Is she friendly?

#gsd #germanshepherd #pyrrhagram

“Is she friendly?”

This has to be the most common question I get from people while walking Pyrrha.

And it’s fair. German shepherds have a fairly negative image in the public eye, particularly for generations above my own. They are almost always portrayed in the media as either one of two things: a hard-working police dog, or a vicious guard dog.

But I always think: Would you ask me that question if I was walking a lab? Or a golden retriever? Or a poodle?

In truth, I don’t mind the question so much, because I’d rather the person ask about approaching her than just run up and smack her on the head with a well-intentioned pat. But it does bring to mind the issue of breed stereotyping.

Do you feel like people ask you certain questions about your dog based on his or her appearance?

Watching TV with my two favorites. #lovethem #gsd
Watching TV with dad.

Regardless, hope you and your pups have a happy weekend!

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16 thoughts on “Is she friendly?

  1. I often get asked if Huxley is friendly, usually after they exclaim “Lassie!” It’s good for a laugh but I’ve always seen it as another way of asking “can I pet him?” The question I get way too often is about Brychwyn: “is that an Australian Shepherd-corgi mix?” It wouldn’t bother me if it weren’t so often that the asker is either annoyed they guessed wrong or they just don’t believe me that Cardigan’s date back to 1200 BC.

    1. The fact that people ask you if Huxley is friendly makes me think that maybe part of it also just has to do with size, since rough collies are usually portrayed as super-friendly dog heroes (e.g., Lassie). And like you, I get annoyed when people misidentify breeds, even though I shouldn’t expect the general public to have such specific, deep, weird knowledge of breeds. 🙂

  2. I was once bitten by a sheltie; one of my daughters by one of those small white fluffy mixes. Before approaching any dog I ask if he/she is friendly. Just a habit a guess.

    As the owner of five pits/pit mixes I get asked all sorts of questions: is it friendly? does it bite? why would you own a dog like that? is that a pit bull? has it ever turned on you? It’s difficult to decide on how to answer, really just depends on my mood for the day.

  3. I used to get asked that when my GSD, Odin, was alive. In fairness, he was a healthy 100lbs which, can be quite intimidating. I usually let them know before they could ask though. He loved to meet people, unlike Loki, so I wanted to give him that chance if the person wanted. He was a favorite with all the kids in the neighborhood.

    When he was quite young and only about 40lbs, I had an older lady that would go out of her way to cross the street when we were out walking. I felt more sad for her than upset because she was missing out on a great experience with an amazing pup.

    FYI, as I read this I thought, “Loki is very friendly, just not with strangers ;-)” lol.

  4. I sometimes get asked that question, too, with Elli. Dalmatians have the wild-and-crazy energetic stereotype. Some even assume that all Dals will bite if given the chance. Most of the time, I don’t let people pet Elli unless she goes up to them, which is interestingly becoming rarer as she ages.

    Last week, a kid asked me if she’d bite… and I said: only if you’re mean to her. 🙂 Haha.

  5. Growing up, one of our last family dogs was a Pug. We lived in a very rural, southern area, and no one there had ever seen one. We were asked by people, most of which had already asked, if he was “a friendly pit bull or a mean one”. Weirdly enough, everyone loved my Chow Chow in that same area, and she was a brat that only liked me and was very protective of me. The snorty, snotty brick-house of a dog scared some people, but the big white fluffy bear drew them in.

    I always ask to pet dogs, even if they bound up to me first and jump all over me (I try to give owners the benefit of the doubt that responding to that positively might interfere with training but I’m pretty sure most just laugh because they think it’s funny or cute). I people watch, and dog watch, in the park a lot, seeing how everyone interacts, and I’ve realized that with my next Malinois, I’m going to have to be firm with strangers and people sticking their hands in a dogs face as a ‘greeting’ or ‘introduction’ and people that just run up and start petting and baby talking close to the dogs face. What is it with people?

  6. I’m a 30 year old professional and I own an amstaff/hound mix (65 lbs) and a pitbull who is about 50 lbs (so really doesn’t look very big). I usually don’t get questions. I preferably get nice people who say my dogs are cute, happy or friendly but more often people cross the street, pick up their children or little dogs, make a wide turn around me. Sometimes if they are feeling super generous they explicitly tell me my dogs should ‘die’, or ‘they are monsters’ when they are being super friendly and wagging their tales at them.

    I get overwhelmingly offended for a few reasons (lets forget just how rude it is and know that I don’t want to pick on people who have a legitimate fear of dogs); I value my dogs companionship and anyone who would think I would let something happen to their child/pet/person while I was walking my dogs is beyond my comprehension. I want my dogs around for as long as possible and like any other responsible pet owner, we wouldn’t want to risk anything that would put them in danger like letting my dogs attack an innocent bystander (to be very clear they are super lovable and very friendly). To add to that, I have never seen anyone (thankfully) just set their dog on someone in broad day light.

    My dogs are both rescues which come with it’s own sets of challenges. I feel you should always ask, and you should supervise children around any dogs and teach them how to behave (the kids). My amstaff is petrified of kids, so when kids approach he howls and barks and shakes or backs up, I can’t tell you how many parents encourage children to RUN up to me, and put me in a bad and frankly embarrassing situation to scream at them and their children while trying to desensitize/train my dog.

