One Year Old Male GSD Scaring All the People - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-07-2013, 10:39 PM Thread Starter
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Unhappy One Year Old Male GSD Scaring All the People

About two months ago, I adopted a German Shepherd from the IVHS. They had listed nothing about the dog but his name, approximate age (of one year), breed, sex, and how he was found (picked up off the streets with truck). When I first met him, he was one of the loudest barkers in the kennels and he had a roommate too. When we were taken to the meeting place he would jump on us, run around, and every once in awhile bark at only visible dog from the meeting area. Since then he barks at every dog he sees whether if they're on the same path as us, across the street, or far off in the distance but still within his seeing range. As for people, he would bark only if they come really close, maybe two to four arm length?

When I take him on walks, I just try to avoid other dogs by turning around whether he has seen them or not. As for people, I try to keep myself between the other people and him. He doesn't try lunging at moving people as much anymore, if they stop to talk, he would stay calm until they come too close.

Today, I asked the trainer why he hasn't barked at her before. She just said that she gave him treats the first time they met. So I tried to get him to be use to my friend. We went to the park, my dog was on a leash in a walking collar thing and the second he saw my friend, my dog barked and tried lunging at him. I would turn around and come back. My friend would ask him to sit, my dog would do so, and throw a snack.

After awhile it seemed okay. My dog didn't bark at him and my friend was standing close enough where we could high five each other. He continued to feed my dog but after awhile my dog barked at him again. My friend had thought it was okay, he was just barking at the car driving behind him, but I knew that couldn't be it, my dog didn't really care for cars. We then went for a walk, my friend follow pretty close by, and my dog didn't care, he would go around sniffing as many things as he could.

When we were about to leave, I put my dog in my car, rolled the windows how a bit and talked to my friend for awhile. My dog, the second he saw my friend, barked at him again. I told him to "no" and he stopped. It happened about two times more before he stopped.

The trainer said he was just being protective but the people passing by don't even have to look in his direction for him to start barking/lunging at them. The only time I've seen him being "okay" near in a dog was the one in the kennel with him and the other dog that was suppose to be in the same class as us... but my dog probably just got tired of barking at him (and lost the barking wars).

As of now, there are no dogs in which my dog is okay to be around. The only people he can stand, without barking are me, my mother, my sister (MAYBE, she has never actually been in the yard with him, he just sees her through a window), the trainers he's seen, and the vet who he actually whimpered at when she wanted to check his teeth. ... Though there was this one time I walked into a room and there was this big fellow (that apparently owns 6 dogs at that moment) that let my dog sniff him. He never barked or lunged at him.


Other Info.

- He is mostly outdoors as my sister is scared of him when he barks. He sleeps in the garage.
- He knows most of the basic commands.
- Not aggressive when it comes to food, if I wanted to I could take his bowl away while he is eating and he would just sit there until I put it back down. He sleeps about a foot away from his food and treats.
- Has never bitten me or my mother, 'cept when we first got him and he would try to nip our ankles when playing, but I put a stop to that.
- I can poke his face, shove him when he is down, lift him a little and he wouldn't care the least.


The short version.

- Adopted a one year old, male German Shepherd.
- who barks and lunges at most people and all dogs (animals, active sprinklers, balloons that float into my yard)
- He doesn't get all poofy, his ears are pointed up, his tail is wagging
- Usually seems calm before encountering the people/animals he barks at

Is there a safe way I can help him socialize with other people and dogs? I don't really trust him walking up to someone and sniffing them but not bite them.

I'm starting to see people turn around when they see me walk my dog around my neighborhood.


Sorry that this post is really long.;;
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-07-2013, 11:07 PM
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I think he kept barking at your friend because he wanted more treats. For the other incidents of him barking and lunging, I got the impression that he had not been probably socialized by his previous owner. So, I suggest you start with working on the barking. There are many threads on that and some suggest teaching first the speak command, and then the quiet command. The book, "Barking: the Sound of a language" by Turid Rugaas has helpful ideas.

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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-07-2013, 11:28 PM Thread Starter
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@Mary Beth: Really? Just the treats? He bared teeth sometimes. Other times he'd wrinkle his nose, but I usually told him to stop it and he does. I wasn't sure if I should've let my friend pet him 'cause he really wanted to, but I really didn't want to risk it.

He has never barked at me for treats. If he was allowed into the garage he would hover around the area where the treats are.

I'll start trying to teach him speak. It'll be nice to add something else into his do-a-command-get-a-treat rotation too. Hur hur.

