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Old 11-21-2012, 11:17 AM   #51 (permalink)
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Anthony, a lot of what you are asking can be determined by experience of the handler AND the genetic makeup of the dog.

We know our dogs limits because we purchased them with that in mind. My husband has had GSDs his entire life, and I have had working/breeds for at least the last 30 years. We don't' have nervy dogs because a)we know what we are looking at (for the most part) when we see the pedigree before we buy the dog, b) we work with breeders and sellers who have like knowledge and c) we look at a litter or prospect with said experience.
We don't always bat 1000, but we come pretty close. Even a dog who may wash out of a training expectation will still be a great pet for someone in the long run.
To use a car analogy, we have a great big pickup truck with not-wonderful breaks. The truck will stop, you just have to be an experienced driver to anticipate how the weight and speed will affect the stopping power. Because of her inexperience, we don't let our 16yo daughter drive this truck. Maybe in a year or two after a lot more road time she will have the ability to judge it, but for now she doesn't drive it.
We had a client a number of years ago who taught me a lot about this. It was a young couple who had bought a Beauceron from a breeder in France. The Beauceron as a breed is more suspicious and reactive, not a great breed for a novice. When the dog was around 2yo they started having issues with it becoming aggressive with people. They called us since the Beauceron club said we were the only trainers in the area with ANY experience with the breed (I had 5-6 Beaucerons at the point IIRC). The first visit, both husband and wife came. The dog was nervous, but adjusted to us and we got a little bit of work done. The second visit, the husband was away so the wife came alone. When she got out of the car with the dogs and started heading up the walkway to where we were standing, the dog became a freak. Pulling, growling, snarling, you name it. My husband told the woman to stop in her tracks but she just kept running her mouth and coming at us, all the while the dog is getting more and more agitated. Finally my husband had to YELL at her to STOP or someone was going to get seriously hurt! She froze and when the dog quieted down a bit we told her to put the dog on a down to see if it would relax. Finally it did and we had to "make friends" in a nice slow manner all over again.
Lesson here was the handler. The dog was obviously scared and yet the lady couldn't read it. The dog was telling her they were basically heading for a cliff and yet she wouldn't stop. The dog had no confidence in her handler to keep them safe. The poor dog decided to react with the first thing that she knows which was to try to scare us away since mom was clueless to the "danger". Obviously when the husband was there the dog felt protected and accepted us because he said it was fine. There are different levels to this, but this combo of nervy dog with clueless, scared handler was a time bomb. So a dog like yours is a handful, but for us may be a bump in the road whereas for you it's a crater. If you got Kira 4-5 dogs down the line, the issues would be more obvious to you and your ability to read them and adjust would change the dog.
So back to the car thing, when I was 16 a Ferrari with touchy brakes would have been a very dangerous thing to me. Now that I'm in my 40's and have participated in many Driver's Track Days at local tracks with experienced instructors, that same Ferrari would be a blast. You got a Ferrari with touchy brakes for your first car when a nice sedan would have probably been easier. Can you learn to drive that Ferrari, with caution and instruction my guess is yes. Just don't attempt Le Mans without learning the local parking lot first.
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Old 11-21-2012, 11:26 AM   #52 (permalink)
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What you seem to be missing is that the big problem is that you're letting Kira go over threshold before removing her from these situations. When a dog goes over threshold, that is when bad things happen. As the handler of a reactive dog, you need to learn to read your dog better and remove her before she gets to the point where she is running in fear or going around nipping at people. Further, you need to learn to change your mindset from "how much can she handle?" to "will this stress her out?" and if the answer is yes, you remove her before there is a problem. It doesn't matter exactly how many people at a party she can handle, or whether she only goes over threshold when the party kicks up a notch--you know that she's uncomfortable, and there's no reason to force her to tolerate it. Try to train yourself to think like that.

As far as pushing a dog, I don't think you should be concerned about that with Kira at this point. You never push a reactive dog to the limit--it only makes them more fearful, more reactive. An experienced handler can carefully expand a dog's comfort zone to a degree (based largely on the dog's natural temperament), but you have to really know what you're doing in order to do so safely and without making the dog worse.

