Dog owners – THINK!

A few things came across my radar lately that have lined up in a way that I feel encourages me to write this post to try and put some thoughts out there to hopefully inspire some thinking amongst us dog owners.

First I wanted to share the events in the order that they became apparent to me and hopefully you will see the message I am trying to get across.

The first event was that we were evacuated from our home at Kurrajong Heights due to severe Bushfire Risk, thankfully all has settled for now and we are back into the swing of things.

On a side note I wanted to personally say thanks to all those that have sent us Facebook messages, emails and phone calls offering help, somewhere to stay and or keep our dogs if we lost our house. I really was overwhelmed at the sheer numbers of offers, well into the thousands! Thank you.

Back to my blog… Before the fires we had planned to go camping with our kids and dogs and sure enough, the day of evacuation (23rd October) turned out to be pretty special. First it was the day we were scheduled to leave to go camping. Second, this day was chosen because it is my birthday, third it was also the fire evacuation day!

So we went camping anyway, no point in trying to fend off fire, there are experienced Fire Fighters out there from the awesome RFS that can do that much better than me, so off we went.

Onto Event number one (it is a weeklong event btw).

We arrived at our camp site, a Beach Camp site in Shellharbour that allows dogs and we began to set up our Camper Trailer, as we did we put Venom and Diesel on tie outs on our site to enjoy the sun after they had a quick blast along the beach to blow out the crate cobwebs they got on the trip down!

Camp site

I was setting up and a small oldish dog dragging a leash wandered over to him, he was in the down position, the smaller dog was obviously feeling tense and stressed and was growling etc at him, when it got to about a metre away it lept forward and nipped at him on the face. Venoms response was to look at the small dog in surprise and give it a bit of a raised eyebrow.

Venom Camp site

The little dog then strutted off back to the next door campsite, leash in tow. No harm done I guess and Venom looked at me like “what the..?“.

Later that evening we were down on the beach with the dogs and kids and the little dog come along again, this time Venom was off leash and he started heading over towards it. All of a sudden screams of desperation came from the grassy knoll as the little dogs owner saw Venom coming. I recalled Venom who came to me instantly and the lady was still carrying on. I called out to her that her dog had tried to attack mine when mine he was tied up earlier and she picked up her dog and showed me how small her dog was.

Remember this part because it unfolds off this event…

I shook my head and we went back to enjoying the beach and the dogs having fun on it.

We stayed there for a week and I will give you a brief run down on what happened to us EVERY day.

Some campers a dozen sites down had brought their Golden Retriever, many times a day their kids would head to the beach and call the GR to come with them, off leash, when they came past our site the dog would become aroused and the kids, probably 10 and 12 would attempt to drag the dog away from ours saying “no, don’t attack that one“. This happened EVERY day…  I told the kids to walk the dog on a leash (as per park rules) and they didn’t have one (they said).

Beach SV-1Any time we were on the beach with our dogs and someone came along, we would stop playing and put our dogs in a down stay until they had passed, this was an act of courtesy on our parts whether they had a dog or not.

A guy was walking along the beach with an Amstaff on leash, we could see it was somewhat reactive to dogs so we moved off the wet sand where he was walking to let him pass. Downed our dogs and waited, behind his Amstaff was a very cute, I’m guessing 8 week old Amstaff puppy that was trotting along after, off leash.

When it came level with us it headed up the beach to where we were and came to us, our dogs were on leash and we started to move away but the puppy ran to our dogs, who simply sniffed the puppy that rolled on its back. The owner was then in a bad place as the pup wouldn’t come and he could not get close with his dog as it was beginning to react to ours.

A lady came walking along the beach with her (approx. 9 year old daughter) and a perhaps a Maltese cross on a Flexi Leash, her daughter was walking the dog. The dog saw our dogs and went nuts, pulling and snarling and the lady continued to let her daughter hold the dog, even though her daughter was physically struggling. The lady smiled at me as she walked by, I guess her dogs reaction was funny to her.

Next was a girl who arrived on the beach with her off leash Jack Russel, as she laid out her towel, her dog ran off to a dog walking ON LEASH with its owner and circled it, snapping and barking. The dog’s owner watched this unfold but the wind was providing quite a challenge to get that damn towel laid out, so she put her efforts into that and ignored her dog which continued the behaviour.

The final straw was when a lady and her husband came onto the beach with their two Maltese, I saw them and again called our dogs to the down stay, we would have been 50 metres from this lady and her dogs, she could have went left or right and chose to walk quite a distance but she made a B line for us. As she came closer her dogs were bouncing around and she allowed the Flexi Leash to run out until her dogs were about 5 metres from me, so she had come 45 metres directly at me controlling my Malinois.

At this distance I called out, “what are you trying to do, get my dog to bite yours?”

All I could see is that her dog looked very much to me like a Flirt Pole (what’s a flirt pole? check the video here). She said “what?” and let her dog come closer and closer to Venom, when the two lunging little dogs got to about 1 metre from him he broke his stay, and took two steps and he was at the dogs. I wish I could say that he didn’t break the stay but I guess it had been happening all week where dogs had either been nipping at him, going for him or lunging at him and he did break.

However that is NO EXCUSE. I will rectify this quick smart and in fact I have already lifted his distraction proof levels from super high to extreme!

