Please Help!! I'm Terrified!
I need help with my 17 month old female, Kimber.
We've had her for about 6 months and have had some issues from the beginning. At first she refused to walk through a door, it took a while but we were able to get her to finally come inside. She still has a few issues with it, but not all that often. As well, from the get go she would freak out at other dogs, like major meltdowns, pulling, lunching, growling, barking, hair staining, the works. She even does it when she see's another dog, squirrels, cats and sometimes small children through the window. The aggression is out of control, she has also started getting aggressive with other dogs when they come to visit, she will harass them until they leave, biting at their legs, jumping on them, trying to take their legs out, chasing them all over, barking when they try to ignore, the list goes on.
It has gotten so bad that when walking her when we encounter another dog, I turn and walk away, but she still freaks out. Her safety bubble changes everyday, so I have tried that option, you never know when she is going to freak on another dog. She has even recently gotten very aggressive with our chickens, I understand it is her natural instinct but she wasn't like that before, they used to cuddle!! And now she won't even let them relax in their run, she just barks at them.
Today it got even worse, I was loading up the car and when I opened the door Kimber pushed me out of the way and ran after a dog walking by. When she got to the dog she attacked it, she bit the dog and flung it around like a rag doll. The dog seemed to be ok, but I was in tears and so was the dogs owner. We were both terrified, it was one of the scariest situations of my entire life and I never want it to happen again.
I don't want to have to leave her in the backyard all the time, I want Kimber to be able to come with me places, but i can't even take her down the street without a freakout.
A little background Kimber, she was a rescue from a friend who had to move into a small apartment. She grew up with another dog and the former owner said she was socialized, but I have noticed that he does play with her pretty aggressively. He also mentioned very briefly that towards the end of him having her she stayed with his father-in-law that left her outside all the time, never walked her and had other dogs that would beat-up on her a bit.
I am not sure what to do, I have tried everything I can think of, harnesses, choke chains, prong chains (she didn't even flinch), gentle leader, we have been working with a trainer, but nothing seems to be working. I have been told to try a shock collar, but I don't really like the idea of a shock collar and I hated trying the prong chain, i think it's cruel. But i don't know what else to do!
Please help me, I have no idea what to do. She doesn't really listen to anything anymore unless she wants to. I don't even want to walk her anymore, I don't want a dog like this. I want her to come when I call her, stay when I say to, be calm on the leash, and certainly never attack another dog!
First, locate a behaviorist. One that knows GSD and working breeds. This is the cynic in me and through my own experience; you will have to search to find a qualified one. Talk with many, verify their experience with past and current clients and be sure you are comfortable with them as well.
Transporting your dog; have her harnessed in, preferably crated in your vehicle. That way you will avoid her pushing past you to get to another animal or child.
Harnesses can be backed out of, haltis won't give you enough control, chokes will cause damage with the lunging. Prongs may or may not increase the aggression, and can occasionally come apart. With my dog, I use a prong with a back up collar. Used appropriately, a prong isn't cruel.
It will take someone seeing her and her behavior, along with your handling to give concrete direction. It appears you have a prey drive at work, and dealing with some fear aggression.
Wanted to add, this may give you a start in locating a behaviorist Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers®
How much daily exercise and training does she get? Are you using Nothing in Life is Free? What kind of training do you use throughout the day?
Also, is she muzzle trained?
The incident that happened today does sound scary. Are there steps to take to prevent that from happening again? Can you set up an additional barrier so that she can't slip out the door?
There is in your mind the dog that you want.
There is in your life the dog that you have.
Maybe you will not be able to get the dog you have into the picture of the dog you want.
I think you might be able to find some middle ground though.
Is she spayed? If not, you might want to go ahead and do that. It really does not help fear-reactivity, but I think you are at a low point now, and are not going to get much worse, and if she is not spayed, I can see hormones might make things trickier.
Next, you are working with the a trainer and have tried some training devices. How often do you work with your trainer? Does the trainer come to the house and teach you how to teach your dog? Do you go there, with her, and are there other dogs in the class? What type of training is your trainer doing, what kind of corrections? How long have you been working with this trainer? Has it gotten better or worse.
This is my take from what you have written, which isn't really enough information, but I am going to make a stab at it. I think you are a bit timid, and your dog is not getting any confidence from you, the dog feels she must protect herself. She has very unclear boundaries, and is responding / reacting out of fearful insecurity -- this can look like barking, lunging, hair up, growling aggression.
Correction collars are a tool. They can be good or bad depending on how you use them and for what reason. Not ever dog that aggresses inappropriately is going to benefit from a solid correction. And yet the dog does need to know that that is not ok. How to get from here to there?
