My neighbor's dog hates my dog
January 8, 2016 6:39 AM   Subscribe

A neighbor's dog completely and utterly flips out whenever my dog and I come within 200 ft of it. I'm worried about my dog's safety but I'm not sure what to do/say.

My dog: 11yo, 70 lbs, black lab. Male, neutered.

Other dog: Adult Great Pyrenees. I'm not sure of its age, gender, or spay/neuter status. It is 100+ lbs (so most likely male, if my reading of the GPCA breed standard page is correct).

My pup and I live on a large cul-de-sac, which has about a dozen garden-style apartment- and condo-buildings on it (all part of the same complex). This is a super dog-friendly neighborhood, so we see dogs all the time. Almost all of the dogs we see are nice (or have owners who manage their reactivity/aggression very well). But this particular dog hates my dog, for reasons that are not obvious. (It does not seem to have an issue with other dogs - I've observed it interacting peacefully with neighbors' dogs.)

Every single time this dog sees us, it completely loses its shit. Stiffens up, growls, barks, lunges, etc. I'm a decent reader of dog body language and I feel very confident that this dog is not simply (1) eager to say hello, (2) reactive, or (3) overly assertive. Of particular concern is the fact that this dog's owner does not seem to have good control of it. We're talking a 100+ lb dog and a small (120lb?) owner, who struggles to restrain her dog when it is desperately trying to rush over to us. Last night, this happened, and I clearly saw her almost lose her grip on the leash. I find this extremely frightening. My dog is strong and energetic (especially for a senior dog!) but let's be real: if this Great Pyrenees got free from its owner and attacked him, he wouldn't stand a chance and I'm not big enough to protect him.

We typically avoid this dog like the plague - in fact, if I see any big white fluffy dog in the distance, we will adjust course accordingly. But occasionally I don't see it and its owner coming (especially when my dog and I are on our bedtime walk). So complete avoidance isn't really possible. Fortunately my dog immediately looks to me for guidance when this (or any other) dog barks at him, and he is content to quickly depart the scene with me.

I had considered that my dog might be doing something to irritate this other dog, perhaps through his body language. But every single time we've encountered this dog (about five times at this point) the other dog freaks out before my pup has even noticed it. So I'm not sure what "bad vibes" my dog could be giving off while he's literally just sniffing the grass and having a pee. Any ideas there?

I need a strategy for what to do/say to the owner of this unruly dog. Last night it was so bad that, as my dog and I were speed-walking away, I couldn't resist saying "Please control your dog!" at what may have been an audible volume for her (not sure). Anyway, that's not the kind, neighborly way for me to handle this, so I'm looking for your advice!
posted by schroedingersgirl to Pets & Animals (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe the easiest, least expensive and least confrontational thing to do is to exchange contact information and coordinate your dog walking times. Text her when you're heading out and she can text you when she's heading out.

Realistically, this is her problem and if she can't control her dog it could end up being a really bad problem. I'm pessimistic about her being willing to work with her dog to help it not be aggressive but if you talk to her and find her willing to do this, that would be great for her and for her dog.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:00 AM on January 8, 2016 [9 favorites]

You just gotta talk to this owner somehow and collaborate on a strategy. For all you know, she's over there going, "I hope my neighbor doesn't think my dog is crazy."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:04 AM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

I had a similar problem but I had a giant, friendly dog and I had two neighbors with small dogs that HATED my dog. I lived in a high rise in a building filled with dogs but these two dogs would go ballistic whenever they saw us. A fight between 125 pound Presa Canario and a 20 pound Westie or Shih Tzu would end very badly for the small dog. Even though my dog was not at fault, I didn't want my dog to hurt or kill another animal. By mutual and mostly unspoken agreement we actively avoided each other. If we saw each on the street, one of us would cross to the other side or turn and go in a different direction. We would give each other a little wave to acknowledge that we'd seen the other.

I would approach your neighbor and say that you want to avoid any encounters between your dogs and then figure things out (different times, I'll go to the park in the morning and you go in the evening, I'll walk on Maple street, you walk on Laurel, etc). Be friendly and cooperative. Unless she's crazy or irresponsible, she will want to avoid conflict and liability.
posted by shoesietart at 7:26 AM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

I had considered that my dog might be doing something to irritate this other dog, perhaps through his body language. But every single time we've encountered this dog (about five times at this point) the other dog freaks out before my pup has even noticed it. So I'm not sure what "bad vibes" my dog could be giving off while he's literally just sniffing the grass and having a pee. Any ideas there?

