A gsd noob with a puppy in need of help/support/advice
Hi everyone. This will probably be a long message, but I thought the more information available the better, and if you can hang on in with me until the end and offer some help, it would be so, so appreciated.
I live with my boyfriend in a decent sized apartment in a rural village. In December last year the opportunity to foster a five month GSD puppy presented itself, and my boyfriend was super keen (he's always wanted one).
I was unsure. We have both talked about one day getting a dog but wasn't sure we had the space for such a large breed. I asked a few customers from work who I knew had GSDs and they all agreed that as long as the dog was given adequate attention, time and exercise, space wasn't really an issue.
So fast forward and Ode is dropped on us at five months old and a little disorientated. I realise this is not the ideal circumstances to obtain a dog, but I rolled up my sleeves and was determined to try and make the whole thing work.
I was amazed at how quickly he settled into our routine. I work 9 - 6 Tuesday to Saturday every week, but my boyfriend works strange shift patterns and is often home all day, so Ode is very rarely alone. After reading up alot, we quickly established a strict daily routine with him - meal times, play times and walkies are all at very regimented times in the day.
We also employ NILIF and have made sure he has all basic manners - he sits and waits by his food bowl until we allow him to eat, he waits while we cross the front door threshold first, he walks to heel on lead, he doesn't sleep in the same room/bed as us etc. He is currently 8 months old (we have had him three months) but we are starting to lose our minds. WE NEED HELP.
First off - his good points;
He is blazingly clever and quick to learn (when he thinks it's worth his while). We have taught him a number of tricks and useless little movements, just as a way of bonding with him and engaging him in a fun way.
He can be left alone for quite a few hours and he is completely chilled out and relaxed about the whole thing. He doesn't get anxiety from separation, and when we return home we just have a very happy puppy waiting to greet us - no destruction!
He is very affectionate and people-friendly. Loves cuddles and kisses and being made a fuss of.
His bad points (and why I'm here);
Walking him is the most stressful point of our day. Our life REVOLVES around his walks. He gets an on-lead walk around the village in the morning (as we are in an apartment this is his chance to go to the toilet), an hour and a half of on/off lead in a field playing fetch or forest hike in the afternoon, and then another walk on lead around the village at night (again, for toileting purposes). He is generally very alert when outside - any noises or movement and he's immediately watching and ready for action. This is fine... Until there is another dog.
When there is another dog he goes crazy. Barking, lunging, growling, snarling... The lot. Despite this, he is not aggressive in any way. When he actually comes face to face with another dog off-lead he just invites to play (play bowing, occasional barking) and loves chasing them round or wrestling. But walking past others when he's on his lead and he looks like he wants to rip someone's throat out. It unnerves all the labradoodle walkers I can tell you!
Same if he sees another dog and is off-lead. Ode will go temporarily deaf and just bolt away toward them. Tbh since he hit around the 7 month mark he has become much naughtier, and his recall has dropped considerably. This has led to us putting him on a 30ft training lead at all times. It isn't ideal, but we don't want him pestering other dogs that don't want to be pestered.
I wake up in the morning and DREAD having to walk him - either off or on lead. Inside the home he is the perfect dog... But outside, he is a nightmare. We realise that as we don't know his former home, his socialisation may have been inadequate. In order to combat this we walk him through the town centre, through dog parks, through forest hikes... We have enrolled him in dog daycare where he gets to meet dogs of all shapes and sizes for an entire day once a week (and the staff there say he is amazing) and I booked him in for a training session with a professional to conquer his lead manners.
He was MUCH better in the lesson (we had the lesson in the car park of a dog park near us, so there were dogs being unloaded from cars every so often as a distraction), and we learnt a few techniques for trying to make him ignore the other dogs walking around him... Although it's a comfort for us to have it as a crutch, his behaviour doesn't seem to be getting any better.
My boyfriend confessed to me today he feels like he is reaching the end of his tether. We wanted a dog we could take on hiking trails off-lead and happily meet other dogs... But right now we are both knackered with shot nerves trying to keep him under control.
Is the general naughtiness and the fact that his recall has all but disappeared the dreaded adolescence phase? Or are we doing something wrong? What else can we do to help teach Ode to straight up ignore other dogs?
I just need some support guys. I'm so tired and ill with it all. I've never known a reactive dog before, and to be honest, it's terrifying.