Barrier Frustration – Never Judge a Dog from the Other Side of the Fence!
My first encounter with so many dogs at shelters seems like such a strange representation of who the dogs are now that I know them well. The video below absolutely sums up what I am trying to explain. This can also be exactly the same with a dog who seems aggressive towards other dogs when he/she is on a lead.
When a dog is on a lead, they can feel anxious, vulnerable, insecure, overstimulated… and what you see is not always a good representation of who they are or how they are feeling as we interpret their actions in the wrong way. Do not take every behaviour at face value. This is one of the reasons why it can be so hard to answer messages and tell you exactly what your dog is feeling just by your description (if you are asking for help with your recently adopted dog).
It is even harder for dogs to show you their personalities and traits from the other side of the fence when you are walking around the shelter looking for a dog to adopt. It is a totally trying environment that can bring out seemingly aggressive behaviours that actually are all front because of some emotion they are feeling whether it be anxiety, stress or just over excitability.
Lets talk about the video.
The dogs are either side of the gate and giving it all they’ve got at each other because they are frustrated. They cannot get to one another so they are totally hyped up and making themselves out to be big and scary. They probably spend all day like this, which builds up even more aggressive behaviour caused by barrier frustration. Don’t be fooled – its all front, as you can see when the gate opens, removing that barrier, and they turn away in the opposite directions.
So many times I have seen dogs who are extremely sociable and very good at interacting with other dogs, completely change when they are on the end of a lead. When a dog is on a lead, it feels vulnerable and unable to defend itself, whilst also not being able to release enough energy it takes to combat these emotions and handle the situation how he normally would if he was not on a lead. All these differing feelings and emotions will make the dog react in out of character when on the end of a lead seeing another dog approaching. The situation is sometimes made a lot worse if the approaching dog is off-lead. Barrier frustration can show itself in many different scenarios, and this video showcases the behaviour perfectly.
Take the dog out of the shelter and you will meet a whole new animal. Removing the stress, the anxiety, the frustration… you meet the dog at their best. Always, if you want to get to know a dog, take the time and give them their best opportunity to show you their best selves. Do not judge them by their first impressions. Don’t judge a book by its cover.