Zola is 7 months; update, the good, and the bad - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 07-27-2019, 09:15 PM Thread Starter
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Zola is 7 months; update, the good, and the bad

Hi all,

I spent lots of time here back in the winter reading, learning, and posting when Zola was young, rambunctious, had allergies, giardia, wouldn't pee anywhere else than the yard, would nip, would run in a circle around me barking when I'd say no .. etc, etc, etc. I didn't have it easy

Time and effort, consistency, training, and Zola is now an AMAZING 7 month old puppy. Yes she still unrolls the entire toilet paper roll sometimes, grabs something in the trash here and there, destroys an object occasionally, but overall .. she is great. Training is going great and she understands an impressive amount of words and commands. She is sweet, she's funny, she knows when to calm down (almost always), has great recall, she swims , all the good things ... I love her so much.

Zola is 50-50 GSD/Border Collie, and looks like a small GSD (45lbs atm)

With all the time and effort and love and consistency ... there are still a few things I can't get out of her.

Ressource guarding ME, and an established territory, from other dogs

Zola is great with other dogs. One on one, she is very submissive. If we meet a dog on a walk, she will lie with her head down, wait for the other dog to approach, smell it lying down, wagging her tail, and sometimes will roll on her back if the other dog acts a bit dominant. After the original greetings are over, the play is on and she is very, very playful/happy. All the time. At the dog park or at doggy daycare, she doesn't do the whole "lying down/waiting/submitting" for some reason, I think she knows she's in a safe zone and can run very fast if something goes wrong.. she'll just run around, play, get a stick and try to get other dogs to chase her, greet new dogs with her tail wagging, etc.

All of it goes really well, UNLESS a dog gets too close to me. This started when she was 3.5mo. At the park when she's far enough, I have been interacting with other dogs in hopes that she will see from far that nothing bad happens when I do. She usually does realize (she always has an eye on me) and will often come running towards me in those instances. Still in a pretty playful way, and as long as I stop petting the dog before she gets to us, everything is fine. She comes, sniffs me, assesses the situation (my human is not hurt), and usually invites the "test" dog to play with her. If I keep petting the dog, she will attack it. I haven't tried that in a while to avoid conflicts.
On a leash it's a different story. Sometimes the other dog will tangle itself in my legs while playing, and when she realizes the other dog is too close to me, she tries to attack. So far no "real" attacks (she lets out a special growl and lunges but doesn't seem to bite - yet) but there's been instances where I was really struggling to hold her away from my legs with one hand while trying to untangle the other dog with the other, which makes her even more mad since my hand is now touching the other dog ...

I say "no" when this happens and it's the end of the play. Occasionally when I'm with a friend (which doesn't happen very often), I ask the other person to hold her leash while I pet a dog she's been playing with. 10% of the times she doesn't react, 90% she starts yapping in that specific yap she only uses for that specific situation. It sounds like "Nooohooohooo get AWAY from my mooooom arrrrr why am I on that LEASH dammit that's not ookeeeeee". There is only one dog that is "aloud" to interact with me, Nala, my friend's 5mo pup, who we see many times a week (never had an issue with Nala, even the first time she met her, but Nala probably smelled like my friend who I spend half of my weeks with).

She's also started to ressource guard a space from other dogs when I'm there. If I sit in a park, lay a blanket, and spend more than a few minutes there, it becomes "our territory" and she will bark at dogs that come too close, tries to attack if a dog gets within our perimeter. To avoid this, every time a dog seems to be coming our way I get up with her on the leash and walk a few m away for greetings, while telling the owner to call his dog back because if it comes on our blanket it might get attacked. This works (she is super sweet if no territory/I'm not interacting with the other dog) but wow is it complicated to have a chill picnic with my dog ...

This is mind boggling for me as she is so submissive and sweet, but if a dog comes up to me - even if she hasn't met the dog - she becomes a dangerous beast. Also important to mention: I live with my best friend, who she grew up with, and Zola has no problem with him petting other dogs. I recently left her with him for one week (it was the first time I had to leave without her) and although I thought it might be good for her to kind of detach from me, it hasn't changed anything.

