...and I need some perspective because right now I'm so horrified I don't know what to think.
Sky is 7 months old, female, desexed. To be honest, she's not very well socialised - partly because her shots were way overdue when we got her, partly because my social anxiety is quite severe which is really debilitating when it comes to strangers. It's something I'm working on and I will give details if needed but the main thing is that she's wary of strangers (humans - she loves dogs) although getting much better around them (taking treats, but shying away if they try to touch her - sometimes barking, sometimes not). She hasn't been exposed to kids although she's always shown interest in them. This is mostly because until very recently it was so hard to control her jumping and lunging while snapping her teeth at your ears/face - not in an aggressive way, just that she is SO excitable - but even her paws have given me serious scratches to my face and I didn't want to risk that happening to any kids. Since I started clicker training her she's gotten MUCH better, knows to keep all four paws on the ground, and today was the first day I brought my little cousins (two girls, age 7 and 4) to swim in our pool.
They had been introduced in the front yard once before, when I explained very clearly to the girls how I would like them to offer her treats, keep quiet and not touch or make eye contact with her. They were great, and Sky was pretty well behaved though excited too. Today however I'd been out with the girls all day; walked Sky in the morning but it was only a quick half hour walk with only a very brief off-leash run time. My family was at home with her but I know she was VERY excited to see me home. I tend to ignore her when I get home until she calms down, but she didn't calm down at all plus I was so focused on watching the girls that I never got around to properly acknowledging/saying hi to her.
Then the girls' parents plus my uncle came over, plus two dogs randomly wandered into our yard (we live in an area where people leave their dogs running loose outside all the time, don't get me started) and things were just really, really chaotic. We VERY rarely have so much activity in our house like today. I understand that she had a lot of pent up energy, and was probably unsure of what to make of everything that was happening. She started barking loudly and in that situation I couldn't excuse myself to take her for a walk. I also didn't know how to deal with the barking because it's so rare for us to have a lot of guests over that it's not something I've had experience with. So I put her in her crate with a piece of roo tail to hopefully calm her down.
She was in there a while. My younger cousin went up to her crate and I don't know what she said or did, but I heard a VERY scary, long, drawn out growl. It froze everyone in the room. She has never, ever, EVER done that before.
Here is the thing: she growls a lot during play. It's playful growling and I never discouraged it before. Should I be discouraging it? And do you think under these circumstances she had the right to tell my cousin to back out of her space? Should I be worried? I KNOW that socialising is the most important thing, and I'm honestly really trying. I put an ad on gumtree for people to help me with it and got some great responses, I'm just working up the courage to actually meet them. Now I just feel terrified to have her around kids though.
Sorry for the long saga... I would really like some experienced dog owners to tell me what they think of this situation. Thanks in advance