I thought this would be a great thread for the Weekly Discussion Topic.
And to continue on with the discussion:
Is it possible for a GSD to be fearful and protective at the same time but not sure how to manage their emotions?
I think yes, it is possible for a dog to want to be protective, but feeling a bit overwhelmed and unsure. But an experienced person can read the unsureness. The wanting to be protective and being somewhat fearful is why police dogs, Schutzhund dogs, and PPD need training and are raised differently than an average pet dog were the focus for the future working dog is on building confidence, while the focus for the average pet dog is on good manners.
Dogs that are raised with protection in mind, are taught from an early age that they can take on the world and win every time. They are gradually brought along, with more pressure and fight from the decoy put on them so that they grow in their confidence that they can win the fight, and that is where that place of unshakable confidence comes from. There are dogs that have this naturally. When training a future protection or police dog, the ability to read the dog and know just how much pressure and stress to introduce into the training without overwhelming the dog is one of the most important skills of the trainer. Too much too soon, and the dog can't handle it, and becomes fearful and reactive.
Also is fear part of most dogs nature until they mature or is it something to breed out of top quality dogs?
This is where breeding for nerve strenght and temperament comes in. I think that fear in puppies is normal from an evolutionary view point, but through good breeding, it can and should be bred out of them. You see the solid litters from solid parents, puppies that are fearless and ready to take on the world, never backing away from anything, but moving forward to investigate and explore. Pups may still go through some fear stages, but they get through them and continue on with no ill effect. The GSD is SUPPOSSED to be a fearless breed, and this is what breeders should all strive for.
Being fearless as a young dog is different than being ready to take on a protective role as a young dog. Dogs have strong social/pack oriented behaviours, and the alpha and older more senior members of the pack have the responsibility to look out for the younger, weaker members of the pack.
A young dog should
defer to the alpha/senior in that regard.
For example, I live in the boonies. One day out in the back field, my older dog (about 6 years old at the time) and my one year old GSD chased a bear into the woods. At first I didn't see what it was, my older dog was barking away, then I saw the bear (hiding behind a tree, looking out at us). While the older dog was barking at the bear, the one year old brought me his ball and was prancing around wanting to play. I recalled the dogs and we headed back to the house. In this example, the older dog had the situation under control, so the young dog was not concerned. Then I showed up, so nothing to worry about! Mom is here!!! Let's play! That would be normal fearless
confidence for a one year old, and completely appropriate for him to defer the barking and holding the bear at bay to the older dog. This does not mean that he is not a courageous dog, or not protective, just shows age-appropriate behaviour.
As he is getting older and more mature, I would think that in a similar situation, he would stand side-by-side with my older dog and give her support - though I surely hope there will never be another similar situation for us!
To expand on the nature of fear in puppies, in a previous paragraph I mentioned this:
When training a future protection or police dog, the ability to read the dog and know just how much pressure and stress to introduce into the training without overwhelming the dog is one of the most important skills of the trainer. Too much too soon, and the dog can't handle it, and becomes fearful and reactive.
The problem with puppies that are fearful, is that from an early age, EVERYTHING they encounter is scary and traumatic, so through their normal every-day life, they are pushed into being insecure and reactive, and very difficult for the owners to try and overcome this by socilization and training. A pup like this is almost doomed to fail because it does not have the psychological ability to deal with ANY stresses, and falls apart.
So the answer to the question about fear: it should be bred out of the dogs, not only in top-quality dogs, but out of all dogs, because a fearful puppy grows up to be a fearful adult dog, and that is nothing but a heart-ache and a liability.