10 Irritating Situations Owners Of Large/Guarding Breeds Must Face

As a longtime large/guarding breed owner, I have faced every single one of these situations.  I know many friends and family members who have as well.  If you are not prepared to deal with these situations and handle them intelligently, you might want to consider a different type of dog.  Perhaps the following may not happen in this order, or in these exact words, but it will be close.

Situation #1:  People who go to great lengths to get away from you.

The first time this happened to me was when I had an adorable Pit Bull mix puppy in my cart at a pet store.  It was her first shopping trip since I’d adopted her from a rescue organization, and she needed some goodies.  She was little and cute and happily wagging her little tail at everyone.  I’ll never forget a lady who was oohing and ahhing at her, petting her and giving her kisses.

“Oh she’s so CUTE!  What kind of dog is she?”

“A Pit Bull mix.”  I replied.

She immediately stopped petting her and stepped away.  “Oh no,” she said aloud, as if the puppy were going to fly out of the cart and attach herself to the lady’s throat.  She simply backed away and disappeared.

That little dog went on to help me teach Obedience classes and eventually earned her CGC (Canine Good Citizen).

Situation #2:  You will hear (ad nauseum) that “it’s how they’re raised.”

While environment is extremely important, it is not the only factor in determining a dog’s temperament.  Certain breed traits have been hard wired into them generation after generation, in order to help them perform certain tasks effectively.  Understanding your breed and what they were created to do will help you learn how to handle your dog and train him/her in such a way that desired behaviors are amplified and the undesirable ones minimized.  It’s also important to note, though, that people who say this are generally trying to be accepting and supportive.

Situation #3:  People will ask you if you are afraid of your dog “turning on you.”

I can’t tell you how badly this makes me want to hurl.  Dogs do not “turn” nor does it happen “all of a sudden.”  There are always signs.  ALWAYS.  Just because you might not be aware of those signs, it does not mean they were not there.  Dogs ALWAYS give warning.  The family that allows their toddler to pull ears, poke eyes, pinch and slap and are shocked when their dog growls or bites said child, should be ashamed of themselves.  They have failed their dog as well as their child.  Treating children how to properly interact with animals does not include forcing the animal to endure being picked and poked at by what dogs often consider a littermate, most especially if the dog has not been “child proofed”.  Child-proofing your dog is not something to be overlooked if you ever intend to have your dog around a child.  If the child cannot properly assert themselves, they should not be left alone with a dog.  As a general rule, I do not leave children unattended with dogs.


Dogs hit their limit or they have been coddled and taught from the time they were a cute, fuzzy little pup that they were the boss.  They’ve been fed first (or worse yet from your plate), allowed to growl at people for what they want (I can’t tell you how many “dogs growling at someone trying to take their toy “videos I’ve seen on social media) and manipulate.  Often people don’t realize just how much their dogs have manipulated them.  Some of us joke about it:  “It’s the dog’s house.  He just allows us to live there.”  When someone tries to tell the boss what to do, they respond in kind.  Among dogs, this is often not pretty.  It is extremely important that you have a firm grasp of dog behavior before mixing dogs and children and expecting your dog to just blindly accept anything your precious pumpkin decides to dole out.  I have kids, I have dogs.  Both have been taught how to respect the other.  Training is ongoing.

I was once told by a woman (while I was 8 months pregnant and walking one of our Rottweilers) that my dog would one day kill my baby.




I will add that that child is graduating from high school this year.   Clearly was not killed.

Situation #4:  People who allow their small dogs to display despicable behavior toward you or your dog.


I love small dogs.  Don’t get me wrong here.  I am not generalizing, as many small dogs are a joy.  But the number of people who think that snarling, lunging, barking and snapping little dogs are “funny” make my blood boil.  In no way is this funny.  Imagine for a moment I allow my 120 pound dog to do this.  Is it funny?  No.

