Dear Readers,

I have been rescuing and training dogs since the 1980s and spearheaded changing a law in LA making it illegal to tie a dog up in the yard as a lifestyle. I often hear dog owners claim their dog is particularly smart and I explain that dogs are smart.  Most of my training consists of educating pet parents and giving them the skills to communicate effectively with their smart companions, increasing mutual love and respect. If you have a question you would like answered please email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Dear What a Good Dog LA,

My mother has a dog that we brought home from the animal shelter. My kid and I always wonder if we can take the dog to a dog park but we don't know how she will react to others. What is a safe way to see if a dog will be friendly towards others? She seems interested in other dogs at the vet or on walks, but is always on a leash. How can you make sure the animal feels safe if she has had unknown past trauma? She sometimes is scared around men or if she is around a concentrated group of people. Thank you!

Cindy Bader

Dear Cindy,

A fearful dog is one that has a heightened sense of perceived danger which they think they need to take care of.  A well-trained dog with an effective leader, understands that their leader will handle the danger by telling them what to do . The dog can then focus on the leader's commands rather than the object creating fear. So building up the dog's confidence with effective leadership and clear understandable commands is critical.

When I got my current 20 lb. dog, Foxie,  she was a Tasmanian Devel on the leash, pulling, barking, lunging.  After living with me for a while, learning how to walk on the leash and accepting that I was the leader, I began to work on letting her approach other dogs we met on our walks.

Here is how I did it. First I would ask the owner of the other dog if it was friendly and if my dog could say hello. If the answer was yes, I allowed the dogs to slowly approach each other while using an affectionate supportive voice. I didn't allow my dog to rush and jump on the other, using the leash to force a slower approach. It's important for the dog to feel the leader is in a calm and supportive mood. If a dog senses nervousness, it will often go into an aggressive, defensive response. I would say to Foxie in a calm voice (not too high pitched), “Goooood dogs!  Kisses! Kisses! What gooood dogs," or something like that, using affection and enthusiasm in my voice. I still do that.

april19trnwebI watched the body language. If  the ears, the body and the tail got stiff at any point on either dog, it was a warning that an attack was coming  and I would pull my dog away and keep moving.  I would continue to try with other dogs. Like people, there are just some that rub us the wrong way. If your dog is consistently growling, barking and lunging, I would not try this and work with a trainer who can get you and the dog on the same page. It’s best if the tail is wagging. The dogs will do a little hello ritual. First they usually sniff each other's noses. I would keep my eye on Foxie's body language and let her hear my supportive and calm voice. The dogs then sniff each other's private parts, usually the genitals first, then the butt. This is like a handshake to dogs and some dogs have to learn how to do it. I made sure the leashes would not get tangled. Today Foxie is loved by all she meets. Kids, dogs and people can easily approach her.

Once your dog is happy to sniff and be sniffed when you meet and greet other dogs, you can try her out at a daycare where there is supervised dog play. Find ones that have cameras you can watch on your phone. If she does well there, you can graduate to the dog park. Be cautious about these parks. There are irresponsible owners who spend more time on their cell phones than watching their dogs. All puppies between the ages of 3-7 months must be given ample opportunities to play with other dogs, especially in groups. This is where they learn how to appropriately interact. If they miss this socializing period they often don't know how to approach other dogs when they are older.

Need help?

323-734-9119 no text

323-578-3901 cell

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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