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Discussion Starter #1
Lucy is eight months old. I think I have begun to see her protective side come out. Two weeks ago we were at our property camping and my husband was at the bottom of the hill, far enough away that she could not identify him. She barked her big girl bark, I did see hackles raised, and she ran toward him. Not fast like she does for a recall, but definitely in his direction. Then after she realized it was him she of course greeted him. A minute or so later she heard something in the woods and did the same thing, but quickly returned when she did not find anything worth barking at.
Then tonight we went to the beach. She was on leash lying next to me and this very large man was walking toward us, looking mean, and carrying a large fishing pole. I am aware that he got my attention in a negative way, and Lucy sat up, and barked her big girl bark, no hackles this time, and no move toward him. After I got her back in platz she barked at a family walking by, again no hackles.
She seemed in both cases to have her adrenaline flowing after the first event that caused her to react again. Does this sound right?
The big scary man walked back by and I made an effort to think about what a nice man I'm sure he was, and she did fine- no reaction at all. I praised her. A couple came over and she greeted them in her typical friendly manner.
So I guess I'm wondering- in the first thing with my husband I think she was surprised and maybe a bit frightened because I know she wasn't taking a cue from me- I knew it was my husband. But she approached him in a very confident way and that was interesting- got between him and me maybe?
Today with the big scary man I do not think she was fearful at all, and that she WAS taking a cue from me. This was not a guy I'd want to meet in a dark alley-
What do you think?
 

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Be proud of your girl. She's doing her job.
 

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Hackles being rasied is a sign of FEAR. There is no way a 8 month dog has any knowledge or basis of being "protective". Thats like asking a 2 year old kid to go work at a jail as a police officer in the gun tower.

Im not trying to be a ass about this nor is what im about to say directed soley at you but why does thread after thread start saying that so and so is protective at age 9 months or 6 months or blah blah blah. It in know way is any sign of protectiveness but FEAR.

Try taking her around big "scary" people that you know are nice and she wont be so quick to have a fear based reaction. And not 1 or 2 big "scary" people but a ton.

But hey i could be completely wrong. Lets see what others have to say.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I repeat, there were no hackles in the second incident. I KNOW hackles are a sign of fear, that's why I specifically look for them and why I specifically mentioned it.
This is EXACTLY WHY I posted this- to determine if this would be considered a normal reaction or not.
I am not sure that it is out of the realm of possibility that an eight month old would start to show this behavior, but then again, I DON'T KNOW which is why I started this thread!
 

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There was a thread not to long ago which the topic was "Very protective at 7 months" now granted that person put on a burlap sack or whatever it was and pressured his dog but the same rule applies and if you look at that thread there were many people stating no pup can be protective at that age so why would would 1 more month be any different?

I believe GSD dont start becoming aloof until 13-18 months. But that just me. I'm anxious to see what the experts have to say about this.
 

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She's in a strange place, so that raises some suspicion. She's growing up, so she's looking out for you in that strange place. She's unsure of how to handle it, so she hackled....all normal.

You are right to feel she read you, not sure how it happens, but they do learn to read us like a book. Folks who dread misbehaviors have a ton more issues than folks who are calm and confident their dogs will behave. That's what "calm, assertive, leadership" Cesar is always yammering about buys you. Being fearful or paranoid can be plain
dangerous.

She'll mature. You'll learn. We grow together. All normal!
 

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I have 6 dogs and they are each different in there own way. My one dog Skye does raise hers when she is excited and not fearful. Shilo will raise hers when she is extremely alert and wants to make sure she is seen. She is by far is not a fearful dog she is more of an assertive dog and has never been afraid of anything but the vet.

Here is what I found on the SPCA website. Please see the bold print near the end.

Understanding Canine Body Language

In the world of dogs, nearly every intention is communicated through the body. The way a dog holds his head, how he tilts his ears, and how straight he stands all communicate information to other dogs. As owners, it’s very useful to have a basic understanding of canine body language. It allows us to better read our own pets as well as other dogs.

In general, "low and back" usually indicates caution, uncertainly, or submissiveness whereas "high and forward" indicates interest, excitement or dominance. Most of the time, your dog’s body will be somewhere in the middle which will indicate a calm, neutral state. A good way to notice your dog’s overall body position it to imagine a directional arrow just above him, pointing in the direction he seems most likely to move. If the arrow’s pointing forward, you dog is very likely to approach something (i.e. stalk the squirrel in the grass, approach and bark at the fence, move closer to and interact with the dog coming down the street). If the arrow is pointing backwards, your dog is likely to next move away.

Here is a quick overview of each body part and its signals. Remember that when trying to read a dog, never look at only one body part. Instead, look at the whole picture and then draw your conclusions.

Ears: Ears come in different shapes and sizes, but they can all swivel forward and back. Some types of ears can be harder to read than others. Dogs with long drooping ears present a greater challenge than dogs with prick ears, because when a pair of drooping ears lift up and forward, it’s very subtle. On the other hand, when prick or "wolf-shaped" ears lift up and forward, it’s easy to see.

Ears pushed forward and high on the head indicate either extremely interest or extreme confidence, based on the situation. Ears that are tilted back are indicative of worry or submission. If a dog is very worried, his ears will tend to stay back. If a dog is just trying to send the message that they’re subordinate to the person or dog they’re approaching, the ears will flick back, but then righten again after a few seconds.

Eyes: Eyes can give you a lot of information about a dog’s emotional state. A relaxed dog will have pupils that are small little pinpoints. However, a nervous or very excited dog will have large, black pupils. If your dog’s pupils have become so big you cannot see the color of her eyes any longer, remove your dog from her current situation as soon as possible.

