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So, we see a whole ton of GSDs at work. Now whether these are well bred or not is up for debate and I would actually assume that most are not good representations of their breed.

My question is, that with only one exception, every GSD that comes into work is scared out of their mind. How does that fit into the breed as a whole? I guess I've always assumed that because they do stuff like police and protection work that it would be a rather fearless and bold breed. It pretty much never fails (like I said there is one exception but that dog used to do schutzhund work, is retired now) that they are incredibly frightened. They all seem very sweet with their owners but if they have to stay for anything they spend the whole time fighting and trying to get away. With a couple of them it becomes fear aggression but it's always very obvious that fear is the cause.

So how did this happen? Is it a result of a poorly bred/trained GSD or do they usually get their confidence from their handler? It's always puzzled me and with so many GSD people here I was hoping someone could help me work out this mystery.
 

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I believe it is a combination of a lack or socialization and training for the most part. However, there are a LOT of BYB's out there with GSD's and there are temperment issues as well.

My Vet is very happy that my dog has never shown ANY fear. However, I have taken her every where with me and never played into any fear she has exhibited. When I first got her she was terrifed of cars when I took her for walks. I ignored it and she was fine in pretty quick order.

These dogs need to be gotten out to see things and people. They are sensitive and intelligent dogs. Socializing them is very very important.

However, I think it is important for ANY breed. I have never owned a fearful dog and I think it is because I take them places and do things with them. They get out and see a lot of stuff.
 

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Without knowing the exact circumstances, I would guess it's the fault of the owners. Shepherds are extremely protective, and need to be well socialized; within a family, they will sometimes bond more closely with what they perceive to be the leader of the household, and, if not properly trained, will sometimes try to guard him against the other family members.

The behavior you're describing definitely seems unusual to me; GSDs were the first dogs I'd ever really gotten to know well, and, if anything, they tended to be overly dominant. As you say, fearfulness is not a useful trait for police, security, and service dogs. Where do you work? Are they skittish, or are they protecting their masters from what appears to be a horde of hostile dogs?
 

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Where is work? What constitutes a ton of GSDs? What/who are the owners of these dogs? Are these dogs police/schutzhund titled dogs? The variables are mind boggling. GSDs well bred or not still have the same problems with idiot owners as any other breed, they do not have a stupid owner gene in their DNA that protects them from idiots.
 

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I'd have to agree with the socialization and training. Lacey was a very fearful dog when we got her in January. Everytime anyone came in the house she'd pace back and forth with her hackles up and her tail between her legs and bark/growl at them. She's gotten much better with lots of socialization. She's still iffy acting at Petco and doesn't want strangers to pet her, but she tolerates them now rather than being afraid.
 

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My question is, that with only one exception, every GSD that comes into work is scared out of their mind. How does that fit into the breed as a whole?
It's pathetic as a whole >.< They shouldn't be that way. They ARE a fearless and bold breed...when bred properly. Most likely what you're seeing are BYB/Puppy Mill Shepherds and their temperaments will be lacking because temperament isn't being bred for.

Now, there are of course some "well bred" GSDs from "respectable" "reputable" breeders that a downright spooks....but those breeding and showing and health testing that produce those spooks or overly aggressive animals are FAR fewer than those breeding to make money or to give Jonny and Janey an experience of "the miracle of birth".

Also, temperament is genetic as well as environmentally influenced. Sometimes it's caused by breeder ignorance, other times the genes just didn't match up well in the temperament department with that particular pair.

I've known a couple GSDs from various well known reputable hard working breeders. The breeder did everything right and the owner let the dog down by not socializing properly. In other cases, both the breeder AND the owner did everything right, and the dog just had poor nerves and weak character constitution. It happens, and you then have two options...returning the dog to the breeder if it is a liability and receiving a replacement from a different litter, or keeping the dog and managing the issues. Depending on the severity of the issue you can keep the puppy AND receive a replacement puppy (a good breeder will offer a replacement either way).

GSDs most certainly get confidence from their handler, though some are DEFINITELY full of more boldness and bravado at a young age (that's just personality)!