  7. Oh boy! This could end up being a long reply!

    We get the friendly question all the time! I don’t mind people asking, I’d rather they ask than just reach out and grab my dog to find out later. We once had a really scary incident with Morgan when we were out in public and since then, we don’t hesitate to tell people that she’s not friendly. She is, but only with the right people. We won’t know it’s a wrong person until it’s too late, though. But we get the question asked almost as frequently with the Greyhounds as we do with the Shepherds. My take on it is that certain people can read dog body language well enough to know, and others just don’t know how to read dogs at all. I mean, for me, I can tell on approach how most dogs are feeling about me.

    The questions that usually really rankle for me are when people ask us about the Greyhounds. I understand asking if they were racing dogs. However, I don’t understand assuming that my dogs were horribly abused. If you ever meet a Greyhound, they are extremely well socialized most of the time and love people. I can’t see dogs who were abused behaving the way most of the Greyhounds that I know do, and it just bugs me that people assume that they were. I am not saying that nothing bad ever happens, but there are bad experiences in a lot of things if you look for them. You can read stories of abuse of service dogs, police dogs and other dogs with jobs. *sigh* I really must step off my soapbox before I start on the skinny comments.

  8. Remy is a pitbull, so yes, we get certain questions or responses based on his appearance. The thing is, I am surprised by how many more positive reactions we get than negative ones.

    Sure, some people have warned me that, one day, my dog will inevitably kill me in my sleep, then kill our cats, then escape from the house and kill every small child in our neighborhood. And then I laugh and say “I’m sorry you think that”.

    But really, the vast majority of people who approach Remy are really nice. I think the fact that he is pretty handsome and (mostly) well-behaved helps a lot. After a year and half with this dog, it still surprises me though. And makes me smile.

    It’s so foolish to judge a dog on breed alone. I’ve known several Golden Retrievers who bit people with little to no provocation. Meanwhile, in two years as a shelter vet tech, we never once had a pitbull or a GSD returned for biting a person. Go figure…

  9. We get just the opposite, people assume he’s stranger friendly because he has a congenial face. So many times people will just approach and try to pet him. He has even given a low growl or freezes up, especially if it’s a man. Why do people assume that every dog loves to be petted by strangers? They have boundaries just like humans do. He does like to be petted but on his terms, i.e. not by people he doesn’t know.
    Now I try to intercept by saying that he is afraid of new people. And do you know some people will still try to pet him? One lady even told me that all dogs love her and she’d make him not afraid any more. Sheesh!

  10. I will always remember, a couple years ago, when I had my now late Margie (Border terrier mix, so small) at our booth in the Home and Garden Show. A very young girl walked up, looked at me and asked, “May I pet your dog?” Margie properly sat, waiting for her. “Please!” And she did just right, under her chin, and then petted her body very gently but not fearfully. She was with her aunt and her mom then showed up, asking her if she had asked – of course, we all assured her she had. What a shining example of how to approach a dog!

  11. With Sam, our German Shepherd, we get a variety of reactions. The main being ‘he looks like a wolf’, and ‘look at the size of him’, both of which I suppose are true! We have had some strange offers to buy him, and also breed from him, neither of which are even a possibility of course.
    You’re right about German Shepherds having a ‘bad name’, but I think perhaps because Sam is white, and you don’t see as many of those around (well we don’t anyway) people are more fascinated by him. Some are even surprised when we say he is a Shepherd.
    I personally have never met another white Shepherd, but he was in the rescue with his five siblings so somewhere around here there should be five more! I have seen a couple of black Shepherd puppies around lately. Adorable of course!

  12. By far the most common remarks I get about my dogs are comments concerning the mongrel history of my dog… E.g. “You can’t see what breeds are in that one, eh!”

    … I have purebred, and several champion, border terriers.

    But even when I tell the person this, normally their response is, “I think someone is having you on.” (i.e. You are being misled.)

  13. It’s so funny because people always ask that about Emmett – who is the friendliest, people-lovingist dog in the world – because of how he looks (pit). No one EVER asks about Lucas. Instead, they rush up gushing, “He’s so BIG! Look at his EARS!” Which he does not like. At all. So I have to say, “He’s not friendly.” I wish people would always ask – not necessarily “is he friendly” – but at least “May I pat him?”

  14. Is she friendly? I honestly get asked that every time I take my girl out. I, like yourself know why. She is tarnished by bad media, uninformed people and her looks don’t help her much either. You guessed she is a Rottweiler.

    But my first Rottie, ‘Karma’ was treated the same even though we raised her with 4 boys and the boys should have been the ones with the warning label.

    I did actually train Karma as a security dog and the most difficult thing me and the professional dog trainer had to get her to do was to actually bite. It seemed so stressful for her but after that day she no longer would nip my boys or play overly rough with me. Seems like she finally understood herself how powerful she was.

    So asking whether she is friendly people should be asking owners do they know their dog well enough to allow them to pet them maybe.

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