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Yesterday, I took my 6 month old GSD to her first Petsmart Beginner Class, primarily for socialization.
I got her May 1, so its been about 1.5 months since I have had her in my care.
Zelda barks and growls at new people if they talk to her or make eye contact and especially if they try to touch her. I told this to Petsmart and they still allowed us in for the class.
The whole class when fine, Zelda was the most laid back laying down right next to me just observing no barking at the 10 new people and 6 new dogs.
But at the end everyone let their dogs loose and people were touching other peoples dogs. I at first was standing and watching knowing that Zelda wouldnt want to do anything with anyone, including the dogs. But then i decided maybe she would come out of her shell at least with the dogs, since she likes to play with dogs. So i walked towards the center, noticed her body language back to tail tucked and running at a low pace following me. So I went to a wall and stayed there with her.
Soon enough this teenager girl came over and crouched down and just put her hand in front of Zelda, Zelda sniffed it and looked away. Being a complete idiot i looked at the cute 10 week old puppy playing rough with another dog and looked back to see the teen trying to grab Zelda's face in which case she growled and snapped at the girl!! I was so surprised.. and yet not. I did not think Zelda would go that far, but I let it get that far with my dog.
Now i feel bad for Zelda for now being called the "Unfriendly" dog in the class, the teen looked very shocked and scared, and i was also very shocked.
I wasn't kicked out, they would have im sure if she actually made contact.

What should I do? Am i doing the right thing by staying at this petsmart class?
Do you think Zelda has fear based aggression or was she "protecting me" like my trainer at Petsmart said?
Zelda is a super sweet dog for me, and she loves the rest of the family.
I really wanted a dog that I dont have to worry about biting a stranger.. I like to have friends over with my dog in the same room!
When i have enough money I want to get this private trainer who deals a lot with aggression.

I'm really upset about the whole thing and am hoping you guys can help!

Thanks so much!
 

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she was NOT protecing you , it was fear based.

However, and this is just me, it sounds like zelda did fine BEFORE the 'free for all'. THAT is what I'd concentrate on when you go back..

When it's time for the "free for all", I'd leave.

Your trainer at Petsmart is wrong, she was not protecting you.

I was once in a puppy class with Masi, with a supposed 'smart' trainer, the free for all thing, did not work for her, as well as people in class time, who had no control over their dogs, the trainer had no control over the class . After the second fiasco of a class I took her out of it..

This class your in, again, sounds like maybe the first part worked for Zelda, her laying down, calm, no one bugging her,,THAT is what I'd concentrate on, and LEAVE when the free for all starts..

Just my opinion
 

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The "free for alls" are the same idea to me when someone lets their dog approach on a long flexi and says"they just want to be friends" when you can see by the body language is not friendly at all. The "trainers" at these classes get a few weeks of training, are told absolutely they can't use the word "no" and nothing negative, just happy happy training, lots of treats. Most do not have experience to actually read the dogs in the class at all. Plus, they don't teach them about fear issues, or aggression issues, etc just to train a basic class.
 

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check with your local vets on classes...our local vet has a trainer who does the classes right at the vet office. I would stay clear of the petsmart/petco classes...are those people really even trainers or just part of the staff?
 

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Don't let it upset you. When Zelda turned her head away from the teen, that was her way of saying she didn't want to be pestered. When she air snapped, she was saying it more clearly - and it worked! I'd be careful to pay extra attention to the smaller signals so she doesn't get in the habit of air snapping though.

As far as "unfriendly" goes, tell them to stuff it. Unless they want to refund you money for the classes, then they can be respectful of Zelda wanting her space and not wanting to be pestered by strangers. She's still a puppy (although many people just look at the size and see a dog, lol) and you haven't had her for very long: not long enough to know all her quirks and maybe not her past either. Good luck :)
 

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Don't let it upset you. When Zelda turned her head away from the teen, that was her way of saying she didn't want to be pestered. When she air snapped, she was saying it more clearly - and it worked! I'd be careful to pay extra attention to the smaller signals so she doesn't get in the habit of air snapping though.

As far as "unfriendly" goes, tell them to stuff it. Unless they want to refund you money for the classes, then they can be respectful of Zelda wanting her space and not wanting to be pestered by strangers. She's still a puppy (although many people just look at the size and see a dog, lol) and you haven't had her for very long: not long enough to know all her quirks and maybe not her past either. Good luck :)
Agreed. It's one of my pet peeves that people seem to want to shove their faces in dogs' faces. It's just so common, yet so obviously stupid IMO. It's just asking for a nip if the dog is nervy at all. I mean, have you ever seen a dog introduce itself by shoving its face in another dog's face. Heck NO. They start from the exact opposite position.

