The Dog Liberator™

The Dog Liberator rescues abandoned dogs throughout the Southeast. Based in Central Florida, this non-profit organization fosters all of their dogs in a home environment. Founded in 2009, all dogs are fully vetted, spayed or neutered prior to adoption. The Dog Liberator focuses in rescuing the herding breed, which consists of Border Collies, Shepherds, Sheepdogs, Aussies, Collies, and Deaf/Blind Dogs.

Protective or Scared

Protective or Scared
Lady Di
Lady Di

When people describe their dogs to me, even people I have never met, for example, while I’m waiting at the vet, they will explain that their dog is “protective”.   So while their dog is growling and showing its teeth at me, and trying to lunge at me, the owner writes it off and gives the dog not only an excuse for its behavior, they give the dog permission to act inappropriately by label the behavior as “protective”.

People humanize their dog’s behavior.  Your Dog is NOT Protective!

What is Protective?  Should someone enter into my home with a knife, or a gun, or an aggressive look on their face, my reaction would be to cover my children, and get them out of harms way.  I would use my body to block my children from this intruder.  I would try to protect them.

A dog that is standing between it’s owner and a dangerous snake, dodging back and forth to block the snake from attacking its people, is protecting.  A dog that lunges at a person who is harming its human, is protecting.

Scared:  Dogs that growl, charge or bite strangers are not necessarily protecting you, they are more than likely scared and because you are not showing your dog that you are in charge – the dog is in charge, and tries to correct the situation the only way he knows how.

Ziggy at the shelter
Ziggy at the shelter

Dogs that do not want strangers in their yard, home, or near their owner are dominating their property.  They think they own the house, they think they own you.  A well-balanced dog knows that you own him.

While my bark at strangers, warning me someone is at the door, when I open the door, they immediately back off.  They know that I am in charge, and I do not need them to make decisions.

Barrier aggression:  Ziggy would act vicious when anyone came toward his crate.  Vicki explained he had barrier aggression.  Ziggy created an imaginary line, and was afraid.  His show of force was designed to keep you at a distance.  Ziggy did not do well with strangers, however, once you met him and made friends he was fine.  Put him back in his crate, and he would repeat the show!

Ziggy with me
Ziggy with me

We believe that Ziggy was owner by an older gentleman.  It was just the two of them.  The owner had become ill, and could no longer care for Ziggy.  I’m confident that Ziggy was the man of the house.  His owner properly never corrected him for being rude to strangers, his owner probably enjoyed his alleged “protectiveness”.  Ziggy was not protective, he was not socialized and was afraid.  All Ziggy knew was that house, and nothing else.

After Ziggy was adopted, I suggested that his owner keep him in his crate when company came over.  Wait until the visitors were seated and relaxed.  Wait until Ziggy was relaxed in his crate, and ignore him!  Once he is relaxed, you can release him, and present him with a treat for good behavior!  It made a huge difference, but more importantly, it showed Ziggy who is the boss.  While he is in his crate, his owner is showing him that she does not need his help.  She is showing Ziggy that this is her visitor, a visitor that is allowed to be in the house, and it’s not his decision to make.

Today, Ziggy greets visitors nicely.  Sure, he barks at the door acting like he’s going to bite your leg off, but once the door is opened, he stops.  Perfect!

Dogs that have barrier aggression are never adopted.  Who would adopt a dog that’s lunging at them from a kennel?  The dog is simply insecure, unsure, and nervous – not aggressive and not protective.

Fearful dogs:  China was the only dog of mine that gave me the impression that she might nip at a stranger.  I am constantly watching and correcting her.  Why China?  She is incredibly fearful, because she is deaf and visually impaired, but more importantly, my daughter Sarah, babies her.  China is the only dog allowed to sleep with her human.  Every once and a while, China thinks it’s her job to protect Sarah, and she is corrected with a simple finger point!

Co-sleeping:  Co-sleeping sends the wrong message to an unbalanced dog.  Co-sleeping tells the dog you are equals.  It keeps an insecure dog insecure.    Co-sleeping does not increase a dog’s self-esteem.  The only dogs I have slept with were dogs that were borderline feral.  Sleeping with them, while holding on to their leash, forced them to experience human contact, showed them they would not be harmed, and it fast tracked their rehabilitation.  But once the dog was no longer afraid of human contact, it did not continue to sleep with any of us.  Can you imagine how many times we get a new dog and my daughter immediately asks, “Can I sleep with it?”


Sarah and Marbles "Can I sleep with her?"
Sarah and Marbles
“Can I sleep with her?”

If there is no harm being done to you, and you are not in fear of anything, your dog is not protecting you!  Your dog is scared.

So if it doesn’t happen in my house, it doesn’t have to happen in yours.  My dogs aren’t special, and I am not a trainer or a behaviorist.  Most of the dogs I foster are broken… they have been abused, neglected, yelled at, and handled improperly – yet they don’t charge strangers in my house or my yard!

When dogs come here, after a very short period of time, they learn that I am in charge.  If I’m not around, my kids are in charge.  All of my fostered dogs do not lunge at potential adopters who come to meet them, for if they did, they would never get adopted!  So why is it that the dogs that I foster, and the dogs that I own do not show this behavior?  Because they don’t need to.  They know I’m going to take care of them, and they don’t need to correct the situation for me.  I won’t allow it.  I don’t need to be protected!

A Protective Dog:  In my 51 years of being a dog owner, there is only one time I witnessed a dog protecting.  I had interviewed an at-home daycare when my son was only 3 years old.  In the backyard were swing sets, and a lot of wonderful toys.  The woman baby sat about 8 children every day.  In the backyard was a huge yellow lab.  The moment I went out the door to the yard, the lab tried to dominate me.  She jumped up on me, and wouldn’t get down.  She wasn’t excited to see me, or didn’t want to play, she just wanted to own me.  I refused her repeatedly and pushed her off of me.

Ozzie, not a protective dog!
Ozzie, not a protective dog!

As we went into the yard, at one point, my son tripped, fell onto the ground and started to cry.  I ran to pick him up, and the dog ran in circles and knocked me down from behind.  The dog continued to run circles around the yard, each time running a wider and wider circle to gain speed, and must have knocked me off my feet at least four times.  At one point, the dog actually trampled over my sons head, which made him cry even more.

The owner stood in the middle of the yard yelling at her dog, and trying to get her to stop but she had no control over the dog.

What I had witnessed was a very noble and loving dog, protecting it’s lamb – my son.  Protecting my son from me, and a dog owner who was clueless.  No matter how noble the dog’s intentions were, you can’t allow a dog to be in charge.  A dog can’t understand that I’m the mother of the child.  The dog doesn’t understand that I mean no harm, the dog doesn’t understand that stepping all over the child is wrong.

My son Ryan was fine, just very dirty!  Needless to say, I kept looking for other daycare alternatives!

Click here to read all of the articles we have written about Shy/Fearful Dogs, Feral Dogs and Fear Biters.


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