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MickeyD 03-10-2014 03:48 PM

Barking at people
I have a 22 month old GSD who has starting barking at people he meets while walking. We got him at 6 months completely unsocialized. He had never been out of the pen at his breeder's before we got him as breeder was in bad health and was having trouble taking care of him. We were surprised at how friendly he was with people with such little previous interaction with people. He's been socialized a lot since that time and been in numerous training classes. He loved going up to people and getting petted when younger. When he turned 16 months and after being neutured, we noticed him being nervous around people he hadn't met. A few times he would go up to them and then back away and bark. We immediately put a halt to people petting him unless he initiated the contact and looked comfortable. Just recently, he's meet a few people he's known before on walks, walked up to them, got petted and then barked at them. We've spoken to our obedience trainer and was told to correct him when he does that. I'm worried there's something else going on and that a correction could be making it worse. He's barked at both men and women. Any suggestions?

Chip18 03-10-2014 04:54 PM

I disagree with correcting for "that" behaviour he's uncomfortable with some people for some reason? Don't really see how you can "correct" stress out of a dog?? So I agree with you and if a trainer is suggesting either don't do it or find a new trainer! :)

I feel a much better approach is here:

Leerburg | Who Pets Your Puppy or Dog

Teaching your dog to ignore people is in "my" opinion a much better route. Right now he's picking and choosing who to "engage" that's your job. He should be people neutral, he should learn to view people as furniture..of no consequence.

You take the weight of decision making off his shoulders and you'll develop a tighter bond with your dog! :)

sehrgutcsg 03-10-2014 05:02 PM


Originally Posted by MickeyD (Post 5169153)
I have a 22 month old GSD who has starting barking at people he meets while walking. We got him at 6 months completely unsocialized. He had never been out of the pen. Just recently, he's meet a few people he's known before on walks, walked up to them, got petted and then barked at them. Any suggestions?

Maybe he wants more attention and your thinking it's fear ?

Watch the ears and tail next time .?

VTGirlT 03-10-2014 05:26 PM

Sounds like uncertainty, and is fear reactive to people who aren't in his immediate family.

You can start out at extreme, and if he is under threshold still you can move him up faster than you can say with my girl.

First start with keeping distance with people, he can look alert. But if he is under threshold (which is what you always want him to be at) he should NOT be barking, growling, hair up, tail tucked, tail aroused, trying to run away, etc. But he can be watching him. As he watches them give him a treat and praise him. Eventually your distance will become shorter and he will still be under threshold, and eventually (if you stick to it, and have lots of interactions and go at his pace, could be months, years..) People can pet him and it will be a positive thing for him.
My dog has fear aggression to all strangers. Zelda is similar and so basically i am working on changing her response to unfamiliar people from one of fear to one of relaxed happiness. During this process i need to keep her safe and people. I am changing that emotional state of fearfulness which in lots of dog cases can and does lead to aggression. Thankfully Zelda gives lots of signals and calming signals. Which i do not want to stop, because it lets me know when its over her threshold and this is important not to stop, as it can lead to a unpredictable biter. Which is never easy to work with.. instead of trying to change her reaction to strangers, i want to change her entire emotional response (fear), because that is what is causing her reactions.. counter conditioning works for humans too! The more positive interactions the better. However, it's better no interaction than a negative. So if you are uneasy about being able to control the situation than leave. Better to be safe than sorry. And just so you know, my whole life had to be changed to ensure her safety from herself and other peoples. She is not even close to our goal, but improvement is still a step forward and that is all i ask. :)
Patricia McConnel, The Cautious Canine-How to Help Dogs Conquer Their Fears has really helped me, i suggest you buy it or borrow it from someone to read, a great resource. So is Sofia Yin. :)

David Taggart 03-10-2014 05:51 PM

He barks because he wants to come closer and play, he calls them. But general public is not an object for your growing GSD to play with. You have to provide him with an object - a ball, and train him to keep his attention on you during your walks, not on some strangers. Move away from them every time he barks, walk in opposite direction if convenient, show him that the strangers are not worth of his attention.
Visit busy places like parks on Saturday afternoon, shopping centes, town centres as often as you can. Do not stop at people and say "Sorry" if their children want to touch your dog. Just walk on your own with your dog. He got used to go to people himself - and that is a really bad habit, may lead to a real desaster: some idiot might try to shoo him, some child scream and your dog could be really upset of such an outcome and get agressive. If you really like meeting people - make a ritual out of it, ask your dog to sit, explain to the kids how and where to touch him. I don't advice you to allow any adults such a contact, and watch out - little children have big farthers your dog may start barking at and frighten the child. 10-12 year olds are the best, they can play ball with your dog, not just intimidating him by petting. But, of course, you should train to ignore people he wants to go to himself first.

MickeyD 03-12-2014 03:05 PM

Thanks for the input. He is comfortable walking around people in many different situations and appears relaxed and curious. It is only when he is sitting and getting petted that I am seeing this behaviour. We've always put him in sit when meeting people. When this behaviour started, we thought by putting him in a sit first and then letting him approach the person when they put their hand out to pet that he would not be forced to be petted if he was uncomfortable. He will approach, let them pet and then stand there and bark. No hackles, no lunging, no sign of aggression that I can see but his ears are held in a position that says he's not comfortable. We've stopped all petting encounters now on our walks. He is okay sitting there next to me when I talk. We've never let people rush up to him... I've got my blocking move and my "sorry, he's training" to keep people away when needed

I will check out the Leerburg article and have the McConnel book already and will see if there's something I can adapt. Also have the first video from Sophia Yin... found it helpful for reactivity to dogs.

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