Ruby is socially awkward and so am I. You would think this would be a perfect combination and sometimes it is, until it is not.
The problem is we are not always on the same page when it comes to our social anxiety. When Ruby is feeling like she can greet other dogs with a wag, I am usually in a ‘cross the street because I can’t handle small talk’ mood. Likewise, when I am feeling normal, willing and able to engage in conversation, Ruby gets all jumpy and reactive. When one is up, the other is down. We are like a self-esteem seesaw gone wrong.
It’s Not You, It’s My Dog: Life With A Socially Awkward Dog
Ruby has issues with bikers, joggers, and occasionally plumbers. She’s afraid of our backyard, anything that squeaks, and the kitchen cabinets because they might unexpectedly open and gobble her up. She’s also unsure and awkward around other dogs. Not all dogs, just some dogs. It’s like she doesn’t know how to be a normal dog (in the same way I don’t always know how to carry on normal conversation). She sniffs them in the wrong place and the other dog is like “oh no she didn’t.” The other dog then starts barking, maybe even growling, which sets off other dogs in the area and suddenly, we are in the middle of Bark War Three.
“He never acts like this,” the other dog person almost always says, even though the same thing happened two weeks earlier.
“It’s not you, it’s us,” I say, backing away slowly.
Similar weirdness happens if I’m not feeling social and someone tries to talk to me. I usually say something stupid or walk into a tree, and then say something even more stupid like “I didn’t see that tree coming.” And the other person is like “the tree didn’t move, you walked into it and now you have bark on your forehead.”
There’s really no coming back from either of these situations. It’s best to brush the bark off your forehead and move on.
Tips For the Socially Awkward Dog (and Her Equally Socially Awkward Human)
1. Know your dog’s triggers and your own. Ruby is normal 75% of the time (for me it is more like 65%). As previously mentioned when Ruby’s having an off day bikers, joggers and sometimes plumbers drive her a little crazy. For me it is lack of sleep, food, coffee or sunlight.
2. Map out several walks with escape routes in case one or both of you just can’t muster up the energy for small talk or normal doggie interaction. Whether it is cutting though an alley, ducking behind a garage, or crawling on all fours through a thorn bush, have outs available. Being normal is hard.
3. Memorize the locations where awkward encounters have occurred and avoid those spots for at least three weeks. The hope is that the people or dogs involved will forgot that your dog was the one who crapped in the middle of the road (because sometimes she can’t handle grass) and caused a traffic jam.
4. Become a fast crosser. Be prepared to cross the street, room, or world at a moment’s notice. Do it fast so other dogs/people don’t realize you are avoiding them.
5. Practice the wave from across the street (like Miss America only not). “Sorry, can’t chat now because we are on opposite sides of the street.”
6. Wear headphones. It really doesn’t matter if they work or not. Just make sure they are plugged into some kind of listening device otherwise you will give yourself away.
7. Walk in off hours. Avoid walking during doggie rush hour. After 10 when everyone has had their morning walk and/or left for work or school is prime walking time for socially awkward pups and peeps.
Feel free to share (or not share – no social pressure from us) your own socially awkward tales in the comments. You can stay up-to-date on our journey to be normal (as well as a whole bunch of cuteness and feel-good, inspiring rescue and adoption stories) by subscribing to our email list.