Don’t Judge A Dog By His Bark, Just His Bite

, , , , | Related | December 14, 2020

I have two dogs. One is a black Labrador I’ve had since he was a puppy — fifteen years ago. He’s half-blind and a lot deaf, and he mostly just wants to snooze these days. My vet has assured me he isn’t in pain, is otherwise insanely healthy, and is just really old for a dog. He still comes shambling to the door with a happy wagging tail when I get home, still enjoys his food, and still goes nuts to go for a walk, even if he can only make it around the block once before he needs a nap. He’s a Labrador, so he’s always been the friendliest boy on the planet, and he has always been my six-year-old daughter’s most patient friend.

My other dog is a five-year-old Doberman/Pitbull mix. He was originally a drug dealer’s dog, and they treated him awfully. His ears are mangled to h***, his tail was docked (badly) at some point, he has a permanent limp from an untreated broken leg, and he’s covered in scars from other dogs (or humans) attacking him while he was very young. We rescued him three years ago, and despite his history, he is the biggest cuddlebug.

He is, unfortunately, very fearful of other dogs besides my lab. It’s not in a biting or vicious way; it’s mostly in a “get me away from this thing” way, and he will bolt or try to climb the nearest human to get away from other dogs. He’s also not great with strangers; he will bark his head off if someone comes in the yard, and being a big, mean-looking dog, it’s sometimes a little scary to see. Once he knows you aren’t a danger to his family, he’s mostly concerned with inspecting your pockets for treats and rolling around for a belly rub.

We always joke that our Lab would help a burglar operate the lock if he had thumbs, but we do worry what our Dobie would do if faced with an actual attacker.

One night, I’ve been at the pub for a friend’s bucks night and have left my wife home with our daughter. I come home around 2:00 am, pretty worse for wear. I’m not a big party guy and am usually in bed by ten, so I’m stumbling around trying to operate my gate with some sense of decorum. When I can’t get it open, my drunk brain decides to just climb over. I fall ever so gracefully into my yard, landing hard on my butt, and for some reason telling the fence to “Shhh!” on the way down. I then hear a massive bark coming from my verandah, and I realise my mistake in having my hoodie pulled up.

I turn around, yanking off my hoodie and thinking my Doberman might actually finally bite a human if he thinks a stranger has gotten into his yard in the middle of the night. The porch light flicks on and my Doberman is nowhere to be seen. What is staring me down is my geriatric Labrador — hackles up, spit flying, angry, and barking his head off. He stumbles a little but charges me, bailing me up against the fence while still barking and attempting to jump on me. He latches onto my sleeve and shakes his head, trying to bite me. He has never been a vicious dog, so my drunk brain takes a moment to process.

I call his name and whistle, putting my hands out for him to smell. Once he ascertains that it is, in fact, me, he gives me a look like, “Oh, thank God,” wags his tail, and wanders back to the porch. I follow him, and he pokes his nose under our outdoor bench and gives a small “whuff.”

My Doberman slinks out from under the bench, looking at me like he’s ashamed, and limps over to lick me and whine to come inside.

So, in short, my Doberman is a terrible guard dog. My Lab, however, is one-hundred percent ready to throw paws for his whole family — even his scaredy-cat “bully breed” brother!


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