It’s such a dilemma, having a not-so-social dog. I’m exceptionally social. It’s hard for me to not be social. Yet, when we’re out walking, I need to be less social to keep my little black Labrador comfortable and calm.
I just did a little emergency u-turn with said black Labrador (the little girl on the left there) when I saw my neighbor coming up the street with her dog.
The social butterfly in me cringes as I turn away. I want to shout “I’m friendly! Really! I’m just turning around because of my dog.” And Lily’s friendly, too, just very reactive when she’s on leash. (Reactive means she barks and acts like a nut at the sight of another dog. She will cause no harm whatsoever, but it flips the other person and their dog out quite a bit.)
The picture to the left was taken during a professional photo shoot in a local park where we have a leash law. You know where this is going…
As the photographer was snapping shot after beautiful shot of my Lily (who is very clearly on-leash in this picture, thank you very much) an off-leash dog comes barreling into the shot, completely out of control, the owner saying “He’s friendly, he’s just saying ‘Hi’.”
Them’s fightin’ words to the owner of a reactive dog. I could go on for 12 blog posts about that one incident, but I refuse to digress. At least for today. Back to my sociability and Lily’s lack thereof.
So I’m left wondering if my neighbor recognizes that I turned around and avoided her and her dog because I was looking out for my dog. We live far apart, relatively speaking, and we don’t see each other often, but it really pains this extravert to well, subvert my social side. I feel the need to explain it to everyone. Which is why you’re reading this — I need to get it OUT somehow.
If you are an introvert, having a reactive or antisocial dog is right up your alley. You have a really good reason to keep moving along when someone wants to chat. But for me, the most chipper kid on the block, it’s tough.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d much rather appear antisocial and keep Lily happy. It’s just that I then have this unresovled need to be polite and let someone know that I really am social. I’m cuckoo, don’t you think?
Does your dog match your personality type? How so? Or how not? Please leave a comment.
Deb Jones says
My youngest dog is an introvert and so am I. I just wrote a blog post on this very topic at http://www.k9infocus.wordpress.com!
I definitely can relate to this! Bosworth is friendly to most dogs while he is on-leash, but there are a few dogs in our building that just set him off if he’s on-leash, just at the sight of them! He’s the same as Lily, where he would never ever hurt them, but he sounds scary and gets way over threshold. Funny thing is, I think with half of those he’s actually wanting to get to them to play with him (he’s pulling and “screaming” incessantly), but of course I don’t let that happen, and we just stay away. But I’m like you and I always feel so guilty for quickly shuffling past them, or waiting while they go get in an elevator before we go in the lobby. I feel like we need a sign that says “It’s not you, it’s my dog!” 🙂
Steph B. says
This post really hits home for me. My Springer is somewhat leash reactive (he doesn’t greet other dogs politely on leash). We socialized and trained heavily from Day 1 for him to have good greeting manners with humans and dogs, but despite our efforts (and they were considerable) we just didn’t end up with a social butterfly. It took a great deal of thought and effort on my part to accept that Riker is who he is – a friendly, silly dog who has his own opinions on who is a friend and who is not – and to just be ok with that. I still get occasional pangs when I see friends out with dogs that I’d love to let him play with, or neighborhood kids who would LOVE to pet the pretty dog (not understanding that the pretty dog CANNOT sit still long enough to be safe for them)… For the most part, I now try to just enjoy the time I spend out and about with him, appreciate our bond, and delight in who he is on his own.
Laurie Luck says
I will go check it out! 🙂 Thanks for the link!
Laurie Luck says
Yeah, it’s tough, isn’t it. We need to get the t-shirt! 🙂
Laurie Luck says
We worked on Lily endlessly it seemed. She was going to be a service dog. She was really well socialized, too. She’s just a noisy, nervous, yet friendly girl. And…like you, I’ve learned to love her just the way she is. Sometimes just BECAUSE she’s the way she is. Just like your boy, Riker. Maybe you and I can join Megan and get the t-shirt! 🙂
Very helpful post! Thanks for writing about introverted dogs.
Joyce Loebig says
My Hound is an introvert (and yes, reactive) dog, but I’m an introvert person, so I get that. I’m not usually disappointed that I can’t greet the people (I’m usually fine with that), but that I can’t greet their dogs. 🙂
My dog is the absolute opposite. She is a very outgoing, bubbly, happy-go-lucky, live to make friends of all sorts and sizes type of dog, and that suits me just fine. However when she sees white shepherds she throws a fit as if they are the devil reincarnate and need to be told as much too! She goes absolutely bonkers on the leash – screaming, barking, pulling you name it she does it – and I have to keep moving past as fast as I can, with a bright red face, all the while mumbling apologies for my dogs appareant out of control behaviour. But white shepherds are the only dogs she has that reaction towards, it is way worse when she is on leash however.
My dog is a social butterfly at the dog park. She loves it there. She is the greeter and welcomes everyone, dog or person with the happiest face. On the leash however, an absolute nightmare when approaching other dogs. I just started looking into ways to fix this behavior. It’s so embarrassing and not a good indicator of her true personality.
