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Thanks for answering. Yes I also believe medical conditions play a part in temperament changes to a dog. I'm hoping his short episode of fear and aggression is something he can get over and go back to being a happy, confident, dominant boy. Your 'trust' comments were interesting, when I think about it, he really does need to learn to trust himself again. I also have to admit, I need to trust him again. Easier said than done, however I have been exposing him to various dogs (in dog parks - hate them but they have their uses) maybe about once a week and I muzzle him (this is for my comfort). First time he has ever been muzzled, but he accepts it as though it is not there and it really has been helping both of us to trust again. He seems much more calmer and is learning to greet other dogs properly.
 

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I don't think anyone has really nailed it so far... so I'll give my 2 cents.

Being "Protective", in relation to how dog the majority of dog owners use it, is not a specific behaviour, or character trait that our dogs embody, rather it is a completely subjective term that we apply to our dogs - having a slightly different meaning to every individual who uses it;

"my dog barks at the postman, he's being protective"

"my dog chases foxes out of our backyward, she's so protective"

"I have a little yorky, that growls when you try to take his toy away, he's so cute when he's protective"

"defence of handler, in schutzhund, demonstrates a dog being protective of its handler"

One word is used throughout all these situations, yet each situation is different, and these dogs are reacting ways that arise from different drives - territorial defence, prey drive, resource guarding, learned behaviour/genuine pack defence

There are as many definitions of what we classify as protectiveness as there are shades of blue. But objectively speaking, to be protective is to "protect" something - to safeguard it against harm. That object could potentially be anything, from the dog itself, to a person, or an inanimate object.

Now to be fearful, is to fear something, to be "afraid" - for fear of harm to oneself.

The confusion arises from the fact that, dogs are often afraid of things that we normally would not consider it acceptable to traditionally be afraid of. Fear of heights, fast moving traffic, assault, someone aggressively yelling at you -these are all deemed acceptable, valid environmental stimuli that evoke a fear response. But things like garbage bins, vacuum cleaners, postmen - things that dogs are commonly afraid of - aren't considered acceptable.

I wanted to comment because I didn't think anyone was getting the point across strong enough - being fearful and being protective can be (depending on your definition) the same thing.

A dog cannot possibly be protective without perceiving something as threatening, whether that be a helper in schutzhund, making eye contact and cracking his whip or some jerk of an owner who takes away his dogs food bowl before he was done eating. The dog is afraid of losing something - a valuable resource, its life etc. So a protective behaviour begins with a fear response, all dogs experience some degree of fear and this is the basis of a dogs defence drive. In training a high level competition sport dog or police k9, this fear is significantly diminished as dominance and defence drives overlap > fight drive develops and like one poster in here said - you get something vaguely analogous to an "advanced play drive".

So, in essence, fearfulness and protectiveness are coming from the same place.
 

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I assume if she's trying to run away from something, it's fear. If she is actively planting herself between me and a 6'8" 300 lb guy it is clearly not fear.
 

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Fearful dog!

Thank you for your comment. It explains what's going on with my dog. Your description of the dog that shows fear is exactly what happens with my dog. She's a 13 month old female, and used to be very friendly with people and other dogs, but in the past 4 months or so I have not been able to relax while walking her downtown. Most of the times she's intent in sniffing around, more so than the passerbys, yet if she gets distracted from the smells, her behavior is exactly what you described. She has barked and jumped on people, lunging on the leash (which btw, to this day she has not yet accepted). She has been hyper from day one, and she has made a lot of progress. Used to bark at every little noise, day and night, now she only does when she actually hears people at the door, or deer, etc...
A couple of weeks ago, under a trainer suggestion, I started using the prong collar (which I've been so reluctant in trying it). Well, now on our walks, she reacts and jump on me, and nips at me. To make matters worse, now she does the same thing when I try to pet her, and a couple of times it escalated to the point that I had to log-roll her... (another bad situation I wish could have been avoided because I'm sure it didn't help her trust issues!). I had some difficulty bonding with her when I got her as a puppy. She never let me pet her and she always kept her distance from me at home. Eventually we took down some barriers, but I can still sense a big trust issue with her.
Any ideas or suggestions?



Protectiveness comes from a place of complete calm and complete confidence. The dog will assess the situation, stay watchfull, and give warning growls. The look on their face often reads "don't try anything, buddy, I'm on top of it!"

