Ever have the urge to call someone a buttface in public?

Even though I’ve been busy, I’ve been working to socialize Stella. And slowly, but surely, she is warming up and getting more comfortable with new situations. Anyone who knows dogs has commented on how sweet she is, despite her fear issues.

I talk to neighbors when we go on walks, so she can get used to being around people she doesn’t know. We take both dogs to a German Shepherd playgroup once a month. Stella and I go for walks with my friend M and her dog on an almost weekly basis (which is, admittedly, more about socializing me). And any time I have an excuse to go to the pet store, Stella comes along.

She doesn’t shake anymore when we walk through the automatic doors, and while she avoids getting too close to people, she doesn’t try to fuse herself with my leg anymore when she sees them. She does, however, still bark at other dogs when she’s on her leash. Apparently, this is called leash aggression, and it’s quite common. It’s also an issue she had already when she came to us. The most effective way of dealing with leash aggression is to stop it before it starts, so we’re fighting a little bit of an uphill battle. But we’re fighting it. We’ll get there.

Unfortunately, not everyone understands that Stella is all bark and no bite. She’s sweet and goofy and affectionate. She is a wonderful dog, and it breaks my heart a little when people look at her like she’s a vicious beast just because she’s barking. She’s under control. I’ve got a good grip on her. I correct her. I don’t put her in situations where she could hurt or get hurt (even though I honestly do not believe she’d ever hurt anyone). I am a responsible owner. Right now, my dog barks a few times when she’s on her leash and sees other dogs. Get the eff over it!

We were at Petsmart the other day. Stella caught wind of a big, drooling bulldog and barked at him. She tried to lunge in his direction, but of course, I didn’t let her. She barked a few time from across the wide center aisle. I told her to stop and kept walking with her. Stella stopped barking, and we went on our way to look for a water fountain for the cat (I know, I know, but the cat had a UTI a few weeks ago and wasn’t drinking enough water). As we were walking away, I heard the bulldog owner let out a big disgusted sigh, but I ignored it.

When we got in line at the register, a little girl came up and asked if she could pet my dog. I told her it probably wasn’t a good idea. I think Stella would be fine, but since she’s still getting used to the whole being out in public thing, I didn’t want to push it. I got distracted talking to the little girl, and didn’t notice when Bulldog Lady got in the line next to us. Stella barked at her dog again. I told Stella to stop and she stopped. I made her sit, and she did, and I praised her for paying attention to me.

Bulldog Lady got up to the register and said LOUDLY to the checker, “I don’t understand why people bring dogs like THAT out in public.”

Well, I usually keep my mouth shut and turn the other cheek in situations like that, but I was about to develop my own leash aggression situation. Luckily, I didn’t have to.

The checker said to Bulldog Lady, “Actually, they tell people who rescue dogs to bring them out to get them socialized when they have issues like that.” She turned to me and said, “Is she a rescue, honey?”

I said, “Yeah, we’ve only had her since November.”

The checker kept scanning Bulldog Lady’s items, but ignored her to chat with me. “Good for you!” she said.

We talked about where Stella came from and how she’d had a lot of crate time and not a lot of socialization and she was scared of everything when we got her, but she’s so much better now. The checker finished up with Bulldog Lady, and we watched her storm out in a huff. I really wish I’d gotten the checker’s name, so I could have called later to tell the manager how awesome she was.


  1. HOORAY for check-out champ-my hero!
    It has been my(limited) experience that the folks at pet stores do tend to be animal lovers and pretty understanding. Bull dog Lady didn’t say she had a rescue did she? Of course not.
    Keep up the good work Allie.

  2. Oh what a great ending. Good on the check-out girl.

    Some people are just rude all the time – they are bullies really.

    Mind you, I was walking today in the wood when this dog ran towards me barking and then four others started to come over as well. This man tried to get them to come back to him but the barking one was not keen to do so. He didn’t make any attempt to apologise to me or say anything at all. I was well pissed off. If I had been timid of dogs or if I had had a small child with me it would have been very scary. The dog should have been on a leash if it could not be trusted, surely?

    Stella looks very beautiful and it does sound as if your hard work is paying off and that she is getting less stressed in public places. Good for you!

