When I mean “go off”, I mean out-of-the-blue, dog losing it’s shit “going off”. In my 40 years on this earth, that never happened to me, until yesterday…
I never approach strange dogs and I never pet strange dogs without owner permission. If dog wants to come to me, that’s okay. If dog doesn’t want to come to me, that’s okay, too. If dog wants to come to me for a polite sniff, I do not look at dog, but I let dog sniff me and make his own mind up. Sometimes dog wants to make my acquaintance, sometimes dog does not. If dog then wants to make my acquaintance, I will ask the owner of dog if it is okay to pet dog. So now that you know how I interact with dogs I do not know, let’s move on with the story.
Every two months or so, I have to pick up medication for Jersey at my vet’s office. Just like I do every time, I open the door and walk in. Immediately a dog comes up to me an starts to sniff. I pay no mind and keep walking through the door. This scenario has played out dozens of times during my visits to the vet’s. I’m moving slowly and the dog keeps sniffing, no biggie. I was working at my Dad’s all day and I’m sure that I have picked up all sorts of interesting smells. I start to say “What a good doggie, you are” and while the “wh” is coming out of my mouth, the dog lunges for me and starts barking.
Immediately, I move away and take a page out of Cesar’s book. I turn to the side (to make myself look smaller and non-threatning) and stare at the wall to avoid giving the dog eye contact. From the corner of my eye I can see Dog is crazy-kite-on-a-string-I-wanna-get-you straining on the leash. Owner says that my hat is making his dog bark. I take my baseball hat off. Nope, it’s not the hat.
So I try to take it a step further and sit in a chair to make myself appear even smaller and less “scary” It sort of helped. Dogs loud scary barks turned into small growly/barks and he retreated behind his owner. I’m still staring at the wall, but from the corner of my eye I can see that Dog’s eyes are glued on me. Owner tells Dog to “be nice” and swats him with a handful of papers. Even when they are going for the door, Dog is still staring at me the whole time.
I take a breath and go to the counter. “WTF was that?” I say to the vet-tech. She says that Dog was just nervous and that some dogs will behave like that when they are scared.
The entire drive home, I’m playing out the scenario in my head. My encounter with Dog disturbed me. Did I fling open the door? Was I stomping my boots? What if I had Dexter or Jersey with me. What if someone came in with a little kid?
Dogs owner does not understand or maybe even care that his 90 pound dog is fearful-aggressive and has a problem with strangers. Dog could have done serious damage if he had bitten me, but thankfully that did not happen. Dog is a cross-breed of dogs from the Molosser family. If he were to menace an overly sensitive person, there could be problems from the Authorities. Dog needs professional help from an experienced trainer and he probably isn’t going to get it.
The moral of my story is that socializing a dog at a young age is very important. Jersey grew up in a machine shop and from about 12 weeks of age, every two weeks for about two years, we went to a horse auction which is probably the loudest, most obnoxious place for a dog to go. People yelling, making sudden movements, carrying weird stuff, wearing hats and stompy loud boots, horses all over the place. Since Jersey is really, really, ridiculously good-looking, everyone just had to pet her. The horse auction was perfect place to teach her about the weird world we living in. Dexter has been going to the scrap yard 3 to 4 times a week since he was a wee lad. Scrap yards have noisy machines, big trucks, people dressed in strange clothes and people doing strange things. Another good place for a dog to go.
The other, and more important moral of this story is if your dog has a problem with certain situations, do something about.