Aggressive towards kids, especially toddlers

I got Zola at 9 weeks. I don't know what happened before that; she was born on a farm, the owners are older, and they have grand kids but they told me nothing bad ever happened with the kids. When I first got her, she was so scared of kids she would shake and pee herself when we'd walk across the street from a park where kids were playing. I started going to places (parks) where one kid was playing, sitting far away and letting her watch .. sitting closer and closer, in parks that were more and more crowded, then started walking next to parks often, then through them. She got to the point where she became very comfortable walking in the middle of kids. Occasionally a kid would come to us and ask to pet her, and I always controlled the interactions. She was always a bit scared, and never 'happily' walked up to a child, but would be curious, smell their hands, and eventually wag her tail and lick their hands and let them pet her. She also became increasingly intrigued by them (especially if they are playing with a ball or frisbee).

Two months ago, we were on a hike far from the city. Zola was off leash, I was charged like a mule (we were camping 1h away from a parking lot and I was bringing 5 days worth of food/drinking water/camping equipment/paddleboard/dogstuff including a crate lol ) when a 7-8year old girl scared her (ran after her, growling). Zola tried to hide in a bush and the girl followed her growling .. it was terrible, I told the little girl to stop, she didn't, I had to scream at the parents (who didn't seem to care that much) to have her stop .. I so wish that didn't happen. A week later when we got back Zola was in the yard and started growling and barking. I ran outside to see what she was getting mad at, and the neighbour's kid was growling at her and looking at her straight in the eye from across the fence. I got really mad at him (and at his father, who was looking at the situation with a smile) .. after that week, she started being aggressive towards kids.

We can walk right next to them with no problem. We walk through crowded places often (very mindfully with her in the heel position watching everything around) and she doesn't care at all about a kid that is minding his own business. She will walk 2 feet away from them with no weirdness whatsoever. Sometimes a kid comes asking to pet her, and I always answer "hmmm she doesn't like kids very much" .. it's pretty awesome the amount of parents who step in and say their kid is very good with dogs .. when that happens I say "if you want to help me make this better, kneel down, don't look at her in the eyes, reach your hand out, don't try to pet her, let's see" - I'm a very, very calm person, my dog is 45lbs and easy to control, and controlled interactions go well. She rarely lets a kid that's less than 6-7yo pet her, but she smells their hand, seems curious, and doesn't growl. I praise her after every interaction, and that happens about 2-3 times/week.

It's happened a few times where a kid just randomly showed up from the back and started petting her and that, she doesn't like (she will growl, I'm very quick at bringing her towards me and telling the kid/parent "sorry she's not good with kids - you shouldn't pet a dog you don't know like that"

A few weeks ago, a toddler with open arms saying PUPPYYYYY came running towards us, and I had to scream to the parent "COME GET YOUR KID MY DOG MIGHT ATTACK" ..... a similar story happened a few days later and in both instances we were in an off leash dog area where thankfully my laser eyes saw the kid a mile away and I put Zola back on the leash *just in case* (again, her recall is outstanding), both cases where the parent of the toddler was not paying attention to their kid. Both cases, where the parent didn't even OWN a dog. (out of subject but it gets me so mad that you chose to go for a walk in an off leash dog area to let your toddler run unattended while checking your text messages on your phone, when there's 100 times the amount of on-leash areas in the city!? But if my dog attacks your toddler, it will be our fault. It drives me crazy.)

Those two times, where I had to position myself between my dog and the running toddler, I am concerned that if she hadn't been on a leash she would've attacked. I also wonder if the leash is what created it, her being stuck, and maybe if she hadn't been on a leash, she might've just ran away (she runs faster than pretty much every dog at the park) .... but I'm not ready to take that risk.

To be clear, Zola has many interactions with new adults, in our home, and outside, she is 100% great with any adult human that comes up to her, she is playful, always walks up to new people with a wagging tail (and usually a stick or ball in her mouth).. it's happened where obviously not-dog people have touched her back without her seeing them first, or came straight to her and pet her on the head out of nowhere without asking me if it was ok and every single time I was astonished of how great she reacts with an adult human. She's like "oh, ehm, hi! Can I smell you, too? Hah! I like you!" *tail wag* .. !


I'm working with a dog behaviourist. She specializes in aggressive behaviours, and her take on it is "these will never get out of her, but you can teach her to sit and stay no matter what (if I want to pet another dog, for instance, if I keep working I should be able to eventually sit-stay her and do whatever I want with her not moving/being aggressive), to heal and do nothing else than healing no matter what's happening around (kids running in our direction), and you'll always have to be mindful about kids around her anyway.

I'm not satisfied with that solution. And I have lots of doubts that once her sit-stay is outstanding, she will sit and stay even if I pet the happy lab pup that's jumping all over me. What do you guys think? What am I doing wrong, or am I doing something wrong? Any advice might help, or if you've been through this as well, I would love to know your story. Sorry for the long post (and thanks!)
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 07-27-2019, 11:35 PM
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Unfortunately, if I were you, I wouldn't ever take her off leash where kids can pop out anywhere...at least until this fear of kids disappears.

