Does your large dog scare people?

Article about responsible dog ownership with large dogs.
By Laure-Anne Viselé, July 2010

He’s just a big teddy bear

You have a large dog and he’s adorable. I can relate, I have lived with my fair share of giants. But experience has taught me that no-one knows ‘He’s just a big teddy bear’.

Sadly, many large-breed owners let their persecution complex get the better of their judgement instead of showing some common courtesy to the public.

They often complain: “Why are people so ignorant? Rottweillers/Pitbulls/German Shepherds/etc. are not aggressive”.

Scaremongering media

Don’t get me wrong, I also get frustrated by scaremongering, where the “sensational” breeds (e.g.  Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Pit Bulls, Rottweillers,…) are hysterically over-represented.

I also know that bite statistics (for what they are worth) consistently fail to show one breed significantly more likely to bite than another. But…

… it’s all to do with emotion and perception, and nothing to do with reason and fact. If someone feels intimidated by your dog, rightly or wrongly, be kind.

The bad few that drag our name in the mud

These are a few of the shocking incidents that I see day in, day out, with large breeds.

Muzzled attack

Muzzled German Shepherd repeatedly attacks my dog while I am walking with my 1-year-old child.

Owner’s response? I am “being hysterical” (I sternly tell him to get his dog on-leash), and “the dog is muzzled, he can’t do anything”.

Rough-play

There is this really wild Staffie in our dog field who bullies every other dog, and will not stop “play”-biting, even though the other dogs give calming signals and yelp incessantly.

Owner’s response? “The dog park is for everyone” (the irony seems to elude them…)

Heel-biting children and pestering dogs

This infamous Tervuren (black, long-haired Belgian Shepherd) pestered my dog for over 5 minutes, no matter how many times I ask the owner to give us some space, and no matter how many times my dog growls and snaps.

That same dog had just chased away a family with young children for constantly heel-biting them.

Owner’s reaction? (smiling and shrugging): “He’s still young” and “He has no recall“.

So the recall is not the owner’s responsibility? It is like a magic trick that a dog either has, or doesn’t.

I might add that the ‘young’ dog was over 10 months old. Definitely old enough to have learned some manners.

Roaming free in a restaurant

It has become impossible for me to go and enjoy a cup of coffee with my dog there, as this owner lets his dog roam unsupervised through the whole restaurant. As my dog is tethered to the table foot –I have manners–he is cornered as that large dog (German Shepherd) invades his personal space again and again.

Owner’s reaction? Irritatingly raising his eyebrows when I ask him to keep his dog tethered. How rude of me to ask him to show the rest of us common decency.

Hot chasers

Two Briards chasing my terrorized dog over such a long distance that we had to look for him for twenty minutes afterwards. This was one of our first attempts off-leash after adopting him from the shelter, and his recall had been perfect so far, so we were panicking of course.

Owners’s reaction? (whilst walking away and unenthusiastically (and ineffectively) calling their dogs back) “You should have your dog on-leash if he doesn’t like other dogs“.

The thing is, my dog likes other dogs. What he doesn’t like is being charged by two unfamiliar dogs with no play signal or formal introductions. You own the relentless chasers, you keep them on-leash.

Unprovoked puncture wounds

This huge Argentinian Mastiff went out of her way to attack my dog (we were nowhere near them), leaving several puncture wounds needing veterinary attention.

Owner’s reaction (when visited by the animal control police, as his dog had repeatedly attacked other dogs): “It’s a dog eat dog world. If she had really attacked him, he’d be dead. Everyone is victimizing my dog.” He later physically threatened complaining dog owners.

Hoarding (and breaking) toddlers’ football

This Black German Shepherd who repeatedly steals away a couple of toddlers’ football, eventually puncturing it, and preventing them from getting to it.

Owner’s reaction to my shocked look: “It’s a dog park [It wasn’t…]. They should not bring kids here.”

