That Dog Isn’t Actually Friendly

I’m walking two of my dogs up a trail, on leash as we are nearing a road.

A 200+lb man is literally being dragged my way, against his will, by his two “friendly” 100lb dogs.  The owner is laughing and telling me how much trouble he is in when their new dog arrives the next day. The current dogs happen to be big block headed, short coated dogs. It doesn’t matter if you have a big powerful dog, a retriever, or a tiny floof, the rules apply to all. 

As the dogs were heading my way, owner in tow, I scooped up my 17lb dog who was already terrified, and left my poor 35lb dog to fend for himself, now sandwiched between two dogs many times his size, obnoxiously sniffing him and shoving at him with their chests.


The man explained that he always lets the dogs off leash on that trail and proudly says that they never listen and run up to all the other dogs to play. I just happened to meet him before he released them. 

These are NOT friendly dogs – they are rude dogs.

Friendly dogs read and respond to social cues from other dogs. 

Rude dogs want to sniff, wrestle, and be in another dog’s space regardless of the other dog’s communication.

A Friendly Dog:

  • Greets new dogs politely, slowing as they near, often approaching in an arc.
  • Reads and respects cues from the other dog indicating anxiety, aggression, or indifference.
  • Allows for mutual sniffing, giving the other dog space and time to do so.
  • Moves away from the interaction after a few seconds.

good dogs Suffer Due to lack of training

If the above scenario had played out with a different dog, there would have been a dog fight.   If there is a dog fight, and if someone is injured, it’d be those big untrained goofballs that are labeled as dangerous and potentially euthanized. These were good, social dogs who simply weren’t trained or even managed safely.  When bully type dogs who aren’t trained or managed are allowed to cause havoc with others, it is the rest of the big block headed dogs who then suffer stigmatization and get a bad reputation.

The dogs in the above story are nice dogs. They honestly look like GREAT dogs, but they are out of control. It’s not just inconsiderate or rude, it is outright dangerous.  The owner did say that he has been told his dogs are a problem by other trainers, so he does know, but he does not care or maybe he just doesn’t understand.  I’ll be carrying pepper spray when I walk that way in the future. 

Train them. Please.

Big dog owners, and especially anyone with a bully mix, owe it to their dogs to train them. Period.

Imagine a world where every time you saw a 100lb dog, or a blocky headed dog, the dog recalled to their owner and sat calmly beside them while other dogs and people passed or they were given permission to go say hi.  Wouldn’t that be great?   Imagine how long it would take bully breeds to lose their bad reputation if every bully breed owner actually trained their dog? Don’t get me wrong, everyone with dogs of any size or breed should train them, but in my opinion, owners of powerful dogs have a greater responsibility to do so. 

Case #2

It’s not just the block heads either, retriever owners can be the worst. Just last week I received a message from a client about a friend’s young retriever that harasses their dog. What can they do about it?  Unfortunately in many cases, the owner of the ‘friendly’ dog values their dog’s freedom to do as they please above the comfort of other people and dogs. If they are not interested in training or in learning, often all you can do is stop bringing your dog on outings with that dog.

Case #3

Another recent case involves a young anxious dog who is harassed by a ‘friendly’ bully breed owned by a family member when they have family gatherings. The owner of the bully isn’t interested in training or controlling their dog, so the anxious dog no longer gets to attend family events.  This is really too bad as the polite dog is the one who has to miss out on the family time. 

One of the easiest ways to ensure you get training time in is to use their meals to train basic obedience, recall, and tricks. Any training you do helps build a reinforcement history for being responsive to your cues. 

Training Tips

  • If you don’t have a reliable recall, use a long line until you do.
  • Use your dog’s meals or treats to practice recall, sits, downs, and other skills when you don’t see a distraction, working up to high distraction areas.
  • Purposefully go to places where you will see a lot of people and dogs and practice sitting for treats while they pass you.
  • Carry a ball or other toy as a high level reinforcer if your dog is toy-crazy.
  • Sign up for a private lesson with a certified instructor to make a plan that will work for you and your dog.
  • Enroll in a group class so that you have other dogs to practice with and where you can learn new training tips.

Other People and Their Dogs Have a Right To Feel Safe

Even if your dog is friendly, and even if you are sure they will back down if a fight did occur, other people and dogs have a right to feel safe. Any dog running up to people and dogs uninvited will scare some people. Even if our dog is the nicest, least intimidating creature in the world in our eyes, as dog owners, we have a responsibility to train our dogs.