over-friendly dog

Why can’t I take my dog to the fair?

Here are some thoughts on how to enjoy an outing with your dog, just as you planned when you got your dog! | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #anxiousdog, #overfriendlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Well … maybe you can. Maybe you have a bombproof dog who loves everyone and likes nothing more than all the busyness, noise, and goings-on at your local summer fete.

Then again, maybe your dog is like most dogs, and finds traipsing round a hot and busy fairground, on a short lead, with children screaming, people laughing, smells of burgers, spilt chips in the grass you won’t let him eat, loudspeakers blaring - a complete nightmare.

You can’t put him back in the car as it’s way too hot. So your unhappy dog is stuck with this for as long as you choose to stay at the event. Hot, bothered, fed up.

Now this is where you’ll send me a photo of your dog on your last outing, quietly standing beside you. All the more surprising to you because your dog is usually wary of strangers and other dogs, and seemed to be “absolutely fine” in the midst of thousands of them.

“He’s fine!” you’ll assure me.

But it’s very likely that this change in behaviour was not down to him “being fine”, rather that he’s “shut down”. This is a coping mechanism we all employ when overwhelmed.

We become subdued, we stay quiet, make ourselves small. We hope not to be noticed, spoken to, or challenged.

It’s a form of learned helplessness.

We know that nothing we do will change the situation, so we give up. Surrender to our fate. But it doesn’t mean we’re enjoying it!

Your dog, as I so often say, is the exact same. He finds himself in a situation he can’t handle. With hundreds of people, children, dogs, in close proximity, he knows he can’t employ his usual methods of requesting space - barking, lunging, screaming, snarling - which work like a charm at removing the approaching thing from their path, or getting themselves removed by an embarrassed owner.

Watch and wait

Put some planning into place when you are visiting an exciting event with your dog, so that it goes as smoothly as you planned when you first got him! | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #anxiousdog, #overfriendlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Some dogs will be much happier out of the thick of things, on the sidelines where they can safely observe what’s in front of them without having to scan the full 360° (see there’s nothing behind this puppy in the picture - she only needs to check in front of her).

He will also appreciate you watching how he is (soft mouth, soft ears and shoulders, no gasping panting, head not dropped, no twitchiness or slinking about) and removing him from the situation after maybe as little as three minutes. And yes, you can’t plonk him in the hot car or you’ll have a worse problem! Take him home.

You may be surprised that even your very friendly dog finds a busy outing a bit too much. Continually being restrained from jumping all over a thousand new friends who must want to meet him, will wear him out!

If you’re planning on visiting a big event, put your dog in training for the occasion. You can start with a walk past the local shops, sitting at the other end of a school road at school-out time, a shopping centre car park on a quiet day, a busier day, a Saturday …

Don’t plunge him into a new and strange environment, which could cause him distress, without finding out beforehand how he’s going to manage.

Then you can amend your plans accordingly. We can enjoy our family outings, but we don’t necessarily need to take our dog.

Here are some more articles which will help you understand just what’s going on with your dog when you’re out and about:

How to get calmer dogwalks

How heat can affect your dog’s coping skills

How to plan a successful day out with your dog

Need more help understanding your Growly Dog? Get this free e-course

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Social Butterflies versus Wallflowers - over-friendly dogs vs. shy dogs

Dog training, new puppy, puppy training, dog behavior | Is your dog a super-friendly dog, or a super-shy dog? Find out how to manage him successfully here | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #puppytraining, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

“Go on. Go and say hello to Aunt Ermintrude. Give her a kiss. Go ON!” 

This last would have been accompanied by a sharp prod between the shoulderblades to propel you forward.

Can you remember this happening to you when you were a small child? You wriggled and squirmed and really didn’t want to have anything to do with this towering, bearded, overpowering aunt.

But if you’d been left to your own devices, curiosity would eventually have got the better of you and you would have started to engage with this strange, mountainous, figure.

So is it with many dogs. 

Some are bouncy, in-your-face, love-everybody, kind of dogs - not in the least bothered by the Aunt Ermintrudes of this world. But many more are quiet, retiring, worried about anything new. The key to this is to strike a balance


The Social Butterflies need to learn a little restraint and thoughtfulness, lest they leap up on the wrong dog and get bitten or terrorised. Or of course they may leap on a shy and worried dog who will think in terror that her last hour has come.
The Wallflowers must be allowed to be Wallflowers! If you give them time to assess from a safe distance, they will gradually start to explore nearer, on their own terms. 


The funny thing is that we always seem to want the opposite of what we have! Those with the demented jumper-upper wish they had a calmer dog - continually snapping “Get down!” to their poor dog, who thinks that perhaps he needs to jump higher in order to please his owner. While those with a mouse-impersonator wish they had something more outgoing, and feel as if the world thinks they beat their dog. 


We always want to fit in with society’s view of being able to produce the perfect dog, without necessarily heeding what our dog has to say about it all.


Aren’t all dogs friendly?

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This commonly accepted thought completely ignores the fact that dogs are all different! They are individuals, just as we are. Their breeding will influence their behaviour, but there’s huge variation within breeds and types. And we’ve all learnt - through the notorious breed-specific legislation - that you cannot tar all dogs of one breed with the same brush.

