Stranger Danger and Lessons Learned


Friday afternoon, Rufus and I had a special visitor.  And guess what?  Apparently…she was not welcome.

We recently applied for a dog through a rescue.  Part of the process was a home check.  No big deal, right?  We are renters (which always goes against us), but we do have the benefit of a small fenced-in yard so that’s always a bonus!

Anywho I wasn’t even that worried about the whole ordeal.  The person coming to scope out the place was a woman with tons of dog experience, obviously.  History tells us (me) that 1. Rufus does much better with strange women than strange men, and 2. He usually picks up on people that are dog savvy and keeps his cool for the most part.

Epic fail, guys.  Epic FREAKING fail.



Soft eyes, relaxed face, ears back. How could anyone be afraid of that mug?

Not only did Rufus bark at the woman the entire time she was in my home, but he actually scared her!  I was mortified.  I tried to gain control of the situation, making him sit and treating him for listening to me (and her).  He took treats out of her hand once and even sat and laid down on command for her, but was noticeably stressed and uneasy about her presence.

I’m not sure what triggered such a negative reaction from him, but here are some educated guesses I’ve come up with:

1. She came in suddenly, without a proper greeting and immediately started scanning our place. She could definitely be viewed as an intruder by a dog with trust issues.

2. She was somewhat loud and boisterous and went out of her way to try to make friends with him, even when I told her to ignore him.  He would quiet down for brief periods until she would start talking at him again.

3. He could sense that I was nervous about her being there (for obvious reasons) and picked up on my energy.

4. He thought she was there to take him away.  Obviously kidding, but hey!  He can be pretty suspicious sometimes.

Even though I felt pretty defeated after she left, I was mostly hurt by her mentioning that my dog scared her.  Then I remembered what kind of dog we were applying for and the size/personality types she is used to.  Rufus isn’t a big dog, but he does have a big bark and it can be off-putting to some.

I also reminded myself that we JUST had a friend come stay with us for 5 days.  Rufus was unsure about her for about an hour (never once barked at her though) and then became a total snuggle bug around her.

Whatever made him so nervous Friday, we’ll try our best to learn from this and figure out a solution so that he can become more comfortable once again around strangers. Before our big move, Rufus was in a good place with strangers – if he was uncomfortable, he would avoid and if he was interested, he would approach them calmly and we always had treats to dish out. Sometimes when you don’t keep up with your homework, you fall waaaaaay behind.

:sigh again:



21 thoughts on “Stranger Danger and Lessons Learned

  1. First off, you applied for another dog!!!! Oh Em geeeeeee!!!!!! Sigh, indeed!! Second, deep cleansing breaths. We ALL have moments. That woman, if schooled in dog, knows that strangers can make dogs uneasy. You stepped up and that is hopefully what she took note of. What matters most is the interaction between you, Rufus and the new dog. That woman already has a home!!!

    • Alex totally said the same thing when I told him about the incident – we’re not adopting the lady! Thanks so much for your encouraging words, it really does help a lot! I never knew adopting a dog could be so hard. My experience out here has been TOTALLY different than it was in Chicago. Here’s hoping she doesn’t hold this against us!

  2. What a shame that she wasn’t dog savvy enough to listen to you 😦 There’s no telling sometimes what our crazy dogs will do, who they’ll like, any of it.

  3. I’m sorry it didn’t go as you would have liked… you would think a dog savvy person would have listened to you when you told her to back off instead of making Rufus nervous. And, let me just say thinking about adding another dog to your family, that’s so cool!

  4. I get frustrated with “dog savvy” people who rush up to my dog, too. Ray needs time and space before he can greet you without peeing on you and yet even with that warning, so often it goes unheeded. I also have a problem with vet techs who rush up to him with things in their hands then they get annoyed when he reacts. Hopefully things work out for you in adding a new dog to your home.

  5. Oh, so sorry to hear it! I can really empathize there. People who think they’re “really good with dogs” are often the ones that Pyrrha is the most afraid of, because they keep trying to get up in her business. Ugh. Don’t be discouraged! Things will work out and you will find the perfect new dog for you and for Rufus.

    • Thanks! It definitely left me feeling defeated, but things are better now that I’ve had some support from my dog community 🙂 We are enjoying the long process of finding the right fit….for the most part, haha.

  6. Poor Rufus! It sounds like a scary situation for a small boy. People were sometimes upset when Rusty didn’t want to immediately befriend them if they were a dog person and used to all dogs loving them. Individual dogs are so different that I think it’s hard to learn how to handle shy, reactive, social, etc. dogs until you have encountered them. Gambit is a major social butterfly which can be just as problematic as shyness – but in the opposite way.

  7. Athena has some stranger danger issues too….we are working on it, but it’s really hard to deal with a crazy barking dog and a person who doesn’t know how to deal with that kind of dog at the same time…

    Another educated guess about Rufus’ stranger danger towards the lady:

    5. She’s a weirdo?

    There’s one lady who has visited our home several times and Athena reacts the most towards her. I personally think the lady is a little crazy and so Athena might be picking up on that…

  8. I can see how discouraging that is.
    That’s so irritating that you told her to ignore him and she didn’t though. I hate when I tell people not to use “excited voices” and they do anyway. Hades doesnt care, but that lights a fire under Braylon’s butt and she will want to fling herself into your face for kisses. It’s really only charming to those savvy with BIG dogs and it certainly irritates the ever loving crap out of me.
    Any guest in your home should respect the guidelines you give though.
    Let’s just go with #4. 🙂

  9. Poor Rufus. Strange that she works/volunteers for a rescue and doesn’t know common dog sense. Also there is a huge difference between a threatening bark and a nervous bark, but did you pass the home check? I prefer people to ignore my dogs also because I don’t want them getting too excited.

    • Our place passed inspection, but before she left, she said : “Now…I will have to tell them that your dog barked and growled at me.” I am 100% positive Rufus did NOT growl at her, but definitely was barking in a nervous way…ugh…I don’t know what’s going to happen. Still haven’t heard back.

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