Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Why Does My Herding Dog Seem to Hate Labs?

| 164 Comments

 Training your German ShepherdIf your herding dog reacts badly to sporting breeds, often Labs in particular, you’re not alone.

“Herding” can mean anything from gathering a few sheep in the Scottish highlands to managing thousands of sheep in Australia to taking on an uncooperative bull in Texas to acting as a living fence in Germany. The differences each of these histories makes in the behavior of herding breeds is for another day. For now, just think of herding dogs as canine ninja warriors: highly intelligent problem solvers who are alert to everything around them, mission focused and not afraid to use force if they feel it is warranted.

Often, herding breeds do not suffer fools gladly and many may consider the “hail fellow well met” attitude of many Labradors to be foolish.

Retrievers, for their part, were bred to sit in a boat or duck blinds for hours – often in the company of new-to-them dogs and people. Labs were not bred or selected for any sort of aggression. They are, in general, social dogs who wag harder when seeing a strange dog than most herding dogs wag at their best canine friends. They are frequently “close talkers” who bumble jovially into personal space with a grin on their face that a herding dog can be just itching to wipe off.
This picture, that I snapped in Kensington Gardens, London, England, is a typical example. You can tell from where the lab’s feet are that she is deep into the German Shepherd’s personal space. To the Shepherd, the lab’s proximity is like someone walking up to you and sticking their hand in your front pocket: so far beyond “rude” that you don’t have a word for it.

Here the German Shepherd roars at the Lab, mouth wide, ears sideways, hackles up, tail stiff behind while the Lab does a Matrix-like move to get out of the way. The Shepherd was simply warning – dramatically – and had no intention of actually harming the Lab. If she’d wanted to, she would have. She did not, electing to trot off seconds later.

From the Lab’s perspective, she was “just being friendly” and has no idea why the Shepherd took such offense. This “dance” happens in parks and dog runs around the world over and over again.

Who is the “bad” dog here? Neither. Both are being exactly who they are. Dogs of different backgrounds and temperaments will never understand that another has an entirely different world view. They are dogs. But, being a long-time German Shepherd person, I can tell you – that Shepherd is not a “dog park dog.” Have fun with your herding dog in other ways if yours takes such offense; skip dog parks that are often filled to the brim with energetic, adolescent sporting breeds.

Now you know.

AUDIO: Why Does My Herding Dog Seem to Hate Labs?

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164 Comments

  1. That’s so helpful to know. Zora is a shepherd mix and definitely not a dog park dog. I always thought it was because she wasn’t properly socialize at a younger age, but maybe it’s just part of her personally. I take her for walks around the neighborhood and our local park where she can meet new dogs one-on-one, but even then she doesn’t like when other dogs get in her space. Thanks for sharing!

    • Great comment, Vicki, and you’ve just inspired another blog! Thank you. And yes, it might just be part of who Zora is. When you think about it, asking dogs to greet and be friendly with random strange dogs is completely unnatural. It is a fairly rare dog who both enjoys it and does it well. Pats to Ms. Z.

      • While this blog post is serious in a way, it made me laugh because I have two labs, and another family member has a shepherd. The shepherd is so sweet and funny in his own right, but we all joke that the shepherd is the “fun police” because the poor guy can’t stand the super in your face cooky personality of a lab. He doesn’t hurt them, but he definitely puts them in their place. My older lab is a little more reserved in general with new dogs but my younger one? FORGET IT. She is all in with all people and all dogs. It’s totally natural to her to love greeting and be super friendly with both other dogs and people. She has no problem walking up to a dog with a giant wagging tail and licking it right in the face. We definitely watch her when she’s greeting strange dogs because not all dogs appreciate that! Even with people she just meets she loves to sit on their feet, lean on their legs and look at them like “looovee mmeeee!”

  2. I started laughing when I read your title. My Sheltie is a herding dog and he hates German Shepherds. Go figure. His best friend and sister? A Lab. :)

    However, once I started reading I found myself nodding my head. Yup. You nailed him to a T. He hates rude dogs invading his personal space. The ninja warrior description fits too.

    Very enlightening. Great post. Thanks!

  3. My German shepherds have always been reasonably tolerant of dog-fools.

    The English shepherds — the most primal of the stockdogs — notsomuch.

    The way I explain it to clients is as a matter of both culture and dialect.

    “Imagine George W. Bush rushing up to Prince Charles at a state occasion, hollering ‘Howdy Chuck!’ and then grabbing him in headlock by way of ‘greeting.’”

    They are both humans. They are both speaking “English.” But Prince Charles is rightly appalled, and Dubya at least pretends to have no idea why. In a former age, Charles would pull a dagger out of his boot when approached in this manner.

    I started using this analogy before Dubya did this to Angela Merkel:

    http://www.martincountydemocrats.org/images/cartoons/5127742-bush-merkel.jpg

  4. Where do pit bulls fit in herd vs. sport?

    • Hi Steven – So many breeds, so much to write. Pits are neither herding nor retrievers. I’ll ping you when a blog goes up on them. Sarah

      • Thanks Sarah! There’s a German Shepard in the neighborhood that she doesn’t get along with at all… your post does help me understand why those problems arose at a neighborhood “Yappy Hour” at our nearby dog park.

    • Pit bulls are one of the “bull and terrier” breeds. In my experience, they often take offense at what they perceive as a herding breed dog’s “bossiness” and staring (which they may take as a challenge to be met with action). They are often a bad mix with the typical border collie type.

      Breed types often have incompatible greeting/play style. I don’t think it’s appropriate to put the focus on one type over another as the instigator of communication problems.

      OWNERS need to manage their dogs. Lab owners need to be aware that other breeds may not appreciate their dogs “he just wants to say hi”physicality. Border collie/Aussie owners need to be aware that other breeds may not appreciate their dogs “I own you” mentality.

    • Staffordshire Terriers, aka pit bulls, are a whole other ball of wax. They are an all-around dog and two can have drastically different temperaments depending on their lineage and individual personality.

  5. My male shepherd would tolerate (not like) everything but mounting; my female shepherd was too polite to complaint — she would just stand on an angle from the lab and look away hoping the other dog would leave. I kept them out of those situations whenever possible.

  6. Excellent synopsis! ….” For now, just think of herding dogs as canine ninja warriors: highly intelligent problem solvers who are alert to everything around them, mission focused and not afraid to use force if they feel it is warranted.”

  7. GREAT article, Sarah. So many people are ignorant of, or choose to ignore, what their dogs are born to. Education is key, and this write-up is very educational. Let’s hope it gets to the right eyes!

  8. What a great article. This is sometimes a hard concept for me to explain to people and you did it perfectly! I liked H. Houlahan’s analogy as well. Makes perfect sense!

  9. This might explain why one of my dogs is so grumpy all the time…she is half herder/half retriever. The internal battle of personalities being waged must be rough! ;)

  10. Great article. Had a pair of Aussies, and I too thought their standoffishness with other dogs was my fault for not socializing them better. Now I have a Catahoula mix who thinks every dog (and every person, for that matter) he encounters is there for the sole purpose of playing with him. The people he meets love it, most of the dogs, not so much.

    • Hi Karen – “Reserved” is part of the ASCA standard and it used to read, I believe, “Aloof”. So both your dog may have been quite typical of their breed, whose t-shirt often reads: “Do I know you?” :)

      “CHARACTER: The Australian Shepherd is primarily a working dog of strong herding and guardian instincts. He is an intelligent, exceptional companion. He is versatile and easily trained: performing his assigned tasks with great style and enthusiasm. He is reserved with strangers but does not exhibit shyness…”

  11. I wish more people would recognize that being “overly friendly” can be just as inappropriate as being rude or aggressive. When explaining it to my students, I describe the mythical Aunt Maude that we all have – that relative that we see once a year or less, who still insists on giving us a big kiss on the lips when we see her. Not unfriendly, but not at all pleasant or desired.

  12. my shepherds love all dogs so i dont have this problem and i am sure there alot more like mine out there , it really comes down to socalizing, would be my guess.

    • Hi bea. How fantastic your GSD love all dogs. There are so many strains of GSD, they really should be seen as completely different breeds. And yes, socialization helps bring out the best a dog has to offer but it does not, in my experience, override inborn tendencies. Organizing those takes management and training.

