Sudden non-aggressive lunging
I have a 15 month old GSD, B, with a pretty strong prey drive. He is my first GSD. I've lived with them in the past and I have other dogs (Lab and a mutt). When he was 9 months, he became very unruly. I hired an excellent trainer/coach who trained him for a week and then provides weekly lessons to me. He had no trouble learning his skills but he was unusually headstrong and they kept him an extra couple of days. Sadly, it was because he lunged at an employee and tripped him down the stairs. But, since returning home and continuing training, B is now incredibly well-behaved. I am approached, daily, asking how I trained my dogs to be so well-mannered and obedient. I run him, regularly, though I have to admit this has been an off week for exercise.
Yesterday, we ran to the gym. It's only about a mile but we get some off-leash park time and then we run pretty hard. I tie the three dogs outside and they have been doing very, very well. It's only within the last month or so that I could trust B not to bark at people. Of course, if he barks, they all get into it. The previous 3 or 4 weeks, they've all been peeeerfect! I basically peek at them between every set so about every 3 or 4 minutes. You can imagine my shock and embarrassment when some gym members approached me and told me, "the Shepherd tried to bite someone!" So I went immediately outside to check on them and they were all very calm, Shepherd included. I went inside to get the details and apologize. He had lunged, unexpectedly, at a passerby. They said he growled, as well. He didn't harm him, thankfully.
So we began our run home and as we passed a girl jogging in the opposite direction, he reached up and snatched the loose bottom of her shirt! No noise or bark or anything, just grabbed her. I thought he'd certainly ripped her shirt but she said it was not. I immediately corrected him using his pinch collar, placed him in down and then proceeded to apologize to the terrified young jogger.
I titled it non-aggressive biting because his tail is wagging and he has a big-ole grin on his face. Obviously, I understand that this is a serious aggression violation and I need to remedy it.
I've read the various threads about lunging, nipping and biting and have determined he needs more stimulation. I will find an agility training opportunity for us and I've contacted my trainer for some coaching as well.
He does tend to be more mouthy than I'd like and I consistently discourage it. For instance, when I return home after having left him, he howls, whines and carries on and, while he doesn't bite, he does touch me with his teeth. I may have to intensify correcting this behavior. Those teeth are wicked sharp! When he nips at clothes, he tears them to shreds. He's destroyed a couple of my favorite shirts by simply tugging the loose tails, in excitement, but that was several months ago. It was exactly the same nip he administered to the jogger.
One other related but possibly separate note: he's gotten very aggressive with the cats. He hasn't hurt them but he chases them intensely if they run. Otherwise, he's fine with them. One cat mostly ignores him but the other one is clearly avoiding him. He has some scratches on his nose that are likely from the kitties. I correct him when he chases them.
He also constantly herds my lab. I don't allow biting and we've been working on that with limited success. When we get to the park, he gets in his athletic stance and hones in on his lab sister. It usually results in less off-leash time for him. However, I feel that he's making progress and I wasn't concerned about it until this double incident.
My thoughts are that I should intensify his training, get him involved in agility, exercise more and really crack down on the mouthiness. Am I on the right track? Any other advice? I require that I can trust him in a situation with ten times more confidence then I'll ever need in the real world. I obviously have a ways to go. I do not think avoiding situations is a plausible solution. I live in the city and I can't guarantee a perfect environment 100% of the time. I need to address this with behavior management and effective, trustworthy training techniques. In the short term, of course, I'll not be leaving him tied, unattended. I'll also be much more careful when passing by others on our runs.
So please share what else you may see as experienced GSD peeps.
I believe in some communities or other countries it's common to leave a dog tied outside an establishment but in my area you would never see that. I would never do it. If I was a customer at the gym I would be pretty peeved to have to pass a lunging dog with a absent owner. You have to know you are setting yourself up for a potential negligence lawsuit.
You are not there to immediately correct this behavior - so the dog continues to do it and it's spilled over to lunging when you are present. He probably finds the action rewarding - he's his own boss.
I would get back with the trainer but would not recommend sending him away to the trainers - you need to be present for all of it. I'm not sure how the dog views you but the bond needs to be fine tuned.
I'm sure others will chime in. Good luck.
Hmm OK, I usually say I'm a pet person, not an expert but... cat/dog issues yeah I'm an expert! 14 years up to 16 cats and five "real" dogs under my roof and not a single cat/dog incident ever!
There is only one rule...the dog chases the "Never!!!" That's it. Now your cat "knows" you have "No" control of this dog!
What I would do is put the dog in a "Down" and 'Stay!"Is have a collar and a drag leash on him, see if you can encourage the cat to eat 10 or so feet away from the dog. If the dog dared to move??? I would snatch him up before he'd gone a foot and place his butt right back where it was, before he could blink!!! Or grab the leash and snatch his butt back to the ground! Stay means Stay! Down means Down!
If you "allow" this to continue, he can/will kill your cat! He has zero impulse control, he is highly likely to dash out in the street after a cat! A cat proofed dog doesn't chase cats mine don't even 'see' cats on walks!
Leerburg | Introducing Dogs or Puppies into Homes with Cats
If you get that done, your cat will be safe and your dog will know you mean business!
Thanks for the advice, Chip. That makes perfect sense. The challenge is that he literally sleeps and snuggles with the inside cat without incident and never chases him except…
When the cat darts through the room or he can't quite identify the cat.
I have been keeping a grab handle on him in anticipation of catching one of these cat incidents. I'll continue to be alert and hope to have an opportunity to correct him. I can't entice the behavior out of him.
I also exercised the dickens out of him, yesterday. We ran several miles, threw the ball twice and worked hard on obedience. He was such a mellow, happy buddy. I'm also being very strict around strangers. Where I usually would just keep running past folks, I'm putting him in down as they approach. Of course he's being a perfect gentleman. It's easy to correct consistent behavior. This sudden, unexpected, atypical behavior is a bit of a challenge.
Finally, my training coach is coming Tuesday and we'll discuss it then, as well.
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