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Hi guys,

I had an awful experience over the weekend, and I kind of just want to rant about it here - maybe you've had a similar experience and I won't feel so awful.

I was camping at a small Provincial Park in Ontario that had a small but convenient unfenced dog beach/exercise area. Myself and two friends picked this campground specifically for the dog beach. We arrived on Friday and left on Sunday, spending 90% of our time at the beach. There were 3 of us and our 3 dogs playing and there was never an issue. While we were there 2 other campers separately came with there dogs and again, no issues.

On the third day we went down to the beach again. My friends and I were standing out in the water while our dogs happily played on the beach. A lady walked by with her husband, son, and white poodle puppy. My friends' two dogs ran up to the road to sniff at the poodle who was on leash. The poodle was very, very nervous. The owner took the poodle off leash just as my dog came up near the road. As soon as the poodle was off leash it shot down the road. I didn't see this because I was walking up out of the water, but apparently my dog, Sitka, ran after the poodle and nipped her butt. This all happened with seconds and I had Sitka by the collar without even having seen what happened.

As soon as the lady saw that she started screaming at me: "WTF is wrong with you? You have an aggressive dog off leash. You're a f'n dumbass" and so on and so forth.

At first I said "He's not aggressive" but she kept screaming. I knew she was scared and that nothing I said would convince her he wasn't aggressive, so I said "I'm sorry" and asked her if she wanted my information or to give me hers. I apologized more than once, but she kept yelling. Eventually she checked her poodle and sure enough there was no broken skin. She kept yelling, standing over me, pointing in my face, screaming and cursing that I was a dumbass, my dog was aggressive, my dog attacked her dog.

Sitka has never, ever showed any aggression. He's never been in a fight, and is usually the underdog. The closest thing I've seen to him being aggressive is a bit of growl if a puppy tries to take his stick.

BUT, he is fast, he loves chasing and being chased. And he's a very dark working line GSD with a very intimidating look.

Although I stayed calm while the lady screamed and cursed in my face, I immediately walked back to my campsite and broke down. Another camper at a nearby site who had watched the whole thing came over and said I shouldn't worry about my dog or that lady. That she watched the whole thing happen and Sitka wasn't aggressive, but that poodle was so nervous the other dogs were probably weirded out. She said Sitka did nip at the butt, but not aggressively, more in a "hey, what's this all about" way.

I can't stop thinking about what happened, and it makes me upset everytime.

I don't really know what I'm looking for here, I just feel awful. Why did Sitka do that? How can I prevent it from happening again? Was there a better way for me to handle it? Should I just expect to be the easy target because Sitka looks intimidating? The other two dogs I was with were much smaller - a white shepherd/lab puppy and a Texas Heeler.

Pic for reference

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Nervous dog send vibes and other dogs pick it up. Lesson learned see a nervous dog watch your dog. Angel my golden is a nervous dog and I watch her like a hawk. Luna my german shepherd is not nervous she is happy go lucky.
 

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Large dogs are definitely held to a different standard than smaller. There are a lot of things we have to manage and be aware of to protect our dogs from even just PERCEPTION. Its large, its powerful - therefore its dangerous.

The media does not sensationalize when small dogs attack. Everyone brings their small dog into stores with impudence, but let me shove a shepherd or rottweiler into a shopping cart at Walmart and I am going to get the stink eye and they will mobilize the National Guard. I have been exposed to more crazed, unstable small dogs in my lifetime but they get a pass because the potential for fatal damage is less. I was so jazzed to see an article a few weeks ago sensationalizing a woman who was mauled to death by a group of dachshunds (finally! fair treatment in the media!) only to see evidence later that the dogs were mixes and the vet tech who provided info to the media had skewed the facts of the lineage because her husband used to breed what the dogs were mixed with - something much larger and very muscular.

I feel for ya!
 

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dogs chase and nervous dogs bolt - and when caught up to that nervous dog can be defensive and then the situation changes from the thrill of the chase (your dog) to a confontation.

the poodle would have been the under dog .

make sure that you TRAIN your dog to be perfect in THE most important command -- and that is the RECALL.

you need to be proactive and you need to have control .

use this little episode as a learning opportunity
 

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I agree with others with the need to take into account the size and power of our breed and need for higher standard but there is no reason after an apology and an offer of info to take that kind of verbal abuse from anyone. being sworn and yelled at with a finger being wagged in your face is a threat.

