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This is new: formerly mellow dog barking at random strangers?

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  • This is new: formerly mellow dog barking at random strangers?

    I have a 90 lb male GSD, age estimated at 5-7, history unknown. He was dumped at the barn, and I brought him home in March. From the day I got him, he was sweet. No growling at me, no chasing the cats, nice at the vets, nice to anyone we met on our walks, plays off lead like a champ. I could take him to the coffee house, or the local watering hole and he'd hang out and accept pets and admiration from all and sundry. In short, the perfect gentleman.

    Lately, though, that's changed. Here are the Incidents:

    #1) 3 weeks ago - Took him to local watering hole, he was chillin'. Bar suddenly filled up with a lot of folks, and one stupid lady insisted on sticking her face into his - he backed up until he was practically under my chair, then finally barked. The low, quick barkbarkbark that I assume means "Seriously, out of my face now!". Got her away, but after that he was a wreck, barkbarkbark at the next two people who came near (who did not rush or crowd him). Took him home, figured just too many people and I wouldn't be doing that again.

    #2) This past Saturday - tree guy comes to trim the pecan out back. He was there for 3 hours, chatted with my husband several times, and the dog sniffed him and apparently was OK. When the tree guy finished up, he stopped to pet the dog, and dog was happy - until tree guy made eye contact. Then barkbarkbark again. Dog was skittish for remainder of tree guy visit.

    #3) This evening - stopped to say hi to the Nice Neighbors. They have a porch. The dog adores the neighbors and likes to hang on the porch with them. So we're hanging, and neighbor Tom (whom the dog has met before) comes across the street to sit on the porch with us. Dog is on porch, Tom approaches porch stairs, dog barkbarkbarks. I tell him NO, make him sit, and Tom proceeds past us and sits down. Dog barkbarkbarks again at the seated Tom. I tell him NO again.

    So, if you're still with me - I thank you for reading and I ask for your advice. What is this? Do I have an aggressive dog after all? Or is he just feeling better and more confident in his "job" as my dog and protector of things he thinks are ours?(the house, our neighbors porch). Is this going to escalate?

    More importantly - what should I do? I appreciate that he's barking and not snapping or lunging, but is it going to progress to that unless I address the behavior? How DO I address the behavior? I'm willing to do obedience classes or get a behaviorist's opinion if need be.

    Any and all advice gladly accepted. I really like this dog and I want to be a good owner, but now I'm kinda sorta terrified I have a Cujo lurking in there.

  • #2
    Try an obedience trainer. Have you ever had a protective breed before? It might help to meet some other GSD people. With any protective breed, this happens.
    Give him something to focus on. Use treats to get his attention on you.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Sunsets View Post
      I have a 90 lb male GSD, age estimated at 5-7, history unknown. He was dumped at the barn, and I brought him home in March. From the day I got him, he was sweet. No growling at me, no chasing the cats, nice at the vets, nice to anyone we met on our walks, plays off lead like a champ. I could take him to the coffee house, or the local watering hole and he'd hang out and accept pets and admiration from all and sundry. In short, the perfect gentleman.

      Lately, though, that's changed. Here are the Incidents:

      #1) 3 weeks ago - Took him to local watering hole, he was chillin'. Bar suddenly filled up with a lot of folks, and one stupid lady insisted on sticking her face into his - he backed up until he was practically under my chair, then finally barked. The low, quick barkbarkbark that I assume means "Seriously, out of my face now!". Got her away, but after that he was a wreck, barkbarkbark at the next two people who came near (who did not rush or crowd him). Took him home, figured just too many people and I wouldn't be doing that again.
      barkbarkbark=mom got the lady outta my face. He sounds like a really smart dog. One lesson learning.

      #2) This past Saturday - tree guy comes to trim the pecan out back. He was there for 3 hours, chatted with my husband several times, and the dog sniffed him and apparently was OK. When the tree guy finished up, he stopped to pet the dog, and dog was happy - until tree guy made eye contact. Then barkbarkbark again. Dog was skittish for remainder of tree guy visit.
      red is mine. Eye contact in dogs is aggression and he probably didn't know what to do.

      #3) This evening - stopped to say hi to the Nice Neighbors. They have a porch. The dog adores the neighbors and likes to hang on the porch with them. So we're hanging, and neighbor Tom (whom the dog has met before) comes across the street to sit on the porch with us. Dog is on porch, Tom approaches porch stairs, dog barkbarkbarks. I tell him NO, make him sit, and Tom proceeds past us and sits down. Dog barkbarkbarks again at the seated Tom. I tell him NO again.

      So, if you're still with me - I thank you for reading and I ask for your advice. What is this? Do I have an aggressive dog after all? Or is he just feeling better and more confident in his "job" as my dog and protector of things he thinks are ours?(the house, our neighbors porch). Is this going to escalate?

      More importantly - what should I do? I appreciate that he's barking and not snapping or lunging, but is it going to progress to that unless I address the behavior? How DO I address the behavior? I'm willing to do obedience classes or get a behaviorist's opinion if need be.

