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Greybeards 12-02-2013 09:10 PM

Puppy Protective?

I have a 6 month old female that has exhibited a behavior that I wonder if I should be concerned

The other day my 22 year old son wanted to play rough with me and Athena got in the middle of us and let him know nicely that he should stop
She barked once and laid her head on his arm

Later that day I was going to tickle my wife and Athena did the same thing but my wife said Athena put her mouth on her arm
Athena didn't press down with her jaws at all and it was over in a second or two

Athena greets everyone when they get home, will lay on my wife on the couch and loves to play with my son

I train her feed her play with her and take her with me when I have errands to run. She is my shadow and follows me around the house

Do I just avoid the play behavior or do I need to correct her somehow?



doggiedad 12-02-2013 09:12 PM

i would avoid the behaviour.

Twyla 12-02-2013 09:32 PM

I would encourage the wife to pick up some of the training, feeding and socializing.

I am not sure I would correct for this behavior at this point, but I would step up NILIF. It isn't up to your pup to correct the wife and son.

Harry and Lola 12-03-2013 02:25 AM

She could be just unsure of all the boisterous behaviour and is concerned, maybe tickle your wife often for just a couple of seconds (much to her delight, I'm sure!) so that your GSD gets used to it and therefore sees all is ok and you two are not fighting, just playing.

Sri 12-03-2013 07:50 AM

Some of our actions in dog body language can come off as mildly threatening, or more. And ofcourse dogs do feel protective towards their pack. Or they could just be excited and want to join in the play.

When this happened with ours, we let him know it is okay by hugging each other and throwing treats to him at the same time. A little later we progressed to asking him for a sit when he approached us while we were hugging or playing and throwing him the treats. Now he is fine with us being physical with each other. He will still approach us to check things out if we get a little rough, but we say 'its okay' and he understands.

hunterisgreat 12-03-2013 07:58 AM

She was just reflecting your excitement. Remember dogs play with their mouths.

Baillif 12-03-2013 08:20 AM

Not to sound like you know who, but to a certain extent part of the dogs pack drive and instincts wants to achieve balance and harmony. So it is a very common thing for a dog to intervene in what it perceives as physical altercations between family members in an attempt to break it up. If I went after my girlfriend aggressively my dogs would step in to stop me. If she went after me the same way they would step in to stop her. Usually by high pitched protest barks, or gentle mouthing or the head on the arm thing.

As long as he isn't laying a real bite down and is being gentle about it I wouldn't be terribly concerned about the behavior, but I would be very cautious about going out of my way to try to activate it, unless I was using it in sport defense of handler exercises or something like that, and even then the dog is trained to do it under context of command and not just make a decision to bite on its own.

This behavior is not to be confused with resource guarding though. If your dog tries to start something just because they are sitting near you or something like that, then you need to correct it.

carmspack 12-03-2013 08:27 AM

second Baillif .

This is part of the canine bond and the ability to empathize , which a "kennel" dog does not have to that extent. This was one of the things demonstrated on the Nature of Things show with research coming out of Sweden and Hungary . Unfortunately the link I provided was available to view by Canadians only???

Pretend you are crying and the dog will be concerned.

Act hostile to someone (your decoy) and the dog will share the emotions and act upon them .

Not to be fooled around with though because for the dog it is real and if you sucker the dog into acting this way , out of concern , then you can't punish them for it .

MichaelE 12-03-2013 10:15 AM

I activated that behavior in Lisl one time. Scared the helper and I won't be experimenting with her hot button again.

Wild Wolf 12-03-2013 10:25 AM

Agree 100% with Bailiff and Carmen.

Dogs, as pack animals, depending on their rank drive/place in your pack (this is especially significant for puppies who lean towards a submissive side until sexual maturity begins) can take what us wolf people call "omega position" in which the dog tries to "appease" and "interrupt" any seemingly negative behaviour. This behaviour in dogs is critical in preventing serious fights/issues.

At around 10 seconds a more dominant animal begins a status display over the one wolf who was originally dominating the submissive wolf, and the other wolf begins displaying "omega" behaviour by trying to appease the higher rank wolf and "interrupt" the situation even if it is relatively calm. "Omega" behaviour prevents things from escalating.

It could be this, or as others say it could even be resource guarding... depends heavily on the behaviour of your dog.

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