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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So on this forum, many people say dobes from show lines are 'black and tan labs' etc etc and there's pretty much no way they would actually ever be protective. I've pretty much believed that Josie would never be protective...she's incredibly sweet and good-natured with strangers. I've had two incidents this week that have made me think she was truly being protective. Once, my friend and I were sitting out back at about midnight. We heard something thump on my neighbors metal building. Josie charged the fence and was barking differently than usual, and deep growling. It kind of scared me, but she wouldn't listen and come back over- I thought someone was back there. Eventually a cat ran out. When she came and sat next to me, her hackles were raised all the way down her back.
A few days prior, we were sitting on the couch, when a guy passing out chinese menus came from the side of my porch. She did the same thing, charging the door, barking and showing her teeth. The guy took his chinese menu and left, lol.
Anyway, both times I praised her big time for not backing off. Just wondering if I should continue praising this behavior, or she will start acting like this every time there's not really a threat; like a kid taking a walk that passes our house.
 

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One thing I always do with my girls is when they see someone outside and they start barking, I go see what it is, then I tell them that all is well and get them to calm down, and tell them "good girls". That way they know that they have done a good job in watching over the house. I think that it is instinctive for them to guard what is theirs, and if they do that then they should be told they are doing a good job, not left to assume so.
Its kind of like if you are at work, and doing your normal job, and doing it very well, wouldnt you like it if your boss came by and said "good job!"? I see it somewhat the same way.

There were 2 nights a couple weeks ago where my husband was gone on a business trip, and my oldest girl, who normally sleeps in the living room, came to sleep in my bedroom. The first night she slept at the end of the bed on the floor, and my younger girl slept on her doggy bed next to our bed. The second night my older girl came in and curled up at the end of the bed on the floor, and at some point after I fell asleep she climbed into the bed with me. She is never allowed in the bed, but she knew that I was alone and wanted to be close to me. Whether she did it out of her protective instinct or just because she saw a chance to get in my bed I dont know, but she has not tried to get in that bed since, nor had she tried it before that.

I think they know when a little protection is needed, and I think we should encourage it or at least reward it.
 

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I would not encourage, as full-length hackles is a sign of fear/insecurity. Perhaps you need to take these situations as a sign that your dog may be going through a really late fear stage, and perhaps needs some more positive reinforcement for potentially frightening situations (perceived as threats by her, not you).

If you had said some drunk guy came charging at you with a beer bottle, and she proceeded to scare him into pissing himself, I would say it was protection, and good on her for doing a good job. However, neither the cat, nor the gentleman with flyers were threats, and your dog should be taught to recognize when it is and is not appropriate to lunge at people and objects.

I would actually encourage you to be working against this, in order to prevent some potentially very dangerous situations in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Wow, Okay...I didn't think she was afraid since she approached the threats. I'm not really sure what I should do now. We were going to start doing some tracking, do you suggest I see a private trainer instead? Now I'm worried...she has never acted fearful of anything out in public...fireworks, etc don't scare her, and she's a certified therapy dog who gets into bed with nursing home residents and plays with children.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Meant to add: she usually doesn't even bark when people approach the door, the guy walked through the yard and came up the side of the porch. I had the glass door open and I about pissed myself because I didn't see him approach, and I think that is what got the reaction out of Josie...he just came out of nowhere.
 

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I think when the guy with the fliers startled you that is why Josie reacted the way she did which is good I would have said good girl and let it go. She did what she was suppose to do maybe the guy with the fliers also startled her.How old is she again I never can keep track of everyone 's dogs ages.The dogs are quick to pick you on the owners body language you may have shown Josie you were startled and she picked up on it.
 

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I would just be mindful of her posture, her ears, where she is looking, if she freezes at anything, if she raises her hackles at anything else, etc.
If she's a certified therapy dog, you've obviously done well enough with her already - just pretend you've gone back a year or so, and are continuing the socialization period.
Dogs are always learning, right? So maybe something spooked her at some point, and it went unnoticed, or as I said, maybe she's just going through some strange really late fear period (which all dogs go through in varying degrees).

