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What behavior would you expect to see from a gsd when a stranger approaches. Should they be moving forward, poised, and alert, but silent? Same way, but with a rumbling growl, or watchful and indifferent? Different scenarios will elicit a different responses depending on temperament, im looking at more “in general” non confrontational situations.
 

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They should remain aloof and watchful.

My boy ranges from an over exuberant greeting if he's loose to a possible bark and hold if he's leashed and the person gets to close to me.
 

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Poised, alert, & silent sounds good to me!
Ears pricked & confident pose...they are checking you out.
That to me is my image of an ideal GSD. :)

What would be weird is:
Overly friendly - Whining, straining to meet you, licking your hand, asking to be petted
Fearful - Tail tucked between legs, hiding between owner, shying away
Aggressive - Lunging, snarling, growling
 

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I like my big boy's attitude, calm and confident and semi-interested. If we stop and chat with someone he might get closer to get to know the other people. My gal is interested in people but not to the point of wanting to be touched. If people keep their hands to themselves she may decide to go over and investigate them. If they come to close she will bark "not too close". It tends to scare most people. It is better if I can let people know that she prefers not to be touched so she doesn't feel the need to warn them herself.
 

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Alert, observant, but neutral, at least out in public on public trails. I do like to see a dog be social when allowed, I usually give the "say hi" command, but otherwise train the pup to sit and wait.

I agree, that a typical shepherd reaction could range from a friendly greeting to a bark and hold. I very much prefer watchful and neutral, as it makes life easier. A whole lot of this can be trained as a pup if you are consistent.

Because dogs aren't super discerning, at least not the way we'd like them to be, I'd rather the dog stayed close to me and waited for instructions, whether he or she is inherently a social dog or not.
 

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The "general case" is tough, because dogs pick up on body language so well, so the person's intent and demeanor come into play always. I expect my dog to not hyper focus on non-confrontational encounters with people, as in people just walking down the same sidewalk, or seeing someone working in their yard, and I'd correct her for being otherwise. If she's completely indifferent though, I'd be concerned. But ears erect and focused is not acceptable either. In that scenario I'd expect aloof but sort of sideways watchful, if that makes any sense at all.

That being said, if a person is approaching you and they're focused on you, but not hostile, I'd expect more focus and maybe even a low growl when they get close. If they're focused on you and looking angry or hostile, I'd expect a somewhat stronger reaction as @Jax08 mentioned LOL!

In a crowd, I would expect mostly indifference to individuals in the crowd, but still alert enough to pick up on an approaching potential threat. Alert, watchful, but in no way focused or hyper alert on anyone milling about...just aware >:)

Once when my pup was around 9 months she became hyper focused on, and growled at, a neighbor getting his mail...because he was headed toward us and to be honest looked more than a little hung over at 5 pm LOL. She'd never met this particular neighbor, so I did not correct her for that, just moved to the other side of the street. He was not acting "normally" and it made her concerned...to me it was understandable and reasonable...she watched him closely as we passed, but did not growl or bark...
@Nigel I'm curious, is there a specific reason why youre asking? From what I've seen age and maturity has a LOT to do with how a dog reacts in any scenario. I think also that the exposure to various scenarios, and the guidance offered when the dog is young, tends to play a HUGE role in a dog's behavior down the road...
 

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Beau does ignore the neighbors on the sidewalk. Barks at them from inside the house, though.

When Beau was very young, he barked at everybody, all the time, everywhere. On the sidewalk, at the park, walking through Petsmart, at the vet. Even as a tiny puppy he alert barked at strangers before he approached them, little yippy puppy warnings at 5 weeks old. Took forever to get that to stop. Still alerts like crazy when people or lizards come on our property, but otherwise he’s pretty quiet now thank goodness.

Eventually he learned that most strangers can be ignored when out and about, and that’s what he does when people approach us on our walks. He watches the approach, and if they talk to me he watches for a moment and then loses interest. Has never growled at a human on a walk, can ignore a crowd as we walk through it. When we pass people in very close quarters he will sometimes sniff their hands as we go by.

So mostly uninterested, occasionally curious. Would bet my car, though, that if a stranger showed him a ball he’d be acting like their new best friend.
 

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@Tim s adams no particular reason other than I've experienced such a wide array of reactions in this one type of encounter, even within my own. I have one that is a bit too curious, but not friend seeking, a vocal one(not barking), the proverbial "golden" in a GSD suit and one that is indifferent while aware. We had another (pts) that was uncomfortable with some men approaching, beautiful dog, but he was nervy.

Ive encountered gsds that'll lose their marbles, some are calm or friendly, and others that shrink away. It seems like a simple thing to do, but maybe not?
 

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I agree with the general consensus - aloof, aware, but neutral.

Ryka is interested in people, but she doesn't necessarily care about them unless I'm greeting them or talking to them. She does have a bad habit of trying to sniff them if they get too close though, especially their hands after we do a walk-by greeting to strangers (smile, say "How are you?", then continue on your walk, lol).

She does, however, react to screaming, running, or suspicious characters. She's shown directed aggression towards people twice in her life so far: she charged and barked at individuals who came around the corner bushes while screaming, flailing their arms, and running at us unintentionally. It was two drunk teenagers chasing each other. She also lunged forwards and barked defensively another time when we were out for a walk near the park. Our neighbour from across the street saw us while she was out walking, then started towards us while raising her arms and yelling across the street at us asking a question regarding my SIL's dog. After I started talking to our neighbour and showed Ryka I was okay with her, she was happy to meet her and be pet.

