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Old 02-13-2013, 01:37 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Extremely Territorial! Help!

I have always been a dog lover and I have three large dogs of my own, but I am at my wits end with my boyfriends German Shepherd! We have been dating for about four years and I have only seen his dog (Chester) twice. He was never socialized as a puppy and now he is very territorial. No one can walk into the house except my boyfriend. Chester has to be locked into the back bedroom before I even open the door. He has bitten two of my BF's friends when they opened the door by themselves (not seriously injured and they did not fault the dog), and I am not risking it. We tried meeting on neutral ground outside of his comfort zone, and he was perfectly fine, but I can not be in his house. Even if he hears my voice, he barks incessantly from the back room until he can't hear me anymore. I don't know what to do, I feel terrible that he has to be locked up when I'm there, but I refuse to put my safety in danger (the dog weighs more than me!). Also, he is about 10 years old, is it too late? Any advice or help would be great! Thanks so much!

Also, I am not afraid of him at all, so I am willing to try different techniques. I just don't want to risk stressing him out too much, or getting hurt myself.

Last edited by moscoops; 02-13-2013 at 01:39 PM.
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Old 02-13-2013, 01:48 PM   #2 (permalink)
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There are very experienced folks on here who will be along to help. From my limited experience, however, your boyfriend failed to establish a strong pack structure with himself as leader, and the dog stepped up to fill the void. The dog feels like the leader and defender of the property. Your boyfriend belongs to him and the dog decides who gets access. Until the pack structure is properly established and the dog returned to a proper subservient role, the situation will remain as it is. GSDs are smart strong (mentally) and it takes a strong informed owner to properly integrate the dog into a household without losing control, as happened here.

Is 10 years old too late? I don't know. In your boyfriend's place, I'd hire a pro for input on reestablishing pack structure with the human on top. This won't be a treat-oriented process. In the meantime, consider reading Leader of the Pack by Nancy Baer and Steve Dunno, and getting the Leerburg video Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Pet, along with a prong collar (used only after some instruction to avoid abuse).

I have had experience with similar situations, but not GSDs (Chows, who are somewhat similar, but not as bright), and have seen severe injuries inflicted on the girlfriend when the dog doesn't like what's going down. Be careful and do not underestimate the scope of the problem.
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Old 02-13-2013, 01:56 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Trotter View Post
There are very experienced folks on here who will be along to help. From my limited experience, however, your boyfriend failed to establish a strong pack structure with himself as leader, and the dog stepped up to fill the void. The dog feels like the leader and defender of the property. Your boyfriend belongs to him and the dog decides who gets access. Until the pack structure is properly established and the dog returned to a proper subservient role, the situation will remain as it is. GSDs are smart strong (mentally) and it takes a strong informed owner to properly integrate the dog into a household without losing control, as happened here.

Is 10 years old too late? I don't know. In your boyfriend's place, I'd hire a pro for input on reestablishing pack structure with the human on top. This won't be a treat-oriented process. In the meantime, consider reading Leader of the Pack by Nancy Baer and Steve Dunno, and getting the Leerburg video Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Pet, along with a prong collar (used only after some instruction to avoid abuse).

I have had experience with similar situations, but not GSDs (Chows, who are somewhat similar, but not as bright), and have seen severe injuries inflicted on the girlfriend when the dog doesn't like what's going down. Be careful and do not underestimate the scope of the problem.
I will absolutely go get that book. I have always had Australian Cattle Dogs, which are also very smart and can be dominant and aggressive, but I have always made sure to take lead with them. This is exactly what I think is happening here with Chester, but it's nice to have some reassurance. Thank you so much!
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Old 02-13-2013, 02:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I will absolutely go get that book. I have always had Australian Cattle Dogs, which are also very smart and can be dominant and aggressive, but I have always made sure to take lead with them. This is exactly what I think is happening here with Chester, but it's nice to have some reassurance. Thank you so much!
You're welcome. If you can't find it locally (out of print, I believe), then:
Leader of the Pack: Nancy Baer, Steve Duno: 9780061010194: Amazon.com: Books Leader of the Pack: Nancy Baer, Steve Duno: 9780061010194: Amazon.com: Books

I forgot to post the link to the dvd, which can be purchased and/or watched online (on-demand, only, for less): Leerburg | Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Pet DVD

If you can spare the time, Leerburg's got lots of free articles, including these on pack structure issues: leerburg.com/articles.htm#pack You'll get a better idea what you're dealing with after digesting that material.

Good luck. You're right to be concerned and to inquire about rectifying that situation.
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Old 02-13-2013, 02:31 PM   #5 (permalink)
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What's gonna happen to your dogs if you two get together? Frankly, your situation sounds impossible.
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Old 02-13-2013, 04:46 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Four years = two interactions with dog? So the dog understands that you are the competition for his human's attention and affection, and when you come over to the house he gets put in jail.

Boyfriend needs to get REAL serious about re-programing his dog with a professional. I don't see how you can take it to the next level with him if his dog doesn't get retrained.
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Old 02-13-2013, 04:54 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Four years = two interactions with dog? So the dog understands that you are the competition for his human's attention and affection, and when you come over to the house he gets put in jail.

Boyfriend needs to get REAL serious about re-programing his dog with a professional. I don't see how you can take it to the next level with him if his dog doesn't get retrained.
I agree. I should add re: my Chow experience (I represented a veterinarian and this was one of her patients) that the girlfriend eventually appeared to be allowed around the boyfriend and the Chow allowed her to pet him, so she thought all was well. That lasted until the girlfriend sat on the bed while the boyfriend and Chow were in the room, at which point the Chow bit her 3 times in the face, quicker than lightning, causing significant disfigurement that required surgical repair, and the dog was put down. This is a potentially dangerous situation you're in.
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Old 02-13-2013, 07:50 PM   #8 (permalink)
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You said he was ok when you met out in public?? I would have taken advantage of that 'years' ago..Meet in public ALOT and then do it MORE..

When he bites someone, is he full out attacking? Is he going right after someone??

10 yrs old, I don't know if he can be rehabbed, but I would have been meeting him and socializing with him out in public IF he was fine with that , a loooooong time ago..

Good luck, sorry I can't really offer any definite advice.
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Old 02-13-2013, 07:56 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Extremely Territorial! Help!

Unfortunately reading books isn't going to help with this one, if you don't become pack leader with a GSD from the moment it comes home as a puppy, it is quite difficult to re establish who is boss. By the sounds of it, this dog has been calling the shots his whole life.
Get a professional ASAP, ask around and don't just get anyone. A pro GSD trainer would probably be best, somebody who understands the power of the breed.

Best of luck.


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Old 02-13-2013, 08:31 PM   #10 (permalink)
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"re-programming" a 10 year old dog who now finds everything he has been allowed to do (possibly encouraged) his whole life is now wrong is like taking a 90 year old man and forcing him to change evrything he has spent his whole doing and believing in and saying times have changed you have to be re-programmed, all this over a women (you) wanting to hang out with yr romantic ineterest - as a guy i would tell YOU to go take a hike and just find another woman and leave the old dog be.

sounds harsh i know and explains why i am a long time single guy no doubt - good dogs are hard to find.
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