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Old 05-03-2014, 06:30 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question My girl growled at someone today, not sure what to make of it-

My 20 mo. old female GSD has always loved everyone, but today she did something totally out of character and I am not sure what to think.

We are able to hike w/her off leash and always put her in a down, off to the side of the path so that people can see ahead of time that she is under control. This has always worked well and people nearly always comment on how well behaved she is.

We were out hiking and came upon 2 men w/2 young girls. After putting my dog in a down and visiting with them for a moment, one of the girls asked to pet her. I said yes and put my dog into a sit.

My dog growled as she approached, so I immediately stopped her from coming any closer. My dog has NEVER growled at anyone! Then one of the men approached and my dog barked and ran around behind my husband.

My dog never moved toward them as if to bite, but this is SO out of character for her that I am not sure how worried to be about her reaction.

How would you handle this? I don't want to make any excuse that something must have been 'off' with these people, but it took us totally by surprise that she would act this way.

My dog has her CGC and TD and we are supposed to meet with a hospice coordinator this week to begin visits, now I'm not so sure......

Any advice?
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Old 05-03-2014, 06:41 PM   #2 (permalink)
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How old is she? If she's younger I would hold off on the visits until she matures more and shows you her adult self. I don't think it's a *huge deal, if this is a one time only thing. But if you are talking about therapy work (visiting hospitals etc) you need to share this information with them, get their guidance, and maybe hold off. It's one thing if she's only in your house "just" being a pet...it's another if you are hoping to do therapy work with her. I'm not saying it would be ignored if it was "only" a pet dog, but it needs to be scrutinized more because of what you want to do with her. imho. When I worked in hospice they had therapy dogs come in often (mostly labs and goldens), you just have to be relaly careful. The last thing you want to do is scare the bejeebus out of some older person, or worse, have a bite. Not meaning to sound dramatic, just be careful and make sure you talk with the hospice and your trainer (or whoever is assisting you to do this work). Good luck.
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Old 05-03-2014, 07:02 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I just wanted to add that she has been around a variety of people since I got her at 9 weeks. If anything she has always been overeager to greet people!

We regularly visit Rural King, Tractor Supply and a few pet stores.

I have had her in training since she was 12 weeks old. Often complete strangers will perform the 'stand for exam' practice in our class and she has never, ever reacted negatively.

It just was totally out of character for her to growl.
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Old 05-03-2014, 07:23 PM   #4 (permalink)
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she may have scented something on those people(other dog?) who knows...don't let it get to you. At her age, she may be growing into her independent mature self and not really care for strangers to approach her. If she had made the first move towards them, it may have played out differently. She knows training is structured and she has to stand for exam, but on a hike, on a line, in a down, then a sit, she may have felt vulnerable.
It may be too personal, but hospice is for who? You don't have to answer. Maybe she is sensing some angst with your emotions right now too. Just a thought....
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Old 05-03-2014, 07:43 PM   #5 (permalink)
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the dog ran behind your husband , some insecurity showing through . I would not continue with the plans for hospital visitation until you are absolutely certain that the dog won't react in a peculiar way.

thinking of one thing , you said you always put her in a down, off to the side of the path so that people can see ahead of time that she is under control. This may be her comfort zone , as in everything is routine and predictable . She lays down, the people leave her alone.
Habituated to the sequence .
So you change things up , have her sit so that the young girl can approach. Already she is becoming uneasy , and then the man approaches and her security is gone.
I think the key is that she went behind your husband , a little bit of avoidance.
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Old 05-03-2014, 08:08 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Is she fixed? Could she be coming into heat?

It is possible that one of the people was incredibly fearful of the dog, and in an effort to master their fear, some people like to confront it by meeting the dog. They usually do this somewhat tentatively, while staring into the dog's eyes. What the dog senses is actually unknown, but that they sense some terrible negative feeling and usually a challenge when this happens, is pretty clear.

On the other hand, the people could have been perfectly benign and your bitch may be having a seriously off day. Even a vaccine reaction, considering we usually give rabies around 6 months and then again about 18 months, your girl is 20 months, I wonder... I hope not.
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Old 05-03-2014, 09:59 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Post 8 has a link to "Who pets my puppy or dog" that's what I did with my "people aggressive" GSD. It worked out great for me today he has no issues with strangers petting him.

My take on the down thing with people, the dog things someone is coming, I'm going to have to do "something?" My guy had no decisions, to make ,no commands to obey if people approached we just moved along..."nothing to see here dog..move along!"

As a technique for a therapy dog??? It's still what I would do regardless of a dogs "ultimate goal" bottom line of this is "I'm in charge not you!!!"

People can pet him but he could pretty much careless! If I wanted a dog for therapy, I'd use a dog that actually likes people Lab,Golden, Boxer etc. But GSD's are all purpose dogs and therapy is a job so I know they can do it!
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Old 05-04-2014, 06:02 AM   #8 (permalink)
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She is fixed, so not coming into heat.

I don't think the people were afraid, they said that they used to have a shepherd and wanted to pet her.

I really don't care about the therapy work one way or the other. I thought it would be something she would enjoy, I have the time and she passed her test with flying colors. Obviously now I am rethinking it.

I probably shouldn't have put this in the 'aggression forum' as I don't think is was aggression, as Carmspack wrote, more avoidance and maybe fear? How would you handle this if it happened again?
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Old 05-14-2014, 02:27 PM   #9 (permalink)
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It could be simply that your dog just didn't like that particular person; perhaps your dog didn't trust that person, scented something your dog felt was wrong or didn't belong.
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Old 05-14-2014, 03:24 PM   #10 (permalink)
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If it were me, and my dog has never exhibited the behavior before, I'd consider a vet check. Your pup could have an ear infection or something that is making her a little off her norm.
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