It's very possible that your dog just resembles another, meaner dog from the neighbor dog's past.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:29 AM on January 8, 2016 [12 favorites]

This is totally the other owner's problem to deal with. Depending on the laws in your area, if her dog gets loose and kills or injures you or your dog, she'll be forced to have her dog put down (especially if there has been an incident in the past that shows she knew the dog had an problem).

I'm sure neither of you wants that. I'm a firm believer in the idea that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners so if I were in your shoes, I would definitely figure something out with the dog's owner.

My best guess would be that when this dog was young, he was attacked or bullied or there was some other incident with a dog that looked a lot like yours.

Great Pyrenees were bred to guard sheep from wolves and other predators and other dogs definitely count as predators. Assuming a past incident and that breed's natural guarding instincts, I'm not at all surprised by the reaction. It likely means that dog and your dog will never get along and avoidance is the only option.

If they met on neutral ground somewhere, well away from anything either dog might consider part of it's territory, and maybe with a trainer involved, there is a slight chance that they would get along. But the other dog would still probably bark at yours until he caught his scent.
posted by VTX at 7:35 AM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

My dog decides he hates certain other dogs at random, as far as I can tell. I wouldn't bother trying to figure out the cause.

It's possible that the owner has unintentionally exacerbated it by getting nervous, tightening the leash, etc. when you go by. Some training techniques that might help over time would be to give the dog another command and reward him for doing that (rather than freaking out) when he sees you, teaching the dog to quietly sit and stay when ANYONE walks by, or going straight home at the first sign of bad behavior. But they're not guaranteed to work and you can't count on the owner doing them (though if you end up becoming friendly you could suggest some such methods).

It's also possible that if they met off-leash, her dog would get his sniffing in and chill out in the future. (My dogs are always much more aggressive when on leash, but of course I need to have them on leash when they meet new dogs because of the 2% chance they'll decide to hate a dog they meet off leash... unfortunate cycle.) However, I can't think of a safe way to allow that to occur.

So I don't have any better advice than the others who have suggested coordinating with the owner to avoid each other. You're quite right to be concerned and annoyed, but if you're interested in maintaining neighborly relations, approaching it without blame/ anger will be most effective. Owner is probably embarrassed and potentially defensive already; even if she SHOULD be, you're more likely to get the result you want by being overly sweet.
posted by metasarah at 7:47 AM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

As a former Pyrenees mix owner, no, it is not entirely the other dog owner's problem. It's also completely unrealistic to just throw up one's hands and say "you have to train your dog out of this." Dogs have personalities, just like people. It's highly unlikely a deep, instant disliked of the OP's dog is going to be trained away. This is a management issue for the OP. A space management and time management issue.

OP: I wouldn't bother trying to figure out why the other dog hates your dog. Sometimes it just happens. There could be pheromones/smells involved that you'll just never know about. Or maybe your dog, as someone said, reminds the Pyrenees of bad time. It happens. Or any other reason that you're just not going to ever know. Not all dogs get along, just like not all people get along.

Contact the other owner, without dogs involved, and forthrightly acknowledge the difficulty. "Hey, so, haha, your dog REALLY doesn't like my dog. Can we talk about our schedules and make sure neither of us has to suffer through that? You being pulled down the street, and my needing to run away? Plus, I'll be honest: It seems like your dog could overpower you, and then there would be no other human to help us pull our dogs apart in the worst case scenario."
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 7:57 AM on January 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

I wouldn't have a clue how to sweetly say, "Your dog is out of control and obviously poorly trained. Get some help before it pulls you over and causes a major accident", but maybe someone here can suggest a script.

WHY do freakin' people own a dog they refuse to train???
posted by BlueHorse at 7:58 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

She needs a better leash set-up if she can't control the dog. (I assume she won't be muzzling.) You could suggest that she get a Halti harness for the dog to wear on his or her face, and connect it to an Easy Walker harness for the body. That way, there's redundancy in the leash system AND both of those harnesses are designed to redirect a dog's pulling/lunging so that they get spun around away from the object of their attention. It works great for my sister's dog which is much larger than your neighbor's, and she is quite small as well.
posted by HoteDoge at 8:06 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hi all - thanks so much for the feedback so far! Really helpful.

Like BlueHorse
, I'm having a really hard time figuring out how to say what needs to be said in a polite way that won't upset the neighbor. More script suggestions, along the lines of what ImproviseOrDie gives, would be super useful for me.