Terrorizing a Down Syndrome kid

Malinois/Greyhound mix who is infamous in our park for repeatedly lunging (and chasing when off-leash) at joggers, photographers, skate-boarders, cyclists, …

Owner’s reaction: “Yes, I really should get an electric collar” after I had repeatedly talked to him about:

  • Teaching her a sound recall,
  • Desensitizing her to joggers, and
  • Having her on-leash until she was under control.

He is now at the stage where he systematically shouts at her and jerks her leash whenever a jogger approaches. Straight out of “Make your dog’s aversion worse 101”.

I reached the end of my tether and stopped walking with him when he found it suitable to regale us with this hilarious (not) anecdote: his dog had chased a teenager with Down Syndrome. The shrieking kid ran through barbed wire to get away, and tore his arm in the process.

Owner’s reaction: “: The dog “doesn’t like shrieking, so she started chasing. If only the stupid kid had stopped shrieking“. I was flabbergasted at this lack of kindness. Really? That’s the lesson?

Off-leash Rottweiller with no owner in sight

An off-leash Rottweiller comes straight at our dog walking group. Immediate group hysteria with whispers of “He’s so dominant!”. The dog was adorable, but the walking group kept perceiving him as a threat. So I gently guided him away from the group with no incident and, after a long while, the owner turned up.

Owner’s reaction: “Ha, there he is! Thanks!” Two meters down the road, the owner unclips the leash and proceeds to let the dog wander miles off again

Sure there was nothing to worry about, but here’s a newsflash for you: people are (irrationally perhaps) scared of Rottweilers. Surely you know that? You own one:  you must have seen people’s reaction.

Huge dogs charging at a group of panicked children

Two Newfoundlanders dash away from their owners in pursuit of a small group of panicked young children. The mother is hysterical and screams insults at the dog owner. To the educated eye, sure, these two dogs had good intentions and they are not even that rough, but that mother’s fear is legitimate.

How on earth would she know that the dogs were OK? From her perspective, two huge strange dogs are charging at her kids.  What sort of a mother would she be to trust in the common sense of a perfect stranger (the dog owner)? When it came to her kids, that lady assumed the worst, and good for her.

Owner’s reaction: “That woman is always bothering me! They’re just dogs, what’s her problem?“. So that wasn’t even the first time?!

Bacchus, my parents' Anatolian Shepherd

Simple equation

Here’s the equation:

Passerby intimidation = Dog size / (Dog obedience * Owner courtesy)

If you, like me, love your dogs big, please:

  • Ask for permission before letting your dog into others’ personal space (dogs or people)
  • Work on a perfect recall
So if you want a large breed, remember: you’ll be held to much higher standards.

Any comments?

I always value your comments. I would particularly like to hear from you if you:

  • own a breed that is often perceived as intimidating. What do you do to break the ice?
  • are often intimidated or inconvenienced by large, or intimidating breeds

Further reading

Responsible dog ownership

Dogs and society

Dog breeds

Dog behaviour

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20 Comments

  1. Posted 1 August 2010 at 22:20 | Permalink

    Wholeheartedly agree with your comments.
    I own Max, an 11 month old Wire-Haired Vizsla. He’s a big donut. So silly, not at all aggressive. Willing to play with anyone/anything.

    However, he is big, entire, long legged, big headed, and many uninitiated people think he is a Ridgeback. I can see why at times.

    The best thing I can advise when out walking a dog that fits the bill you describe above is to be sure that you have a sound recall. Recall the dog back to you , ask it to sit and stay whilst the other walker/dog walks past. Once a healthy distance has been created, release your dog in the direction you want to walk. I do this frequently, and especially with people without a dog beside them.

    Keep up the lovely work here.

    Nick
    Alpha Dog Behaviour

  2. Posted 1 August 2010 at 22:28 | Permalink

    Oh thanks for the comment, Nick. I much appreciate it, especially given the fact that you are a behaviour therapist.