      • I foster and own GSDs. I think they tolerate other dogs fairly well if they feel you are in control of the situation. It’s when they are left to decide for themselves how a situation needs to be handled that it can become a problem. I have a shep/lab mix who loves to play with other dogs but can become very offended very quickly if she thinks someone has done something she doesn’t approve of. She will react so fast it’s hard to redirect her.

        • Oh, I hear you on that. I taught all my GSD is carry jolly balls when I everyone out for group walks. That kept those maws occupied and when they felt like reacting, they usually just gave the ball a shake. Worked for me.

          • ah my big GSD used to do that too , it was like he was saying ‘see this toy in my mouth well that could be your neck if you crash into me again buddy’. Brilliant article by the way, I will show it to all my GSD and Lab owning friends :)

          • Thank you. I am so glad you enjoyed it. :)

      • You are so right Sarah. I really tried hard to socialize my GSD and have her be a “dog park dog,” but at about 18 months of age…that was it. She no longer tolerated other dogs bouncing up to her. She does have a few doggie friends that she’s fine with, but the happy-go-lucky sporting breeds are just too overwhelming. I see it as a need to feel like she has some control over the situation. I guess we are just both dominant females!

    • I have shelties and one shepherd. We go to the dog parks all the time! No issues. I think regular socializing goes a long way.

      • This is going to sound mean, but if you think socialisation is the answer you simply haven’t brought up one of the more contrary herders. For most socialisation will help a lot, but just because they ‘behave’ doesnt mean they like what the rude labs are doing and it isn’t always kind to make them put up with it.

  13. My Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (sporting dog) has spent a good portion of her life socializing with a pack of Pembroke Welsh Corgis (herding dogs) that she has more of a herding reaction to other dogs and does not suffer dog-fools getting into her personal space. It’s amazing what they can learn from other breeds.

    • I’ve always thought Tollers often show their herding breed ancestry clearly so doesn’t surprise me to hear this – partly the company she keeps and partly her gene pool, I suspect. Interesting breed. Thanks for your insights.

    • I have two Tollers. Both well socialized, raised in multi-dog home. One tolerates other dogs fairly well, one does not, especially black Labs :-) She was rushed by one at agility class once (shame on the dogs owner for allowing this) and now goes on high alert whenever one is is range. Tollers are not typical retriever breeds, IMHO. I always try to educate people to watch their own dogs and try to help them understand that even if their dog is “friendly” someone else’s might not be and might not appreciate a strange dog in their face/space.

  14. Poor Lily. She hates labs and other “friendly” dogs but yet doesn’t have the confidence of the GSD to pull off these kinds of warnings. So, she depends on her bumbling and slow owner to help her out. We often end up doing this awful dance of me trying to body block a dog (whose owner is assuring me of the friendliness of their dog) who is stronger than I am while my dog tries to go in the other direction.

    It is somewhat comical to watch I am sure, but not so much fun to be a participant.

  15. Nailed my Collie to a T. She absolutely loves people, but tolerates other dogs. At the dog park, it is simply about visiting with the other dogs people, not the dogs. We brought a sheltie into the house and she adores him, plays and such, but its amazing to watch her when they are both at the dog park. The sheltie loves to play, especially to be chased. If he can’t get the collie to chase, he finds another dog. Then once the other dog is playing and chasing, my collie wants to get involved and break it up. I’ve been told she is a true hard working dog. I’m blessed to have her in my live. Thanks for such a wonderful article!

  16. As a breeder of working Malinois and chessies, there is a lot of truth to what you wrote pertaining to the nature of those two breeds. But a little opposite between my two breeds.

    Malinois are are VERY RUDE dogs by chessie standards. It is the Malinois that invades the personal space of the chessie, who run full tilt bozo out of nowhere to pounce/greet, and think nothing of putting another dog/puppy where they can get better acquainted.

    Chessies bump butts, Malinois growl/snarl/bite/shake/topple /drag and totally violate another dog in play. Both are very possessive over their owners, their possessions, AND very in tune to the RULES. The rules are different between the two breeds, even under the same roof. To the chessies, the Malinois is just a rude out of control teenager with no boundaries. To the Malinois, the chessies are just an up tight stick in the mud that need to loosen up and have some fun letting loose. Of course the malinois tend to think they are JUST what the Dr ordered and take it very personal when the staunch chessie corrects for being an in your face ass.

    Sporting group vs herding group really isn’t an accurate division. Rotties are very close in your face dogs like Malinois and labs, just more lab like than chessies or GSD’s who are very particular of THEIR personal space. Both herding dogs and sporting dogs can be subcategorized. You did hit on it with the herding breeds. Some herding breeds are living fences, GSD…some are movers, BC. Some are very social and attached to their owners at the hip while other herding breeds are more independent. Same holds true for the sporting breeds. Some breeds are appreciated for their touchy feely characteristics to their owners (like the lab) while others are appreciated for their independent nature and are not generally a touchy-feely breed (GSP, chessies).

    • Hi Brook – Chessies are the reason that reads title “Labs” and not “Retrievers”. And modern, working Mals are much more working-like than herding-like, for sure.

      So many variations and combinations. Much to be learned in all quarters. Thanks for your insightful post, I enjoyed the read.

    • The description of Mals as “rude teenagers” is PERFECT. I have a (mostly) Mal who demands attention when anyone else (human or canine) in our family has more than he. He pushes, nudges and shoves until he gets pet, and will only leave when he’s done. Very similar to my perpetual teenage son. :)

  17. My shelties have always been DINOS (dogs in need of space) and have never had tolerance for rude dogs of any kind. When I used to work at a training center, my dogs were always brought in for puppy classes for the distinct reason of teaching young dogs that it is NOT ok to get in every dogs face, or jump on them…my shelties have great bite inhibition but as your article says about the GSD , they can be “dramatic” =0) I love my girls and wouldn’t own any other breed!!!

  18. Oh my…I have a very sweet Pitbull that is licensed to go into daycares, nursing homes & mental institute to help patients with rehab, but the problem is, is my pit has been attacked three times now by labs & thankfully I trained my dog to not to fight..I thought that labs were family dogs but I’m beginning to wonder how their still listed as family pets when I read that their a one owner type of dog, so why is this happening to my dog when he doesn’t acknowledge any other dog until commanded, is there a scent or sense that attracts labs to attack like this???

    • You being a pit owner should be able to answer that question.

      In fighting BSL it has been successful agreeing to ban pits under the condition that also the #1 breed bite complaints in volume for the area is also banned as a breed. End of discussion when the powers that be find that it would be the lab. Banning labs would never fly in local politics.

      • You have brought up a question that I don’t understand, namely, is it true that Labs bite more than other breeds? I have come across this lately in BSL discussions. Could the fact that there are more Labs that are family pets (combining inexperienced dog owners with an assumption that Labs will tolerate all sorts of behaviors) explain this, if in fact it is true? I am a Lab person, although my first one who looked all Black Lab, was half Doberman or Rottweiler (half the puppies had tan points but were conformed exactly like Labs) and was the only one who showed any aggression in her 11 years, and that was very little. She was fabulous with our very young children, who were born after we got her. My next Lab (a purebred) was exceptionally smart and kind, was assertive to an extent, but never aggressive and never offered any growling or biting behavior. My current rescue chocolate Lab (now 10, found at about a year old with dewclaws removed and according to 2 Vets, has perfect show dog conformation) is the kindest, sweetest dog ever known, responds to visual and voice commands like a pro, and is put with the younger dogs when he goes to the doggie day care to show them how to behave. So what is the explanation?

        • Hi Cindy -

          I haven’t heard this stat but would not be surprised if it is being circulated (with or without basis). I believe the CDC stopped recording breed info as it was so unreliable, so not sure who would have the data. If anyone has a source for that info, post a link.

          Thanks – Sarah

        • I’ve heard the “Labs bite more than pit bulls” trope many times. However, look on any shelter’s website at some of the dogs for adoption. How many are labeled “lab mix” when they are actually pit bulls or pit mixes? Just about any solid-colored pit gets labeled a lab mix, just like spotted pits are called hounds; or black and white ones are called border collies. I’ve even seen red pits get labeled as vizsla!