Because people notice the exuberant dog more than the shy one, they think that’s the norm. You can’t help but notice the bouncy Labrador with his tail thumping your legs (but there are many quiet, shy Labradors too). Or the half-crazed Poodle who thinks everyone must love him (Coco Poodle? Are you listening?). But In fact the quieter response is the more common one - and probably much better for survival in the wild situation that dogs were evolved in. 

Just because some dogs are in-your-face dogs doesn’t mean that this is how all dogs should be.

And what about responsibility for other people’s dogs?

Let’s say you have one of the bouncy dogs who thinks the world is his oyster and wants to greet everyone. Now imagine that instead you have one of the shy, retiring dogs. Maybe your dog desires only to be left alone, to have peace and quiet to enjoy her walk without interference. Your shy dog could be enjoying a tremendous game with you and your frisbee or ball, and the last thing she wants is someone muscling in on her prize. 

How would it be if you were enjoying a makeshift game of badminton with your family in your local park, and a load of louts came barging in, snatching the shuttlecock, knocking your children over and treading on them, wrecking your game - with their parents laughing at their antics all the while. Nice? I don’t think so.

So if your dog is the super-friendly one, don’t let him rampage all over the place, upsetting calmer, quieter, perhaps older, dogs. 

It can take a shy dog several days to recover from an experience like this - really! They may have to stay indoors for days to allow their hormones to settle back down - just as you might if you were in a mild car shunt. It could be a few days before you were happy to get behind the wheel again. This dog’s owner may be upset and begging you to put your unruly dog on a lead. This request, sadly, is often greeted with derision and insults. 

Many owners of boisterous dogs assume that their dog’s behaviour is not only natural, but acceptable.

I’m here to tell you it’s not!

These owners seem to think they have more right to be out walking their dog than others with more challenging dogs. They form this opinion, I believe, because sometimes their unruly dog is greeted by a show of teeth and snarling from the other dog. They assume that this dog must be nasty - aggressive - and therefore to blame for whatever happens. They forget that that dog was quietly minding her own business until their dog landed on top of her! 

Sadly, this usually gives rise to more insults and abuse.

It doesn’t take much imagination to transfer this scene to a school playground. Some children will be playing happily together while others cruise the playground looking for entertainment - often found by annoying the quieter children. Of course, playgrounds are carefully “policed” by school staff, and unacceptable behaviour should be halted immediately, so that the boisterous children can learn some social skills, learn how to treat other people respectfully, and the quieter children can enjoy their quieter life. 

The school playground is like the park

Is this chase enjoyable for both dogs?

Is this chase enjoyable for both dogs?

We don’t have school staff in the park. We’re meant to be grown up enough to manage this ourselves. I know it comes as a surprise to many of the “My dog is friendly” persuasion to learn that many other dogs are not. They are instead nervous, anxious, possibly recovering from an unsolicited attack which - unsurprisingly - has made them suspicious of all dogs. Or they may simply by diffident and self-contained, and not disposed to talk to strangers.

And some of these bouncy-dog owners will be genuinely astonished to learn this! But once you have learnt it, let it inform your dealings with other dog-owners and their dogs. It’s not a dog’s fault if he was attacked. It probably wasn’t his owner’s fault either, but it can have a lasting effect on the victim. It’s equally not a dog’s fault if he was not properly socialised as a puppy, and if he was adopted after puppyhood it’s not his owner’s fault either. 

Most people are decent and honest (in my experience), and they really wouldn’t want to see a child hurt or humiliated by another child’s actions. All they need to do is realise that dogs are as different in temperament as children are, and that some sensitive ones can be seriously upset by another dog-owner’s thoughtlessness.

The quiet, shy dog doesn’t care whether the boisterous dog has good intentions or not. It doesn’t matter if “He just wants to play,” or whether he is intent on tearing the other dog’s throat out. The effect of the confrontation can be the same - causing the anxious dog to get more withdrawn, or - as can often happen - become proactive at keeping other dogs away by putting on a tremendous display of aggression.

How can I help my dog?

So watch your puppy or new dog carefully. Whether extrovert or introvert, be sure to protect them from bad experiences. Allow your boisterous pup to express himself in a way which suits him, while gently teaching him what we would prefer.

And let your quiet observer quietly observe. From behind your legs if that’s where she feels comfortable. When she’s ready, she’ll be able to take much more in her stride. 

And whether you’re the owner of the over-friendly dog or the shy and anxious dog, you’ll find great help in this free email course: 


Is your dog the school bully?

Books to help Growly, reactive, fearful, and aggressive dogs


I'm excited to be able to announce the release of my new book series! 

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Many of you have been waiting for quite a while - so now your patience is rewarded. You can read all about them under the Books tab at the top of the page.


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Have a look at what these readers thought: 


I found the books remarkably accurate with respect to the behaviours that you have outlined. It was like you have been living here and observing our dogs’ behaviour! The way you explain how to train the dogs is in a no-nonsense way that doesn't preach but actually empathises with the problem at hand.

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I'll let the books speak for themselves



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