Venom down

He broke the stay, he is harmless to other dogs so all he did was sniff the dog which is a NORMAL way for dogs to greet one another.

I called him and he came right to me and stayed again, with no break.

I let this lady have it, probably too much to be honest as nothing really went wrong but this was probably the 60th time in a week that I had either witnessed or been subjected to other dogs poor behaviour.

Most (NOT ALL) were small dogs on Flexi Leashes running wild up to other dogs that were supposed to just accept whatever they may have to.


It was around this point that I saw a Facebook update from friend and client of K9 Pro, Jen Martin. She had been to a social dog event with her dog Roscoe and Roscoe had been attacked by a small dog.

Jen makes videos for pet owners and she had made one on this event as Roscoe was wearing a Go Pro camera and the attack and following events had been captured on Video. You can see the video here and I would love you to take a look. I have written a blog post describing what I see in the video here too.

I will add some more about Jens video a little further but event 3 came the day I arrived home, an article came across my desk that was written by a trainer called Dianne Bauman.

Dianne has written the article about a dog that was attacked whilst competing in Obedience and how she feels that the dog that left the ring to attack another was not at the level of training required to compete, the article is here and it is a good read. I don’t agree 100% with everything she says but there is some great merit in most of what is in the article. The article is here.

It was when I thought about the significance of what happened to me and my dogs when I went camping, what I saw in Jens video and what Dianne talks about in her article that made me want to write this blog post.

I think first and foremost, dogs of ANY size should not be allowed to pull and lunge toward another, regardless of size, breed or intention, it is bad manners and this will often trigger bad behaviour in the dog being lunged at.

Many of the small dogs I saw coming onto the beach were overstimulated, under trained and had psychological issues, if you take your dog to a beach, assume there will be dogs there, don’t let your out of control dog access these places and then be surprised at its bad behaviour.

The size of the dog NEVER excuses the behaviour, if your dog is small and it behaves bad, it isn’t funny, cute or acceptable, in fact it is turning your dog into a target for bigger, perhaps aggressive, reactive or prey driven dogs.

If you take your dog to a public place, the dog should be under effective control, if your dog does not like other dogs, taking it to a social event for DOGS is stupid. It WILL see and be near other dogs and if the dog behaves badly, it is your responsibility.

We have many people come to see us and their dog has been Declared Dangerous, a great percentage (NOT ALL) of these people have large dogs that have chased, attacked or reacted to small dogs. I don’t want to see these dogs declared dangerous and I don’t want these small dogs attacked, but often (NOT ALWAYS) it is far from just the fault of the owner of the dog that committed the crime. Many of these larger dogs have been repeatedly lunged at, bitten, chased, barked at and or attacked by small dogs and their behaviour has been generated by these experiences. I said MANY, not ALL.

The problem is one that is conditioned by more than one experience and it can be avoided by people understanding that some behaviours should not be allowed to just play out and be rehearsed time and time again because … (insert stupid excuse here).

Small dogs, like big dogs can be trained, I have many clients that have small dogs that are trained to walk on a loose leash, socialised to other dogs at the level that means they do not become over stimulated at the sight of another dog. They have great recalls and they can remain calm in social / public environments when there are other dogs around.

I would not say this is common at all though, in fact I would say it is rare and because of this, many small dogs are left untrained, psychological issues like dog reactivity etc are left untreated and this makes them a target to other dogs.

I have very good control over my dog, this is what I do for a living though so one would expect that, but there were at least 8 occasions that occurred in which I would call it justified if he had retaliated toward the dog. No I would not like to see that, no I would not like him to learn that he can fight other dogs, no I don’t think it would have taught the other dog a lesson, but this level of provocation rarely goes unanswered.

I have written a separate run down on Jen Martins video on what I think played out (as mentioned it is here), but again if Roscoe had of grabbed this dog and returned fire at the intensity the dog was hitting him with, it would have been dead in a flash. He is a working line German Shepherd that has been playing tug all his life, I know as I taught Jen, he has a killer grip, lucky he also is impeccably Neutralised and had thick nerves… Please watch Jens video to see what I mean.

In Dianne Baumans article, she seems to lean toward the opinion that this problem comes from people having changed the trend in dog training and moving more toward positive, non correctional methods.

I can’t say I am totally against her thoughts here but they don’t cover what I or Jen has experienced this past couple of weeks, whilst I do think there are a lot of people that are working on their dogs behaviour in a positive way when perhaps some small aversion may solve the problem more effectively or even quicker, AT LEAST THEY ARE WORKING ON IT.

The people I experienced laughed, giggled, smiled or behaved like there was no problem, I would be delighted if they up took a positive training program or a negative one, or ANY training.

Instead they don’t see a problem until it is too late, which is sad for dog owners… Paper reads “Small dog mauled by Pitbull“. This is a horrific experience for all concerned surely but is the attacking dog ALWAYS at 100% of the fault?

We can all do a lot better by trying to understand the animals we love so much, and the other dog owners that perhaps wish to be left alone. I was asked is my dog friendly and when I said “yes” their dog was let run up to mine.

I didn’t say I wanted their dog to play, or approach me? I was having some down time away from work with my dog, I don’t want to share that. Do I have to lie and say “no, he is a killer?“…

This is a serious problem, at epidemic level, children are being killed by dogs, breeds are being banned and dogs being killed by one another, do not let this continue.

