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I was walking my 2 year old male GSD Perry and a man stopped to pet him and Perry jumped up on him. The man shoved him away and Perry growled at him. This is a first. He's never shown any aggression toward anyone, with the exception of the vet. I know I need to address his jumping behavior, but how concerned should I be about the growling? The incident has me worried.
 

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Honestly, maybe your dog sensed something off about this person. Dogs have good feelings when a person has ill intentions towards their owners. I had a GSD mix once that never snarled or acted protective until she suddenly lost it snarling and went wild. I looked behind me and saw two men following me with a van. They came closer and my dog acted as if she was going to attack. They said “good dog there” and turned around. Nicest dog ever and never did a thing like that again! Scared the crap out of me what might have happened if she acted like her usual friendly self.

Did he even ask to pet your dog or just reach down? I don’t let anyone pet my GSD honestly. Maybe your dog is becoming more aloof with age and doesn’t want to be pet
 

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Why is it OK for your dog to your dog to show aggression at the vet?

You let your dog jump on random strangers? Yes, you are right you need to address that. Four on the floor. No one pets your dog unless there are four paws on the floor, and probably unless he is sitting. You stop people and say, only if he sits, tell your dog to sit, and then he gets pets. BUT ONLY IF YOU KNOW HE IS SAFE.

Why did he growl at this dude? I don't know, didn't like to be pushed, probably. But this is a young adult dog, he still makes stupid decisions sometimes. The problem is that he isn't taking his cues from you. By this time he should be. This means you haven't spent enough time teaching him what you want him TO DO. We can spend forever telling a dog what not to do, and not build the bond much at all. We build the bond by setting a dog up to succeed and then praising him for succeeding. It is called training. This is where prong collars and e collars don't work. Yes, you can teach a dog to sit and stay, but you are building a bond of a different sort, a sort that if you do not do what I say, you will get a jerk, I will make you do what I say. If you can get a dog to want to do what you want, to want to get that attaboy from you, then you are building a different sort of relationship, one that expects a dog to comply and the dog complies because he is wanting to please you, not because he doesn't want a jerk on his neck.

The jerk doesn't do damage to the dog, it does provide negative feedback, and why try to teach anyone with half our hands tied behind our backs. We should certainly give negative feedback. I find the word No, or Eh, sufficient. But it depends on the dog they tell me. Evenso, training should be 90-95% positive. And I am not talking about cookies. I am talking about setting a dog up to succeed and praising him for it, building on that.

What it sounds, from your couple of sentences, is that you have a young dog who is asserting himself, partly because he is not relying on you to protect him, he is not sure about following your lead. You let him be aggressive at the vet? To me that's a dog who has a rather high opinion of himself and his status in the pack. He has places he doesn't let people touch. Toenails, ears, sometimes? He doesn't accept a stranger's touch even though you are right there with him?

I'd suggest a good trainer, some NILIF -- boot camp, and total management.

Management -- keep him safe and others
Leadership -- This is your responsibility, learn leadership skills
Exercise -- mind and body
Training -- learn the training skills
Socialization -- this is last because you should feel confident when you are out with him

Leadership skills: Think about what makes for a good boss, who you like to work for. Dogs are not humans but some things do carry forward. Reasonable expectations. Train a behavior first, practice it, then proof. Be consistent. Do not give a command unless you are able to enforce it immediately. Do not give a command more than once -- say it one time, give the dog a chance to comply, and then make it happen if it has not already. Always follow through. It is all training, and training should be 95% positive, so use management mostly, and introduce the run of the house gradually. No fighting. No raising your voice. You can change your tone to provide emphasis, displeasure, negative feedback, praise, fun. But you have to be perceived by your dog as stable. If you shout, throw things, strike the dog, slam things around, your dog just thinks you're crazy. Dogs do not like crazy, and they do not follow crazy. So avoid that above all.

Training skills: Start and finish with something fun that the dog will have success with, so you can praise him. When trying something new, do it a couple of times, and then drop it until your next session. Keep it short. Break down tasks into steps and then put them together. Repeat something no more than three times in a session, then go onto something else. If you are irritated stop training for the day.

