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First off, I'd like to say hi to everyone :) I've been lurking the forums for a while, reading stickies and generally trying to improve my knowledge of dogs. Everyone seems to be very friendly and knowledgeable.

Finally, I just couldn't contain it anymore. I had to register.

My first and only dog was a family dog. Thumper was a rat terrier/unknown mix; unfortunately she passed away this winter.

I won't be able to have another dog until moving out-so college! That won't be for another year and a half. Is it strange to already be planning things out? I figure this time period will give me time to figure things out, learn what kind of dog is right for me. Of course, the wait might be longer, depending on how hectic college is.

My bigger question/concern is this: around unknown dogs I can be uneasy. IMO, I can trace that back to two negative/scary experiences with dogs that were not my own. In the first, I was walking my dog around the block when a neighbor's lab more or less charged at my dog.

There was lots of barking, snarling and snapping. I was lucky enough to avoid a bite to the leg and Thumper was uninjured. What was most scary was that to this day I don't know what set it off. We'd walked by previously with/without Thumper, so no idea what we triggered. DA? RG?

The more recent incident was being charged by the "neighborhood dog". It was at night (maybe one of the reasons?) and I was walking from the next house over to my own when he came at me growling and showing teeth. I was utterly dumbfounded, mostly because it was directed at me.

It wasn't unusual for him to bark at mailmen/other dogs but I thought I was classified as one of his "people" for lack of better word.

Anyway, sorry about all this rambling. But I've noticed with dogs I don't know well/trust I can grow uncomfortable to the point of leaving the room. Even with dogs I know are properly trained and socialized.

I guess the real question is, does it sound like having a dog/puppy in the future is completely out of the question for me? I'm hoping if I keep "facing my fear" to eventually get over it. I still LOVE dogs, I just find myself irrationally fearful (if that isn't too strong a word) at times when I shouldn't be.

*When I was seven my friend's husky snapped at my face, but I brought that on by hugging a old, hearing impaired dog. I don't count this as a negative experience.

Anyway, sorry for all the rambling. I hope this is the appropriate place to put this.
 

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I wouldn't plan on getting a dog in college...pretty much NO dorms will allow them and, even if you are living off campus, many apartments will not allow them either. In the meantime, you could work on your discomfort around dogs...volunteer at a shelter, walk dogs, seek help if it's really bad, there are formal desensitization programs for people with true phobias, though it doesn't sound like your fear reaches that level. Even your own dog can have the occasional bad day or challenge you on occasion, so you don't want to be in a position where you might be afraid to handle your own dog.
 

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Welcome! Glad you are here.

It is good you are asking questions. I figured I would comment on a few of them.