My dogs have been jumped by several little dogs over the years.  The most recent was a Lhasa Apso.  It leapt onto my dog’s face while his owners were eating dinner at an outdoor cafe.  Before that a Chihuahua leapt out of a stroller toward my dog.  Thank goodness I taught my dogs to “Leave It” no matter what.  I am proud to say that my dog did not respond in kind.  She would totally have been within her rights as a dog to have done so, but then who do you think would have been blamed?  I also carry various sprays with me in case dogs come at us, which I unfortunately have had to use before.

In all my years of working at pet stores, animal hospitals and kennels, I’ve seen countless spoiled small dogs allowed to behave badly simply because they are cute.  I hardly think many people would be as tolerant of that type of behavior if it were a larger dog.

Situation #5:  People will ask how much you spend on dog food.

Somehow we are obsessed in this country with spending a lot, feeding a lot, trying to make our dogs bigger and “better.”  Instead of just being annoyed (let’s face it, it will get annoying), this can be segwayed into a discussion on how less is more, or how premium diets are better for your dog than grocery brands.

Situation #6:  Someone in a passing car, on the street or somewhere in public says they have a X, Y or Z and would you like to breed your dog?  How much for him/her?

“I am a lover, not a fighter.”

Now I could be wrong on this, and perhaps some small dog people have been approached as well, but it seems that large, powerful dog breeds attract a certain “element” that feels that any equally “tough looking” dog would be appropriate to breed to your dog and they don’t mind flat out asking you or offering money for such services.  Some will just ask “You wanna sell that dog?”  Yes, that’s right.  Sell your dog to them.  A complete stranger.

Wtf, you ask?

This has happened to me.  Multiple times.  It is a very real thing that people steal, buy or acquire animals from Free To Good Home ads to use as bait in dogfighting operations (which includes breeding them).  Dogs don’t even have to be purebred or any particular breed to be used as bait dogs.  Always be aware.

Despite Rama being a registered Therapy Dog, I was once asked by a sweet-looking old man (dressed in his military finery) who I thought would “win” if she was pitted against his dog, a Pit Bull.  I just stared at him.  I was so taken off guard by how old and frail he looked, and how he was a veteran to boot, that it just shocked and disgusted me that he would ask such a thing.  Sigh.

Situation #8:  House shopping can be a pain in the ass when it comes to Home Owner’s Insurance.

Thanks to irresponsible owners and media hype, there are many Home Owner’s Insurance companies as well as landlords/rental agencies that have Restricted Breeds lists.  Dogs owners who have never had to face this should count themselves lucky.   Many dog bite studies have been performed, with many beloved breeds making the top ten.  They are not always guarding breeds, either.  According to the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), in 2015 a few of the top breeds accused of reported bites included Collies, Spaniels and Labrador Retrievers.  Despite these lists, it is usually the same dogs that end up on restricted lists:  Pit Bulls or “types”, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Chow Chows.  Lists of restricted breeds will vary with each company so definitely do your research.

Situation #9:  You Will be Asked “Is that a ______?” more times than you can count.

If you go out in public, people will ask you what kind of dog you have.  This can be viewed one of two ways:  You can take it as an opportunity to educate people (nicely) and gain socialization points for your pooch or you can be annoyed by it.  I know some of us longtime dog people can sometimes forget that not everyone is as seasoned as we are, and some haven’t been around dogs all that much, or it just isn’t their passion.  It doesn’t make them unintelligent or any less human.  We all started somewhere and I try to approach it as I would approach something I was trying to learn about.  I would ask questions.  I’m sure I’m bugging the heck out of some folks on AT forums right about now, but that’s another story.

Of course with certain breeds the same question (that seems obvious) may come up.  With German Shepherds it could be “Is that a wolf?” and with my breed (Cane Corso) it is often “Is that a Pit Bull?”   I feel so bad for Great Dane owners who are constantly asked “Do you have a saddle for that thing?”  Sometimes you want to scream.  But some folks might mean well, so we go on and answer the same questions.  Because if we don’t, or we are rude or we answer in a way that seems dismissive or condescending, it could imprint in that person’s mind and be associated with that dog, and the last thing we need is more negativity on this planet, especially where dogs are concerned.

