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Old 01-30-2013, 08:49 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Timid Puppy

We just adopted a GSD from a family who said with their child leaving for the military they did not have enough time for him. This is my first GSD. He will be 5 months old on Feb 9. When we went to pick him up he kept barking at us and would not let us pet him. We figured he was just protecting his home and he didn't know us. There were a lot of people in their house, and he was fine with the rest of them. We are taking him to the vet on Saturday. He has only had his first set of shots, and we are going to make an appointment to have him neutered as soon as the vet gives the ok. He loves us and has seemed to warm up to us just fine. He eats, wags his tail, and follows us around the house. He is a good boy.

Now I might be jumping the gun because he is new to us, but I do have some concerns and would like to know how to fix these "problems".

My friend came over yesterday, he peed when she came into the house. We gave him plenty of space and ignored him for a while. Before my friend went to leave she tried to pet him. He was laying on the couch with my husband. He backed away from her not wanting to be touched by her. He had that scared look in his eyes.

I don't want him to be afraid of people. We plan on taking him out an about to have interactions with other people. He likes cats and dogs. Thanks for listening to my long winded, first post! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!!
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Old 01-30-2013, 08:59 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Just quickly.... lots and lots and lots of socializing. With good experiences!
There are some great puppy threads. If someone else doesn't link them then I will when I get back home.
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Old 01-30-2013, 09:09 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Socialization is the key. Take your dog everywhere you can. Slowly introduce him to everything new you can find. Lots of treats and praise go a long way. The poor thing is probably still getting accustomed to a new home and new people plus he is at the fear stage age where they become afraid of things that they have seen every day. It will pass but must be handled with lots of positive socialization. When Raina was that age one day she decided the big coral rock we have in the yard was really scary. It had been there since day one. She barked and barked at that rock and eventually got brave enough to get closer and closer. When she finally got brave enough to get all the way up to it, she sniffed it and was fine after that. They can get really silly about they things they get afraid of at this stage. Don't coo and soothe with voice, let him figure stuff out (except for people - keep an eye on people so they don't push too hard).
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Old 01-30-2013, 09:09 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Welcome, Jennie1019,

I would not overwhelm him with tons of stimulation/experiences. Let him bond with you and your family and observe the outside world at his comfort level.
A 5 month old pup should be outgoing and not 'protective' of his family. The pup lacks confidence and it is probably his genetic make up. You can shape and manage his personality, but he will probably be a constant work in progress.
As far as neutering, wait until he matures a bit(1 yr minimum) so he can grow with his normal hormones.

Get into a class with him, see if you can find a trainer that will work with you and his personality, not against it. Some trainers think a fearful barker is acting aggressive and won't want that in their class. A small class would be best.

Let him make the first approach with anyone new to him, don't "make him" be petted. I've found with my fear aggressive pup, if she made the first sniff/approach she was much more comfortable.
There are several threads on this, sadly, it is far too common in the breed.
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Old 02-01-2013, 11:21 AM   #5 (permalink)
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So we have had Sarge for almost a week. He is almost 5 months old. He is great with us in our home, but not so much with other people. My husband's mom came over to meet Sarge yesterday. He barked and growled at her a lot. He didn't really warm up much to her in the time she was at the house. She mentioned that maybe someone wasn't very nice to him before we had gotten him?

Then last night we took him to my daughter's gymnastics class. We have a good relationship with the owner and knew he would be welcome. We took him so he could have more interactions with people. He did growl at people a little, sniffed some people and even let a couple people scratch his head. However, when people moved up to him to fast he backed off right away. He also peed once, we didn't even notice when it happend though, but I am sure it is when someone scared him.

I know we need to keep taking him out to meet people so he can hopefully learn that people are not bad. Any suggestions on other things we could do to help? I don't want him to be scared forever! Thanks
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Old 02-01-2013, 01:02 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I posted this in the Socialization section and did not get any responses... maybe I put it in the wrong place? Sorry.


So we have had Sarge for almost a week. He is almost 5 months old. He is great with us in our home, but not so much with other people. My husband's mom came over to meet Sarge yesterday. He barked and growled at her a lot. He didn't really warm up much to her in the time she was at the house. She mentioned that maybe someone wasn't very nice to him before we had gotten him?

Then last night we took him to my daughter's gymnastics class. We have a good relationship with the owner and knew he would be welcome. We took him so he could have more interactions with people. He did growl at people a little, sniffed some people and even let a couple people scratch his head. However, when people moved up to him to fast he backed off right away. He also peed once, we didn't even notice when it happend though, but I am sure it is when someone scared him.

