Balancing Socialization without thwarting protective instinct development - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-22-2019, 12:19 PM Thread Starter
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Balancing Socialization without thwarting protective instinct development

Coming to the pantheon again, to quench my thirst for GSD Knowledge. My 16 month old is a joy to be around, and we have followed the socialization guidelines by exposing him to the ways of the world, which is so important in his development (walkers, joggers, bikers etc). However, it occurs to me that after seen him not bark at the door bell, or be suspicious of the pool/lawn guy; perhaps his protective pack instincts, may have been delayed or compromised by out efforts to make socialization a priority during his formative time. Don't get me wrong, we do not allow him to be pet by any strangers, nor we encourage him to go and sniff folks that approach us in our daily walks, but; we are starting to get concern with the fact that there is zero protective behavior from him, when it comes to his family pack. Perhaps these developmental traits, come at a later stage in their maturation?. He is a pure Western show line GSD, with a low to medium drive, and don't know if this is genetically dictated, or if we are negatively affecting this trait by over socializing him.
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-22-2019, 01:39 PM
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I doubt his behavior has anything to do with your socialization efforts. It is most likely genetics and his threshold for aggression might be high or he might just not have strong protective instincts. I would set up some scenarios to try to elicit some aggression. Do it at night around your house. Have him on leash and have someone hiding in the bushes or somewhere out of sight and not too close. Then have them rustle the bushes or make some type of noise and give him whatever command you plan to use to turn him on, such as "watch" or "pass auf." Your tone when giving the command should have a sense of concern in it. If he lights up, praise and pet him up and take him in the house or where ever you keep him. When he lights up, have your helper run away so the dog sees he has chased the threat away. Then just build from there. When he gets good at turning on at home at night, try getting him to alert in the car at night. Then go to a different place at night. Then try it during the day.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-22-2019, 01:55 PM
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You're going to make a lot of folks enviousHe sounds like a confident,easy going companion who knows the difference between good guys and bad guys.My dog is certain that 99% of all humans are up to no good.The two girls view the world more like your dog does.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-22-2019, 02:00 PM
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Consider yourself lucky. They tend to know when things are out of control.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-22-2019, 02:24 PM
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Don't do things to try to make your dog suspicious especially if you aren't sure he has the nerves to handle it.

He sounds like a great dog. You might be surprised how he'll behave if there is a real threat.

Just being a big GSD is more than enough to thwart most 'bad guys'.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-22-2019, 02:50 PM
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I also have a mellow guy who doesn't bark much.
When parents come to pick up and drop off their kids from our house, he often doesn't even get up and go to the door. He just lays there!

However....
the day a man came to offer to trim our trees...this man was very persistent and would not leave...that time, my dog stood by my leg barking and growling at him the entire time. He actually acted so vicious, ears flat, showing teeth... that the man backed away off our front step and asked me to nervously hold my dog.

I think your dog will be able to sense when something is up.
Perhaps he takes his cue from you, and if you are a calm confident person then he in turn also feels that everything is ok.
I think he can sense that it is the pool guy, you were expecting him, you are calm and in control, this guy has been here before, etc.

When that tree-trimming man made me nervous, somehow my dog sensed it.
I think/hope that in a tough scary situation, he would have my back.
(But of course, it's a little difficult to actually test this, and I really hope that I never have to find out!)
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-22-2019, 02:52 PM
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He sounds like a nice confident dog. But it is hard to tell if he is not suspicious of the pool guy and other strangers visiting because of healthy confidence and being clearheaded, or if it is due to lack of drives. Do you have access to any type of protection type sport club? IGP (IPO, Schutzhund), PSA etc? If so it would be a safe and fun way to have a breed knowledgeable person assess your dog, see what his make up is. He is gorgeous by the way! Jealous you are by the beach

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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-22-2019, 04:22 PM
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He's still young, good chance he just hasn't developed that yet. The GSD we have we got at nearly 3. Her previous owners had never heard her bark and got rid of her because she was too friendly. Several months after being with us and getting used to what was normal and what wasn't and becoming an inside dog she began to alert bark when she heard something. Completely unprompted, she just settled in and figured out what was routine noise and what wasn't and let us know when there was something that wasn't the usual.

So personally I'd give your pup time and maturity and he may surprise you. And as others have said he may just know there is nothing to be concerned about and so doesn't need to be protective.

I have a female GSD/lab mix. Several people have commented on her being protective when really she's just afraid and barking because of that. So sometimes protective instincts aren't all that people make them out to be. A lot of people mistake non-protective behaviors for being protective.

An example of what I think are more protective behaviors, one female I had(not gsd) I was out on a walk with my Grandma. There was a person walking across the street from us. I didn't pay him much mind but her hackles went up and she put herself between me and the guy but didn't do anything else. Once we were away from him she relaxed and the walk went on as normal.

Another time I was going down to the river with her and she froze for a second and was 100% not wanting to go any closer. But she went with me and as I got closer I noticed an individual down there having a fire by themself, based on her reaction I decided to turn around and then for quite some time after she kept looking behind us. But she never behaved like that on any other walks or with other people. Another time my sister slipped on the ice and my dog thought our dog hurt her, she didn't attack him just merely got inbetween my sister and him. No barking, growling etc. just vigilant and keeping an eye on things and putting herself between us and what she perceived as a threat.

Meanwhile my female that barks and would like to run away people call protective.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-22-2019, 04:40 PM
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I had a Whippet , a breed that doesn't even care about strangers, but when we suddenly saw a guy at the door when we came around the house, this skinny little dog had his short hackles up and positioned himself between the guy and me. This was a dog that was confident and had never shown any sign of aggression.
Don't worry about your gentle giant. It is a crazy person who would try something. He is gorgeous by the way.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-22-2019, 07:27 PM
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It is so funny that I see this pop up today. I have been thinking about the same thing for quite a while.

Shasta has always been quite friendly. I brought her around lots of people and dogs when she was a pup. Pretty rock solid. She is 3/4 show line, and 1/4 WL. Low to med drive.

I started to think, man, would she really do anything if something I needed her?

I went to go pick up my buddy this weekend to take her to the river now that is has warmed up a little. She had met him a few times before, but it has been a couple months. I pulled up to his place and he opened the passenger door. She absolutely LOST IT!!! She couldn't believe someone had the audacity to to actually open the door to her truck! I have never seen this before. Of course, once she smelled him and remembered him, it was all over except the face licking......

All of my worry was for nothing. She will do her job when it is needed.
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