Just be mindful of your dog's behaviour, and keep up the positive associations, and all should be back to normal soon. Most fear stages last about 1.5-2 months, although that will vary from dog to dog as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks guys. She will be 3 in January. She really is a fantastic dog- by far the best dog I've ever had. She's so well behaved and sweet when I have her out (she goes everywhere she can with me). I'll keep working with her on her behavior here at home.
 

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I encourage Dreizehn's protective behavior. He is GREAT with strangers because he has been incredibly well socialized. However, every so often he will give a low growl at somebody that I find that I'm getting a weird vibe from (for every 500 people he meets this happens maybe once). When the situation passes I'll pat him on the side and tell him thank you. When somebody knocks on the door or rings the doorbell he trots to the door and barks 4 or 5 times. When I get to the door I put him in a sit and tell him he's a good boy, that I see what he's barking at, and I thank him. I see no problem with praising either of these situations. I want him to let me know if somebody is around the house and as long as he can seem to differentiate between a neutral stranger and somebody that gives a weird vibe then I have NO problem with the behavior as long as he remains under my control (mini brag, I took him to a festival the other day and there were a few clowns there, something he's never seen, and he was a complete gentleman around them. I was so happy because I thought they might freak him out). That being said, if I ever felt like I was losing control of him in a situation like that I'd take him to a trainer.
 

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It is so ironic that you posted this today because I was just contemplating the same issue with Reba.

I live in a fairly rural beach community that has "tourist seasons" and "low seasons".

Reba is so used to the low seasons that she alerts me whenever someone walks by our house (which is fine). But during the tourist season, we have so many people walking by and she alerts to all of those people. I would like her to differentiate between people walking by our house and people who actually approach our house, thereby warranting an alert.

What I have been doing so far is.....when people are just walking by and she alerts by barking at them, I go out and see what's up and if they are just walking by, then I say "good girl, enough" and she will quit barking. But I would really like to somehow teach her to make that distinction on her own. (Walking by the house is OK.....approaching the house means she barks)

I will add, one time a person that we knew approached our house and she started barking.....I went out and saw it was someone we knew and told her "enough" but she would not stop growling/barking.....turns out this person was REALLY drunk and I think she must have sensed that because she was not going to stop barking, no way!

ETA: she is very well socialized....she meets/greets tons of people of the beach daily

I am interested in replies to your thread, Megan
 

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Raised hackles do not actually indicate fear. It's only an indication of some kind of arousal. It could be aggressive, fearful, excited, etc. So hackles alone are not an indication that the dog is fearful, just that the dog is in a state of high arousal.
 

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MeadowCat, I'm going to have to disagree. From the education I've had, raised hackles indicates insecurity, or rather "uncertainty". While the cause of the uncertainty may be swayed by some for various reasons, most behaviourists would agree that an "uncertain" dog is a fearful one. That fear may be very brief and fleeting, and the situation may require very specific details to induce fear, but that is what the reaction is.
Any dog can have this type of reaction (raised hackles) to various situations, objects, or people; however, a well-socialized dog will have a very quick bounce-back, meaning it will recover very quickly and perhaps not give observers much opportunity to notice any undesirable initial responses.
There is nothing wrong with a dog being fearful of one thing or another; what matters is that the dog is taught/conditioned to bounce back quickly, and to not overreact to any situation that causes uncertainty.
 

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It depends on what you want from your dog, and how you feel your dog is actually acting (Afraid versus protective, etc.)

Elka will growl and bristle occasionally if a car pulls in next door, people are suddenly screaming in the street, if she hears doors slam, that kind of thing. She does it and rushes to the door, and looks at me (she didn't always look at me, we've worked on this). I either get up and look out, or not, and say "Thank you, all done." Sometimes, she'll do it without going all the way to the door, and I ask "Is somebody here? Go see!" and then proceed to "Thank you, all done." I appreciate her alerting me to Something Outside, but I call the shots when it comes to if we continue to pay attention to that.

Once she did it on a night when neighbors had their tires slashed (I heard the pop from inside my house) and I leashed her up and we did a "perimeter walk" before I called the "all done." I encourage it, but emphasize that it isn't her decision. Am I a trained professional? No. It's just a system that works for us. She hasn't yet done anything like that when we were out on a walk.
 

