Home > Dog Behavior, Jasper, Pet Safety > Jasper hates rude dogs. Does your dog too?

Jasper hates rude dogs. Does your dog too?


Jasper playing with his friend, Clover

Yesterday, I posted a great link to a piece written by Suzanne Clothier titled “He Just Wants To Say “Hi!” It’s rather lengthy, but I highly recommend all dog owners and dog lovers read it.

In the piece, Suzanne shares an email (see below) from a concerned dog owner who is confused by her dog’s “aggressive” behavior towards “young, hyper dogs.” If ever there was a description of Jasper, this was it. Cream and Jasper are hewn from the same cloth when it comes to young, hyper dogs. They don’t like them. Most especially when the young, hyper dogs who get in their face don’t recognize (or ignore) the behavioral cues being displayed to them as a warning.

Jasper’s most easily recognized behavioral signals are: a stiffening of his body, his tail curling up and pointing towards his head and the curl of his lip. If a rude dog chooses to ignore those signals, then Jasper will put them in their place. And, he has done so on several occasions.

As his owner, it is my responsibility to intervene before Jasper has to say or do anything. I try to call Jasper to me when I see trouble coming. I have also caught many a hyper puppy before they could get to him and also warned them (and their owner) off before they can get to Jasper. I try to be the one who keeps Jasper from having to express himself with these rude dogs, but on occasion, one does get past me. And, then I have ask the owner to call their dog back to avoid any issues. Unfortunately, not all of them have great recall.

The one thing I haven’t done very well is explain Jasper’s behavior in a way that makes sense to the average dog owner, who does not understand dog body language and behavioral cues and does not see their dog’s behavior as being “rude.” So, I often end up placing the blame on Jasper, not because he is necessarily doing something wrong, but because it’s easier to explain “He just doesn’t like young puppies.” or “He doesn’t like dogs jumping on him.” or “He doesn’t like other male dogs (which isn’t true).” than to explain that my dog doesn’t like your “rude” dog.

I know I am doing Jasper a disservice by explaining his behavior in such a way as to make people seem him as an aggressive dog, but how else do you explain rude dog behavior in such a way that it makes sense to the average dog owner? I welcome any ideas you may have.

In the meantime I will continue to intervene, dodge and defer to avoid moments like Suzanne mentioned in her piece.

Dear Suzanne:
You don’t know me, but L. is a friend of mine, and she suggested I write to you regarding the strange behavior of my dog. I have a female (spayed) golden retriever, 3 years old, named Cream. Cream comes from good lines (champion show), and is “almost” your typical golden: sweet, goofy, lovable, loves ALL people. Recently, Cream became a certified therapy dog through the Delta Society.

Yet Cream has one problem: she hates young, hyper dogs. If a dog starts jumping all over Cream, Cream gets aggressive – starts to growl, shows some teeth, and if the dog doesn’t take the hint after a few seconds, Cream will “attack” the dog. Every time this has happened, it’s happened very quickly, and I get Cream off the dog immediately (and “correct” her – laying her down, holding her muzzle, shaking her a bit, saying “NO!” very sternly, etc.). Cream doesn’t even like young dogs to lick her – she snaps at them if they do.

Now, Cream only displays this aggressive behavior with young, hyper dogs. Cream has regular dog pals that she plays with almost daily – they wrestle, play bite, and run around together. Some of the dogs she plays with are older, some are the same age, some are even younger, the youngest now being about 9 months old. She plays with both sexes, but she does seem to prefer males. (Cream was spayed at 10 months.)

Cream is in good health. She’s on a raw foods diet, had titer testing this year instead of vaccinations, had a full blood panel and thyroid check and both were fine, has been CERFed and her eyes are fine. She does have some mild hip dysplasia, but it doesn’t bother her, and she shows no symptoms. She’s been very well socialized since she’s been a pup, and I bring her everywhere I can (shopping malls, parks, sometimes to campus).

