Separating Fact from Fiction - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-07-2013, 10:53 PM Thread Starter
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Separating Fact from Fiction

My apologies if this has been discussed before, but I have limited experience with German Shepherds and I keep getting 2 pieces of advice from trainers and breeders that I would appreciate feedback on. I currently am dog sitting for a G.S.

1) Always approach a GS from the side, never the front. Approaching from the front may trigger guarding behaviors.

- This happened to me only once, in class. I have interacted with approximately 50 GS's and only encountered a guarding response once, when I approached from the front.

Fact or fiction?

2) I am consistently told that you need to be firm with a GS from the get-go to ensure they do not develop inappropriate guarding behaviors.

Thoughts on this? The most well behaved, well adjusted GS's I've encountered have been raised by people who subscribe to this.
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-08-2013, 12:37 PM
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You may want to explain what you mean by "inappropriate guarding behaviors".
I am guessing you are referring to the dog lunging, barking, jumping up, biting. So based on that, here are my responses:

1. Always approach from the side - this is good advice for approaching any strange dog. But once the dog knows you, no matter what the breed, you can certainly approach from the front.

2. Need to be firm - yes, you need to be firm with any dog. I mean "firm" in the sense of being consistent in the training. For example, if the dog is trained to sit, he should sit every time the command is given .


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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-08-2013, 12:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assist View Post
1) Always approach a GS from the side, never the front. Approaching from the front may trigger guarding behaviors.

- This happened to me only once, in class. I have interacted with approximately 50 GS's and only encountered a guarding response once, when I approached from the front.

Fact or fiction?
Sort of a composite of both - the safest way to approach a dog you don't know, of any breed, is from the side. That's how dogs approach each other, and the kind of frontal face to face greeting that people do with each other can be seen as confrontational by a dog. Not necessarily every dog, but if it's an unknown dog and you don't know how it's going to react, it's just prudent to use non-threatening body language.

That being said, approaching a dog from the front isn't going to trigger guarding behaviors unless that particular dog already has that tendency, which is why you've only seen it once. This is not specific to GSDs, this is basic dog body language.

Quote:
2) I am consistently told that you need to be firm with a GS from the get-go to ensure they do not develop inappropriate guarding behaviors.

Thoughts on this? The most well behaved, well adjusted GS's I've encountered have been raised by people who subscribe to this.
Again, a strange composite of stuff. My strategy for raising a dog who won't develop inappropriate guarding behaviors isn't really about being firm. I do think that in general, but especially with a powerful breed like GSDs who get big and strong fast, consistent leadership is important. I guess you could characterize that as "being firm", but it's much more than that. What do the people who tell you this mean when they say to be "firm"?

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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-08-2013, 12:50 PM
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I have not heard of the first one. I mean if it's not a familiar dog and I'm unsure of it's training I would never approach from the front. That's kind of common sense.

Yes, I am firm with my dogs. They need to know what is acceptable and not. What is acceptable and not is set in stone. There is no, "well, I'm tired today and I'll let it slide. " then tomorrow it's not ok again. That just causes confusion. All training needs to be consistent.


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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-08-2013, 09:18 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for your responses. What your responses describe is my normal approach. I was confused by the advice I have received from multiple GS sources.

To clarify, guarding meaning growling when approached in our greeting exercises. Normally, we approach the owner in class. The dog naturally faces towards us. We reward when the dog sits. This is where I encountered a GS who growled at me. I was later told by a GS breeder that I should approach GS's specifically, from the side only. I was then told how 'they' (the breeder) addresses that type of growling with his own dogs-firmly. I have since seen it repeated from other breeders who shared the same 'knowledge' and approach to GS's. I wasn't sure what to make of it and thought I'd seek out additional opinions from other experienced GS owners.

I received similar advice from the owner of the dog I am currently watching. Very sweet dog, but determined to herd, and lots of energy to do it with. She also is not allowing my dogs to have their own toys. Distraction, my normal go-to, is just not enough for her. For now, I have chosen to tether her to my waist, rather than get firm.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-08-2013, 10:09 PM
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1 >>> i think you should be able to approach a dog from any angle.
with the proper training and socializing you should be able to
approach a dog from any angle.

