Sunday, September 21, 2008

Day at the Park

Image by nismax95 via FlickrI learned something today. Took Sasha to the 2nd Annual Smoky Mountain Pet Fair sponsored by the Blount County Humane Society. I got all excited when a lady approached me to point me in the direction of the East Tennessee German Shepherd Club tent. "Oooh coool! I get to meet more Shepherd people, see the dogs they've rescued, etc, etc." She even offered to give Sasha some free "GSD Friendly" treats, made without corn since the breed has a tendency to be intolerant of corn.
So after a little more wandering Sasha and I make it to the tent. There are crates at both ends with big, beautiful shepherds in them and I proceed to introduce myself to the nearest one.
Now, let me pause (paws) here for a moment and explain a bit about Sasha. She's a Momma's Girl. Big time. Has been since the day we brought her home. I've worked very hard to socialize her since she spent the first 3 months of her life in a pen full of her siblings with very little human interaction. I've taken her to dog parks, pet stores, parks, walking trails... basically anywhere a dog is allowed. She's ridden in the car for countless miles, running errands with me and on trips to the parks. She is a very well behaved girl around other people and dogs... remains quite shy. Some dogs are just that way, and her "questionable" breeding only compounds the problem. This is considered a "fault" for a German Shepherd and I am aware of that. This is why, even though she is AKC registered, I have never pursued showin"Mommy's leaving you, Boogie."Image by nismax95 via Flickrg or competing her in any way. She just couldn't handle it at this time. While time can only tell whether that will change, my constant working with her is making progress. And I'm proud of that.
Now... with that being said. The breed standard also does not state that a German Shepherd Dog be mean or agressive around strangers. That's stuff people train into them. And it's wrong. Any good rescue organization would recognize these traits in a dog and work diligently to correct them before bringing said dog into a potential stressful and dangerous situation. I don't keep Sasha away from strangers because while she may show fear, she has NEVER shown agression. The first sign of something like that and there would be alot of one-on-one trainging done before she went out in public again.
So anyway... here's the story I've spent all this time leading up to. I walk around the side of the table after speaking to the lady who tracked me down for a few moments and letting Sasha try her homemade treats (which she ate, but I think only to not be rude.) There in a wire crate (the other dog was in a plastic crate and very calm) is another big, beautiful Shepherd. He was looking at us as we walked slowly towards him. Suddenly with us still over 5 feet away, he lunges at the side of the crate barking wildly. Sasha practically ran THROUGH my leg. I'm standing there shocked!
Obviously this guy has some dog aggression issues. Then why was be brought to the Pet Fair where people are walking around with dogs of all sizes, ferrets and even snakes!? Why was he sitting out in the open like that? Did they honestly NOT KNOW he had these issues? They labeled themselves as a German Shepherd Rescue. They had photocopies of the breed standard on the table. All kinds of AKC pamphlets next to the dog talking about the traits of the breed, why proper training is so important, etc. And this dried-up excuse for a "rescue worker" had the nerve to scold ME for bringing my dog there. Yeah, I actually got told "you don't bring a dog up to another dog like that." Uhh.. funny. Sasha had met and sniffed practically every other dog in the park already that day and NONE of them ever so much as showed a tooth. But this dog wouldn't allow us within 5 feet of his crate? And if we were so wrong for being there, why the hell wasn't she paying attention and stopping us before we got there?"OOOH, That feels soooo good!"Image by nismax95 via Flickr
About an hour later, once I noticed they had taken him out for a walk (dodging everybody else in the process so he wouldn't lunge while on the leash). We made out way back over to the tent to look at the photos of the rescue dogs. I was still curious about the club. We were discussing the foster program and the same lady I first met was telling me about the white shepherd she had with her. He was a foster, but then she decided to keep him. While we are talking, the cranky lady and the unsociable Shepherd come back. The white shepherd is in front of the lady I'm speaking to, laying calmly under the table. The other dog comes in and immediately lunges (old lady barely hanging on, luckily the guy next to her grabbed the leash too) at the white shepherd. And the white sheps owner actually apologized to HER!?
I decided at that point that Sasha and I didn't need a GSD club. This group, while claiming to know alot about the actual breed, knows nothing about the behavior of the dogs themselves. When someone feels they have to apologize to the owner of such an unruly and obviously untrained dog... there's no hope for getting good training tips and advice from such a group. Sad, just sad. There's probably several people who witnessed the same dog aggression out of that dog that I did today. And while I recoginize it for what it truly is (lack of training and an owner/handler which is unrespected by the dog and shows no authority) others will look at that dog and blame it on the German Shepherd breed. :(
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