Help Please! I feel like I'm letting my Jax down. (Text heavy) - German Shepherd Dog Forums

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Old 01-07-2013, 10:55 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Exclamation Help Please! I feel like I'm letting my Jax down. (Text heavy)

Please help, I have a 20 month(ish) old male GSD. He is the sweetest dog to me and will listen to my commands unless he's feeling extra giddy and then is easily distracted. I am a college student and he was given to me by my mother because we had to find a new home for the GSD we had before (moved houses [long story]).

He is a hellion around my mother in my absence and that kills me because I know what kind of dog he really is. I've tried talking to my mother and brother about how to properly behave when rewarding and punishing Jax but they don't listen.

Now, since I've been on winter break I've seen his new favorite bad habits:

1) Barking like crazy when people enter the house.
-His hair will stand up on his back
-He has yet to growl or snip at anyone he just looks very threatening
but I know not to rule out the possibility of him biting someone.

Now, if the person or people let(s) him smell them or stays for a little he settles back down but demands their attention.

2) On walks he will bark at people coming in and out of their house or garage and that is embarrassing. I know that GSDs are a very vocal breed but the common person does not.

***3) Earlier this evening while we were walking a woman was also taking a walk. The first time we came upon her I crossed the street and got on the other sidewalk as not to make the woman nervous or scared. Jax behaved well and didn't growl, bark or raise his hair. He just watched her walk by and then didn't even look back to check on her.

The second time we came upon this woman I couldn't get across the street and felt that if I turned Jax around he might have associated that action with people = bad so I kept walking and put myself in between Jax and the woman so she would pass on my right side. It was dark and as we approached he didn't raise his hair, bark or growl. I established vocal contact with the woman first thinking that it would ease Jax even more and after I finished, she answered my comment with a simple "Yes." As soon as she answered, Jax started barking and tried to lunge. I caught the lunge before he got but 2 inches and when I popped his collar (choke) he stopped barking and shaped up but the damage was done for the woman.

This behavior is unacceptable and I know this. I also know that this is MY fault. Not Jax's and most definitely not the woman walking.

I would LOVE to take him down to school with me to insure that I could get some good work in with him but with this type of behavior I wouldn't be able to walk down the sidewalk. Jaxon is my best friend and I would be crushed if he hurt someone because I know what that means.

I'm new to this forum and the whole forum thing and I feel like I just kind of let everything spill out so if something doesn't make sense or I forgot some information, don't hesitate to ask.
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:15 PM   #2 (permalink)
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If his caretakers aren't working with him properly, you're fighting a losing battle. Would they be willing to go to training classes in order to learn to handle him properly? Otherwise, I am not sure what you can do as long as he stays in that situation.

If you are able to have him with you at school, it might be better to take him with you and just work with him a lot at first. If you're worried about him scaring or harming people, you can time your walks for low-traffic times and even put a muzzle on him until he learns not to react to people passing you on the sidewalk.

In the scenario you describe with the woman, I think it would have been better for you to walk away with him,. It isn't going to teach him that people are bad. He won't even be thinking about her most likely, but rather be wondering why you changed direction and focused on following you. It sounds like as you approached her, you were probably tense and expecting him to react, even if you didn't realize it. If so, he picked up on your nerves and if anything, that taught him that there was something frightening about approaching another person. Also, when you're dealing with a reactive dog, it is very important not to let them practice the behavior, as every time they react, it reinforces the behavior. It's very likely that from his perspective, he barked and lunged, and even though you stopped him, he still got the scary person to go away! Nevermind that she was just walking by anyway, he doesn't know that. It sounds like you also maybe should have been more proactive about keeping his focus. Instead of talking to the woman, I probably would have given the dog commands to keep his attention on me. Depending on the dog, this would either be a "watch me" and/or "heel" command as we walked past her, or I would have stopped and put him in a sit combined with focusing commands. If he's paying attention to you, he'll be less likely to react to her.

It sounds to me like a trainer needs to be involved in this situation. Right now, it doesn't sound that bad at all to me. However, it will likely escalate if it isn't addressed. He needs consistent training and desensitization in order to learn that new people aren't a threat.
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:28 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Thank you very much for your input. He went to a 6 week puppy class but was so big as a puppy he terrified the other pooches. I'll have to check to see if there are any trainers where I attend school.

The sidewalk condition here is sub par. It's covered with Ice and snow so he had to be picking up that I was apprehensive since I was thinking about not slipping and him maybe scaring her and how she would react, etc. When you say to not let them carry out with the reaction, how could I effectively stop this behavior before he is able to carry out an action? Do I pop the collar? I've also been noticeably changing my mood to a very happy mood whenever anyone steps outside within his view saying things like "Who is that, Jax? I see them too!" and if he behaves I reward him once we get by. How do I punish him properly if he does bark?