Difficulty level: I have never officially met this neighbor, and am not totally sure that I would even recognize her on the street without her dog in tow.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 8:07 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

(Also, I wanted to clarify that I don't expect her dog to actively like mine - I totally get that dogs don't all like one another - but I do expect it to not try to attack mine. I think that's pretty reasonable.)
posted by schroedingersgirl at 8:11 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd go over with cookies or something, make small talk, segue to talking about dogs or something in that vicinity, start asking questions about her dog (oh wow, a Pyrenees? She must shed a lot! Any tips for long haired dogs?). When there's a small pause, go 'You know, I don't know if you've noticed but I don't think our dogs like each other very much (to avoid sounding aggressive). Haha. Right?' Watch how she responds, then either dive in with any helpful suggestions or bring up related concerns about your dog and hope it eventually elicits a solution from her.
posted by kinoeye at 8:17 AM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure you have to beat around the bush at all but also don't have to be mean about it. What about a simple drop by and, "Hey, so I think it is pretty obvious that our dogs shouldn't be around each other, can we work something out to make sure we are walking at different times or different routes?"

Should a 120lb person own a 100lb dog that they can't control? Probably not. But bringing that up or bringing up that it needs to be trained aren't going to solve the actual problem here of just keeping the two away from each other. Present it as a problem that you share and talk about coming up with a mutual solution.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:23 AM on January 8, 2016 [19 favorites]

Great advice above. One thing I have had to do is get between my dog and the other dog, and give a 'no' command to the other dog as loudly and deeply as possible. Every time we have had to pass the other dog I just give the command. It's a bit odd, but it has worked in some cases (NOT that you should go up to the dog, but if by some chance it comes charging at you or even just starts going nuts on its leash). I always put myself in front of my dog. A dog needs someone to be in command. When the owner won't do that, I have just had to do it myself, to protect my dog.
posted by Vaike at 8:32 AM on January 8, 2016

Some things I'd suggest if you have to pass near the dog. Do not make eye contact, do not stare at the dog. Yawn and lick your lips and look away from the dog. These are all appeasement gestures used by dogs against other aggressive dogs to say hey I'm not going to cause you any problems you can chill out. You want to then keep your body between the dogs, make sure you body points away from the dog, work steadily but calmly in your direction with a calm lets go or such to your dog to keep it too focused on where you are going & not the barking dog. Do not accelerate.

You are not "submitting" to the dog I only mention that as some people think you have to out aggressive a dog, you are simply trying to tell it there is no cause for barking you mean no harm.

If the dog breaks free & runs for you DO NOT RUN that will trigger a whole bunch of instincts you do not want activated. As Vaike says a firm, but none aggressive, No can do wonders. I have stopped an neighbours aggressive dog charging at a small child with nothing but a firm no nonsense sit command. Also if you are nervous or in a worst case scenario the dog does get free there are several good dog repellent sprays out there that you could carry with you.

All in the best solution would be as others have mentioned a nice friendly, none accusatory chat with the dog owner. Just a hey I'm sure you've noticed we have this problem with our dogs what should we do about it so walks are easier for both of us. As night time seems the worst time maybe set up that you both walk different routes at night. I'll take x street if you take y street sort of thing.
posted by wwax at 9:14 AM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm not a dog expert, but would it make sense to carry pepper spray and/or a stick, or other potential weapon, just in case?
posted by amtho at 9:15 AM on January 8, 2016

(script suggestion) (come over with cookies/bread (half or full loaf)) (I'm assuming that you know where she lives? Failing that, spend some time watching the street to find out where she lives)
Hi neighbor, I wanted to introduce myself, I'm X and I live at Y house over there.

In case you don't recognize me, I'm the owner of the black lab that your dog seems to dislike. As they're obviously not going to be friends, I was thinking maybe we should both work to have them not see each other. I was wondering what your general schedule is because I'd really like to avoid the stress, along with keeping things quiet so the other neighbors don't start getting annoyed with us dog walkers. (from there, depending on how she is, since you've mentioned nights are worse, maybe try to negotiate a 30 minute window for each of you that barring emergency "this dog needs to hit my front yard now before he blows" that the other won't be out there)

Also, I remember when $DogsName was younger how he'd pull and how painful that was for my back. Have you ever used a head harness? I know my dog didn't initially like it, but it made my life so much easier and he got used to it after a few days and I can walk him pain free! Even better, with positive walk training with the head harness he made enough progress that we can now go just on a leash and he knows not to pull.