    I completely agree with your method: demonstrate that your dog has an excellent recall, and have him sit quietly next to you until the passers-by are ‘safely’ past. That’s what I do too: be it cyclists, joggers (they get especially nervous), people with smaller dogs, people with a leashed dog, families… You name it.

    My dog has gotten so used to this little routine that he now automatically comes back to me for a treat, without me even asking, when he sees one of the people I just mentioned in the distance.

  3. Posted 2 August 2010 at 10:46 | Permalink

    Good article. I’m the Consultant Behaviourist for Neapolitan Mastiff Welfare and work with this as well as all Molosser breeds. In my Walk Clubs I teach owners of all breeds but ESPECIALLY the large / giants that it is their responsibility to ensure that their dog does not cause anybody else any problems. In addition, that they are the guardians not only of their own dog but their chosen breed, and it is also their responsibility not to put their breed into disrepute. I constantly remind owners how great it looks when their Bullmastiff / Akita / Newfoundland / Great Dane etc has recalled to their owner for a calm ‘Sit Stay’ when people walk by. We often get comments like ‘Wow, how well-behaved are those dogs – I wish my dog would do that!!!’.

  4. Posted 2 August 2010 at 23:24 | Permalink

    Thank you for posting, Jaq. Your comment as a ‘big guys’ specialist is particularly valuable.

    I love the way you phrase this, describing the owners as the ‘guardians of their breeds’ and how it is their responsibility ‘not to bring their breed into disrepute’. That is precisely my sentiment, and very well put.

  5. @MidasplusTijs
    Posted 4 January 2011 at 18:37 | Permalink

    We repeat here what we twittered yesterday about this article. But, because this is not Twitter, we can use more words, hurray! We are Twee Koningspoedels – two standardpoodles, en this is what we say:

    Yes – we sometimes scare people, just because of our size – especially little children coming in our home, children who normally not live with dogs, in fact we suppose they’ve never seen a dog. We have to stay in another room then – Midas is used to that, Tijs not yet! He barks impatiently then. Children often wants to see us after an hour or so, and then they see we’re nice, and everything is allright.
    What? Do king poodles frighten people, you’ll say? Well, when we have all our hair, then we look like bouviers, and Midas is 65 cm high:-)
    Thanks for your article. Our human is reading about dominance…
    …she’s very interested in that subject. People call me, Midas, dominant. And I see them thinking: Glad we have a sleepy one.
    …Our human is relieved by articles like yours. I, Midas, am a macho to some dogs – but not to people! I work together with people!

    Now our human. She says: This is in fact more handling about dominance, but it interests me very much how dog-owners have different opinions about the subject. Midas is a nice dog, easy en calm at home, but outside he’s feels like the king himself. He has so much energy, runs through the woods, sniffles everywhere, is sometimes digging holes where he expect a rabbit etc. (by the way: in area’s where this all is allowed). To dogs he’s social, but very self-confident. To the females he’s gentlemanlike. Males are another story. He’s not agressive -he avoids fighting, as I see when he meets a special ridgeback-, but to some dogs -often labradors- he behaves like a macho. I don’t know the English word, but then he shows ‘rijgedrag’. I call him back, but he will do the same next time. It’s over when a dog snaps at him, but when the dog does nothing… O-o. Leads to angry owners towards me. It happened to me that a owner said: When your dog is doing that, hé’s the boss, not you. He’s your boss! And that’s something that is based on the pack-theory, am I right? I don’t believe it. This dog listens perfect when I call him back when I see a labrador on the horizon. And that’s what I do know – I let him walk near to me when a too kindly dog is nearby. No problem.
    And, although I know better, I still ask myself: Is my dog abnormal? Is he a véry dominant one? I mean: It’s crazy how other dog-owners can influate you.

    • Posted 4 January 2011 at 23:09 | Permalink

      Thank you!
      Thank you so much for your valuable comment, Midas and Tijs! P.S. I LOVE King Poodles! So smart and regal! Wow, 65cm! That is enormous! I can imagine that people are scared of him if he comes charging by, and that they might think he’ll hurt their dog when he’s all excited.

