So for the past few weeks, Titan (about 9 mo) has gotten very reactive to other dogs. It probably started with one or two dogs that he did not like, which ended up in fights (no one was hurt) ... but after that, my girlfriend and I started feeling anxious around other dogs, which he probably reads off of us, and now we have two owners very nervous and a dog who is extremely reactive.
Don't take me wrong, we have spent hours reading most posts in here regarding how we should calm down, and be the leader so Titan does not take it upon himself to decide what to do with the approaching dog. Also, there were some great tips and success stories about the right energy, correction and positive reinforcement. I personally think, all of them are great tips and work great. However, our situation is a bit tricky, and it makes it a hard to follow through those tips/suggestions.
We live in an apartment complex in the city that has 7 floors. Every floor has 5-8 dogs, and the hallways are tiny! It is impossible to avoid encounters with other dogs or to start from a distance. If I see other dogs at the end of the hallway, I just turn around and go the other direction. The main issue is in corners and the elevators. The door opens and there is always a dog (or dogs) and they just enter before I can even tell them to wait. Reactive dog + other dog(s) + elevator = bad situation. He is much better with walks as I can distract him, maintain distance and such. After trying for a few weeks, we have concluded that we just cannot avoid those encounters within the complex and he is getting at least one such negative encounter every day. And the worst part is that people are not cooperative at all, even when I warn them no to come near and that my dog is in training. Most of their dogs (esp. the tiny ones) are off leash, without any training. They run up to Titan and bark, jump, even snap at his ankles and he just completely loses it. At that point, all my calm, composure goes out of the window and it becomes a battle to save the other dog. But obviously, at the end, being a big GSD owner, I get that look of "get a hold of your rabid dog," when their dogs are the ones off leash without any manners whatsoever, running to a dog 10 times their size and getting at his face, while I am doing my best to distract my dog and to maintain a distance.
We tried group classes. He is great, and is by far the smartest. Plays with the other dogs (unless there are toys, at which point he gets possessive). We picked the training provider/trainer that was most recommended/had best reviews. But they are the type who are against prong collars and such, and EXCLUSIVELY rely on positive training, which works great to teach him new things, but I think being a determined working line pup, I think he needs some boundary-setting. And most of what they were teaching were trick-type stuff, which I can do myself. Whenever we asked for ways to alleviate separation anxiety, counter surfing, and reactivate behavior towards other dogs, we were suggested to watch a certain YouTube video, or read some book.
We searched around and found a few trainers who know how to work with working line GSDs but all of them were a few hours away. At this point, our schedule does now allow us to do that. When all failed, we contacted his breeder (amazing folks!) who are back in Chicago and decided to send Titan away for 30 days to get serious obedience training from them, both of whom are very accomplished trainers -- they know their puppy best and have done this for many many years. We are hoping to go visit them towards the end of the training to learn how we can continue what they would have taught him so that he does not regress with us.
I know that many of you here would not recommend boarding and training, because of bad experiences and of course because you cannot stay without your dogs for that long
Our situation I think is a bit unique -- because of the type of place we live in, and because the trainer will be his breeder (he will also be in the company of his parents, as well has his brother who they picked from the litter to have as their pet) ... We wanted to do this right away (while he has had it only for a few weeks) before it becomes a major issue.
I just wanted to see what you guys think about it. Apologies for the long post.