police due to a weirdo-perv creeping on my teen daughter while out walking our largest dog. I think he appreciated it. 🙂 When my gardener comes, they stay in the house and the list goes on. It’s not that I don’t trust my babies, but I don’t want to court potential disaster and they trust me to keep them safe. Once they reacted poorly to a visitor and we put them in another room – they had reason as we later found it the guy has been violent towards his own past pets. My teen daughter has had to stand up to adults and their poorly behaved unleashed dogs and has even been bitten because they were too slow to react. We no longer care what people think and its been freeing. I no longer apologize when my dogs bark in excitement when they come across another dog on walk/hike – we sit to the side and wait for them to pass.

    May 14, 2013
    • I’m glad you mentioned making no apologies.
      Sadly, many folks think they are supposed to “correct” their dog for barking at strangers (and often time it’s the stranger’s fault for getting to close without permission).

      I’m fine with telling a stranger “I’m sorry” but some folks think that they have to apologize by yanking their dog by the neck 😦

      May 14, 2013
  51. Excellent article, thanks for writing and posting this!

    I often tell my students, “You hereby have my permission to be rude to people who want to interact with your dogs when you don’t think it’s a good idea”. Dogs are not public property – you are not required to let other people touch them.

    May 15, 2013
    • And for what it’s worth, you can imagine my five feet of California feistiness cheering you on, too, when you stand up for your dog.

      I like Madeline Gabriel’s idea, too, of saying, “Oh I’m sorry you can’t, it’s National You Can’t Pet My Dog Day” for people who want to shift the blame!

      May 15, 2013
  52. Marianne #

    Thank you for this article. I really learned some important stuff.

    May 15, 2013
  53. Claudia #

    Awesome article!

    May 17, 2013
  54. Nice article. I’m blessed to have a mellow, friendly dog who just loves people, attention, and children. Took her to an armed forces picnic last weekend, where she was in seventh heaven cleaning up the dropped food and doing occasional tricks for a bite of hamburger. A few children came over and asked to pet her, which was fine. But they got more and more intense, so as soon as I saw signs of stress, I said nicely, “I think that’s a bit too much for her.” The children backed off, and there was no crisis. It’s so simple to do when you take a moment and know how to read your dog…

    May 21, 2013
  55. Annette Luffman-Johnson #

    I REALLY LOVED this! I am a petsitter/dog walker myself and the things said here are SOOO TRUE!!! People HAVE to learn to be “in charge” no matter what! Your DOGS/ PETS are depending on it!!! VERY WELL SAID! THANK YOU FOR PUTTING THIS INFO OUT THERE!!!

    May 22, 2013
  56. Rene #

    I totally agree with the need for this. I was doing some training in a store the other day and a school age boy was eagerly playing with my Toy Poodle. My dog loves this type of interaction. Even when he was was going through a bout of Rimadyl induced agression (evil stuff) post ACL surgery, he allowed a 2 year to wrap a fist in his ear and pull so hard she tore out hair and he never made a move on her! However I might trust him, when the boy asked to pick him up, I declined. I wasn’t comfortable with the little boy and wasn’t, myself, in the mood the teach good dog habits (my bad). Call me a bitch, but there it is.
    What I hope, however, is that good manners never, ever get lost in all of this. Yes it is tough to stand up for ourselves, but that is NEVER an excuse to be rude, agressive, or even impolite to anyone trying to be friendly. The first time someone approaches your dog that you want to protect your dog from, he/she isn’t doing it to be mean. He/she doesn’t know your dog’s issues and being rude won’t help the case. I have a small dog and I know that people cross inappropriate boundries ALL the time (some guy picked my dog up and just cuddled the life out of him without asking!) by approaching, petting, and letting their big dogs near all assuming a small dog is “safe.” I still need to choose my actions and words carefully. I can help my dog AND maintain a good relationship. We are dog people! All we have to do is look at our dogs to see the best outlook on life.

    May 22, 2013
    • I agree that being respectful towards others is important. Standing up for your dog is about speaking up, not lashing out. However, sometimes, polite requests are ignored by people who are being “friendly” and in that case, I think you need to put your dog’s needs above being polite.

