protective? or lack of leadership? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-15-2008, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
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protective? or lack of leadership?

i'm just wondering.

GSDs are supposed to be a protective breed.

but a lot of the time, dogs acting 'protective' are taking decisions into their own hands rather than defering that to their people.

where is the line? i'm talking in non-PPD dogs, obviously.

i'm just curious, b/c sometimes it seems like the behaviour is expected/accepted b/c of the breed, and sometimes not. to me it at times seems to be a matter of perspective and expectations rather than something objective. maybe i'm wrong.

just wondering what the thoughts of others is on this.

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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-16-2008, 11:06 AM
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Re: protective? or lack of leadership?

I feel the average person would think a dog that barks/growls/lunges at a passerby (be it dog or human) is being protective of its owner. Having a dog that does this and KNOWING that she does it out of fear, I'm willing to bet that most of those dogs are actually fearful. They don't think their human will keep them safe (due to past experiences) and are taking things into their own hands. I think a lot of people use breed as an excuse for their dog acting out like this when some simple obedience and desensitization would help them out.

GSDs and any other protective breed is going to be more wary of strangers because it's part of their breed standard. However, it's up to the owner to socialize the dog well so they don't think everything is a threat. Personally, I feel only a person who is extremely knowledgeable about dogs and/or protective breeds would be able to know whether the dog is truly being protective or is reacting out of fear.

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-16-2008, 11:14 AM
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Re: protective? or lack of leadership?

jarn, I think it's a good point to bring up. I'm sometimes surprised at how quickly other GSD owners and those supposedly experience with the breed excuse these types of actions. I've always thought that ALL dogs are pretty loyal and protective of their owners. The GSD is just a more obedience, dependent, and biddable breed, thus it makes it easier and more efficient to train them for PPD and police work. They want to do that sort of work. I don't usually describe GSDs as "protective." I guess I feel the breed has a bad enough rap already, and any breed of dog has the propensity to defend its owner.

For me personally, it is NEVER EVER acceptable for my dogs of any breed to growl, lunge, or bark at (in a non-friendly way) any strangers or people approaching us in public or even on my own property. I want my dogs to feel secure in MY leadership and take direction from me. I don't care if my friends or my dad come barging into my home, so neither should they. Anything more than some alert barking and greeting the "intruder" excitedly or just ignoring is not acceptable to me and I consider it a problem with the dog's temperament, be it fear or aggression.

My GSD is very aloof of strangers. What that means is she is totally indifferent. She will glance at them once and that's it. Unless I give her a reason to greet them or do something with them, she simply doesn't care either way. They can run up and pet her and she's cool with it, or they can ignore her and she will ignore them not run and jump on them. "Aloof" does NOT mean defensive and/or protective. I've never taken "aloof" to mean the dog is excused from being reactive towards other people.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-16-2008, 01:40 PM Thread Starter
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Re: protective? or lack of leadership?

i have to admit, i see any sort of aggression towards other people (or other animals) as not okay.

(and while teagan going for the owner of the ex-police dog and police dog washout who just watched them attack us and did nothing, is not okay (if i'd been there instead of extracting luc from under a trailer she would've gotten serious correction....well, i hope i would've stopped being so furious enough that i would've corrected her), i don't entirely see her as being unjustified given what had just occured and him then moving towards her - but it wasn't protection that she was in, and even if justified, her aggression in that instance was inappropriate and wrong. just b/c i agree with the 'sentiment' doesn't mean she should be able to act upon it. we all modify our behaviour to live in a society and she's no different.)

i agree - my dogs do not have to be friendly towards strangers or even people they know, but they do have to be polite and well-mannered. if i see a threat, i will take care of it, not them. the sort of circumstance where the behaviour (aggression) would be acceptable is so limited it is unlikely it will ever arise.

....it's just something that bugs me sometimes, b/c it seems like there is a disconnect when dealing w/GSDs that exhibit aggression, especially aggression that could be construed as 'protective'.

Teagan RIP
Luc 15.5 yo GSD
Neb, husky/terrier/lab? X, DOB 18.4.2008
Xerxes, beagle, ~3yo
Cats Mitch RIP; Lear RIP; Esme RIP; Timothy and Cordelia
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-16-2008, 03:21 PM
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Re: protective? or lack of leadership?