      Trick for kids
      Little trick for you to break the ice when there are kids around. Teach your dogs some tricks (and the kids some dog manners), and kids will be instantly less intimidated. This can also work in the dog park (to get people to instantly see your dog for the charmer that he is, rather than an intimidating ball of hair). A good book for that is “The only dog tricks your dog will ever need“. There’s lots of really useful tricks there (I taught my dog to find my car keys from that book!), and it explains really well and in simple, but complete steps.

      Putting him in the other room
      Can’t blame him for barking if he’s put away in the other room. I hate doing that to my dog although we also must sometimes (allergic friends, and when we had the painters in). But perhaps you could habituate him first? So that he comes to think of his “isolation” as a good thing? I know it’s not separation anxiety, but the desensitisation protocol I talk about in this article is the same idea. Check it out and see if you find it useful.

      Mounting labradors: what is it about labs?
      He mounts (rijgedrag) labradors? That is so bizarre. My dog does not mount any dog – EVER – except for my neighbour’s labrador!

      But about mounting in general, a lot of people speculate that mounting is related to dominance, or at least ritual aggression, which, you know, it could be, who knows, but why look for a complicated explanation? Dogs aren’t subject to the same taboos that we are, and it could be that he just finds it sexually rewarding. Either way, I can categorically say that it’s absolutely nothing to do with him feeling the boss of you. It just means that the motivation of doing that is greater than what you can offer him when you’re calling him back. Imagine being in that same situation as he is (without wanting to be too graphic), and then getting a phone call. I think you’d probably let it go to voicemail, wouldn’t you? ; P

      Mounting = a problem
      But mounting is a problem if it makes other owners angry. If only because it ends up making you feel uneasy and not enjoy your walks so much, for fear people are going to be annoyed with you. I can understand why they’re angry too, and obviously you do too.

      The solution is to teach him a rock-solid recall, a more solid recall than all their dogs, by the way. It can take weeks and weeks, but it should be possible. There are lots of resources on the internet (Dogmantics tutorials are fantastic. This one is on the recall).

      I would teach him the recall with increasing degrees of distraction, gradually working your way from no distraction at all to the explosive situation (offleash, with a juicy labrador!).

      In the meantime, for the sake of other park users, he should perhaps either be on a long leash, or you should be very vigilant for the presence of ‘tempting’ dogs, so that you can recall him to you (with a super yummy treat just after you clip the leash, and not grabbing him by the collar or patting him on the head).

      Other dog owners and their opinions
      I so agree with you about other dog owners and how confusing it is with the million theories they all have. I would really recommend a great book to you, actually, which made me see more clearly (I was also getting so confused with ‘this means your dog doesn’t respect you’ and ‘that means he’s trying to dominate the other dog’ etc. etc. etc.) The book is written by a much greater authority than the average dog owner in the Netherlands (so you’ll feel confident of your source), and it will bring it back down to simple terms, without recourse to speculation and myth. It’s called ‘the Culture Shock’ by Jean Donaldson. It’s really readable (not scientific English, but every day language).

      Good luck!
      Good luck, see how you get on in the next few weeks, and you can always make an appointment for some private training lessons with me if you’re in the region of the Hague.

      P.S. I know I’ve said that, but I LOVE king poodles! Great choice of breed.