Concerning your fear of dogs - I too had a fear of unknown dogs and dogs I did not know really well (the only two dogs I was not scared of were my family's two dogs). I was even scared of the neighbor's 1.5 pound chihuahua. So I know what you are talking about - you want to enjoy being around the dogs but you can't. Here's what I did:
- Education. Learn about dogs, learn anything and everything you can.
- Body language. Learning this helped me immensely. Once I could read a dog's intentions I became so much more at ease. Today I am okay with just about any dog - even the growling, snapping ones (although they make me hesitate - I don't fear them). Learn about the warnings dog gives leading up to a bite and what the dog is attempting to communicate. Essentially learn to speak dog. This was what helped me most. Go past the typical things people know (example: a wagging tail means happy is what most people assume). Learn about what is means if the dogs ears are up, down, sideways, if the dog looks at you, away from you or doesn't seem to be looking anywhere near you, learn about how dogs move if they intend on a friendly greeting (and mean you and your dog no harm by approaching even if it seems like a very energetic, tooth filled greeting), etc. Learn to "speak" dog.
- Learn about dog fighting. Not all snaps, growls, etc are bad. It is part of how a dog communicates - given most of the time it is in defense or to stop something they find uncomfortable. I will let my dog snap at another without correction if a dog/puppy repeatedly bullies her and rolls her on her back. She growls and if they don't back off - she snaps however I know her, her amount of control (and that she will warn before a snap) and I have repeatedly warned the other owners that they need to keep their dog off of mine. I will remove the offending dog however me saying no and the owners saying no doesn't speak to the offending dog as well as my dog saying no. I will also allow a growl and dog-dog correction for repeated humping (I also intervene). I do not allow it for guarding, out of the blue or without cause however I do not "muzzle" their ability to "speak" to other dogs. My dogs are not dog aggressive however they have snapped at other dogs but only when being pushed around, bullied or humped. To me that is my dogs saying no (and they do try to get away from the offending dog first on their own) but to someone how is not aware of how dogs communicate (that a dog will "escalate" the communication to another dog who is not listening) they may see the snap as aggressive and miss everything that happened before the snap. To someone who can read dogs - they saw my dog avoid looking at the other dog, allowing her self to be sniffed all over - again avoiding eye contact and turning her body slight away, rolling on her back for the slightest forwardness of another dog (she is a slightly fearful dog) and laying there again avoiding eye contact. If the dog doesn't back off (my dog has communicated very clearly - "I am friendly, I mean you no harm, you can run the show, please leave my alone") and let my dog get back up - then they get a growl and snap. Learn that are very loud dog fight with no blood and no actual biting was actually more of a "screaming match" than an actual fight. Dogs have amazing restraint and although a "Screaming match" will still need to be separated - there is no reason to panic. Separate the dogs, institute the proper training and move on. No reason to rush anyone to the vet for injuries - you may want to rule out medical causes of behavioral issues however you can make a routine appt. for that.
- Learn dog basics. How to separate fighting dogs, medications that are safe for a dog, what to do if a dog is bleeding, how to bath a dog, etc. Anything you don't know - learn about. Go back over everything you do know.
- Go to a dog park and just watch dogs. You don't have to go in. Just watch them and get as close as you are comfortable. Most people (at least around here) are very friendly at the dog park - if the question why you are watching (and some may - someone just watching may send up a red flag as a dog napper, creepy person, etc) just explain you are trying to overcome your fear of dogs. Most people are fine with that and will content to let you hang out around their dogs. If someone has an exceptionally friendly dog, you may wish to ask the owner if you can interact with their dog so you can get work past your fear. Work yourself up to being inside the dog park. Try this after you have learned to "speak" dog fluently so you are not pushed into greater fear by a strange dog approaching you - that way when the boxer spring boards off the ground and slams into you - you know he meant no harm - he just has bad manners. He is just happy to see you - even if the greeting was poorly executed by human standards.

