Two bites in one week... am I in denial? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-16-2019, 10:22 PM Thread Starter
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My 3 year old fixed male GSD bit two people in the last week. First incident involved my elderly grandmother leaving the front door wide open as she went to put garbage by the curb. Garbage man saw her struggling and came to help her. At around the same time, dog casually strolled out the front door to see a strange man on our property approaching my grandmother and bit him on the hip (twice). Bylaw enforcement came by and he was determined not to be a ‘dangerous dog’ (requiring muzzle outdoors) in light of the circumstances.

Today, owner of an antiques shop stops by our house (unexpectedly) to drop off some furniture we had purchased. Only my father is at home, upstairs, and the dog is behind the door barking. The gentleman claims to have heard someone say “come in” so he opens our unlocked front door and is tackled by dog and bit (twice).

Prior to this, he has a history of being overprotective and aggressive towards strangers approaching the house but no history of biting. He has gone to training (obedience and behavioural) but we live in a rural area and the amazing trainer we worked with over a year ago has since moved away.

I am trying to determine whether this constitutes unusual behaviour and/or unacceptable aggression? In the first scenario, fault clearly lies with us for having left the door open, but is it understandable—even if not justifiable—why he felt the need to ‘protect” my grandma? More importantly, does it seem unusual that he would attack a stranger who entered the house on his own?

Is it merely a coincidence that both incidents happened in the same week or a sign of an underlying medical condition?

Finally, do you believe it necessary for me to move out of my family home so I can ensure I am solely responsible for all comings and goings, opening and closing of the door, etc? He is my dog (not family dog) and I don’t trust that everyone in the family is capable of being responsible for him.

Any/all insights are much appreciated.
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post #2 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-16-2019, 10:36 PM
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Well, there's no denying he'll bite people now. I'd kennel him whenever you aren't in control of him and not put anyone else in the position of having to manage him. I'd be very watchful over how he actually behaves with family members too. If you think you were in denial about him till now, you may have missed something there too, not just with strangers.
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post #3 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-16-2019, 10:46 PM Thread Starter
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Well, there's no denying he'll bite people now. I'd kennel him whenever you aren't in control of him and not put anyone else in the position of having to manage him. I'd be very watchful over how he actually behaves with family members too. If you think you were in denial about him till now, you may have missed something there too, not just with strangers.
Thanks for your comment! Just to clarify, I don’t mean in denial about his propensity to bite. Even before this, I would have fully expected him to bite someone who came into the house unannounced. I mean to ask whether I am in denial about this actually being “aggression” or if this is a normal protective behaviour of a GSD?
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post #4 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-16-2019, 11:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Parmida Esmaeilpour View Post
Thanks for your comment! Just to clarify, I don’t mean in denial about his propensity to bite. Even before this, I would have fully expected him to bite someone who came into the house unannounced. I mean to ask whether I am in denial about this actually being “aggression” or if this is a normal protective behaviour of a GSD?
Most dogs are mainly bark, no bite. Just a personal opinion, but I don't ever expect a dog to bite unless someone has displayed genuine intent to cause physical harm. Even then, most dogs back down. It's an amateur's opinion, but I don't think it's a good thing to have a dog that would bite indiscriminately just because someone walks in. It could end up being a family member one day instead that they don't recognize because of hats, clothing, etc.

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post #5 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-16-2019, 11:36 PM
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Its aggression. That's what "protective behavior" is. We'd all like a dog with the discretion to only bite when its completely warranted and appropriate, but I don't think there's any guarantee that will always be the case. In general, I think a dog that will bite,,, will bite. I think you have to respect that and manage him. I'm not sure where you are, other then you aren't in California. I think a fair case can be made your dogs bites could be justified, but you'd be getting sued for so much here,,,,,,, So that's one reason I'd say manage him, control the situations he's in. Its up to you to make sure no one else gets hurt by accident.

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post #6 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-16-2019, 11:37 PM
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I think you might be trying to explain away a bad situation to yourself. Yes, GSD’s are protective and territorial, but they shouldn’t be biting humans.

What was your reaction after the bites? What actions did you take when the biting was taking place? Was there blood drawn, or did he just nip or mouth them?

My pool guy always notifies us that he’s at our home because we let him know we have a very territorial GSD, and she would not react well to him walking into our backyard. He was great at notifying us, but one time, we had the flu, and didn’t hear him knocking. He let himself in the back gate. I was woken to what sounded like a dog mauling a man. I jumped out of bed and ran outside. My GSD was circling the pool guy, lips and hackles raised, barking and growling as loud as any police dog I’ve seen. But she DID NOT bite. She was giving him plenty of warning to get off her territory. She immediately came when I called her. The pool guy was so shaken up, I felt awful for him. But he did learn a valuable lesson, which is not to walk into our back yard if we don’t give him the okay. (We locked the dogs inside while he’s cleaning the pool).

If she had actually bitten him, I would be highly concerned. If she bit two people in one week, it would be beyond concern, and we would be setting at the vets office with a muzzle on as soon as they opened. I’d ask for here to be looked over head to toe, and get bloodwork, etc done to make sure there wasn’t any medical reason she acted out. She would be leashed to me at ALL times, and crated when I couldn’t have her leashed. And I would be on the phone with a GSD trainer ASAP.

My girl has bitten one man, twice. I did all the above. Both times, he was holding his hands over the patio wall, and startled me. You’d think he would learn the first time. Anyway, I’d always gotten creepy vibes from this guy, and it ended up being well placed. Shortly after we moved, he was arrested for serial rape, and the death of a teenage girl. He is the only man she has ever bitten. She has growled at plenty if she didn’t know them, and a quick correction had her attention back to me, and we carried on our merry way.

