Also, I've heard many people say that in Schutzhund when a dog is under pressure or stress it will revert first to its genetics, then its foundation, and finally to its training. I think this also applies to how dogs react to life in general. Training and socialization matter (as well as past experiences) but if a dog has poor genetics and lacked a good foundation early on you probably can't overcome that, only manage it.
I for one do not like it when people say their dog was "abused" simply because it has some avoidance or fearful reactions. My first dog acted very afraid of certain people and things and a lot of people tried to tell me she was abused. It was kind of funny, but not really. She was never, ever abused. In fact she had great foundation and training, a great life from the moment of birth. She just had a genetic weakness that could not be overcome, so I never pressed those issues, just avoided people/situations that stressed her out. Also, when working with friends and family on various dog behavior "issues" (I saw that in quotes because most of the dogs are find it's the people/training that's the problem!) I don't like when people focus on the dog's past. I've found that softer, weak nerved dogs thrive with consistency. They like to know what is coming, what to expect, and what's expected of them. When people get all emotional about a dog possibly being abused I find that they tend to lose consistency in how they interact with their dog and it just makes things worse. I'm not one of those people that insists "coddling" a fearful dog automatically makes it worse, but I find that people who are really coddly towards a fearful dog are often ignoring what that dog really needs. FWIW I am speaking in general terms, not GSD (only one of my foster dogs has been GSD and none of the friends and family I've worked with have GSDs).
~Elrond's Rocket of Rivendell, aka The RocketDog
06/15/11 hiker and runner extraordinaire
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