The day I brought my “Riot Dog” home, I really didn’t believe the hype. I didn’t think this ridiculous, gangly, 4 month old puppy had it in him to be vicious.

Now, if you follow my coursework, or you know me at all, you’ll quickly come to realize that I am hyper protective of young puppies and I don’t let strangers interact with them much at all. However, with this so-called “beast” I needed to know what I was in for. I went against my better judgement and I took him out in public to see his response to being handled by strangers.

Our first stop….a large chain pet store (to remain nameless).

If you have any education in dog training, you’ll likely feel the same as I do about large pet product retailers. While the employees have good intentions, they aren’t very educated in dog body language and behavior and more often than not, they believe every dog is a cute, cuddly ball of fur that demands smothering and baby talk. Not the best environment when you raise very serious dogs for very serious work.

I entered the pet store, gangly vicious puppy in tow, and began navigating the aisles, watching his response to the stimuli around him. This guy was as cool and as confident as they come. The automatic sliding doors were a giant toy that he was determined to play with, and I think he honestly believed that the entire store and all of its contents were wrapped in a giant bow to be delivered to him as he sat high on his pedestal.

He sauntered through the aisles, exploring anything and everything he could find, and climbing onto any surface I would allow. He was completely unphased.

I walked past people and dogs to which he was curious, but unimpressed…at this point, he was more enthralled with the aisles of treats and toys as opposed to anything else.

As we approached the checkout, as predicted, the clerk knelt to begin the baby talk and smothering routine. I cautioned him to approach appropriately, as the puppy was unknown to me and had a history of aggression. He paid me no heed and continued to crowd my puppy’s personal space, petting him and scratching him obnoxiously and talking to him in a voice that would annoy even the youngest of toddlers.

I watched cautiously as the “Riot dog” engaged, finding the man’s worship of him fitting, and soaking up the fact that he was, at present the center of the universe. But shortly after the love fest ensued, I saw my puppy’s behavior change. He wasn’t building fear or stress – rather, he was simply done. He had allowed the man to be graced by his presence, and now, he had grown weary of the encroachment of his personal space and obnoxious display of affection. As he launched through the air at the clerk, I grabbed his harness before he could make contact. The man stumbled backwards, took offense to the puppy’s correction of his boorish behavior, and promptly handed me a card for the store’s trainer. I chuckled, declined the card, continued with my checkout and left the store.

The “Riot Dog” was beginning to emerge and while I found his behavior fitting given the improper display by the store clerk, I now knew that my puppy had no qualms using aggression to problem solve situations he found unfair, impolite, or uncomfortable. I knew I had some work to do….but, as crazy as it sounds, his response made me love him even more.


Meagan Karnes
Meagan Karnes

Meagan has been training dogs professionally since 2002, most recently working with private security, military and law enforcement to provide K9s for high level applications. She owns both The Collared Scholar, an online dog training academy, and 690 Security Services, a company that trains and deploys Executive Security and Protection K9s to private customers. She recently partnered with both Average Frog and SM Leaders, who repurpose the proven performance principles of the Navy SEALs for individuals and organizations.

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