  3. RB – Oh! That’s so not okay! You can’t let a bark-y dog who doesn’t listen wander around off leash to go terrorize people! It’s so important to be aware of your dog’s limitations (and your own) and be respectful in managing them.

  4. Jacob and I were outraged at Bulldog Lady. Jacob says “there are a lot of stupid people out there” He would know I guess. People don’t always understand Lola’s behaviors either. When we explain she is an abuse case, they all nod their heads, like they understand. I am happy that you have some great people working at your PetSmart too! :)

  5. Stella is adorable and you are working so well with her! It’s sometimes very frustrating, isn’t it? Dingo Girl has leash aggression as well. What our trainer advised is to keep treats on us at all times. As soon as she spots another dog, give her a cue (we use “Yes”) and treat her. We’re not to even give her a chance to get tense and barky. It’s exhausting, especially here in the city where there are dogs every five feet! We’re working on it and we’ve definitely seen an improvement.

    I like your cashier! It’s so good to have understanding people validate your (and Stella’s) efforts.

  6. You’d think other dog owners would understand. You were totally in control of Stella, and really, it’s just a little barking. It’s not like Stella tried to bite her dog or anything. What a drama queen.

    Awesome check-out lady, though. Next time you go back, if you see her, you should try to get her name so you can say good things about her to her boss.

  7. I have a similar situation. I have a rescued pit bull who is a couch potato. She wasn’t socialized when young (she was raised in a shelter situation with a sister who didn’t like her) and then went to an unhappy and abusive home for about a year or so. She barks, she growls, she doesn’t do well on leash, she gets easily scared and stressed out. I work with her but I don’t push. She seems very comfortable with our routine.
    Good for you for working so hard! Some folks just don’t understand the commitment it takes to care for critters that others thought were too much trouble.

  8. You’ve got to love passive aggression. Great folks.

    I was thinking ahead to my next dog – don’t ask, I’m just like that – and was leaning towards a German Shepherd. I’ve had two huskies in a row and fancy a dog that’s easy to train. This post is making me think that easy is a relative term?

  9. AFM – I think a German Shepherd would be much easier to train than a husky. And since you already know big dogs, and working dogs, I think having a GSD would seem “easy.” With some caveats – they are needy dogs. They like to be with you. This also means they are eager to please, and if you work with that, you’ll be golden. Also you want to look for a GSD that doesn’t show aggressive tendencies – you want a sweet dog (even if you think you want protection). And you may want to look for a puppy for your first GSD. Argo was 5 months old when we got him, but he’d come from a breeder who knew what they were doing in terms of raising him. Stella’s issues come from lack of socializing (we didn’t get her until she was 13 months). I think if she’d been socialized at an early age she’d have been an incredibly easy dog. Personally, I think GSDs are amazing dogs. And I think they’re totally worth the work.

  10. People are just plain rude. Glad the cashier stood up for you. Kudos on rescuing!

  11. It drives me crazy when people jump to conclusions about your dog. So many people look at Lucydog and think evil pitbull when really she’s a sweetheart — and she’s a sweetheart because she’s been socialized and learned how to be her loving self around everyone, not just me.

  12. Great check-out lady! Until we got rescue dogs, we probably weren’t as understanding ourselves. Now that we have one, we see the issues they can have and the frustration in not knowing their past history.

    Our new dog is a German Shepherd Dog-Husky mix. We’ve had a husky so we understand that part of him, and yes, they are hard to train because they are very independent-minded and strong-willed. Very loving dogs though, except so loving they’ll go home with anyone that has treats!

    We’re not too familiar with GSDs though and learning. Our mix does bark and lunge towards other dogs on the walks but it is because he wants to play with them.

    Unfortunately, our other dog has taken on the rold of Mother Hen and now lunges and barks at other dogs in a bad way. She wants to protect the new dog. Both will be starting obedience class on Saturday where we hope to get help dealing with this!

  13. LOL I am mentally wagging my finger at old snooty-bulldog owner-
    Rescues can be difficult- I have had 5 myslef over the years- Romeo is the friendliest I have had – next to Max my yorkie and dog love of my life. I have never heard of breed specific puppy play groups before. You learn something new everyday- sounds like you are doing the right stuff with Stella- Love that name- makes me want to pput on a t-shirt and go outside and yell STELLA real bad.

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