Laurie Luck says
Check out “Control Unleashed” by Leslie McDevitt. There’s a book and a DVD — I have just the book (and LOVE it), but if you’re more a visual learner, the DVD might be a good choice. Or both. No, I don’t get compensated in any way — I just really like the material. 🙂
I can totally relate! My Josie is very anti social and I am a social butterfly! I think sometimes she would like to meet other dogs and has done well with a select few but they have to meet her personality criteria! That tends to be calm and submissive to her. If not, watch out! So I do the same by trying to be friendly and tell people that as much as we would love to chat I need to direct her attention elsewhere and have her come down off her anxiety rush! Some people understand and some don’t! But she comes first!
Poor Lily looks so worried in this picture.
My jack russell is fine with some dogs and wildly reactive with others, which probably looks worse as sometimes I stop and chat and the dogs sniff and say hello, other times I hurry on past or dive off in a different direction, I have 3 terriers all had the same socialisation training, but as someone else mentioned this one just has dogs/people he likes and those he doesn’t, just part of what makes him who he is
Laurie Luck says
Yes, Lily is VERY worried in this picture, which is why I used it. It was taken right after an off-leash “he’s friendly!” dog came up to us in the park. Grrr…. 😉
I am an introvert. My dog is extremely reactive, which is sad because dogs are great for getting people (like me) out of their shells. The social shame of having to turn around and/or stay calm if he goes over the threshold — resisting the temptation to just blurt out words knowing that it won’t help but would at least show people that I’m trying — is so hard. But we learn more and more each day to accept and love the dog we have, and work with his unique personality.
However, it is an even greater challenge for someone like me (introverted) to try ask for help in training from other people. For that reason, I think that it is probably actually better for extroverts to have non-social/reactive dogs.
I’m only dog-social, so it doesn’t bother me in most situations. One of my dogs is shy, and we’ve gotten a vest and other signs to help people not approach him and freak him out. The other pup is leash reactive, so even though she loves other dogs, playing, and getting treats and pets — she sounds like she’s going to eat them.
I’m more of a DINOS (HINOS?) than my dog is. For some reason, being in public with a dog is read as an invitation to socialize. The worst offenders are the off-leash humans who don’t seem to get that you’re as far away from the cluster of people socializing in the park for a reason and run towards you practically screaming “I’M FRIENDLY!”
My dog used to be extremely reactive – to the point where she was uncontrollable. I have been working with her for 2 years and I can now approach someone, have her sit and talk briefly within a relative distance. I don’t completely trust her yet as she can be unpredictable, but we have made so much improvement. Good luck.
Jessica J. says
I’m so happy I found this story, and today/this period especially! In my house I’m a very private person, I don’t invite folks over easily and that is how I feel best, but I compensate my need for human connections with the casual ‘hi, how are you?’ while out walking with my dog. All went fine, until I adopted this very sweet little boy who is part chihuahua, upside down on the sofa indoors but outdoors… oh my.
Granted, he barks also when playing with my other dog, but when we meet dogs on the street or in the park, he goes after them like he hasn’t met a good dog ever! As you all, I want the T-shirt too!! Because with my anxiety I make him worse (and I wasn’t ever anxious outside so we are a chicken-and-egg combo) and pulling him back or saying something when he’s started -before sometimes works but then scanning my surroundings all the time doesn’t work :(- I’ve actually thought of making little cards, “I’m ignoring him in case it helps” and indeed “it’s not you, he doens’t know any alternative at the moment!”.
For now, to keep us in an upbeat mood and because he’s only been with me for a month now, I’ve started putting little stars on my calendar when we’ve had walks that were fine… that makes me smile and relax and that works for him then too – not to say anything about the other dogs around here, just to say that he feeds off me, and today AND yesterday we had a sticker 🙂 🙂
My husband and I really don’t like outside people. We are happy with each other and our family and the people we chose as friends. We tried very hard to socialize our new puppies. They are now 3 years old and do not like anyone, only the people we know and like. I think they sense it and have adopted our personalities.
Chelly P says
The Yellow Dog project is trying to spread the word about pets like this who are sweet and lovable, but not so social… check out some of their posts, their page and let’s put a yellow ribbon on your pups leash:
Maria M says
Loved loved loved this post! I also have a black lab mix who is fearful and reactive on leash (he was tethered outdoors in foster care)
to bigger dogs approaching. So I have to say “he’s not that friendly” which kills me because HE IS friendly…he just needs to greet dogs on his terms and not when Mr/Ms OVERLY SOCIAL dog approaches!
And it’s the owners that make me avoid his greeting new dogs because if he snarls a bit at their precious pup, they look at me as if he bit off their hand! I’m working diligently with him since I rescued him 9 mths ago (Yes I’m also an extrovert) but other dog OWNERS make it tough!
My dog has been attacked by several large off leash dogs in my neighborhood. the owners think it is great to let their dog off leash and in the unfenced yard. However, as soon as a leashed dog comes along, the dog leaves their property and attacks the dog on the leash. I have had this happen about 6 times with 3 different dogs over a 4 year period. So, because of this, there are not too many dogs my Wheaten Terrier is friendly with. It stinks, because he is an awesome dog at home, and loves people to death. So… my answer is that I don’t turn and run when I see another dog on leash, but just calmly say ” My dog doesn’t really love other dogs, sorry, he loves people, but not dogs” then I laugh, and they usually say OK thanks, and keep walking. But we avoid the areas and homes where the idiots let dogs off leash. Good luck to all