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?
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