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  • Writer's pictureCaryl Wolff

Defensive Dog Handling

Updated: Feb 17, 2022

Defensive Dog Handling

I had been writing at my computer all day and decided to take a break and take my dogs for a walk. I went out my front door, and there were three women and a dog stopped and talking to the right, which is the direction we usually go on a walk.

When I’m in “writing” mode, my brain does not function well in “talking” mode, so I decided to cross the street in order not to interact with them.

Two of the women followed me across the street. They came head-on up to my dogs and stopped right in front of them. My dogs started barking because because approaching head-on is very confrontational to a dog. But these women did not walk away; they continued to stand there with my dogs’ barking at them. I held out my arm and told them to continue walking. They gave me “that look” and then they finally walked away. However, not without shouting how rude I was halfway down the block.

Let’s examine who really is rude here.

During my classes and lessons, we talk about how to deal with what I call “rude people.” These are people who put their own emotional gratification above the welfare of themselves, dogs, and other people. They don’t ask if they can interact with your dog — they just do it. (They likely would not do the same thing with babies, but who knows? I would not take the chance.)

To me, any dog that is barking at someone is telling the person that it does not want to interact. But that fact does not register in the person’s brain — all the person wants to do is pet the dog. Perhaps the dog (your dog) is cute. Perhaps your dog brings them back to a fond memory in childhood. Perhaps they had a dog that looked like yours when they were a child.

None of that matters to me, and it should not matter to you. It’s our job to protect our dogs (and ourselves). Period. I have found that if you ask these people politely not to interact, they say something along the lines of, “Well, all dogs like me.”

My answer used to be, “Well, THIS dog doesn’t want to have anything to do with you, and he’s telling you to stay away because if you come any closer, he is going to bite you.”

Now, I simply tell the people to walk on, raise my arm, and hold my hand giving the “Stop” signal. It startles them.

So, what have I done? I have offended someone that is rude to begin with and stopped my dogs from biting someone and myself from being sued.. (My dogs probably would not bite, but I don’t want to take that chance.)

Let me relate something that did happen to me with my dog Chayla several years ago. Chayla was a pistol — 55 pounds, a cattle dog/schnauzer mix, and a real handful. She was put on this earth to deflate my ego and teach me to be a better trainer.

We lived in an apartment, so we had to go to the park every day — for THREE hours because that’s how much exercise she needed. She was wild. I won’t go into all the stories, except to say she was *very* difficult to train.

On this particular day about a month after I had adopted her, we had gone to get her microchipped. A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and is injected with a hypodermic needle between the should blades — that’s gotta hurt!

After she was chipped, we went to the car wash. We were standing in line to pay, and there was one woman in front of me who was arguing with the cashier about something. I wasn’t listening because I was looking at Chayla, telling her what a good girl she was for standing quietly with me. It amazed me.

Out of nowhere, a little girl about five years old came racing around the corner and grabbed hold of Chayla right where she had been chipped. The woman was her mother, and she just stood there looking at her kid. I told the woman to get her away from my dog. (Believe me, I was not that polite!) Fortunately, Chayla liked kids and did not even attempt to bite her, even though it had to be painful.

The woman looked at me like I was an idiot and continued to argue with the cashier. (*I* told the girl to stop.) The argument was because her daughter had opened a package of candy, and the cashier said she had to pay for it or she would be calling the police. The woman refused and walked out.

What would have happened if Chayla would have bitten her? Judging by what I had seen and heard with this woman, she would have sued me. That woman refused to take responsibility for her daughter’s actions. I did not want to be involved in a lawsuit, especially since I was a former court reporter and knew the emotional and financial toll a lawsuit entails.

That was a huge lesson for me and gave me the idea — and the guts — to implement Defensive Dog Handling.

Don’t feel bad about telling rude people to back off. (But do be prepared for the fallout, which will not be pretty.) They are going to be out of your life in a New York minute. That’s much better than having them in your life as a plaintiff in a lawsuit…..

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Disclaimer: This article is for information only. It does not replace a consultation with a dog trainer, dog behavior consultant, or veterinarian and may not be used to diagnose or treat any conditions in your dog.

If you need help with puppy or dog training, we do both private in-person and virtual lessons via Zoom. Please contact us by calling or texting (310) 804-2392 or sending an email to . We look forward to working with you.


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