My GSD is sometimes aggressive? challenging? toward me. - German Shepherd Dog Forums

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Old 04-30-2014, 09:46 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Unhappy My GSD is sometimes aggressive? challenging? toward me.

This has happened enough times that a pattern seems to be emerging, and I wanted to get some community input on it. Background: we adopted Ben from the pound 6 months ago, and we believe he is about 16 months old now. He was half-starved, emaciated, low energy, and lacked confidence, but as he has become healthy his is "coming into his own", showing more confidence and seeming more at ease, which is great.

But there's a pattern that has played out three times now which has me concerned. I take him with me to wait for my 11-year-old son's school bus in the afternoons. Usually he's a saint, just laying calmly at my feet until the bus arrives. But today he was restless on the leash, and started rolling around on the ground and biting the grass. After my son arrived, we were walking back toward the house when Ben started growling. It was more a frustrated growl than angry snarling. He began to nip me and my son on the legs, and I sent my son on ahead so I could deal with the dog.

He wasn't out of his mind--when I got his collar and told him to sit, he sat. But as soon as I'd release the collar and start to walk, he started growling and nipping again. He actually left some welts on my skin. I had to hold him by the collar with a stiff arm and walk him all the way home like that. Once we were home, he reverted to his usual self immediately.

This same scenario has played out three times now (over the course of two months or so), with the rolling and grass-biting followed by aggressive behavior. I have a lot of questions and worries. Mostly, I wonder how I should react. Is he challenging me? Do I need to respond more forcefully than I have? I try to rely on positive reinforcement as much as possible, and I don't hit him at all, but I'd rather use a little bit of negative reinforcement, if necessary, than end up having to find him a new home. You all know that six months is enough time to get quite attached, I'm sure, and I really don't want that. But if my son isn't safe, I won't have a choice.

What's happening when he does this?

How can I best respond?

Last edited by Tinyboss; 04-30-2014 at 09:49 PM.
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Old 04-30-2014, 09:49 PM   #2 (permalink)
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He sounds like a large puppy with energy to burn. How much and what kind of exercise and training does he get every day?
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Old 04-30-2014, 09:53 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks for the reply, BowWowMeow. Today he was at the dog park for about 90 minutes, split about evenly between walking with me in the forested area, chasing his frisbee, and running around with other dogs. He does that every day (and boy does his behavior change before and after). It had been about two hours between leaving the park and going to wait for the bus.
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Old 04-30-2014, 09:57 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Skadi had a similar behavior. We used a ball, her favorite thing, to redirect her and have her do obedience before continuing the walk. Our behaviorist told us to incorporate obedience into play... Having the dog sit or lay down, or both, before throwing the ball or frisbee. Stepping on the leash also worked well. What kind of collar/leash/harness is your dog on?
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Old 04-30-2014, 10:00 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Your son coming home, may be too much stimulation. A rejoining if the pack. He does not know how to handle it.

If it were my dog, he would get a solid 45 minute walk prior to picking your son up. Then, while waiting for the bus, do some obedience. Make him focus, do basic commands, give him something appropriate to do.

Have your son give him some basic commands. Turn it into a training excersise. Engage his mind.


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Old 04-30-2014, 10:02 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glowingtoadfly View Post
Skadi had a similar behavior. We used a ball, her favorite thing, to redirect her and have her do obedience before continuing the walk. Our behaviorist told us to incorporate obedience into play... Having the dog sit or lay down, or both, before throwing the ball or frisbee. Stepping on the leash also worked well. What kind of collar/leash/harness is your dog on?
Today he was on a nylon flat leash clipped to his leather collar. But last time he was on a slip lead, made of soft round rope, which is what I use most of the time with him. And I think the first time we were probably still using the EZ-Walk harness.

Stepping on the leash didn't work, because it left him able to nip my legs--I actually had to hold him away from me. I didn't have a toy with me, but I'll try to remember to bring one from now on, to see if he'll be interested in it. I do have him sit and wait at doors and often before throwing fetch items, and he's very compliant in those settings.
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Old 04-30-2014, 10:16 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I have found it easier to control a nippy dog on a harness because when you step on the leash their body goes down. I also agree with GSDSAR.
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Old 04-30-2014, 10:17 PM   #8 (permalink)
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We have Skadi on a thunder leash, and she can't nip if we step on it just right.
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Old 04-30-2014, 11:12 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gsdsar View Post
Your son coming home, may be too much stimulation. A rejoining if the pack. He does not know how to handle it.

If it were my dog, he would get a solid 45 minute walk prior to picking your son up. Then, while waiting for the bus, do some obedience. Make him focus, do basic commands, give him something appropriate to do.
This. Otto would get very excited to pick up the kids at school, he'd just about loose his mind lunging and barking in frustration as they'd HI MOM run past him to the playground. It took patience and time. Now he just sits there like 'another day another pickup, who this kid touching my head?'
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Old 05-01-2014, 12:06 AM   #10 (permalink)
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overstimulated and playful i am guessing
he sees the kid run off so he gets more frustrated
the rolling on his back and biting the grass is playful behavior
a few other things to try are arrive closer to when the bus comes so there isnt time standing around
some dogs do not tolerate boredom well
and also dont let him flop down to roll around
which if you arrived closer to when the bus comes it shouldnt be an issue anyway
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