I know we need to keep taking him out to meet people so he can hopefully learn that people are not bad. Any suggestions on other things we could do to help? Does it sound like he could have had a bad human experience? I don't want him to be scared forever! Thanks
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Old 02-01-2013, 01:25 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Where did your pup come from? Was he a shelter or rescue dog? It sounds like he is fear aggressive. You should not overstimulate him and put him in situations that make him uncomfortable. That is only setting him up for failure. You haven't even had him a week yet? You should work on having him bond to you and learn the routine of your household, before subjecting him to big meet and greets.
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Old 02-01-2013, 01:52 PM   #8 (permalink)
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As Jane mentioned... this could just be 'who he is' and have NOTHING to do with previous experiences. There are a lot of shady breeders out there who breed dogs that shouldn't be bred. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon to see fear aggressive shepherds. You can work with the behavior. It can improve. However, he *may* be a dog that's never totally comfortable with strangers and may always need to me monitored and managed. I think right now you have an important decision to make. Are you willing and able to deal with this behavior if it continues long term to one degree or another? Are you willing and able to pay for trainers, behaviorists, or whatever it takes and take him to classes and learn how to help manage the behaviors? It's not easy. Anyone who says it is, is feeding you a line. If this is your first dog, or your first shepherd, I'd think long and hard about it. Shepherds are a WONDERFUL breed. However, they've been exploited by people who don't care. This is often the result. Even a 5 month old who hasn't been overly socialized shouldn't be this way. So I have serious doubts that it's just a matter of socialization.
The worst part is, the people who sold/gave the dog to you HAD to know he acted this way. To place this type of pup in a home with a child and not say a word about these issues is beyond irresponsible. OTOH, I think you should have realized when the pup reacted that way in the home that something was 'off'... which leads me to believe this is your first GSD (at least, as an adult). To have this kind of issue with your first shepherd is more that what the 'average' person can deal with. GSDs that don't have behavioral issues are 'more dog' than the average dog.
It's possible that something happened to make the dog fearful. That doesn't mean it's going to be an easier road than if it's all genetics. You have a 5 month old puppy that's growling and barking at people. He's afraid. He feels like he's got to handle these fearful situations himself because he's not bonded to you yet... he doesn't trust you to take care of it. This dog is going to get bigger and more powerful. At some point (left to his own devices) he may decide to lash out at what he's afraid of. That is ALWAYS a possibility in a fear aggressive dog.

You need to learn a lot of language and definitions if you're going to keep and work with this pup. Things like "thresholds", "reactivity", "desensitizing" and "LAT" to name a few. Please, do some reading. Talk to some trainers right away. Look realistically at how much time you have to dedicate to this dog. Lastly, if you decide not to keep the dog, have him neutered BEFORE you re-home!! This is a dog that should not be bred. I have a nearly 7 month old male... just to give you a comparison. People he doesn't know can come into my home. He doesn't run and hide, he doesn't bark, he doesn't growl. He greets people nicely. Even in a strange place. Your pup is not being protective. It's not acting 'normally'. Any way you slice it, this pup is going to be a LOT of work. You may see great progress, you may see minimal progress. No one can say. Obedience classes are going to be a MUST. You have to have total control over a dog like this. You have to learn to 'read' this dog to avoid him biting someone and to avoid going over his threshold. It sounds like the class you took him to was way over his threshold. I would have not taken him there. At the very least, I'd have left with him when he first started showing signs of going over his threshold. When you keep him in that situation where he's afraid, and he sees no way to get away from what he's afraid of, the chance that he'll bite increases greatly. It's the 'fight or flight' and it sounds like this dog lives in this zone whenever strangers are around.

I wish you the best, and please keep updating. Also, go read the 'aggression' area of this forum. It will give you some clue as to what you may be facing, as well as suggestions as to how to deal with it, etc.
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Old 02-01-2013, 01:52 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Time will be a huge help.

Not overwhelming him so meeting just a few people at a time. And being careful about overwhelming so a NEW place with tons of people may be too much right now.

Have you been keeping him hungry and bringing out tons of real treats (people food) cut up teeny in a ziplock (pea sized teeny). Whether you just sit in the corner with him constantly milking out treats. Or allow a new person to come up and feed some treats. Or just go for a walk in a new place with lots of treats ..... this makes all the 'new' much more wonderful when liver/chicken/cheese is connected to it.

Make sure he's hungry.

Don't overwhelm him.

Make sure YOU are calm and happy and greet the scary with confidence, head high and FIRST. It's fine if your dog is behind (I prefer it actually) or on the other side of you that way they can learn to watch you and your attitude to then follow suit. If everytime you are happy and meet someone, and then that same someone is now coming in low with a piece of chicken in their outstretched hand, then the people you are meeting are going to be more wonderful than not
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Old 02-01-2013, 02:05 PM   #10 (permalink)
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He's had a lot of change in a very short time. Sounds like it's all fear related issues. You've only had him a week, so he has no real reason to have a lot of trust in you, let alone strangers. Maybe slow down a bit on socialization & time should cure this problem.
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