2 >>> you have to be firm when needed. you have to be consistent
with your training and socializing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by assist View Post
My apologies if this has been discussed before, but I have limited experience with German Shepherds and I keep getting 2 pieces of advice from trainers and breeders that I would appreciate feedback on. I currently am dog sitting for a G.S.

1) Always approach a GS from the side, never the front. Approaching from the front may trigger guarding behaviors.

- This happened to me only once, in class. I have interacted with approximately 50 GS's and only encountered a guarding response once, when I approached from the front.

Fact or fiction?

2) I am consistently told that you need to be firm with a GS from the get-go to ensure they do not develop inappropriate guarding behaviors.

Thoughts on this? The most well behaved, well adjusted GS's I've encountered have been raised by people who subscribe to this.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-08-2013, 10:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assist View Post
Thank you for your responses. What your responses describe is my normal approach. I was confused by the advice I have received from multiple GS sources.

To clarify, guarding meaning growling when approached in our greeting exercises. Normally, we approach the owner in class. The dog naturally faces towards us. We reward when the dog sits. This is where I encountered a GS who growled at me. I was later told by a GS breeder that I should approach GS's specifically, from the side only. I was then told how 'they' (the breeder) addresses that type of growling with his own dogs-firmly. I have since seen it repeated from other breeders who shared the same 'knowledge' and approach to GS's. I wasn't sure what to make of it and thought I'd seek out additional opinions from other experienced GS owners.

I received similar advice from the owner of the dog I am currently watching. Very sweet dog, but determined to herd, and lots of energy to do it with. She also is not allowing my dogs to have their own toys. Distraction, my normal go-to, is just not enough for her. For now, I have chosen to tether her to my waist, rather than get firm.
Have you looked at Turid Rugaas's site? She has a great booklet on body language/communication. If you aren't familiar with her theory, I'd read up on it, especially if you are around dogs that you have no relationship with. Welcome to Dogwise.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lj7BWxC6iVs <youtube has Turid's other video clip's linked to view

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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-08-2013, 11:00 PM
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I am not a trainer or breeder, just a rescuer... So I deal with dogs I have to read.

1) I approach every dog from the side. If I even approach. They usually approach me before I approach them. I bring my ambassador dog, Lillian, with me and she handles the intros and sets the stage. But, even if I didn't have her, I would approach from the side. Especially with GSDs.

2) GSDs don't require a "firm" hand. They are more intelligent and sophisticated than that. They require a confident, fair, calm, and authoritative leader. Someone who behaves consistently and without fear. Consistency is super important.


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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-09-2013, 08:44 AM
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I'm like JackAndMattie above in that I'm not a trainer or breed. I foster and own my own pack of miniwolves.

That said:
On approach to a dog read its body language. Look at the ears, tails and coat. What are they doing when you approach a friendly dog? What are they doing when you approach a dog that growls at you? Also, avoid staring at the dog's face. Focus elsewhere, the tail, its owner if they are present, just anywhere but the face. Pay attention to your own posture and what your body language is communicating.

As for being firms with your dog...I have no idea what that means. I provide for my dogs and they do pretty much what I want. They also communicate what they want (Whatever I happen to be eating is usually a good start) and we work it out. We're dog owners not Marine Corp Drill Instructors. You don't need to yell and bully your dog around to get it to do what you want. Just a little thought about what you want and some cleverness will generally get you and the dog to where you want to be.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-13-2013, 09:17 AM
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I've kind of wondered the same thing; when we adopted Ralphie the rescue volunteer told my husband NEVER under any circumstances to approach Ralphie from the front. I was okay to approach from any direction, but not my husband. He also told me that Ralphie was a flight risk (ha - that dog has stuck to me like velcro from day one ) because he tried to run away from the volunteer when he went to Kentucky to pick him up from the kill shelter so I wasn't sure how much stock to put into what he said...

When I took Ralphie to a GSD club for obedience training they never mentioned anything about the "proper" angle to approach a dog and also specifically stated that you don't necessarily need to be "firm" but really just consistent and that being with your dog should be fun for both you AND the dog. I think it really depends on the personality of the dog, but I am not an expert by any means.

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