How to make dog friends or at least not make people hate you, Fang’s underqualified guide to hostility management

26 Aug

If you are anything like us cool kids here at TDS you’ve noticed that dog people can be… shall we say difficult, to get to know. From just plain shy to downright nasty, the dog community is as varied in temperament as the prototypical high school as portrayed in “Mean Girls”.

And cynicism.


While I could name the cliques, it usually comes down to breed and social class and personality. That’s boring, so we’ll save you that minefield and simply go through some basic etiquette rules that will keep people from actively trying to ruin your life (at least in theory).


1) Say something nice about everyone’s dog


Be serious. No one likes Crocs.


Channel your inner Southern Belle lead with a compliment even if you hate it. Compliment the shit out of something. No need to gush since no one likes a kiss-ass, but a cursory, accurate compliment (It helps if you mean it but sincerity isn’t really a requirement for some people) can go a long ways as a conversation starter. The best compliment you can pay a performance dog person is simply “Your dog looked so happy out there.”. While you have to mean that particular one (I own the beaten wife-heeling dog. Don’t try to placate me), it’s incredibly effective and seriously, it’s that easy and usually the start of a solid acquaintance-ship.

Not a compliment.

If you don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t bother faking it, but come up with something you can defend, or precede your compliment with your “outsider” status. e.g. I’m not really familiar with <aspect> but your dog’s <attribute> was <adjective>. You can head off the “Oh? What’s so gorgeous about him?”* that some pissier-than-thou types will throw at newbies to fluster and upset them.

*There’s a time and a place to educate a protegee. Teaching newbies to have an eye is different from public shaming. Learn the difference.


2) No one likes a kiss-ass

It’s Ruby Tuesday’s. This isn’t anarchy.


It’s one thing to be nice and complimentary, it’s another to be an ass-sucking lapdog. Friendship does not require consensus on every topic (It would be very odd if it did) and having your own opinion, and not just parroting the opinion of others is a big step in being your own person in the dog world. Some opinions are easy to form and are simple aesthetics, others involves some straight-up education and take time to learn. Take the time to learn it and don’t take someone else’s word as true gospel until you’re willing to defend that opinion in a knock-down drag out fight.


3) Discretion is the better part of not being an asshole

I mean, it’s me! I have commitment issues and an Oedipus complex. You’re better off without me. Feel better now?


Honestly, people don’t want honesty. For those of us who are “bullshit challenged” it can be a struggle not to just beat the liars into the ground with the nearest blunt object. However, that is socially unacceptable and apparently illegal so we make do with discretion a.k.a Silence or if you’re good, tempered honesty. So if you’re not sure of your audience, keep it to yourself.


4) Loose lips sink (friend)ships and reputations

Close enough.


In the realm of honesty, is just shutting the fuck up. Sometimes shutting your mouth is the only thing to do. You will have opinions. People will do things that make you reconsider the voluntary extinction movement. And despite what your mother told you, your eyes won’t actually get stuck in that backwards rolling position. Shooting off your mouth unchecked is rarely the smart choice, particularly if you want to not have people hate you. Calling that dog a fat-ass in earshot of owner friends, even if it’s true, is bad form and not a great way to win friends or influence people. Commenting on how a dog looks depressed in the obedience ring or how you’d be embarrassed to show said dog are opinions best kept in your head and filed under B for ‘Bitchy things best unsaid”.

If you’re new, you will not have much cachet regardless. Thoughtful and well-articulated opinions will be received well, but in general a response of “And you are?” is the best you can expect to running your mouth thoughtlessly. Sometimes those people are assholes but most of the time they’re just not as impressed by you as you are. The concept of “paying your dues” is very much alive in dog events and a little respect for your predecessors and frankly, betters,  goes a long way. You are nobody until you prove you are a worthwhile contributor and being conscious of your reputation is very forward thinking.


5) Respectful doesn’t mean doormat

No is not a dirty word.


Respect works both ways. Disagreeing with others is part and parcel of human nature. You are 100% entitled to your opinion. No one should have the capacity to make you feel badly about expressing an opinion respectfully shared in an appropriate environment. Someone screaming “Troll” at you or dismissing you off hand because they got all butt-hurt over your opinion being different than theirs is seriously not worth the mitochondrial strain of a single ATP conversion.


Lock the Doors. *nerd joke*


6) You’re entitled to your opinion, but you’re also entitled to be wrong.


Wallow in your wrongness like a pig in filth.


You are not the Pope. Your opinions are not infallible and the world does not actually revolve around you. Be prepared to have your opinion challenged and to be forced to admit that you may not know it all.  I know you may find this hard to believe, but even The Dog Snobs get things wrong sometime. Accept being wrong gracefully and sometimes, even if you’re not wrong it’s not worth the screaming hissy fit to prove your point.


