Does He Bite?
As most of you know, Toady is a big dog with a big bark. He is what trainers have deemed “territorial, but not aggressive”. According to them, this is common in city dogs. Even though we have a big yard, and we like to take the boys out on adventures, Toady guards his territory like a mama bear guarding her cub. The problem is that it freaks people out. But, I believe that if he were a small dog they would think it was “cute” instead.
I like big dogs. And by big I mean that I like them to be better classified as ponies. Toady is one of those dogs. When we go on walks and strange people try to pet him without asking us first, he barks and backs away. They get scared and give us that “how dare you bring this monster out in public” sort of look. They don’t understand that he is extremely protective and must approach you on his own terms. We used to frequent dog parks when he was smaller, but we got shunned by the other park-goers who were scared that he was going to eat their chihuahuas because of his demon sounds. At our old place, our neighbor would yell at us over the fence almost weekly, saying “that dog should live on a farm!”. This same neighbor used to like to torture Toady by making noises through the fence and getting him to bark and then threatening us with animal control for noise. One of our current neighbors has two dogs that are also territorial. One day, Toady was looking for them through the fence and he jumped up on it to look over. The lady happened to be there and she threw herself against the house and shrieked. Then she shot me a dirty look and asked, “does he bite?!”. This dog, my dog, my sweet, gentle boy, has never bitten anyone or anything.
So, why do big dogs scare the bejesus out of people? I have no idea. Why do small dogs get away with rough play, biting, barking, and territorial behavior? I couldn’t tell you. My boys are not perfect, but they are not descendents of Cujo, either. Dogs still have personal boundaries. Each one’s different than the next. The general population doesn’t seem to understand that, so instead of letting my dog be a dog and expecting people to understand that maybe Toady doesn’t want your sticky little two-year-old to mash his face with their hands and squeal in his ears, we have to try to convince people he isn’t an asshole for barking or pulling away.
Imagine if it was a person that you went up to. For some reason, you (a complete stranger) decides to reach out and touch that person’s head. They make a sound and back away, looking at you like you are completely nutballs. Would you be surprised? Would you blame that person for being a little confused and uncomfortable? To be honest, if someone did that to me, I would probably clock them upside the head—I am very touchy about my personal space. But, if you and a stranger were waiting for a bus, and you exchanged some general commentary about the weather or the time, and then shook hands when you parted, that would be different, right? It shouldn’t be any different for dogs. And big dogs shouldn’t be painted in the wrong color because they bark louder or because their jawbones happen to be double the size of a shih tzu’s head.