Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Modesto, California
What constitutes "Unstable temperament" in a dog, and can it be changed?
I’m a 3rd time GSD owner. My first was a rescued male with a gentle, submissive temperament. My second was a BYB female with a "classic" GSD temperament. She was aloof, but approachable, had intense focus and loved to train, and approached every situation with calm confidence. I think she made me prejudiced in favor of BYB’s.
My new puppy, is a different story. If I had to describe her in two words, they would be "hyperactive" and "neurotic". At first I thought she was just drivey and playful, but she doesn’t really have strong drive, its more like she just lacks an OFF switch. I got her at *supposedly* eight weeks old (I think she was really 6). Even though it was a BYB, he had the puppies and mother corralled in a large x-pen in the living room, with his wife and kids interacting with them, so I thought it would be ok. At this point, she is around 15 weeks old.
Here is how I am raising her:
I use "nothing in life is free"/positive motivation type training. I don’t punish her, I use a marker word + treat when she does the behavior I want, and ignore her/walk away when she doesnt. She doesn’t get petted or played with unless she sits quietly first, she doesn’t come into a room without waiting to be invited in, etc. I have my whole family doing the same thing.
We "ipe" and walk away, and redirect her into toys. We use the command "NO BITE" before walking away. A couple times, when she has gotten really intense, we have given her a scruff shake with a firm NO BITE, before walking away.
I hand-feed her dinner each night, making her train on basic commands to earn her kibble. She does great during this session, but thats about it.
She has been peeing outside on command since the day after we got her. She has had a few accidents in the house, almost exclusively when she excitedly urinates when a visitor comes over.
She sleeps each night next to my bed in her crate.
We walk every day to a secluded park (about 5 min away), where she and I romp around off leash in the grass, then walk back home. Takes about an hour for the whole thing. We have numerous 5-10 min a day play/training sessions with the flirt pole, or play fetch with the rope bone.
On our daily walk, I make a point of chatting up everyone I meet on the street and introducing her to them. I also take her to the park on weekends with a bag of treats, and allow strangers to give her a treat after she sits calmly for them. I bring her in the car with me, everywhere I go. She is in puppy kindergarten once a week. I invite friends and family members over frequently. She meets, on average, probably at least 10 new people a week.
I brush her every other day, and while I brush her, I touch her everywhere, on her paws, muzzle, etc, to make her comfortable with being handled. I have my kids do the same when they pet her.
Despite all of our efforts, she has shown minimal improvement.
Bite inhibition? not really. The other day, after I "iped" and started getting up, she bit my arm and purposely bore down while looking me in the eye. I actually felt her increasing the pressure on my arm while she bit.
Crate trained? After two months, she STILL whines and yips at length when I put her in. I give her stuffed kongs and special meat bones that she only gets in the crate, but she just finishes them, then cries to be let out. I NEVER give in, so she cries herself to sleep every night.
Socialized? Despite meeting tons of new people on the street, in the store, and at puppy class, she reacts unpredictably to all new people. She sometimes slinks behind me and hides, sometimes gets excited, jumps, and pees, and sometimes snaps, barks, and lunges. Other times, I have gotten her to be calm. This can all happen within minutes of each other-one second she’s scared, the next calm, the next hostile. At the vet, she freezes in fear, and is basically a statue. She completely shuts down.
At home? No "OFF switch". We spend the whole day doing a constant cycle of trying to play, getting bitten, giving a time out, then repeating. She stops to train for her kibble or play with the flirt pole, but that’s about it.
My whole family is on the same page, my kids play with her under my supervision and I make sure they use the same commands as me, and time her rewards correctly. We are literally putting in a minimum of 2-3 solid hours of working with her daily, but have hardly seen any improvement. I truly feel that I am putting 110%, and honestly, I’m exhausted. Something needs to give, because she is hardly ever pleasant to be around. I need to fix her. But is it possible? Sometimes she will have good days, which give me hope, but then she regresses. I keep reading about temperament, and how it can be improved, but never really extinguished because it is an inherent part of the dog.
What am I doing wrong? I have successfully trained other dogs to be good citizens before, and I don't understand why it isn't sticking, and why this puppy acts nuts. Has any one else had a puppy like this? What did you do about it?
Last edited by Rachel.E; 03-06-2013 at 01:25 PM.