Dealing with dogs who need their space

Dealing with dogs who need their space

A great owner may help a non-tolerant dog appear normal, but never assume.

Many Shetland Sheepdogs are sweet and reserved, and it’s natural that owners of dogs with this sort of temperament might think most dogs are similar. The truth is, however, that many dogs don’t care for other dogs, especially strange dogs, in the least. If these dogs have a savvy owner who works hard with them, it can be difficult to tell that the dog needs her space.

I’ve been taking obedience classes with my Sheltie, named Kayla, who is usually good with other dogs. A young miniature poodle in the class called Ajax tries to get other dogs to play with him by lunging at them. Last week, Ajax lunged at Kayla when she didn’t expect it, and she snapped at him. It was appropriate, Ajax’s owner agreed, but I’ve made a point to keep Kayla away from him to prevent any other unpleasant interactions. 


Sadly, the owner, I’ll call her Mary, didn’t quite learn she needed to keep Ajax under better control, and Mary also didn’t pick up on the signs that another dog in the class does not tolerate other dogs at all. When our class was practicing the stay exercise, Mary left Ajax, who is clearly unable to do a stay for even a nanosecond, and walked away. Ajax went over to play with a non-tolerant dog, and a fight ensued. 

The non-tolerant dog, Stella, had been very well-behaved in all previous classes. In retrospect, I could understand why someone might not realize that Stella was actually very reactive to other dogs. Stella’s owner did a phenomenal job handling her. The owner kept Stella away from other dogs. She constantly interacted with Stella, and kept Stella engaged with heeling or tricks during any downtime. When we did stays, the owner put up a piece of ring fencing to help block Stella from others. 


Having had reactive dogs, I appreciated the hard work Stella’s owner was putting into training her, and I made a point to keep Kayla at a distance. Thankfully, after the fight, Ajax seemed OK. Mary was shaken, as was I. The one who was most devastated was Stella’s owner, who sat on the floor with Stella, in tears. Whether you have a friendly, or tolerant Shetland Sheepdog, or a reactive one, it’s always a good idea to be very careful of other dogs. Even dogs who seem well-behaved can become very upset when they space they need is invaded.