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Thread: Protective or fearful? Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
06-14-2014 10:48 AM
GSD Shepherdess We use the Don Sullivan training method. Since we began using this method, we have had great success in bonding, training, and helping others.
05-23-2014 04:36 PM
Banshee5 Very interesting opinions and I myself cannot comment on what is right or wrong behaviour. I do know my dog does not like dogs coming up to me if they are loose and will come up to chase them off. People he has no bother with,unless they approach the house then he barks and barks but never attacks.
Hes greta out walking but again if we meet a dog he barks and pulls on his lead. He never had other dogs around growing up as people were afraid of him
05-20-2014 10:07 PM
GEORGEKY Greetings, I'm relatively new to this forum, but posted last year when our GSD male contacted lymphoma. Dino is gone, but I have a question regarding our 5 year old female adopted last fall through the GSD rescue organization. Bella is wonderful in the house, responds to commands, but is very protective if anyone comes to the door- until they come inside. We have no issue with this behavior, but need to do something about the same behavior or worse when confronted with another dog when on leash during a walk. Lots of barking, snarling, and an apparent readiness to fight.

Obviously, we are far past puppy training, or even knowing her background. The foster people said she was very well-behaved with other dogs in the house but she has really become hard to handle around other dogs. I'm looking for any training or conditioning suggestions.


George Schweikle
Lexington, KY
12-02-2013 02:04 PM
FORRUGER Thank you for your reply and assessment based on the circumstances. I just mentioned that it was out of working lines as it has siblings trained and actively working on police forces so it's out of dogs with good strong drives. I did mention the liability issue to her... and even told her about a person in my neighborhood who adopted an adult GSD with a bad attitude that ultimately ended up being ordered to be euthanisized after getting loose and attacking people in the area...

But I will try to pass on to her sound suggestions from anyone willing to offer them... it's not acceptable behavior to me especially out of a dog that technically is still a 'pup' at 13 mos of age.... just wanted other opinions/suggestions. thanks!
12-02-2013 01:15 PM
boomer11 definitely fear and definitely not ok. a protective dog only watches people and doesnt bark at everything that moves. a protective dog is ok with 99% of the people it comes in contact with and will only bark and lunge and maybe bite if they feel the threat is real. my dog has barked his deep bark when startled but he's never lunged at anyone.

a fearful dog will huff and puff and bark and lunge and maybe bite at everything that its unsure about. if this behavior isnt corrected then the dog thinks that this is how i get rid of the danger. the dog thinks its ok to bite and lunge and bark because it works! it has nothing to do with working line. sounds like the dog needs lots of leadership and training. if your friend is proud of this behavior it'll just be a matter of time before she gets sued.
12-02-2013 12:26 PM
FORRUGER I'm not replying to the above, but just wanted to ask opinions on 'protective' behavior vs. shear aggressive behavior. My friend just told me, quite proudly, that her female gsd (who's barely over a year of age) charged off her couch and attacked her relative who walked in the front door unannounced for a visit. Guessing the dog has met him before, but according to my friend he is quite a big man and dislikes dogs....which she seems to feel is part of the reason he was attacked. SInce 6 mos of age the dog has shown unruly behavior....including getting 'kicked out' of pet training at a local pet store for uncontrollable barking and lunging at other dogs. I invited her to bring her pup to my basic obedience classes when she was 9 mos old as I just expected it was being an obnoxious ill mannered pup getting out of control. This is the lady's first gsd puppy (working line) and she had no experience with raising head strong pups , . Needless to say, obnoxious was an understatement. The 'pup' was clearly showing fierce aggression... barking, snarling and lunging at the end of the leash... wanting to get ahold of me. I wasn't sure if it was out of fear, or strait outright unadulterated aggression... and wasn't going to find out...So I suggested she take the dog back to her breeder/trainer for evaluation and she did. They gave her one lesson on basic obedience using a prong collar on her....she was supposed to take her back for continued work.,, which never happened.

I just think a year old pup shouldn't be displaying this kind of behavior ... and wonder if a child had walked thru the door unannounced if it would have done the same thing. Or was the 'pup' justified for attacking company walking in the door unannounced?? In general the pup has growled at people (friends) coming up to his 'mom' in the house in the past, and has also aggressively grabbed one other person by the arm it was near. I'm not in approval of this behavior in the least and wondered if others consider it 'ok'...
11-12-2013 09:40 PM
Fearful dog!