Last edited by missDevichi; 12-07-2013 at 11:30 PM.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-08-2013, 05:39 PM
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Yes, based on what you described - I think he just wanted more treats. He was getting treats and attention and all was fine - then you put him in the car, and he was being ignored while you talked to your friend, so he acted up. When his first barking was ignored - he increased the barking and then the teeth baring - all to get treats and attention. I also don't think he is doing this out of protecting you - he is doing it to get all the attention. You may want to try a little experiment - when next you see someone and want to talk - have him sit by your side but when you talk to the other person, insert the dog's name every now and then -you may be surprised he will be listening. I do suggest that you consider a different trainer - one who has experience with gsds and can help you to train your gsd to be a well behaved dog. I also suggest you look up threads on the NILF (Nothing in Life is Free) training and start your dog on the program.

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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-08-2013, 05:47 PM
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It is really hard to tell based on how that was described. Generally if a dog is taking food he isn't very bothered by the person near him. The fight/flight reflex is generally not synonymous with eating those states of mind are just not compatible with each other. The fact he took a command from your friend pretty much means he wasn't in that state of mind at that point. A fight or flight type dog unless he was very very very very well trained wouldn't just do a command while being reactive. He might just be pushy in that case or the interaction might have changed at some point during the introduction. The dog might just be barking out of habit or frustration. For some dogs barking is one of those things that is just self reinforcing and he might not even know why he is doing it. It is just what he started doing and became what he always did and nobody really ever trained him to stop so he just kept doing it.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-08-2013, 09:41 PM Thread Starter
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He is already on the NIFL thing. He sits and waits until I get the food, waits for me to say okay to eat. Usually sit, down, up, shake for snacks, toys, and being let into the garage. At least with me, my mother doesn't seem to understand (or doesn't want to). My dog has started to start guessing when commands are given and she just gives him a treat with he's sitting or down whether if that was the command or not. But she stopped visiting him now because he pissed her off. Ho hum.

Anyway with the car thing, we talked facing my dog. My friend didn't believe me that he could actually sit in the car and I had to make sure he wouldn't paw at the walking collar thingie. Every once in awhile we did do the "THIS IS MARLY!(my friend) HE IS FRIEND!" and my friend would be "HI ROCKET (my dog), I AM YOUR FRIEND." My dog only barked in the beginning anyway.

The story was more of a "I tried to introduce him to someone" kind of thing. What about when he is actually around others? There hasn't actually been many times where he didn't bark/lunge at people/dogs. He was in front of a mirror once and he barked at himself and then tried to bite the reflection. I've tried ignoring the other person and just keep walking, greeting the other person, walking the other direction but if the person is close enough, my dog will still try to bark/lunge at the other person. Treats don't get his attention, I could be sticking the treat up his nose and he wouldn't even notice it.

If it was a dog (or rabbit), as long as he sees 'em, he will flip out. When I try to change directions he would get into his hind legs and kind of whimper? and try to get the leading collar off.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-08-2013, 09:49 PM
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Sounds like there is a socialization issue with people then. Has he actually ever met a strange dog and made contact? If so how did he act?
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-08-2013, 10:32 PM
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Well if i compare this to my dog, its sounds a lot like her in some ways..
So it could be fearfulness/ being unsure of the outcome of the people/dogs.
Some dogs will take treats and than bark again. It's happened to me before, kennel aggressive dogs will take treats from me and stop barking during that moment, and begin again after the treats are gone-it defiantly wasn't because they wanted another treat.
If you watch his body language and see if he is doing any calming signals..

And those are most extreme and exaggerated body languages.. But read your dogs energy and his body language when it see's a person or dog.

Find if your dog is doing calming signals and give calming signals to your dog such as yawning, turning to the side of the "Scary thing", looking away, sighing, walking away etc.

If your dog is fearful aggressive, than its best to go slow, and at their pace for counter conditioning.
For the fear aggression i REALLY recommend this booklet by Patricia McConnel, it has really helped me with my fearful aggressive dog to strangers!! (even more than my private trainer in some ways honestly!)
This book is really good for new dog owners,
And this last book is also really good for any dog owner:
You have to protect your dog from circumstances where they will be so scared where they will hurt someone, also protecting other people. If you have to buy a muzzle, than do so. But start working now and go at the pace of your dog. When you rush your dog, you will be going over his threshold and in return will put you back.

Be sure to also give your dog lots of exercise and mental stimulation. I know i've read and seen myself with Zelda, that if they do not have that exercise they have more pent up energy they can put to their fear and aggression. When I get Zelda from her crate after work, after she has been in there for hours. She is more reactive to new people than after a long walk. Also mental stimulation helps build up your relationship with your dog.

This book i recently purchased and have only used a few things in it so far: but it looks like there are a lot of fun ideas to do!
Brain Games for Dogs: Fun Ways to Build a Strong Bond with Your Dog and Provide It with Vital Mental Stimulation
A lot of it is about management and takes time to get to know your dog, its threshold, and body language. But there are a lot of great resources out there.

