What Part of “Aggressive” Don’t You Understand?

Updated: Jan 29


aggressive dog on blurred background

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, I’ve been working like crazy with both Bodhi and Sierra on their reactivity issues with unfamiliar dogs. Because we practice at the local park and you never know what the other dogs will be like, I’m careful to maintain a distance where no one will explode. I’m also very selective as to which dogs we’ll move closer to in order to work our protocol.


Things have been going fairly well lately, particularly when I’ve only got one of the dogs with me. However, the improved behavior has led to an unforseen problem. Early on, if someone saw Bodhi lunging and snarling at the end of the leash, they’d move their dog away, or at least not allow the dog to approach. Now that Bodhi’s able to keep his cool the majority of the time, people aren’t aware that he has an issue. Sure, they might be wondering why I’m keeping his attention and feeding treats, but he’s not overtly displaying any type of reactivity. So now I find myself in the position of having to warn people and, strangely, some of them just don’t seem to believe me.


The latest episode from the Are You Serious? files involves a Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix. The owner was walking the little dog on a Flexi lead, and I was walking Bodhi past at a distance that allowed him to remain calm. He was doing great until the dog started prancing toward him.

I called out to the owner, “He’s not friendly with other dogs.” “Oh, it’s alright,” she said, unconcerned. Perhaps she hadn’t heard me correctly. Or,

maybe being more blunt was necessary. “He’ll bite your dog,” I pronounced loudly and clearly. “That’s okay,” she said with a smile, “He’s lion-hearted.” Huh? I wanted to say, “He might be lion-hearted, but I’ll bet he’s chicken-boned.” Instead, I moved Bodhi away before he had a chance to grab the moving fillet...er, the little lion.

And what about leash laws? At least the Pom-Chi-Lion was on leash, but others are not. I get that it’s nice to allow your dog some freedom. But when you see me walking my dog down the main asphalt path along the parking lot, and your Dogue de Bordeaux is off-leash and I’m shouting at you to please leash your dog, is it really necessary to walk at the speed of a snail on valium toward your dog, flash me a look of disgust as you begrudgingly leash him, and then unleash him again when you’re two feet past us?


Every now and then, I think how wonderful it must be to be completely oblivious, to walk along with your dog and your Starbucks without a care in the world. Then I come back to reality. I’ve got to be continuously hyperaware with my dogs, and even if they weren’t reactive, I’d be monitoring the behavior of other dogs we pass. I don’t expect everyone to view dogs the way a trainer would. But if I tell you flat out that my dog is apt to bite your dog? Just move away, and do it now.

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