      After spending more than a decade dealing with the public as a dog walker I’ve found that being firm and direct with others is often perceived as rude. I get called all kinds of names just for calmly telling people “my dog needs space.” So the need for respectful behavior, where people take responsibility for their actions (even if they’re friendly!) is needed all around.

      May 22, 2013
      • “I think you need to put your dog’s needs above being polite.”

        Yes! Yes! Yes!
        After years of politely telling people “my dog does not want to be petted” while they continued to approach, explaining how good they are with dogs, I finally realized that the “good with dogs” people are the rude ones. Not me.

        I’ve found that I have “puff myself up” as I leave the house. I actually go over in my mind what I’m going to do when I run into intrusive people. I’ve found that if I’m not prepared, I mistakenly revert back to being much too nice.

        But I don’t have as nearly as many rude encounters as I used to because of two things
        1. I’ve been working on my reflexes
        When someone asks about my dogs, I give a quick response and continue moving. This is important. If you stop to have a conversation, the dog gets magnetized (see Grisha Stewart’s Behavior Adjustment Training.) The rude human gets magnetized and won’t take no for an answer. And the pet parent gets magnetized when he or she almost has to get into an argument while trying to explain why the rude person should leave them alone.

        Firefighters, law enforcement personnel etc.. all do it. They practice and prepare so when the real thing happens they can act quickly and without effort. Pet parents need to do the same thing. Practice body blocking with your dog, practice saying “no”, making an about turn and leaving.

        I actually prepare my dogs for “no” by saying the word and giving them a treat. So when I’m telling an intrusive human “NO!” the dogs know it’s not an aversive thing directed at them.

        I’ve actually been thinking about using a word that signals to my dog that we are about to make a change in direction but the word is also meant for the rude human. Right now, I tell my dogs “turn” to let them know we are turning about. But maybe I need to change the cue to “go away” or “leave us alone” or “in training”

        2. I practice active avoidance – no pet stores, farmers markets, bridges etc.. where I can get trapped by a rude person.
        Details in my “avoidance” video:

        La Trenda

        May 22, 2013
  57. T #

    If you won’t cross the street when you see me coming, walking four dogs, I’ll cross becuase I don’t want to encounter you and your dog. Just that simple.. Don’t come towards me to have your dog “play.” My dog’s ( and my) safety is my primary concern, then yours and then your dog.

    May 24, 2013
  58. Thank you for this article. My usually social girl (she attends daycare once a week and has been fine with other neighbor dogs) has problems with the neighbor’s intact female. Their dog charges the fence at my girl and she reacts. I realize I am responsible for my dog but they act like it’s my dog initiating this. They leave their dog there snarling and charging while we try to get my girl in the house. I’ll have to learn to speak up. This scenario will only create further problems down the line. Luckily, it’s the owners son who is only there about once a week. I’ll have to ask them to give me some type of heads up there dog is there to avoid these problems. I’d also like to add a HUGE thanks for us Pibble owners who feel the need to impress the public when, in reality, being a responible owner is what its’ really all about!

    May 28, 2013
  59. Evelyn #

    Hi Jessica! Great post! Thank you for all the work you do to educate people. I ping this post on my blog and re-direct the post to your blog and DINOS. I am sorry i got so excited to share this post that I went ahed without asking you permission first. My bad 😦 I will be contacting you soon as I think I may found a way yo help spread the word of DINOS. ~Cheers, Evelyn

    May 28, 2013
    • Thanks and no worries – I appreciate the ping back (no need to ask permission for that kind of share)!

      May 28, 2013
  60. Reblogged this on Dogs, Books, and Science and commented:
    Love this!

    May 29, 2013
  61. You and I are on the same page because I was just blogging about something similar. At the end of the day I don’t care what other people think of me. I care about what my dog thinks about my ability to control a situation for them so that they don’t have to worry about it. Abby used to get a little amped with off leash dogs running full force at us, and now she’s a lot better. She knows that I’m going to step between her and the other dog and take care of it. And the same goes with greeting. She greets other dogs and humans when I say she can. Having that pressure taken off of her removes the anxiety she feels over what could happen.

    May 30, 2013
  62. Bravo, Jessica. All truth.