When Zelda turned her head away, she was giving the teen a calming signal. She was saying stop it, you're making me uncomfortable. The teen ignored it, and Zelda stepped it up a notch. I'm not saying it's okay for her to snap, just that it's not protective, but reactive. You'll have to watch for Zelda's thresholds.

Be aware, definitely skip the free-for-alls, and don't be afraid to protect your dog from pushy encounters. You wouldn't let someone walk up and grab your human baby's face and shove their butt in its nose, would you ;)
 

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You just gotta ask people not to go to the dog like that. You have to engage people in conversation before they get to your dog and explain to them to not to interact with the dog unless the dog approaches them in a relaxed way.

I just tell people 'Stay there and let the dog come to you. The dog doesn't budge. Then tell them the dog doesn't want to meet them sorry. Otherwise they may just go like this girl and crouch down over the dog and touch it's face, head or neck and talk to it and look into it's eyes.

Another way to explain it to people is a dog will not see you as a leader if you crouch down and talk and rub the dog. A dog respects people who stand there ground and don't get into a dogs space.

Another way is 'This dog is shy and isn't used to meeting people.' But people will usually feel sorry for the dog look at it and be like 'poor thing, something terrible must have happened to her'.

It is a lesson to you that your dog snapped a bit to get the girl away from her. It is your job to make sure people don't get in the dogs face. You could use that time at the end of the session to walk around trying to get the dog to focus on you rather than all the commotion around you. Go over your commands. Treat the dog when relaxed and focused on you. If you stand still in the side somebody is gonna approach you and approach the dog. If you are moving you can easily turn and go the other way or just walk past anybody wanting to meet your dog. Or just leave before they do this meet up thing. But it is a good chance to socialize the dog. She may not want to meet people right now but she will get used to being in a large groups and eventually relax more if you control the meetings and build up her confidence.
 

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Sounds to me like the girl should be in a socialization class not the dog. Hopefully she was smart enough to figure it out but I doubt it.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you for the really helpful replies guys, i truly appreciate it and am no longer upset about the situation but rather ready to take action because of it.
 

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good for you:)
 

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What was the PetsMart class doing turning dogs from 10 weeks old to 6 months old loose together? On the first night??? That is totally nuts!

I have been to a few PetsMart classes and we never did that, but they seem to be different in different places.

Frankly, I think your puppy was in a new place and shut down. That is why she was laid back and pretty good and it went well. She may wake up a little more in the next couple of classes.

Now, the kid is a kid, and you need to be more attuned to your dog's body language and forward when it comes to kids in your dog's space. You should have said to the girl, "Sorry, if she isn't coming up to you, than you need to leave her be." Or something to that effect.

What she did you your dog in doggy terms was rude, but you cannot expect every child to be a master of doggy body language. Most adults aren't. You have to step up there, and don't blame the kid. Because if your dog DOES connect at some point, blaming the kid will not make the repercussions go away. Blaming the kid will not make it easy to put your dog down or find a new insurance company to cover you and her. If it was an adult, you can grouse about it, but what it comes down to is that it is your dog, and you must protect her, and then means evaluating her body language and telling people to back off, or to get her out of the situation.
 

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sue, not only petsmart does this, but so do some private trainers.

When I was in a puppy class with Masi, it seemed like every single dog in there was 6mths to a year old, with 12 wk old puppies, and ALL of them except two, Masi/a little westie, (who were puppies), were reactive big mouth, ill mannered, and had idiot owners..As soon as the trainer brought in her 2 yr old weimie, and I saw how HE behaved, (no obed), I knew she (trainer) was in over her head.
 

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sue, not only petsmart does this, but so do some private trainers.

When I was in a puppy class with Masi, it seemed like every single dog in there was 6mths to a year old, with 12 wk old puppies, and ALL of them except two, Masi/a little westie, (who were puppies), were reactive big mouth, ill mannered, and had idiot owners..As soon as the trainer brought in her 2 yr old weimie, and I saw how HE behaved, (no obed), I knew she (trainer) was in over her head.
That's barking!

