Ignoring The Signs To The Max

, , , , , , | Friendly | June 2, 2020

I have worked with and fostered rescue dogs for several years now. When I started, I made a point to learn as much as possible about dog behavior and found an excellent trainer who was willing to come to my house to work with the dogs who weren’t ready to go to the training center.

Keeping that in mind, I know the average dog owner might not have as much knowledge as someone like me, even if they have their dog trained. But I still feel like — in a perfect world — there should be some basic, common sense things that even the most inexperienced dog owner could grasp. 

Right now, I’m working with a pit-bull-mix boy named Max who spent the first couple years of his life isolated, tied outside on a chain. He’s a sweetheart with people, eager to learn, and has gotten along with every dog I’ve had him around after being properly introduced.

One issue he still has, though, is barrier and territory defensiveness. Having a fence or other barrier between him and a new dog makes him react. He’s never tried to attack another dog on the other side of a fence, but he’s clearly defensive — hackles up, tail stiff, barking, and occasionally growling. We’re working on it, and he’s already made some great progress.

One day, I’m playing with him in the backyard when I see a man walking his Labrador down the street outside of my neighborhood. I don’t know him, but I’ve seen him in passing around town, so I wave back when he waves hello. 

Max notices and barks, as more of an acknowledgment that he sees them. I start to redirect him, but instead of focusing on our game, he’s getting more agitated. I look back up and see that this guy has turned onto our street and is making a beeline for my house. 

Now I’m trying to put myself between Max and the fence and redirect him, and I’m holding up a hand trying to tell this guy to stop. But he keeps going. He makes it within shouting distance of my house. 

“Aw, doesn’t he sound ferocious!” he says, and he laughs. Laughs

Then, he keeps walking towards us and I realize he thinks he’s going to introduce his dog to Max through the fence. The one silver lining is that at least his guy’s dog is calm and doesn’t seem interested in Max either way.

I straighten up and say sternly, “That’s not a good idea. Please back away.” 

Of course, I get a “WTF” face from him, like he isn’t doing anything wrong. Normally, I like to take the time to explain why I’m asking for certain things when it comes to the dogs, but Max is so worked up I don’t even want to deal with it. 

It takes some work, but as soon as the guy and his dog are back on the main road I am able to get Max calmed down enough to follow me back into the house. 

I just don’t get it. You might not know a lot about animals, but surely, if you see me struggling to keep my dog in check, it might be a hint that you should, I don’t know, back off? It’s not cute, and it’s not funny.

What really bothered me was, if something bad had happened, Max is at higher risk of being blamed simply for being a bully-breed. I’m still deciding how I want to handle it the next time I run into this guy.

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