Our family dog is a very cheerful border collie. She's great with people, kids too, but not with other dogs. She is scared of them. We got her when she was a year old and she never learned to walk on a leash. She is currently 4 years old. I've slowly been training her to walk on a leash, but she's very stubborn and difficult when on the leash and a lot easier to handle when she can run around freely. We live quite rural and she generally ignores other dogs, so it hasn't been a problem so far.

While the dog is technically my father's dog, I have been training her mainly since he does not. Every morning he takes her for a short walk, off the leash. I was in the yard and I could hear but not see what happened. I heard my father screaming "come here", followed by two dogs, one quite obviously ours, fighting and my father continuing to scream at our dog.

I then opened the gate and found our dog sitting outside it, clearly scared. I took her in the yard and my father followed after speaking with the other dog's owner. The dog acted submissive and scared. My father proceeded to scream at her for not listening. She tried to flee to me, but he pulled her back and hit her. Not very hard, but she seemed hurt. My father now wants everyone to walk the dog on the leash only since "she can't listen".

I disagree with his behaviour and also with his premise. I'm no behaviour expert, but I am fairly certain dogs are no different than humans. She reacted out of fear and my father made her fear worse. I think she needed to be calmed down instead. He left for work a few hours ago, but she is still scared. I have sent my boyfriend to calm her down while I'm at work, but I'm very worried about her mental state and father possibly making her fears worse.

Since our dog cannot explain herself in anything but body language, how can I help my father understand how her emotions work and that treating her badly is not okay? Note that my father has Asperger's.

An answer explaining how I can tell him why what he is doing is bad is great, but one explaining how I can actually help him understand what the dog needs is even better.

  • 1
    Just a quick question - how old are you? Teens, twenties, older? I assume you live at home?
    – Mithical
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 9:13
  • @ArwenUndómiel mid-twenties. My boyfriend and I 'rent' a floor in my parents' house. We do share meals as a family.
    – Belle
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 9:19

2 Answers 2


Step 1

Realize that your dog probably should be walking on a leash. Since she is scared of other dogs you never know how she will respond when getting near one. It may be completely the fault of the other dog (and trainer) for challenging your dog. The issue is that you can only control your dog by pulling back the leash in a situation like that. I'm assuming something like this happened while your father was walking the dog and your father himself got scared for losing control of the dog. In that aspect I fully have to agree with your father that you should no longer walk the dog without a leash when you might encounter other dogs.

(Note that you should also teach your dog that the leash is a good thing, but that's not the question here)

Step 2

Talk with your dad and start with stating the fact that he's right in leashing the dog from now on. Continue with telling him you feel sad that the dog got punished THAT hard for being scared and defending herself (especially hitting a dog should never be done). And try to find a middle ground from now on where you're both happy with.

Side note

You may want to talk with your father in a calm way to find out what exactly happened to make him punish your dog so hard. Perhaps it's worse than you realize, perhaps he really was scared himself and couldn't really control it (made worse with the Asperger's?). Make sure to come across as friendly and not like you're pointing a finger at him when you do this. Otherwise he'll just get defensive and probably get mad at you as if you're trying to pick a fight with him.

Perhaps you can try to formulate it like this (feel free to change it to your usual manner of speaking of course):

Hey dad, I'm still feeling a bit upset about what happened with [dog] the other day. I'm not trying to point a finger at you or anything, but I'd just like to know what exactly happened to make you react so strongly. Could you explain it in detail, please?

  • 5
    Nice one! I would rephrase a bit I'm worried and upset about the incident last night. What did happen? What did {dog} do so it got such strong punishment? just to remove direct mentioning of the father completely. Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 9:44
  • 1
    Interesting idea to remove the direct mentioning, but we still need to be careful with that kind of wording. It's still clear her father did the punishment, so the way you worded it can still come across as "attacking". It's more important to focus on being "matter of factly" / "genuinely interested in what happened without punishing anyone" than it is to really confront the father with what he did.
    – Imus
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 10:02

I agree with the answer from Imus about walking your dog on the leash. I used to go to a "you and your dog" camp and they always emphasized keeping your dog safe. That includes positioning your dog so they won't have harmful interactions with other dogs.

One other thing I'd suggest is seeing if there are is anyone offering dog training classes that your dad (or you and your dad) could go to. I'm not talking about fancy tricks and such, but about basic training so your dog is comfortable on the leash. And it's also useful for your dad to understand your dog, what motivates her, and how she perceives the world. Doing some training trains the owner as much as it trains the dog.

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