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KCmcdaniels 05-02-2014 12:41 PM

bad behavior/agressive behavior at dog park
My husband and I have a 2 year old female german shepherd. As a puppy she was socialized quite a bit. She went to the dog park, dog beaches, dog hotels etc and pretty much ignored other dogs or was the submissive one. We never had any issues in regards to her becoming aggressive. She always has always been friendly with meeting new people. Biggest complaint is she would jump on them , demand to be petted, or act like a complete crazy dog bc she was so excited.

We moved a year ago to northeast Fl. About 8 months ago we stopped taking her to the dog park due to illness running rampant....people did not clean up after their dogs etc. so she wasn't being socialized as much. She is the only pet in our household and quite frankly is spoiled. About 2 months ago my husband was put on orders with the national guard and I am in charge of her care. I have started to notice some issues with her behavior that concern me and I am not sure if this is something I can correct with training or if I need to hire a professional.

1. Barking. She has always been very vocal and I didn't mind that much since she always let me know if someone came to the door ect. however, now anytime we are out and someone approaches us she barks ( and not a nice high pitch bark, a loud deep one) which ends up startling them and making them afraid. I have watched her body language and her tail still wags while she does it, but it sounds vicious. Last week she had a vet check @ banefield (petsmart) for skin issues. She barked at every single person and dog in her immediate path and once in the room barked quite loudly at the vet tech so much, that they made me muzzle her during the exam. I have never had to do that before. I was also given "teaching" pamphlets on aggression when we left which is something new as well.

2. Aggressive behavior at the dog park. Yesterday my husband was home and we took her to the dog park. She was the only one there in the beginning and played pretty hard. Then a younger male (8 months) came and she sniffed him and then tried to fit all the toys in her mouth and tease him ( not super polite, but she wasn't being aggressive yet). He played for a bit and when she became too hot we took her to get water and cool her off. At this point when the other dog approached, she growled and showed teeth twice. I have NEVER seen her do that. My husband immediately corrected the behavior and said it was probably bc she was hot and became possessive of the water and was telling him to go away. A short while later a greyhound tried to play with her and was very hyper, jumping around etc. She did the same growl/teeth showing/snapping at that dog. Again was corrected and then we left bc the greyhounds owner was not happy with us.

My main concern is she used to be so friendly and it seems that since she has gotten older, her personality is changing. I trust her to never bite me.....but have concerns regarding other people. This is an issue, as we have 2 children ( ages 11 and 13) that will be staying with us this summer. In the past she has always been great with them, but I worry more so about their friends coming over, my family, neighbor etc.

Also its disappointing she cannot play with other dogs anymore without becoming upset. She is now 80lbs ( a big female) so I no longer think she would be submissive as she was when she was a puppy, but I would like her to play nice.

I need some help/advice as I am now solely in charge of her care. I work 3 12 hr shifts a week and after doing some research I read that maybe I am not exercising her enough. Also, it is possible she is mad my husband has been gone and is acting out? Even at age 2? Advice or help is greatly appreciated. I am not extremely experienced with dogs so I am not sure whats normal and whats not.

Gretchen 05-02-2014 01:00 PM

Other than the skin issues, is your dog healthy? Is your dog getting prednisone or some medication to make her uncomfortable?

Don't have much to say about the dog park, they just don't work for some dogs. My dogs have never shared the water bowl. Also since you were in the park first and alone, your dog may have felt protective/possessive of it. The younger dog may have shown bad puppy manners that your adult does not wish to tolerate anymore.

As for the barking, it almost sounds like she is trying to say "hello", get attention. My female is very vocal. Often if someone wants to meet her, I'll ask her if she wants to say "hello" and she barks, it is her greeting. Scary to people who don't know her. If I were you, I'd look into some group dog training classes so you can learn some skills on how to get the dog focus on you, ignore the other people and dogs, "leave it". I think being around other dogs in the class will give you the opportunity to desensitize her to being so stimulated and maybe fearful around other people and dogs.

