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.

Careful, he has the ability to make you "squee"

Careful, he has the ability to make you “squee”



25 thoughts on “Does He Bite?

  1. Why do people insist on heading fast towards dogs with the intent to show how much they love them? The dog doesn’t need it as they don’t know this person from Adam. The only time I’ve been bitten was by a small dog while minding my own business – it wasn’t cute or forgivable!

    • I have no idea. It seems to be some sort of magnetic attraction. And I am glad you didn’t think it was cute, too many people laugh it off when a small dog snaps at them, like aggression is adorable when it’s tiny.

  2. Bahahahahaha! I agree…some people are such “maroons!” Idiots should ask before approaching ANY dog..some woman just scared my little Rosie (Silky Terrier) by reaching for the top of her head..RIGHT after I told her she is BLIND and would freak out…duh!! I love your comment about the woman throwing herself against the house shrieking in horror…..what an idiot…I can just picture it..ha ha..well written, thanks for the good laugh..and it’s true..some little dogs get away with murder and owners should train them like they’re dogs, not people….i’m sure negative media about dogs killing people (always involved a larger dog with the “capacity” to kill, ie stronger jaw) isn’t helping..but a bite is a bite, even from a little Chihuahua!

    • True. It isn’t a big dog’s fault that it has the ability to kill as opposed to a smaller dog with the ability to just break skin. I’m glad you liked the post, it’s about something that drives me nuts as it seems that every second person we meet is a complete idiot when it comes to dogs, haha.

  3. Peeps feel they can contain a small dog but could suffer sever injuries and even death at the paws of a big one. It’s not all the dog’s fault-wouldn’t you be just scared meeting a pit bull that was at the other end of a leash from Michael Vick?

    • I don’t think it’s the dog’s fault at all, aggression towards humans is a product of fear and isolation, not instinct. Also, not all dogs who have been forced to participate in dog fights are aggressive towards humans.

    • Almost all of Michael Vick’s pit bulls were rehabilitated and have gone on to be friendly dogs, living with other animals and family members. Please be careful when you make comments… do your research first 🙂 Comments like this are very devastating to the breed, and only spread the misconception and ignorance.

  4. Absolutely adore this post! First of all, while I have met some wonderful small dogs, I am also a big dog lover, first and foremost. Tonka is literally bigger than a pony! I also am very frustrated by owners who allow their small dogs to exhibit poor behavior, but criticize larger dogs for fractions of the same. Equal opportunity, people! Love this post, thanks for sharing.

  5. I love this post, it says all the things I want to say. I get so tired of people being upset with my Newfs for being normal dogs. They are doing the same thing as all the other dogs, but because they are BIG it’s frightening or bad. Thank you for saying it so well 🙂

  6. Can’t say, that I have had any bad experiences with people. I try to treat my dogs alike, no matter how big they are. But with terriers … you just can’t tell them to stop barking. It seems to be in their genes. Rudi wouldn’t bite anyone. People often pat my dogs on the head. Bach is a bit scared sometimes and backs away but he would never bite. If he backs away, I explain, that he is scared and people seem to understand that. As far as phobia goes: If someone is scared of dogs in general, he fears big dogs more than small dogs. It’s like arachnophobia, it doesn’t matter if it’s logical or not. But I know that comments of neighbours can hurt. I had a dachshund when I was a child. He was territorial. When he was driven over by a car, people that lived on the other end of the street said, that it was a relief, that he’s dead. I seriously doubt they could hear him barking. They were just mean. Just like you describe the guy who makes noises to provoke the dog and then he complains afterwards. That’s mean.

    • I don’t hold anything against people who are scared of big dogs for a reason, I get it. I just don’t like when some people want to pet and cuddle them and then throw a fit when Toady backs off or barks, especially if they haven’t asked first. And you’re right, people are just mean sometimes. It’s sad that it’s part of human nature, eh?!

  7. You would think that any adult would know better than to walk up and touch a dog that did not know them no matter their size. Sad to say many don’t have a clue though. Dogs and their space should be respected just like a person’s should be. Toady backs off but some dogs when approached like that by people they don’t know will bite and then the people wonder why they were bitten….now to me that makes no sense…they should know right off why they were bitten. I hate when people aggravate dogs like your neighbor aggravated Toady. Hugs and nose kisses

    • Thanks, Mumsy :). Unfortunately, some people are just not dog-smart, whether it’s from general lack of common-sense or from just not having any experience with dogs. Either way, it boggles my mind to think that anyone would approach a strange dog and immediately try to touch it. Toady’s a good dog, and a giant mush once he feels comfortable with you, but he needs to go at his own pace. It doesn’t mean he’s aggressive or that he dislikes people, who knows what happened to the poor pup before we had him. Thanks for understanding, I love having this little online community to talk about this stuff with!

  8. I too, love big dogs best and Toady has the sweetest face. Dudley makes a bunch of noise, but if you go to him slowly, he’ll warm up pretty quick. He has nipped at someone’s heels before, but I think he was trying to get their attention as opposed to hurting them.

  9. Hear, hear! We have a young neighbour here who isn’t happy unless he’s taunted my dogs to death whilst walking past our fence. It drives me crazy and I think to myself that I mustn’t shout at the dogs, it’s not their fault they’re just doing their thing. I have reasoned that most animals have so much more sense than some adults I have had the misfortune to know. Toady looks adorable in that photo, a real sweetheart 🙂

    • What a little bugger! That would drive me nuts. Thankfully, we moved away from the evil neighbour a few years ago and it has been better since but there are still small annoyances that occur wherever you live!

  10. I love your dog’s face! His head and especially his freckled nose look a little like my Freckles’ (a pointer/heeler mix). I am looking forward to reading more about Toady (what a great name too!). And Freckles doesn’t like to be approached unexpectedly by strangers either. What ever happened to getting to know each other first? Nice post!

    • Thanks! He is pretty cute, but I may be a bit biased! 🙂 Freckles is a great name too, we were just talking about that a few nights ago. Maybe Freckles and Toady are secretly related?!

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