Dogs lunging to the end of the leash, barking widely, hackling, looking around widely, switching their gaze from the person or thing to something else and back, and so on, are showing fear.

In some cases, the difference is subtle because a fearful dog may be so good at the bravado, trying to act confident and sure in order to try and convince the threat that they mean it (though they are bluffing), that even an experienced person may have difficulty in seeing the difference.

And as others said, the threat has to be real. A dog that barks at every passerby or random people approaching a vehicule, or every noise is reacting out of fear, because those are daily occurances that have never posed a threat.
 

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I'm not replying to the above, but just wanted to ask opinions on 'protective' behavior vs. shear aggressive behavior. My friend just told me, quite proudly, that her female gsd (who's barely over a year of age) charged off her couch and attacked her relative who walked in the front door unannounced for a visit. Guessing the dog has met him before, but according to my friend he is quite a big man and dislikes dogs....which she seems to feel is part of the reason he was attacked. SInce 6 mos of age the dog has shown unruly behavior....including getting 'kicked out' of pet training at a local pet store for uncontrollable barking and lunging at other dogs. I invited her to bring her pup to my basic obedience classes when she was 9 mos old as I just expected it was being an obnoxious ill mannered pup getting out of control. This is the lady's first gsd puppy (working line) and she had no experience with raising head strong pups , . Needless to say, obnoxious was an understatement. The 'pup' was clearly showing fierce aggression... barking, snarling and lunging at the end of the leash... wanting to get ahold of me. I wasn't sure if it was out of fear, or strait outright unadulterated aggression... and wasn't going to find out...So I suggested she take the dog back to her breeder/trainer for evaluation and she did. They gave her one lesson on basic obedience using a prong collar on her....she was supposed to take her back for continued work.,, which never happened.

I just think a year old pup shouldn't be displaying this kind of behavior ... and wonder if a child had walked thru the door unannounced if it would have done the same thing. Or was the 'pup' justified for attacking company walking in the door unannounced?? In general the pup has growled at people (friends) coming up to his 'mom' in the house in the past, and has also aggressively grabbed one other person by the arm it was near. I'm not in approval of this behavior in the least and wondered if others consider it 'ok'...
 

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definitely fear and definitely not ok. a protective dog only watches people and doesnt bark at everything that moves. a protective dog is ok with 99% of the people it comes in contact with and will only bark and lunge and maybe bite if they feel the threat is real. my dog has barked his deep bark when startled but he's never lunged at anyone.

a fearful dog will huff and puff and bark and lunge and maybe bite at everything that its unsure about. if this behavior isnt corrected then the dog thinks that this is how i get rid of the danger. the dog thinks its ok to bite and lunge and bark because it works! it has nothing to do with working line. sounds like the dog needs lots of leadership and training. if your friend is proud of this behavior it'll just be a matter of time before she gets sued.
 

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Thank you for your reply and assessment based on the circumstances. I just mentioned that it was out of working lines as it has siblings trained and actively working on police forces so it's out of dogs with good strong drives. I did mention the liability issue to her... and even told her about a person in my neighborhood who adopted an adult GSD with a bad attitude that ultimately ended up being ordered to be euthanisized after getting loose and attacking people in the area...

But I will try to pass on to her sound suggestions from anyone willing to offer them... it's not acceptable behavior to me especially out of a dog that technically is still a 'pup' at 13 mos of age.... just wanted other opinions/suggestions. thanks!
 

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Greetings, I'm relatively new to this forum, but posted last year when our GSD male contacted lymphoma. Dino is gone, but I have a question regarding our 5 year old female adopted last fall through the GSD rescue organization. Bella is wonderful in the house, responds to commands, but is very protective if anyone comes to the door- until they come inside. We have no issue with this behavior, but need to do something about the same behavior or worse when confronted with another dog when on leash during a walk. Lots of barking, snarling, and an apparent readiness to fight.

Obviously, we are far past puppy training, or even knowing her background. The foster people said she was very well-behaved with other dogs in the house but she has really become hard to handle around other dogs. I'm looking for any training or conditioning suggestions.