(If you legitimately have an old halti or similar thing and it might conceivibly fit, perhaps offer it up for her to try)

Failing that, read up on breaking up dog fights (grab the rear legs and reverse wheelbarrow them away - ideally you grab her dog and tell your dog to sit and he does) and be prepared to sue her home insurance for vet bills. Perhaps some spray as wwax suggests? It's kinda sucky if the only option is to prepare for the nuclear option along with getting much better at staying ever vigilant as to where her dog might be.
posted by nobeagle at 9:31 AM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh, in retrospect, during the meeting, if she's not brushing you off and seems invested in making things go well, perhaps make sure that she also knows about breaking up dog fights. Realistically if your dog is attacked, and you grab the hind legs of the aggressor and try to walk it away, your dog will likely be in the moment and not respond to you trying to get it to sit. Meaning that 1) best case, it's running away, or 2) it's trying to attack the dog that you're handicaping. And if your neighbor doesn't know what's up she might try to get you to either let go of her dog, or do something stupid like start kicking your dog, or try to grab it by the collar (and thus getting bit herself).
posted by nobeagle at 9:39 AM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Here's my script.

Knock knock. Hi, I'm your neighbor [name], the one with the dog your dog gets excited about. Would you mind if we scheduled walking times so we don't have to deal with our dogs getting excited?

The end.
posted by zippy at 9:44 AM on January 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

nobeagle has a pretty good script. I would add that you want to take a collaborative tone here. This is going to go an order of magnitude better if you are friendly to the owner, friendly to the dog and at no point indicate that either of them is the "problem". The "problem" is that pups seem to get stressed out around each other... you are a pup-lover and don't want to cause any undue stress.

If you are visiting her apartment, you can show affection to the pup and show that it is not a fearful or antagonistic thing. Skritch it behind the ears while saying something like "Look at you big fluff-monster! Mommy should buy a saddle for you!". Then commiserate with her about how nice the coat looks and she must brush a full dog of fur every day.

These sorts of things will go a huge way toward mitigating any defensiveness on her part and identifying yourself as a "dog-person"... If a non-dog-person tries to talk to me about how my dog behaves, that is an uphill battle for them.
posted by milqman at 9:51 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Agreed that it's not a dog problem (at least not an easily-addressable one), it's a people problem. In terms of script, I'd approach her when your dog is not with you, either go knock on her door, or go outside on your own when you see her take her dog out.
Hi, I'm schroedingersgirl, one of your neighbors, I wanted to introduce myself. I go with that (black lab, her name's Fifi.). (She may apologize up front for her dog as soon as she recognizes you. She may introduce her dog to you, be nice.). I've seen your dog around other people and dogs in the neighborhood and he seems like a real sweetheart most of the time. (yes, it's key to tell her you don't hate her dog). Have you noticed how he gets worked up whenever he sees (my Fifi)? That seems so weird, they've never even met, and I know they're both good dogs the rest of the time. I try to avoid you as much as possible, we always steer away whenever I notice Bruno - I wanted you to know it's nothing personal. I'm worried, though. Has your Bruno been like this around any other dogs, do you have any idea what to expect if he got off the leash? ("Oh, I'm sure it's no problem he'd never hurt a fly, it's never happened, I'd never drop the leash." Nod politely but ignore all reassurances.) That's scary though, that we don't really know what to expect, so many things could go wrong. What can we do to make sure that never happens?
Brainstorm some ideas. I like the suggestion of coordinating your walk schedules so they never meet, or declaring territory such that she'll always turn left and you'll always turn right. Also discuss harnesses and pulling and whether he's ever slipped his leash. Also discuss what you plan to do if her dog comes flying at you - this could be nobeagle's excellent suggestion of explaining how to break up a dog fight, or it could be warning her that you're going to be carrying pepper spray or some other aggressive solution.

Basically, being as friendly with the owner as possible will help, because then she won't be nervous/scared of you. Also if you can meet her dog and he does okay without your dog there, that may help (both your mindset and his).
posted by aimedwander at 9:53 AM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am your neighbor, except that my dog is a 65 lb German Shepherd mix, and I have her on a head harness to ensure good control when she goes ballistic after seeing 1) a black lab or 2) a skateboard. (She was rescued absolutely hating skateboards, and developed the hatred of black labs after seeing a neighborhood black lab towing a kid on an enemy skateboard several times - clearly, black labs are the turncoats of dog nation.)