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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-09-2013, 08:07 AM
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Is there a safe way I can help him socialize with other people and dogs?
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Learn to control the dog on leash and you will be able to control the dog when meeting people and other dogs. Take you time.

I think that people make mistakes trying to 'socialize' an animal. So don't try too hard. It is more important for you to be focused on the dog and instruct him to act as you like.

My friend didn't believe me that he could actually sit in the car and I had to make sure he wouldn't paw at the walking collar thingie. Every once in awhile we did do the "THIS IS MARLY!(my friend) HE IS FRIEND!" and my friend would be "HI ROCKET (my dog), I AM YOUR FRIEND." My dog only barked in the beginning anyway.
I would advice not to talk or reason with a dog as it can't understand you. Your friend talking to the dog can be seen as a threat by the dog. It also shows the dog he knows nothing about dog behavior. Dogs do understand body language.

Simple rule of no touch, no talk and no eye contact is worth remembering for people who are not well acquainted with the dog. People who are not used to dogs think they don't fear it but can still act in inappropriately because in an animal sense they still show fear to the dog. They act uncomfortably and like a big dog is looking at them.
Maybe your friend is acting like this and so the dog will not trust him even though he gives treats or whatever. I find it is better to develop trust first and use treats later.

I believe you develop trust by showing the dog you are not a treat to it or it's owner. You show it you are confident by standing strong with your chin up and slightly facing away from the dog, so the dog can totally get a sense of who you are in animal terms. It can sniff and you don't budge or act nervous.

What most people will do is look into the dogs eyes as it approaches and say 'hey boy' and try to rub it's head.

Also if I am going to rub a dog I will always hold my hand below it's mouth and allow the dog get closer to me while sniffing and then I'll rub it's chin or neck. I will never rub the head first unless it's my own dogs.

Though there was this one time I walked into a room and there was this big fellow (that apparently owns 6 dogs at that moment) that let my dog sniff him. He never barked or lunged at him.
I would say this is because the guy has dogs and knows how to act around them. He probably has respect for the dog and the dog knows this and respects him back. It takes time to develop this understanding of dogs. I would think a lot of people don't possess this intuition around dogs until they have experience with dogs. But good body language and a bit of knowledge can mask a lack of experience. As soon as a person feels the dogs accepting of the way they act, they will get confidence and then all dog encounters become easier.

Last edited by MadLab; 12-09-2013 at 08:15 AM.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-09-2013, 08:29 AM
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I'd say the biggest mistakes people make in socialization are.

1. Just hoping exposure to the things that the dog finds uncomfortable will be enough.

You have to actively take steps to get the dog to associate triggers with positive things. Either by playing with them or feeding them in gradually closer proximity to the trigger as they become desensitized to it over time. If you aren't taking steps to actively make it a positive experience the best case scenario is the dog is indifferent, worst case scenario the dog finds something he really doesn't like about a stranger and wants to go nail him.

2. Trying to "show" the dog that a trigger is not a threat by pulling them into it closely.

There is an important caveat here. If the object is inanimate like a post or a bag or stuffed animal dog you can do this by sitting on the object or getting on top of it. The dog will very quickly see you have things under control and come to investigate (or in some cases help you "dog pile" it) Unless you are in the habit of sitting on strange dogs or people I wouldn't advise you try it there. Especially if you have a dog that wants to "pile on" You sit on someone and next thing you know the dog is like YEAH LETS KILL EM! HOLD EM DOWN I'LL BITE THE SAFE END!. When it comes to people, dogs and other living objects you have to work your way in slowly from the distance the dog first begins to show any kind of fear or aggression and then reward closer and closer to the trigger over time at the dogs pace. The dog determines the pace in this case not the handler.

3. Luring a dog in past his threshold and then either not rewarding fast enough or keeping him there too long.

Lets say I am luring my dog and he is afraid of a person and starts showing issues at about 50 feet. If I have good attention from him and he really wants those treats he might follow me in below his threshold to say 30 feet as long as the rewards are coming fast, but if I keep him there too long, the trigger makes a sudden move, or I stop feeding and his attention wanders to the trigger he will all of a sudden see he is super close and bolt or if he is the choose fight kind of guy start his aggression routine. It is kind of like telling someone who is afraid of heights to not look down, and then all of a sudden they look down and freak.

A lot of us use some sort of "pressure gradient" for socialization situations. If the problem is strange people or cars I find that grocery store parking lots are great places to go. If you start at the back of a parking lot especially one with a wooded area at the end of it you have a fairly "safe" area to retreat the dog back to when they get uncomfortable and then you have a super potentially stressful environment the closer to the store you get.
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