As far as owning a dog in college -

- Be realistic. If you have 15 hours and work full time (as I did) you can still own a dog, however be honest. If you only have 30 minutes in the morning to walk him and 30 minutes in the evening - get a low energy dog that will be content with that. Don't get a dog that says "high energy", "lots of exercise", or even "moderate amount" etc next to it. A red flag should also go up if it says - "not good for apartments" as most people use their yards for exercise and people who write the dog descriptions know this - so if the dog has higher exercise requirements they will write that or "needs a yard." (even though a yard should not stop you from walking the dog).
- Write a budget. A great dane may be your dream dog (as an example) however they can eat, eat, eat. A chi can live off of 5 pounds of food for weeks. If you don't have the money to feed a low energy 40 pound dog - then don't get a 40 pound dog. Dogs get sick, they require medication, they can break bones, etc. Start setting aside money now for an "emergency fund." Assess the cost of supplies (leashes, collars, bowls, crates, back seat covers,etc). Again - honesty is the best policy - don't let yourself fall into a trap of "I can come up with the money" or "it's a good deal."
- Assess puppy or adult dog. Tons of people want puppies for a huge list of reasons however puppies are messy, hard to raise, troublesome and time consuming. If you don't want to be up every 2-3 hours 24 hours a day for the first several months of owning a dog to take it outside (as puppies - especially small ones - can only hold it for that long) than get an adult. Yes, you may still have to house train the dog - but if the dog is crated you can sleep for 6-7 hours without having to take the dog out and the dog won't be miserable or have an accident. You can skip the puppy destruction (almost all breeds come with this but only some retain it into adulthood). I personally like getting adults or older puppies (6 mo+). I don't want a puppy and I doubt I ever will. It is too much work.
- Assess living situations. Large dogs (generally 25+ pounds around here) make it harder to find a place to live. Apartments put caps on weight and occasionally breeds. Consider your area and the typical dog trends. If most apts in the area you will be living for the next 4 years doesn't allow breed X, don't get breed X. If most don't allow anything bigger than 30 pounds, don't get anything bigger than 30 pounds. You don't want to have to get rid of the dog later because of your lack of foresight. If you plan on living in a dorm - don't get a dog. Most don't allow them - in fact I've only seen one that allowed cats and it was still no to dogs.
- Research breeds. Learn everything there is to know about them. Try to meet as many as you can of the breed (again dog parks). Interact with them, ask their owners about them - many people (not all) are more than happy to share about their dog. Explain you are looking at getting this breed and you want to be prepared. Do take what they say into account however know everything you hear is not true. If anyone says their husky doesn't shed that much - they probably don't have an actual husky.
- Don't fall into the gimmick of designer breeds. There is nothing wrong with mutts but a chorkie, labradoodle, maltipoo, etc are not real breeds. They are not recognized and you should not be shelling out a lump of cash for them (in 99% of circumstances). The ethical breeder of a mix breed is a very rare bird. Until you are extremely well educated on locating an excellent breeder - avoid breeders who sell mixes. Also be wary of variations of recognized breeds - examples: a merle husky is not ethically bred dog. Merle does not naturally occur in the breed. The dog has another breed mixed in to give it the merle coat. A chihuahua does not come in "teacup." Chis by breed standard are supposed to be 5 pounds or less so all of them are tiny. You should not be paying extra for a tiny dog that is already supposed to be tiny (plus dogs that tiny are much more likely to be very unhealthy). There are breeds that have varying sizes (ex: poodles - mini, standard and toy) - so as a general rule of thumb - if it isn't on the AKC's or breed club's website as a recognized breed, size, color, etc - huge red flag. Avoid newspapers, people sitting outside wal-mart, etc who are selling puppies as well. They generally did not intend on the breeding and therefore are just trying to get rid of them - the pups will not be breed to be healthy or improve the breed. The people may also be trying to make a quick buck as well and more likely to scam you.

Feel free to ask just about anything. I hope this helps!
 

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Thanks for the replies :)

Canaqua:

I understand your concern about someone getting a dog in college, but I know it can be done. I'm not saying straight off the bat. Even if I'm lucky enough to go to a college that doesn't require freshman to live on campus, I still have to settle in and see what my schedule is going to be like. Will I be taking classes everyday? What hours will I be working?, etc. If it's feasible and it's within my budget/means I'll go looking for an older puppy/dog.

Anyway, this is assuming I'm not nervous around dogs anymore at this point ;) I totally understand that not being able to manage my own dog would be a very bad thing.

And yes, I wouldn't classify it as a full blown phobia. The biggest thing is if the dog is in my face/snapping range. Even if logically I "know" the dog isn't going to snap (and I say this with a grain of salt as I'm no body language expert) after maybe a minute I start thinking "s/he could bite me", "what if they just snap?", etc. I know it sounds really strange, but that's what is going through my mind.

Charis:

You have no idea how relieved I am! No one I've told IRL gets it and I wasn't sure if anyone on a dogforum would've been in my position at one point. My friend ("A" for the sake of conversation) is a huge animal person. She lives on a pony farm with four dogs and a couple of cats. The dogs are a beautiful golden retriever, Jack Russel, an unknown medium sized mix (possible chow or shepherd) and a Great Pyrenees.

I mentioned to "A" the (relatively) recent nervousness I'd been feeling. TBH, it's something that has probably slowly been escalating, so I'd like to combat this before it gets any worse. She was dumbfounded, "You're afraid of Sammy (GP)?" And proceeded to have the dog sit on my lap. Needless to say, I wasn't happy with her tough love approach. Maybe I didn't adequately explain myself because she is usually more sensitive about people's feelings.

So, yes it is great to hear from someone who gets it. :)

Are there any good links/downloads/books you'd recommend to start off with? I'm sure just getting out and seeing live dogs would be best, but I'd at least like to have a good base. Just on the forum I've heard about whale-eyes and how licking isn't always a "I'm hungry" but rather "I'm uncomfortable" depending on the context.