Cream’s been through lots of obedience classes, beginning when she was a pup at 4 months old in puppy kindergarten. For the past several months she’s been going through a basic obedience class with young dogs – I’ve been trying to recondition her behavior towards young dogs. I’ve been food rewarding her when she shows no aggressive behavior to a pup.

It’s been going okay, but two weeks ago, a young mastiff puppy got away from her owner, and came charging at Cream. She crashed into Cream (and it was just because she was over excited – she wasn’t being aggressive) and Cream came up growling and snarling. Then last weekend, a black lab pup did the same thing, and Cream had the same reaction. Throughout the class, Cream won’t even look at the puppies – has her back turned toward them the entire time.

I’ve got the dog trainers of the class stumped, as they don’t really know what to do. Cream’s normally such a sweet dog, good with commands, great with people. Cream’s also wonderful with children, and has an endless supply of patience with kids – they can pull on her ears, hug her tightly, pull on her tail – and Cream loves it. Cream’s fine with dogs who are calm, even friendly towards them, with her tail wagging, and she might even try to get them to play.

Cream has had some bad experiences with dogs. A pit bull jumped out of a car when we were on a walk, and attacked Cream (Cream was about 7 months old). She’s had dogs run out of houses and attack her, and dogs who were supposedly tied up, get loose and attack her.

So, do you have any suggestions or theories for us? Well, I’d really appreciate any thoughts you have on our situation.
Lee Anne

  1. April 17, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    I completely understand what you are saying. Jasper is reacting as most dogs would. Growling is the only way that dogs can express their displeasure at an over-exuberant puppy. How else are puppies going to learn manners? I think most dog owners would understand. My super-happy Labrador Maya has been put in her place a few times. And so long as the other dog doesn’t go all out with the aggression, I have no problem with it. I would be concerned with smaller dogs, though. You are responsible if your dog injures another dog. Does Jasper just growl and snap or does he actually bite? He should be allowed to express himself with a growl and maybe even snapping so long as he is not making contact. It is dangerous to discourage growling because your dog might skip giving a warning and go straight to biting instead.

    • Mel
      April 17, 2012 at 8:18 PM

      Thanks for your comment Dawn. Jasper doesn’t go all out with aggression. OKay. Maybe once, but that was when Daisy was being harassed by a Great Dane who would not take no for an answer. She kept running away and the dog kept coming. As I was intervening, Jasper stepped in to defend her. He backed down once the owner got her dog under control.

  2. April 17, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    Poor Jasper! I would hate rude dogs too! Unfortunately, our Purdy (full bred Australian Shepherd Blue Merle) has never been to a dog park or socialized with other dogs. We are homebodies, all of us (my husband, daughter and I) and can’t afford to get the rabies vaccine for her. She has a huge back yard that she gets to run around in and we throw a frisbee and/or ball for her so she gets plenty of exercise. Mostly though, she prefers to be calm and quiet in the house with me during the day and either lie on the couch or floor and just hang out with us. If I were to take her to a dog park (after her rabies vac) I would make sure and read up on dog park etiquette to make sure we are following dog park rules and regulations just so I know what to expect.

    • Mel
      April 17, 2012 at 8:16 PM

      Maybe Purdy is happy not to go to the dog park. It’s not for every dog. Certainly when I am there, I make sure to keep Jasper busy and away from the ones I think may be an issue. If he didn’t love it, I wouldn’t go. I think Purdy sounds like she is content with her homebody parents. :)

      • April 26, 2012 at 6:44 PM

        Thanks Mel, I think so too. She’s a great indoor dog and we got very lucky with her. She so fits in with the rest of the family, even the cat!

