Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Charlie is a Dog In Need Of Space (DINOS). If you've never heard this terminology before, click HERE to read more about it.

Because of previous dog-attacks while walking on-leash, Charlie is now fearful of most other dogs -- especially if she is on-leash. Being on-leash means that she can't escape if another dog comes toward her and causes her to become fearful and reactive.

She's learned that other dogs can hurt her so she's taken the stance that she'd rather be the first to bite in order to prevent being injured.

Sometimes she's perfectly happy to meet other dogs, but sometimes she growls and snaps at them. Because I can't perfectly predict what she will do, we typically avoid other dogs while walking.


Yesterday we were walking at a secluded park when I noticed a couple with a Great Pyrenees (on-leash) approaching us. I moved over to allow for plenty of space as we passed each other, but when they were within 20 feet of us, they unclipped their dog from its leash!

All of a sudden there's a 130-lb. dog running full speed in our direction while the couple yelled, "Don't worry, she's friendly!"

I grabbed Charlie and stepped in front of her while yelling back, "Mine's NOT!"

I could see their mouths form a big O as they shouted back, "Yours isn't friendly???"


I really hate when this happens because Charlie and I didn't do anything wrong, but suddenly I feel blamed for having a reactive dog. I've even had some people comment that I shouldn't be out walking her around other dogs if she's not friendly.

Well, what am I supposed to do? We're following leash laws and doing everything possible to keep our distance and yet uninformed people feel the need to blame ME when the whole reason Charlie behaves this way is because other off-leash dogs have attacked HER!

I know it's hard to have your dog on a leash at all times. I let Charlie off-leash as much as possible - but only when I know we're in a safe place and only because she has a pretty decent recall. When she's off-leash I'm on constant vigil looking in every direction to make sure no one is approaching us and that there is no foreseeable danger.

And even if Charlie was completely happy and social around other dogs, there is no way I would take a chance on letting her just run up to a strange dog without proper introductions... including asking permission for the dogs to meet.

Remember that not every dog likes to be approached and that some dogs need their space... maybe not because they're fearful or reactive like Charlie, but maybe they've just had surgery or are protective of their owner. There are so many circumstances that could affect a dogs' behavior.

Please pass this on to other dog owners and help spread the word! Information is power.


  1. My boy, Legs, is reactive while on leash. We have encountered the "my dog's friendly" people while out hiking. I dive for Legs to shield him from the other dog. I wish people would think!

  2. My boy, Legs, is leash aggressive. We're working on it, however, when out in public hunting areas, my least favorite words to hear are "our dog's friendly"! I know my boy is friendly, I usually end up throwing myself between the "friendly" dog and my guy, telling Legs the whole time to look at me (usually involves treats when I'm prepared). I am amazed at how many people thing nothing can go wrong with 2 dogs meeting for the first time.

  3. Heather, You may enjoy reading this:
    Happy reading!

  4. Ugh, I am so with you! Our girl Pyrrha is also leash reactive, and so we're always very cautious about other dogs on walks. I really hate it that people assume that all dogs are friendly. One of our worst encounters was when we were on a trail (where all dogs are supposed to be leashed), and a woman had her terrier mix off leash. The dog was walking toward us with his head down, tense body, and hard stare right at Pyrrha. And of course, this woman? What does she say? "Don't worry, he's friendly!" First of all, he's NOT, because that is not the body language of a friendly dog, and second, put your dog on its damn leash, woman! Uggggh. I yelled at her that my dog would bite (even though she was just terrified), and that got the woman into shape.

    1. Abby ~ thanks for your reply! I love reading your blog about Pyrrha... my last dog was a German Shepherd and I miss her dearly. I had never dealt with a reactive dog before having Charlie but understand now the difficulties involved with special-needs dogs. All we can do is continue educating people and getting the word out!

  5. Thanks for sharing, Heather. My German Shepherd, Buddy, has always been reactive. He barks at all other dogs. We have one other dog that we occasionally walk with and he does that well but I try to avoid other dogs whenever possible. He'll be 3 this year and I keep hoping it will end. Our other German Shepherd, Teddy, was the polar opposite. I probably had him off leash too much. He was our first dog and because his temperament was so good, we trusted him too much. I wouldn't do that today even if Buddy didn't react the way he does.