Lastly, down at school, should I work with him by walking directly past other people or should I cross the street? I've also thought about carrying treats or food with me and feeding him as they approach. If he wouldn't bark like crazy I would ask the person if they would like to give him a treat. Wouldn't that quell this problem quite promptly?

Forgive my ignorance, I'm trying my best. :/
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:53 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EGibbs View Post
. When you say to not let them carry out with the reaction, how could I effectively stop this behavior before he is able to carry out an action? :/
By bringing him into lots of controlled situations and having him focus on you before the situation arises...For example: At a park you are sitting on the bench and he is laying next to you, you see a person on a bicycle coming in the distance. At that point put your dog in a sit and have him focus on you and keep him focused on you while that bike is passing...same goes for other dogs walking by, kids, etc. You can start by doing things further away and move closer as he starts getting better at it.

In this situation..when you seen the lady the second time, you could have put him in a sit and had him focused on you while she passed..then he wouldn't have felt any tension coming from you(like possibly falling) You will have to learn his body language, so you know what he is thinking about doing.
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Old 01-08-2013, 12:28 AM   #5 (permalink)
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llombardo hit the nail on the head. You prevent the behavior by insisting that the dog focuses on you. At first you may have to stick to open areas like parks where you can move to a "safe" distance when people are approaching, but that depends on your dog. If you can't keep his focus when people are passing you on a sidewalk, you'll need to stick to the parks. On the other hand, you may find that with a little tweaking, he does fine on sidewalks too.

I am personally not a fan of punishment or physical correction in these circumstances, because a dog who is reacting out of fear may associate the physical discomfort with the object of his fear (the other person), rather than the unwanted behavior. It also doesn't address the psychological problem that causes the behavior, just the reaction itself. That can work for some dogs, but in others it may just extinguish the warning behavior (I have a dog like this--he was punished for growling, so he never growls and instead goes right to a bite!). So long story short, I can't advise you on an appropriate physical correction or punishment. Instead, I would just remove the dog from the situation if it does happen and work out ways to prevent it from happening in the future.

Definitely carry treats on your walk, and reward him very frequently for focusing on you! Barking and lunging is self-reinforcing, so simply praising your dog usually isn't that rewarding by comparison. You need to use a high-value treat so that paying attention to you becomes more valuable to him than barking at strangers.
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Old 01-08-2013, 12:32 AM   #6 (permalink)
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i think yr dog is just begging for more mental stimulation than it is getting, and being harsh is hardly fair on the dog. if yr family members cannot provide the stimulation and structured training all gsd's need that at that age i fear you may have to make some hard decisions.

not very helpful, a tough problem for you and yr fmily, hope you get the direction you need. good luck.
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Old 01-08-2013, 12:42 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I am afraid you have a dog with fear aggression on your hands .
I would not let him be in the care of your mother , who may be promoting / rewarding his behaviour . Something will happen !

I don't think your invited guests should expose themselves to the high risk of getting bitten. ") Barking like crazy when people enter the house.
-His hair will stand up on his back
-He has yet to growl or snip at anyone he just looks very threatening
but I know not to rule out the possibility of him biting someone.

Now, if the person or people let(s) him smell them or stays for a little he settles back down but demands their attention."
everyone always gives the dog free reign , but the people are limited to how they ought to behave - stand still , don't look at him, let him approach you - -

