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.