      Any and all advice gladly accepted. I really like this dog and I want to be a good owner, but now I'm kinda sorta terrified I have a Cujo lurking in there.
      I don't think you have an aggressive dog, he's being very appropriate in warning long, loud and early. If he were truly aggressive, you'd have had a bite by now.

      Instead what I think you have, is a slightly un-confident dog who needs direction from you. Rather than tell him "no!" I'd arm myself with treats and teach him to turn and face me. I'd teach him to ignore other people.

      One thing I would not do is give others treats to feed to him. That .might. come later but right now, he is unsure and to give others treat could make him conflicted where he would grab the treat. I'd hate to see a nice dog like this get labeled as a biter when he might just be a little sharky due to being unsure and really wanting that treat.

      You might also try to put some distance between him and the people he isn't sure about. If you are at the neighbors, sit further away from the steps, if you are out and about, allow or encourage him to go behind you or behind your chair.

      Good luck with him, he sounds like a lovely dog who landed with someone who loves him back.

      Comment


      • #4
        wow.........these answers sound much better than what i was thinking..........dogs get dementia too, and since you don't have a true age on him, he could be older than you think.......my lab started the random barking, but mostly at night.......then he would bark oddly at the other dogs, no particular one consistantly..........and then he would bark randomly at a person in the room, almost as if he had been startled............we didn't have an acurate age on my fella either, other than he was OLD......and the vet just chalked it up to dementia

        yeah, the other answers sound like a better, more viable option...........good luck, hope you are able to help him

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by Casey09 View Post
          Try an obedience trainer. Have you ever had a protective breed before? .
          Nope - haven't owned a dog since childhood, and those were lab or hound mixes. Never had experience with a high-drive smarty-pants type dog before. A good friend of mine has two very well-behaved wolf hybrids - I've learned quite a bit watching her interact with them and asking her for advice when necessary.

          Originally posted by threedogpack View Post

          I don't think you have an aggressive dog, he's being very appropriate in warning long, loud and early. If he were truly aggressive, you'd have had a bite by now.

          Instead what I think you have, is a slightly un-confident dog who needs direction from you. Rather than tell him "no!" I'd arm myself with treats and teach him to turn and face me. I'd teach him to ignore other people.

          Good luck with him, he sounds like a lovely dog who landed with someone who loves him back.
          Thanks! He really is a good guy, and I love him to death. I see what you both mean - he needs more direction and his attention needs to be on me. He doesn't need to make the decisions - I do. There's an obedience class starting up at the end of the month at a well-respected facility. I think I'll sign us up.

          This is what I get for owning only cats for the last 10 years. I need to re-learn how to "speak dog".

          Comment


          • #6
            Why do people insist on putting their faces in dog's faces? It's a very threatening thing to do. Sounds like his confidence got shaken a little.

            I think obedience classes are a great idea.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              I have no clue. Especially 90 lb German Shepherd faces. And the worst part of that story is the idiot snuck behind me 10 minutes later and did it again! She's lucky all she got was a bark in the face! (But I feel awful that I didn't see her coming and my poor dog had to do something about it).

              Comment


              • #8
                Some work with a good trainer sounds in order here. But first, have the vet do a basic exam on him and make sure his hearing/sight are OK. At least then you can rule out any physical issues that might be causing/contributing to the behavioral ones.

                For the life of me I can't understand why people insist on bending over dogs, smothering them and cooing at them. WTF people. Most dogs who aren't comfortable with this are really obviously not comfortable with this: they back up, they shrink from the smotherer, they cringe, they give smotherer the hairy eyeball, etc. It always amazes me how oblivious some people are to the dog's body language.
                Full-time bargain hunter.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Sunsets View Post
                  #1) So, if you're still with me - I thank you for reading and I ask for your advice. What is this? Do I have an aggressive dog after all? Or is he just feeling better and more confident in his "job" as my dog and protector of things he thinks are ours?(the house, our neighbors porch). Is this going to escalate?

                  More importantly - what should I do? I appreciate that he's barking and not snapping or lunging, but is it going to progress to that unless I address the behavior? How DO I address the behavior? I'm willing to do obedience classes or get a behaviorist's opinion if need be.

                  Any and all advice gladly accepted. I really like this dog and I want to be a good owner, but now I'm kinda sorta terrified I have a Cujo lurking in there.
                  First off, I think you're certainly doing everything right as far as socializing this dog. I do think that over the time you've had this dog, he's gotten to know and trust you and obviously neighbors, he's also gotten very protective of you. It could escalate so you are wise to be concerned.

                  The reason I say this is because for the last 7 yrs I had an Australian Cattle Dog that I adopted when she was 7 yrs and she was very much a protective, one-person and very loyal dog. Also the breed is a herding dog. When she first came, she was a bit standoffish and it took her a while to decide to trust me but once she did she was very protective in that once someone came and I spoke nicely to them, she would still stand or sit between the person and myself. She barked at anyone and anything(deer, fox, coons, birds even) in her territory-my farm, even the horses. She really wanted everyone and everything to leave. I would tell anyone coming to just ignore her, don't make eye contact and DON'T attempt to pet her. I had a couple of service guys who were sure as 'they got along with ALL dogs" and she snapped at both(didn't connect) when they did try to pet her. My AH brother came to visit and he is not an animal person so I figured he'd leave her alone after I told him not to try to pet her-just IGNORE her. Well day 2 of his visit he reachs out to pet her and she growled at him.