GSDs are by nature and description supposed to be aloof towards strangers. Aloof does NOT mean unfriendly, so that is definitely not what you are seeing. However, what IS normal that you are seeing is that normal is how sweet they are with their owners. The breed actually tend to be a "one man dog" (which is what I like about them). They love their family, but most certainly belong to ONE person in their mind. They just tolerate everybody else xD

This is Strauss with the new baby at the house...the baby came long after Strauss did. The baby is not at ALL (well, wasn't xD) part of Strauss's pack, but he seemed to instinctively know that this wasn't something to hurt or be afraid of. In fact, he loves the little bugger! The baby was pretty easily assimilated, and while the dog is most certainly never left alone with said baby, I trust my dog. Part of this is training, but a LARGE part is temperament, good nerve, and understanding the difference between friend foe.

THIS is what a GSD should be:


 

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I Love it.
This is Strauss with the new baby at the house...the baby came long after Strauss did. The baby is not at ALL (well, wasn't xD) part of Strauss's pack, but he seemed to instinctively know that this wasn't something to hurt or be afraid of. In fact, he loves the little bugger! The baby was pretty easily assimilated, and while the dog is most certainly never left alone with said baby, I trust my dog. Part of this is training, but a LARGE part is temperament, good nerve, and understanding the difference between friend foe.

To be able to say that you trust your dog and then to have the good common sense to not leave "The Strauss dog" alone with baby tells me more about Xeph than any dog shows/trials placements etc will ever do. Now we got to get newbies to read this post.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Where do you work? Are they skittish, or are they protecting their masters from what appears to be a horde of hostile dogs?
Sorry, I should have been clearer. I'm a vet tech, so referring to the GSDs we see in for care, whether routine or ill. They are popular in this area and we see quite a few each week. In rooms with their owners present they tend to be more bold and protective, but the second we are working on them without owners around they all seem to get very fearful. I don't really know backgrounds on most of these dogs. The exception is that we have one absolutely wonderful GSD who comes in that is a joy to work with. In talking with his owner I found out he is titled Schutzhund but being 9 now he has retired.


Thank you all for the answers. I do suspect most come from BYBs or puppy mills. Of course, when we ask, the owners usually say a breeder, but that doesn't give any info as to what type and being we are only about an hour from puppy mill central in PA that seems to be where most dogs we see are from :(.

I am very glad to hear that this is not what the breed should be. While I'm going to have my hands too full in the near future to deal with another dog for a few years I have always loved GSD and would like to add one to the family some day. I've been a bit nervous about ever being able to add one though when seeing how they behave at work. It's reassuring to know that there are still good breeders out there they have GSDs with proper temperaments.
 

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Also, at vet clinics, dogs as a whole tend to act differently than they would say, out on the street being walked. Some of them have had bad experiences at the vet because of problems, and the vets a "scary" person.
The vet that put Smokey down said that he was one of the few that come in excited to see the vet (he was all wiggles) whereas Lily almost has to be dragged into the vets office and she's only had a microchip and shots done there. Poor Smokey had been through all kinds of poking, prodding, and blood tests.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
You are right that dogs will act different around us, but even so most breeds seem to have a range. Some are resigned, some are scared, some are happy, some are aggressive. That's actually what struck me about the GSDs, the fact that they really only seem to range from scared to very scared and kinda miss having the range that I see on most other breeds.

For example, with labs right off the top of my head I can name ones that range from super friendly to super aggressive. The same with yorkies and shih tzus and pits and goldens. I can only think of the one exception I talked about with GSDs.

This is not to say I think this is normal and what a well-breed GSD should be like, which is why I asked. I'm having trouble wording this but I'm gonna try... The GSD should be a faithful and intelligent dog, so I was wondering if you did a 180 on that because of poor breeding and/or socialization that's how you end up with the dogs I see. Sort of how a good guardian dog should be tolerant of all friendly people but if you breed poorly or don't socialize you can have very aggressive dog no matter if it's a friendly stranger introduced by an owner or not.
 

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All dogs are skittish and wary by nature. They are not born bold, confident and able to easily cope with new places, strange sights or sounds. That is part of their heritage from the wolf.
We talk alot about socialization but, I think that term is slightly misleading. It's more about building confidence to handle the new or 'unusual' situations.
The big problem (which was touched on earlier) is building the confidence without the ever present owner standing at their side....basically, the handler becomes a crutch and the confidence level drops like a rock when the owner steps out of the room.
But, I suspect that the average owner of a GSD thinks of Rin Tin Tin, police dogs, war dogs and skimp on the training.....afterall, it's a GSD.....they come tough and capable.
 