Right now I'm in a small town so no real dog parks available. We do have a vet though and my friend "A". The only dog I'm very comfortable with would have to be my bf's but he is five hours away so it isn't feasible to see his (remarkably calm) Border Collie on a regular basis. I was thinking it would also be good to be around dogs that don't make me uneasy, sort of outweigh any negative with positive.

I see you're also from Texas. Maybe we could PM about dog parks, depending on your location? I'm certain I'm going to college in state, so any information regarding how "pet friendly" a college town is would be great, if you have any. (Not so much "can dogs live in dorms" as dog parks, vets, pet-friendly stores, etc).

This might require a separate thread, so just let me know, but what are good "college/apt" dogs in your opinion? I'd think any breed/mix on the smaller side/less energy as you've already mentioned. I know it can come down to the individual though-Angus (bf's Border Collie) is literally the most docile/gentle/calm dog I've met and from what I've heard, the breed is more of a high-energy, driven breed.

I don't think I've left anything out...Anyway, both of y'all have given me a lot to think about. I was going to google/youtube dog body language and behavior. Is there any source/author that I should definitely ignore as bad/inaccurate info? From what I've gathered from browsing the forum, CM and his pack theory are outdated and possible harmful. Is it just his methods, his ideas or how they are applied? Sorry, for every question y'all answer, 20 more are spawned!
 

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I think that if you had your own dog, with a mild temper, you could overcome your fear! A lot of fears are based out of the "unknown" and every time you remove yourself from a scary situation (so, removing yourself from a room with an unknown dog) you are reinforcing this fear you have--making it worse. Everyone does it with things they are scared of :) The good thing is that you realize it is irrational. Do dogs bite? They can! But not always. I think you could definitely overcome your fear and that you should get a dog.

Secondly, I'm a junior in college right now. I've wanted a dog since before I graduated high school because I knew that I'd be leaving my family dog behind. I don't know anyone in college (I go to USC in Los Angeles) with a dog--and I know that I'd neglect it if I had one now because my lifestyle isn't dog friendly. As a college kid you're constantly gone for weird hours, its hard to establish a routine if you want to have a social life. One night I might be home... the next I might be gone partying with my friends. Definitely do not get it your freshman year! If your life is stable sophomore year or junior year, then consider it. You'd have to give up a lot of things for the dog! Weekend trips with new friends, staying out all night, etc. I took care of my dad's dog for about two months this year (my junior year) and it was really fun! But again I couldn't do normal "college" things. I had to be home right after class to feed and walk him--no spontaneously going to lunch with friends. He's a great little dog and I'd watch him again, but 1. he was small & easy to take everywhere 2. I had roommates who didn't mind walking him if I was gone a little longer than planned--which happens a lot in college, haha.

I know it seems like a long time away but I'd wait until you're well into college before deciding. I want a big dog, but every apartment around my school only allows small ones. So I'll wait until my lifestyle is more dog friendly. That's my experience but maybe other college lifestyles are more dog friendly :) I can't wait until I get mine!

EDIT: Also what you could do is volunteer at a dog rescue before getting your job while you're in college! It could help with your fears, you'll get experience on how to train/take care of dogs, and you'll get your dog "fix" until its ok to get one!
 

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Thanks for the replies :)

Charis:

You have no idea how relieved I am! No one I've told IRL gets it and I wasn't sure if anyone on a dogforum would've been in my position at one point.
I'm glad I could help.

My friend ("A" for the sake of conversation) is a huge animal person. She lives on a pony farm with four dogs and a couple of cats. The dogs are a beautiful golden retriever, Jack Russel, an unknown medium sized mix (possible chow or shepherd) and a Great Pyrenees.

I mentioned to "A" the (relatively) recent nervousness I'd been feeling. TBH, it's something that has probably slowly been escalating, so I'd like to combat this before it gets any worse. She was dumbfounded, "You're afraid of Sammy (GP)?" And proceeded to have the dog sit on my lap. Needless to say, I wasn't happy with her tough love approach. Maybe I didn't adequately explain myself because she is usually more sensitive about people's feelings.

