Eating Crow. More Help Needed.

I’m freaking out a bit. I start with that. I just took Bella to the dog park. I took Em too. (The calm one. Six people there, four dogs.) Things were going well and then Bella got a bit crazy, started running in circles. Fairly normal, or so I was told by a kind man at the park. She went around once, Em was in the middle, she tapped him with her paw. Came around again and this time basically attacked him. I mean, it wasn’t like a tear your face off sort of thing, but she grabbed his shirt with her teeth and tore it. She didn’t break the skin, but she scared him to pieces. I of course ran over to stop her, held her down and said, “NO!” She immediately bellied up. Done. No wildness left at all.

I don’t want to make it sound terrible, but I don’t want to make it sound OK either.

I don’t know what to do. This is not OK. I know this much. But we do NOT have a lot of money right now to pay a trainer. I am kind of freaking out here.

I called BARC to let them know. I also left a message with their dog trainer. I get one free session for adopting her. I will do that.

I really wish I knew more about dogs. I am eating crow here, people. I believed I could do this on my own. I feel very irresponsible. I just feel awful. What was I thinking? I know nothing about dogs.

Is this normal? I haven’t any idea. Bella is currently snoozing next to me, calm and sweet as can be. I feel like I fucked up, people.


    1. You’re right Charlie. I do want to do this. And Toby calmed me down. We are gonna study up and make her an awesome dog.


  1. I’ve had dogs all my life including one when I was quite young that was unfortunately put down because he was too aggressive. It doesn’t sound like Bella was being aggressive.

    Sounds like she was just trying to get Em to play too … Stopping her right away was good … next time see if you can catch her when she’s getting a little too rambunctious. Also sounds like she would benefit from runs with you. Start her slow and she could be a great running companion. It will help even out her bursts of playful energy.

    One other thing, to take a page from Cesar’s book … keep calm but firm around her when she’s doing something wrong and encourage when she’s doing something right. If you’re freaked out she will feel it too. Just like a toddler really ;)

    I would also suggest bringing Em with you to the training session, or at least for a part of it. That way Bella will learn she has to listen to him too and he can learn what to do if she gets too exuberant.

    Buddy my Black Lab came to me completely untrained at 3 yrs old and the best line of defense I had with him was making him sit before we did anything … eat, put his collar on, go out the door, go in the door, go in the car. That would just give Bella that bit more knowledge that there are rules to follow.

    Good luck, have fun and you can pull this off!


    1. I suppose taking Em to the dog run was stupid. I won’t do that again. Too risky in general. So dumb of me.


  2. Not stupid at all. Maybe not again until she gets a little more used to the dog park, but there’s no reason the three things (Em, Bella, dog park) can’t peacefully coexist.

    You’re getting good advice here. You didn’t fuck up. Em’s FINE. Bella’s going to be a good girl. How’s she behaving now? Also, how’s Em doing? I don’t want him to be freaked out by dogs because of this. It definitely sounds like she just forgot she can’t play rough with someone smaller than her.


  3. It’s a learning process, you’re doing great!
    Although at least at the dog parks in my area, children aren’t allowed. Dogs can get a little wilder than usual at the dog park, and it’s safer for everyone if there aren’t any kids.


  4. Michele, you’re beating yourself up over nothing. As a life-long dog person before getting Libby and Zipper, let me tell you: dogs aren’t hard, cats are hard. And you raised some fantastic cats. So absolutely no doubt that you’ll do fine by Bella and your family. Like Robin said: it doesn’t sound like she was being aggressive. She was just being a puppy who hasn’t been socialized terribly well yet and doesn’t know her own strength. When I was 8, our second dog, Gella, headbutted me in the face so hard she drew blood and almost busted teeth (I still have a little scar on my chin. Gella was then a 50-lb boxer puppy). Did I go wailing to my Mom? Yes. Did my Mom discipline the dog? … Well, knowing my Mom, probably not. But Gella still grew up into a really gentle and awesome dog. Don’t stress out: just do some basic training, establish behavior norms and you’ll be fine.