          I suppose the reason for using a euphemism breed is to get people to adopt the dog. However, if someone thinks they are getting a Lab, with Lab temperament and Lab dog-friendliness, they won’t be cautious like a knowledgeable pit owner would be.

          • The dog that bites most is almost always a “mixed breed” dog, though sometimes that dog is identified as a “pit bull”, because what is a pit bull other than a dog that bites? (that would be snark.. ;-) )

    • I find as a pit owner, you should probably know better than to judge a breed as a whole. I am sorry that your dog was attacked. I have a 11 year old chocolate lab who has his CGC and has been around other dogs, senior citizens and children his entire life. He has been attacked by a German Shepherd (while minding his own business might I add), rottweiler, a cocker spaniel and was lunged at by a pit bull who would have been more than happy to go after my dog if he wasn’t stopped by his owner. Unfortunately, I realize that these scenarios can happen as he is in public with me a lot.

      Those dogs however, all belonged to irresponsible owners. The GSD was in a Petsmart when he had severe dog reactive issues. The owner wouldn’t take any responsibility and was later asked to leave. The Rottweiler, was brought to the dog park by a man who thought he could socialize it at the park even though it had issues. If I knew this before, I would have left. The Cocker Spaniel was off leash in front of his home as my dog and I walked by. Even as it was attacking my dog, the owners wouldn’t grab their dog until I pulled him off of mine. The pit bull, was a dog aggresive dog that was brought to a very dog friendly outdoor mall. My dog was minding his own business each of these times. While labs can be a “in your face” kind of dog, my dog never has been. Despite this, I know each of those breeds are not to blame and fight against breed bans every chance I get.

      Labs are not an aggresive breed. They wouldn’t be useful for their jobs if they were. Unfortunately due to the amount of overbreeding and the fact that many shelters are claiming their dogs as different breeds (which I also see a lot here), the temperaments are being messed up. They are also ending up in homes where they sit in backyards all day and have little to no training. Just like pit bulls, this is not a breed issue but a owner issue.

      I have never heard that labs are a one owner dog. They are great family dogs for a family that is active and want to include a dog in their plans. What I am assuming what you read is that they are a dog that doesn’t do well with the changing of owners. I could see this as they can be a sensitive breed. My lab is definitely a dog that doesn’t like change. That being said, I have known many labs who have been rescued and have adjusted just fine to another home.

  19. Well written, thank you. I no longer frequent dog parks anywhere with my corgi(s). They aren’t particularly friendly to begin with, and if accosted, a defensive reaction is more likely to result in corgi injury, I am used to saying “Not friendly” even at dog shows with familiar dogs, just because it’s easier for me to take the lead. Winn is 9 and hates aussies and puppies and any dog off leash. He’s all bark, but you never know what that might lead to. Maggie is 14 and was bitten by an Eskie at the park when she was young, and that settled it for us. DDare is 3 and doesn’t know what a dog park is! I am very lucky to live on acreage. Thanks for your post, it’s being shared widely and wisely. Chris

  20. My little Toby a toy Australian Shepherd at 15lbs is a ninja for sure. I used to put a bell on him because he is so quiet and stealthy.

    He cannot stand dogs getting in his space. He loves to “round up ” his 2 Papillon sisters.

  21. I’m not real sure what you mean modern working mals are more working like than herding like. They are very herding like. Just with an overdose of caffeine like the working BC’s.

    As for being titled labs, lol. Even my chessies hate labs. It is very difficult for a lot of lab pet owners to grasp that a lot of big dogs do not like or pair well with what pet labs are today. Not to mention the mentality that just because they have a lab entitles the rest of the dog world to cope w their dog. Lab clients are often just as bad as my little dog clients with the ‘ain’t that cute?’. Yep, real cute when you are holding its face on while running to the vet because you think everybody needs to deal with rude behavior because it is cute and your dog is being friendly. Those clients get to meet my dogs right out of the gate for basic dog behavior 099 lesson before going to intro to dog 101.

  22. I wonder why my Pharaoh Hound hates Shepherds (GSD, Malinois) so much? She delights in zooming past them and even grabbing their fur in a run by. The GSD’s are generally so slow they don’t know what happened.

    • Consider your Pharaoh Hound lucky- my 20 month old GSD chased and caught a greyhound at a dog park! Luckily, it was in full play and it was not a predator on prey situation. She is in doggie day care and so she gets a long with everyone. Only thing is, she is a big jerk the first 10 minutes of going to a dog park because…she wants to be in charge! Her cousins are labs and she is fine.

  23. This is funny. I have a GSDXLab(ninja). And also a pit(debo). They get along great. But ninja is picky about new dogs. Hates intact males but for the most part after a few walks with a new dog, he’s fine. Debo loves anything. Especially dogs ‘n cats. But I weight pull both. That’s a good sport to look into for “non dog park dogs”!

    • Wow I hate those typos… new phone. Lol

      • No worries – your input is valued, speled prefectlee or knot. ;)

        • No offense but my opinion is no matter what the breed is is that the owner is held 100% responsible for the actions his/her dog takes. If you are feeling uncomfortable about an approaching dog no matter the breed your dog will feel your insecurity and react accordingly. As a trainer at a dog daycare and owner of 4 pit bulls that are all well socialize I feel confident at saying that breed has nothing to do with it. Again my opinion!

          • Hey Mitch, I have to disagree some of your stuff. Yes, they will react to your insecurity, and no, I wouldn’t say it is the “breed”, but more the individual dog (reaction). I believe the breed plays a PART, after all, they were all bred for different things and do have different characteristics, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture for every single dog. They are all individuals. I have two GSDs, one is fearful/reactive and one is bombproof. The amount of training I have invested into my fearful dog does not change the way he is going to react to something, it simply masks his weakness. My other GSD who is very well tempered has had a small fraction of the training and extensive socialization he has had, and she is fine meeting new dogs and people. The difference in the two was very apparent at 8 weeks of age. Littermates of my male were also fearful. My reactive/fearful dog’s sire was also ‘slow to warm up’ and my solid girl came from a long line of clear headed working dogs. So being 100% responsible for how a dog reacts is just not true. Owners have a responsibility as to how far they will let those reactions go, but until you have had a dog that just can’t be fixed, you will see that genetics play a bigger part than any training or socializing ever can. It can be very frustrating, and CAN be an issue within a breed. There’s a difference between a dog who is lacking socialization and a dog who is lacking nerve strength. There are many GSDs who have weak nerves and can only be managed, but it doesn’t mean that they are all like that. You just can’t ever say it’s 100% the breed, or 100% the owner.

  24. Ha! this is a great article, and well put…my Belgian Shepard only seeks out the companionship of other Shepards and ignores all other breeds that come in and out of our veterinary clinic all day long…though she has been known to hop up and flirt with handsome male rottweilers and pitts when they come in…but only the “big boys”

    And my Aussie is very intolerant of “foolish behavior” in any dogs/cats/children…but as long as you act appropriately and in no way foolish, she will happily allow you in her space….

    I’ve long felt breeds tend to like breeds similar to themselves… and I see it daily as a small animal veterinarian.

    But of course, there are ALWAYS exceptions to every rule…..like the Yorkie/Wolfhound couple that I have as clients…the Yorkie rules the Irish Wolfhound and they adore each other…

  25. This definitely holds true for my border collie. Boxers and standard poodles are the worst for personal boundaries, in our experience.

  26. Great blog, thank you! I happened upon a Malinois in a shelter nine years ago (“he’s a shepherd/shiba inu mix” they told me…um, ok, sure, that’s why he was the size of a fawn at 12 weeks). He has NEVER been social around other dogs. I attributed it to being bullied by a very alpha fox terrier (who at 17 years old still bullies him). Now that I’ve read your blog, I see a whole different side of him and his adverse reaction to other dogs – especially small, in your face terriers. He is NOT a dog park dog by any stretch of the imagination. Again, thank you!

