Hey, Can You Blame Her?


Oreo, my parents and I went up to the lake house. We haven’t been there since winter, so some things were new to Oreo. 

Imagine your family bringing you somewhere, but when they try to tell you, you don’t understand. It’s like they are talking another language. Imagine you go to this new, unknown place and you see giant gadgets and things you could’ve never dreamed up. You aren’t sure what they do and you can’t understand what your family is telling you about them. 

That’s how dogs feel, especially reactive dogs. They see something new and strange. They have two options: fight or flight. If they are on a leash they only have one option: fight. 


Some of the lake was familiar to Oreo, but some was new or she hasn’t seen it in a long time. She enjoyed laying on the deck, sniffing the grass and barking at deer. 


There were some things she didn’t enjoy: moving boats, fishing rods, and the space (crack) where two docks connect. 

I knew she was scared because she gets the whale eye-you can see lots of the white of her eyes. She also pants loudly and barks. Sometimes dogs will show signs that let you know they are scared right away and sometimes you have to pay close attention and know what to look for. 

Signs your dog is stressed: 

  • Whale eye 
  • Panting/loud breathing
  • Barking
  • Ears down
  • Tail between legs 
  • Behaves frantically-looking all over, jerky movement
  • Hiding
  • Licking lips
  • Yawning
  • Grimacing 
  • Drooling, growling, shaking

Of course you have to take these behaviors in context. Oreo will grab treats more aggressively from my hand when she is nervous. This means I need to move further away from her stressor or remove her from the situation. 


So when your dog encounters something new and scary say, “Hey, can you blame her?” Either remove her from the situation, train her, or move her further from her stressor.

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