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Wow, Okay...I didn't think she was afraid since she approached the threats. I'm not really sure what I should do now. We were going to start doing some tracking, do you suggest I see a private trainer instead? Now I'm worried...she has never acted fearful of anything out in public...fireworks, etc don't scare her, and she's a certified therapy dog who gets into bed with nursing home residents and plays with children.
Your girl is turning 3 and mine is turning 11 years old / from your thread, they sound like a similar dog.
Our Amy is also certified in therapy (retired now) and part of her social training has been under fireworks & crowds.
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The raised hair on her rump, is not necessarily a sign of fear/afraid...or any indication of future problems to come.
Amy is totally protective of my wife.
- if she don't know you (men in particular) and the first time you visit, she will stand in front of her Mom
- she submissed a larger dog once, that was loose and got to within a few feet of biting my wife
- she went nuts on a guy that we knew once, and a week later he was charged with +20 break & enters / guy happened to be casing our place, when he didn't see my truck and knew I was not home...dobe protected my wife that night
- she has kept a few people on our front porch, until I called her off / and fine with the other 99% (barking, but no growling)
- in the car, if my wife is in a mall parking lot and some shady character walks up behind...she goes beserk

She will chase a stray cat but not cross the road.
I did train her not to chase the chipmunk, squirrel, love birds and wild baby bunny...that visits my feeder.

She grew up with the neighbor kids and a senior dog on the other side of my house...she has always protected these 3 properties.
Amy loves the regular mail man, and barks mad...if she is not let outside to greet him and get some love.

When I say "enough" she will calm down immediately and then I tell her she is a good girl and I give her a big wet kiss on the end of her nose...her rump hair goes down and she looks so happy, that she has pleased me.

Our dog started out in life as the submissive puppy, in the litter.
- our breeder told us that the sucky pup had to go to a most loving home...so we got the one, we wanted
I confidence trained her from day1, tons of socialization with 24/7 verbal communication.
She looks at me for direction and has very balanced instincts...I could not have asked for a better dog.
- she is waiting on the leather couch right now...until its time to hop into the queen size bed
I wouldn't change a thing, and have encouraged her to no bark / bark /or bark&growl, as she sees necessary.
- dobes can truly read people...this is why I love the breed so much
 

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MeadowCat, I'm going to have to disagree. From the education I've had, raised hackles indicates insecurity, or rather "uncertainty". While the cause of the uncertainty may be swayed by some for various reasons, most behaviourists would agree that an "uncertain" dog is a fearful one. That fear may be very brief and fleeting, and the situation may require very specific details to induce fear, but that is what the reaction is.
Any dog can have this type of reaction (raised hackles) to various situations, objects, or people; however, a well-socialized dog will have a very quick bounce-back, meaning it will recover very quickly and perhaps not give observers much opportunity to notice any undesirable initial responses.
There is nothing wrong with a dog being fearful of one thing or another; what matters is that the dog is taught/conditioned to bounce back quickly, and to not overreact to any situation that causes uncertainty.
We'll have to disagree on this. Every source I've ever consulted indicates that it's an arousal response. While it is often fear or uncertainty, it can also be something like a male dog sensing a female in heat. Raised hackles to me are an indication to look for other signs. If the dog is showing other signs of fear or uncertainty, then they are unsure. If not, though, I would not agree that it's a sign of uncertainty.

Great article on dog body language: ASPCA - Virtual Pet Behaviorist - Canine Body Language

From this website: The Function of a Dog's Hackles
"Sometimes, dogs may raise their hackles when they are overexcited and aroused rather than fearful. Generally, the meaning of raised hackles is determined by looking at other body language rather than focusing on the hackles alone."

And here: A Dictionary of Canine Body Parts - Whole Dog Journal Article
"Piloerection: Also known as “raised hackles,” this is simply a sign of arousal. While it can indicate aggression, dogs may also show piloerection when they are fearful, uncertain, or engaged in excited play."

And here: Responsible Pet Ownership Blog: Why Do Dogs Have Hackles?
"Piloerection can be caused by excitement, stimulation, arousal, being startled, fear or interest. It is rare that hackles are raised in an aggressive manner, though it does happen. A hunting dog’s hackles may rise when they are pointing a bird or catch a whiff of a pheasant in the brush; they are stimulated and react accordingly. An intact male dog scenting a female in heat in the neighborhood may raise his hackles in his arousal. A dog’s hackles can rise involuntarily due to a loud clap of thunder that startles them. Even the excitement of greeting a family member or canine friend can cause the hackles on a dog’s back to rise."