Situation #10:  The person who can’t get enough of your dog.

Ok, so this may or may not be irritating to you.  These folks are my favorite.  They ooh, they ahh, they shower you with compliments on your dog.  I have to say, I’ve heard “Beautiful dog!” much more than I have anything negative.  We love the people who can see past slobber, cropped ears, brindle coats and large, muscular bodies.  We love those who see our dogs.  Who really see them.  For these people I have stayed and answered a million questions long after I should have left the store, finished my walk, etc.  It’s because of these people that we continue to share our dogs and continue to educate so everyone can enjoy them.







Credit AVMA Dog Bite Risk And Prevention–The Role Of Breed



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  1. Flea September 17, 2015 at 9:27 am

    I love the large breeds. Thank you so much for sharing these ten. I know I’m guilty of several, but mostly the last one. Drooling over big dogs. Thanks for the reminders to be a little more circumspect with the owners.

    1. Shannon Adams September 17, 2015 at 11:15 am

      Thank you for reading and commenting! I’m glad you enjoyed the article and got something out of it!

  2. Lycan & Lexie September 17, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I don’t own large dogs but I have to agree with everything on your post! Good read.

    1. Shannon Adams September 17, 2015 at 11:14 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! 🙂

  3. Kelley September 17, 2015 at 10:41 am

    I raise my coffee cup to you! I have German shepherds and hear most of the same things.
    People will ask if my dog is a “canine.” Yes, yes he is.
    I’ve been told “I was bit by a German shepherd” stories more time than I can count.
    I’ve had way too small dogs (on flexi-leads) act the fool towards mine. Jedi’s “Leave it” isn’t great, and I’m afraid one day it’s going to get really ugly. Maybe I should look into sprays too. Any recommendations?
    I’ve had complete strangers put their face in my dogs’ face, expecting kisses. WTF? *YOU* may love German shepherds, but that doesn’t mean my German shepherds like you.
    And I agree with you on the “how it’s raised” thing. I don’t think it’s that simple. Yes, environment plays a large part of a dogs’ temperament, but there is a genetic component. Wariness, prey drive and tenacity are hardwired to some degree. Case in point: Last spring I took my American show line GSD to a herding trial. He had never seen a sheep before, yet he drove those sheep. They’re not called German SHEPHERDS for nothing.

  4. Shannon Adams September 17, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Gah, I’m with you on the kisses thing. I’m always having to tell people not to do stuff that you would think would be obvious. I have taken to bringing a basket muzzle out with us to avoid situations. You would think that a muzzle on a dog would keep people away, but I have found the opposite. At least I know nothing can happen. Ugh. As for sprays, I do carry a few. I am actually writing a blog post on it at the moment, so watch for that!

  5. Earl Lover September 17, 2015 at 11:40 am

    We have small breeds, and they kiss too – and I mean, they KISS! 😉

    1. Shannon Adams September 17, 2015 at 3:23 pm

      Hee hee, I bet they do!

  6. Dachshund Nola September 17, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Oh god, I remember that! I grew up with Mastiffs, and I heard all of those. I remember being a teenager and walking our girl, and some jackass pulling the “is she taking you for a walk?”. Keep in mind she was walking loosely by my side. My favorite was “aren’t you worried? That dog is bigger than you are.”. She outweighed me by 40lbs or so, but behaved better than their dog.

    I think I’ll do something like this for small dogs, too! I never imagined the crap I’d have to put up with when I got a small one.

  7. DZ Dogs September 17, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    OOH Man!! I’ve encountered these too!
    I hate it when people tell me that someday my dog may “turn” on me, this is such a pet peeve for me I make a big deal out of talking to the person in an attempt to educate them and tell them basically and politely that they are in fact WRONG and that it is FACT and not an OPINION.
    Also been asked if we’d breed, again I launch into a rant about rescues and irresponsible breeding. LoL
    And being attacked by little dogs drives me nuts! I see way too often a small dog behaving in a way that any large dog would be severely punished for. I’ve started carrying spray to deal with being charged by off-leash dogs. Had a nasty min pin follow us hackling, growling, and barking down the street. Thankfully he didn’t come in close enough to try and bite.