you have a lot of work ahead of you , years of management because this is probably what he is and will be . Find a recommended , competent trainer , familiar with dogs with issues , and then train and be consistent
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Old 01-15-2013, 09:12 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Help!!!! I'm new to this forum and to German Shepherds. My sister-in-law got a shepherd and then moved into an apartment where he wouldn't stop barking and the owners threatened eviction. I was the only family member who could possibly care for him and so she dropped him off with me. Jaeger's almost one year old and not neutered. I live in the country with my mom, have a fenced in 3/4 acre yard, one playful male husky mix (Shredder) and one super sweet/friendly male black lab (Luke)- they are both fixed.
Every since we've had this dog, he's been a nightmare. I couldn't even walk him on the leash at first and it was very evident he's had almost no training and no socialization. I thought he was going to have to find a new home within a few days because he kept attacking Shredder, mostly at dinner time. We separated them and the food issue disappeared and now it seems like the issues between both of them have gone away as well (after two trips to the vet because of an eye injury to Shredder). I've read a lot on how to establish being an alpha (making him wait for food, making sure I go through the door first, being firm and consistent, etc.) but I know I'm still ignorant about this breed and dominate dogs in general. I found a trainer generous enough to come out and help us learn to walk him on a leash with a prong collar and a short leash. I've worked with him almost everyday when I get home from work and he can walk decently now. But he has a huge reactive issue (?) to other dogs on leash and at the fence.
We've had him now for a month and a half. I took him to the vet yesterday (to see about getting him fixed) and had to wait until the other dogs were out of sight to bring him in and take him back out.
When we got back home he started going after Luke totally unprovoked. The only way I could stop him was to lay on top of him. Luke ran and hid. I let the shepherd up again and within a minute he was searching for Luke and started attacking him again. He didn't draw any blood and Luke was only protecting himself. I just don't understand it because Jaeger already established himself as the alpha a week earlier and Luke is the poster child for the perfectly socialized dog-he loves all dogs, cats and people. It's like a switch has been flipped.
Now it's evident he has to leave for another home. He just isn't a good fit with us even though I have come to really love this dog. He follows me like a shadow and mostly listens to me. Mom isn't willing to work with him at all and she won't stand for this new aggression (?) between her dog and Jaeger. This morning he growled at Luke again while on the leash and I know they will have to permanently be separated until we can find a new really good home for him.
Sorry for the really long post but I really want to understand what happened to this dog. He made me realize I could really love a GSD but something just went terribly wrong.
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Old 01-15-2013, 11:30 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I really feel for you, but don't have any advice. We have in the past had similar problems at our house with our GSD, Heidi. She several times attacked our black lab. We just learned to live with it and the lab learned to stay out of her way and let her be the alpha. But it sounds like the problems between your dogs are a lot worse. Would probably have been better if Jaeger had been neutered before he came to your house, but I understand that it wasn't your choice. If you are really wanting to keep the GSD and your mom would make one more concession, you might try waiting till after he is neutered, as well as working with a good trainer and see if things get any more manageable. Good luck.
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Old 01-15-2013, 07:07 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jšeger's Keeper View Post
Help!!!! I'm new to this forum and to German Shepherds. My sister-in-law got a shepherd and then moved into an apartment where he wouldn't stop barking and the owners threatened eviction. I was the only family member who could possibly care for him and so she dropped him off with me. Jaeger's almost one year old and not neutered. I live in the country with my mom, have a fenced in 3/4 acre yard, one playful male husky mix (Shredder) and one super sweet/friendly male black lab (Luke)- they are both fixed.
Every since we've had this dog, he's been a nightmare. I couldn't even walk him on the leash at first and it was very evident he's had almost no training and no socialization. I thought he was going to have to find a new home within a few days because he kept attacking Shredder, mostly at dinner time. We separated them and the food issue disappeared and now it seems like the issues between both of them have gone away as well (after two trips to the vet because of an eye injury to Shredder). I've read a lot on how to establish being an alpha (making him wait for food, making sure I go through the door first, being firm and consistent, etc.) but I know I'm still ignorant about this breed and dominate dogs in general. I found a trainer generous enough to come out and help us learn to walk him on a leash with a prong collar and a short leash. I've worked with him almost everyday when I get home from work and he can walk decently now. But he has a huge reactive issue (?) to other dogs on leash and at the fence.
We've had him now for a month and a half. I took him to the vet yesterday (to see about getting him fixed) and had to wait until the other dogs were out of sight to bring him in and take him back out.
When we got back home he started going after Luke totally unprovoked. The only way I could stop him was to lay on top of him. Luke ran and hid. I let the shepherd up again and within a minute he was searching for Luke and started attacking him again. He didn't draw any blood and Luke was only protecting himself. I just don't understand it because Jaeger already established himself as the alpha a week earlier and Luke is the poster child for the perfectly socialized dog-he loves all dogs, cats and people. It's like a switch has been flipped.
Now it's evident he has to leave for another home. He just isn't a good fit with us even though I have come to really love this dog. He follows me like a shadow and mostly listens to me. Mom isn't willing to work with him at all and she won't stand for this new aggression (?) between her dog and Jaeger. This morning he growled at Luke again while on the leash and I know they will have to permanently be separated until we can find a new really good home for him.
Sorry for the really long post but I really want to understand what happened to this dog. He made me realize I could really love a GSD but something just went terribly wrong.
I would caution you against thinking in terms of dominance/submission. There are some significant problems with that theory. NILIF (nothing in life is free--he has to do something before he gets something he wants, including dinner or going outside) is a great thing for establishing respect for you and can help keep the peace in a house of dogs, but him seeing you as his leader isn't going to make him get along with your other dogs.

It could be fear reactivity (the most likely possibility--if he was never socialized, he doesn't know how to act around other dogs and needs to be taught carefully), or it could be dog aggression (also a possibility, especially in a GSD, though much more rare). If it's the latter, he needs to be an only dog. If it's the former, he could potentially get over it but it would require a lot of work and careful management on your part, which I wouldn't blame you for not wanting/being able to do, considering this dog was dumped on you!

I hope you will take the time to find him a good home, as he sounds like he is great with people and just needs some work with other dogs. If you want to try to keep him, try to find a local trainer to help you figure out what you need to do. But it sounds like you've decided you can't keep him (which is understandable, as I said), so I hope you will post something in the rehoming section on these forums, and also look up GSD rescues in your area to try to get him a great home. He's very young still and he could probably do very well in the right home.

Like I said I don't blame you at all as you're doing your best with a dog you didn't plan to get, but shame on your sister-in-law. She really let this dog down.
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