Join Date: Sep 2013
Aggression after "successful" introduction
I am a first time GSD owner but have owned many dogs over the years. Wanted to get opinions on a recent aggressive incident to understand my GSDs point of view and the best way to work on this.
Background: Adopted my now 22 month old neutered male 6 months ago from a small rescue organization—GSD got to be “too much” for its family with small kids. At my house it’s just myself and my DH, no kids, with an 11 year old eskie and 2 japanese chins. We rarely have visitors. All dogs get along playfully, Eskie gets testy occasionally, but she is too old to care too much, no big problems. GSD has significant impulse to chase the cats, but they are separated so not around much.
GSD seems a bit timid around my DH, shies away, responds quickly to him, avoids him, gets a worried look sometimes, but DH easily takes him outside, into car to run him to the groomer, etc. GSD is complete mama’s boy with me, very bonded, sweet, affectionate. No signs of aggression to either of us.
I took him to basic obedience class that advocates use of prong collar and leash corrections. All commands were new to GSD, but he did well. Has bad habit of jumping on me when I come home, which we make good progress on with leash correction/prong, and he has learned to sit beside me in “calm”, but he needs reminding.
Dog Aggression: Serious desire to confront other dogs when we are on walks, but no lunging or barking, just “the stare” and hard to keep on task. During obedience class, he went into the stare and then aggression toward other dogs in the class, not at first, but after a few sessions. I had to really manage this by staying far away, distracting my dog, working to keep him on task.
Human Aggression: Seriously loud serious barking when pizza delivery comes, or anyone dares walk outside near the house. On walks, does not seem overly concerned with humans, just attentive, but I don’t go near anyone and actually, we don’t see many humans so not sure about this.
A few weeks ago, my sister and her kids came to stay. GSD was excited, and nipped my young niece when she went to pet him, but did not draw blood. I had him on a leash, waited til the dog could smell them and see them, thought he was ok. This happened at the doorway, and I decided he felt crowded so made a note to self to have all introductions in a large room, on a leash. Afterwards, GSD curled up on the couch with me and my niece, no further problems.
This weekend, my parents came for a visit. Introductions went fine, large room, leash. He became very affectionate, lot of face licking, wiggling, requests for hugs. No problems. The next day, my dad was doing some work on the porch, coming in and out of the door. He came inside at one point, and the GSD bit his hand, drawing blood!! Dad said he was nervous about the GSD, stood still, and then moved and the GSD bit. Unbeknownst to me, dad said he was nervous about the dog previously, as the GSD seemed to want to take nips. Since things had gone well the prior day, I was not paying attention, but now I know, and the GSD is on a leash with me for the rest of the weekend.
Plan: Really like CHIP18’s approach (What would my dog do?) and clearly will keep my GSD on a leash whenever we have company, and never off leash outside, stand between him and others, even my family when they visit (if they ever do again….) and beef up obedience, focusing on leave it and watch me, which we have not learned yet. Also, lots of exercise before visitors come. Also putting some thought into alternatIives to leash corrections.
Questions: Is this fear aggression or protection or a little of both? I am really curious about his bite behavior a day after introductions seem successful. How can I help GSD understand that certain people are “ok” and not threats?
Really appreciate your thoughts, I am committed to helping this boy become a great dog.