Another thing to look for is "whale eye". Whale eye is when you can see the whites of a dog’s eyes repeatedly or constantly. A relaxed dog will move her whole head to look at something. A frightened dog will widen his eyes and hold his body more stiffly. The result is that he looks at things out of the corner of his eyes and you can observe the whites more readily.

Mouth: We often notice a dog’s mouth when the lips have been lifted and the teeth are bared. Even before that sign, there are more subtle things to look for. Watch the corners of your dog’s mouth. A relaxed dog has a relaxed mouth. A cautious or frightened dog will often pull the corners of her lips backwards, making the lips appear thin and stretched. A confident dog may push her lips forward, making her mouth appear smaller or puckered.

Tail: This is the place most people look first when gauging a dog. We’ve all been taught that a friendly dog wags its tail. However, not every dog that wags his tail is friendly. Carefully watch how the tail is wagging. A tail that is held high and stiff and seems to be quivering or wagging from the middle, does not indicate a friendly gesture. This is the sort a wag a dog will have if he’s stalking prey or about to begin barking. It’s an indication of high excitement and not of a happy greeting. A tail that is wagging in a wide sweep from the base is usually means a much more calm and relaxed dog.

Many dogs hold their tails lower when they’re approaching people, and a low wagging tail is usually a sign of a friendly dog. Some dogs have tails that curl over their backs and so can’t be lowered. With these types of dogs, it’s even more important to look at the rest of the body before deciding if a dog is being friendly. Lastly, a fearful dog will often tuck its tail up and against his belly. A dog with a tucked tail is indicating some kind of discomfort with the current situation.

Posture: High and forward means confidence and interest whereas low and back means submission and/or worry. You should also watch how loosely or stiffly your dog moves. A calm, relaxed dog will walk with loose limbs, whereas a tense dog will move much more stiffly. It’s important to watch your own dog’s posture when she approaches a new person. If your dog is meeting another dog, you should keep an eye on both dogs’ postures. If your dog is sending friendly signals, but the other dog is not, avoid the interaction.

Fur: Often, an excited or distressed dog will raise up the hair between his shoulder blades and/or at the base of his tail. This fur is commonly known as "hackles" and a dog with that fur standing on end is said to have "raised hackles". Raised hackles can mean different things on different dogs and can be likened to goose bumps on humans. Some dogs raise their hackles when excited. Others do it when they’re frightened. As a general rule, even if you cannot always predict why a dog has his hackles raised, it is an indication of some sort of heightened emotion.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks, dOg and gsdlvr
I think she's a confident dog. I have seen nothing to suggest fearfulness. I do think she was surprised to see someone in HER field and that might have been why the hackles were up that time and not with the big scary man.
It is amazing to me that she barked at him and then ten minutes later when I made a conscious decision to project good thoughts about him and not be afraid when he walked by again she did nothing. I'm not sure I would have believed it was that obvious to the dog without seeing it myself.....
 

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The second fear stage is somewhere around 7-12 months. Different dogs hit it at different times. A confident dog can misconstrue things that normally wouldn't startle them during this time. We can encourage that thinking it's "protective" behavior. But if the dog IS in the fear stage, we're making a big mistake, because we've just reinforced fearful behavior.

When my dogs are pups, I don't let them be guard dogs. Their brains are processing too much. There are too many growth hormones flooding their brains and bodies. They're still trying to figure out the world, especially when in a new place. I'm the alpha. I'll decide what's a threat. Sometimes, it's hard when *I* am startled too. But I think it's a worthwhile endeavor to discourage guarding behavior this young, if I can calmly redirect. Or, if I see any, not to encourage it.

For me, the only "job" my puppies have is training, getting socialized, and growing up. That's a big enough job for a little one!


BTW, my GSD raises his hackles when he's excited. When his favorite neighbors walk down the street (they always bring him snacks and stop and pet him and Zamboni), you'd think he were a grizzly bear. As GSDLVR posted (and I've discussed with my trainer who's seen this on Camper when he plays with her) raised hackles can be a number of things. The point is, we have to learn what our particular dog is telling us. And that takes a while, after seeing our dogs in dozens (hundreds?) of different situations.

So I think your calm reaction was a good one. Yes, I've noticed that once adrenaline gets flowing, reactions from that point on (for about 1/2 hour or so) tend to be exaggerated. So I tend to be on watch for that as well. It's all watch and learn. I love to see the dogs our puppies grow up to be!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
That's what I wanted to know- was this a normal thing (and part of being in a fear period would make it a normal thing) and did I handle it right. That's the important part

Thanks to all for your input.
 

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Having met Lucy and Lisa, I can definitely attest to the fact that Lucy is a well-socialized and friendly dog and Lisa is NOT at all like that guy who put on his swamp man costume and terrorized his puppy. I do understand the frustration with all the "my 7 month old dog wants to protect me, I know because he/she barks at strangers" but I don't think that this is one of those. I'd agree with the others have said - I think she's going through another period where she's feeling her way through new emotions and ideas as she gets older and has to re-learn what's the appropriate reaction. I think you reacted in exactly the right way.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks, pupresq!
And thanks to everyone for helping me make sure I do right by Lucy- she is a great dog with tons of potential. Just my totally unbiased humble opinion, of course.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Name the time and we'll be there! Do we get to meet Grace and Leo this time?
 

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Awesome!

Grace yes, Leo no.
My son is very grumpy about this as Leo is his dog and he's coming so he wants his dog along too but Leo just didn't really get into the whole beach thing - something about water that moved around without warning just didn't make him happy and he didn't get along that well my sister's Shepherd mix so he wasn't a great houseguest. Probably the bigger reason though is that DH says no way are we going on this trip and leaving him with a house full of fosters.
So - it'll be Grace (who LOVES the ocean) and either Dahlia or this guy or conceivably both.
 
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