Thank you for your comment. It explains what's going on with my dog. Your description of the dog that shows fear is exactly what happens with my dog. She's a 13 month old female, and used to be very friendly with people and other dogs, but in the past 4 months or so I have not been able to relax while walking her downtown. Most of the times she's intent in sniffing around, more so than the passerbys, yet if she gets distracted from the smells, her behavior is exactly what you described. She has barked and jumped on people, lunging on the leash (which btw, to this day she has not yet accepted). She has been hyper from day one, and she has made a lot of progress. Used to bark at every little noise, day and night, now she only does when she actually hears people at the door, or deer, etc...
A couple of weeks ago, under a trainer suggestion, I started using the prong collar (which I've been so reluctant in trying it). Well, now on our walks, she reacts and jump on me, and nips at me. To make matters worse, now she does the same thing when I try to pet her, and a couple of times it escalated to the point that I had to log-roll her... (another bad situation I wish could have been avoided because I'm sure it didn't help her trust issues!). I had some difficulty bonding with her when I got her as a puppy. She never let me pet her and she always kept her distance from me at home. Eventually we took down some barriers, but I can still sense a big trust issue with her.
Any ideas or suggestions?

Originally Posted by Castlemaid View Post
Protectiveness comes from a place of complete calm and complete confidence. The dog will assess the situation, stay watchfull, and give warning growls. The look on their face often reads "don't try anything, buddy, I'm on top of it!"

Dogs lunging to the end of the leash, barking widely, hackling, looking around widely, switching their gaze from the person or thing to something else and back, and so on, are showing fear.

In some cases, the difference is subtle because a fearful dog may be so good at the bravado, trying to act confident and sure in order to try and convince the threat that they mean it (though they are bluffing), that even an experienced person may have difficulty in seeing the difference.

And as others said, the threat has to be real. A dog that barks at every passerby or random people approaching a vehicule, or every noise is reacting out of fear, because those are daily occurances that have never posed a threat.
11-10-2013 08:13 AM
redandgold I assume if she's trying to run away from something, it's fear. If she is actively planting herself between me and a 6'8" 300 lb guy it is clearly not fear.
11-10-2013 05:29 AM
Alwaysaworkingdog I don't think anyone has really nailed it so far... so I'll give my 2 cents.

Being "Protective", in relation to how dog the majority of dog owners use it, is not a specific behaviour, or character trait that our dogs embody, rather it is a completely subjective term that we apply to our dogs - having a slightly different meaning to every individual who uses it;

"my dog barks at the postman, he's being protective"

"my dog chases foxes out of our backyward, she's so protective"

"I have a little yorky, that growls when you try to take his toy away, he's so cute when he's protective"

"defence of handler, in schutzhund, demonstrates a dog being protective of its handler"

One word is used throughout all these situations, yet each situation is different, and these dogs are reacting ways that arise from different drives - territorial defence, prey drive, resource guarding, learned behaviour/genuine pack defence

There are as many definitions of what we classify as protectiveness as there are shades of blue. But objectively speaking, to be protective is to "protect" something - to safeguard it against harm. That object could potentially be anything, from the dog itself, to a person, or an inanimate object.

Now to be fearful, is to fear something, to be "afraid" - for fear of harm to oneself.

The confusion arises from the fact that, dogs are often afraid of things that we normally would not consider it acceptable to traditionally be afraid of. Fear of heights, fast moving traffic, assault, someone aggressively yelling at you -these are all deemed acceptable, valid environmental stimuli that evoke a fear response. But things like garbage bins, vacuum cleaners, postmen - things that dogs are commonly afraid of - aren't considered acceptable.

I wanted to comment because I didn't think anyone was getting the point across strong enough - being fearful and being protective can be (depending on your definition) the same thing.

A dog cannot possibly be protective without perceiving something as threatening, whether that be a helper in schutzhund, making eye contact and cracking his whip or some jerk of an owner who takes away his dogs food bowl before he was done eating. The dog is afraid of losing something - a valuable resource, its life etc. So a protective behaviour begins with a fear response, all dogs experience some degree of fear and this is the basis of a dogs defence drive. In training a high level competition sport dog or police k9, this fear is significantly diminished as dominance and defence drives overlap > fight drive develops and like one poster in here said - you get something vaguely analogous to an "advanced play drive".

So, in essence, fearfulness and protectiveness are coming from the same place.
11-10-2013 03:40 AM
Harry and Lola Thanks for answering. Yes I also believe medical conditions play a part in temperament changes to a dog. I'm hoping his short episode of fear and aggression is something he can get over and go back to being a happy, confident, dominant boy. Your 'trust' comments were interesting, when I think about it, he really does need to learn to trust himself again. I also have to admit, I need to trust him again. Easier said than done, however I have been exposing him to various dogs (in dog parks - hate them but they have their uses) maybe about once a week and I muzzle him (this is for my comfort). First time he has ever been muzzled, but he accepts it as though it is not there and it really has been helping both of us to trust again. He seems much more calmer and is learning to greet other dogs properly.
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