We started this article last summer in fact when Fang and Potnoodle went on another edition of “Grand Dogshow Adventure™” and infringed upon the hospitality of friends in another state because being equal parts poor, annoyed with your work circumstances, and willing to make others uncomfortable opens up your bunking-in options dramatically. Extensive driving, however did leave much time for article discussion (Despite not actually putting it all together until a year later) and we’re going to hit on one that we’d begun and stalled on previously, the tricky issue of “protective” dogs who we all know aren’t actually protective.
We’ve all seen it. Hell, it’s been so romanticized and stuffed down our throats that it’s really hard to get around. What are we talking about? The Perfect Dog. From Rin Tin Tin to Lassie, the perfect dog comes home not only pre-trained, single-mindedly bonded to its owner, psychic, perfectly coiffed without a brush ever having touched its luscious locks, kid-socialized and a completely savage vicious creature to any man or beast who threatens its owner. Sound familiar?
Much like the discovery that your closet can’t actually transport you to Narnia (So much for multifunctional, IKEA, you jerks) most of us get over this idea sometime between puberty and getting our first dogs. While these people are a pain in the ass, the belief that their dog can do no wrong is considerably less irritating than their counterparts, the freakshow enablers. This small subset of the population believe erroneously their special snowflake is a delicate flower of Persia who must be coddled, cuddled and soothed in perpetuity because “He’s a rescue!” or “He’s just a normal <insert breed here>” and any and all bad behavior is excused on that basis from now until the end of eternity.
To those people, YOU ARE RUINING YOUR DOG(S) AND YOU NEED TO STOP IT RIGHT NOW! JUST STOP! Tssssch!
Let’s look at the reality here. The actual number of truly physically abused dogs in a given population (And we mean actually abused, not just fed Beneful and denied a custom no-pull harness) is very small. Totally unsocialized, under-stimulated and undervalued? Absolutely. Physically abused? Unlikely. Physically abused by a man in a funny hat? Even less likely. Odds are good the dog has just never seen such a bizarrely headed man and therefore he is suspicious and someone to be feared.
This in and of itself is not particularly problematic, unusual or even worrisome to most reasonable dog people. Damaged dogs? Hell, we see them weekly. Fearful, undersocialized and dogs with poor genetic temperaments are nothing new or even interesting at this point. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt with the holes in it from Snookums’ panic scramble to freedom from their leash being clipped to their collar before they ran out the door to be killed on the highway. Dogs with issues are the norm. They are not inherently the problem.
Where this becomes an issue is when our inherent need to own ‘Perfection the Wonder Hound” kicks in and we begin making excuses, enabling behaviors and in some cases even encouraging these horrendously bad manners (and bad temperament) simply because the dog is damaged (Rescued/neglected etc) or too valuable to not excuse, or because no one is bleeding yet…
The eighteen month old German Shepherd cowering between your legs and growling at your vet IS NOT PROTECTING YOU.
The Bichon you physically cannot leash because he will bite your hand IS NOT JUST CRABBY.
The confident herding breed adult puddled (literally and/or figuratively) on the ground when a judge attempts a cursory exam, or even better, whips around to nail them because “He touched me delicately with kind hands” IS NOT NORMAL FOR THE BREED.
The Shih Tzu barking and carrying on with darting nips to ankles which draw blood IS NOT JUST PLAYING.
These are all serious behavior and dare we say, temperament issues that need to be dealt with and/or locked away and never reproduced. How you deal with them is a many wondrous thing and there are literally dozens of options from the asinine to amazingly effective but what matters is that you deal with them. We don’t accept your excuses* and you shouldn’t either.
You have a freak or a dog who acts like a freak sometimes? B.F.D. The next time you want to explain away their behavior, pause and reflect:
1) Are you explaining the behavior to someone who is in some way helping you fix the issue?
2) Are you making vast generalizations on breed temperament to explain why you don’t have an issue and everyone who thinks you do has the problem?
3) Yelling at someone who dares toddle by and disturb your snowflake’s forty foot perimeter bubble of not having an ever-loving shit fit?
4) Are you continually setting your dog up to fail with environments they cannot possibly enjoy or succeed in just to prove to yourself they are “totally fine” while telling those around you that this is normal and okay?
If you answered “Yes” to anything other than 1, we need you to go back up to the top and read all the way through again then think about it then read it again.
So here’s the breakdown, kids. Kooky, weird, spooky freakshow dogs are not inherently unusual, weird, or anything to be particularly afraid of. It happens. It sucks. It means a lot more work for you, but… they can still in most cases have relatively obedient and normal lives. As long as you can accept that you do in fact have a problem and are willing to deal with it you’re solidly on the right track. If you pretend you don’t have a problem or have somehow contracted the erroneous belief that everyone else is wrong, well then we’re going to have issues, and more problematically your dogs are going to have issues… forever. Don’t be that owner who we crate away from and all tacitly try to avoid coming into contact with because your dog is terrible and you are clueless and do dumb stuff with him. Just don’t.
*And yes, sometimes situations with freaks are unavoidable but as long as you’re working on it we really don’t judge.