                  Could the barkbarkbark your dog is displaying now eventually lead to biting? Yes, it could.

                  I agree that possibly talking to a trainer, be it obedience or problem dog type trainer is a good idea.

                  I certainly commend you for being concerned. This dog sounds wonderful and I do hope for the best for both of you.
                  Sue

                  I'm not saying let's go kill all the stupid people...I'm just saying let's remove all the warning labels and let the problem sort itself out.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    well, I think it's GOOD that he's barking and looking to you- the lady in his face, he could have reacted by biting her face off, but instead he barked. And you did the right thing and got him out of there.
                    Just go with that- he barks, you check out what he's barking at, and either DO something to fix the situation, or if you think it's ok (like someone coming on your porch) come up with a cue to the dog that it's ok- not a NO, something like "Thanks but it's ok quiet now" said soothingly and praise when he quiets and settles. He should pick up fairly quickly on your cues.
                    Alerting to possibly "iffy" situations and looking to you for advice on how to proceed is what he was bred to do, so it's not surprising he's acting that way.
                    It never hurts to go to an obedience class, or just run through basic obedience at home often. Obedience training is just all about opening up lines of communication between dog and owner, so the owner can let the dog know what the dog needs to be doing now. And this practice can come in handy in all sorts of iffy situations that might arise in basic life.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Sunsets View Post
                      I have no clue. Especially 90 lb German Shepherd faces. And the worst part of that story is the idiot snuck behind me 10 minutes later and did it again! She's lucky all she got was a bark in the face! (But I feel awful that I didn't see her coming and my poor dog had to do something about it).
                      Sounds like the kind of idiot who will sue when she finally gets bit in the face.
                      You are what you dare.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Heh. She actually did get nicked on the side of the nose by a front tooth. She was sobbing in the bathroom when we left. Not only was she an idiot, I'm pretty sure she was stoned. My friends who stayed behind assured me she was fine, and even the bartender was like "Who does something that stupid???"

                        Thanks again for your comments. I knew you no-nonsense dog owners here would have some useful advice for me.

                        I think that my main issue is I'm having trouble communicating "thanks for the warning, but all is well" and then making sure that all is indeed well. I can get his attention pretty quick and make him sit/lie down, but then I'm not sure what to do from there. If he's still staring at the Scary Person like he's gonna bark, how can I redirect that? I assume lots and lots of food rewards for paying attention? Teach more tricks and make him perform instead of worrying about stuff?

                        I really do try and stay calm and mellow when I'm handling him (my wolf-dog-owning friend likes to tell me I'm "easy" around dogs), but now that the possibility that he might bark or, God forbid, nip at someone is in my mind I find myself getting worried. I'm sure that doesn't help.

                        Definitely signing up for a group obedience class. I need to work on this stuff in a busy environment.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by dacasodivine View Post
                          Why do people insist on putting their faces in dog's faces? It's a very threatening thing to do. Sounds like his confidence got shaken a little.

                          I think obedience classes are a great idea.
                          I think the obedience classes are a good idea, too, but for heavens sakes keep people's faces out of his. He has made it loud and clear that he is uncomfortable with that. Don't allow people to push themselves on him.
                          I do..not..like..people..in..my face..either. Ever talk to someone who insists on being in your space while they talk to you? I have and it makes me extremly uncomfortable. I've even backed away from them and they just keep coming.
                          Makes me want to bark, too. For a while I would ask people to just ignore him.
                          You know why cowboys don't like Appaloosas?" - Answer: Because to train a horse, you have to be smarter than it is.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Sunsets View Post

                            I think that my main issue is I'm having trouble communicating "thanks for the warning, but all is well" and then making sure that all is indeed well. I can get his attention pretty quick and make him sit/lie down, but then I'm not sure what to do from there. If he's still staring at the Scary Person like he's gonna bark, how can I redirect that? I assume lots and lots of food rewards for paying attention? Teach more tricks and make him perform instead of worrying about stuff?
                            Teach him a hand target, then use that to move him where you want him (behind you for example).

                            OB classes will be good for socialization but keep in mind the instructors in the class are not your JQ Public and he may not react to them. Still good for both of you to go tho.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Whoa, back up, the dog made contact with the lady's face?
                              I was going to post that maybe the dog knew something about the tree service guy that you didn't, or maybe the nice neighbor wasn't so nice, but the dog made contact?

                              I would muzzle the dog now, every time you go out in public. You don't know his past! You could be sued, lose your house/farm and your dog could be put down. So NOT worth it.
                              Take him to the vet to check him out for physical causes(senility, tumors etc), but for your sake muzzle him in public!

                              Comment

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