I perfectly understand her initial fright but not her rant after making sure her pup wasn't injured. It sounds like she is a great model of stability for her puppy (sarcasm).
 

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This could have easily ended...much much worse.......a GSD is one of those breeds who will always be the villain...no matter the circumstances....folks see or read about a GSD and immediately make "assumptions"...you'll never change that....as carmspack said unless your dogs have a flawless/perfect recall.. they should have been on leash IMO....I understand you being p*ssed because I would have been.....but I'd take it as lesson learned (that could have been much more costly)...and move on
 

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Animals or children that make high-pitched noises, and run quickly can immediately trigger a dog's prey drive. As people have said, this COULD have had a much more serious outcome. Be glad you aren't on the hook for major vet bills.
 

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I agree with the recall being solid before you let a dog off lead. If you look in the training section, there are plenty of tips on how to train it. Now that you know you don't have it, make sure you get it! Unfortunately next time you have to go grab his collar it could be up against another large dog on lead that IS aggressive and now you have a fight and people getting bit trying to break it up. I have had a leash reactive dog before and I HATE when people let their unleashed friendly dog cause a potentially serious issue for all.

My dog will 90% come to me when I call his name. He blows it off sometimes. However, our recall word, "Hier"..has no negotiations. He currently does not blow that off..however, from experience I know that at his age (12 months) they are adolescents and capable of trying it on on a dime. He is only off lead on my property and my long dead end where he knows every man woman kid and dog (he completely ignores all dogs) and I can see a new car or person coming from a long way away. And I do pay attention.

I get you on the judgement thing though. I was in Petco and kept encountering a lady with a small dog that was lunging and barking at my GSD, choking itself the way only small dogs can do lol She asked if we could maybe go to different sections of the store because she was afraid my dog would roll her dog. My dog, who was completely neutral on lead. Versus her dog who was insane. So I should be the one to aimlessly wander around the rabbit food section so she can finish shopping? I did. Just, because..not worth it. Perception is everything. She viewed my dog as the issue.

Hang in there, shake it off and work that special recall word. Also, your dog is gorgeous. Love his beautiful markings :)
 

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The lady's reaction was fueled by adrenaline and perhaps over the top but I can understand it. This woman probably has no clue what her dog looks like to other dogs. The other day I saw what I thought was a rabbit in a suburban yard. It turned out to be a little dog off leash in his yard and its owner was watching it. I kept my two dogs back about half a block until I was sure this little guy was not going to bolt out into the street. I waved good day from the opposite sidewalk and told her, "Your little guy looks just like a rabbit running around". If my dogs had been off leash this might have ended very badly. They are not kind to rabbits that wander into our yard.

ONE reason I don't do dog parks is because if there is an incident, no matter who's fault it is, the biggest dogs will get blamed.

If recall doesn't work, sometimes a drop command might work. When my guys are busy in the yard they might drop faster than recall since to drop does not mean to completely give up the chase. But it does take some steam out of them and I can get their attention better. Another reason why we don't do 100% off leash unless in a fenced in area. At the beach we used a long line. It was a pain to deal with but the extra insurance of reeling our dog in was worth it.
 

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Eh, live and learn. Stuff happens. Next time don't let him near the little nervous dog. You did everything right after the fact, so the other owner should have let up, but people can be obnoxious.

It's really easy for a small fluffy to trigger a dog's prey drive. I don't usually see many small dogs where I frequent- they aren't out on hiking trails a whole lot- but if/when I do, I completely avoid them, even if it's an inconvenience. A small dog was killed by another dog here recently and everyone was freaking out about it, but the truth is, if you have an under-ten-lb tiny, fluffy dog, it looks like prey to a lot of dogs, and it's on both the small dog owner and the larger dog owner to realize this and not expect Disney.

Recall and drop on command are invaluable. Then just use your judgement, and even if the other dog owner thinks you are weird, avoid such an encounter in future. Better safe than sorry.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thank you Everyone,

I think you reiterated what I was thinking, but I appreciate it being confirmed.

