Fur Friend or Foe
Many years ago I was employed as the Animal Control Officer for a small, coastal town in southern NH. I got a call from the shift supervisor in the next town over, who described the situation as follows: this big German Shepherd dog had taken up residence on a front porch, and wouldn't let anyone in or out of the house. The homeowners had no idea who he was or where he might have come from.
I got to the home about five minutes later, and I saw this clearly distressed yet handsome, well-cared for male German Shepherd laying on the front porch of this house. I pulled up right at the end of the walkway. The dog leapt to his feet, barked at me a few menacing barks, then laid back down with his back to the storm door, facing me. At that point a woman and child from inside opened the inside door, and this big boy barked over his shoulder a few confused barks, then stopped, looking back at me.
At that point the supervisor who had called me pulled up, watching as this drama unfolded. In reading the dog's body language, it was clear to me that he was afraid, he didn't want to hurt anyone. He didn't know who he could trust. So, I decided that the best thing for the situation was to be the dog's friend. I jumped out of my truck and sat on the ground, and laughed like an inviting fool.
For his part, he charged me, barking furiously. But the closer he got, the higher pitched the bark became, subsiding just as he got to me, before diving into my lap. He was just looking for a safe friend he could trust. I leashed him up, put him in the truck, and away we went to doggie jail. He was claimed within the hour by a distraught owner, upset that his dearly beloved dog had gotten loose, and glad to have him back.
The “act like a fool” technique isn’t advisable for any but the most experienced trainers of dogs that actually understand canine behavior and aggression.