I would most definitely not trust your dog around anyone else as a precaution until you get all the above things taken care of. Rule out medical, and then get with a great trainer with GSD experience, and use the leashed to you or crated method until the issue is solved.
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post #7 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-17-2019, 01:00 AM
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I think legally this is a grey area. He bit on his own property, right? But now he knows how effective biting is and next time he might bite sooner. The weird thing is, if one of these people had been a burglar, your dog would have been a hero. Your job is to prevent bites. Now you know. So don't have anyone else handle him when you are gone. He should be in a solid kennel or indoor crate when you can't watch him.
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post #8 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-17-2019, 02:06 AM
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Seeing the garbage man approaching grandma?!? Yeah, I can see that being a problem. Lots of dogs see the garbage man as a foe. They come with a big honking slow moving truck and they take stuff that our owner has put on the tree lawn. Without speaking to anyone and they go on. It's not natural. And then, one of these smelly strangers is coming toward a member of our pack that is more frail than the rest of the people in the pack.

And, then the people delivering furniture, just walking into your home, yeah, that could be a problem for a dog who feels that home is his territory.

Some dogs are fine with strangers in most situations, but even someone they kind of know if they put a hand in the owner's vehicle, will show aggressive/protective behavior. Is this normal and acceptable? Well, I think there are two kinds of dogs: one type will just bark, and when in a situation where biting would be appropriate, will probably dance around, run, maybe do a chicken-poop type nip at a retreating ankle, leg or butt; the other type will engage with an intruder, and bite them.

I don't think either of these types of dogs is incorrect. With training and confidence building, the first type of dog might engage, and maybe that dog is just not a protection dog. As long as the dog is gentle and not nervous around family and family friends, the dog can make a wonderful companion animal, and even a deterrent.

The other type of dog, the one that will bite given some circumstances, is also correct. Proper socialization, leadership, and management can prevent most lawsuits.

There is no reason "grandma" who is with it enough to take the garbage to the curb, is not with it enough to shut the door to make sure the dog does not get out, now that she knows the dog will bite. And the door to the house should be locked so that the delivery people or neighborhood children cannot just walk into your house and get bit.

The problem is that, while they can ensure the safety of your dog, will they? Are you willing to put the life of your dog in their hands? I see it as though you have two choices: to move out, so that you have the power over the front door locks; or to put up a solid kennel, either in the basement, garage, or yard, and when you are home with your dog, the dog is out with you, when you are at work or at school, the dog is properly secured in a comfortable kennel.

A kennel is a LOT cheaper than moving out. Some things to consider: if it is outside, is there privacy fencing around so the dog does not bark at everything that moves? The base needs to be solid so the dog cannot dig out of it. It has to be big enough for the dog to run, drink, poop, and still be able to be clean. A mud base in a rainy area will mean a dog that will end up being an outdoor dog, because every time you come home, you are not going to want to bathe the dog first thing. An indoor outdoor kennel with a doggy door into a garage, basement, or mud room, with something like an x-pen on the inside. Proper kennel on the outside is ideal.

The whole thing is safety. If the kennel is totally outside, he will need shelter/a dog house in there so that he is protected from the elements. 10'x15' is a good size for a GSD. If you get it in panels, when you move out, you can take it with you. They generally come in 5'wide by 6' high panels, six to a kit, that cost about $300. This will make a 5'x10' kennel. If you buy two of them. you will have a 10'x 20' kennel, with two of the panels being gate panels. Or, if you use the side of the house or garage to connect to, you can buy one kennel and it will give you a 10x10' or 5'x20' or you can buy one extra panel and have 10'x15'.

If the dog is bored and starts eating the house -- not as normal for adult dogs, you can buy an x-pen and run that along the inside by the house to protect the house -- that is a little cheaper than buying extra kennel panels.

I think your dog is ok. But I also think that if the volume of incidents increases, what happens with your dog may be taken out of your hands.

When I was a kid, we had a dog, Princess, who was about 3 years old when my 12 year old brother was sleeping on the porch and the bitch was loose with him, sleeping on the porch. A dominos delivery man was passing out flyers and he ran up the steps to put a flyer in our door. Startled awake, Princess jumped up and bit him in the abdomen. My dad rushed out of the house and threw the dog inside and apologized profusely to the elderly delivery guy. The guy was understanding, and the dog never bit anyone else. Stuff happens. They aren't robots. Sometimes they do make bad choices. It is up to us to protect them.

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post #9 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-17-2019, 08:08 AM
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If this dog has good nerves, I would train him (OB, OB, OB). If he has bad nerves, still train but I wouldn't trust him. Get with a GOOD trainer to evaluate him. If he is a solid dog, maybe do some bite work with him and teach him when appropriate to bit. Although, I defer to those in that area...might make things worse. Here is my thinking, this dog likes to bite...give him an outlet. A good trainer is a must. Otherwise, your dog might see a child as a threat and act. Last thing you want on your conscience is a dead or disfigured kid.

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post #10 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-17-2019, 08:25 AM
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What Selzer said. This is a GUARDIAN breed. Most of the guardian instinct has been bred out of it. Your dog is an exception, but given the nature of a guardian breed, both bites are completely understandable.

However, the wider world likely doesn't see it that way. If you value your dog's life, take whatever steps needed to make sure it doesn't happen again.

You can try keeping the dog secure in the family home. If you find they can't be trusted - they leave doors unlocked, they feel sorry for the dog, and let it out of the crate because it's whining - you will have to move out.

Your dog's life is at stake here...don't fool yourself!
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