I am by no means trying to absolve myself of responsibility - I believe my dog is 100% my responsibility and if something goes awol, like this, it's because of my failure. I can't even say I was mad at the woman after the fact, just very, very shaken up from being screamed at with such aggressive body language.

I will say, I was too late in asking Sitka to recall. As soon as I made it up to the road I called and he immediately returned, but I shouldn't have let him get near the unknown dog in the first place. His recall is at about 85% and he's 16 months old. I will definitely think twice about letting him off leash in an unfenced area again.

These labels of "aggressive" or "reactive" or "unsocialized" are such buzzwords in media, it's like people are looking to find dogs to attach them to.

It could have been worse, and I should use it as a learning opportunity. But ****, I've never been screamed at like that before! I'm just glad Sitka responded to my calm energy then and didn't react to the woman screaming in my face. As she screamed, he sat calmly and quietly at my feet while I apologized and offered my/to exchange information.
 

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It could have been worse, and I should use it as a learning opportunity. But ****, I've never been screamed at like that before! I'm just glad Sitka responded to my calm energy then and didn't react to the woman screaming in my face. As she screamed, he sat calmly and quietly at my feet while I apologized and offered my/to exchange information.
excellent point. This overwrought woman probably never gave it a second thought. If your dog was truly aggressive she was asking to get attacked, too. Just goes to show that when in a state of high emotion, people don't think straight.
 

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I'll bet a dollar to a donut the woman was alcohol fueled. Sure, she feared for her pets life but this is way overboard.

Whenever I take Inga someplace and other people and dogs show up I leash her until they leave. She is well trained but she is a dog! Not worth the chance of getting into a dog fight or biting someone.
 

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Sorry you experienced that!

My family has owned dogs all my life and I have experienced all sorts of behaviors. From my personal experience with poodles: it shouldn't have been let off the leash to begin with if the dog was that nervous and not trained to answer commands. Our poodle didn't develop her "confidence" well after she was 2 years old. She was a shy, babied fluff ball that would shiver at the sights of larger dogs/ cats. After her second year and being used being around all kinds of animals, she would even pick fights with our Dalmatian!


As a GSD owner, I have experienced my share of "your dog is aggressive" just because there might be a bark here and there or their hears would perk up at the sight of something new/ suspicious.
In all honesty I think there was no way for you to avoid such a situation since it really wasn't your dog's fault. It sounds like your pup was still in play mode when the poodle appeared and assumed it was another playmate.

Your reaction is commendable. I would have leashed my pup and probably blown a fuze right back at her. JMHO
 

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I am the animal control officer in the small town that I live in plus I have been a German Shepherd dog owner for over 26 years. Chalk this is up to experience and be mindful that with GSD's and other large breeds, we all have to kick up being responsible pet owners up a notch due to the breeds we own. Had your dog been another poodle perhaps this lady wouldn't have been so hysterical about the incident. There will always be the public perception that our breed of dog is more dangerous than others. That is unfortunate and I know from my professional experience in animal control for over 30 years, that some of our worst bites have never been from German Shepherds. Take a deep breath and relax. This too will pass!
 

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I agree with everyone here. Unfortunately for us GSD owners we have a breed that is on the "dangerous" list. No matter who starts the altercation, we will almost always get the blame. Many dog owners are unreasonable/unrealistic/irresponsible people who only see their dogs do no wrong. And this poodle owner is a perfect example of that. Don't give it another thought. You did nothing wrong. Your dog did nothing wrong. And this person who couldn't control herself and lashed out with obscenities and name calling was irrational and was in the moment. You seem like a sweet and kind and responsible dog owner, but next time, don't offer up your information right away. By doing so, you are admitting fault. Her dog was off leash too. And clearly her dog was not under her control if it was able to run away. A neighbor of mine went through something similar as you. She ended up going to small claims court because she was sued by the other dog owner. Long story short...the judge reluctantly ruled in favor of the plaintiff because my neighbor immediately after the incident offered to pay for the damage which meant that she admitted fault. The judge told her if she didn't offer the payments right away, the case would've been dismissed. The other owner bears responsibility for her dog being off leash and her dog being not under her "immediate control." And just because her smaller dog got the worst of the incident doesn't mean my neighbor's at fault.
 
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