Is Your Dog a Loaded Gun?

No, I’m not asking you if your dog is a killer! But if you aren’t COMPLETELY sure your dog is safe in any and all of the situations you put it in, you need to realize it and make sure you protect yourself and others from a potentially dangerous situation. And I’m not just talking about Dobermans, Pit bulls, German Shepherds and Rottweilers! I’m talking about ANY dog because all dogs can (and will) bite if they are put in a stressful situation that they are not prepared for.

In the best case scenario, all dogs should be widely socialized. They should be exposed to the same wide variety of experiences that we as humans are. A well socialized dog is happy and confident and can deal with anything it encounters without reacting adversely. That’s not to say that they won’t react … after all, when you hear a sudden load noise you may jump and become “startled” but you don’t hit someone or run away and hide! Right?

Being able to completely trust your dog is not something that happens overnight. It comes with time. Sometimes it takes a lot of time. Depending on the dog, it’s surroundings, it’s past, and the baggage it bring into your life it can take months and even years to completely trust a dog.

Dogs coming out of a shelter experience often bring baggage like shyness or fear. Some even need basic training like house training and basic obedience.

Puppies are experiencing EVERYTHING for the first time, so they need time to learn and mature before they can be completely trusted.

All dogs must learn to trust you before they will ever become trustworthy. They need to know that no harm will come to it.Working with them on a daily basis is the best way to build trust. If you’ve read much of my stuff you’ll remember that I call it “bonding”.  Once you have bonded with your dog it will trust you.

Working with your dog will open the lines of communication and you will be able to tell your dog the things you want it to know. Training and working with your dog is a life-long project. Just like children, they need daily guidance and learning never stops.

Like any student, your dog must be tested. In the dog world it is called “proofing”. A dog is not 100% trustworthy until it is tested and passes the test in “real world” situations. Just because your dog will stay seated in your kitchen when you open the door, doesn’t mean it can be trusted on the street when a bunch of little kids come running toward him screaming at the top of their lungs!

As a dog owner you are responsible for everything your dog does. You must know how it reacts to every situation. If you don’t you are walking a loaded gun. If you are walking a loaded gun you MUST keep it away from a situation that could make it “go off” …

As a “loaded gun” dog owner, you need to be aware of your dog’s changing moods and attitudes. Body language is the fastest and best way to do this. If your dog becomes tense, frightened or confused when you cross paths with a new dog or a person in the neighborhood you need to know it and you must be able to calm your dog or remove it from the situation before something happens.

Anything can set of a “loaded gun” dog. Some dogs react adversely to someone who moves quickly. Standing over them while trying to pat them on the head can also get you bit. Still other may try to protect themselves if someone tries to grab their tail or touch their paws. I’ve even seen a dog turn and bite someone that is standing behind them.

My suggestion is to do everything you can to get your dog used to every situation this life has to offer. Take them everywhere you can and spend as much time as you can with your family and friends and their dogs.

Personally, My goal with any new dog I get or work with is to have the dog meet one new person and one new dog every day for one year. It must work because I have never owned a dog with social issues and the ones that started with them, didn’t have them for very long!

4 thoughts on “Is Your Dog a Loaded Gun?

  1. Excellent post. This is exactly what I was looking for. I foster dogs and this is probably the most common problem I face is the socialization factor. It should be noted too that even when your dog comfortable with YOUR own dogs, they can still be unpredictable with other dogs. This is what I experienced recently at a dog park, where my foster (who I mistakenly thought was ready to go off leash) chased and attacked another dog. I felt absolutely horrible.

    So at this point, I’m not sure what to do.. should I keep Suber on a leash at all times? Are dog obedience classes useful at his age (approximately 5 years old). He’s a border collie lab cross and I’m not sure what the next step could be. Please advise!

    Bill –

    • Very good point Bill. I would suggest that you keep him on a leash until he can be completely trusted. In the mean time, work on socializing the him in a controlled area and do it “one-on-one” with other CALM dogs.

      I did this with Neka (my German Shepherd) and it worked well. It’s going to take time, so don’t try to rush this process. Let the dog get adjusted to one new dog before you bring in another.

      Yes, obedience classes would also be a great help. Make sure you speak to the instructor before the classes begin so they know what is going on. He/She will be able to offer you some helpful advise.

      • Thanks for the quick reply. Can you give me some tips on how to find a good obedience school? Should I look for certifications, how long should classes take etc? There are lots of people who claim to be dog “behaviouralists” who work out of their own home. They may be fine, but I’m just not quite sure what to look for!

      • Bill, a good obedience instructor will be concerned with YOUR dog and it’s issues. Every dog and situation is different so the instructor should ask you questions that apply to you and your dog. The instructor should be able to offer several possible solutions to your issues. Certifications are only as good as the trainer. I look at the instructor and if they use methods that don’t frighten or hurt the dog I’ll consider them. There is NO NEED to physically force the dog to do anything. Dogs are bred to “want to obey” and a kind person is always able to influence a dog in a very short time.

        Lastly, class length will depend on the amount of dogs in the class. Good instructors keep the sizes small. They should be able to spend time with each dog. I have always keep my training sessions short. (Under 5 mins each) and I work with my dog 3-5 times per day.

        Here is a link to a post i made about training and picking a trainer.

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