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August 9, 2010

Last week, during one of our regular walks, Lilly and I got chased down by a couple of spaniels with whom we’ve had trouble (off and on) for years. Considering that Lilly is suddenly hiding again inside the house (behind the toilet, in the basement, etc.), I suspect the scare is having lasting effects.

Perfect. Just perfect.

Brags about dog training breakthroughs from earlier this summer aside, Miss Lilly seems to be having another rough patch … and, I was thinking I might try to wean her off the medications to see how she’d do.

Lilly’s last week likely includes a million and one things that could have caused an uptick in fears, but here is the tale of our scary encounter that may still mean she has stress hormones coursing through her veins.

The Boundary

We were inbound from our out-and-back walk,when I spotted the often-loose, often-“aggressive” dogs riding atop their owner’s ATV on a jaunt out to the mailbox on the road.

Lately, they haven’t been chasing us, so I guess I got overconfident about where on the road their buffer zone might start (or end … depending upon your perspective).

I slowed our pace, trying to buy them time to clear out. I switched Lilly to my other side since the other dogs (across the road from the two we were facing) who bark at us every time we pass were thankfully not at home.

I thought we were going to slide by as the dogs made their way home, but I was wrong.

Both of them leaped from the ATV and came barreling at us, barks a’ blazing, teeth a’ flashing. We were a good 50 feet from them, and they still took our presence as a threat.

I turned immediately and headed back up the hill to try and get Lilly space. I also hoped that our retreat bought some times for their owner to recall them before contact.

No. Such. Luck.

They circled us tightly and continued to bark/growl/etc.

Lilly’s Defense

These no-win situations are just impossible. To her credit, Lilly did NOT lash out. She did not snap back, when they snapped at us.

Lilly simply stood, stock still, and curled her lips as I high as I’ve ever seen them curl.

Honestly, I think I glimpsed the inside of her sinuses for a second … she had her lips pulled back so far.

The Right Response?

I did not have any citronella spray on my belt that day. I guess I need to start carrying it again, but clearly … I prefer NOT to have to use it.

I used to holler for the person to get control of their dogs, or if there is no person around, and we’re just being challenged by marauding dogs, then I used to holler at the dogs.

BUT, I’m not really the hollering type, so Lilly is NOT used to my voice at any decibel at all. So, it would freak her out more.

So, during this last encounter, I didn’t say anything … until the dogs finally heeded their owner’s call and left us along.


Once Lilly had some space, she began what we call “jumping her jitters out.” It’s a distinct way she releases stress after a scary encounter that involves leaping straight up into the air (as high as my head), several times in a row.

We had a little kissing and hugging after that, then we made our way past the scene of the “crime” so that we could go home.

I thought Lilly had recovered pretty well, until Tom told me Sunday that Lilly had spent much of the morning while I was gone hiding behind the toilet in the master bathroom.

And, well, today … She has seemed completely flipped out about every little thing. She slept under my desk for a while, but Lilly is once again hiding in her crate in the basement.

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. OH Lilly sounds just like our rescue dog Woody He did all that stuff sometimes it would take him a week to get over somthing but not only was he afraid but he would bite us, but it has all changed we now have a happier more confident dog since we had a dog listner home Joe Barnes he showed how to take over Woodys responsibility of looking after us “thats what he thought he was doing” and it was too much for him, thats why he was so disturbed, we are now “good calm pack leaders for him”

    1. Tracy, I’m glad Woody is doing better. We don’t use or recommend dominance/leadership style training, if that’s what you mean by working with a “listener,” but if Woody is feeling less fearful, then that’s the main goal.

  2. Like everyone else, I’m sorry this happened to you and Lilly. I don’t get dog owners like that. At my old house, I quit walking in the neighborhood because one dog always attacked us. Do people think that’s okay?

  3. I had always been a cat owner and now that I have 2 little dogs it has opened a world I never knew existed. Plus interactions with people and their pets that have been both good and bad. It really is up to the owners of their pets to teach their dogs correct response and also handle the situation. Yet I know this does not happen. Two of my sisters cats and a dog were attacked and killed on seperate occassions when a dog got loose from its owner. The dog would rush or face off yet had never crossed to attacking. Yet once it did, it was working its way through her animals. It was incredibly sad. She did like her neighbors and they were both upset and surprised that their own dog had reacted in this way. They tried to keep the dog kenneled on their property, but the dog often broke free and would visit my sisters house, sneak in through doggie door and terrorize her pets. She finally had to start calling animal control to report since it was the only way she could think of to deal with it.

    It is never acceptable for dogs to attack humans or other pets unprovoked.

    Can you recommend that the people keep their dogs on leash while out around others….I think most cities have leash laws (for a reason). Or you may have to report them when incidence happens (only if they are not willing to take corrective measures) to either police or city.

    I am no dog trainer, yet I do not want to be in between my dogs or others in a stand off….it is too unpredicatable. And if you move to save your dogs the others could lash out….both you and your dogs will be hurt.

    I wish you luck!!! Owning dogs is a lot of responsibility….you would not let your child run after someone, why people allow their dogs to, I do not know.

    1. I am so sorry to hear about your sister’s pets, Kelly. That’s terrible.

      These particular dogs live with someone known in our rural community as “Mean Mr. —–” He is well known for holding grudges and making neighbor’s lives miserable, if they “dare to cross him.” I do think that some people must have called animal control a few years ago because suddenly the dogs were much better fenced … which is why we haven’t had nearly the trouble we were having.

      BUT, this particular time they were with him (off leash), and he simply didn’t have control of them.

      I actually talked to him once when Lilly got really scared while passing his house, and I explained that she was really fearful. He seemed to take more caution after that when we were going by, so I thought maybe that cinched it.

      I’d like to chalk this up to a mistake, but we’ll see.

  4. Ugh, I am so sorry! We’ve been there before – maybe not with loose dogs, but with fireworks. And it just puts a damper on the whole day.

    I have no problem telling strange dogs off, unless I think it’s only going to make the dog respond aggressively. A big goofy yellow lab approached us on a walk (which is ILLEGAL!), wanting to play. His idiot owner simply stood still and whistled for his dog, who obviously wasn’t coming. So, I body blocked to keep Marge away and yelled “NO!” at him. He got the idea that he wasn’t welcome and took off. It’s sad that owners like this don’t think about other people, who don’t want to be approached. It’s even sadder when it’s a barking, growling dog who approaches, like in your case.

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