How to nip this 'new' behavior in the bud? - German Shepherd Dog Forums

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Old 11-27-2012, 10:59 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default How to nip this 'new' behavior in the bud?

Suki just spent a week at my in-laws while my husband and I were out of town. She loves spending time with them and according to them her behavior was exceptional but my mother in law did mention that she was a little more nervous than usual when a new person or dog came around. Suki has always been a bit excitable when she sees another person or animal when we're walking but since we've been back home her excitement has seemed to shift to nervous behavior not just on walks but even in our house. She heard our neighbor taking the trash out last night so she went to the window and barked. On our walk, everyone that we passed in a car, with or without a dog, got barked at and she was trying to pull me towards them. I told her sternly to 'Stop' but it had no effect. I had her flat collar on (she wears a pinch some of the time) so I was not equipped to correct her on the collar.

Do you think that this nervousness is because we left town for the week? How do I correct this behavior? We have trained her well up to this point - what methods can we use to stop this before it turns into complete reactivity? Is she just being protective?
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Last edited by MaggieRoseLee; 11-27-2012 at 01:08 PM.
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Old 11-27-2012, 12:54 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I don't know if it is connected to you being away from her or if it could be a phase that she is going through, is she not around 1 year old? Hopefully someone more knowledgeable will come along with some suggestions for you.
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Old 11-27-2012, 01:03 PM   #3 (permalink)
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What is your dog class instructor recommending? Is she behaving the same in classes?

This can be easily duplicated in class and you can be helped right thru it. If it's only when outdoors I bet your instructor can set that up too. It's not uncommon at all but you do need to snip it in the bud immediately. Just being confident and in charge with a plan will be a big help.

Do you use a clicker?

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Old 11-27-2012, 01:05 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I had to giggle... the term is "nip it in the BUD", not "butt". But your version is amusing.

How old is your dog? If she is still a pup (under 18 months or so), she is probably going through one of those nervous/reactive phases. Is she spayed? Some females get a little bit wonky when they're due to come into heat.

In any case, keep socializing, but set up her up for success... make sure her experiences with new things, people, and animals are positive or at least neutral. I doubt she's being protective of you, she's trying to defend HERSELF by barking at perceived threats. Your job is to show her there's no threat and no reason to feel nervous or defensive. It takes time, just be consistent and patient, and don't force her past her comfort zone... ie, if she's afraid of something, don't just stick it in her face, allow her to come around and investigate at her own pace.

Have you attended an obedience class with her? That would be a great way to help her socialize in a controlled setting, plus you'll get some help and tips from experienced trainers.
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Old 11-27-2012, 01:10 PM   #5 (permalink)
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She turns 1 tomorrow, in fact. She is such a love bug with friends and family and she's really a big mush. She plays with kids just fine, and she plays like normal GSD (which we all know is a little rough) with other dogs. I just wish I could figure out if she is trying to be protective when strange people/dogs come around or if she is nervous and we should be concerned about the beginning of aggression.

She does not bare her teeth or growl. The bark is more of like a 'who are you?' or alert barking. We want her to alert us when there is someone on the property who shouldn't be there, but I don't know how to curb the behavior when we out in public or on walks.

It just seems strange to me that she is acting like this since we've been away - but now that's she back home the behavior is continuing. I hope that something didn't spook her. She has been a little disconnected from us since we got home. We have to re-bond a little.

Has anyone else had this issue after a vacation or extended time away from their pup? Is this a 'phase'?
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Old 11-27-2012, 01:13 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SukiGirl View Post
She does not bare her teeth or growl. The bark is more of like a 'who are you?' or alert barking. We want her to alert us when there is someone on the property who shouldn't be there, but I don't know how to curb the behavior when we out in public or on walks.

Has anyone else had this issue after a vacation or extended time away from their pup? Is this a 'phase'?
It may be, but it's a phase that needs to be worked on and stopped
ASAP. So you are right to be concerned.

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Old 11-27-2012, 01:15 PM   #7 (permalink)
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She is spayed, and we have gone through basic obedience. And then we worked for a little while with a private trainer. She does really well with most of her commands and this is the first time we've had to deal with this type of behavior. We have to admit that we've laxed on the formal training (classes and such) but we do train at home. It might be time to call the private trainer again and get back into the habit of formal training classes so we can observe her behavior in that setting. We don't use a clicker either.

In the meantime, I think we'll start researching reactivity and see if we can work on some things at home.

Any other advice is welcome, this is our first dog so we are learning something new every day!
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Old 11-27-2012, 05:11 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SukiGirl View Post
I just wish I could figure out if she is trying to be protective when strange people/dogs come around or if she is nervous and we should be concerned about the beginning of aggression.
She's trying to be protective of HERSELF. She's not trying to protect YOU... in fact, you thinks you should be the one to protect her, and she's trying to tell you when things scare her. It's a phase a lot of GSDs go through around adolescence. You're right to be concerned, but don't freak out worrying about "aggression", because that will make it worse. The treatment for this is to socialize with friendly strangers (classes are great for this) and project confidence, so that she can learn that things aren't so scary.

Quote:
It just seems strange to me that she is acting like this since we've been away - but now that's she back home the behavior is continuing. I hope that something didn't spook her. She has been a little disconnected from us since we got home. We have to re-bond a little.
It's possible that she got "spooked", but it's just as possible that she's entering a behavioral phase common to GSDs. Where she may have been shy and retiring with strangers before, she is becoming more defensive now because her defensive drive is awakening.

I don't know how much has to do with you being away, since the nervousness is a temperament trait that is at least partially genetic, but it's possible she missed out on a prime socialization window while you were gone.

Re-bonding will be a great thing. Training, playing ball, going for walks, all the good doggie stuff will certainly help her get through this. Another obedience class, maybe intermediate obedience or something like that, will help with the bonding process. It will teach her to look to you for cues when something a little bit scary is going on, so that you can be reassuring to her without rewarding fearful behaviors.
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