Total honesty time- I am afraid of Rottweilers. Not Pit Bulls, Great Danes, Boxers, nope. Rottweilers. I started pet sitting just a couple weeks ago and I have only seen a couple “clients” and already it has shown me how far I have come, and how far I have yet to go.
I think (it’s a dangerous practice) that because I focus so much on the science and psychology of dog it gets me in trouble. My brain automatically goes into research mode and like a mental file cabinet pulls up everything I can remember about the breed in front of me (the main breed, if mixed). Then I throw in what I know about the dog itself- it’s personality, history, training, etc. Then I narrow down to the owner; training principles, follow through, leadership. In about five seconds I am making snap decisions about whether or not I am comfortable with the situation in front of me, and I have never been 100% comfortable with a Rottweiler. I don’t know that I will ever allow Reggie around a Rottweiler.
I realize my Rottweiler issues are due in large part to when Reggie was attacked. It has been almost three years now and I’m sure he’s over it but I’m not. At one particular moment, the image of that dog’s head, mouth open, lunging at Reggie is burned in my brain and I will never forget it. That dog’s head was so big and Reggie is so lean and I was so aware in that moment that it was no contest- Reggie would be gone. I had those kind of super-powers you hear about on the news when mothers lift cars off of their children and at that moment- I punched the dog in the side and yelled, “NO!”. Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done…but it stunned the dog enough that we could walk away quickly and get help.
My fear is also the science/thinking part. Rottweilers are strong, protective dogs with one of the strongest bites. They are also loyal, wonderful, and great family dogs- that require training, socialization, and an experienced owner. Every dog is an individual and can be a little different- but many breed characteristics ring true. So when I see a Rottweiler on a walk, I steer clear. Why? Because I am looking at the owner. How are they handling the dog? With a breed like that, the owner’s demeanor tells me all I need to know.
How this came to the forefront recently is with pet sitting. Not with a Rottweiler, but with other large dogs. I don’t fear any breeds when I’m by myself it’s when I’m with Reggie that it’s genuine fear, but I noticed internally my confidence and my reactions were a little different. With small breeds I have no hesitation, no difference in reaction. My amateur training kicks in and I do what I do. With large breeds I have a moment of hesitation, a moment where my confidence wavers, then I settle in and it’s fine. This bothered me, and I realized my threshold was Reggie, or rather Reggie-sized dogs. Reggie-sized and smaller is no confidence shaker. Larger than Reggie, I hesitate.
I believe it all ties to the attack. I used to be a lot less over-protective of Reggie before the attack (acknowledging I am over-protective anyway). I had a realization of bite force/bite ability that I just didn’t know before. Is ignorance better? Or am I better off knowing? Does that make me more aware of an impending dangerous situation in the long run? Or, like right now, just more fearful of what could happen (and likely won’t)?
One day, I hope I will see an owner in control of their calm, trained Rottweiler that will give me enough of a sense of comfort that I will take Reggie to greet the dog. That will be progress (for me)!