Look at the party from Kira's perspective. She's nervous, but tolerating all these noisy invaders in her house because she knows that's what you want. But she's not sure you're right about that. Eventually these noisy people go too far--maybe it's the noise, maybe it's just that they've been there too long, whatever--and she takes things into her own hands. She nips them and tries to clear them out. Then, she gets to go to a safe place away from it all, where she doesn't have to worry. She's just had an experience which reinforced her behavior--you nip, the problems go away. This doesn't mean you were wrong to put her in the crate. That was the best thing to do at that point. The problem is that you should have put her there before she began nipping. This is why it is so important to head these situations off before they escalate--every time she practices that behavior, it's going to reinforce it.

I have two "go anywhere" dogs and two dogs who have varying levels of reactivity and fear issues. I can honestly say that I've never had a bad incident with any of them, but I've also been doing this for many years and I am able to see when my dogs are getting stressed and fix the situation well before they go over threshold. If I didn't do that, I might still not ever have a bad incident, but I'd be causing my dogs a lot of unnecessary stress and playing with fire when it comes to a possible bite. Since you are a more novice handler, you should probably plan to err on the side of caution until you get a better handle on reading your dog.

As for how you get a "go anywhere" dog, it's a lot of factors. Genetics are definitely a big part--my most reactive dog never had anything bad happen or anything, but he's from (non-GSD) lines known for intense herding work and territorial aggression. Early socialization and proper training are a big issue. The handler also plays a role--a nervous handler isn't going to give his dog the kind of confidence they need to handle whatever comes at them.

And no, your trainer isn't necessarily wrong to not see this side of Kira. Many dogs are only reactive in certain situations.

It is a difficult training problem and I don't mean to be harsh, as it does sound like you are trying. However, it also sounds like you really need to back off and spend a lot more time learning about dog behavior in general and your dog in particular before worrying about how far she can go in these situations you know upset her.
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Old 11-21-2012, 12:43 PM   #53 (permalink)
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From RowdyDogs:

She's just had an experience which reinforced her behavior--you nip, the problems go away. This doesn't mean you were wrong to put her in the crate. That was the best thing to do at that point. The problem is that you should have put her there before she began nipping. This is why it is so important to head these situations off before they escalate--every time she practices that behavior, it's going to reinforce it.

^^^^There is just NO WAY I would have looked at this as you explained. ^^^^

Thank you all for taking the time to write some great replies. It's all appreciated.

I'd like to sum this up.

Based on what I've read, we can agree that much of your actions are based on knowledge and experience. The last two responses clearly indicate this.

There aren't too many people willing to come on this board and "take their lumps" as much as I do. But with each lumping and thumping, I walk away with something learned from the experience. Sometimes I get it, and sometimes I don't. I think Kira is a difficult case for someone without the knowledge and experience that most of you have. She's a marshmallow with me, but has reactive tendencies that aren't always anticipated by an inexperienced handler like myself. I've documented her actions as much as possible, and sometimes go back and either read my posts or watch a video, and see what I've missed.

I don't intentially push her limits, but I may not clearly know when to pull her back either. I didn't have to come here and describe her actions that night I had the party, but I chose to see what I can learn from her actions.

Last edited by Anthony8858; 11-21-2012 at 12:49 PM.
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Old 11-21-2012, 02:28 PM   #54 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by bocron View Post
The dog had no confidence in her handler to keep them safe. The poor dog decided to react with the first thing that she knows which was to try to scare us away since mom was clueless to the "danger".
This is exactly what Kira was doing when she was nipping people at the party. She accepted the guests at first, because it was expected of her, but she was never entirely comfortable... she sensed danger, and Daddy was oblivious to the "danger", so when she reached her threshold, her doggy brain said "Someone has to do something about this dangerous situation, and Daddy's not going to, so *I* am going to have to do it!"