  27. Great article and so true; I have always had a hard time putting these thoughts into words but you said it perfectly! My German shepherd is exactly like this, she
    tolerates her own breed more than anything else and tolerates puppies but other adult breeds who should know how to act she tells them where to go if they get in her face, even worse when she see’s offlead dogs in the distance heading straight for her flat out…. She goes straight into ninja warrior mode

  28. This is my collie to a T. She would much rather visit with people then give another dog the time of day. We brought home a sheltie, and it took time for her to accept him, but now he is the only dog she will play with. When she goes to the dog park she would rather play with the other dogs people instead. When the sheltie can’t get her to chase him at the park, he finds another dog to play chase with. Only then will the collie get involved, but then she’s trying to be a mom and break up the play. I’ve been told she is a solid working dog. She is all business on the agility floor too.

  29. Hello, my name is Diana and my dogs find many Labs rude…

    Now, that my local chapter of offended dogs anonymous is in session. I have often wondered if part of the trouble with the modern Lab is lack of job and exercise. Yes, they are predisposed to “to know me is to love me,” so let me just get a little closer to you. However my dogs don’t actually mind Black Labs or Chocolate Labs as much as the yellow variety. A preference which I think is entirely to do with early experiences with steady polite working Black Labs who were used for hunting and got lots of exercise and always listened to their humans and crazed Yellow Labs that clearly needed to burn off energy (which they frequently did by running around when their human was trying to call them back).
    My dogs are admittedly control freaks. Basically, a working breed from all around farm dog stock (Standard Schnauzers) that herd, guard, and do whatever needs doing. Regardless of breed, the thing that appears to annoy them the most about other dogs is a failure to follow rules. They can be rules of play, but are equally likely to be getting ticked at a dog who doesn’t come when called, refuses to sit or down when asked, or interrupts them while they are working.

    And, yes, the fun police and I avoid dog parks. The other dogs just do not know how to engage in play in an efficient, orderly fashion.

    • Herding breeds aren’t alone in their beliefs that sporting dogs appear to be out of control. I’ve had Rhodesian Ridgebacks for 20+ years. They generally have no connection with retrievers: as you said, “close talkers” invading their space AND without a proper introduction. RRs like to keep order as well. Play styles is another issue. RRs are extremely physical and prone to wrestling.
      I could have written Diana’s post only substituted the Rhodesian Ridgeback in place of the Standard Schnauzer.
      Great topic of discussion.

  30. I have had Australian Cattle Dogs for the past 17 years. This article made me chuckle because a few of mine have exhibited similar behavior. Not all dogs are dog park dogs. :)

  31. Dogs do not recognize another dog by group. They respond to other dogs through body language. They react accordingly to the body language of the other dog.
    It is the responsibility of the owner to make sure their dog and themselves know how to greet another dog properly.It does not matter the breed or the group the dog is in.
    All dogs have individual personalities and it is the owner’s responsibility to know what their dog will & will not tolerate, regardless of the breed.

  32. And i just have the weirdo English Shepherd that ticks off all the other shepherds with his over zealousness.

    • Great article & very interesting comments as well I have 2 English Shepherds- male & female & they get along best with other ESy dogs or mixes. Dog parks are WAY to stressful for herders unless they have been exposed to them from a pup AND if all the other dog owners are responsible which sadly they usually aren’t. My guys especially are bothered by little white dogs (as in SHEEP) as well as “dopy dogs that roam all over” like the two our neighbor walks on flexies no less and they are all over the road. Drive my guys nuts! My poor perfect sweet lady got asked to leave our Agility class when (unbeknown by me until told by an observer later) the dog in line behind us kept sticking its nose up her butt & she finally turned around & “made a correction” not unlike the GS in the above pic. Well that dig took off ripping its flexy leash (which wasn’t supposed to be allowed) through its owners hand & set other dopey dogs off & WE had to leave. I wish more people could see this pic & read the narrative– people can be so ignorant & our poor dogs pay the price!

  33. Our dog park is always stuffed with german shepherds…. *rolls eyes* My male dane actually took offense to them. No idea why. He had no issue with any other breed. Oddest thing.

  34. Our GS loves all dogs except Border Collies. He hates people coming into his space & gets nervous. Never thought about it like this until I read your article. It’s ok for him to get in anybody’s space though!

  35. Interesting concept.. In my experience working at a doggie daycare I find that this is false. It has less to do with breed and more to do with personality. Some dogs are just more tolerant to adolescent greetings. As far as the dog park goes owner supervision is key. I have a GSD that gets along with just about every dog. She has no issues with rude puppy greetings and I have never had her try to correct said behaviors. What it comes down to is owners knowing their dogs and being able to read what they are saying.

  36. Love the ninja warrior analogy – completely accurate for my ACD. He doesn’t mind fools in his face, but when they are messing with his adopted little sis (believed to be ACDxRattie) then he goes all Chuck Norris on the offender (no matter the breed). Hence the reason dog parks are probably out for us.

  37. i disagree … i have 5 dogs all herding of 4 different breeds. Their best friend is a Lab. Only part i can relate to agree is different dogs (breeds generally) have a different ‘play’ and ‘greet’ style which can be an issue on how they greet and interact with other dogs/breeds.
    BTW one of my dogs is a GSD

  38. Great article Sarah. I run daycare and homeboarding, have owned GSDs and BCs for years, and volunteer for GDBA which means I have loads of Labs and Retrievers come to stay. I know there will always be exceptions, and individual personalities that buck the trend, but on the whole I think your observations are absolutely spot on.

  39. Great article, and funny too! I own two Beaucerons, French shepherds. Beaucies are the rough and tumble type, so much so that other dogs/breeds often opt out of playtime when mine get going. When it comes to labs/lab-like dogs, neither of my dogs accept the close-talkers or the overly friendly types. They’re always fair about it, too, just a snarl, never a bite. That’s something I recognize in this article.
    I’m curious if you have any experience with Beaucerons and if so, what you think of them as regards the Shepherd Stereotype. The ones I’ve had are fairly self-reliant, with Opinions About Everything, but also fun-loving, affectionate, obedient and ridiculously smart.

  40. Does this go for Border Collie/Austrailan Shepard mixes as well? My younger dog had a problem with other dogs and gets very stiff when they come say hello. Is it a breed thing? My older dog is a little more tolerant, but she likes to keep to herself at the dog park after a quick hello to the other dogs there. After reading this, I wonder if I should keep taking them to dog parks or if I should just add another walk during the day?

  41. Great piece but it has left me wondering what’s going on with my collie-with-a-bit-of-husky. She’s a little apprehensive with other dogs, but not aggressive. (She goes to a doggy play place three times a week and plays with any number of dogs, under supervision.) However, when labs approach her, they almost immediately start baring their teeth and some (the bigger ones) are so aggressive with her that I usually cross the street before they reach us. She tries to herd little things (bunnies, squirrels, small dogs) but has never done this with labs. I don’t understand why they are so aggressive with her, unless they’re just sick of herding dogs altogether, LOL.

  42. In reading about the history of the Standard Poodle as a herding dog, I now understand better why my Standard Poodle does not enjoy foolish behavior of other dogs who are allowed to invade his personal space when we are out on leash walks. Although Standard Poodles are not bred for herding, perhaps it’s possible that some may have retained some herding instincts. Thanks to this article and to some other articles I have read recently, I now realize that it is also the “friendly” dog who is being rude – not just the the dog who reacts to the rudeness. What a great article!

  43. Loved the article! I hate dog parks simply because you have an ever changing pack situation with owners who do not manage their dogs and who don’t have a clue about dog behavior. This is the makes the perfect ingredients for frequent dog fights. My shepherds do not tolerate foolish dogs well at all. I know this and I manage them when at shows and such. Bottom line is that owners need to know dog behavior more and take more care managing their dogs no matter the breed.

  44. Hello Sarah.
    OMgosh, I laughed so much reading this and can totally relate. I have a 2 yr old GS female who is exactly like this when other dogs annoy her. Cayce is never harmful and I have seen to that with training. I own an off leash dog hiking company K9s unleashed Dog Hiking here in Nanaimo BC so it is imperative that no dog that I hike is aggressive towards other animals or people. My other dog is a rescue white boxer and Cayce and Bleux play in true ‘boxer’ style with one another. It is so hilarious to watch. Thank you for a great read.