So, yes it is great to hear from someone who gets it. :)

Are there any good links/downloads/books you'd recommend to start off with? I'm sure just getting out and seeing live dogs would be best, but I'd at least like to have a good base. Just on the forum I've heard about whale-eyes and how licking isn't always a "I'm hungry" but rather "I'm uncomfortable" depending on the context.

Right now I'm in a small town so no real dog parks available. We do have a vet though and my friend "A". The only dog I'm very comfortable with would have to be my bf's but he is five hours away so it isn't feasible to see his (remarkably calm) Border Collie on a regular basis. I was thinking it would also be good to be around dogs that don't make me uneasy, sort of outweigh any negative with positive.
Are there any rescues? Volunteering may let you observe dogs from a distance to learn how to "read" them before interacting. Cleaning, office work, etc does not require direct contact with the dogs (assuming you are not cleaning the pens).

I see you're also from Texas. Maybe we could PM about dog parks, depending on your location? I'm certain I'm going to college in state, so any information regarding how "pet friendly" a college town is would be great, if you have any. (Not so much "can dogs live in dorms" as dog parks, vets, pet-friendly stores, etc).
PM away. I'd be glad to help with what I know.

This might require a separate thread, so just let me know, but what are good "college/apt" dogs in your opinion? I'd think any breed/mix on the smaller side/less energy as you've already mentioned. I know it can come down to the individual though-Angus (bf's Border Collie) is literally the most docile/gentle/calm dog I've met and from what I've heard, the breed is more of a high-energy, driven breed.
Smaller dogs come to mind. Something in the toy group perhaps. Terriers tend to be high energy as are paps. Maybe a chi? I'll have to think about this one. I personally have a Miniature American Shepherd in an apartment and she is amazing - gentle, sweet, low shedding (compared to the husky), biddable and only 24 pounds. You may want to speak with a breeder about finding a lower energy dog of this breed.

I don't think I've left anything out...Anyway, both of y'all have given me a lot to think about. I was going to google/youtube dog body language and behavior. Is there any source/author that I should definitely ignore as bad/inaccurate info? From what I've gathered from browsing the forum, CM and his pack theory are outdated and possible harmful. Is it just his methods, his ideas or how they are applied? Sorry, for every question y'all answer, 20 more are spawned!
CM's methods are IMHO - not good. I would start with It's me or the dog (Victoria Stillwell) show wise. Although you should always seek help IRL her methods are gentle, not physical and she does observe dog body language - she isn't perfect however it will be a good place to start your learning. She has also written a few books. I would watch some of those - you can buy them on Amazon or watch them if you have that channel. For learning dog handling it is also a good start. If you have a local petstore that does positive method training you may wish to observe a few classes. Especially a CGC class as these dogs are being trained to be "good citizens."
 

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Chantae:

Thanks for the dog rescue suggestion. It sounds like when you condition dogs, lol. Ya know like with "reinforcing" fears and such. Or maybe I'm just tying back everything dogs if possible.

Right now I'm thinking I wouldn't mind having to have a more set routine in college, but once I get there who knows. If worse comes to worse besides volunteering I'll probably be living vicariously through my boyfriend's dog ;)

Charis:

Rescues-I'm only an hour or so from the edge of Houston, depending on the traffic. So it might be a drive but I'm sure there are rescues around. I just need to get out and look!

I guess with which dog to get that's really only something I can decide when the time comes. I'll certainly be researching the different breeds and such, but when the time comes I'll be looking for an individual that is compatible for my situation.

I remember "It's Me Or The Dog". Used to watch it whenever it came out. I'll have to see if it still airs.

Also, I found some sites yesterday. They seem to full of good advice/info, but I thought I'd get y'alls opinion:

http://diamondsintheruff.com/calmingsignals.html *I've heard a few members toss around the term "calming signals" before. I'm assuming this is what they were referring to?

http://doggiedrawings.net/post/842176625 *More of a link full of other helpful links. I've seen a few of these floating around the board.

Are there any specific books/authors I could be looking for at the library?

As always thanks for all the helpful replies :) I'll be shooting a pm your way.
 
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