Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dog Mom Confession: Sometimes I Am Scared of My Dog

(I was very inspired by this post over at My Brown Newfies.  Jen decided that 2015 is going to be a year of honesty, sharing with her readers her real beliefs and why she stands for them.  I love this, and it got me to thinking:  There are quite a few things I haven't shared here that are very relevant to the dog-blogging world.  I haven't shared them because I am afraid.  Because I am ashamed.  And I want to move on from that.  Here's to honesty!)

Riley is a sweetheart.  Let me just say that up front.  His favorite thing in the world is snuggling, and when one of us is sick, he never leaves our side.

I was sick, and Riley laid next to me on the pillow all night.


We are never entirely sure what he might do.  I suppose you don't ever know what a dog might do - they are animals, after all, and I think sometimes we forget that.  But seeing my dog go after another dog, snarling and teeth bared, is not an image I am likely to forget.  This has happened so far three times that I know of, and as a consequence, Riley is not allowed at any family gatherings where there might be dogs.

This is Riley's exact expression when around other dogs. 

He has also growled at my 5-year-old niece...repeatedly and for long amounts of time.  Though Riley is kept in a back bedroom if she ever visits, I still hate the fact that my niece is afraid of my dog.

Something also happened that I haven't been wanting to admit - Riley bit me.  I was just getting ready to start working out, and Riley was laying on the couch in his usual pose, curled up on his side.  Now, as all you dog lovers know, a cuddly dog can be pretty irresistible, and I couldn't help myself - I had to snuggle him!  As I did so, I took a deep noseful of that doggie smell - don't act like you don't do the same! - imitating the snuff-snuff-snuff sound Riley does when he is sniffing us.

I mean, just try not cuddling this.  Just try!

I don't know why - I was just being silly, I guess.  But Riley had been sleeping deeper than I thought, and I suppose he thought there was another dog sniffing at him.  Whatever the case, he snarled and lunged for the side of my face.  It all happened very fast, and had I not turned my head in time, I have no doubt the bite could have drawn blood or done some damage.  As it was, he had only grazed my temple.

I collapsed on the floor and sobbed, loud and drawn-out, like I had just lost my best friend - in a way, in that moment, I thought I had.  Riley just stared at me, tilting his head at my crazy noises; I don't think he had any idea what was going on.  I had a goose-egg on the side of my head for a week that was tender to the touch; any time I would brush my fingers over it, I would wince and remember that terrifying growl in my ear.

Of course I still love Riley...of course he is still my best friend.  But there's always something in the back of my head that warns me to be careful around him, to watch what I do.  I feel so guilty that something in me is frightened of my sweet boy, and I have to say, I am kind of wary of admitting it to my readers.

Not Riley...just another mommy-biter! ;)

But what do you do?  What do you do if your beloved pet hurts you?  If anyone has any of their own stories/"dog mom confessions", I'd love to hear from you.


  1. As much as we love our dogs they are dogs not people, you have to remember that but still love them for it all the same
    Loves and licky kisses
    Princess Leah xxx

    1. Of course! It was just his canine instincts kicking in...but in the moment, man, did it scare me!

  2. I have trained dogs and people for over 40 years now. I was reading your post and thought I would offer some unsolicited advice. You can take it or leave it, but here it is.

    Thinking your dog has human tendencies and thinking he feels "love" like you do was a total mistake. Getting your face next to a dog who has shown level 3 aggression toward a human is not the best thing to do. Dogs instinctively will lunge for the neck of an attacking animal as a self protection measure.

    Making those snuffing sounds told him you were "checking" him out. And you were hovering over him while he was in the vulnerable position lying down.

    My thoughts are that he is a dominant type personality. You can tell this in his interactions with other dogs and people. Maybe something happened to him by another dog and now he has to step up to make sure it doesn't happen again. Find a booklet online by pat McConnell.called The Cautious Canine. Actually any of her books will be a good choice to read, so much insight.

    There are ways to work with him to make him a more enjoyable dog. But you must always think in terms of dog, he may fear children or other dogs, and you must protect him from them.