      • @MidasplusTijs
        Posted 6 January 2011 at 00:35 | Permalink

        Oooh, if you ever meet us, you would be even more fond of king poodles then you are now! We’re funny. We’re beautiful. We are cute and happy and love every new day, and we’re smart!
        Our human again:
        Thank you for your valuable advises and answers! I’m glad because
        – you recognize things,
        – you give clear advise, and tips for reading!
        – and I realise again that what I have to do is spend time to train on special things, such as: leaving Tijs in a room when scared children visit us. I’m hopeful about training because these dogs are so smart. We just started with “Hersengymnastiek voor honden” (Nicky Gootjes), do you know the book? Exercises for their brains. You should see the faces of those poodles. They like learning and working for a salary, really. It must be possible for Tijs to learn that sometimes he must stay in another room, while knowing nothing terrible is happening.
        You talk about recalls, and a wonderful thing of this two dogs is that they run immediately towards me when I call them (except when they see a cat, that’s true). Since Tijs came as a puppy I carry always very tasty little cookies with me, and that’s an awesome motivation for them. :o) All I have to do when I notice a dog which Midas shall mount, is to call in time -before he’s underway to say hello to the other dog-, and he runs near me, begging for a cookie. I think this is the best thing to do: always call him back in time, don’t you think so? The only thing that’s perhaps less pleasant for other owners is that other dogs decide to stay with us, because of the cookies.:o) But that is just for a moment the case. I can’t solve áll problems, I suppose…

        I’m looking forward to read the books you recommended!
        PS Do you know “How Dogs Think: Understanding the Canine Mind”, Stanley Coren? I read it as “Psychologie van de hond”, in Dutch, and I enjoyed it.

      • Posted 6 January 2011 at 10:21 | Permalink

        Hi Midas & Tijs. You sound like two charmers! Who knows, maybe I’ll bump into you during one of my walks!

        Yep, poodles are smart cookies, for sure. They have the wits of a Border Collie without the neurosis! ; P Can you imagine a sheep herding king poodle?

        I think it’s important that other dog owners stop making people feel guilty about their dog’s behaviours for bogus reasons. A lot of people really tell you that unless your dog is a Lassie through and through, you have failed at your relationship with them. That can only lead to neurotic feelings of guilt and pressure, if you ask me. Of course some motivations are higher than your recall. They are dogs, not robots. And it sounds like your dogs have an excellent recall and can take quite a bit of temptation before they start ignoring your calls.

        You’ve got the right idea with the recall, in my opinion. That’s exactly how I do it too. About other owners being potentially bothered when you have treats and their dog hangs around. I personally love these situations. If my dog is scared of their dogs, he won’t beg. If my dog is comfortable with their dogs, he’ll hang around and socialise with them. It gives me the opportunity to have a chat with the owners, so really I love it. I am sure you know to ask the owners before giving their dog a treat, so I personally don’t see a problem at all.

        About the isolation to another room, I think it’s more a question of getting him used to gradually staying there for longer and longer periods of time, rather than actually teaching him something in a cerebral way. He is smart, no doubt, but this one is more an emotional ‘trick’. The whole idea is that he begs you to go to the corridor by the time you’ve finished your ‘treatment’, because you would have made it the ‘land of all things good’.

        I could be completely mistaken (I need to check my records), but I thought Stanley Coren was this (human) psychologist, right? If I recall, I had started reading his book (The dog’s mind?) and got very frustrated at the many mentions of dominance (a published author should know better). Isn’t the first chapter about a Rottweiller who won’t stop nudging its owner for attention? I could be completely confused, though, and thinking of another book. I’ll need to check.

        I have to admit I am desperately behind on the Dutch canine literature. So thanks for the reference! (Hersengymnastiek voor honden). I’ll check it out.

        Nice chatting with you!

      • @MidasplusTijs
        Posted 6 January 2011 at 11:53 | Permalink

        I’ll check the book of Coren! I read it years ago and I lent it out, so I can’ read now what he says about dominance. It is possible I didn’t notice then, because I read it before I had a dog myself – and after that I gradually learned about the different theories of dominance. Once I thought the pack theory was normal, but later -when I looked at my own dogs- I started to doubt. You keep learning when you have dogs, don’t you?

        Have a nice day!

        Success with your good work.