Again, I'm not disagreeing that Josie MAY have been uncertain here, just that hackles alone are not a determinant of fear/uncertainty.
 

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Definitely agree with Meadowcat - hackles can mean a lot of things. I dogsit for a dog who raises his hackles very often when PLAYING - he's definitely excited, not uncertain or aggressive. It's kind of funny, but he's one of those "easily aroused" dogs.

Regardless of what Ziggy barks at, I go and look and if it's something harmless, I tell him "enough, it's okay." I expect him to settle down once I give him the "all clear." I have only been in one or two situations where I had unsavory people approach me with Ziggy, and both times he growled/barked/stared and I praised him for that. Normally he is VERY good with people, but I'm pretty sure he can tell when I'm uncomfortable. He isn't keen on panhandlers approaching our car and honestly I don't mind that.
 

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I agree with Meadowcat, hackles alone are not enough to make a decision on what the dog is doing. Hackles means the dog is aroused, nothing more, nothing less.

I would certainly never encourage your dog barking and going nuts when he sees a cat, or when someone comes to the door. I woudl absolutely stop that type of behavior asap.
 

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Kyrah has just done something simular. She is a little over 2yrs. I can usually call her off of anything she is barking at in the backyard. But the man on the roof next door this yr sent her into overdrive. It was quite beautiful but if I was on the receiving end maybe it wouldnt be. Every hair on her back from neck to the tail was raised. She was standing with her legs kinda apart, buffed up & definately focused. I did get her & Tippy back and into a down. Which last yr when this happened they left it be when I said so. But this time as soon as I went inside and he moved they were back at it. I decided to just get them to stop barking then I took them inside. I decided this is not a normal occurence and maybe I should want a reaction like that should someone ever try to come over the fence.

I also go and check to see what they are barking at. I tell them "thank you, enough." They normally stop but if they dont stop barking I put into their spot, dog pillow in the living room, for a minute or so. Maybe every other week now we still play "look at that" game at the french doors while people are passing. Practicing the "thank you, enough."
 

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I would not encourage, as full-length hackles is a sign of fear/insecurity.
As a general rule you are correct, however some dogs hackle up that don't have fear issues. There are other sign's that need to be looked at aside from just hackles; the ears being up or down, tail position, etc. Where the hackles begin to raise is also very telling of their nature. Hackles also raise when excited or certain senses are aroused, some dogs do it some don't.

My dog is big on showing hackles, when its a stranger at the house the hackles begin to raise at his shoulder blades as time elapse's they will continue down the body. All the while, the ears are up, the tail is all the way up, if they are at the door he stands on it to get on their eye level. Petting his shoulder blades will raise them too along with high praise.

One the flip side, there is a big difference between chasing a cat or scaring off a delivery boy and having the substance to bite, hang in there and fight off a determined criminal.
 

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Luci alerts whenever someone comes to the house, unless she knows them/their car. She used to bark whenever someone walked down the street, when I first rescued her, now she'll go to the window and she may do one alert bark then she looks at me and I tell her good girl, that's enough, or I thank her or whatever. I like that she's so in tune with our surroundings that she lets me know when someone is in our yard. One day a guy came to the door, a salesman of some sort or something, I was a little uneasy b/c he wasn't taking "no I don't want you to come in and demo your product" for an answer and Luci was sitting next to me the whole time just watching. She had barked when he came to the door but then I put her in a sit next to me while he was giving his spill. Well, like I said, he wasn't taking my no and it was making me a tad uncomfortable and the guy went to scratch his head and when he raised his arm up I don't know if Luci thought he was going to hit me or what (she was abused in the past) but when he raised his hand/arm she immediatly did her low, I mean business, growl...... she didn't move from my side, just started growling low in her throat and she was showing a little bit of teeth. Needless to say the guy left very quickly. Luci watched out the window until his car pulled out of the drive then she was back to her normal, sweet self.

Sorry for the novel, but I do encourage natural protective instincts so long as she listens to me when I tell her that everything is "ok".
 
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