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Input please - situational aggression?

1320 Views 4 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  chruby
My four-yr-old intact male, working lines, GSD is a very calm serious biddable dog with no dominance issues with me, the handler. He is good with children, cats and has never lunged or barked at anyone EXCEPT for a few instances where it seems an invisible line is crossed into "personal space." This has been a dog problem.

Other dogs are ignored until they cross this personal line (about a foot from his body) and then he just snaps. It looks like fear aggression body-language-wise, he basically makes a lot of noise wihtout inflicting any damage and the moment the offender backs away he acts like nothing happened. Okay, I deal with that it's a pain but I have a handle on it. Tell people he's not friendly with other dogs, keep him away from them, etc.

However - a couple of times he has done the same thing with people. Always semi-unfamiliar men. In that, he has met and been petted by these men at least once before. So today he did this where a man was petting him all around his head and getting his face close to his face - I suspect this is the problem and I admit I totally dropped the ball by being way too complacent about letting this happen, but since this man had petted him before with no problem, I didn't anticipate his action. I feel bad because this man (a co-worker) while being very nice about it, is understandably scared and shocked.

Should I not let people pet him? TIA
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Well, it depends on what you want I suppose but I see no reason why he HAS to be taught to allow strange men to get in his face. It's kind of like the guy that told his doctor "my arm hurts when I bend it like this" and the doctor saying "then don't bend it that way!". The only way any man would be scared or shocked that a 4 year old male GSD that he barely knew got uppity with him when he got into his face does not know canine behavior and therefore was probably petting him over his head/neck/shoulders which translates to dominant posturing and could have even been petting him over his eyes which is not comfortable or soothing to a dog in any way shape or form.

Your dog sounds very vell adjusted, and will deal with the things he's not crazy about as long as they are not in his face. I would be happy with that and manage the rest. You can let people pet him if you want, but make sure they know how to pet a dog and supervise them.
You could do some desensitization and counterconditioning, if you're concerned about it. All "semi-unfamiliar" men that he lets pet him could result in a treat or ball time, whatever works for him as a reinforcer.

However, as long as it stays within this range of behavior, you could also just instruct people NOT to pet him on his head. Pet him on his side, under his chin or on his chest, but NOT on top of his head.

I gotta admit that I get a little snippy, too, when "semi-unfamiliar" men enter my personal space and start touching me inappropriately.
I would vote for counter conditioning him around other dogs and people. I say this because even though we like to think we can totally control our dog's environment, it's just not humanely possible. And emergencies also happen where other people may have to handle your dog (something happens to you or they have to go to a different vet, etc.) and you want to know that your dog will be able to handle this without panicking.
Originally Posted By: Susan F
I gotta admit that I get a little snippy, too, when "semi-unfamiliar" men enter my personal space and start touching me inappropriately.

so true!!!
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