Once you and your dog learn some strategies for dealing with the barking and reactions, then see if there is a dog hiking/walking group in your area. My dog learned good behavior from being around (hiking and walking) other well behaved dogs. When the dogs are into their smells and moving forward they tend not to be so focused on each other and seem less aggressive.

KCmcdaniels 05-02-2014 01:51 PM

Thank you. Her skin problem has cleared up. She eats blue buffalo, but the past 2 times we have purchased the meat flavor, she has became very itchy and started chewing different spots. This past visit was actually just a re-check to see if everything cleared up. Unfortunately in the past she has had some negative experiences in the vet ( having to get an iv, blood works, shots and anal glands expressed which she HATED) so I know she associates it with nothing fun. However, its my husband that usually takes her, so she seemed to act up more for me.
Thanks for your response. I am def trying to find some dog training classes in our area. I hope that we can socialize her enough so she enjoys playing with other dogs again.

Chip18 05-02-2014 06:12 PM

Dog parks are in general "not a good idea" and for this dog in particular! Post 8 has some links, you can read /view them and ask questions. :),

Harry and Lola 05-02-2014 07:34 PM

She is only 2yo and still has quite a bit of maturing to do. Generally once they have matured around to 3 to 4yo they calm down.

I have found GSDs are good in dog park situations when they are very young, as long as they have good experiences with other similar aged dogs and/or stable dogs, but once they get to around 1yo, they change and become assertive in what they will tolerate and what they will not tolerate.

You have done an excellent job so far in terms of socialising her. But now she is telling you that she is not interested or comfortable being around other dogs and she would prefer her own space and be with her pack members - you and your family.

It is very important to train her to ignore other dogs and people rather than encouraging her to play nicely. Keep away from the dog parks, unless there is no other dog there or dogs that are very stable and keep to themselves, find other ways to exercise her such as hikes, walking etc. Don't allow her to be around the dogs that want to get in her space and jump around her in a very excited manner - she is getting annoyed with them.

Don't be offended by someone offering you a brochure on dog aggression (some people are not good judges of dog behaviour), imo she is not aggressive she is a normal GSD girl that is growing up and has found her voice in terms of what she likes and doesn't like, however you must take control of her.

In terms of yours and your husbands work load and exercise, when working a 12 hour shift, when you get home take her out for a good 30 to 40 minute walk and put a weighted backpack on her. Backpacks can help dogs in a number of ways such as calming them down by giving them a job to do (carrying something) and tires them out due to the extra weight.

You will find once you ditch the dog park where there are over excited bad mannered dogs wanting to get in her space, take control of her and train her to focus on you and ignore other dogs that she herself will become more stable herself.

She doesn't need to play with other dogs to be fulfilled.

David Taggart 05-02-2014 08:13 PM

This behaviour was conditioned by the fact that you moved. Dogs feel invaders in a new territory, and before they establish their regular "posts" for marking, before your house starts to bear her smell throughout, she would feel that she has to protect her rights to be in a new place. Very often they start behaving agressively towards second dog in the family, or family cat. To add "social alienation syndrome" (you say she didn't see other dogs for quite a while) and the picture becomes clear.
Don't change anything, it will take time for her to start feeling comfortable.
As for the other dogs, you are right, she is not a youngster any longer, she is in age when females start their own pack and may look at other dogs either as potential competitors, or as unsuitable partners. She would try to get rid of those around her, as it would happen in nature when a dog pack was formed spontaneously. Don't stay with her in the park, just walk through. If this park is close to you - it should feel a part of her own walking territory for her. You may meet someone with whom she might like and decide to make friends, so you can walk together instead.