Under no circumstances do I think it is acceptable for my guys to bark/growl/lunge at strangers when we are out and about in normal circumstances.
However, the intimidating stranger (for example-the decoy in bitework) should not be allowed to walk up to us as my dog sits happily at my side.

And I also do not expect my dogs to let a stranger on our property, particularly if I am not around. Once introduced they should settle and accept my authority that this is not a bad guy.
I also do not expect my guys to allow handling by others. If I hand the leash to someone, they should walk nicely, but they do not have to accept being held and handled by the stranger.

So I guess I am a bit different
Interesting thread and I enjoy reading what others say.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-16-2008, 03:30 PM
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Re: protective? or lack of leadership?

Quote:
Originally Posted By: jarni have to admit, i see any sort of aggression towards other people (or other animals) as not okay.
That is a slippery slope. In many cases, the human handler is just as responsible for the aggression as the dog. If a handler is nervous or uneasy it will travel down leash.



Quote:
Originally Posted By: jarn(and while teagan going for the owner of the ex-police dog and police dog washout who just watched them attack us and did nothing, is not okay (if i'd been there instead of extracting luc from under a trailer she would've gotten serious correction....well, i hope i would've stopped being so furious enough that i would've corrected her), i don't entirely see her as being unjustified given what had just occured and him then moving towards her - but it wasn't protection that she was in, and even if justified, her aggression in that instance was inappropriate and wrong.
I don't know many strong dogs that would not have acted in the same way she did in my opinion. You are talking about a relatively civil dog that was just witness to an attack in which this individual was on the opposing side. She was handled by a relative stranger and her handler (who she was just getting to know) was not by her side. I quite frankly find her reaction appropriate.

Quote:
Originally Posted By: jarn....it's just something that bugs me sometimes, b/c it seems like there is a disconnect when dealing w/GSDs that exhibit aggression, especially aggression that could be construed as 'protective'.
There is a major disconnect and it's sad on many levels. It's REALLY sad that there are so many fearful GSD's out there. Considering what the breed is supposed to be... I'll leave it at that.

So many people have not ever seen a genuinely confident dog that is more than willing to bring the fight to a human if need be but has been socialized and is not aggressive in every day life. Aloof does not equal fearful. Aloof equals "you do not matter to me, and until you show outward aggression towards me or the people I care about I will ignore you."


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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-16-2008, 03:32 PM Thread Starter
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Re: protective? or lack of leadership?

so do you see your dogs as being protective, and doing what GSDs are 'supposed to do' if they're aggressive, or do you see that as a matter of you've laid out clear guidelines of appropriate behaviour and times/places when aggression could be appropriate - are you comfortable w/them making decisions about when to be aggressive, or do you want to be the one to do so?

for instance, if you're talking about on the field, are you seeing their reaction as a function of training or of breed?
(that interests me, b/c what i've seen from watching SchH and FR, while the dogs were driven to bite the helper or decoy, they also clearly understood that it was part of a specific exercises, and were not aggressive outside of the exercise to the helper/decoy (in fact the opposite).

Teagan RIP
Luc 15.5 yo GSD
Neb, husky/terrier/lab? X, DOB 18.4.2008
Xerxes, beagle, ~3yo
Cats Mitch RIP; Lear RIP; Esme RIP; Timothy and Cordelia
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-16-2008, 03:40 PM
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Re: protective? or lack of leadership?

"you've laid out clear guidelines of appropriate behaviour and times/places when aggression could be appropriate"
Yes, this is what I am talking about.

"...are you seeing their reaction as a function of training or of breed?"
I really do not see how you can do one without the other. It does not matter how much your dog wants to please you or what a great trainer you are, if he does not have the neccasry genes, he will NOT succeed it a protection sport.
And it is not just breed. The vast majority of GSDs I see around here are fearful, not solid. That is almost always were you get the lunging, barking, biting actions from.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-16-2008, 03:44 PM Thread Starter
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Re: protective? or lack of leadership?