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My point with Doggiedad, was HOW does one know they have a " go everywhere dog"? Many people take their dogs to dog parks, until something happens. Doggiedad seems 100% certain that nothing could happen. Why is he so confident?
Is it genetic? From what I've learned from you and many others, it might be.
Is it the handler or owner? Did I do this to my dog? Seems like a good possibility.
Most of it is genetic. Kira has weak nerves. That is genetic. She's improved greatly as she has matured, and learned how to handle stress--up to a point--but it doesn't undo her genetics. Because you continued to put her in stressful situations, she's gotten somewhat desensitized; she's done the best she can. Did you "cause" her weak nerves? No. Did you make it better or worse? On the whole, I think you've made it better, but you've seen what can happen when she's put into a situation where she's pushed past her threshold. Have you done irrepairable damage? At this point I don't think so, but if she continues to be pushed, you're likely to see more aggressive behavior come out. If she learns that aggressive behavior can solve her problems, THEN you have a bad situation on your hands.

Honestly, not every dog is a "go everywhere" dog. In fact, a lot of GSDs are not. How do you know which dogs are "go everywhere" dogs and which are not? Dogs with weak nerves are NOT. Period. Any dog that shows fear or aggression in a seemingly normal situation should not be pushed into the role of a "go everywhere" dog.

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Why is it OK for your dog to run with 25 dogs in a dog park? Is it because you know your dog's tolerance level, or you trust the other dogs to behave? Either way, there's always a chance that something could go terribly wrong.
There's always a chance in life of something going terribly wrong. A plane could crash right in the middle of the dog park. But if you KNOW your dog, you can have some sense of what he can and can't tolerate. How do you know? By watching his behavior. If Doggiedad's dog has been well-socialized since day one and has never shown signs of fear, nervousness, aggression, or stress, it's fairly good bet that he's a stable dog with strong nerves. Kira, when placed into certain situations, has shown fear, nervousness, aggression, and stress since day one. That should have been your first clue that she may not be a "go everywhere" kind of dog. Sure, she can ride around in your truck, go for walks, play with friends, normal dog stuff. But, as you realized, she should not be put into dog parks, she should not be forced to put up with a lot of people and commotion in the house, and I wouldn't take her to sporting events or things like that.

Dogs are just like people in this regard--some people are social, outgoing, and confident; they love parties and social events. To other people, such events are stressful. Some people are shy and introverted, and prefer to be alone, or with close friends in a small group. Nothing better or worse than anything else, it is what it is, and should be respected. No use trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
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Old 11-21-2012, 03:28 PM   #55 (permalink)
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Dogs are just like people in this regard--some people are social, outgoing, and confident; they love parties and social events. To other people, such events are stressful.
Excellent explanation. To me, it's extremely stressful to be around a crowd, therefore I tend to avoid it.
It's not "bad" or "good" to be that way- it just is.
None of my own dogs would tolerate a houseful of people and I won't subject them to it.
It's that simple.
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Old 11-21-2012, 03:46 PM   #56 (permalink)
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The male is just a big, busy boy who could care less about people other than us and doesn't enjoy playing with other dogs so we don't put him in those situations as a matter of habit. When we do, he is extremely obedient and I don't worry about him, but other people are nervous around him. He is one of those "serious" dogs who just gives off a vibe. So I don't feel the need to force people to be around him, except the Schutzhund club folks who all find him a delight. He has never growled or barked inappropriately, much less made contact, he just looks at people a certain way and they get uncomfortable.
I absolutely love this part of your post (the best)!
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Old 11-21-2012, 04:54 PM   #57 (permalink)
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I don't have many parties anymore but do entertain guests for holidays. I have not crated any of my dogs for these events. Stella goes into her crate by herself if she has had enough. If I thought one of my dogs was getting snarky or stressed I guess I would put them in a separate room or crate. Haven't had to yet. Stela seems to be able to tolerate more noise and such as she is maturing. Even my 3 year old grandson doesn't phase her too much anymore. In fact it seems she is really starting to enjoy playing with him!
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Old 11-21-2012, 11:11 PM   #58 (permalink)
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i got my pup when he was 9 weeks old. he was in a puppy class
at 10 weeks old. everyday, several times a day he had short
training sessions. everyday several times a day there was socializing.
i wanted my dog to be a pet/companion and the only way i figured
he could be the "go everywhere" dog was to to expose him to
many life encounters. when my dog was 6 months to 9 months
old he was attacked at the dog park several times. i figured he
was attacked because he was to young. i stopped going to the dog
park. i went to play groups and had play groups at our house. when
my dog was 1 yr old maybe 1&1/2 yrs old i returned to the dog park.
the attacks stopped. in the area in the woods where he plays and there's
sometimes 25 dogs running there's never a scrap. the dogs just play
like crazy. the creek is low in this area of the woods and people cross
the creek on their horses. the dogs are all around the horses and they
never bother the horses.