    We want to think of our beloved dogs as members of our family, our children. But they are not. Thinking like a dog, knowing how a dog responds to stimuli he sees will make you a better dog owner.

    And him a safer and happier dog.


    1. Thank you for your advice, Glen. I (and, quite honestly, most people I know) tend to anthropomorphize pets, and I know that that is a mistake. Riley had not been aggressive toward humans prior to that incidence, only other dogs. Still, it was obviously not appropriate to startle him out of a deep sleep. He is in all ways an otherwise enjoyable dog when he is with us.

      In regards to your statement about dogs not being family members, though, we will have to agree to disagree. I understand dogs are not humans, but I do believe that they feel emotion in some form, and I wholeheartedly consider them members of the family (especially for my husband and I, as we do not have children).

      Thank you for your insight, and I will definitely look into the Pat McConnell books!

  3. Glad you are alright, Kilo tends to snap like that too sometimes. I feel it must be from his past life before I fostered him. Glens advice is great!

  4. Oh Chelsea, I completely understand. Edgar is very similar. We no longer go to dog parks, because the last time we went he got into a fight with 2 other dogs and left one of them bleeding. I don't know what happened or what started it, he's fine with other dogs that he knows, but he's just unpredictable around other dogs. Whenever we are near another dog I tense up and know that I am making the situation worse. He's also reactive when out on walks with people passing by us on the sidewalk. I usually step to the side and hold him on a very short leash until they pass. He had an incident many years ago when he nipped a person walking by on the same sidewalk, and while there were several factors that I see as having sparked it, and it was a tiny nip that did not break the skin or require medical attention, the person reported it to Animal Control. Per our city's statutes, Edgar had to be registered as a "potentially dangerous dog". It broke my heart and made me furious, because he is a sweet boy and hated him being labelled like that and felt like I failed him for placing him in that situation to begin with. He's fine with people and dogs that he knows, but I don't fully trust him around new people and situations. He's also a part of our family, like Riley is yours, so it's hard having to leave him home for events that I'd like to bring him to.

    Thanks for sparking a great conversation. I totally understand where you are coming from.

    Katie (Edgar's mum)

    p.s. Patricia McConnell is great - lots of good suggestions and her books are so well written that they are actually quite enjoyable to read

  5. We had a moment like this with Harley. He is the sweetest and most gently boy ever....BUT his first two years were awful. We had never really seen any residual effects of his poor treatment until one day, when he snapped at a young child, who had repeatedly ignored his warnings. It was sad, but I altered my expectations of him and realized like us humans, he has his limits too. Its my job to protect him from these bad situations.

  6. I think your honesty about your dog's behavior will help others to understand that we can't expect perfection in our canine companions, but must set them up for success by avoiding situations that we know trigger fear or aggression.

  7. Hi Y'all,

    Spending a lifetime with performance horses, retrievers and Schutzhund, I must say that not giving a sleeping dog, even the gentlest, a verbal warning when approaching is an error in judgement.

    I was trained to always verbally warn any animal when approaching. As I'm sure you know a surprised horse weighing 1200 to 1800 pounds and wearing steel shoes can break a leg or worse. A dog, as you unfortunately are aware, can easily kill you with his jaws.

    Glad you are going to check out the author suggested by QuiltSwissy. Learning how to accommodate our pets takes a lifetime. It isn't something we are born knowing. Understanding what an animal is telling you, reading their body language, is not easy for us humans.

    It will help you bond more with Riley and understand what he is telling you if you take obedience classes together. It will also improve his socialization. Take as many as you are able. Lots of smaller dogs are excellent at more advanced training, like agility. (Since your dog has issues, I'd recommend an AKC trainer. Your dog does not have to be purebred.)

    BrownDog's Human

  8. Chelsea, it is hard when you think you're just lovin' your puppy and they bite, I'm sorry :-<. Zack bit me hard in the leg once, causing tissue damage that still hurts. It was in reaction to another dog approaching us aggressively on a walk, so a totally different situation to yours. But I think what scares me most was that I was so mad at the situation (loose aggressive dog and my physical pain) that I snapped Zack with the leash, I think at his face, it happened so fast. But it is my big regret that I hit my dog.

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