What can you do?

If you are getting a puppy.

Research people who get great results with dogs that currently fill the roles that your dog will. If it’s a pet, competitor or working dog, don’t just do what you did with your last dog, the playing field has changed.

Take a look at my article on Socialisation, it could make a very big difference to the way you raise your puppy.

Understand that every dog no matter what size, breed or goal set you have will need training, manners and life skills. These don’t come inside the pup, these are your responsibility.

Protect your pup, pups don’t have a “puppy license“, this is a stupid ideal that has no bases. So many aggressive dogs are dogs that were attacked as a pup, their license didn’t help them.

Early Intervention

If you have a young dog that is starting to act out, react to dogs, won’t come when called, can become aggressive or reactive to other dogs, pulls on the leash then eliminate rehearsal, don’t let this happen over and over again, it will only make the behaviour stronger.

Your young dog does NOT need more socialisation, it needs remedial training or perhaps desensitisation.

Get some help now, the younger I see a dog the greater the chances I have at achieving total rehabilitation.

You have a problem

If you have a dog that doesn’t behave well in certain circumstances, first, don’t take it there, second get some help. There are countless ways to address problems both on the positive and negative reinforcement quadrants. So eliminate rehearsal, get help.

No matter how old your dog is, how many times it has practiced the behaviours, there is always something that can be done to reduce and or minimize the problems. Older / mature dogs may not ever make total rehabilitation, but they can improve enough to mitigate the risk so they can lead a normal life.


The dogs I saw giving me grief when I was away predominantly were small dogs on Flexi leashes owned by dumb arse people who have no clue. I don’t for a second think any of them will be reading this post.

I don’t think ALL small dogs behave this way, in fact as I said I have a number of clients with small dogs that are very well behaved and trained, not all started as pups with me either. I would love to help small dog owners learn how to batter manage, train and have fun with their dogs, I don’t see nearly enough.

I don’t think all bigger dogs are perfect, most of my behaviour clients bring large breed dogs.Diesel Beach

You don’t have to be a dog trainer to have a well behaved dog, my wife was next to me in most of the situations I described above, with her Working Line German Shepherd Diesel. She is not a dog trainer but Diesel was beautifully behaved as well.

I experienced in a week away what many people experience every day, dog owners are their own worst enemies, keep this up and we will have no dogs to squabble over…

As always comments are all welcome, just add your thoughts below.

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  1. Great article and some very interesting comments. I have a large dog but in some ways a very different problem to most of the other dog owners who have commented above. It is (not) funny how people (small dog owners) make judgement about a dog’s temperament based on the breed. My dog is a one year old Golden Retriever. And of course everyone assumes that she is friendly (which luckily she is) – just because she is a Golden Retriever. She is a calm, confident and mostly well-trained dog (work in progress) but I get so annoyed at the number of small dog owners who insist on their little anxious dogs meeting my dog. Some of these small dog owners have told me that their dog was “attacked” by a GSB/Dobe/Malamute and so they now want their dog to meet my friendly dog (which they have never met and know nothing about) to help the small dog overcome its fear of big dogs. These people then proceed to drag their small, extremely anxious dog – often with very tense body language, sometimes snarling towards my dog – and I quickly say “no, thank you” and keep walking away very fast. Do these people really think I want my dog being bitten??

    • Thanks for your comment, I am not really sure what they want to be honest?

      I am often amazed how people can commandeer your dog for help with theirs without so much as asking your permission, it is super rude isn’t it?

      It really won’t help their dog anyway, there needs to be a plan in place to rehabilitate these small and frightened dogs, just dragging them over isn’t a plan.

      I don’t know what you can do, some people say their dog is not friendly and that often gets them verbally abused.

      It is a real issue…

  2. I am to pick up my puppy tonight and just to reinforce to myself what my responsibility is, I have just re-read your article AGAIN (for I think the fourth time). I agree with you that small dog owners for some reason don’t feel the necessity to train their dogs as they would if they had a larger breed. I am an ex vet nurse, so I speak from experience!

    My pup is a Nescafe Blend 43, mum is a Kelpie, dad Maltese/Shih Tzu/Poodle. I am expecting kelpie traits and that’s fine. Training begins when she gets home, and she will be pack trained. I believe that a dog is a wolf is a dog, and I am the leader of the pack. It’s a shame other people don’t get this.
    I enjoy reading your views, thank you.

    • Thanks Daphne, I do have a lot of clients who bring me small dogs for training and a lot more that come for behavioural therapy, but it certainly isn’t the common behaviour of many small dog owners who feel they can’t be trained or don’t need to be.

      Training for a dog is teaching them skills and behaviours that help them please us more, train your dog, everybody wins.

  3. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. We’ve had a lot of discussion about these issues lately. We have a 4month old puppy, she’s small and fluffy and only allowed out on her lead. While walking her around my town I’m getting to know where the houses are that have unleashed dogs roaming in ungated yards and now avoid those streets where possible as even crossing to the other side of the street does not prevent the snarling, growling large dogs rushing us. this is not in a ‘playful’ manner either. we are happy to meet well behaved larger dogs, and puppy is friends with the well mannered german shepherd living behind us.