  5. Sounds like she just got a little rambunctious and over excited. You want to keep it in check, especially because of your little ones, but I don’t think it sounds like aggression or anything to worry about. She’s still a puppy and she responded to your correction which is great. My dogs are 3 and, if they are under exercised, they will sometimes start running laps around the house like mad and tear a dog bed to pieces. I think she just wanted to play and she’s still learning how.


  6. Hey! I echo almost everyone here. And as a pup mom, it always makes me a bit nervous when younger kids are at the dog park. Just because my dogs are trained doesn’t mean everyone’s are. I’ve found the larger the dog, the smaller that dog thinks he is. Great Danes are convinced they’re cat sized. This can easily lead to a child being knocked over by a large, friendly dog.

    I also think that goes for dog parks in general, constant vigilance, looking for possible asshole dogs/owners. If you’re upfront and honest with people that you have a newly adopted dog, every good owner will give you a pass. We’ve all been there!


  7. I have been thinking about your post for a while, and I just want to echo what everyone else has said – you guys are going to be fine! Your story reminds me a of a good friend of mine. She got a dog a few years ago from a shelter – dog was about the same age as Bella (less than a year). He was an absolute doll, but had some definite behavioural issues that displayed themselves while playing. She and her boyfriend were not dog people, but they talked to friends who knew and consulted books and the dog now is an angel. Now, I don’t know how to train a dog (my parents always took care of that when we I was growing up, and I am now a cat owner…), but I just wanted to reiterate you guys can do it! Dogs are easy – you can at least train them to listen to you! Now, getting cats to stop trying to eat your Mac cables – that is hard!


  8. You’re right in your next post about thinking she’s part hunting dog. My dog is a blue heeler/sharpei cross and when she’s in a mood, she won’t let the neighbor kids out of the yard to walk to school. She never bites hard, never really bites at all, just mouths at their ankles and gets their attention.


  9. I’m a bit late to the party but want to reassure you.

    Unlike children (or maybe like children, but condensed), the HARD PART is all at the beginning with dogs. The reason this is hard right now is only partly because you’re a total dog noob. The other part is because that’s the nature of it. You put in the time and the hours at the beginning and it will pay off in spades for many years.

    Since you don’t have the money for a trainer, I would suggest you consult a book. We used one by the (New York?) monks who raised German Shepherds and it was a great start.

    I know that Cesar Milan is very popular now, but I don’t have a lot of confidence in his techniques as applied by a newbie. The monks’ book was totally written for newbies.

    Here’s the monks:

    Here are their books, though they will certainly be available at your library for free.

    I found a wandering border collie last night (now, thankfully reunited with his owner after a 12 day, 150km journey owing to a microchip) and I will say this: they are a lot of dog. He’d been on the road for more than a week and covered a lot of distance, not eating well and all he wanted to do was PLAY! PLAY MORE!

    I told my SO ‘if we can’t find his owner, we’re joining an agility team. This dog needs to work.’ But he was a beauty – gentle, smart, attentive. You and Bella and your family are going to be fine. Better than fine.

    It’s just the beginning that’s hard work.


  10. Thank you! You know, I just bought a 200 pair of boots. (Lollipop sales. Zappos REALLY shouldn’t accept PayPal.) I’m going to find the money to hire a trainer for a few sessions. Priorities! Bella deserves it. We all do.


  11. instead of targeting several trainer sessions, i’d suggest starting with one trainer session and signing up for a group class.

    a single session fixed maybe 70% of henry’s problems, and set us on the path to another 10%. we haven’t done the group training yet, but we want to — the last few problems he has are all on-leash ( except for going through the trash when I go on a run ).

    in our area, trainers run $100-150 for a 90minute session. there are a handful of places that offer group classes that end up around $50 a week for 4-6 sessions.

    the more bella plays with other pups, the better she’ll be at home too. they really learn how to playfully bite one another at the park – it’s been much easier teaching henry what not to do with humans from the reference point of how he’s learned to play with other dogs, than it was when we first got him.


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