    I do love people meeting my dogs (preferably if they ask first!) I know I’m guilty of ooing and awwwing towards big dogs, I always ask if I can meet them first though. 🙂
    I love big dogs! Especially yours!

  8. 2 Brown Dawgs September 17, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    I can relate to so many of your points, even with our Chessies. In our breed temperament is just as important as working ability. As you say much of it is hardwired from way back when they were first bred to guard the ducks and the boats of the market hunters. But I would not call Chessies a guarding breed (although they can exhibit that behavior). They are more protective and owners must be mindful of it. Socialization and strong obedience is very important. Except when people ask “Is that a _______?” It is usually labradoodle. 😉

    Thanks for joining the hop.

    1. Shannon Adams September 20, 2015 at 9:03 am

      It’s true. There is a very large void in educating folks about dogs BEFORE they get them. So many are ill prepared for what it actually means to raise and train one. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  9. mariodacat September 17, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    Hi, I’m hopping over here from the blog hop. Nice to meet you. Those are very good tips. We’ll book mark your page so we can refer dog pals over here.

    1. Shannon Adams September 20, 2015 at 9:01 am

      Thanks so much! And thanks for visiting!

  10. Jodi September 18, 2015 at 11:12 am

    I’m guilty of a few of these myself. 🙁 The last one is hard, especially when I am meeting dogs I read about through blogging….I have a tendency to feel like I really know them. LOL

    I’m not a big fan of little dogs with Napoleon complexes either. It’s totally unfair to the other dog when you have something very small and vocal charging at you. I’ve actually talked to animal control about this, it’s so not fair to my dog walking on lead to be accosted by a small dog off lead.

    Thank you so much for joining the Barks and Bytes Blog hop.

    1. Shannon Adams September 20, 2015 at 9:00 am

      Thanks for having us! I love the little dogs, and own a small dog with a big attitude myself. But I wish more people with these little dogs who have aggression issues would recognize them as such and not allow them to terrorize others simply because they feel they are “harmless.” I’m not speaking of all little dogs, obviously. But not only do people not recognize and deal with the issue, some seem to just flat out not care. 🙁

  11. jlw September 18, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I’ve had Kuvaszok for 12 years. Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 8 never happen, probably because no one ever seems to know they are a guarding breed. Numbers 4, 6, 9, and 10, all the freaking time.

    The pet peeve I have is, in regard to number 10, folks who let their children run up to your dog as if ALL dogs were friendly. Folks, ESPECIALLY folks WITHOUT dogs, teach your children how to interact with dogs. This knowledge may save them one day.

    1. Shannon Adams September 20, 2015 at 8:57 am

      Yes, I can see that with that breed. But I’ll bet #10 would be a huge peeve since they are big and fluffy. Very good point! I need to make a longer list for those large, fluffier breeds that people seem to think are all ok with being hugged as if they are stuffed animals. Thanks for commenting!

  12. April September 23, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    #4 really rubs me the wrong way. And those breeds are the ones allowed in strata complex’s , with owners who do absolutely nothing to correct the behavior.

    And, “Is that a _____ ?” Too often. I used to say Dogo Argentino, but people either never heard of the breed or thought I was mumbling off some name. I just say Mastiff now, or Argentinean Mastiff. People get a better idea of what Bain is.

    1. Shannon Adams September 23, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      I hear you, I also say Mastiff. It’s just less confusing it seems.

  13. PepiSmartDog September 24, 2015 at 4:52 am

    PepiSmartDog: great post with great information. Mum (Michele) has had a few large guard dogs breeds too and has had those exact same things happen to her. Really good to have this info in a post.
    Thank you for joining our Thankful Thursday Blog Hop. We are always thrilled to see you and hope you’ll be back this week too. *waves paw* :=o)

    1. Shannon Adams September 25, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks so much, we love the hop!