    We’ve also been rushed and pounced on (me and the puppy) by off leash large dogs being ‘walked’ by the owner, who just laughs it off or looks the other way (not even calling their dog). Yesterday we were rushed, growled and snarled at and hearded by 2 staffy bull terriers who are babysat weekly at my neighbours, an elderly lady with no fences, dogs are off lead and under no ones command. we were walking on the other side of the street. These dogs scare me. I don’t like be rushed by a large dog – or 2 working together herding us into the barbed wire fence behind me yesterday. So I picked up the puppy & backed away, being followed and snarled at down the block.

    My question is how should I deal with this type of event. how do I make these dogs back off? I’d very much appreciate any ideas on what to do.
    PS – the puppy doll with heartbeat has been a great success from day 1, and the “bob a lot” toy is a huge hit!

  4. Thank you for your article Steve. I have two shelties (one you know very well), so am one of the smaller dog owners, but even so have to be very careful of where I walk owing to other dogs who are off leash or continually bouncing out of driveways (and these dogs are all sizes!). I am sure if everyone is courteous to everyone one else and keeps their own dog under control – I am sure there would be a lot more happier dogs & people in the world. If everyone did as you have described with your dogs would be great! And not just assume they have the right to let their dogs bounce up to any dog. Unfortunately – as you say – those people will probably not be the ones reading this article!

  5. Great article Steve, but pity it had to be written at all. I agree and sympathise with so many of the comments. One thing that made me chuckle though, was the typo in the Caveat ‘batter manage’ instead of ‘better manage’, or maybe it wasn’t a mistake at all?!

  6. Great article Steve. I get very annoyed with people who don’t do anything about their dog’s behaviour. Especially since my dog is so placid and well behaved, it’s just not fair when she’s accosted by other dogs. Once she even had a small terrier x attacking her on the shoulder and she just tried to walk away!

  7. Great article Steve, my 9 month old Belgian pup has become reactive to some breeds of dogs and “barks first” thanks to a charming encounter at a beach (when she was about 4 months old) with an adult Sibe who was off leash and out of control.
    After continually asking the owner to call the dog, I ended up walking out into the water with her in my arms (she wasn’t actually attacked but she was quite intimidated by it). I won’t say what I was prepared to do had it followed us and tried to attack her/me…………

  8. Reminds me of a day when I was walking four of my dogs. At the time I had three gsd x rottweilers and one other gsd x. We were casually walking along when I heard a man shouting out obsenities, I ignored them and continued walking on but the obsenities continued. I turned around to look and found that I was not only walking my four dogs but now we also had a chihuahua walking along with us. My dogs were trained, but not that well trained, and fortunately they did not turn around to see their new friend. I am not surprised however that this dog had decided that a walk with us was a more pleasant than returning to his obsenity calling master.

    • Paints a clear picture David… Many people don’t train a recall but yet expect to get one and when they don’t, they think getting angry might make them more attractive to their non recalling pet.

  9. I have one of those plunging snarly dogs, we adopted him a year ago, he’s about 10 years old, and is better now than when we got him, but he is still not totally safe so he is always on leash in public. It drives me mental when people let their dogs run up and around him even after he’s reacted and its obvious he’s not going to be friendly

    • I see peoples dogs dragging them toward me and my dog with the “he just wants to say hello” excuse.

      I don’t care what “he” wants.

      If people indulge their dogs by letting them do this, then why do they ever think it will different?

      When a dog that wants to get to another dog starts pulling on the leash, an instinct known as Opposition Reflex kicks in. This elevates drive and the pulling response and when the dogs drive is elevated and he is being held back by the leash, he becomes frustrated which elevates drive again.
      So by the time some of these friendly dogs get to their target, they ARE aggressive or trigger an aggressive response in your dog.

  10. i live in shellharbour and take my dog for a swim to that area we often gets dogs not on a leash running up to us as a result she has become quiet defensive of her humans with some warning barks . i totally agree that these owners are not being responsible and seem to think its funny, maybe you could host some dog and human behavior classes aimed at older dogs not just the puppies stage to help with the bad behavior they have picked up from their humans

  11. Welcome to the Illawarra Steve!

    I’m with you on the front that all dog owners need to take much more responsibilities for their actions. Small dogs are a huge peeve of mine for the simple reason their behaviour is always joked or shrugged away. You know I own a small terrier (Kirah the turd!) who has her own issues, however, I would never excuse her behaviour or attitude and am often searching for fixes.

    I don’t understand the mentality of ‘it’s only a small dog’; so what? If given the right impetus, I’m sure a small dog can do just as much damage as a large dog. Size, breed, weight, age etc is no reason for a dog to have bad manners.

    I’d just like to finish up by saying that it’s not about perfect ownership either. All I want is for owners to take more responsibility and to be willing to learn with their dog. Dog ownership to me is about taking a journey with each dog and making it partnership which means education and hard work for their dog’s entire lifetime — not just during its first few months of life.