There is more, but, you can't let your dog be aggressive to the vet. You can prevent strangers from petting your dog, and the dog will be just as happy, but sometimes the dog has to be handled, and we don't need any more bad press at vets.
 

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I don't know but I think your dog did what was right. The man "shoved him away" and your dog responded to the aggression by growling. Your dog didn't growl BEFORE he jumped on the man. So I'm assuming it was a "friendly" jump on the man. He only growled after the man did something "violent" to your dog. I say...good job, doggie.
 

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You could argue whether or not the growl was warranted, why he did it and so on...... But getting the jumping on people stopped would go along ways in preventing negative reactions from both human and dog.
 

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I agree with Nigel. Stop the jumping on people. Your dog has to sit to be petted (if you want people to pet him). If he breaks the sit, you need to be ready to stop the jump.

Personally, I've stopped allowing adults to interact with my dogs. They can't seem to follow simple instructions and almost always do something stupid. So just be prepared for people thinking it's ok for the dog to jump on them or ok to break the sit and you will have to take charge to get them to back off and start over. Kids are usually pretty good. They will do exactly as you tell them and I encourage interaction with kids because I want my dogs to be super comfortable around them.
 

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You could argue whether or not the growl was warranted, why he did it and so on...... But getting the jumping on people stopped would go along ways in preventing negative reactions from both human and dog.

I agree^^..you really need to work with your dog to stop the jumping on people the "right" person or child gets knocked down and things may not end well....until you're confident about him remaining by your side or in a sit position as others said don't let strangers approach and pet him...based on the OPs post I don't see the growl as a problem it's not the dogs fault he reacts like what he is.....a German Shepherd--I wouldn't expect him to roll over and just take it's not in his DNA....
 

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If he is two and still jumping on people, you have a lot of work to do. The quickest thing you can do is step on the leash and not allow the jumping to even begin.

Dogs growl. I don’t know why people freak out because of this, it is part of their communication set. In their language, a growl means “I don’t like that.” It is a warning. It is also a good thing, because it communicates how they are feeling, before they resort to escalate to a bite.

If someone had shoved you when you didn’t expect it, you would probably respond with, “Hey!”
Your dog is probably used to jumping on people and not being corrected for it. He was not expecting a correction, and was startled, so, “Grrrrr.”
I would stop letting him interact with strangers. At this point in his life, he doesn’t need to be petted by anyone other than people he knows and family.
 

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i had a male friend over when Keystone was right at a year old. they were introduced properly, Keys was very friendly, took to him almost immediately, etc... several hours later my friend was sitting on the floor lightly rough housing with him. at some point Keystone got overstimulated and my friend grabbed him by the scruff. well, this resulted in a bite when my friend released him. in Keystones mind it was an unfair correction by essentially, a stranger. i can and always have been able to grab his scruff for whatever reason with no problem. since (and even) then..... i have never had any concerns about Keystone being unpredictable, dangerous or inappropriately aggressive. i confidently and regularly allow strangers to pet him if he wants to engage. in that scenario the bite could have been avoided by a) not letting my friend rough house with him (or not allowing your dog to jump that person), or b) having my friend not respond the way he did (or the stranger knowing not to push off a strange dog in the manner that he did). ultimately, as their owners, the responsibility falls on us.

all of that said, this is the internet. none of us were there. we don’t know the extent of the jump, the shove, or the growl. if my dog remained growling, snarling, eyes locked and hackles raised - that’d be a different type of growl than your original post reads... and naturally, much more concerning.
 

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Here's something on leadership I put on my phone 2 years ago, I don't remember where I found it so can't acknowledge authorship, sorry.

Leadership is an attitude, a state of mind. Leaders are fair, kind and consistent teachers.

Leaders lead with their posture, their eyes, their voice and most of all with their breathing. Did you know that dogs recognize the one with the slowest heart rate as the leader? That’s the one who will be calmest under pressure. That’s the one they can follow to safety, to food, to rest.