Training my dog out of this hatred has not worked, despite multiple trainers/behaviorists and many years and $$$ poured into the effort - I have had folks who've been in the dog behaviorist business for decades tell me that she is the most stubborn dog they have ever met. (She's also super sweet and smart and loving and all those great dog things.)

Now, it is totally on me to control my dog - it isn't black labs or their owners' fault that my dog is a breedist. Which is why I have a head harness on her, and why I cross the street/turn around/get off the main pathway and put her into a full down when I can see a potential situation brewing. But my dog is never going to not try to attack a black lab. She's nine now, and yeah, it's just not going to happen. So expecting that out of your neighbor's dog may just not be realistic. What is possible is avoidance and knowing what to do should the worst happen and a dog fight break out. If I were your neighbor, I'd be totally open to having a black lab owner come up to me and have us brainstorm/discuss avoidance strategies to make all of our dog walks more pleasant. And the burden is definitely on me to be the flexible one here. All of the scripts offered by others above are awesome.
posted by Jaclyn at 10:05 AM on January 8, 2016 [8 favorites]

There's great advice above.

As someone suggested carrying pepper spray, I'd like to suggest, instead of that, a bottle of alcohol deodorant, similar to Lynx/Axe. A spray on the nose will stop any dog fight and cause no permanent harm to the dog.
posted by Promethea at 2:13 PM on January 8, 2016

What kind of leash does she have? I have a 90 lb German shepherd, and a leash with dual loops that lets me easily hold on with two hands. Even my kid can hang on with that leash. It's not a real solution, but it might at least be a step up.

I would actually caution you against going over to the owners house, though. Dogs have varying degrees of intelligence, but I know my dog can always recognize the human of the dog that came after us. The last thing you want is the dog thinking you're coming into its territory if it already has issues with your dog. Do you ever see her without the dog?
posted by corb at 8:13 PM on January 8, 2016

Thanks, everyone! Next time I see her in the cul-de-sac, I'll approach her with some combination of the scripts you guys have given me. (I know which building she lives in, but not which unit she's in, so dropping by won't be possible.) It'll have to wait a few days, since right now I'm thinking emotionally rather than rationally about this situation, but once that has worn off I'll keep an eye out for her.

To be honest, it feels super unfair that this is anything less than 100% her problem - my dog isn't doing anything wrong (he isn't provoking her dog, or even reacting to its barking/growling/lunging) and neither am I, while her dog is being frighteningly aggressive and she is making no effort to manage its behavior. Like sure, I get that dogs have different personalities, but her dog is displaying some pretty lousy personality traits in this situation, and she should be managing them appropriately.

But I will try to make like a dog and give her the benefit of the doubt anyway. :)
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:48 AM on January 9, 2016

Technically, it IS 100% her problem. If her dog get's loose and attacks you or your dog, she is 100% liable for whatever happens.

Other that you obviously wanting to avoid harm to you of your dog, the reason I encourage you to work with her rather than just make it her problem is that the dog would almost certainly be put down. Whatever problems that dog has, it doesn't deserve to be euthanize because its owner can't handle him. You're not helping her, you're helping her dog.

If the laws were more fair to the animals, I'd be telling you to make it her problem to deal with.

If you're not getting through to her, I would make sure she understands the consequences. If her dog attacks you or your dog, her dog is dead and she'll be paying for any and all vet and medical bills. Hopefully, she already knows all of that and will be thrilled that you're willing to work something out and make it as easy on you as possible since you're doing her and her dog the favor.
posted by VTX at 6:54 AM on January 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

I agree with VTX that technically this is 100% her problem. However I'll be a bit more harsh and ignore the fact that if her dog gets loose and attacks your dog and/or you that her dog will be put down. Don't do this for her dog's sake.

The reasons that you need to try to take control of this situation are 1) you absolutely want to avoid a dog attack; it will be emotionally and physically traumatic. 2) The law won't make her do anything until it's too late. The law is reactive for punishable things that have happened, rather than preventative for pre-crime. As she hasn't lost control, yet; and she (/ her dog) haven't mauled your dog and possibly you to the tune of potentially tens of thousands in vet bills and a potential lifetime of behavior problems with your dog and yourself, there's nothing for them to do.

Because this could go so badly, you need to be a bit more proactive when the owner is so obviously not. It sucks, but it really, really beats the alternative.
posted by nobeagle at 6:23 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

What VTX and nobeagle said, this is a time for the mantra "would you rather be right or happy?"
posted by anaelith at 5:10 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

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