  12. Your article is spot on Steve, but the problem of the badly behaved little guys has gone mad in every dog loving country on the plant. Where ever you have people turning their little dogs into 4 legged napoleons you’ll have grief in public spaces. Owners of big powerful working breeds cant afford to humanize their dogs or turn them into child substitutes or there’d be terrible consequences. A few years back I used to jump on my GSD Robdog when he’d pick on a little dog and dominate it – apologizing profusely and getting embarrassed.
    These little guys in fact werent intimidated by my 55 kilo GSD. They strutted off to find victims of their own.Then I realized Robdog had the ability to see ‘trouble’ coming. He never hurt these dogs, but he let them know there was an expectation of good pack behaviour and he wasnt going to put up with anything less. He did this at doggy daycare as well. Badly behaved, dominant, aggressive or clumsy dogs would get a serve from him. The younger and vulnerable dogs would hang out with him for safety and protection.
    So my thoughts are that the only issue is the owner of the ‘Napoleons’. They know it. They dont care. If they had a child it would probably be ok for them to be a bully.
    I’ve had a few serves from angry small dog people but I dont care.
    Sometime I offer to call the council first. But remind them of who bit who and how its going to go down.
    Meantime, my big guy can hold his own. He’s smart enough, big enough and soft enough to deal with almost any Napoleon. And he knows Im there to back him up or break it up.
    The result: other like minded owners who care about giving their dogs good social skills, exercise and discipline have joined me to form a regular group who love each others company and hang out twice a day.
    And the owners of the Napoleons? they’re still walking around the perimeter of the parks, looking lonely and a bit bitter. Hopefully evolution will sort out this problem Steve?…

  13. We have a lovely large open walk area by the beach near our house which I would love to walk my dogs at but your story Steven is one of many experiences why I don’t anymore. Dogs running lose small, medium and large (more small but all types) handler has no recall but yells it’s they came charging down on my Rottie girl.barking circling, snapping. I just want to yell out “mine isn’t” which isn’t true but it might make them try and remove their dog sooner( sadly that would open a can of worms if she actually did react this time). They just don’t care How many times will a dog take it before they say enough and I know who will get the blame even if she is on lead. I have just got a little bred (8 month old), who will be trained to the same level as my Rottie. Yes they get on great, couldn’t of asked for a better relationship
    I think the they are cute and harmless is many people idea when owning a small dog. If I can build a fence to keep my large breed in, you can build a fence to keep you little dogs in, if I can train my dog to have manners when out so can you, if I don’t let my dog run out at you from it’s yard barking and snapping so can you, if I can teach a reliable recall so my dog comes when called so can you ( if not keep it on lead), if I ask you to keep a distance, please listen I love my dog and want to keep it safe. I have come to the point of not caring if I am rude, if you can’t keep you distance or control your dog. My job is to protect my dog from idiots or with no dog sense. Okay off
    my soap box 🙂

  14. It happens everywhere, and it is so frustrating, I don’t take Katie Dobe to the dog park any more as a miniture dashund kept snapping at her and barking, if Katie had put her paw on this dog she would have squashed it. The dashunds owner was so busy talking they did not notice or care, when I said something politely they just laughed and said oh is your dog frightened. I explained no but your dog is misbehaving and hassling my dog and if my dog did react they may no longer have a dog, they were defensive and said I shouldn’t have a vicious dog in the dog park, I don’t know where these people get off, Unfortunately I got cranky and gave them a piece of my mind. It just makes me so angry. Anyone who knows Katie will confirm she is not vicious. I do know she doesn’t like being surrounded by a lot of other dogs, unless they ignore her, she ignores them. Some dog owners are so inconsiderate, and unfortunately it does seem to be small dog owners more than any other.
    Maybe I should just get some of your business cards Steve and hand them out people might get the hint.

    • An interesting point is that, if your Dobe acted in a like manner, she would have injured the dog physically, and no one would believe that this small dog started it.

      There is real mental harm occurring to large dogs that are being aggressed upon, so just because you can’t see the scars, they are there. I work with “good dogs gone bad” daily.

  15. A great article and one that I totally agree with. Having owned several GSD and trained them I have been very glad of the training with having a smaller dog start to harass us.

    Of interest – I wonder how many of these people with uncontrollable little dogs likewise have uncontrollable kids, whom in the parents eyes are little angels and NEVER do anything wrong.

  16. I have completely stopped walking my gsd in public. It just wasn’t worth it any more. A friend pointed out that I had become human-aggressive. I was continually harrassed by off-lead dogs and verbally abused by their owners. My training skills were inexperienced and poor – he didn’t have a good recall or stay and would lunge when other dogs got close, so we ran. “That dog should be put down” they would yell, as their dogs chased our retreating form down the path. He was definitely a target – a black gsd – for people’s dogs and people’s prejudice. I think I probably became dog-aggressive before my dog became dog-aggressive. I think he got it from me. Really sad – he’s such a great dog.

    • Oh, Cindy – I felt so sad reading your post – I’m sure he is a great dog. I have had those things said to me back in the old days so I feel your pain ….there is help and hope … My dog is proof positive of that 🙂

    • So I guess Cindy that your behaviour has been modified by the behaviour of others. Pretty eay to see why it happens to dogs.

      A lady was here for training just last week and she carries a stick with her to help defend her dog.

      When people see her they are nasty and abusive because “she is being aggressive”.

