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geigen 05-04-2014 01:45 AM

"Barbering"??? Anyone heard of this nervous habit?
I received a new name for my 10 month old, unaltered GSD's behavior this week - A behavioral vet diagnosed him with 'Barbering' and says that it's due to anxiety. I posted here a few weeks ago before the official "diagnosis" and a lot of posters called it 'flea biting', an affectionate behavior toward packmates.
It's a bit more serious, I guess. It's considered 'barbering' when the dog's nips do not cause pain, but actually remove hair on another dog, causing a bald spot. I was told to get Adaptil collars and atomizers to reduce his anxiety and attempt to discover the root of the anxiety.
My trainers tell me this all makes sense because he was highly distracted as a puppy and they observe "moderate" anxiety in him, judged by his occasional whining. (I thought all shepherds whined?)
I am wracking my brain trying to determine the source of his perceived anxiety without success. He only "barbers" the dogs in daycare, not his two packmates at home. I have stopped taking him to daycare.
He is an otherwise happy, healthy boy. Loves kids, people, and other dogs. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Freestep 05-04-2014 02:57 AM

GSDs do have a tendency to be vocal about their feelings. :) They also tend toward anxiety. An anxious dog will whine more than a content dog. I honestly think that a lot of anxiety problems are genetic, so it's not necessarily due to anything you're doing wrong, but stressors in the environment can certainly trigger anxious behaviors.

I find that GSDs are not always good candidates for doggie daycare past a certain age, and your boy is about at that age. I would stop taking him to daycare, and instead play, train and exercise him one-on-one. Give him a job to do. See if that doesn't alleviate the general anxiety and the "barbering".

geigen 05-04-2014 10:56 AM

Thank you Freestep - That makes a lot of sense. I removed him from daycare two weeks ago. I don't know which part of his DNA is expressing more prominently at this point, and I'm confused. any expertise you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
Here's more info: He is working lines and his parents have produced police dogs in the past. I went with working lines from a reputable breeder to (try) and avoid health problems I had over the years with my GSDs from American show lines. My breeder picked out a "low energy" puppy for me and cautioned me he was "sensitive", not a candidate for police work, lowest prey drive in the litter. He is very empathic, sweet, and non-alpha. (Our 30 lb Shiba Inu is the boss at home). He developed a play drive late(9 months and loves the ball now- but doesn't always retrieve it). and our cat and senior Chow are his best friends. Our Chow is grumpy and has a heart condition, and it chokes me up to see Kato adjust his play style and be so gentle with her. Our daycare is on the campus of a vet/rehab clinic and a training facility. Kato and I have been working one-on-one with trainers to prepare him for testing with Therapy Dogs International, and he learned everything on the test in a month as a 5 month old. The lead trainer is a GSD owner. He continues with refresh training, but at 10 months he challenges the leash and chain collar after dozens of corrections, and he's highly distracted by outside stimuli. Indoors, however, he is capable of sitting alone in a room with treats resting on both his paws for 15 minutes until he is released. I'm told now that his distractibility in training is a symptom of his anxiety.
My husband and I started reflecting on his behavior. In public, he is very curious, but so calm that people are surprised by it and comment. (pet store, hardware store, doctor's office, car dealership service bay, post office after hours lobby, etc). He is not afraid of loud noises, clashing steel, etc. He DOES respond differently to people and dogs by "alert" barking if they are more than a few feet away, even at a 100 yards away. Up close, and in the home, he approaches guests readily with a lick and a nuzzle.
We recently installed electronic fencing on our property (2/3 acre). The receiver collar failed after 2 days (don't ask, long story) and he ran to my neighbor's house. He was invited inside. He greeted her two crated Burnese Mountain Dogs, (they are not playmates, only met twice) grabbed one of their toys and laid down in my neighbor's living room like it was his home.
I am a lifetime GSD owner but this is my first working line GSD. I am hoping that when he is neutered and begins hospital visits (minimum age is 1 year) that he'll be fulfilled and less anxious. I'm wondering now if therapy is enough, and if I should consider agility.
Thanks for listening. All ideas are welcome.

Freestep 05-04-2014 12:04 PM

Ah yes, working line GSDs... even a "low energy" working line GSD has more energy and drive than most "regular" dogs. Sometimes it takes them a while to mature into their drives. A calm, submissive 7 week old pup can suddenly turn into a monster at adolescence! We call these "sleeper" pups. I had one.

If this were my dog, I'd exercise the living daylights out of him, and then work on obedience and focus. Agility would be great. The reactivity to things outdoors, you mention things that are far away, is probably something he will grow out of with continued training. At ten months, he has a puppy brain in a big dog body, charged with testosterone; think 15 year old human boy. He still needs to learn discernment. With maturity and continued positive exposure and training, he should figure it out eventually. But a ten month old, intact male, working line GSD can be a real challenge even for the experienced!

The fact that he doesn't respond to leash corrections when distracted by the outdoors, tells me that he isn't quite as "sensitive" as originally thought. Working line GSDs can be extremely "hard", that is, insensitive to pressure and pain, especially when in drive.

I'm not a trainer, and I don't know your dog, so I can't give specific training advice. Hopefully some of the experts will chime in with suggestions.

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