This is what I did/do with both my dogs. I used "leave it." Leave it doesn't only pertain to toys, treats, trash, etc. I also used it for joggers running by, dogs across the street, deer on the sidewalk, pedestrians walking by, etc. It worked on my previous dog. And it's a work in progress with the current one.

I also use "look at me." Have him focus on me, instead of all the distractions.

And then, I sometimes use a combination of both.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 07-28-2019, 01:16 AM
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Think seriously about training her to accept a muzzle.You would feel way more relaxed out in public and your dog will pick up on that.Your trainer is right about teaching Zola an alternate behavior to default to during stressful situations.It's actually soothing to dogs to learn what to do to calm themselves.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 07-28-2019, 01:35 AM
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I’ll never understand why people want to rush up and pet a strange dog, or why people let strangers pet their dogs. I don’t care what the breed is.

I would put a stop to ANY kid trying to pet any of my dogs. And they were raised with young kids. I try the polite “they aren’t friendly,” and if the kid or adult persists, I tell them if they get near enough to my dogs, they will bite. They won’t, but the strangers don’t need to know that.

It’s probably just me. I like my bubble, it’s bigger than most people’s personal bubble, but I also think dogs have a bubble of their own, and she is showing you her bubble is being encroached on, and she doesn’t like it.

Let me be real here for a minute. If I could bite someone that pushed past my bubble, I would, in a heartbeat.

My dogs play with my children, my step children, all their friends, and that’s because my dogs approach them for play! I would never allow my kids or their friends to approach my dogs. And I never leave the kids with the dogs unsupervised, even though there had never been so much as a snarl at children.

Protect your girls bubble. Protect children around her. Don’t be embarrassed to be rude to anyone trying to encroach on her bubble. If it was a 7 month old baby, would you be okay with a stranger coming over and picking her up and hugging her and kissing her? Nope! So don’t allow them to do it via hugs and pets with your girl!
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 07-28-2019, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Jchrest View Post
I’ll never understand why people want to rush up and pet a strange dog, or why people let strangers pet their dogs. I don’t care what the breed is.

I would put a stop to ANY kid trying to pet any of my dogs. And they were raised with young kids. I try the polite “they aren’t friendly,” and if the kid or adult persists, I tell them if they get near enough to my dogs, they will bite. They won’t, but the strangers don’t need to know that.
This is one of my pet peeves. I had IWs for many years and they look approachable (many aren't), so children would rush up to meet them with the parents lagging behind. Worse were the children who'd run to the fence, screaming "doggy...doggy" and immediately stick their hands over/thru the fence to pet the dogs. I had to develop a stern script to stop them midstream and teach them (and their clueless parents) how to politely approach and interact with a strange dog --- assuming the owner agreed.

Have to say, having a GSD with a black mask has pretty much eliminated those incidents. I rarely have to use the script anymore...
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-06-2019, 05:09 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your answers.

Zola does know "leave it' and it works in a variety of situations. Though, she doesn't randomly bark at kids, or lunges, or run after them, ever. It's if one of them comes running towards us - and at this moment in her life, she is too young/inexperienced to understand "leave it" when a threat is running fast to come "attack" her (I think that's how she sees it). If she's off leash she will run away (don't worry guys, I haven't tried that in a while but I'm pretty sure that's what would happen).

I went to my pet store asking about muzzles and they made an assessment on her (they are a alternative dog food store and also offer all sorts of obedience training, fear management, anxiety reduction, etc). They think she is more likely to "air snap" than actually attack a child. There was one in the store when I went and she is completely fine with a kid if they are minding their own business; she'll look a bit worried if they scream, or if they are walking our direction, but as long as there is no direct eye contact + obviously coming to pet her with no warning, she's very ok. What was scaring me the most is when I tie her outside of a store (I rarely do it, but sometimes to get a coffee or something), but they informed me it's illegal since 2015 to leave a dog unattended outside so I guess I won't be doing that anymore...!
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-06-2019, 05:44 PM
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I can only offer advice based on my experience. Shadow loves kids but she is far too excitable. I allow only limited and controlled interactions.
I muzzle her always if we are in areas where random people are likely to be or random situations are likely to occur. She handles stress poorly. If I am relaxed she is better able to cope.
Some take different approaches, I don't like to risk it.
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