Thanks,

George Schweikle
Lexington, KY
 

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Very interesting opinions and I myself cannot comment on what is right or wrong behaviour. I do know my dog does not like dogs coming up to me if they are loose and will come up to chase them off. People he has no bother with,unless they approach the house then he barks and barks but never attacks.
Hes greta out walking but again if we meet a dog he barks and pulls on his lead. He never had other dogs around growing up as people were afraid of him
 

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Protectiveness comes from a place of complete calm and complete confidence. The dog will assess the situation, stay watchfull, and give warning growls. The look on their face often reads "don't try anything, buddy, I'm on top of it!"

Dogs lunging to the end of the leash, barking widely, hackling, looking around widely, switching their gaze from the person or thing to something else and back, and so on, are showing fear.

In some cases, the difference is subtle because a fearful dog may be so good at the bravado, trying to act confident and sure in order to try and convince the threat that they mean it (though they are bluffing), that even an experienced person may have difficulty in seeing the difference.

And as others said, the threat has to be real. A dog that barks at every passerby or random people approaching a vehicule, or every noise is reacting out of fear, because those are daily occurances that have never posed a threat.
Some good points. Though I will say I have seen some GSD's bark/act aggressively towards random strangers (without provocation), and yet were not displaying any indication of fear/stress.

I don't think we can diagnose all GSD's as either "fearful" or "protective" when they exhibit aggressive behaviors. I have dealt with some that are just looking for a fight, others that have a strong pack mentality and will keep strangers away from their perceived pack members (owners), and there are many other reasons for an aggressive outburst. It's best to analyze these incidents on a case-by-case basis.
 

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If we read the body language, there are always subtle clues to let us know the dogs emotional state....and most often random reactive aggression is fear based. A dog that is secure and confident does not go looking for trouble.
My female doesn't always show stress or fear when she reacts, she is forward and stealth, but it is a display of emotions due to the fact that she is unsure, so takes the proactive stance. Her tail is high, her head is up, she doesn't hackle, but I know her well enough to see she needs to feel like the 'big dog' when she is insecure.
My male who is always confident and secure, will watch and discern before ever reacting.
 

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If we read the body language, there are always subtle clues to let us know the dogs emotional state....and most often random reactive aggression is fear based. A dog that is secure and confident does not go looking for trouble.
I agree with most of what you have said. And though it's hard to statistically prove why most dog-bite incidents occur (fear, confusion, protectiveness) I can buy off on that statement of 'most random reactive aggression is fear based.'

However that last part in bold raises a few questions on my part. I have first-hand experience with a secure/confident male GSD, who does not go looking for trouble or try to chase/attack strangers passing by...but has a bite incident and several aggressive incidents with people who tried to approach him for a pet. He is curious about everything, gets along fine with dogs that want to play, and is perfectly at ease on walks just as he is at his home.

I just don't think all GSD aggression (or dog aggression in general) falls within that black and white category of being either fear-driven or protective-driven.
 

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So what would you make of this? My pup has no interest in other dogs. It's the dogs owner she wants to get to for a pet and a hello. She is almost 11 months old and her beef with other dogs is if they are standing between her and their owners. She will stand an inch away from a dogs face with her back legs braced and bark and bark. If this garners no reaction, she will try to go around them to get to the owner. :confused:
 

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I agree with most of what you have said. And though it's hard to statistically prove why most dog-bite incidents occur (fear, confusion, protectiveness) I can buy off on that statement of 'most random reactive aggression is fear based.'

However that last part in bold raises a few questions on my part. I have first-hand experience with a secure/confident male GSD, who does not go looking for trouble or try to chase/attack strangers passing by...but has a bite incident and several aggressive incidents with people who tried to approach him for a pet. He is curious about everything, gets along fine with dogs that want to play, and is perfectly at ease on walks just as he is at his home.

I just don't think all GSD aggression (or dog aggression in general) falls within that black and white category of being either fear-driven or protective-driven.
If he is immature mentally, he may not be correctly assessing situations....and it is up to his handler to help him succeed. GSD's carry aggression, it is in their breed standard...many breeders are trying to breed it out, or not breed pedigree matches carefully enough to keep that natural aggression controlled/ temperament isn't stable. Young dogs need to be managed regardless. My male was very suspicious when he was immature, but his high threshold helped him and he was never placed in situations where he would be failed.
 

