When the woof gets mean

It breaks my heart to type this next sentence.

Bella shows signs of aggression near some other dogs.

She never used to. She doesn’t do it at home. She isn’t with people. She doesn’t show aggressive behaviours with 90% of dogs. But that other 10% …  some dogs, dogs who are generally minding their own business, as they walk past our house? No siree, they’re not allowed to do that without being told whose boss.

She went to puppy school. She was socialised from a very young age. She had a dog walker from a very young age. We used to go to the dog park all the time. She went with me. She went with the dog walker. We moved areas, she went with a new dog walker. We got Beary. No problem.

Until that one day at the dog park. No-one could tell me what happened as she was with the dog walker and I was at work, but Bella bit another dog. Thousands of dollars in behavioural vets and trainers later, our regular vet said that she thought maybe the dogs were just rumbling and someone landed in the wrong spot on Bella’s back {she has a disc that slips} and she was responding to the pain.

We put her on puppy prozac. We stopped going to the puppy park. We walked only on the lead and with a halti. The puppy who had been off leash since day dot was now restrained everywhere but home. Then I had Bubba. We walked even less.

The crippling fear that runs through me when I think about the what if. What if she lunges at a dog and I’ve got her and Beary – and Bubba and not enough hands? It’s that crippling fear that keeps us at home. The alternative is not worth thinking about.

Today I went out the front to take the trash out. Bella and Beary followed me. Our little front courtyard is gated and fenced, but a dog walked into view. A dog Bella apparently perceived as some kind of threat, because she lunged at the fence. The trouble is, the paling she lunged at was loose so she went straight through the fence, and straight for the dog. Beary, who thankfully couldn’t fit through the hole in the fence, started barking like a crazy pup, although maybe he thought Bella or I were in danger.

The only danger I was in was from the monster bruise I was about to get on my leg from landing on a paling as I leapt over the fence to grab Bella. In a split second this all happened. Thankfully the girl walking her dog pulled him out of the way quickly. And Bella did let up momentarily so that I could grab her and put her back in our yard.

The girl was lovely and assured me her dog was okay, that they had both just got a fright. She refused my offer to take her dog to our vet to make sure he was okay. I am fairly sure the fright was bigger on my side of the fence. What if Bella had hurt that dog?

What is it that makes my placid, lovely puppy so angry? Why is it only some dogs {we’ve never had an issue when we’ve been to the vet and there are always dogs – and cats – of all shapes and sizes there}?

As I can barely get through the months at the moment, hiring help is not an option for now, so I’m reaching out to you, our blog friends: do you know of any blogs or websites I can read, have any ideas, or has anyone been through a similar situation to this? Or if you are a trainer who lives in Sydney and wants to do a contra deal, I’ll cook for training!

As I type this post, she’s asleep pressed up against me with one paw resting on my leg. Seemingly worlds away from where we were a mere few hours ago. For that brief moment. I’m devastated at her behaviour, but even more devastated by the fear that something will happen and I won’t be able to control the situation.

What do you do when the woof gets mean?

precious pup

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Bongo says:

    When I’m on a leash I sometimes have an issue with other dogs, so my person keeps me close and hopes people with off-leash dogs don’t let them come near me. My person says she hopes you can resolve Bella’s problem.

    1. Thanks Bongo. She wears a collar when she’s at home and I’m at work that lets off a citronella spray if she barks. I’m thinking we may go for walks with that and see if that helps. Paws crossed!

  2. theloverlist says:

    What a scary moment for you. Your heart must have been in your throat!
    My Sonny suffers from on-lead aggression and small dog syndrome. We had a dog trainer over 2 weeks ago to help us out.
    Ill email you tomorrow with our dog trainers advice.
    Take care and I hope Poppy is feeling better xx

    1. That would be great, thanks honey! xx

  3. Solo Mum says:

    I have been to many training classes for aggressive dogs and their problems range so vastly. Some don’t like dogs a certain colour – golden dogs (like my retriever) are disliked a great deal and they put it down to the other dogs having a bad experience with a dog of that colour previously (doggy racism it seems!)

    Have a look on my trainers page. They put loads of training methods on there daily and explain behavioural issues. If they weren’t the other side of the world I’d send them to visit you! Ill link In another comment now

  4. Solo Mum says:


    I know how much of a worry it must be for you. I cried myself to sleep for a few months over my dogs aggressive behaviour because I only saw two options – giving him away or putting him down (if he bit someone else). Thankfully, a strict training program corrected the issues but that’s not to say I have forgotten how awful it feels.

    I really hope you mange to get help for her and sort it out!

    1. That’s wonderful, thank you thank you thank you! I’ve just been over & liked their page and read a couple of things already. I knew {well I hoped!} that by putting a blog up about it someone might have some ideas for me. It is so worrying, but it’s nice to know we’re not alone.

  5. rumpydog says:

    We had a dog named Lucky. He was a great dog. But he started that lunging at other dogs. And one day he climbed over the fence and attacked another dog. This was no small feat because he was disabled.

    After several years it continued. The vet and I talked. I had him euthanized. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I was also not in a position to go the expert route.

    I know it wasn’t what you wanted to hear. I hope the other advice given works.

    1. I’m sorry to hear about Lucky. I hope with all that I am it doesn’t come to that. She is the dog who stole my heart completely. I hope she’s not the one to break it completely.

  6. I’m NEVER off my leash. Sometimes Mom puts my leash on in the HOUSE!! Outside, if I see a dog, I turn to stone. Sometimes, I bark, and Mom says “leave it” and gives me a treat if I stop barking and look at her. I hope Bella remembers how to feel safe.

    Love and licks,

    1. Me too Cupcake, me too! X

  7. Misaki says:

    Sorry I don’t have any practical advice but there are lots of helpful blogs out there I’m sure you’ll find some answers that will help xx

  8. Clowie says:

    I hope that some of the advice you’ve received will help.

  9. I have a dog with fear aggression and have tried everything I can think of to help him. I thought this article was brilliant and thought provoking http://www.suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/he-just-wants-say-hi I hope it will help. I have spent the night in tears worrying I will have to put my dog down so if you want a shoulder feel free to give me a shout!

    1. Thanks – I’ll definitely read the article. She’s such a divine happy puppy within the confines of her own home!

      1. Mine is the most lovely, cuddly dog you have met that loves nothing more than being curled up next to me, and if I stop stroking him for one second I get a gentle paw on the leg reminder. Yet he has issues with dogs being around his face… it’s heart breaking!

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