KCmcdaniels 05-03-2014 10:12 AM

thank you for all the advice! When we first moved here, I had a terrible time finding a place that would even consider renting to us because German Shepherds are banned /aggressive breeds. I spent hours explaining to people she wasn't aggressive, so after the vet gave me that pamphlet I was kinda upset and questioning myself....if she really was or not.
I will say my husband and I went through everything that happened during her exam and are considering finding a new Vet. The vet tech did not appear to care for her very much from the start. As soon as "Lisa" walked in , Luna began barking a lot ( the lound deep bark) and "Lisa" looked very annoyed and at that point gave me the muzzle to put on her.. After the muzzle and both Lisa and I were holding her so the vet could examine instead of checking the areas under her belly and back legs where she had the skin allergy, she decided she wanted to check her anal glands.

Well Luna has never had this done before and personally I didn't see why we needed to do it right then, as she was stressed with the muzzle ( 2nd time she has even put one on and was pawing to get it off). Lisa and I had to hold her while the vet checked her glands....and Luna panicked trying to get away. She scratched the **** out of me and then started shaking and trying to hide behind me. End result was left gland was empty, right one was expressed, but vet said no signs of infection and she probably didn't need to come back to have it done again. I felt it wasn't the right time to do all this, as she wasn't having any complaints about emptying her anal glands.

Anyways, the Vet tech was extremely annoyed when we left, due to Luna continuing to bark at her. She didn't mind the vet, but really did not like this tech for some reason. SO that's how we got the pamphlet. However, other than the loud barking, she did not nip, bite, growl, snap or show aggressive posture other than the hiding behind me and trembling, but that was more fearful in my opinion than aggressive.
The it just so happened the next day was out visit to the dog park , where she DID snap and growl at the other dog, so my first thought was great....she really is aggressive and I have been ignoring it.
I bought training treats and practiced walking yesterday around the block. We didn't see any other dogs, but with people I made her sit until they passed. I think the backpack is an EXCELLENT idea to get her exercise. After my 12 hr shifts I try to get her about 45 min in throwing the kong and taking walks, but that sounds like it would be something new. I also looked up a dog trainer in the area that works with all breeds. If my work doesn't seem to be enough, I plan to call her to get some advice. and if anyone has any other suggestions I am always open to them.
As of right now, I think we are going to stay away from the dog park and find other outlets of exercise.

KCmcdaniels 05-03-2014 10:17 AM

I should also add that while my husband has been gone, I have taken steps to walk her and exercise at places people are NOT at and I think this has actually hurt her and not allowed her to socialize/learn correct behavior with other people

Ultimately people look upset or scared when she barks at them and I felt by avoiding those situations, I was doing the right thing.

Now we are working at her listening to me and taking the "leave it" or stop barking commands and being a little more polite.

onyx'girl 05-03-2014 10:39 AM


Originally Posted by KCmcdaniels (Post 5465794)
I should also add that while my husband has been gone, I have taken steps to walk her and exercise at places people are NOT at and I think this has actually hurt her and not allowed her to socialize/learn correct behavior with other people

Ultimately people look upset or scared when she barks at them and I felt by avoiding those situations, I was doing the right thing.

Now we are working at her listening to me and taking the "leave it" or stop barking commands and being a little more polite.

This is a great start. I'd also try to make her neutral to other dogs and people, she should be more aloof(which usually naturally comes with maturity)
GSD's are not social butterflies, they don't need to approach other dogs or people and if others approach them, they usually aren't keen on interaction unless they know them.
Up your handling, let her know you are in control and redirecting her to you is perfect. If she needs a correction, make it a meaningful one, not a nagging one.
And praise her when she is good!

KCmcdaniels 05-03-2014 04:15 PM

thank you! Its a learning process for us both. I was not raised around dogs and with my hubby being the primary care taker, I really had no involvement with her training. So far things have been going well! Its really just me making her training a priority among all the other stuff going on in our busy lives....however, when she actually listens and does what I say or acts polite it makes all the work worth it.
The last thing I want is a rude dog lol. Also, it helps people have educated me that 2 years old is still not fully mature in dog world. That was something I did not realize.

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