  3. Kristine
    April 17, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    As Shiva is a rude, space-invading dog herself she actually does very well with hyper, young puppies. It’s the older Border Collies and Shelties she doesn’t get along with as well. Other than she loves to rile them up and run away – hence her nickname, Shiva the Instigator. ;-)

    All joking aside – and I am only half-joking – Jasper’s dislike of dog rudeness is totally understandable. People don’t realize but what their hyper dogs are doing in dog language is the equivalent of running up to Jasper and yelling in his face. It’s obnoxious. If I were him, I’d probably snarl too. For this reason I have worked very very hard in teaching Shiva not to run up to strange dogs when on a leash. If she does get away from me and gets a negative response from a dog at the park, I would never blame the dog for reacting. Just my jerky dog who has no manners. In her defense, if a dog doesn’t like her, she will usually leave them alone after the first bad interaction. She didn’t always but she has learned at least that much!

    All that said I have no idea how to explain this to non dog-savvy owners in a way that doesn’t sound rude. Back when we were working with her dog reactivity I handled it much the same way you are.

    • Mel
      April 17, 2012 at 8:13 PM

      How interesting that it is Shelties and Border Collies she doesn’t get along with. Maybe they are just more easily offended than other breeds? Daisy seems to have an extremely high tolerance for rude dogs. I have only seen her reprimand a small puppy once and he actually deserved it. I have never seen a puppy as young as this one was so fill of confidence and so completely rude in is approach towards other dogs. But other than that one puppy, Daisy just tolerates rude behavior (especially from her brother).

      I love your name for Shiva. I am so very glad she chose you to be her owner.

      It’s nice to know that some people aren’t offended when their dog upsets another dog and that dog lets them know about it.

      • Kristine
        April 18, 2012 at 9:27 AM

        It’s just a theory but I think it’s an energy thing. Shiva runs around like an idiot who has no self-awareness. Intense herding breeds like BCs and Shelties probably instinctively feel the need to control her wildness. One of our fellow agility dogs is a sheltie who barks at her every time she runs off the course. Her mania drives him insane.

        Shiva’s best friends are boxers and huskies – dogs that also have little self-control.

  4. Jen
    April 18, 2012 at 12:29 AM

    Really, some dogs just don’t like puppies. Some dogs don’t like other dogs.

    I don’t know that I’d call Cream’s description in the letter “aggressive” (and don’t think that the corrections are going to help in the slightest). She’s telling the puppy that behavior isn’t acceptable, in ticked-off-older-dog language. Granted, I know this isn’t a letter to you, or one that you wrote….just saying.

    (then I got smart and went and read the article that you’d linked, because while I know how Clothier started it,I couldn’t remember any Cream mention. So it’s good to know that I’m somewhat on the right track!)

    • Mel
      April 18, 2012 at 7:07 AM

      LOL! Yes you were Jen! I agree that it’s not “aggression” if a dog is telling another dog to back of because they are being rude.

  5. Amanda kent
    July 6, 2012 at 1:53 AM

    I appreciate all your comments. We were just at a house party this weekend with a one year old black lab, a two year old husky and our six year old Maltese. They all know each other well, but our Maltese wants nothing to do with the two young dogs. When the lab runs up or sniffs at him he growls. I called the lab’s behavior rude, but everyone pooh poohed me saying that that’s what dogs do, they sniff each other. They said instead that the Maltese just wasn’t friendly and doesn’t like other dogs, which isn’t true. The other two dogs will run over the Maltese in their play and not think anything of it, then when he growls back he’s called unfriendly. Both of the young dogs supposedly are just being “dogs”, but I actually think my Maltese is more discerning and just wants to be treated respectfully. How can I make my friends understand the error of their thinking.

    • Mel
      July 6, 2012 at 7:07 AM

      Oh Amanda. That’s so frustrating! Yes. Your Maltese is fine. Young pups tend not to know their social boundaries yet – that’s why they tend to get bitten or attacked or growled at. My frustrations with young pups is usually not the pup, but his/her owner. Most owners think their puppy is so cute that everyone must think so and thus when a dog growls at their dog they can’t understand it. The truth is they don’t know anything about dog body language. Your Maltese was teaching these young dogs what is appropriate social behavior in the dog world. Generally a growl comes because they ignored many of the social cues given before the growl.

      I recommend reading and sharing “Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog“. It may help you to explain to your friends why they need to manage their puppies and their puppy’s behavior.

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