18 July

Sweet Zinnia Shows Her Teeth

by Jon Katz

I love this photo of Zinnia sticking her head out of the car in the rain; she loves to look out as we drive and ponder the universe. She doesn’t seem to notice the rain.

We went to the farmer’s market this morning, we took Zinnia, and I was reminded once again that dogs are always dogs, and we shouldn’t turn them into the humans we want to love.

A woman came up to us with a small dog on a leash; Zinnia growled a bit and then lunged at the dog, snaring, not snapping. There was no blood, no contact, no bit, but it was startling; I’ve never seen Zinnia be aggressive at anything. We have horses trotting into the backyard all the time; she wags her tail at them.

Zinnia loves Bud and Fate; she is always gentle and patient with them, even giving up her treats to them.

I didn’t see what triggered the exchange; something about the dog set Zinnia off, and when I turned around, the two were snarling and lunging at each other.

Perhaps I didn’t do enough socializing of Zinnia with other dogs; perhaps she didn’t recognize this small furry dog as a dog. I’m not sure, but I’ll find some other dogs and try to figure it out.

At the market, she loved everyone she saw; her tail never stopped going.

But still, I have to remember that dogs are dogs, and any dog is capable of getting aggressive if challenged in the right way. We don’t really understand what dogs are saying to each other most of the time.

Zinnia is the sweetest creature I’ve ever met. This is a puzzle I need to figure out.


  1. My young Golden loves everything and everyone except for one neighbor dog. His owner has no control over him and he came up to my girl when she was a puppy and flipped her upside down. She hates him now. You will soon be able to figure out if it’s other dogs, in general, or something about that small dog that set Zinnia off.

  2. We had a lovely Golden named Baxter who loved everyone, or every species, with one exception. A little terrier we met in the park who he just didn’t like. He snapped, snarled, and acted completely unlike himself. We never saw that little dog again and no other creature ever inspired that reaction.

  3. I have been told dogs can sense a type of energy whether coming from humans or other animals. My 14 yr old hound mix has started disliking English labs, particularly black ones. And the occasional Golden. Maybe they know something we don’t,lol. I have been her only caretaker for the last six years, since my husband died. (Up till then she was always with him). This started in the last four or so years. She has only growled at a human once, and I will say, he was pretty sketchy looking.

  4. Something triggered Zinnia to react the way she did. Dogs have their own way of communicating. Good to check it out. We adopted a 10 year-old femalevdog in April. She reacts to male dogs. We’re working
    on finding someone to make a home visit to do an assessment. She had some other behavior issues too.

  5. Jon, didn’t she react to other dogs like that when she was younger? I seem to recall a few incidents. Definitely will need to work around other dogs. Sometimes, small dogs can trigger prey drive.. some more work ahead for sure.

  6. My late granddog (bloodhound) once tried to attack a West Highland Terrier. He got along really well with my three dogs, but he didn’t like that dog. To my knowledge, he never went after any other dog.

  7. I called her my little brown rescue dog. She wasn’t the showiest dog on the planet, a little on the homely side. When people would ask me what kind of mix she was I answered “anyone’s guess.” But her claim to fame came in the calming signals she threw off to other dogs. It could be the most untrained, out-of-control dog and she would immediately have them settle. It was magical to watch. She may not have been the most beautiful dog, but what a remarkable trait she had in settling down the other dogs she came in contact with. Never seen anything like it in my lifetime of dogs. I lost her in May to old-age issues. Miss her much.

  8. Just a nice warning about dogs sticking their heads out of car windows. A rock flew into my car window a few weeks ago. It cracked a huge whole into the window and cracks spread everywhere. So I started wondering about kids sticking feet and hands out of car windows, wondering how harmed they would be if a rock hit them with as much force as the rock that hit my window. Then I started thinking about dogs sticking heads out car windows. After a little research I found that dogs have lost eyes from rocks while riding in cars, even if their head is only slightly out.

    1. Thanks, Ed, I appreciate the caution and people can do what they wish, Zinnia will still be free to stick her head out the window a bit. Life has its risks. Good luck with your dog.

  9. Would you let your grandchild stick her head out of the car window even a bit? If the rock that hit my car window were to hit a child in the head or face, they would easily be killed. I talked to my vet about this. She said absolutely dogs on the back of pickups or dogs sticking heads even an inch out of a moving car window are in danger. She was surprised more people don’t know this. This is not meant to be confrontational.

    1. Mr. Stevens, thanks for your concern. I’m afraid I’m not interested in having this discussion with you.

      My dog’s health and welfare is my business, and I have not, in my long life, injured any dog of mine as the result of their riding in my cars.

      If you are concerned about it, you have every right to take steps to do what you think is best for your dogs. We don’t traffic in warnings here, if I listened to every warning I get online, I would never go outside, neither would my dogs. Take care, with respect, Jon

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