Suspicion - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-17-2019, 11:45 PM Thread Starter
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GSDs are notorious for being protectors, what level of natural suspicion does your dog exhibit and what is desirable?

My Rio is a great dog and he gets on with everybody. But he is my dog. He adores me and I am his number one. But rather recently my SOs coworker came over to our house that was visibly uncomfortable with the dogs. Rio picked up on his fear and really eyed him down and checked him out, making the guy even more anxious and I could tell Rio was thinking “why are you acting this way, are you a possible threat?” But never once did I feel he would act on it, was purely investigating him more than someone who would be more at ease. My neighbors kids ranging from ages 5-13 come over on a regular basis and they are more than best friends. I take him out routinely to downtown and any kind of events where he mostly ignores people. But it just made me kind of wonder if he is “too in tune” or reacting just right.
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-17-2019, 11:52 PM
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So far, Jupiter has shown none. He's generally indifferent to strangers. They can pet him if they can catch him, and he neither comes up to them nor runs away. He barks at the door and sniffs visitors, but then leaves them alone. He's 9 months.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-18-2019, 12:20 AM
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My dog has inappropriate reactions to strangers, in my opinion. He has growled and snapped when handled by strangers - a groomer picking up his paw, a vet looking in his ear, a client scritching him behind the ears, obedience trainer petting his head when he was laying down, etc. So I am always on guard when strangers are near him - and he is muzzled for vet visits.

As long as you don't mess with him, you are safe. We can pass people sharing the same narrow sidewalk and he will walk by calmly. He is aloof / neutral to people who don't try to handle/pet.

I don't know if it's because of some sort of bad history (rescue) or because he's half-shepherd? But, it is what it is.

I think that ideally, a good GSD should be able to allow a friendly stranger to touch him without growling, and I should feel that my dog is reliable and safe with them unless they are acting threatening. So I would classify my dog probably as "too suspicious".
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-18-2019, 12:52 AM
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I wouldn’t want any suspicion in my dogs. Indifferent is what I aim for. I don’t want a dog telling me who is safe, and who isn’t, because generally those dogs are unpredictable.

Example: In the past, Lyka was highly suspicious of everyone at first. That could end with her furiously barking at them, or biting them. All dogs were a no go unless they were puppies. After a lot of work, she looks to me instead of the person coming through, which is what I wanted. But, she will still go after my brother and brother-in-law with a passion I’ve rarely seen. She was aggressive towards a resident at an apartment complex I managed, and she did bite him, twice. Later found out he was wanted for serial rape and the death of one underage girl. Did she sense that in him, or did she sense the creeper vibes I always felt around him? Both my brother and brother-in-law never knocked on my door, they just came in. I’m not comfortable with that, and quite frankly, don’t care for either of them, but the only emotion I feel then is annoyance, but she goes after them with murder in her eyes. So again, is she sensing my emotions and reacting, or reacting on her own perceptions? My best guess is she is reacting to the vibes I put out on those people. Still not a desirable quality to me. Annoyance doesn’t warrant a full on attack. I want her to be indifferent to everyone. I don’t want a protector, it’s my job to do the protecting.

Crios has zero suspicion. Everyone is his best friend, and he wants them to know that. He is so trusting and oblivious to his surroundings, that walking him became impossible for me. He could easily pull me down and drag me with my injuries. So DH has to take over the walking with him. Again, not desirable. I want indifference.

Seiran is alert and watchful, but allows me to handle all situations. If someone approaches, she immediately puts herself into a sit and wait for my commands. Let’s go, stay, down, whatever I desire in the situation. This is ideal for me. She’s also only 5.5 months, so I work with her on this a lot, I want her to continue this through adolescence, and I know it’s easy now, but may not be when she reaches that butt head stage, so I will probably double up on that the older she gets. People come in the front door, and she’s at a sitting heel and looking at me. I can tell her to say hi, or to go to “place” and she does just that.