  45. Excellent explanation!! To take it a tiny step further. … Herding dogs like order. They in fact think they are in charge of law and order and do not put up with silliness.

  46. Wonderful post, and great comments too! I have a female Giant Schnauzer, which were originally bred to herd cattle. She is great at the dog park, but “plays” by positioning herself at the edge of a group of wrestling, running dogs and barking orders at them! She will not tolerate being pushed, jostled, kissed, mounted or over-welcomed … she just leaves the situation. And when the sporting dogs do their “sporting dog thing,” and run in crazy laps along the perimeter looking for birds, she stands and watches them as if she has secret insight that they are just a bit on the foolish. My husband always had labs, and he sees the difference like this:

    Lab: Okay, dad, what we doing now, where we going, okay, okay, I’m coming too, let’s go, let’s go, I’m with ya on this one. (Lots of tail wagging and circle making.)

    GS: Well. Interesting. What’s in it for me? (Serious stare, motionless.)

  47. My dogs personalities are mixed, my mastiff tho friendly enough does not suffer my much younger aussies’s over zealous play,, of course this may be due to her age vs. his they work it out tho

  48. Great article! Looking forward to one on play styles next. The Labs in our family hate playing with my GSD; I think they find him too intense and aggressive in his play — kind of like that one kid who always gets way too competitive during a simple game. It is interesting watching how German Shepherds play with each other versus with other breeds.

  49. INteresting article and responses. I have a Standard Poodle who personal space is huge….while his mission in life is to greet all people he has a hard time getting around their dogs. My Terriers is very submissive to other dogs but prefers to start slowly with a greeting and then build up to a good game! It always irks me that many people are just thoughtless. And I use that word in its two parts thought-less. Meaning if they thought at all they’d see the situation from another’s point of view and control their dogs. Needless to say my Standard Poodle doesn’t do dog parks because neither he, nor I nor the other folks would have a good time. That’s being “thoughtful”. That said, I had an intact male Airedale, who was daily at the dog park and whose best friends were the pit dogs!

  50. Your article reminds me of this one about rude dogs invading personal space.

    http://www.suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/he-just-wants-say-hi

    The trouble with overly friendly dogs and owners who don’t supervise initial greetings is it makes it hard for people who need to keep their dogs safe, dogs in rehab who need to walk but can’t play, and dogs and people who have had bad experiences – being crash tackled by a lab can really hurt.

    So yes both kinds of dogs are reacting according to their breed, but it’s up to the owners to know their dogs and supervise accordingly. My herding dog greeting involves a major crawly grovel that keeps her out of trouble with all but dogs who want to kill all other dogs (incidently the worst was a Labrador), and those issue such a clear back off signal that she’s outta there before they have a chance to connect. But I’d rather supervise her greetings.

  51. I have a Border Collie/Golden Retriever mix, but her play personality definitely falls on the side of the BC. She doesn’t like dogs invading her personal space and has tended to be annoyed by Labs who always like to get a little too close and personal with her. She’s learned to tolerate a few Labs she knows well, but most get warning growls and “back off” body language from her. She’s definitely a dog who doesn’t like rudeness!

    And like that Shepherd, she’s just not a dog park dog. She prefers to play chase with one or two dogs she knows and she’s a huge control freak when too many things are going on around her and so tries to stop all the fun and get everyone in line. So no dog park for our girl, which is just fine by me.

  52. Love learning new information about dogs and their behaviors. Thank you. This is
    really very important info for everyone to know.

  53. Great explanation, thanks. I have never understood why my cardigan corgi, who is otherwise neutral towards dogs, takes great offense when a friendly golden retriever comes to play with her. She growls, as if to say “I have more serious matters to attend to!.

  54. This is great! As a owner of a card carrying close talker lab I have come to realize the potential incompatibilities. Learning self control is an ongoing process for him as he is not 2 yet. Also, I don’t think people should see it as a negative if their dog doesn’t love going to dog parks. There have been times where the mix just did not seem conducive to good play for my dog. I think too many people believe the misconception that ALL dogs should get along.

  55. Oh my goodness, I LOVED this post! While many of the comments refer to labs as “rude” dogs, I really appreciate you explaining that they aren’t being rude…they’re being labs!

    Obviously, I’m a lab owner :-). While he’s great with humans and very well-behaved in general, I frequently hold our lab back from saying hi to other dogs because of how “friendly” he feels he can be. Many owners ask if the dogs can say hi and they say “my dog is super friendly and loves other dogs”. If I give in (usually after saying “okay, but he thinks he’s everyone’s BEST FRIEND so he might get too close”), often the dog barks at us and we go away quickly with the other owner questioning why his/her dog just did that. I love the description of it being like the lab stuck their hand in a front pocket…classic and so true. I often describe labs as similar to an odd kid in class that pulls their chair too close and repeatedly says, “Wanna be friends? Wanna be friends? Wanna have a sleepover? Want to share our lunches?”

    I also appreciate this post because I never know which dogs will react poorly and which will be okay with his BFF tendencies. Now I know which breeds to really just turn down the invite to say “hi”. Thanks for the article, and a smile!

  56. This is an excellent article. I have a 2 year old (almost 3) corgi who gets along well with almost all dogs, but the one he has had issue with is an un neutered male yellow lab in my building. His dislike all stemmed from a situation in the elevator of our building when the lab went right through his personal space bubble. I could tell by my dogs posture and raised lip that he was saying “get out of my space” but the lab owner was totally clueless and now thinks of my dog as the devil himself because I keep him away from her dog. Your article made me understand the nature of the lab better. Now I only wish I could slip it under lab owner’s door so she could understand my corgi.

  57. At the dog park where I used to go with my Airedales (who are quite sensible in their greeting behavior, once adult) we called German Shepherds the “fun police.” Not only did they object to exuberant greetings, they didn’t like dogs running around and play wrestling even if they weren’t particularly nearby.

  58. Sarah, I loved this one. I appreciate your DECADES of experience with THOUSANDS of dogs–across the whole spectrum of working to service to sports to conformation to pet to deficit. You’ve got the goods and are a wonderful teacher. The best compliment I could pay you is: You always are looking to learn more: new information and new science and new ways to help dogs and people be happy together.

    It’s not “fair” that I have to say that “My dog’s Not Friendly!” when the truth is “My corgi dog would be uncomfortable meeting your new-to-him dog at zero inches so we’re going to keep walking.” It works fine for us.

    All the true pros I know don’t do random dog-dog introductions and pretty much all don’t do dog parks. They pick appropriate dog friends for their dogs. Just like we do for human children and the choices we make ourselves as adults. One of your metaphors applies: “Would you like your 8 year old kid play with the college football team on the field?”

    I’d love to see a blog on Picking Dog Friends. I remember Karen once saying “A squashed corgi is a sad thing,” to help me realize that the (very nice) Chessie next door wasn’t our best bet. :)

    (Oh, and that goes for people too. I know lots of nice dogs who don’t have any training on them… their people just “let the dog be a dog.” However nice the dog, that tends to not be a good fit for me and my dog.)

  59. I appreciate you comment that they are just being labs, too! I have two labs (from a working breeder, not pet lines) and they really aren’t the kind of dogs that would make good family pets. Hyper-enthusiastic is a good way to describe them, I guess.

    My dogs are usually more interested in what I am doing than what everyone else and their dog is doing, but they still aren’t allowed to invade others’ space when we’re out. We still get The Look, though! If you’re a lab owner, you know what I’m talking about. Not all of us think its cute when our bouncy dog is up in your face or driving your dog nuts and some of us do our very best to teach our ‘close talkers’ to be respectful! Teaching self control at a young age is important with labradorks, I think.

  60. I find it has much less to do with breed than it does the individual dog’s social skills. I’ve known labs who need space and have an in your face Aussie. I personally try not to label a dog (or breed) because labels are sticky and hard to remove.

  61. If your dog is aggressive toward other dogs isn’t it best to keep it on a leash?

  62. The more solicitious and apologetic my female lab was for annoying my friend’s border collie, the more the BC tended to want to just end her. So my girl apologized more, all up in the bc’s face (and mouth) and spiraling away we went. I learned to just keep them apart, but now I think I understand why. Thank you!