Quote:
Originally Posted By: ZeusGSD
Quote:
Originally Posted By: jarni have to admit, i see any sort of aggression towards other people (or other animals) as not okay.
That is a slippery slope. In many cases, the human handler is just as responsible for the aggression as the dog. If a handler is nervous or uneasy it will travel down leash.
that is an excellent point. the more i work w/teagan, the more she understands what i will and will not tolerate, and the more she sees me as the leader, and the less she exhibits aggression to other dogs, for instance. (though she does watch me....if she thinks i'm not on the ball....she'll try. what i do obviously directly affects her behaviour).

and that's true w/luc too. when i first got him he exhibited some fear and territorial aggression and it was only working w/him and really stepping up that dealt with that.



Quote:
Originally Posted By: ZeusGSD
Quote:
Originally Posted By: jarn(and while teagan going for the owner of the ex-police dog and police dog washout who just watched them attack us and did nothing, is not okay (if i'd been there instead of extracting luc from under a trailer she would've gotten serious correction....well, i hope i would've stopped being so furious enough that i would've corrected her), i don't entirely see her as being unjustified given what had just occured and him then moving towards her - but it wasn't protection that she was in, and even if justified, her aggression in that instance was inappropriate and wrong.
I don't know many strong dogs that would not have acted in the same way she did in my opinion. You are talking about a relatively civil dog that was just witness to an attack in which this individual was on the opposing side. She was handled by a relative stranger and her handler (who she was just getting to know) was not by her side. I quite frankly find her reaction appropriate.
i honestly do, on some level....i don't want to tolerate her being aggressive, is i guess what i was trying to get across, but that whole situation still makes me so angry that i understand why she acted as she did, and can see it as justified, even if i don't think (in my less grumpy moments, heh) that it was appropriate. if that's not too confused. but my reaction to that is definitely not coming from a 'she's a GSD and therefore will act as X' perspective.

Quote:
Originally Posted By: ZeusGSD
Quote:
Originally Posted By: jarn....it's just something that bugs me sometimes, b/c it seems like there is a disconnect when dealing w/GSDs that exhibit aggression, especially aggression that could be construed as 'protective'.
There is a major disconnect and it's sad on many levels. It's REALLY sad that there are so many fearful GSD's out there. Considering what the breed is supposed to be... I'll leave it at that.

So many people have not ever seen a genuinely confident dog that is more than willing to bring the fight to a human if need be but has been socialized and is not aggressive in every day life. Aloof does not equal fearful. Aloof equals "you do not matter to me, and until you show outward aggression towards me or the people I care about I will ignore you."
it bothers me, b/c i think a lot of dogs probably get short-changed b/c they're playing into what people erroneously expect from them.

Teagan RIP
Luc 15.5 yo GSD
Neb, husky/terrier/lab? X, DOB 18.4.2008
Xerxes, beagle, ~3yo
Cats Mitch RIP; Lear RIP; Esme RIP; Timothy and Cordelia
Nikolai & Eco the bunny couple extraordinaire RIP
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-18-2008, 06:43 PM
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Re: protective? or lack of leadership?

My trainer talks a lot about all the barking/lunging GSDs she sees. That owners excuse this behavior all the time as being "protective." I have a friend who bred GSDs for decades and she thinks it's the most normal thing in the world. When we talk about the training I've done with Camper so that is not like this, she asks me, "Don't you worry that Camper won't know when to protect you?"



I have no doubts that if my safety were truly on the line, my GSD would tear someone asunder to protect me (or any member of our family). But when we're cruising through life, through the park, or a store, he doesn't get to decide what's dangerous. That's MY job. And if I need his back-up, I'll let him know. As a matter of fact, we were walking through an empty park one day, and there was this guy that for some reason, just gave me the creeps as soon as I saw him. It was an instantaneous reaction. The hair on the back of my neck rose. And I'm nearly positive I didn't change the leash position at all (there wasn't enough time), but Camper responded to something (probably my adrenalin?) and dropped his head and glared at the guy with a low growl til the guy turned around and quickly walked the other way (which made me think that perhaps he wasn't going in my direction for a particularly good reason to begin with?)

THAT is what I want in a GSD. A happy carefree confident dog willing to follow my lead all the time, including when I'm not so carefree myself.

Finally, my trainer is adamant that what causes GSDs to become so weirdly protective isn't just "protection" genes, but mostly herding genes and that owners encourage that. GSD owners think that velcro dogs are sweet and loving, but they're actually insecure. They don't trust being away from their owners. It's like the owners are sheep that they have to tend to at all times. It's all part of the same circle of instability.

Does that make sense?
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