  17. Wow Steve, great article and I know everyone on this blog will no doubt have experienced similar if not the same behaviours from other dogs. It is such a shame. As you know Rosie has issues, but after visiting with you and using the plan you set out, she is so much better. I can now let her off lead in the pens at St Ives with other dogs (usually smaller ones) in the other pens and she now pretty much ignores them. I don’t know if I will ever get to the stage where I could let her off in the same pen, but I am so happy with her progress. This whole situation is making me think very seriously about what breed of dog I will get next. I love the breeds like gsds, dobes, rotties etc, but I don’t think I could go though it again. I know that the next dog may never have the same issues as Rosie (I won’t rescue again), but the perception from the public I believe is only going to get worse. When I go to my son’s rugby games on the weekends, you are hard pressed to see a dog other than a small white or caramel fluffy and usually all badly behaved. This isn’t just around my local area, but all over Sydney. Rosie comes with me, but she (and me) receive some good comments as well as the bad – and all she is doing is sitting next to me. People get dogs for all the wrong reasons and just don’t put the time and effort into them but expect everyone else to have well behaved dogs. And I find the owners of the unruly small dogs expect the owners of the big dogs to have well trained dogs. I’m tired of it.

    • St Ives has been a godsend for my dog and I to exercise and train at, too, Linda. I love those training pens and my dog no longer fence chases the dogs in the adjoining pens – he is too busy tearing through agility tunnels and weaves 🙂

      • They certainly are. It’s so good to have a place like this. I’ve had her off lead at the very back horse arena too several times with some other like minded people and dogs and it is also great. Just have to make sure it’s a day when the horses are not exercising.

    • Yep agree Linda, at least your Rosie is getting some great training with you!

  18. Yes, the little dogs *Always* start it.

    A similar thing happened to me years ago, I was walking my Benny (Malamute) and this escaped Pomeranian comes up to us, and naturally the first thing that happens is the dog has a go at mine. So Benny leans forward, grabs the dog by the scruff and shakes the living crap out of it.

    Another time there was this man at the park with a Fox Terrier, and this dog spots Benny (always on a lead), and starts coming towards us. I knew it wouldn’t end well and ran off with Benny, while the owner of the dog, oblivious as to what could happen, just stood there and laughed his socks off.

    • I don’t think *always* happens ever but your right if you had stood your ground three lessons would be learned.
      1. The man would learn some dogs are aggressive towards his.
      2. His dog would more so be aggressive towards others.
      3. Your dog would have learned to fight in this circumstance.

  19. Sounds like everyone here is having to deal with some pretty ignorant owners! I too have had fluffy run up to me and my GSD being aggressive and owners saying careful fluffy he will eat you for lunch, after I say hello I POLITELY ask if they know that there dog is being aggressive and may cause a fight. Almost all are more than happy to listen and just DIDN’T KNOW what to do or that it is extremely frustrating for large breed owners. I think this is a case of us and them when really when this topic is broached with sensitivity both parties will benefit.

    • I guess it largely depends Anthony on the dog owners state of mind, I “know” how to help these people, I was on holiday and pretty frustrated by the end, so I was not in the frame of mind I need to help.

      Some people would be scared and anxious, so might over react to prevent under reaction.

      Good on you for keeping your cool.

  20. I have a small dog I adopted from RSPCA 3 months ago, he is such a great little dog but does need a little training as far as behaving around other dogs when we go out for walks at the beach, but, when I see another dog coming in our direction I pick my dog(Fergus) up so as to not be a pain to the other ppl around, he is getting a bit better, I try to take him there as often as I can. He learns very quickly but this will take a little more time.

  21. At last I got to read your fabulous blog. I am very lucky in that my Lab is totally cool with pretty much most situations. If I had to put up with these kinds of behaviors from other peoples dogs I think I would start carrying a stink spray. The trick would be to squirt the obnoxious dog, with an obnoxious odor (perhaps a non toxic brownygreen colour too) in such a sneaky way as not to get caught by the owner. It might make the owner keep a closer eye on their adorable little darling in the future. If it doesn’t work at least you get to laugh about it for a looooong time.

  22. I couldn’t agree more with everything you have said, Steve, way too many clueless owners out there and I am at a complete loss on how to educate them. We had an off lead swf have a go at my husky, Mya, the other night. It was halloween and they had set up camp out the front of their house for the trick or treaters. Great, but for goodness sake keep your aggressive little dog in the house. Admittedly the owners were apologetic as they repeatedly tried to call their dog back, but I noticed the dog was still out as we returned from our walk. I am glad it wasn’t Luka who I was walking at the time, it can be so disheartening when you are putting so much time and effort into lowering you dog’s reactivity and then some idiot makes the task so much more difficult.

    • And I guess lets think about the little dog and why its aggressive, it is very likely frightened and anxious and displaying aggression as a means of defence. Why bring it along?

  23. Such an interesting ariticle…I really enjoyed it as it echoes the frustration felt by a lot of large breed owners. I myself have two great danes. Unfortunately my bitch is very reactive and has a high prey drive. She is a teacup dane at only 52 kilos but is as strong as an ox but she is my responsibility. It is up to me to make sure she does not get into a situation that may have unfavourable results. She goes to obedience twice a week and agility once a week. We practice every day and do walks to keep her stimulated. I do not take her to any off leash dog parks EVER.. and a lot of my friends who also own danes do not visit them either. I wish more people could read this blog and gain a greater understanding of the frustration and desperation that irresponsible owners inflict on those trying to do the right thing. Thanks for articulating and underscoring this issue – it is an important one in a country with such a large population of canine owners..