  63. Fun post, thanks for writing it! Some thoughts came up reading all the posts:

    As I’ve lived and worked with lots of breeds, my idea is that Sheperds, and lots of other breeds too, in general don’t allow what they would like to do to other dogs: invade one’s personal space, and they might miss the confidence of Labrador-like breeds in which more dogs just impose themselves and don’t mind being ‘bothered.

    So yes a (working line) Mal that has never been stopped in being ‘rude’ will be into your face like a Lab, and a finer tuned dog might be overwhelmed…

    Though very familiair, the ‘shepherd’ behaviour is not a breed quality; it’s more typical in different lines, and results of ‘education and socialisation’ will therefore varie. Indeed, one should ask if a dog’s temperament needs to be forced into ‘supporting’ these greetings or that life would be much easier protecting the dog from ‘unrespectful’ ones. This doesn’t quit the owner of educating his dog to live in our world without bothering or being bothered by his environment.

    However we might expect this reactiveness quicker from the shepherd group, due to their point of view, we also see it in f. ex. Bichons and other company dogs, pack hunters like Podengo’s or f.ex. Terriërs that will stand bravely in like a pack of Foxhounds, Dachshunds, many Dogues and even sighthounds. And ofcourse we see it in Labs as well, and we get told it is ’caused’ by a sheperd, as indeed lots of people don’t see the ‘dialect’ issue.

    What is our influence to the behaviour anyway? We’ve selected breeds and their behaviours, we don’t give a dog much opportunity to learn dog behaviour and dialects, we often train them to stop showing their natural behaviour…

    We can only compare to african wild dogs, wolf families and some stray groups if we want to eridicate our influence, and will find that very active submissive behaviour isn’t submissive or friendly at all in many species! Remember aunt Maud.

    The Labs that are greeting into your face have strong headed characters like a Rottie or shepherd. I see nuances in breeds, lines and personalities, in Labs too. The Labs, Goldens, Shepherds, Malinois a.s.o. in my life all got along fine, even when some newby had to learn to accept or respect a bit more. Owners need to control their dogs and realise that different personalities need different approaches. However over here the Mal or Podengo ‘agents’ seem to rule, a Golden like Ginger or a Lab like Kate will always win a hold-to-the-toy-game because of calm consistent stubberness…

  64. It took me a while to wrap my mind over all English as this isn’t my language, so I hope this time the system will not qualify me as a spammer, and luckily I worked from a doc. …
    I appreciate your post, thanks for writing it! Some thoughts came up reading all the comments:
    As I’ve lived and worked with lots of breeds, my idea is that Sheperds, and lots of other breeds too, in general don’t allow what they would like to do to other dogs: invade one’s personal space, and they might miss the confidence of Labrador-like breeds in which more dogs just impose themselves and don’t mind being ‘bothered’.
    So yes a (working line) Mal that has never been stopped in being ‘rude’ will be into your face like a Lab, and a finer tuned dog might be overwhelmed…
    Though very familiair, the ‘shepherd’ behaviour is not a breed quality; it’s more typical in different lines, and results of ‘education and socialisation’ will therefore varie. Indeed, one should ask if a dog’s temperament needs to be forced into ‘supporting’ these greetings or that life would be much easier protecting the dog from ‘unrespectful’ ones. This doesn’t quit the owner of educating his dog to live in our world without bothering or being bothered by his environment.
    However we might expect this reactiveness quicker from the shepherd group, due to their point of view, we also see it in f. ex. Bichons and other company dogs, pack hunters like Podengo’s or f.ex. Terriërs that will stand bravely in like a pack of Foxhounds, Dachshunds, many Dogues and even sighthounds. And ofcourse we see it in Labs as well, and we get told it is ’caused’ by a sheperd, as indeed lots of people don’t see the ‘dialect’ issue.
    What is our influence to the behaviour anyway? We’ve selected breeds and their behaviours, we don’t give a dog much opportunity to learn dog behaviour and dialects, we often train them to stop showing their natural behaviour…
    We can only compare to African wild dogs, wolf families and some stray groups if we want to eridicate our influence, and will find that very active submissive behaviour isn’t submissive or friendly at all in many species! Remember aunt Maud.
    The Labs that are greeting into your face have strong headed characters like a Rottie or shepherd. I see nuances in breeds, lines and personalities. The Labs, Goldens, Shepherds, Malinois a.s.o. in my life all got along fine, even when some newby had to learn to accept or respect a bit more. Owners need to control their dogs and realise that different personalities need different approaches. However over here the Mal and Podengo ‘agents’ seem to rule, a Golden like Ginger or a Lab like Kate will always win a hold-to-the-toy-game because of calm consistent stubberness…

  65. great points! it’s all about training the people, in the end, whatever the dog’s personality and malleability.

    my young Icelandic (I’ve taken to saying ‘dog’, rather than ‘sheepdog’–that’s all people hear) will bound with enthusiasm toward anything on legs–cats don’t seem to understand–and even though freely grovels as called for, does need to learn more about personal space. on the other paw, after five minutes most people want to take him home with them.

    wonder if dog parks and daycare may help him become ‘socially’ as well as ‘problem-solving’ smart; it sounds like those may be self selecting populations. I’ll pay closer attention to other owners’ apparent comfort levels now.

  66. I understand now why, in a group of 5, my cousin’s dog is always quick to correct my chocolate lab (and her alone). In fact, we had a group of 4 that got along without incident when together for more than a year, til the lab wad introduced. So my new question is, beyond the obvious verbal correction, how do I encourage my lab to be a little less foolish? How do I encourage her to know the ‘right’ way to play, etc? Currently, I am just frequently giving her verbal commands to control her enthusiasm whenever I feel she is getting out of hand. She has caught on some, such as not jumping on people anymore, but she still tends to seek affection in a pushy way. With people, I make her settle down – ie, they sit, and she mooses into their space looking to be petted. I tell her to sit down, minding her space, before she is given a petting. Is this correct, and how to I continue working on this, especially in dog interactions?

  67. I have a Catahoula that loves everybody and thinks they are here for her pleasure! She is very playful. When walking on a leash in my neighborhood she reacts differently to different dogs. Sometimes she whimpers, sometimes her hackles rise and she growls, other times she becomes completely submissive! I always keep her on the opposite side of the street when I see dogs coming because I have no idea what her reaction will be!

  68. My dog trainer sent me this link and wow you must know my GS Zeus. He is a great dog until we meet other dogs on our walks and now I know why. He really needs his personal space when around other dogs. Thanks for the article it is nice to know Zeus is just being a typical GS

  69. thank you for this article, it actually answers alot of questions for me as a german shepherd owner. Harley had done the same thing with a lab at the dog park now it helps me to understand as she usually is a really good dog/

  70. This is a great blog post. My Aussie/catahoula mix is exactly as you described the herders! In the past few years we have had to stop doggy daycare and the dog parks since he really prefers to hang out with a couple close dog friends and humans vs. all these other dogs

  71. This blog is interesting but I feel there is some offside regarding “rude lab behavior”. I own a lab and recently rescued a shepherd border collie cross. I live 1/2 block from a dog park and refuse to use it anymore despite moving here for it (prior to having dogs but anticipating several). EVERY breed seems to be guilty of rude behavior. It’s the owners who have not walked their dogs in a week or more who unleash them on the park to terrorize others. The owners often bring friends and walk and talk and ignore their dogs poor behaviors. I now walk them through the neighborhood instead however again, we can be on one side if the road enjoying our walk only to be growled and barked at by other dogs. It comes down to the owner and the work you are willing to put into your dogs. My dogs are not perfect but we take accountability for their behaviors and don’t ever blame the breed. Lets put blame where it lies and not label breeds. Not all labs are rude!

  72. I agree mostly with what you say here. But, from a Labrador handler’s perspective, some points are missing. My own mature Lab has been bred to work closely with me, focusing on me and waiting for that wonderful (to her) moment when I send her out on a retrieve. Herding dogs interfere. They manage. They “poke”. They really cannot leave things alone and mind their own business. German shepherds tend to “police”. Other herding dogs tend to chase and try to intercept retrieves. And they often do not take the subtle, good natured Lab cues to back off. Quick looks and turn aways mean nothing to a herding dog on a mission to control another being. Turn aways often even inspire MORE INTENSE herding behavior!