Well, I think it will be helpful for you to google NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free). What you should find is a management/leadership methodology that if you follow it, you should help your dog feel more secure with clear boundaries. If I do this, this happens, every time. But it is not just consistency. It is a method of leadership that will help the dog understand what she needs to do to get what she wants. I don't think it can hurt to look into it.
What you need to do is
1. Manage the dog so that no other dog gets mauled and your chickens are safe.
2. Provide clear leadership so the dog knows what to expect and things are clear.
3. Exercise so that the dog isn't high energy crazy.
4. Training which is not the same as management or leadership, but will help build your dog's confidence in you, and your confidence in your dog, it will build the bond.
Whatever way you choose to train will work if you are patient and consistent, but it can take longer with some dogs than others, and some dogs will do a lot better with other methods. If you have been trying one method for months and things are getting worse, try the opposite. If you are yelling NO! and giving a jerk on the prong collar and that isn't working, try working with the dog privately on some commands and when you see something that might make your dog agress, give him a command, and if he does it praise. Then move on and away. Don't reward the agression, but try to avoid those situations that trigger it -- keep a healthy distance.
When you build the bond through training, you should be able to gradually move closer to those things that she is less easy with. Then what you do on the other end of the leash is important. If you tighten it up in expectation of her reaction, chances are she's going to react. Instead keep your voice cheerful and confident. Move forward, but alter your course to ensure you are giving the other critter plenty of room. If she agresses, you may have gone too close too soon, she should not be able to get to the other dog, so you just keep going and matter of fact, say Eh! that just a dog! and keep on going.
Look up NILIF before you give up on the dog. She's young and she can teach you a lot. It is not our easy dogs that teach us the most, it is the challenging ones. But they can also be the ones we become the most attached to.
Has she had a vet check recently?
What Selzer said....
I have a reactive dog, 21 months, but not at your dogs' level. I have tried all kinds of things as well. Different tools, different trainers. I used to think prongs were cruel. I have totally changed my mind. Used properly, they are a wonderful tool. I always use a back up collar with the prong.
A lot of the problem is with me. Stella may get reactive, but if I feed into that, it is worse. The trainer I am currently with is very calm, yet firm. No yelling or excitement. Just calmness and an expectation of obedience. And patience.
Lots of obedience training and focus work. All day long. Lots of sit, platz, fus, watch. For EVERYTHING. Stella boarded with him while I was on vacation for 12 nights. What a difference in obedience. I just hope I don't undo it.
Believe me, I KNOW it is easier said than done. But just take it one command at a time.... One situation at a time. And breathe.....
I was getting the car ready to take her, she pushed through the front door. We always put her in a harness when she goes in the car, cause I am afraid she'll jump out the window to get to another dog.
I have not heard of Nothing in Life is Free, but I am going to look it up just after this. I will try anything and everything, I come across!!!!
We don't get to do much training throughout the day, which might be part of the problem. I do try to work with her as much as I can though.
No, she is not muzzle trained, but I wanted to try using a muzzle, as I think it will help. But my boyfriend wants to try a shock collar? I have heard good and bad reviews, again I sit on the fence of it being cruel or not. I told my boyfriend we can't put it on Kimber unless he tries it himself first.
No additional barriers thus far, except I have started putting her in the backyard until the car is loaded and then we leave from the backyard straight into the car, she doesn't even see the front yard unless she is sitting in the window.
Please Help!! I'm Terrified!
Hopefully, my experience will be encouraging to you. I adopted Hans (age 18 months) after a police officer who was starting to train him, decided to quit police work and then pretty much banished him to the kennel for several months. While I'm sure he was walked from time to time, I am certain his obedience training was dropped completely. The two times I saw him before adopting him, he was completely and insanely OUT OF CONTROL. The previous owner could barely hold onto him while he was leashed and he pulled me wildly around the yard, nearly jerking my arm out of the socket when he saw a kid on a bike out on the street. I decided right then, if I could get him into the car and get him there, we were going straight to an obedience class. It took 3 adults to get him into a traveling harness and a terrible car ride to get me thinking about what was I going to DO with him for 3 hours until class. I called the trainer again and asked if he would agree to kennel him until class. He agreed. He actually started working with Hans right away and found that Hans recalled all of his commands the previous owner had taught him many months ago. I went back later, participated in class and then left him for several days. When I went back I was amazed at the "new" dog I had. I actually could take him to potty without him dragging me around! I then took him home with me ( amazingly without the travel harness) and then we both went back to be trained together. He was trained with a prong collar. The trainers showed me how to get him out of his crate without being run down, and went out to my vehicle to show Hans how to get in & out properly, as well as how to ride without me fearing him jumping on me and causing an accident. He is a work in progress and there are still challenging days ahead I'm sure, but he is a dog that is calmer, much more controlled and I love him to death and no longer wonder just what I got myself into- as I did that first day, lol. Best of luck. It can all work out.
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