  24. Hear hear!!
    It is so frustrating dealing with dog owners who don’t take responsibility for their dogs bad behavior. Small dogs owners are MOST often the culprits letting their dogs exhibit all manner of aggressive behavior. Perish the thought of the consequences if large breed dog owners were as irresponsible as most small breed owners.

    Hell one of the primary reasons we moved to the country was cause we were sick of small dogs trying their best to attack our well behaved GSDs on walks, then the enduring the owners mouthing off at us and our dogs who had done no wrong at all.

    There is Nothing “cute” about (small) dogs behaving badly. It is amazing more small dogs aren’t hurt the way they are allowed to continually act out at bigger breeds!

  25. Don’t get me started on this!

    Steve, you are so right in your observations and commentary.

    As you are personally aware, my own dog, Bo, once had some reactivity issues which, with your help, were addressed and resolved successfully. As we determined, Bo’s behaviour was not overtly “aggressive”, just an excitable, rambunctious dog who had poor impulse control. However, his lurching, lunging, screaming and barking could be frightening to observe – to other dogs and their owners as well as to myself.

    He can now go to an agility trial with hundreds of dogs or to our club and the only thing he is interested in is doing what he loves – agility. He has absolutely zero interest in the dogs themselves. He has an outlet that he finds far more rewarding than mixing it up with other dogs..

    Yes, you are right …. most of us experience what you have described on a daily basis. I am VERY careful about the places I take my dogs and the dogs I allow my own dogs to come into contact with when exercising / training.

    I don’t take them to dog parks perse any longer …… they are just too dangerous. I’m lucky that there is a facility near us where I can exercise and train my dogs with limited exposure to other dogs and if there are unknown dogs or too much traffic there, I opt for one of the training pens and exercise them / train them there.

    Honestly, I feel like I’m on guard most of the time when I’m exercising my dogs in public. I can’t count the times I’ve asked people respectfully NOT to allow their on lead / off lead dogs to run up to my dogs and get in their faces – I can’t count the times I’ve been called rude (and worse) for requesting this courtesy. Frankly, I don’t care how I am perceived. I will always act in the best interests of my own dogs and telling me your dog is “friendly” is beside the point. How many times have I countered this often totally inaccurate declaration with “yours might be friendly but how do you know mine are?”

    We, too, have had our own fair share of experiences with small, out of control, aggressive dogs. In reality, if my older, larger dog behaved in this way, he would no doubt be declared a dangerous dog for the very same behaviour that is tolerated in smaller dogs. Like you, I have found that these owners often find their dogs behaviour ” amusing”.

    I hope you still managed to enjoy your beach holiday despite the rude behaviour of the dogs and owners you encountered. I am getting cranky just thinking about it, lol!

    • Still had a great time, one of the better breaks I have had really I guess because the dogs were there. I guess the part that annoys me most is what is being confirmed here, that the responsible people are avoiding the designated dog places due to other less than responsible dog owners…

  26. What an awful way to spend a weekend your time with your dog spoilt by those who don’t train and don’t consider other users of the area. It is not uncommon here either as I used to always exercise my dogs at the local golf course until I just got so sick and tired of irresposible dog owners who leave their uncontrolled dogs of lead. I have a very well trained Aussie and was doing dumbell work with him when out of nowhere a Lab cross bounded in with an owner yelling for it to go back, it had no intentions or returning. I tried to walk away with my dog who was holding his dumbell at the time but the dog persisted and the owner kept yelling so in the end I told my dog to sit and hold. He is reactive to other dogs but his training is way up there and he just took the bombarding while I attempted to catch the Lab which I did. The owner out of breath arrived grabbed his dog off me jerking it around (that’s bound to make the dog want to return to him next time) and then turning to me he said “If I’d had my other dog here he would have killed yours.” I was amazed my dog was still sitting and holding his dumbell…!!! I won’t say my my reply was but it was to the point. Needless to say I don’t go there anymore.

    • I cant say I had a bad time Jacquie, I actually didn’t as my dog was behaving well 99% of the time, I was disappointed when he broke a stay but I guess at the end of a whole week of being lunged at, nipped and barked at, he was at his limit too, but again no excuses, we will lift that game.

  27. This is a quite common issue for me, I even tried walking in an area frequently sign posted to keep your dog on lead to avoid this and a small white dog ran up to my dog (who is dog aggressive but come such a long way thanks to Steve) snarling and carrying on, so I picked up the pace a bit to get away from it. Then the owners shout at me sounding quite annoyed demanding me to stop walking so they can retrieve their dog. Luckily my dog didn’t react, but they made me feel I was being completely rude!

  28. This is one of my biggest pet peeves…

    I loved this article and totally agree, i have lost count of the times some small dog owner has watched in delight as their dog has come tearing at the dogs i walk, thinking that it is ok because of THEIR dogs size. They have watched as before the dog(s) gets closer to me and seen me instruct my dogs to sit then drop to stay, while they let their dog continue, they see me put the leash on one of the dogs (she’s a bit anxious) while their dog THEN starts getting in my dogs face, while she tries desperately to ignore it, by which point i actually have hold of her collar. Meanwhile having observed MY dogs and MY intervention so as not to end up with their small annoying dog as dog meat, they don’t bother at ALL to call their precious little bundle of “small dog from hell” away from mine and on the off chance mine “starts” and their dogs yips in surprise, i’m looked at as if i am a complete idiot that should’n’t be allowed to handle ANY dogs at all.