    Yes, Lab puppies and adolescents are often boundary crashers. Older dogs can persist in that poor behavior if they never learn a job. However, if an older Lab has learned a job, they don’t greet inappropriately in my experience. They ARE miserable and stressed by normal, healthy herding dog behavior though. You might not notice it though, since Labs are, generally, resilient, good natured and stoic as well.

    • I’ve found both the article and the comments here a great perspective on my shepherd x rescue’s tendencies. We’ve had her for about six weeks, and I haven’t been entirely sure what’s personality, what’s baggage, what’s ongoing adjustment, and so forth.

      Just wanted to say, this note about how herders can offend easier-going dogs helps give me some idea of what to consider from my side of the dog-owner equation.

      Really appreciate all the anecdotes from longer-term owners and trainers. I wasn’t able to get a handle on why her reactions to other dogs vary till I read through all this. It makes sense now, and I have a starting point for learning how to read her better and shape her behavior with less stress to her and me.

    • We once had a dog who was 3/4 black lab and 1/4 Australian Cattle Dog (heeler). Most intense, but most trainable dog I ever owned! That herder intensity was focused on tennis balls, and he was capable of running over anyone and anything between him and an airborne ball.

      Teaching him to watch out for other beings who strayed into his “flight path” during a retrieve was probably the most difficult lesson of all.

  73. I agree, I have Australian Cattle dogs, herding everything. then I got a Catahoula, who doesnt herd anything. He is all nose and wanderer. The Cattle dogs always disliked happy bumbly dogs. The Catahoula actually is much better with all other dogs. Hes a gem. He loves them all but the cattle dogs have taught him about getting into their space so he learned to be a little more aloof at greetings. I love my herding dogs, but as I am older now I actuallly like the Catahoula personality better, they can relax and seem to be way more easy going. not so driven. Love em.

  74. I have a rescued Scottish rough collie, blue merle in color. She is an ambassador where ever she goes. Gentle and forgiving of all dogs, rude or otherwise. I watch her “speak” dog to dogs that seem to not know the “language” and am amazed. I thought perhaps she speaks with a Scottish accent (lol) as other rough collies seem to understand her. I have used her to socialize puppies and scared/timid dogs as she is non aggressive and will give them plenty of space as well as allowing them to come to her. And if they are aggressive to her she backs off and turns her head, casting her eyes down.
    But I always warn her when new dogs approach. I tell her that she has to ask permission of the owners as it seems that owners are sometimes more afraid than there dogs. And after the initial greet and sniff she is more interested in the owners who pet her and praise her. In fact she wants to play with other dogs, but they become either too aggressive (she then runs behind their owner as if to say that is it their responsibility to control their dog) or they ignore her. But a friend of mine has a rough collie too and the two of them perform such a beautiful dance together. I call it their collie pas de duex. Amazing to see.
    Most of the Labs/Retrievers that come to our park (not a dog park) are very ball driven and ignore her. I don’t take her to dog parks as she is too soft for the large dog group and too big for the small dog group though she doesn’t know she is big. So we walk three times a day and enjoy the park and those we encounter.

  75. Love your blog!

    I have a rescued Scottish rough collie, blue merle in color. She is an ambassador where ever she goes. Gentle and forgiving of all dogs, rude or otherwise. I watch her “speak” dog to dogs that seem to not know the “language” and am amazed. I thought perhaps she speaks with a Scottish accent (lol) as other rough collies seem to understand her. I have used her to socialize puppies and scared/timid dogs as she is non aggressive and will give them plenty of space as well as allowing them to come to her. And if they are aggressive to her she backs off and turns her head, casting her eyes down.
    But I always warn her when new dogs approach. I tell her that she has to ask permission of the owners as it seems that owners are sometimes more afraid than there dogs. And after the initial greet and sniff she is more interested in the owners who pet her and praise her. In fact she wants to play with other dogs, but they become either too aggressive (she then runs behind their owner as if to say that is it their responsibility to control their dog) or they ignore her. But a friend of mine has a rough collie too and the two of them perform such a beautiful dance together. I call it their collie pas de duex. Amazing to see.
    Most of the Labs/Retrievers that come to our park (not a dog park) are very ball driven and ignore her. I don’t take her to dog parks as she is too soft for the large dog group and too big for the small dog group though she doesn’t know she is big. So we walk three times a day and enjoy the park and those we encounter.

  76. I have 2 Corgis; a Pembroke and a Cardigan. They too exhibit these “stay out of my space” behaviors. My male Cardi also seems to speak the herding breed language known as “bark in your face” which is not well known to many other non herding breeds. They both love going to the beach, but we have to be on the watch for the breeds that invade personal space since we tend to nip the nose first- ask questions later… I enjoyed your article- we all have personalities!

    • I have a corgi/Pomeranian… and she is the EXACT SAME WAY. She will play fine with other breeds.. but when she’s done.. she’s done. I call it the alone time phase. And if another dog starts invading her space during this time she warns them at least with a low guttural growl. Unfortunately, a LOT of breeds (or lack of attention from owners) don’t recognize her signal. It’s a good thing we both are observant parents and know our dogs! :)

  77. OMG, I LOL when I read this. It is so right on! I took my shepherd to the vet the other day. I always look in first to see who might still be inside and lo and behold it is a lab and owner. Why do these owners think everybody and every dog wants to greet their dog? They often let them out to the full extension of their leash while they are busy doing whatever they are doing, in this case “checking out at the vets.” The owner is totally oblivious to the shepherd that is already taking offence at this boisterous reaction. Thanks for this!

    • I used to have a lab mix that loved other dogs, and at the time I just didn’t understand that I shouldn’t let her just go up to other dogs. Now that I have somewhat touchy bc mix, boy do I understand! Hopefully, just a matter of fact warning to those “friendly dog” owners should set them straight.

  78. hi everyone , i heard that the german shepherd don’t get on with poodle if fact there are the worst of enemies , my german shepherd she gets on so well with 2 poodles up the road to me , she also get on well with a lab call maggie.

  79. Oh how I wish this was posted at our local dog park. There is a guy who brings 3 German Shepherds there every day, and someone else who brings a couple more. It is not a nice place to take your dog, period. That gang rushes up to any other dog who shows up. Most dogs can’t handle this, and the owners of those Shepherds could care less!

  80. Thank you. Having two German Shepherd Dogs, I only wish more people took the time to understand breeds.

  81. HI sarah, that was a great article. I had a dog, german shep/husky mix and when i moved to this house all he wanted to do was to bark at the neighbors chocolate lab and i couldnt figure out why and when i took him to obedience training, there was a golden retriever there and my dog wanted to go after it and i kept asking the trainer why my dog would go after those type of dogs and she really didnt know. So when i read your article it helped me understand more about the breed. My german shep/husky has passed on to rainbow bridge and i have an long coated german shepherd and for some reason he isnt crazy about either pit bulls or bulldogs, not sure which tho but he also wants to go after the labs. Its hard to find infos about the german shepherds, i dont know many german shepherd owners to ask questions. Everyone i talk to owns those yappy breed dogs, which is fine but they dont keep them quiet lol. Keep up with the infos on the sheps!!

  82. Thank you for speaking the truth about our beloved GSDs. Its okay to admit that they are not dog park dogs. They are happiest when they are with us and not a bunch of other pups.

  83. Just found you and I loved this article. I have a few great pics of how my GSD ‘herded’ my puppies. And many stories about how he managed with a ‘pack of fools’. :)
    I will definitely be referring people to your site and books and would love to post the links.

  84. Well, I beg to disagree!! I brought a six year old retired Personal Protection German Shepherd into my home with my goofy 4 year old yellow lab and they get on great! The Lab is 120lb, my GSD is 49lb. No problems whatsoever. The only thing I will say is the GSD is always hoarding all the chew toys!

