Q & A — Conflicts with Management

Dionysus and I have been going through a tough few weeks. I posted in mid-August that I was having problems with the management of the apartment complex. The maintenance man has been harassing me by reporting that Dionysus is “aggressive, dangerous, vicious and disruptive”. It says in the lease that a dog like that has to go, or that I have to move out. Dionysus does bark and doesn’t like strangers to come to the door. On one occasion I was not home for a couple of hours and the management came to do an inspection. The guy put his foot in the door and Dionysus bit at his shoe.

I was given notice to fix this problem. I went to a meeting with management to discuss things. Where I was told that Dionysus has to wear a muzzle when I’m not home and when I walk him around the grounds. I told them a flat NO! A dog cannot be left alone with a muzzle on and he never went after anyone when I take him for walks. I said that I will put him in a kennel when I have to leave in case of some emergency and that I will not muzzle him on walks. They said that a dog can go off on a person at any time. To which I replied that in that case every person who owns a dog here should be instructed to wear a muzzle too.

I have complete control of my 5 pound, 9 toothed Chihuahua! What do you think about this situation?

This is a frustrating situation, you have my sympathy. If moving is not an option or will take several months to arrange, and if this continues to be an issue with the management, I would recommend the following approach:

First and foremost, try to maintain a calm and rational disposition at all times when you have to discuss this with the management. It sounds like they aren’t dog people (i.e. don’t have their own dogs / may never have owned a dog) so they may not understand the nature of a dog’s behavior and particularly a small chihuahua. This means it’s time to educate them, as nicely as possible.

Try to explain that dogs are naturally territorial, and that chihuahuas particularly are descended from companion animals that served a dual purpose as watch dogs—so the fact that they bark at unknown noises and strangers is actually engrained in their genetics. Also try to explain that, although they may seem very fierce, the ‘aggression’ that some chihuahuas exhibit when they bark and snap at strangers is more fear-based than anything else. 

After all, they are very small dogs and for dogs, showing fear is a sign of weakness, so they mask their fearfulness by trying to scare away the thing(s) that make them afraid. Humans, especially strangers, are very large—like huge giants—compared to a chihuahua, so they often bark and snap in an effort to scare the person away. So it’s not that the chihuahua is actually aggressive or will hurt someone, it’s that they are small and fearful of being hurt themselves.

Also, see if you can come to an agreement with the management that they will only enter your home at pre-agreed times so that you can be present or you can put your dog in his crate preemptively. Now, that won’t stop him from barking at unknown intruders, but if he’s safely in his crate then he isn’t going to hurt anyone and they can ignore his barking.

Most of all though, try to present this information as calmly as possible. We all love our dogs like kids, but to those who don’t have dogs or have never owned them, often they just don’t get it and it’s easy for us to come across as overly emotional about our animals. So we’ve got to keep calm, repeat the basic facts as often as necessary, and try to come to reasonable arrangements when possible.

Hope some of that helps, and best of luck.