    September 1, 2013
  63. Texas Mom #

    YAY! It is NOT “bitchy” to put yourself between the well-being of your dog and somebody’s impulsiveness or arrogance. When folks run up – arms outstretched as they hurry over to hang on my Malamute – and say as an afterthought either “does your dog bite” or “I’ve just GOTTA hug him,” I say “He doesn’t bite, but I definitely do. Please don’t touch him.” I could not possibly care less what other people think; my family’s welfare comes first.

    December 21, 2013
    • I agree! It has taken me some time for it to sink in, the ability to ‘take up for myself’ was nearly obliterated years ago. It has been easier to do for my dog once it clicked. The loose dog ‘he’s friendly’ routine and deliberate misuse of a retractable leash with a yappy dog to agitate my dogs has been practically eliminated in my neighborhood. I simply called out that I had pepper spray and have had no more problems. Of course I don’t but I do carry Bianca that works nearly as well. Can’t get a citation for carrying breath freshener.

      Had a girl in a pet store run screeching ‘Daddy, Daddy, doooggggiieesss!!!”up to my two dogs. Scared them half to death as well as me. My male GSD actually lunged at her halfway, barking to tell her to back off, and they collided with each other. She was left with teeth marks that did not break the skin. Father was concerned but quiet; they had been standing in line at the register. Looking back, I think the girl had some sort of issue like Asperger’s.The pet store people had me sign a form but one had witnessed it. Fortunately, they all knew my dog in the store. But that is how quickly things can happen. It has been a learning process and doing something new was a bit awkward at first until I realized ‘Yes!! Who cares what they think when they show NO respect for me or MY children?!’ If someone did that to someone with a child, the police would be called!

      December 21, 2013
  64. JenK #

    Please please please! Listen to this. I lost a wonderful dog who had fear issues because my father in law was too stubborn and thought he knew better than me. I left the dog in a crate in a closed room for the evening and left strict instructions to leave her alone. He went in anyhow, opened her crate, then reached in for her and she nailed him. This was not the first time he cornered her and made her terrified, but the other times I was there to tell him to back off and I would put her away. Her previous owners had shock collared her for greeting people (I know, how can you be so stupid) and she was terrified of strange men, and my fil just compounded it by hovering and staring at her. We were trying to rehabilitate her. She was training agility, flyball, freestyle and frisbee and was one of the most talented dogs I ever had. I ended up euthanizing her because she was a pit bull and now had a clear bite record. The men in my family have killed three of my dogs because they thought they knew better than me. No more.

    December 21, 2013
    • My heart is heavy for you. I’m very sorry for your loss and wish you peace and strength going forward.

      December 21, 2013
      • One more thought. When I worked at a public service desk, I soon learned that when a patron said I was “rude” it was because they knew they were busted on bad behavior. Blaming the victim can happen at a moment’s notice. My sister, an RN, refers to these moments as ‘drive-by shootings’. I am working very hard to take my personal power back and those moments remind me that it also takes a stronger person to just walk away, that by doing so says my dogs and I are more important.

        December 22, 2013
  65. Andrea Goody #

    Amen sister…I have two dogs that I take to the dog park at slow times so there aren’t a lot of other dogs there and we can get a fenced area all to ourselves, one is dog friendly one is super dog selective so they play really well together because they live together but add anther dog to that and Charlie the dog selective dog is ready to rip someones throat out. I had a woman ask me the other day why we were being antisocial and I explained to her why and she said to just let Charlie in and see what happens…um no thank you, here in PA some mouth breather keystone cop will show up and take him to ACO and i’ll never see him again and I will have to live with my choice to have taken him there knowing he can be a real dink. I have no problem pulling in to the dog park parking lot and driving right back out when I see dogs I know Charlie doesn’t like or there are dogs in both large dog areas and I don’t want to make Charlie stay on a leash while his brother Leo goes and plays. I don’t put him in situations that will get him in trouble and that is just how we live with Charlie my poor unsocialized kill-shelter survivor.

    December 26, 2013
  66. Doug H. #

    Jeff Gellman of and radio call-in show fame has repeatedly explained that you are your dog’s protector and advocate. Other people can be told to refrain and they are not entitled to touch your dog or child. Period. It’s that simple.

    June 4, 2014

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