Huge smack in the face from Zelda's Fear Aggression to strangers (vent, shenanigans) - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 02-04-2014, 07:31 PM Thread Starter
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Huge smack in the face from Zelda's Fear Aggression to strangers (vent, shenanigans)

*I apologize in advanced this is my "in the moment" vent on my life shenanigans. (never a good idea is it)
While my brother just arrived home form Iowa, after not seeing him for about half a year or more. And while its my mothers birthday and some realitves are over, Zelda and i are in my room playing tug, getting dinner, and doing some training (and now im on here to write this) I'm staying with Zelda because i worked all day and i feel bad and dont want to stick her back in her kennel so that i can enjoy the company. So we're also going to go for a walk soon here..
Zelda was doing pretty good tonight with just my brother, i was able to easily distract her with my voice, treats and praise and quickly in the same room. She went up and sniffed him from behind a few times and before she could have a say of what she thinks, i had her follow me with commands. My brother moved in and out of the room and the most she did was her alert face, its that face is very particular with strangers.. And anyways, my brother is here for only two weeks, so i am hoping she will warm up quick.
I am worried, and i try not to be.. that Zelda will bite my brother just for looking at her or walking near her or reaching out to pet her. Even though he has been told many times by me no touch, no eye contact, no talking to her unless i say its okay and when. So i guess in a lot of ways Zelda is doing great in that regard, for Zelda! (she is on a leash with her martingale, i have cheese treats on me and my happy-calm voice!)
This is just all a huge smack in the face, the fear aggression that plagues zelda and i, because its hitting me where it hurts, my family.
Now i didn't dare do more than one stranger at a time in our house, as i know that would be way too much for her.. And that is why we are in my room.
I wish there was a facebook group of people with fear aggressive dogs to strangers. Today is a day when i could really use that extra support.. Usually i accept the fact and am fine with not going out with my friends because of her SA and or fear aggression, or not going to a family reunion because i would feel way too bad leaving zelda again after a 9 hour shift at work. I love her very much, but man oh man

Mom of: "Zelda"
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 02-04-2014, 07:39 PM
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Worry too much and Zelda will pick up on it. They really do get into our heads, and you can be sure she's wondering why you are more jumpy in your own home. Treat brother like he's been there forever, be as casual as possible. She'll get the memo.

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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 02-04-2014, 07:40 PM
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You are doing a great job with her. The important part is that she has you and you know her and her tendencies and can prevent incidents.. most people wouldn't continue to care for a dog that couldn't be around family. You are doing an amazing job with her so keep it up.. in the end whether she improves.. you have made her a home and she feels safe with you chin up friend

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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 02-04-2014, 07:43 PM
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Sorry you are in such a tough situation. You are doing a great job, though. Sending hugs to you and Zelda.

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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 02-04-2014, 08:53 PM
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It is tough having a FA dog. You don't really understand the commitment you are making to this dog when you first begin. Not until you realize the changes you have to make to keep your dog and other people safe. It is frustrating to have to continually tell certain people to just ignore the dog, or don't reach over the head, scratch the neck instead. Be limited in who or where you can board your dog, if they have safe facilities for him. The list could really keep going.

I have found with Woolf, that it is better and much less stressful for him if I crate him when to many people are over even if he has been crated earlier in the day while I am at work. He still gets real play/train time before and after but isn't exposed to the stranger triggers. He doesn't have to wonder why I am watchful/tense keeping an eye on him.

Yeah, it can really smack you in the face at times, but if like me after dealing with family for a while, you welcome that walk and the game of ball

Keep working with your girl, you have done so much already, but remember you have to have your time as well.
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 02-04-2014, 09:40 PM
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You can take a day off now and again. As long as you let her out to potty, you can go out with your friends, or you can visit with your family. She will be just as happy working on an antler or a peanut butter filled kong in the basement while you are up with the company.

You can't go out every night, and crate the dog while you are at work and all evening and all night too. But a day here and there will not kill her.

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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 02-05-2014, 07:26 AM
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I think I have posted it before but there IS a group for people with fearful dogs. It's on Yahoo, I don't know if they have a facebook group but join there and they will give you access to people and archives of information.

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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 02-05-2014, 08:23 AM
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Sometimes a good flooding is good for the dog as well.

My female Bullmastiff mix was fearful and aggressive as a pup and she got well flooded on many occasions and just had to get over her fear and be a dog.

I used to stick a fabric muzzle on her when there was a lot of people around and take it off if I felt she blended in and people were respecting her space.

An issue with fearful dogs is they become the center of attention. You want to avoid this. So if there is a large group and the people leave the dog alone the dog learns the people are not to be feared. Once a muzzle is put on generally people are more likely leave the dog alone.

I also brought the dog to pedestrian streets and muzzled her and left her off leash to follow me. And she was brought to beaches with lots of people off leash with fabric muzzle.

Basically this dog got forced to change and she did get better as she matured.

I would say she was a tough fearful dog. She had an instinct to stop people from running towards me or entering my space and didn't like people carrying a bag or looking like they had something under their jacket. She has a scary disposition when activated and people retreated from her and she sensed this and went after them.

She needed to trust and like people but also a firm hand to let her know she couldn't chase and terrorize people either. It is a hard thing to deal with but feeling sorry for a dog is not going to help at all.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 02-05-2014, 12:12 PM
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fdefinitely don't put her in situations that maybe to
much for her. if you think a situation maybe to much
for it is to much for her. some dogs can't be helped
but they can be managed. keep up with the management.
you'll find time to hang out with friends and family. if you
can't find time to hang out with family friends hang out
here with your virtual friends. give the dog a treat for me.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 02-05-2014, 12:46 PM
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I'm a member of and they have a lot of good info for aggressive dogs (for whatever kind of aggression), and just plain ole support. They have a FB page as well at

You're doing a great thing by being proactive in making sure she isn't put into a place where she feels she needs to bite. But keep in mind that you need time as well, and it isn't the worst thing in the world for her to have a day here and there in which she is left alone while you go do YOU things. Sure, you can't go out all the time, but who wants to do that anyway, when you have a lovely dog to play with, right?

Also, keep in mind that the bond you will have with her is probably going to be extra strong because of all this work you put into her, and you're learning a ton of stuff that will help you in the future as well. I became a much better dog owner not just because of the good dogs I've had, but especially because of the "bad" dogs I've dealt with. (I only say bad in that she has issues, not that she is bad in any way, or that you are a bad owner, etc.) And, last but certainly not least, there are people online here on a regular basis to cheer you on as well.

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