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If he is immature mentally, he may not be correctly assessing situations....and it is up to his handler to help him succeed. GSD's carry aggression, it is in their breed standard...many breeders are trying to breed it out, or not breed pedigree matches carefully enough to keep that natural aggression controlled/ temperament isn't stable. Young dogs need to be managed regardless. My male was very suspicious when he was immature, but his high threshold helped him and he was never placed in situations where he would be failed.
Just wondering what would be considered good management for a dog such as this that would help him to succeed?? The dog is young, 14mos, and unpredictable on his reactivity to people approaching and at times charges and attempts to bite people. His owner just feels he is just being protective of him as so many newbie owners do and only gives soft verbal and collar corrections the dog no longer takes much notice of. . If you can get past the initial approach you can take this dog from his owner and hold him with the owner out of site and he will interact safely with you. He is also dog aggressive in the same manner. Just wondering as he did leap to bite me and made contact with his mouth on my arm. I just felt the dog should have received a strong correction. In my own opinion his behavior is fear based without a doubt and it seems to be getting more frequent and severe.​
 

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Just wondering what would be considered good management for a dog such as this that would help him to succeed?? The dog is young, 14mos, and unpredictable on his reactivity to people approaching and at times charges and attempts to bite people. His owner just feels he is just being protective of him as so many newbie owners do and only gives soft verbal and collar corrections the dog no longer takes much notice of. . If you can get past the initial approach you can take this dog from his owner and hold him with the owner out of site and he will interact safely with you. He is also dog aggressive in the same manner. Just wondering as he did leap to bite me and made contact with his mouth on my arm. I just felt the dog should have received a strong correction. In my own opinion his behavior is fear based without a doubt and it seems to be getting more frequent and severe.​
This type dog does need strong leadership, and should not be put in situations (at this age) where he is set up to fail.(Owner should not allow people to approach or the dog to react, but be proactive and keep the dog engaged, focused on the handler) Owner should be getting with a trainer that knows this breed and work on handling skils.
He needs to learn boundaries, and gain confidence. Tracking is something that may help, it keeps the dog under threshold, teaches decision making as it builds confidence and the handler can bond more, learn more about the dog when doing something as simple as a track.
I would not assume he'll ever get over the dog aggression, most often that is something that just has to be managed.
 

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we have the "fear" issue with our Sura. When she was 7mo old a guy tried to break into a house 2 blocks away. He was chased by the homeowner (he was on a bike the home owner in a car) he dumped his bike in my front yard trying to get away and Sura was outback playing and ran into her. I was folding laundry hubby was at work and I heard guys yelling in my yard and she was viciously growing. She did what she naturally should do and took the guy down pulling and tearing his pants. by the time I ran out back I had my (legally owned and CCL) gun and shouted everyone to stop I was armed and they did but the bad guy kicked her hard. this was 3 days before we had her fixed.

ANYWAY.....She is now 1 year 5months old and it's taken this long to even get her to walk with us and not be fearful. Whenever someone comes to the house she freaks out...Vicious....We have signs posted for our electric company and told them NEVER to open our fence without us home. We do this because we know what she can do and do not want her hurt or someone else. She has slipped pass me a couple times and my mailman knows to take a stand not to run but his sub didn't and he ran that day and I was horrified. She was chasing him off but had he fallen or she bit him it would be MY FAULT period.

She has come a long way we take her to stores with us and she is better not 100% but we work every day with her. SO NO this was not funny it wasn't a game we have to be responsible owners because they have a bad rap for a very good reason.

Sura is a female 95lbs pure lean mean muscle. She will protect us to the death we know it but I won't ever allow someone else to be hurt because I am not doing the right thing to keep people who visit us safe.
 

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I'm sorry you had this happen to a 7 month - way too young to deal with a real attack. I'm not surprised that there has been long-term issues you are still working with.

Glad to hear she is getting better. Glad to hear that you understand the stage of mental development she was at and how this traumatized her. Sounds like she'll be okay though with your help and time and confidence building.
 

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Sura is a GSD...she has had to deal with more than what her maturity level at the time could handle. But she is, a GSD.
She will need management and help from her handlers to deal with what she went through, but I bet she'll never be a liability with the knowledge you now have.
I think some dogs are failed because the owners either expect too much or squash a dogs confidence. They don't know or understand their dogs lines and misread their motives.
Keep up your good instincts!
 
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