Obligatory Alarmist Canine Ownership Post: Argle Bargle or Foofaraw?

Brooke here.

About two weeks ago, Zu and I were leaving our driveway to go on a walk when an old beater truck pulled up.  The passenger, a woman in her mid-sixties whom I had never met, got out and went straight for Zu.  She started petting his head and we made small talk for about thirty seconds, then she hopped back in the car and they drove off.

Weird, right?  Now let me show you why this was especially weird:

Zu the Perpetually Goofy, and Cutter John, who will suffer no posed photographs.

Cutter John is the larger by nearly 15 pounds, but Zu weighs in at 95lbs so it’s not exactly like he’s stuck in the featherweight division.  Thanks to whatever salted his genetics, he’s also freakishly tall; his head hits at my waist.  So when the lady jumped out of her car and rushed headlong at Zu, I couldn’t help but wonder why on earth she thought this was an okay thing to do.

It was an okay thing to do, though, because we’ve dumped a hell of a lot of time and effort into training Zu.  He had serious fear and anxiety issues that have been gradually decreased through repetition and new experiences.  We might never get to the I love the world and the world loves me! mental bliss of the Golden Retriever, but he’s come a long way.  A year ago, he would have snapped at that woman (or worse); two weeks ago, he looked at me for permission and then curled up against her leg for ear scratchies.

I bring this up now as I had lunch with a friend today and told him how odd it was for a strange woman to stop her car and run at my dog.  My friend, without missing a beat, said: “Lawsuit.”  To which I said: “No one wants to get bitten by a dog.”  To which he said: “And no one wants to be in a car wreck, either, but people let themselves get rear-ended all of the time.”

So I’m hoping he’s wrong and this isn’t a new way to get a quick buck off of dog owners.  But it sort of smacks of truth; unless you’re a professional trainer or a Dog Whisperer-class canine psychic, I can’t imagine a situation where you would think it’s okay to rush a strange dog, let alone one that very obviously looks like a “dangerous” breed.*   If this happens to you, do not let the person approach your dog.  Back your dog away from the car, put him in sit, and have a nice conversation from eight feet away.   I made a mistake by letting us get cornered in the first place, and I won’t repeat this in the future.  There’s no reason to put your dog at risk, even if the other person is well-intentioned and, simply, dumb.

*Lady, if you’re reading this, Zu thanks you for the ear scratchies.

16 thoughts on “Obligatory Alarmist Canine Ownership Post: Argle Bargle or Foofaraw?

  1. I have to agree with your friend, even before I saw his comment. At best, it’s careless and irresponsible of someone to go right up to a strange dog, at worst they were hoping to pick a fight. My mom has a very excitable Australian Shepherd who has had to work through similar issues to Zu – she’s to the point where she manages not to attack all strangers on sight, but if she loses track of you in the yard and you put something over your head or somehow appear where she doesn’t expect you, it takes a couple minutes for recognition to set in … not the best situation for idiotic strangers to rush up, whether they have a pet with them or not.

  2. And some people are just idiots. I held our cocker spaniel when he met people because he didn’t like new people, and he particularly didn’t like new people trespassing into his territory. But he was small, and gorgeous. So years ago one person completely ignored me scooping him up and half turning away, the growling and snarling, and stuck her face right in his while making cooing noises.

    She got a perforated nose for her trouble, and I hope remains amazingly ashamed of her stupidity to this day. No lawsuits, nothing ridiculous, nothing over the top, just shame and moronitude.

    1. Wanted to add: even vets can be stupid. I had a vet nearly provoke that same dog into biting him by some really stupid behavior. All assuming that since the dog was cute, he wasn’t potentially dangerous. ALL dogs are potentially dangerous…it’s just that some people haven’t yet learned it, and some people refuse to learn.

  3. I agree with you. I’ve had children, of all ages, wanting to pet Alex. I’d only allow it if the parent is present and if I see that the kid is not afraid. The same goes for an adult. What I usually do is to get in between the dog and the person attempting to approach the dog. My first thought is, “I have to protect my dog because a lot of people do not know how to approach a dog and they can get hurt even though Alex loves people”.

  4. They do this with other dogs sometimes too, I think. I have a huge wolf hybrid. Friendliest dog in the world, but he isn’t terribly fond of small dogs. Something about prey and such. Well, my sister and I used to walk to the neighborhood grocery store with him all the time. There was a large post out front that we’d tie him to while we went inside. (Never for more than a few minutes.) He’s ridiculously friendly to people and hadn’t ever bitten anyone in his life, so we felt confident leaving him out there for such a short period. Plus, the security guards knew and loved him.