Floki is alert, but indifferent not only to people, but to environments as well. We could be sitting on a park bench watching people go by, or sitting near a bridge watching the train cross over on the tracks. No reaction. I’d probably prefer a little more attentiveness, but DH is training him with a trainer, and I don’t make those decisions. DH prefers him to be less attentive of his surroundings, while I prefer more attentiveness but indifference.

Not sure I’m relaying that properly. But of the 4 dogs, I prefer Seiran’s alertness, attentiveness, and trust in my decisions. Makes sense since I trained her 😉
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-18-2019, 08:55 AM
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I want my dogs relaxed and confident. A confident dog doesn't need to be on high alert. They can afford to be more indifferent. My big-boy is like that, he can be friendly to strangers or watchful. If someone is a bit afraid of him, he will test that person a bit by coming closer to them. I find it secretly amusing but I don't let him get away with it because it isn't nice for the insecure human.

My gal-dog is less secure and more alert. She is a great watchdog. It also means she doesn't relax as well out in public. She does watch me like a hawk and takes many cues from me, how I am breathing, how I hold the leash, where I am looking, etc.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-18-2019, 10:13 AM
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I think suspicion is important in this breed. Without a degree of suspicion, they would not be able to naturally protect and guard. German Shepherds should have situational awareness as part of their package. That does not mean that they are incapable of checking out their surroundings from a place of calm or confidence or that they can't relax. IMO, not being able to discern or defuse is more of a nerve issue and should not be confused with suspicion.

What if you were on a walk with your dog and it found a snake? Would you want it to ignore and plow over it or would you prefer that he proceed with caution? What if there was a ruckus in your backyard at night? Would you like your dog to investigate or at least alert? Or would you prefer that your dog ignore the sounds?

A dog's senses are far superior to that of our own. They are often aware of suspicious activities long before we are. Without their suspicion and alerting to unusual happenings to notify us of these events, people can't make the determination whether something is a threat or not. Suspicion is an integral part of this breed that allows it to serve in the natural capacity of protection and guarding. Even the best trained dog will not be as effective in those venues within some natural suspicion.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-18-2019, 10:31 AM
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My breeder refers to it as being vigilant.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-18-2019, 12:04 PM
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I absolutely want my dog to be suspicious of anything that doesn't fit into the normal category. It is my job to properly socialize the dog so it understands what normal looks, smells and feels like. If someone is off, I want the dog to alert me to that situation and be watchful of that person. The dog has a far better chance of noticing a threat then I do in some circumstances because of their amazing senses.

I know that many of us play in different sandboxes, so what works for some might not work for others. I know my dog has saved my life on several occasions because she recognized a threat before I did. This is something I appreciate and expect no matter which sandbox my feet are in.

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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-18-2019, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by atomic View Post
GSDs are notorious for being protectors, what level of natural suspicion does your dog exhibit and what is desirable?
Too much suspicion, I think. He's getting better as he gets older and learns more about people. But his natural level of suspicion is high enough that it's taken him much longer to be comfortable with "normal people behavior" than his intelligence would otherwise suggest. Smart dog. Too emotional.

We're getting a new pup later this year. From the way the breeder raises her dogs and all of their general temperaments, I think the newbie will complement Jack well and help dial him back a little bit.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-18-2019, 01:12 PM
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It’s funny, even as a puppy, my dog knew who was “ok” and who wasn’t. If I said she could say hi, she’d act like a golden retriever to the stranger. That’s faded now. She generally won’t say hello to strangers and I certainly wouldn’t force it. Occasionally she finds someone she likes randomly. But if I’m nervous about the person or if it’s a seedier area, she will stare them down. Sometimes bark if they make a move towards us which has been super convenient. Even as a puppy if someone was deemed not ok, (once had someone approach me in broad daylight and it wasn’t friendly) she’d let loose a stream of barks that was the equivalent of a sailors obscenities. 😂 I don’t know if the creepy guy was more shocked or I was but he certainly got lost.

I think the best thing to do is teach an “ok” command. My dog knows she can’t greet anyone or act as if they’re alive unless she hears say hi.

Last edited by germanshepowner; 08-18-2019 at 01:14 PM.
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