Life is a veritable maze of social dynamic.  I am usually fairly successful at navigating the expectations for the various settings in my life, but yesterday I guess I blew it.

Our puppy, Charlotte, is now 7 months old.  She is a Rottweiler, Lab, Shepherd cross, affectionate and social with people.  She already shakes a paw, rolls over, lies down and sits.  She is 99% housetrained and sleeps in her crate all night long, without a peep.  As my husband says, she is a dream dog.

Charlotte could improve on car rides.  She is horribly car sick, and so I always need to ride in the passenger seat and hold her on my lap, if we are going anywhere with her.  This usually results in me drenched in drool and ineffectively employing, “thphhh, thbbbth, thpppbbbphph” noises to try to get the dog hair out of my mouth.

She is also not always perfect on her walks.  At times she tends to pull on lead (she even took our daughter for a drag one day), and really likes to get rough and tumble when she plays with other dogs.

With most dogs or, more accurately, their owners, this is no concern.  I recognize that Charlotte is rapidly becoming a big girl and, despite her silky, floppy lab ears and her wagging tail, she can look a little menacing.  As a result, I check in frequently with dogs’ owners, and tell them to let me know if they are uncomfortable with the way she is playing.  Most say there is no problem and that they are just dogs being dogs, and that is how they play.

Until yesterday.  On our evening walk, we saw a group at the park with their dogs all off-lead.  There were about 6 adults in a group with 4 dogs tearing around and having a great time.  Recognizing one of the owners, our daughter and I sauntered over to say hello and give Charlotte a chance to play.  The other dogs were purebreds of varying breeds.  Charlotte and a 5 month old Golden Retriever were having a blast, and were fairly equally matched.

To the untrained eye, the play looks like fighting; all teeth and throats.  I pulled Charlotte off a few times to make sure she was still in control and then I let her go back to playing again.  A small Terrier got involved and Charlotte was thrilled to include him in the fun, tearing around and nipping at his heels.  Then she dove on him and they went for a roll.  The Terrier yelped.

I grabbed Charlotte again and made her sit and calm down for a few minutes.  When I looked up, all of the people in the group, except for the owner of the Golden, had moved about 30 feet away from us.  Thinking they had just drifted, we headed over to them with Charlotte happily in tow.

Charlotte began chasing the Terrier again and his owner very angrily shouted at Charlotte, “NO!!!  BAD DOG!!  LEAVE HIM ALONE!!!”  I told her I was sorry and put Charlotte on lead, telling her to settle down again.  When I looked up a second time, the group had again moved away another 30 feet, arms folded and backs to us.

Finally the aha moment hit me!  We were not welcome anymore.

Our daughter was crushed.  She asked me, “Why are they turning their backs on us, Mommy?”

I answered honestly, “Because they don’t like the way that Charlotte plays and they are mad at me.”

Our daughter sobbed, “Charlotte has no friends!!!  They are all pushing her away!!”

I assured her that Charlotte really couldn’t care less about those dogs.  But, in truth, Charlotte was looking rather forlorn, glancing backward over her shoulder at the group of dogs still happily playing.  I felt terrible.  I am going to have to teach our puppy some manners.

In the meantime, our Charlotte gets an F in Playing Well With Others.

…and that feels really ruff.