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sashab 12-23-2013 12:25 PM

Dog-aggressive rescue GSD... feeling lost
Hi everyone,

I adopted a four to six year old unspayed female GSD last February. She was severely underweight, had been bred multiple times (most recently approx. 8 weeks before we adopted her), and was ditched at the high-kill Miami-Dade shelter, grabbed by a breed rescue, and allegedly temperament tested.

The aggression began to show itself after, I'd say, about two weeks. Once that happened (and we found out she had a chronic disease requiring daily meds forever, and we found out her spay was going to cost $350 - the rescue had pledged to help), I called our adoption counselor for advice, and the rescue promptly dropped off the face of the earth.

Since then, in addition to regular obedience training and manners, we have:

Tried positive reinforcement/counter-conditioning exclusively for about 3 months,
Tried "look at the dog" / "look at me" / "walk along" / BAT reactivity training for several months,
Practiced keeping her under threshold at ALL possible times (since mid February),
Used a true no-pull harness for about 9 months (to reduce the counter-pulling reflex and eliminate any negative association with other dogs from pressure on the neck),
Consulted a behaviorist,
Did blood work (no issues),
Spayed in May (at vet's advice),
Used a prong collar combined with positive reinforcement (for the past ~6 weeks)

Nothing is helping and I am desperate.

Her aggression is utterly random. One day, she will see a particular dog and positive reinforcement/chicken scraps will work and I'll be elated. The next day, or even later the same day, she can see the same dog and I will attempt the same reaction and she will fly off the handle: snarling, growling, whiny-sounding growly bark, lunging.

There is only one dog she gets along with to my knowledge, and it's my father's dog (neutered male), which gets along with every other dog he's ever seen.

She is totally just GONE when stuff like that happens. Like, on one occasion I was trying to edge her through the door when she saw another dog behind us and my keys (not an insubstantial keychain, either, I have more keys than most people I'd say) fell onto her head and she didn't even notice.

I love her so much. She is a WONDERFUL dog indoors and totally respects our cat. I mean, she obeys every rule in the house. I leave treat boxes on the floor and they are not touched. The other day actually our cat went into the milkbone box (she is very small) and our dog looked very concerned but let the cat play with the treats. If the cat wants the dog bed, she gets it and Nadya sleeps on the floor.

If it weren't for the dog-aggression, she'd be a perfect dog.

Where do I go from here? I am lost. Are there dogs that are just simply DA and who can not be rehabilitated? I will do whatever I can, and I know Nadya is smart and wants to please. It just seems like she loses her mind whenever she sees another dog, no matter what we do.

Mary Beth 12-23-2013 10:19 PM

Your Nayda has been thru a lot and does sound like a wonderful dog especially with the cat. She does get along with one dog but that doesn't mean in my view that she can be trained to get along with any dog - some dogs just are not sociable. I think the most to hope for is that she learns to be well behaved around other dogs and at the best ignores them. I suggest you try to find a trainer in your area that will work with you and Nayda. If you can't find a trainer, I suggest you stick with one method, be consistent, have realistic expectations, and try to be patient and remember that there will be good training days and bad ones - and slowly the good days will outnumber the bad ones.

middleofnowhere 12-23-2013 10:28 PM

Take a look at some of Pat Miller's articles in Whole Dog Journal. She's done a series on dog reactive dogs, working under threshold and building up. If you buy a subscription, you are entitled to print back articles at no charge (I think) this is a recent change.
Miller also has tips about choosing a trainer, what to look for in a trainer that deals with DA dogs.

I'm more comfortable referencing Miller than I am paraphrasing her.

David Winners 12-23-2013 11:58 PM

I wouldn't suggest you try this on your own unless you really understand what is going on in the video. You might share this video with your trainer and discuss the possible use of a distractor.

Mary Beth 12-24-2013 10:54 AM


Originally Posted by sashab (Post 4714906)
" It just seems like she loses her mind whenever she sees another dog, no matter what we do."

