Is your fearful dog Scooby Doo, or Scrappy?

This was one of the programmes that I grew up on, and I’m sure many of us are familiar with the two different characters, Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo?

For some reason this programme popped back into my mind this week, when I was thinking about the different ways that our pet dogs respond to something that they perceive to be a danger.

Scooby Doo

Many dogs will behave like Scooby, being immediately scared of something if they don’t know exactly what it is and that it’s okay.  Preferring to run and hide, or cower and shake at the sight of anything out of the ordinary.  These dogs are typically referred to as having fear issues.

The programme makes light of this by having Shaggy join in, but for many owners, seeing their dogs being immediately fearful of so many inconsequential things – the postman, a paper bag blowing down the street, a car door closing – can be very upsetting.  It’s not nice to know your dog is so easily spooked, and it’s obviously unpleasant for them too.

Scrappy Doo

At the other end of the spectrum we have dogs who will act like Scrappy, immediately going into fight mode, deciding that the best way to deal with a potential danger is using attack as a form of defense.  Those of you who watched a lot of episodes will remember that Scrappy actually got himself into a lot of trouble doing this and often had to be rescued by the others in the ‘gang’!  In these instances we are referring to dogs who will show whats referred to as fear aggression, or guard dog behaviour.  Immediately barking and lunging without actually waiting to assess whether something is a danger or not – and without looking to anyone else for decisions.

In the programme this was portrayed as the overconfidence of a puppy, but the sad fact is that this can carry on throughout life if dogs aren’t given some good clear guidance on what are the right decisions.

Shaggy the hapless owner

It’s no surprise really that Scooby and Scrappy both had their own issues, because neither could look to Shaggy for any decisions, because he was pretty fearful and a bit all over the place himself.  Not a convincing leader at all.  If your dog is a Scooby or a Scrappy there is help. The help is in the form of clear leadership – clear from their perspective, and there’s quite a lot to it!  You can do it though – the first step is to read “The Dog Listener” by Jan Fennell.

The unportrayed ‘Doo’

The type of fearful dog that this programme didn’t portray is the dog which watches and thinks.  People can mistakenly believe that their dog is okay with many situations when it’s actually gone into ‘freeze’ mode and is hoping the danger passes, while assessing and wondering whether other action may be necessary.  These people are often surprised when their dog suddenly starts reacting to something he/she has never appeared to have a problem with before.  The important thing to remember is that they are dogs, they don’t understand many things which take place in our world, so we need to be clear decision makers in their eyes, so they can trust to us, rather than make their own decisions and get themselves into trouble, or in a stressed state unnecessarily.

I never realised how education Scooby Doo is until thinking about it with dog behaviour in mind!

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