7) Neutrality isn’t sexy but it’s smart.

Okay, maybe a little sexy.


Dog people on the whole are rabid about what they believe to be the best for our canine compatriots. If you ever want to be called every nasty name in the book bring up any hot topic dog issue (Pinch collars, Raw Feeding, Spay.Neuter) and watch the fur fly. Particularly online every disagreement  is treated as some moral objective when for most of us it comes down to familiarity, efficacy and convenience.. We tend to forget that total agreement on every issue isn’t a precursor for a friendly acquaintance and as such tend to shut out everyone who disagrees before their point is even made. Public neutrality offers you several alternative options and can garner more specific helpful information from all corners. You don’t have to placate the idiots, but refraining from calling them stupid publicly until they’ve proven it beyond a reasonable doubt is usually a smart move.


8) Forgive us our trespasses

They really are most of the time.

The road to being an asshole is paved with opinions and bullshit both of which fall freely from the mouths of the guilty. That being said, purely being opinionated with a bad delivery can drill holes in the little Jersey Barrier between Asshole Highway and Opinionated but generally a helpful friendly person Boulevard. Give people the benefit of the doubt if you’d like it in return and even if they are an asshole, be willing to let it go. Forgetting is something else entirely.



As an introvert with hermit qualities in combination with having the unfortunate tendency to just say what comes to mind regardless of audience, the few friendship making skills I personally retained into adulthood mostly consisted of bracelet making and token food offerings. I still find myself exceedingly uncomfortable in group situations but if I can break the ice with these general rules, anyone can. You’re welcome.

That’s what’s up.

9 Responses to “How to make dog friends or at least not make people hate you, Fang’s underqualified guide to hostility management”

  1. Merciel August 26, 2014 at 4:31 am #

    Great rundown, good advice.

    I’ll pay you a dollar to cover the cliques in a future post, though. I bet there’s enough material to fuel several nuclear bombs of snark on THAT topic.

    Hell, you could even make it a running thing like Owner Profiles.

  2. Deedleleedee August 26, 2014 at 5:49 am #

    And this is mostly why I just hand out cookies at my set-up and give people a smile. It keeps me from being That Guy and instead I’m Cookie Girl. I dig it.

    It’s also why I generally don’t bother with online communities. It’s just… too tempting.

  3. bgszap2 August 26, 2014 at 11:52 am #

    Years ago a guy showing his dog for the first time ever ever (1st show for both of them) beat me and my two points shy of his championship dog. Apparently he thought this meant that I could never win again and after the show he followed me out to the Van telling me everything that was wrong with my dog including that he had no “rear drive”, something that did not apply to our breed but to another. (Movement, in fact, was the one thing Judges always complimented my dog about.) That I did not run over him with the Van was just short of a miracle. I told my friends (yes I have a couple) that he was an asshole. Oh no, they said, he’s just NEW.
    At the next show I beat his ass into the ground, hands behind my back and a sweet smile. He sulked for weeks (really he did) and people began telling me what an asshole he was.
    Vindication is so sweet.

  4. Rosemary Hoffman August 26, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    I think that lots of people who are _very_ involved with their dogs are that way because they don’t do all that well with people. Then circumstances cram a bunch of us into a tiny space (literally or figuratively) and pathology erupts.

    Who ever coulda guessed?

    OTOH, almost all of the people I treasure in my life are there because we share our love of our dogs.

  5. Wendy martin August 26, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

    Just think of this as golf with dogs. Guys used to think it was essential to critique my golf game whenever I played….and then often find out when the scores were totaled that I had beaten them.

  6. Cathy August 27, 2014 at 1:55 am #

    Excellent rundown. I wish they could print it out and pass it out in those “new exhibitor” briefings at the shows. 🙂

  7. Nicole August 27, 2014 at 8:22 am #

    Oh goodness this is applicable to all things. Fantastic piece on all fronts. Thank you!!

  8. Mary Ann Williamson August 29, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    As a newbie with my first agility dog, I’ve actually been chased on my way to the bathroom after a particularly bad run by someone with a frantic need to lay down a strong correction on me and drag a number of other bystanders into the agility intervention. Needless to say I didn’t receive this nearly as well as if she had come calmly to my crating area and started a friendly conversation. I’m very good at accepting constructive criticism, but when someone gets between me and the ladies’ room, gathers a crowd to surround me, and lays down the law three inches from my face: I don’t listen quite as well. She had some good advice (was incorrect on another thing), but I didn’t hear it. I’ll just say that if another bitch had gotten up in my girl dog’s face like that, the result would have been beyond noisy.

    • Deedleleedee August 29, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

      That’s just beyond unnecessary. There is *no need* for that kind of ridiculous behaviour. I’m so sorry you had to be exposed to that as a newbie. People like that are why dog people get a bad rap as being crazy because, well – we have the crazy overflow.

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