Thinking this over, your last sentence seems to me to possibly hold a key to training her. She does have a high drive and good focus so that is why when she is fixed on another dog, when you give treats, drop your keys, nothing will distract her from her goal. So, imo, she needs to focus on obeying you. In other words, she needs an alternate plan of action. She sees another dog -you immediately turn - say heel - then correct for not heeling, not reacting to the other dog. Forget trying to have her look at another dog - and give treats - if she is anything like my Sting - she will grab the treat and lunge at the other dog. My Sting is reactive - so I have tried that and got nowhere. What worked with him, was the harness which enabled me to control him, the Walk In Sync method - where he learned that he better pay attention to me or I would bump right into him and surprisingly - me totally ignoring any other dogs and giving attention to him - praising him for obeying. I was the one holding the leash - capable of turning - bumping into him - and then also giving treats when he obeyed - the other dogs didn't exist as far as I was concerned. I was careful not to grip the leash tightly because that caused him to tense up. Also for that prey drive - which is imo motivating this behavior - it needs to be satisfied. When I did that - I used tug - and made sure he ended up winning and praised him - that helped to form a bond - I was meeting his prey drive and the tug he could bite at - lunge at - end up grabbing it - all that he couldn't do with another dog. This type of training is natural dog training here is a link to a natural dog trainer: LEE CHARLES KELLEY Also I recommend the book: On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas.

llombardo 12-24-2013 11:06 AM

I'm guessing you never tested her off leash with other dogs, except your dads dog , which she gets along with? Is it dog aggression or leash reactivity? My rescue dog was the same way and I didn't know which one it was and I was afraid to find out, but I have a neighbor that was willing to help with his own stable GSD. It helps to know what your dealing with for training purposes.

LoveSea 12-26-2013 08:42 PM

I have the same problem - I adopted my dog a year ago from a rescue & they said he loves other dogs & would make a great "dog park dog". He does love other dogs, but on leash is a different story. I use a german prong collar. When I walk him as soon as I see a dog in the distance I pay attention to his reaction. I also have another dog & she is worst as far as dog reactiveness! So what I do is as the dog approaches & I see the eyes start to lock & the head goes down & the stalking walk starts I jerk their chain & distract them - BEFORE they get to a crazy state. Once they get into the crazy state it is almost impossible to calm them down. I walk fast past the other dog & say "lets go" & just keep them distracted & interested in me by jiggling their chain & talking & moving fast. Today on our walk, a dog was being walked across the street & starting trouble with mine & mine started to act up & I jiggled their chains & then put them both in a sit facing the other way until the dog passed & did not allow them to even look at the dog. I put my body in the way & repeatedly moved both of them so that they did not focus on the dog. It worked very well but it does take time. Most of the time I am now able to pass dogs fine as long as I jiggle their chains & walk fast - there is no issue. I think when the other dog starts to act up mine are more prone to, so that is when I either escape to the side until they pass or put them in a sit facing away from the other dog. I am tiny too - 5'3" & 115 lbs. & my GSD is 85 lbs & my mix is 65 lbs., so anyone can do it if I can, but believe me, it took a bit of time before I was confident - I had to work with each dog seperately for at least 6 months before I could walk them together.

I also was told by my trainer to just sit at a place like a dog park, but not get too close & just feed the dog great treats as it watches other dogs. Also she told me to sit at my front yard & as dogs walk by to give treats, good treats constantly. I was instructed to stop as soon as the dog passes because we want to treat them as the dog approaches, not as the dog leaves. I did not do that as I do not have a lot of dogs walk by my street but it is a good idea.

This is coming from someone who was in tears when I was walking my 2 dogs a year ago & they saw a dog across the street & started going nuts choking themselves & making crazy dying noises & I could not control them & as I moved away from that dog down the sidewalk - there was a person walking a tiny yappy dog approaching us & I was unable to escape both dogs! It was so embarrassing & humiliating. I now learned from my trainer to just duck into someones driveway or yard & let them pass, but I was too polite & afraid of trespassing. Not now though :)

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