Often, dogs are asked to make decisions that they are incapable of making. This is the reason for most lack of socialization and behavior problems.


Leadership is a grossly misunderstood concept. Leadership is often associated with words like “dominance”, “alpha”, “authority”, “respect”, and “challenge”. Rarely, if ever, is it associated with the word “trust”.

Leadership is a role that requires the earning of trust from followers. Trust cannot be demanded. Force (the tool of the Dominator) creates resistance. Trust can only be given, not taken. Leadership, unlike "dominance", requires followers to CHOOSE to follow. Trust is broken in a heartbeat, but repaired, re-earned, only over a long period of time--not hours, but days, weeks, even months or years. Sometimes, it's irreparably broken.

An individual dog always has the right to choose whether to follow another dog or not. Even the most severe aggression will not force an individual dog to follow a leader it does not willingly choose to follow. It is only the benefit offered by the leader that encourages a follower to follow.

Whether we are referring to corporate management, family structure, or canine management, the basic principles of effective leadership remain the same:

To lead is to set the example. To design structure of activities. To plan. To create expectations. To minimize conflict. To intervene and mediate conflict. To consider the best interests of all parties when creating boundaries or structure. To listen as often as speak. To compromise your own ego, your immediate interests for the benefit of all parties, putting the needs of your followers before your own. A good leader builds willing cooperation.

To “dominate” is to bully. To ignore the needs of your followers when it conflicts with your own personal interests or desires. To repress free will. To have one-directional conversations. The product of domination is conflict, since only one party’s will or desire is considered, but all parties have needs. The “dominator” forces “cooperation” (compliance).

Among households with canine family members, lack of leadership is a common cause for serious problem behaviors. Failing to plan is planning to fail, they say. Responsibility for leadership issues is often shifted to the dog, calling the dog "dominant".

While a dog may have strong leadership tendencies or even capabilities, it is the yielding of follow that creates a leader. When a human or another dog reacts, rather than initiates, that individual is following. Interestingly, this "reaction" is the very hallmark of application of "dominance" techniques-- wait for the dog to screw up, then intervene. Who is leading who?

Waiting for the car to run off the road before steering is obviously a bad idea. But somehow "because dogs aren't like us", this approach is often attempted.

Sadly, I've seen a well-intentioned "positive" approach used in the same way. The dog jumps up, THEN the person asks for a SIT. This is ineffective for so many reasons, now "positive" training has been misidentified as the cause of ineffectiveness.

The key to leadership for your canine pals is developing the ability to read the current situation, anticipate what behaviors come next, identify "crossroad" moments when steering is needed, and a toolbox full of ways to elicit the behavior you want BEFORE an undesirable behavior emerges.

I'm often asked by folks with dogs displaying aggression toward other dogs what to do if the dogs get into a fight, again, reflecting the "follow the dog" backwards approach. Some people are looking to use the fight to "teach their dog a lesson". Others are simply trying to prevent injury to the dogs.

Returning to our model of leadership as steering the car, PREVENTION is the key strategy to address accidents. Maybe there's that 1-in-a-million race car driver out there who can adeptly intervene WHILE the car is crashing--maybe. But if you were that 1-in-a-million dog owner who could effectively intervene while your dog was in a fight...your dog wouldn't be in a fight to begin with!

Once you've "crashed the car", once you've missed the "crossroad moment" where you needed to steer the behavior in the correct direction, once the dog has jumped or barked or lunged -- the dog's learning is out the window. You may be able to use the moment to learn how to handle such a circumstance, but the dog's learning for application to future interactions has ceased.

By learning to lead effectively, you will not see the "crashes"!
 

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Here's something on leadership I put on my phone 2 years ago, I don't remember where I found it so can't acknowledge authorship, sorry.

Leadership is an attitude, a state of mind. Leaders are fair, kind and consistent teachers.

Leaders lead with their posture, their eyes, their voice and most of all with their breathing. Did you know that dogs recognize the one with the slowest heart rate as the leader? That’s the one who will be calmest under pressure. That’s the one they can follow to safety, to food, to rest.