      • Posted 6 January 2011 at 16:40 | Permalink

        It’s funny, I was just listening to a podcast by him (Stanley Coren) about age-proofing your dog (including teaching them sign-language!). Very interesting stuff indeed, and very original and thought-provoking. I am just a little uncomfortable with the fact that he presents himself as an academic in the dog field, when all his publications are in human psychology. I do not know whether the later editions of the “Canine mind” were updated to show the latest knowledge on dominance (although it’s nothing new, the whole pack theory thing started to be rejected in the scientific community in the 80’s)

        How very astute of you to have noticed that something was iffy about the pack theory. I had never really thought about it until I started reading serious scientific literature about dogs. I admire people who instinctively pick up on the oddities of the theory (like Alexandra Semyonova, American author and behaviourist who moved to the Netherlands and wrote 100 Silliest things people say about dogs). She also thought it was odd, but, as she is a scientist, she conducted all sorts of experiments on her dogs at home.

      • @MidasplusTijs
        Posted 6 January 2011 at 11:57 | Permalink

        By the way: I like dog owners. Anyway, most of them. You could write a book about owners!

      • Posted 6 January 2011 at 16:32 | Permalink

        Dog owners are one of the nicest things about having a dog. I’ve had some interesting chats with them while out on walks!

        I love to get to know them, and go walking together as a group. I’ve done that with a few people and the dogs LOVE it!

        But because of the misinformation about dogs being pack animals, and the whole alpha leadership thing, they can really put a lot of unfair pressure on other dog owners, making them feel like, somehow, their dogs do not respect them, just because the dog shows one behaviour or another. That’s when it gets challenging.

  6. Lubka
    Posted 24 February 2012 at 14:38 | Permalink

    Our Leonberger is about 50kg (female) and just 3 years old, thus still very playful, but very stable, loving character. Leos are usually very quiet, but until they grow up, they are still big dogs that are not aware how strong they are and their owners often underestimate it. As our Leo was never hurt by people, she loves everyone, especially children. You can imagine how strong is her tail when she wiggles it from happiness.. We trained her quite well to make her ready for the world outside, some valuable skills are for example to lie down when a small child is approaching her; or not to lick anyone’s face or not to take any food from anyone unless allowed from us (not yet 100%).

    However, even that she is well behaved, it is the small dogs that are attacking her (biting her legs from behind, growling & barking when on leash) and the irresponsible owners just say “what can my dog do to yours, he is a giant!?”. Yes, but gentle giant, never fights back. I think people underestimate that small dogs have also teeth, can have a complex, bad memory and if their owners don’t spend enough time with them (have them as a toy), the energy gets out on others in a park..

    Also, there are some breeds that get labelled as perfect family dogs, but there is always a dog somewhere that was not brought-up well. Our last leo almost lost his eye and the skin on his skull was ripped open when he was as a 1 year old puppy attacked by female golden retriever in a park. The owner just ran away, which means it wasn’t the first time..

    Yes, not all are comfortable when seeing large dog, but it is ultimately the owner’s responsibility to educate their dogs, think ahead, show respect to others and make the world a better place where there is space for dog lovers and non-dog lovers.

    Thanks for all your articles, I love them!

    • Posted 21 March 2012 at 20:24 | Permalink

      Wow, Lubka, so many really really really good points.

      Small dogs have teeth too: Absolutely, and thanks for pointing this out. I can’t abide owners of small dogs who just let them run totally unchecked under the pretext that they’re small. They’re being really poor ambassadors to dog owners everywhere plus, they could really turn ‘gentle giants’ into ‘paranoid mountains’ if they are allowed to nip, bark, and generally annoy them.

      Well done on all your training efforts. You’re really going above and beyond the basics, and that’s fantastic. Great thinking on teaching her to lie down when there are kids. Although I should probably say that ‘kids have teeth’ too, as there are limits to what your poor dog, big or not, should be willing to tolerate, right?

      Wow, that incident when your dog was a puppy. I can’t believe it’s not developed a huge aversion for other dogs, or at least dogs of that type. Well done again for raising such a stable dog.

      So, again, thanks so much for your really good points. Food for thought, everyone!