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Xie...to show you how "rare" the Good GSD is...there are SEVERAL that are clients at the local vet clinic (of course) as they are popular in my area as well. Out of the dozens that are treated there, all the vets, vet techs, and receptionists say that mine are the only ones they look forward to seeing and aren't afraid to deal with. Mine are the only ones they know they don't have to muzzle.

My dogs have also been going to the vet ROUTINELY at least once a month since they were 8 weeks old. Now of course they aren't there every month because they're sick...we do a monthly weigh in :) It helps me keep track of weight and it also teaches them that the vet's office is a GREAT place! Why? Because after they stand on the scale they get TONS of petting and everybody gives them cookies!

The vets are all great with my guys and after every exam/shot they are given cookies because they've been so well behaved. They have learned "If I stand still and don't cause a fuss while I'm being needle poked, I get food!" It's conditioning like anything else.

I WILL say that if I were to leave my dog alone with the techs/vets (which I will NEVER DO aside from when they have surgeries) he would be an absolute jerk. He knows who the boss is, and it would take a firm but fair take for him to be controllable. He wouldn't bite or anything foolish like that, but he'd certainly pull a mule and either plant his butt with a look that says "Yeah, SO not moving." Or he'd bark and "scream". "Mom is THAT way, I'm not going THIS way!"

Now if I'm there to tell him "Quiet! Go!" away he goes, accepting defeat :p Shepherds are just that way with their people...terribly attached.

"The other one" who doesn't live with me (client dog). He'd never been handled by this boy before (my brother). Calm and quiet as could be, and incredibly patient.




Strauss on campus being touched by people he's never met. He's in a sit stay and I'm taking the picture. People hovering all over him (I was watching for stress signals...he was just diggin' the attention). "You can touch me...whatever."
 

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He has an adoring public xD
 

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Atka often goes to the Vet with one of the cats to act as "support" for kitty..... and kitties seem to be calmer with Atka along (especially Oliver).

Two weeks ago we had to take my Mom's cat to her vet (cat was very sick and so I took her in.. kittyand is better now). Atka had to come with me because she is "my" dog (like Xeph is saying.. she will stay with Dad BUT Dad has Alzheimers and will let her out will nilly). So, Atka went to the vet as "support." This surprised the vet techs and office help (not my vet.. a different place). Atka was very wel behaved.. I put her in a lie down and wait and so she does with no fear and no aggression. I train for this.

Atka is NEVER nervous at the vet and just likes everyone (at two she is not aloof with strangers..yet.. and I don't really encourage her to be aloof.. but that is me and my Breed Ambassador dog).

Atka has come to the vet for Oliver to get a check up and has come to the vet with me to pick up meds for cats.. she really does go everywhere with me. I wish my employer wasn't so anal.. she could come to work with me otherwise (what wrong with them anyhow! :p ).

Tomorrow Atka goes to the Vet for her annual and Fireball Kitty is coming with for a blood test and abbreviated exam (weigh in). They never muzzle Atka.. she would have a hard time kissing their faces if they did.... :rolleyes:

I agree with Xeph.. it seems these GSD's have their admiring fans!!! It has gotten so bad that if I take her to an event with a crowd and people clap she assumes it is for her and she does a little happy dance.... *sigh*
 

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It has gotten so bad that if I take her to an event with a crowd and people clap she assumes it is for her and she does a little happy dance.... *sigh*
Mouse and Justin are the same way.

Justin has FINALLY become part "My dog".

I left him with someone (Someone I know, so don't be alarmed :D) to go grab something from the crating area. When I came back, Justin was spinning and started DRAGGING the poor person towards me!

Now, usually I don't condone this kind of behavior, however, this was the very first time Justin had ever done that, and in a GSD that is a BIG DEAL. That tells me I've been working with him long enough that I'm important to him. We've been working better together because of it.

I can also tell you that Justin works a LOT harder in the conformation ring when people clap for him!
 

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How old was Justin when he did this dragging to get to you behavior? Just wondering. I think Atka will be there in a year.. she is still thinking that being a puppy is fun.

She can be very amusing....
 

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This was just two or three weeks ago :p

He's not mine and doesn't live with me, but spends a lot of time with me because of the showing.

Strauss was doing it by 6 months and I worked very hard to get it under control
 
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