20 January 2024

'My dog is friendly' - well, mine doesn't want to be their friend

| Zoe Cartwright
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Not all dogs want to make new friends. Photo: Yuriy Green.

I got my dream dog when I was 21.

He’s not a designer dog by any means – he’s a mix of staffy and staffy-adjacent breeds, and came wormed, vaccinated and microchipped for the hefty price tag of $100.

Over the past 12 years, he’s slotted seamlessly into various living situations, in sharehouses, in apartments, on properties, with and without other animals big and small.

He doesn’t bark unless it’s necessary, does what he’s told (although not always the first time he’s told) and has never harmed a fly.

My fiancé’s first dog is equally laid-back, gregarious and willing to please.

So, please believe me when I tell you that, through no fault of our own, our third dog, Pingu, is completely insane.

One day, at the age of two, she decided she had a deep and implacable hatred for all other dogs.

She considers herself the dog Terminator, and takes her role very seriously.

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With years of work, the help of our fantastic vets, some antipsychotic medication, and many thousands of dollars spent on behaviourists, we can walk her in public, on a short leash, with a muzzle, being mindful to cross the road if we see someone else coming with their pet.

She will never run in a park and chase a ball; she will never enjoy a swim at the beach.

But she wags her tail like crazy and melts into a puddle of happiness whenever a stranger or a child asks to give her a pat. She’s queen of the backyard zoomies and loves to follow her furry siblings about the house.

We know there are plenty of other people like us with wonderful, funny, loving dogs who turn into a ball of fear and fury at the sight of another canine, because we see them.

You know what to spot, once you’re looking for it – the muzzle, the short leash, the anxious scanning, the quick run across the road, the endless, endless dispensing of treats for achievements as tiny as walking calmly past another dog that’s at least 10 metres away.

Our biggest worry isn’t running into another reactive dog like ours.

It’s running into a loose dog and hearing the words “he’s friendly”!

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Just last week, we were bailed up by three “friendly” dogs at the bottom of our street. Running directly at us, barking and growling, they didn’t exactly sound friendly.

They weren’t leashed, and they were very clearly not following any commands from their owners.

With the potential for a five-dog fight to break out, I was falling over myself to get out of there – literally.

Grazed and bruised, I was pretty proud of myself for keeping our angry girl calm and a safe distance from the three approaching dogs – mostly by yelling in my best farm-girl voice for them all to “git OUT of it”, only to be met with “they’re friendly!”.

Whether they were or not is another story, but standing there bleeding from my rapidly swelling knee and elbow, I was a bit bemused by the other owners’ response.

Regardless of how friendly your dog might be, the person or dog they’re running up to might not be.

Have a think about whether walking your dog off-leash in an on-leash area is worth an emergency trip to the vet – or worse.

And while you’re at it, consider that while your dog might be friendly, not everyone wants to be their friend.

Original Article published by Zoe Cartwright on Region Illawarra.

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Phoebe Walsh5:43 pm 22 Jan 24

Absolutely 100% agree. Both my small dogs have attack history (both by larger dogs) and because of this they have become fear reactive to any dog larger than them or that does not respect their personal space. We also find if they’re on leash the reactivity is worse and they will hurt themselves trying to attack. At home or off leash in an enclosed dog park with small dogs they are totally normal but approached by larger or off leash dogs is a nightmare of mine. Just because your dog is friendly does not mean mine is and Im not in the mood to break up yet another dog fight! Please respect our boundaries.

Isabel Baker1:27 pm 22 Jan 24

Great article fortunately I have a big backyard for my little dog who has what I call little dog syndrome he wants to fight any dog bigger than him so we dont go for walks as it is too stressful for both of us and your cannot trust how the other dogs will respond to him.

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