Often, dogs are asked to make decisions that they are incapable of making. This is the reason for most lack of socialization and behavior problems.


Leadership is a grossly misunderstood concept. Leadership is often associated with words like “dominance”, “alpha”, “authority”, “respect”, and “challenge”. Rarely, if ever, is it associated with the word “trust”.

Leadership is a role that requires the earning of trust from followers. Trust cannot be demanded. Force (the tool of the Dominator) creates resistance. Trust can only be given, not taken. Leadership, unlike "dominance", requires followers to CHOOSE to follow. Trust is broken in a heartbeat, but repaired, re-earned, only over a long period of time--not hours, but days, weeks, even months or years. Sometimes, it's irreparably broken.

An individual dog always has the right to choose whether to follow another dog or not. Even the most severe aggression will not force an individual dog to follow a leader it does not willingly choose to follow. It is only the benefit offered by the leader that encourages a follower to follow.

Whether we are referring to corporate management, family structure, or canine management, the basic principles of effective leadership remain the same:

To lead is to set the example. To design structure of activities. To plan. To create expectations. To minimize conflict. To intervene and mediate conflict. To consider the best interests of all parties when creating boundaries or structure. To listen as often as speak. To compromise your own ego, your immediate interests for the benefit of all parties, putting the needs of your followers before your own. A good leader builds willing cooperation.

To “dominate” is to bully. To ignore the needs of your followers when it conflicts with your own personal interests or desires. To repress free will. To have one-directional conversations. The product of domination is conflict, since only one party’s will or desire is considered, but all parties have needs. The “dominator” forces “cooperation” (compliance).

Among households with canine family members, lack of leadership is a common cause for serious problem behaviors. Failing to plan is planning to fail, they say. Responsibility for leadership issues is often shifted to the dog, calling the dog "dominant".

While a dog may have strong leadership tendencies or even capabilities, it is the yielding of follow that creates a leader. When a human or another dog reacts, rather than initiates, that individual is following. Interestingly, this "reaction" is the very hallmark of application of "dominance" techniques-- wait for the dog to screw up, then intervene. Who is leading who?

Waiting for the car to run off the road before steering is obviously a bad idea. But somehow "because dogs aren't like us", this approach is often attempted.

Sadly, I've seen a well-intentioned "positive" approach used in the same way. The dog jumps up, THEN the person asks for a SIT. This is ineffective for so many reasons, now "positive" training has been misidentified as the cause of ineffectiveness.

The key to leadership for your canine pals is developing the ability to read the current situation, anticipate what behaviors come next, identify "crossroad" moments when steering is needed, and a toolbox full of ways to elicit the behavior you want BEFORE an undesirable behavior emerges.

I'm often asked by folks with dogs displaying aggression toward other dogs what to do if the dogs get into a fight, again, reflecting the "follow the dog" backwards approach. Some people are looking to use the fight to "teach their dog a lesson". Others are simply trying to prevent injury to the dogs.

Returning to our model of leadership as steering the car, PREVENTION is the key strategy to address accidents. Maybe there's that 1-in-a-million race car driver out there who can adeptly intervene WHILE the car is crashing--maybe. But if you were that 1-in-a-million dog owner who could effectively intervene while your dog was in a fight...your dog wouldn't be in a fight to begin with!

Once you've "crashed the car", once you've missed the "crossroad moment" where you needed to steer the behavior in the correct direction, once the dog has jumped or barked or lunged -- the dog's learning is out the window. You may be able to use the moment to learn how to handle such a circumstance, but the dog's learning for application to future interactions has ceased.

By learning to lead effectively, you will not see the "crashes"!
Great post, only would like to add that it is never too late to begin being a leader, and no one goes through the process perfectly. If we move on from mistakes, with as little fan fare as possible our dogs will forgive our imperfections. Of course we try to learn and do better all the time. With practice it gets easier, especially since our dog is maturing too.
 
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