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utsavized 01-29-2014 01:01 PM

Very reactive to dogs -- sending away for training
So for the past few weeks, Titan (about 9 mo) has gotten very reactive to other dogs. It probably started with one or two dogs that he did not like, which ended up in fights (no one was hurt) ... but after that, my girlfriend and I started feeling anxious around other dogs, which he probably reads off of us, and now we have two owners very nervous and a dog who is extremely reactive.

Don't take me wrong, we have spent hours reading most posts in here regarding how we should calm down, and be the leader so Titan does not take it upon himself to decide what to do with the approaching dog. Also, there were some great tips and success stories about the right energy, correction and positive reinforcement. I personally think, all of them are great tips and work great. However, our situation is a bit tricky, and it makes it a hard to follow through those tips/suggestions.

We live in an apartment complex in the city that has 7 floors. Every floor has 5-8 dogs, and the hallways are tiny! It is impossible to avoid encounters with other dogs or to start from a distance. If I see other dogs at the end of the hallway, I just turn around and go the other direction. The main issue is in corners and the elevators. The door opens and there is always a dog (or dogs) and they just enter before I can even tell them to wait. Reactive dog + other dog(s) + elevator = bad situation. He is much better with walks as I can distract him, maintain distance and such. After trying for a few weeks, we have concluded that we just cannot avoid those encounters within the complex and he is getting at least one such negative encounter every day. And the worst part is that people are not cooperative at all, even when I warn them no to come near and that my dog is in training. Most of their dogs (esp. the tiny ones) are off leash, without any training. They run up to Titan and bark, jump, even snap at his ankles and he just completely loses it. At that point, all my calm, composure goes out of the window and it becomes a battle to save the other dog. But obviously, at the end, being a big GSD owner, I get that look of "get a hold of your rabid dog," when their dogs are the ones off leash without any manners whatsoever, running to a dog 10 times their size and getting at his face, while I am doing my best to distract my dog and to maintain a distance. :(

We tried group classes. He is great, and is by far the smartest. Plays with the other dogs (unless there are toys, at which point he gets possessive). We picked the training provider/trainer that was most recommended/had best reviews. But they are the type who are against prong collars and such, and EXCLUSIVELY rely on positive training, which works great to teach him new things, but I think being a determined working line pup, I think he needs some boundary-setting. And most of what they were teaching were trick-type stuff, which I can do myself. Whenever we asked for ways to alleviate separation anxiety, counter surfing, and reactivate behavior towards other dogs, we were suggested to watch a certain YouTube video, or read some book.

We searched around and found a few trainers who know how to work with working line GSDs but all of them were a few hours away. At this point, our schedule does now allow us to do that. When all failed, we contacted his breeder (amazing folks!) who are back in Chicago and decided to send Titan away for 30 days to get serious obedience training from them, both of whom are very accomplished trainers -- they know their puppy best and have done this for many many years. We are hoping to go visit them towards the end of the training to learn how we can continue what they would have taught him so that he does not regress with us.

I know that many of you here would not recommend boarding and training, because of bad experiences and of course because you cannot stay without your dogs for that long :) Our situation I think is a bit unique -- because of the type of place we live in, and because the trainer will be his breeder (he will also be in the company of his parents, as well has his brother who they picked from the litter to have as their pet) ... We wanted to do this right away (while he has had it only for a few weeks) before it becomes a major issue.

I just wanted to see what you guys think about it. Apologies for the long post.


Baillif 01-29-2014 01:21 PM

Despite what others might say about board and trains they are often good for that kind of problem provided they have the people with experience to keep the dogs under control and keep the experience positive. He is still at that age where it can be turned around fairly quick.

utsavized 01-29-2014 01:27 PM


Originally Posted by Baillif (Post 4926762)
Despite what others might say about board and trains they are often good for that kind of problem provided they have the people with experience to keep the dogs under control and keep the experience positive. He is still at that age where it can be turned around fairly quick.

I agree. Bill and Jen are very respected trainers and in general great people!

Wild Wolf 01-29-2014 01:30 PM

I think it is the right thing to do. Your breeders are incredibly experienced and know the dogs well, as you said, and will probably help you tremendously. He is still young, so there is a good chance he will improve with the right help.

Blanketback 01-29-2014 01:30 PM

I'm the kind of person who always likes to have a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. My Plan A wouldn't include a board and train, but depending on the circumstances, that might be my Plan B. I'd be very very careful on where I took my dog, because anyone can call themselves a trainer, no matter how awful they might be. You've put alot of work in already. If you think this is right for you and your dog, then it probably is.

utsavized 01-29-2014 01:35 PM

I think the biggest challenge for us will be to train ourselves to correctly continue what he gets used to for those 30 days.

Amurphy26 01-29-2014 01:47 PM

I'm in a similar situation with my reactive 15mth bitch and I completely understand why you've decided to send him away. I met with a trainer who was going to take her for 3 weeks. Like you I thought she needed a firmer hand. It wasn't right for her. His heavy hand was too much for her and after spending a day with him and watching him work with her I decided not to send her away. He got her to stop reacting within a minute but she completely shut down and was terrified of him and subsequently, me.
Having said all that, his method of training wasn't right for my dog. As I said, we're in a similar situation to you in that there's lots of off lead unpredictable dogs in our area and we don't have access to ANY regular dog trainers. While not trainers, her breeders have 6 GSDs living in their house and if they offered to take her for a couple of weeks to mix her with their pack I would send her tomorrow.

I would suggest making sure that your trainer works on dogs appearing round corners and in narrow corridors. The training won't do any good if it doesn't match up to how your dog lives his daily life.

Good luck. I know it's a hard decision and after you've done all the research and tried different methods yourself, only you know what's best for your dog.

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utsavized 01-29-2014 02:13 PM

Yes, being too rough on a young puppy can definitely be a problem! We would have never sent him away if we did not know the trainers and the fact that they are his breeders as well. However, we do understand where we will need to limit our expectations, as expecting the dog to be "completely fixed" when he returns would result in nothing but disappointment. If anything, just being in the presence of other dogs, under a experienced trainer in a controlled environment would be great for him. He loves the open, and I feel guilty at times for having had to keep him confined in a city apartment. There is no doubt that we are committed to do the best thing for him, but commitment/expectations and reality don't always align well, and we understand that :) We have tried different training options, even bought a car just so we could take him around and will definitely be moving to a place where he does not have to encounter 10 different untrained dogs every day once our contract here expires in August.

Until then though, this seemed to be the best route. Even if he returns with little change, we know that he will have had a blast running around in acres of green space, being in a stress-free environment and getting to play with many other dogs without feeling the need to defend anything. :) But being human of course, the hope that he will improve is always there. Whether it happens, only time will tell.

GSDAlphaMom 01-29-2014 02:24 PM

Since he is going to the breeder for training I would think/hope it would be ok.
I've done two board and trains over my life time. Both bad experiences.

The first came highly recommend (sells trained dogs for big bucks). THey did nothing but put her in a kennel and leave her. Absolutely zero training.

THe second, my dog was dead within less then 24 hrs of being with the trainer. I am currently in a law suit and fully anticipate a 5 figure judgement against him.

It's risky as anybody can put a sign out and claim to be a trainer. Do you homework if you are going that route (and even then it's not a given).

utsavized 01-29-2014 02:47 PM

I am so sorry to hear about your dog :( I hope every bit of justice is served. This is the reason Titan will go back to his breeder and no one else, regardless of what they claim to be.

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