I am so glad that all the puppy classes I have ever been in limited the age to 4 months, and we really did not have puppy free-for-all in any of them. Still great for socialization. Maybe I got pictures:

Last day of puppy classes (try to pick which ones are mine):
Waiting our turn:




Doin' stuff:








A little interaction:


Graduation:


We never do the puppy free for all. We may do Pass the Puppy, and in puppy classes only are puppies allowed to sniff another pup, but that is discouraged in older classes, as many of us want ot go on to shows, and it is not appreciated for dogs to think they are there to be social butterflies.
 

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That's Scarlet, I gave her to my brother after the class was over.
 

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..... So i walked towards the center, noticed her body language back to tail tucked and running at a low pace following me. So I went to a wall and stayed there with her. ...

Soon enough this teenager girl came over and crouched down and just put her hand in front of Zelda, Zelda sniffed it and looked away. ....

This is fear based and your puppy was throwing out signs telling you of her discomfort. Tail tucked, crouching, looking away...she was screaming
"Get Me Outta Here!"

I have a dog with fear based issues. You need to learn body language, be aware at all times of other dogs and people. Instead of letting someone pet her, have them give her treats. Teach her, within her own boundaries, that people are good.

continue to take the petsmart obedience class if she's comfortable with that. At play time, you leave. Maybe ask a few people who are dog savvy to give her really high value treats like cooked chicken or cheese, possibly just tossed on the ground at her feet, without looking at her. As her threshold builds and she learns to trust you can ask people to let her sniff them.

SLOW...SLOW...SLOW....

You follow her lead on what she is comfortable with and you learn to block people from advancing without permission.

Personally, I would find a good trainer to help with the fear issues. You don't have to go every week. You go as you can afford it. Maybe it's only once every 3-4 weeks. but in that time you work on what you've been taught and when you are ready for the next step, or if you are having problems, then you go back.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for the good ideas Jax.

I certainly was not being a good mom in that aspect..

I will have to buy some chicken for the class and have some of the trainers do what you said and to have them not look at her and toss the chicken near her and slowly make her way closer (as in days). I've actually seen that in a training video with a dog who was fearful of people and the dog eventually took it from their hands. I of course will be even slower than they went and let Zelda go at her pace.

After all the replies from the other people, i already have been a lot better about meeting new people with Zelda on walks.
In fact one encounter went very very well today. A friend walked into our house and Zelda was barking at them. I actually told the person that entered our house to face the other way and let Zelda go up to her, and Zelda did, Zelda smelled her and barked and because her energy was still up there i took her into another room where she relaxed brought her to a calm state and than brought her over again and told the person not to look at her again and Zelda went over on her own terms and went up to her with no fearful or aggressive body language and licked her. And because i wanted to end on a good note, i asked Zelda to come over to me and went out to play. (This was all on a leash)

* Now for you dog savvy people, you can critique what i did and tell me what i did wrong and what i did right with this scenerio?

I knew this person, otherwise i could not have done this with Zelda, i cant really ask strangers to do all of that.
 

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I agree with the first poster. I'd continue to go, but leave before "free time" starts. I can't believe they would have free time anyways. These dogs are in classes for a reason. Just seems like a bad idea to me.
 

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I think you got to start with people you know AND trust to do what you say.

I think this encounter sounds exactly what you should have done. Though I could be wrong. Maybe others think you should have corrected the barking, or not taken the dog in the other room for a little. I think that you basically do what a situation merits, and sometimes taking the dog in the other room and then coming back out makes sense.

The big thing is having the friend ignore the dog, or drop the chicken without looking. At first, there is no eye contact, but eventually there should be. For now though, allowing the dog to come up to the person will add up to one good encounter with a new person after another. And each one will build confidence.

The dog doesn't know that these are your friends and not strangers. Start with friends, so that when you move on to strangers, the pup will already be a bit more confident, so when a stranger does something unexpected, you and the dog will not be as quick to react negatively with it.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I agree Jafo!

And yes Selzer that sounds like the safest way to go about it for all parties involved. I am pretty good at avoiding strangers on our walks or letting them know she is "In training and to ignore her" that way they dont have a negative energy such a fear going at her. But then they leave her alone. My dog is pretty cute looking and so many people want to just grab her. I've even had a lady stop her car to try and say hi and say how beautiful she is.

I guess my last question is, she is going to be spayed the 26th of this month. I am worried how she will do without me being at the vets with her.. should i muzzle her for them? she never had a muzzle on before.. And i really dont want to have to do that! Our two encounters with the vets were less than satisfactory, the second one she did do better, she did not bark at the vet tech or the vet when we were in the room. But barked and growled at the ladies upfront when they were talking and looking at her.
 
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