the reason i know i have a "go everywhere" dog is because
he goes everywhere with us without any problems.

i'm not certain about anything when it comes to my dog. i trust
my dog as long as i can see him or he's leashed. when dogs are together
anything can happen. they think and react independently of us.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony8858 View Post

Carmen, I completely understand and don't disagree. I'm not arguing any points. I recognize my dogs' shortcomings to the best of my ability.
My point with Doggiedad, was HOW does one know they have a " go everywhere dog"? Many people take their dogs to dog parks, until something happens. Doggiedad seems 100% certain that nothing could happen. Why is he so confident?
Is it genetic? From what I've learned from you and many others, it might be.
Is it the handler or owner? Did I do this to my dog? Seems like a good possibility.



My point is how would one determine a dogs' " go everywhere" personality, without actually being out in that situation?
Is this something an average dog owner should be able to determine, without pushing the limits?.




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Old 11-21-2012, 11:31 PM   #59 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by doggiedad View Post
i got my pup when he was 9 weeks old. he was in a puppy class
at 10 weeks old. everyday, several times a day he had short
training sessions. everyday several times a day there was socializing.
i wanted my dog to be a pet/companion and the only way i figured
he could be the "go everywhere" dog was to to expose him to
many life encounters. when my dog was 6 months to 9 months
old he was attacked at the dog park several times. i figured he
was attacked because he was to young. i stopped going to the dog
park. i went to play groups and had play groups at our house.
when
my dog was 1 yr old maybe 1&1/2 yrs old i returned to the dog park.
the attacks stopped. in the area in the woods where he plays and there's
sometimes 25 dogs running there's never a scrap. the dogs just play
like crazy. the creek is low in this area of the woods and people cross
the creek on their horses. the dogs are all around the horses and they
never bother the horses.

the reason i know i have a "go everywhere" dog is because
he goes everywhere with us without any problems.

i'm not certain about anything when it comes to my dog. i trust
my dog as long as i can see him or he's leashed. when dogs are together
anything can happen. they think and react independently of us.
The people here that know Kira, will say that I DID EXACTLY as you did.
Maybe Kira never recovered from her attack. Maybe it is all about nerve. Apparently, your dog got over it.

If I ever brought Kira to the dog park, and subjected her numerous attacks, this board would have me neutered!
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Old 11-21-2012, 11:45 PM   #60 (permalink)
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I don't intentially push her limits, but I may not clearly know when to pull her back either.
That's great that you can see this. Whenever I read your threads, it seems that we're coming at the issues from opposite ends: you're asking, "Why does she do that?" and I'm thinking, "You let her do what?"

It's very interesting to try to understand canine behavior, but it's probably better done on someone else's dog, lol. Sometimes I think it's easy for me to train a dog just because I'm a very impulsive person, so I can jump right in and correct/redirect before anything even has a chance to happen.

And other things seem to be coming from a different angle too - take the dog park: you think that people stop going after something happens, but that's not quite the whole story. In fact, I rushed my puppy right over to the dog park the day after a neighbor's JRT acted like a complete psycho, just so my guy would have 'good' dog memories fresh in his mind, instead of 'whoa! evil or what?!'

I know you're doing the best that you can, and that's all anyone can ever do. Nobody can fault you for your efforts, but they do point out where you've fallen short - and you take it very well indeed.
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