    I’ve been in the park with just one of the dogs and continuously had to keep on the move to try and avoid a band of 3 small yipping, nipping dogs that just would NOT get out off my dogs face. The dog walker/owner was either completely oblivious/thought it was funny or just didn’t care. It was very stressful for both myself and the dog. These dogs just kept coming at him, eventually he lost his patience and went one of them, didn’t bite it or anything like that, pretty much just flattened it on the ground and sat on it, but still… who do you think would be the one getting in trouble?

    It’s not JUST small dog owners but certainly a good percentage of them seem to think that because they can pick them up, or because they’re so small, they could’n’t POSSIBLY be any trouble.

    My sister was in the park with her toddler son, pregnant with her 2nd child. It was a HUGE park. Some guy came near to where she was with his big dog, she mentioned to him that hers were a bit anxious, so what did he do? Decided that even closer was a better place to be, she ended up saying “oh ok, I’LL go somewhere else then”.. or words to that effect…..

    Dog training should be mandatory for anyone wanting to own one…

    • I found a few bigger dogs just as bad but like you, the smaller dog owners almost unanimously felt above the need to put any work in and felt like they were entitled to respect in every situation.

  29. Great blog Steve…..I live near a off the dog leash area, I have taken one of my dogs there twice and both times experienced similar things so I decided I did not ant to put us in that position so unfortunately my dogs don’t get to sprint along the beach which is sad but at the end of the day we enjoy our walks and plays. I thought we were the only ones experiencing that, but I do remember some wise people say 95% dog on leash free beaches are not fully under control – hence we don’t risk it…Loreena, Vader (Doberman) DG (Dobermann)

  30. Love this blog – and so spot on! Skye can be reactive when her personal space is invaded and unfortunately bears the tag of “unfriendly” when other idiot owners call out to me as their dog is heading off-leash towards mine with a “don’t worry, he’s friendly” to which my reply is always “mine isn’t”!!!! Have even been told that my on leash dog should be muzzled in public because their off-leash dog doesn’t have a recall!! Blows my mind – and so pleased you got to personally witness what the majority of good owners have to contend with every day.

  31. Wow Steve, you are an exceptionally patient, forgiving man. I agree with everything Jen says and totally empathise with her anger. We have a neighbour whose nasty little JRT was often out in the street attacking any dog walking past until, sadly, he had a go at two Greyhounds on leads, who killed him. Believe it or not, the greyhounds’ owner was ordered to have her dogs put down.
    Ignorant, lazy dog owners make me so very angry.

  32. The sad facts of life among the majority of the dog owning public. I feel your pain Steve. Added to which if you try to tell people they are in the wrong eg don’t kick your dog in the face every time it looks at another dog (:-( that was only last week), put your dog on a lead in an on leash area, you are greeted with verbal aggression oh and its always your on leash’s dogs fault if it reacts when an out of control dog attacks it.

  33. totally agree… it’s even getting to the stage where I don’t want to walk my dogs around the streets, because of the numerous small dogs left roaming the streets (whats your problem, I’m told, it’s only a little dog) problem is of course that my dogs are not little and whilst fairly well trained, they will retaliate if pushed I”m sure, and it’s ALWAYS the larger dog that is blamed. day will come where I will be needing steve’s help, because I’m going to court to defend my dogs. (and I will)

  34. Great article should be required reading! I’ve had similar events happen so we avoid locations where this is more likely to happen mostly because I am the reactive one rather than my trained dog. These situations turn a fun outing into unpleasant ones even without anything untoward happening

    • I agree Alison, by the end of the week the couple that had the two small dogs copped the brunt of a weeks worth, an over the top reaction from me based on their dogs but appropriate based on my week.

      • We on the south coast, where you visited Steve, are extremely fortunate to have a number of beaches available to exercise our dogs on. However the increase in the numbers of incidents you yourself experienced and witnessed is causing the local Council’s to review these leash free opportunities. I don’t know how much longer we will have to enjoy time with our four legged companions in the surf. I know my girl is severely restricted in her enjoyment of the waves because of the constant on lead/off lead reactions I have to do to prevent a fluffy being “tugged” by my much better behaved shepherd. The owners of these annoyances seem to have a death wish for their pampered pooches!

        • Great article Steve. I have a working line GSD from the same breeder as Jen (Beychief). My worst experience was walking Blake on lead when an elderly woman walking towards us decided to release her flexi lead as we walked past. The problem was her small white fluffy dog was clearly not comfortable and was yapping and snarling. At this stage my dog who is also neutralised stood his ground and was looking down at the noise. Within seconds her dog had circled mine effectively hog tying mine as she tried to the retract her lead. I told Blake to stand and leave it. Given the noise and my dogs now effective immobilisation I had to act very quickly as I could see the hair on his neck slowly starting to rise. I had to reach down and with both arms lift my 37 kg GSD into the air to clear the flexi circled lead and the small dog which was effectively tied to mine. Only at this time as he was lifted did Blake let out a deep growl, however he remained still in my arms. The lady thought it was a bit of a giggle however if my dog had reacted the way hers was at that time it wold have been over in seconds.

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