  7. Mary-Anne
    Posted 11 November 2012 at 01:56 | Permalink

    Joining a facebook friend in questioning your credentials when you call a Belgian Malinois – a short haired German Shepherd – it isn’t, the breed existed before German Shepherds – and a Black Long Haired Belgian Sheepdog, a Tervuren – it also isn’t, it is a Groenendahl and all three are varieties of the Belgian Shepherd -a Belgian Malinois is a short coated Tervuren and a black long coated Belgian Shepherd is a Groenendahl. The German Shepherd comes in two varieties – Coated and Stock Haired.

    My second comment comes that if you’re having all these problems at Dog Parks – why in the world are you frequenting them with your dogs? The one place that I never take my obedience, agility, tracking and herding trained German Shepherds is to a dog park.

    • Posted 12 November 2012 at 11:09 | Permalink

      Hi Mary-Anne

      Thanks for your comment.

      My problem is that you can’t trust the good sense and obedience of dogs in dog parks, so your dog could develop an aversion to other dogs from an unfortunate encounter there. Happens so often. I think it’s best to get to know a few people with other dogs whom you trust. Less chance of an incident.

      But in this article, I am not talking of dog parks, I am talking of places where dogs are allowed off-leash. I have every right to go and enjoy those with my dog without being bullied or intimidated by rude dogs/inconsiderate owners.

      I was saying ‘short-haired German Shepherd’ to give a rough idea of morphology/what they look like to newbies who have no idea what they are. It’s misleading, though. You’re right. I’ve removed it.

  8. Mary
    Posted 4 April 2013 at 11:35 | Permalink

    Great post >g< My dog is reactive so he's never off leash in public and I always give everyone a wide space when we are walking. I really appreciate it when other owners recognize my problem and keep their dogs under control. I also really apprieciate it when people let me know they are coming up behind me (for ex. "passing on the left) before they jog, bike, skate or scooter past me so I have a second or two to distract my dog. I always try to call out "thank you" to them.

  9. Cecily
    Posted 29 March 2014 at 15:57 | Permalink

    As an owner of a Great Dane, I’m constantly either receiving enthusiastically positive or particularly negative remarks/behaviour towards my dog. People are either terrified or besotted. My boy is definitely on the large side, taller than my five foot seven height when standing on his hind legs. His almost pure black coat seems to add to both extreme responses, too.
    It’s always either people stopping and staring at him like he’s a monster, crossing the street to avoid him, literally fleeing from the sight of him, or it’s the complete opposite: people running up to him, shouting out of their car at me and asking me questions, or the phrase I never, ever fail to hear while we’re on a walk: “he’s as big as a horse!” or the equally as original, “Where’s his saddle?”
    It’s got to a point though, that I’m nervous when walking my Dane, because I sincerely don’t know what people’s reaction to him is going to be. Negative? Or positive? Both can be jarring experiences, especially when I tell them that he’s timid and they just keep on coming for him.
    When I first got my Dane we lived in an incredibly non-dog-friendly place. It was absurd how few dogs were there, and even weirder how averse people were them. Even when my boy was still growing he was treated like a monster. It was impossible for me to take him somewhere without people making me feel like I was leading around a wild animal. And the dog park? Forget about it! Such bad memories from that place. Not only was I knocked off my feet by a dog whose owner never blinked an eyelid or breathed a word, but my Dane picked up terrible habits, and was roughed up by two different dogs in the duration of one visit.
    I’ve moved since then, thankfully, but it was a real eye-opener, that’s for sure. He still gets treated like a disease sometimes, and it’s effected his social skills somewhat, but it’s no where near as bad as it was before.

    • Posted 1 April 2014 at 20:49 | Permalink

      Thanks, Cecily. It’s great to hear from a giant’s mom. As the previous owner of a couple of giants myself, I can totally relate.

      It’s odd how their oversize sort of oversizes people’s reaction, but it does.

      Your boy sounds beautiful, though!

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