If people are hooded, staring too intently, hunched, or following us too closely, Ryka will watch them very alertly. Ears up, posture forwards, following their movement. If they do nothing of consequence, she then just continues on like nothing happened. If I tell her to cut it out, she'll stop. But I like that she's alert like that, because I'm pretty oblivious. No one approaches me when I have her, and yet everyone approaches my SIL if we're out with just her Golden, haha.
 

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I laid a track and went back to run it a few hrs later. There were 2 people flying a kite in the field. I live in a very rural area and my dog has never seen strangers in his tracking field before.

He felt he should stop tracking and keep an eye on these folks. He immediately did just that when they came into view. I immediately told him it was fine, but if it had been more suspicious activity I would not have told him it was fine and he probably would have done a warning bark.

I wanted to finish our track so I encouraged him to get back to work and he did. I could tell he was splitting his attention a bit but I am okay with that. I like this breed for those instincts. I like my dogs to notice things out of the ordinary and be prepared to give a warning but stand down easily if I say so.

If I were tracking with him and someone was lurking with some bad intent I sure would want him to stop tracking and be prepared to warn them off.
 

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A lot of environmental factors: neutral, or new or own territory? appearance, size, gender, age, ethnicity, walk, demeanor, clothes, smell, behavior, eye contact, fearfulness or confidence of other person or number of persons?

A lot of dog factors: age? temperament? socialization? prior experience? physical and mental health?

Owner factor: leash handling, eg, loose or tight? mood or reaction of handler? voice? body language? breathing? state of mind?

In general, GSD s/d be alert but relaxed, and indifferent or aloof. Some super confident GSDs can be friendly, not Golden friendly, but "do you have a ball, you know its your job to throw me a ball, right," friendly.

I always say hello with a friendly voice to people we meet on a walk as a clear signal to GSD of terms of engagement.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
A lot of environmental factors: neutral, or new or own territory? appearance, size, gender, age, ethnicity, walk, demeanor, clothes, smell, behavior, eye contact, fearfulness or confidence of other person or number of persons?

A lot of dog factors: age? temperament? socialization? prior experience? physical and mental health?

Owner factor: leash handling, eg, loose or tight? mood or reaction of handler? voice? body language? breathing? state of mind?


In general, GSD s/d be alert but relaxed, and indifferent or aloof. Some super confident GSDs can be friendly, not Golden friendly, but "do you have a ball, you know its your job to throw me a ball, right," friendly.

I always say hello with a friendly voice to people we meet on a walk as a clear signal to GSD of terms of engagement.
The bolded is often overlooked when folks try to sort out problems they may have with encounters. Evaluate yourself before placing blame elsewhere.
 

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This weekend Kaiser and I were sitting on a park bench just watching the world go by. He wasn't bothered by most people, he looked, they walked past, whatever. This one guy caught his attention for some reason... dunno why, he didn't look any different from anyone else, but Kaiser was tilting his head from left to right and back again trying to figure something out, the guy and I packed up laughing so of course more head tilting ensued. The guy came over and gave Kaiser a fair amount of attention.
That is all it took... for the rest of the time we were sitting on the bench, Kaiser would see someone, tilt his head a few times and they would come over and pat him... clever dog... didn't take him long to figure out how to get everyone's attention by being cute, lol
 

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This weekend Kaiser and I were sitting on a park bench just watching the world go by. He wasn't bothered by most people, he looked, they walked past, whatever. This one guy caught his attention for some reason... dunno why, he didn't look any different from anyone else, but Kaiser was tilting his head from left to right and back again trying to figure something out, the guy and I packed up laughing so of course more head tilting ensued. The guy came over and gave Kaiser a fair amount of attention.
That is all it took... for the rest of the time we were sitting on the bench, Kaiser would see someone, tilt his head a few times and they would come over and pat him... clever dog... didn't take him long to figure out how to get everyone's attention by being cute, lol
You should try to get a video of him doing that! Btw i love his coat color.
 

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A lot of environmental factors: neutral, or new or own territory? appearance, size, gender, age, ethnicity, walk, demeanor, clothes, smell, behavior, eye contact, fearfulness or confidence of other person or number of persons?

A lot of dog factors: age? temperament? socialization? prior experience? physical and mental health?

Owner factor: leash handling, eg, loose or tight? mood or reaction of handler? voice? body language? breathing? state of mind?

In general, GSD s/d be alert but relaxed, and indifferent or aloof. Some super confident GSDs can be friendly, not Golden friendly, but "do you have a ball, you know its your job to throw me a ball, right," friendly.

I always say hello with a friendly voice to people we meet on a walk as a clear signal to GSD of terms of engagement.

I guess most people would say that Sabs was too friendly, but I believe she may have been illustrating how smart this breed is. At work she was absolutely aloof and alert, but social time although she would ignore for the most part people passing by, if I stopped to chat she would move forward and essentially distract them with herself. Children she adored and quickly figured out what "can I pet your dog" meant. I never saw her fawn over another adult, rather she almost seemed to be granting them the gift of allowing contact.

She seemed to get more social as she aged, and as my anxiety issues got worse, and I have often wondered if she was actually that friendly or simply moving focus off me since she would also step away from me but not towards them, like drawing them off to the side a few feet instead of them being face to face with me. She always maintained position between me and others and was very adept at putting people where she wanted them.
 

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I'd expect alert but aloof. If someone approaches us dead staring at my dog, he will bark strongly. People walking around normally, coming up to me to talk, he just is aware of, but pretty neutral to them. He likes my friends and family that he has grown to know and greets them appropriately.
 
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