    • Hi Jane – That’s a happy report! There are plenty of exceptions, which is why I used words like “often”, “generally”, “may” in that blog instead of “always”. Glad you have a happy home. And dogs who live together often work it out. – Sarah

  85. Well, I have a male mini schnauzer who are also known as a breed reserved with strangers, being watchdogs among other things they were bred for. When he was an adolescent (read: could not control his impulses as well as he can now), he simply could not stand Labrador puppies. He would play with any dog, but young labs would just set him off: he would pin them to the ground and growl. I was mortified as everybody loves Lab puppies, bouncy and happy and the owners thought I had a monster for a dog. I knew by then that my maturing dog did not like dogs that were in his face and bouncing all over him, and those were mainly young labs. I had to take him out of central London parks to Richmond, where he had more space and I could avoid meeting Labrador puppies. He tolerates them now, but I try to take him out of such situations anyway.

  86. This is the first time I have seen someone else describe what I have already observed with my border collie and other border collies (typically the females are less tolerant around here). We socialized her with other dogs very thoroughly, but later dog attacks would leave my girl a bit less tolerant of other dogs in her space. Even before that though… My BC doesn’t like Aussies or Labradoodles as they tend to be very bouncy and hyper and don’t mind pouncing on other dogs. My dog prefers a “No contact” social time. And I would say, if your dog doesn’t like my dog’s bossiness, then your dog should stay out of her space because that is the only time she will get bossy with another dog is to get it out of her space. Over-sniffing is another problem. My dog’s best friend was a Puggle! Fastest Puggle in the east is what I called her! Boy did they play tag with everything they had! It is easy for mismatched breeds to get along when they grow up together.

  87. So true. And it’s not just herding breeds. My Golden Retriever is very particular about how other dogs greet her, and she is especially ready to discipline overenthusiastic pups. I reach for her muzzle or turn her around when I see a dog approaching, and I automatically warn people that she’s not friendly to strange dogs. Interestingly, we never have a problem at dog shows because the owners/handlers know not to let dogs run up to each other.

  88. I think you described it very well — and of COURSE it is a generality, as there will be plenty of exceptions. Good teaching point!
    Also interesting to read about other breed owners chiming in on similar behaviors. Lots to learn for all of us!
    I have had corgis for years — I have 4 (all older now) which have different personalities, but each one is really not that into other dogs. They are very bright, love agility and working with a person, and watching other dogs (and herding them) but not so much hanging with them. They love their cats, and one will play at chasing them as a joke, another will take care of his personal kitty and lick it to death and never think of herding it, 2 others will ignore them.
    One will take off the face of another dog in her space if she were allowed, but is totally trustable around small children…. a true farm dog who takes care of her family. Does she like Labs or other bumblers? Oh, my, no! The other 3 do not care for that in your face stuff at all either, and prefer to move away after letting the bumbler of any size know that it’s not good behavior.
    Breeds are fascinating!

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  90. I experience this everyday.good to know I’m not the only one who has this “problem”. I solve it the way author suggested :) except the fact there are no dog parks ;) so I have to ask some of those owners to remove their dogs a bit to avoid the situation from the picture. Interesting that I have exactly the same size of personal space as my dog ;)

  91. This extends beyond herding breeds. There are just some dogs, even individuals within a breed, who dislike the exuberant nature of Labs. Hard to imagine, but very true!!

    Thanks for writing this article.

  92. We adopted a 7yr old golden retriever last year, and he’s very much like the “true” lab and golden when it comes to people, but not with dogs.

    The humane society couldn’t tell us anything about his history as he came to them as a stray. We’ve worked with trainers to get him to either ignore other dogs or be a little bit more polite when he sees them (he used to try to drag me all the way across the park to growl and lunge at them, and he attacked my mom’s husky/lab who was lying down on the floor).

    With the exception of pit bulls, which he is pretty much guaranteed to challenge/get in a fight with, there doesn’t seem to be a breed (or size or gender) specific pattern. His reaction upon encountering a dog is really the luck of the draw from what we can tell…is it just my dog, or is there something we can do to make the walks less stressful for us?

    Sorry for the long message, but I would love some insight.

    • Hi Cassie –

      That does sound stressful for all concerned. What have you tried so far? Anything work at all? What equipment (collar or harness) are you walking him on?

      You have really hung in there with your dog. That’s impressive.

      Sarah

      • Thanks for the quick reply! We have him on an easy walker harness and a regular leash so that we have more control over him if he decides to pull (he might be getting on, but he’s still strong!).

        He’s really come a long way since we got him last year. The worst experience was when he went to chase a smaller dog and caught me off-guard; I went splat on the ground and got dragged about 3 feet!

        Our trainer has narrowed it down to a case of dominance, since we’ve worked out his protection issues (he doesn’t bark at people with canes anymore, either). Now, I’m not sure what issues might be left. There really is no pattern to it. Generally, he’s good with smaller dogs, and it seems as though he’s more excited than aggressive, but it really can be hit and miss…

        • I’m a big fan of head halters for this sort of situation. I don’t find that harnesses give me the control I need at the moments you describe.

          You might find this blog useful – http://sarahwilsondogexpert.com/alarm-barking/

          Also, I’ve only met one or two “dominant” dogs in my day. VERY rare and not the situation you describe, but regardless, doesn’t really matter what the cause is as much as how effective your response is and how quickly you can get that brain to a rewardable place.

          You are dedicated and getting results; congrats!

  93. While GSDs fall into the herding group I see them in more in a traditional WORKING (not herding) role. (e.g. Personal protection) I am a collie breeder and would say the GSD temperament is very different than the collie. Collies are non aggressive.

    We have a lab as a pet in our collie pack. I would agree that the lab is a personal space invader. When I am in the kennels the lab will come up close to sniff the back of my head and face and I have to shoo him away (very annoying) . The collies are happy to see me and be with me but rarely are sniffing in my face unless invited. I have not seen the collies even give a small snap to the lab. Having a collie snap even at another dog would not be acceptable nor tolerated. Perhaps this behavior is readily accepted with the GSD?

    While some characteristics of herding breeds are consistent between them, it is just as important to look at the expectations and what makes the herding breeds different.

    • Hi Helen -

      You are quite right that collies are at the demur end of the herding spectrum. The group includes the GSD, Bouvier, Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, any of the Belgians and the Briard, more of them are more likely to react to “close talkers” than not, in my experience. That reaction can range from turning away themselves to forcing the other to turn away (as pictured).

      But all of our experiences inform our opinions and your depth with collies gives context to yours. Glad you have such stable dogs. :)

      Sarah

  94. Excellent article. My dog must be permanently confused, he’s GSD/Lab cross! Displays more GSD traits though and absolutely will not tolerate some Labradors although one in particular is his best friend while another is his complete nemesis!

  95. Great article! I have seen this myself too, and the shepherd never caused harm. (They actually became the best of friends) You described this perfectly. Going to share this, hope you don’t mind!

    Shannon – Dog Blogger
    The Daily Golden

  96. At last: an article that hit the nail on the head for us, and makes sense, regarding our border collie/husky cross. She has no time for poodles, no time for labs, and, surprisingly, no time for shelties. Shelties do not herd in the same fervent manner as border collies. Thanks! Pat

  97. I initially read this because my border collie mix seems to have it in for Jack Russels and I was looking for why (I think it might just be their energy, she’s never actually played with one, just barks at them on on-leash walks). But you totally nailed it– she gets so offended by other dogs trying to sniff her behind that she will snarl and lunge at them. If they just play bow at her and play chase, she is cool with them, but just let them try to get up close and personal! My last dog was a lab mix and never met a stranger-dog. Thanks for the insight to my quirky bc mix Indi!

  98. Nice to know I came outside this morning to find my visting family members german shepard pinned to the ground with my lab at his neck sure suprised me I quickly broke them up and no harm was done to either side but who would have thought the lab would win that confrotation he’s never showed a bit of agression towards any dog or person.

  99. I’ve found that most working dogs or dogs who are in a working situation don’t like their personal space being invaded by any other dog. I have a Golden who does therapy work who when in the places we visit hates her personal space invaded by any other breed that gets in her face. She growls and lip curls at any other dog in her space, including a B.C. that likes to stare then moves directly in front of her.

  100. Good stuff, Sarah. Bailey was very much an in your space kind of lab. Even after being attacked by a pit bull she never really changed…

    • Yup, that was Bailey, Amy. Absolutely. And few dogs would change. She probably just chalked it up to being the other dog’s problem. How are you doing?

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