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Dog Overprotective of Others?

213 Views 5 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Shadowfox
I've been observing a reoccurring behaviour in my girl Gemma and wanted to get some opinions on why she does it, and perhaps how to curb it. It's long, but I'd appreciate the read.

Gemma is well socialized and makes friends easily. However, she sometimes has difficulty distinguishing between play and aggression when vocalisation is involved. I'll give one scenario to illustrate it, but this has happened a few times. She used to be very frightened of barking dogs when she was a puppy, but we walk past many barking dogs every morning now (she's 4) and she has learnt to ignore it.

She was playing with a daschund who she already knew, and everything was normal. A bull arab (with owner) came over and wanted to play, introductions were made and everyone was happy. All three dogs ran around, played chase, a little light wrestling (Gem doesn't do rough play). Then another pair of little dogs came over. Same thing, introductions made, everyone got along so leashes were taken off and they went off to play. Gemma came over to check in with me when one of the new little dogs started barking excitedly while wrestling with the daschund. This is where she reacts.

She ran over immediately, pushed the two of them apart with her body and snapped at the small dog who was barking, pinning him. Important to note her teeth made no contact, and once he was pinned she backed off. Gem has helped educate foster puppies for me before, so I'd seen her tell other dogs to back off before and didn't want to interfere just yet. Everything went back to normal, until the little dog got overexcited again and started barking and she went running in, hackles up. I didn't let her intercept this time, I recalled her and put her in a down stay for the rest of the play session so she could observe but not interfere. She was calm and relaxed except for when the little dog started barking again.

This behaviour only ever occurs when another dog barks at her or a dog she already has a bond with. She didn't care when the little dog barked at the bull arab, just the daschund. She acts as though the other dog is trying to harm the dog she cares about. The same dog could bark at its owner to throw the ball and she doesn't bat an eye.

I'm happy to continue just separating her when other dogs become vocal, she has impeccable recall, but would love to hear other theories or potential solutions.
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It reminds me a bit of the video of the dog in the dog park. Keeping the more thuggish dogs in check, and reminding them of their manners.

Perhaps she doesn't like being barked at, and assumes that the other dogs she knows share that dislike?

Intentionally taking her where she can sit and watch friendly but loud interactions with familiar dogs may help, if that's the case. Aside from that, maybe earplugs? ;)
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@JoanneF thank you for the video - that does seem to be what she's doing, just considerably less subtle 😅

What's your opinion on it? Is it bad manners on Gemma's part? The owner of the other dog usually seems a bit miffed or put off by her behaviour, which makes me feel guilty about her behaviour. Is interfering to diffuse the situation when I notice she's aroused the correct thing? I believe in letting dogs work out their social hierarchy on their own to a certain extent, but it can be hard to identify when higher intervention is needed.
What's your opinion on it? Is it bad manners on Gemma's part?
I don't think it is bad manners - I think she is doing the right thing. I bet she'd be a very good mother if she were to have a litter (not suggesting she should, but it sounds like a mother teaching the pups manners).

As we find so often, other owners aren't usually so tuned in to dog behaviour as we are. Maybe for some, explaining she is being protective of the victim would reassure them. But as you know, some folks are so unaware that their darling Fluffikins could possibly be a thug that they don't want to hear it!
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The owner of the other dog usually seems a bit miffed or put off by her behaviour
Like JoanneF said, I wouldn't necessarily base right, wrong, or change on other folks. Respect, consider--as a civilized person, sure. Remember though, everyone who feels miffed by an off-leash dog with poor recall charging us, probably has an owner who thinks the same 😉 🙄

But back to your original post. I agree Gemma is being pretty vocal about enforcing the rules of engagement, which isn't a bad thing really. I think you're doing good, intervening and recalling her when it passes a certain point. But, if you want, you could try systematically either desensitizating er to dogs barking at other dogs [starting with unknown] or perhaps having her coming to you once play gets barky--eventually chaining the barky play as a cue to go to you.
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