    One day, as we were tying him up, a man pulls up in an suv. He gets out with his boston terrier on a leash. Our dog immediately spots the terrier and lunges. Luckily, me and my sister had firm grips on him and made him sit. I actually straddled him and kept him locked between my legs while my sister and I both held onto his collar. The man sees us restraining the huge dog that’s staring at his small terrier and salivating… and he walks closer. With his terrier on the ground on a leash. I gave him a mild glare and he came even closer. At this point, for the sake of everyone, we just left. I still wonder what was going through his head… “Oh look at the huge dog that’s staring at my dog and trying to pull free of the two girls. Listen to them tell him “NO.” He must just want to say hi!”

  5. That’s… really strange and a bit alarming. It’s the fact that she stopped the car and got out to come pet the dog that strikes me as strangest. I worked at a kennel for five years, and I petsit, and I’ve met plenty of people who were willing to moronically rush over to pet an animal. But stopping the car and getting out is a whole new level of strange.

    That is a really astonishing story, and I’m glad Zu wasn’t traumatized, and that she wasn’t hurt for her stupidity.

  6. I have to add in my agreement with everyone. That is just really strange. If someone stopped their car to get out and pet either of my dogs (Lhaso Apso and Husky) I would probably verbally tell them no just because they had stopped their car and gotten out.

    But – YAY for Zu not getting upset about it. Your training with him must be working wonders! Congrats on being able to be nervous about the crazy lady instead of concerned about his behavior 🙂

  7. Did she seem a little…off? I mean, I can see the driver humoring a person who’s mentally unstable or likely to pitch a fit in some fashion who just went “DOG!” but otherwise that seems like really bizarre behavior, and I’m thinkin’ your friend might be right.

    On the other hand…world is full of very very stupid people.

  8. That’s really weird. I mean, I’m the person the neighborhood dogs all want to stop to say hello to because I’m always good for head skritchies and general loving, but I never approach an new dog without first talking to the owners from a distance of at least eight feet. Having had a dog who had a very rough life before coming to me, I know what kinds of behavior can unexpectedly come from seemingly sweet friendly dogs.

  9. I agree, not a good idea to approach a dog at random, simply because you don’t know where his head is at.

    But now I’m remembering Major. My friend Brian bred Irish Wolfhounds. Major was his biggest male. We were doing the Northern California Renaissance Faire in those days, and Brian would bring Major along to escort the Queen (an actress playing Elizabeth I) on her daily progress through the fairgrounds. So one time there was this spectator with her itty bitty fluffy dog — I don’t know what breed, but it weighed about half as much as one of my cats. It was, fortunately, on a leash, but the owner wasn’t reining it in properly.

    As the procession went by, escorted by Major, this tiny little bow-wow charged at him, snarling and happing. If Major had *inhaled* that dog would’ve disappeared. But this was Major; he just looked at the little thing and kept walking.

    Major was really cool. Other dogs might not be.

  10. I actually had someone do this with my corgi about two years ago. I was out walking, and he abruptly pulled his car over, parked, and leapt out to kneel beside Claire. I was, to put it mildly, startled. To his credit, he pulled up short and did *not* start petting without asking first, and explained the situation afterwards.

    In his case, he’d had a corgi for 14 years, who had passed away of old ago just two weeks ago. Seeing a corgi out walking, he felt this urge to just visit with another corgi. It made him sad to think of his lost dog, but also happy to see another corgi grin at getting ear-scritched.

    And I can kind of understand that. When we lost our Samouyed, both dad and I spent at least six months being sad/wistful every time we saw another Sammy out and about.

    So, this might’ve been some idiot lawsuit-baiting (or even just plain idiocy in general), sure, but it could also have just been someone who lost a dog that Zu reminded her of. People are stupid in more ways than one, and stupidity can be prompted by sentimentality as much as anything else.

  11. On the subject of “it’s weird that they stopped just to pet the dog” I also want to add in that I had a cop pull a squealing u turn, stop and hop out just to pet my hybrid… it does happen. To the cops credit he did ask first. I always ask before petting a strange dog, but that’s because my parents grilled it into me as a child… palm up, always have the hand below their chin and not higher up so it doesn’t seem threatening, and ask first. I wish more people did this with their children, I’ve had plenty just go “DOGGY!” or “HUSKY!” or “SNOW DOG!” and charge my hybrid. Thankfully he loves children so he eats up the attention but it always grates on the nerves when you see the parents just watching their children charge at a 110 lb dog that looks capable of removing an arm with one tooth.

  12. I must admit I saw the picture first and my first thought was: this is my dog. This is my other dog. Which one like happy pills?

  13. For some reason, I was under the impression you live in North Carolina. NC laws would have most likely protected Zu. NC law: A dog feeling threatened and in their own property is protected. If they bite it’s viewed as self defense.

    My wife frequently pets every dog she can…she’s not at the stopping the car level yet. I have to frequently remind her to ask before petting.

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