HELP!!!! 18 month old GSD still not bonding - German Shepherd Dog Forums

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Old 08-04-2014, 09:48 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Red face HELP!!!! 18 month old GSD still not bonding

So where to begin. Did we do something wrong when he was a puppy, did the breeder, was it genetic? I just don't know where to start, so I will try from the beginning. Kato is show line bred (just found this out) he is 18 months old on Oct. 18 and we love him. He is our first purebred German Shepherd Dog. The biggest problem we are having is he is not bonding very well. Or maybe it is just to me.

When we got him he didn't really like to be with us a lot. He would spend a lot of time a couple meters away from us laying down and sometimes he would be beside us but more often further away. He would always mouth as a puppy and still now, it never breaks the skin but sometimes it can hurt. We just assumed this is what german shepherds do and are now just finding out that these are not good traits.

We only took him to a couple puppy classes and did not teach him very many commands when he was younger just sit and down. This was our fault in not teaching him more as we were very busy (I know that is no excuse). So currently we are with a trainer working one on one. We are working on basic commands right now. But I am finding he will not do anything for the most part unless you have a food reward or he thinks you have a food reward. We also thought this was normal GSD behaviour until someone recently let us know that it isn't.

He at 18 months is still a bit aloof but also enjoys sitting with you, he over heats easily. He does not do what my partner asks of him either and sometimes you have to ask him 5 or more times before he will listen. We have tried different teaching methods, crate, spray, yelping, freezing up when biting and ignore (just gets more excited when you yelp and ignore and will keep mouthing or bark louder), mimicking puppy nip to shoulder blade and make a sound to get/redirect his attention. Nothing seems to work or it works for a little and he goes back to the way he was before.

Our trainer said we babied him to much when he was a pup and never made him work for anything so now he thinks he gets everything for free. He is not to be on the beds or furniture for 1 month because he nipped me a couple weeks back when I tried to get him off my side of the bed. He is better now that I've been forcibly removing him from furniture the last 2 weeks but after a year of bad habits it's hard for him to break. We are to do at least 15 min. A day of commands sit, down, come and give food reward when he listens (kibble) and if he doesn't listen I walk away. As well as he is not to get affection from me unless he is sitting, laying down calmly or I've asked him to do something and do not have a treat reward ( this way he has to earn my affection). I was also told by someone else to walk through all door ways before him so we have been doing that, as well as once in a while to put my foot gently over his paw to assert dominance.

So to cap it off I am really nervous now that he will not be trainable and will be this way the rest of his life. Is this a bad genetic or did we do something wrong? I really want to work with him. We love him.

Thanks for any and all feedback.
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Old 08-04-2014, 10:15 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Sounds like you may have a 'hard' dog. Or, one with a personality that requires more forceful discipline with more emphasis on NILIF.

I treated Lisl like the little countess she was when she was a little puppy, but she had to earn everything she received. NILIF was a strict regiment for her. There was very little voice-raising, no spanking, no bawling out when she did something wrong.

Lisl is a hard dog too. She was somewhat aloof around me and we didn't really bond until she was around 10 months to a year.

I constantly worked with her, loved her a lot, and always praised her a lot when she performed as she was supposed to, and corrected her gently when she didn't.

Sometimes it takes awhile to figure out how to get through to your dog to make her/him understand what it is you are trying to teach her. Every dog is different and what works for one may not work for the next one. That was the most difficult thing for me to learn with the GSD's I've raised and trained. Each has a distinct personality and responds differently to different ways of teaching.

I wish I had more for you, but try to vary your teaching methods and see if you can't get her to 'click'.
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Old 08-04-2014, 10:29 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I agree with everything MichaelE said. Also, he is definitely trainable, don't give up. And NILIF does sound like a good road to go with him. How old was he when you got him?

Again, do not worry about him not being trainable. If that were true, no one would adopt rescue GSDs if they couldn't be retrained. But it is going to take time, first for you to learn, then for you to train him. It will work, but you must have persistence and consistency.

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Old 08-04-2014, 10:32 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Sounds like what your trainer is having you do is NILIF. It is basically training manners and building the relationship/leadership.

For the food training, you will be able to phase that out or transition to using a toy as reward. When you begin phasing out the food reward, start by rewarding every other command, progress to every 4 or 5 commands, then random. Good video to rent thru BowWow or buy is Leerburg | The Power of Training Dogs with Food DVD. Be glad you have food motivation for training. I would suggest using something more exciting then his kibble.

For his mouthing. Verbal correction then command - No - - sit/down. Or teach him an alternate behavior. With Woolf at that age, he loved playing using his mouth; no broken skin but for other reasons it just isn't acceptable for him to think teeth on skin is ok at any time. It seemed like a chant really. He began playing; we grabbed a ball 'teeth on ball not on skin' and shoved it in his mouth. He began grabbing the ball instead of mouthing. Now, if a tooth even grazes one of us, he stops, backs up and sits until we say ok.

As far as snuggling, or being close; your dog may or may not be one who will do that. Woolf is 4 yr old, and it wasn't until this last year he became super affectionate and sometimes thinks he is a lapdog.

Did you do something wrong? You are getting it right now with training. He sounds typical of a pup just learning obedience. The only thing I see questionable is the nipping when you removed him from the furniture. Teach him the off command, instead of having to forcibly remove him, avoids a confrontation.
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Old 08-04-2014, 10:39 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Have you ever played tug with him? Does he enjoy the sparring/challenge of winning the tug? You are always the one that controls the game, if you aren't tugging there is no game. Let the dog win(keep him on a line and let him prance around with the reward, bring him back to you with a come or here command.)
Because he is mouthy, I'd put that need to use and engage him while training using the tug as the reward. Food is boring after awhile, and training the same way over and over can also be boring. If a method isn't working change it.
I have seen dogs so disengaged because the handler is not encouraging fun and excitement. Engage your dog, it isn't too late.
Get a couple nice high value toys(ball on string, two handle tug) and keep them for training only. Maybe you'll see a difference in your boy!

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Old 08-04-2014, 11:31 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thank you everyone for your responses so far. No mater what we will be keeping him, as we love him very much.

I am going to continue with the NILIF training and am happy you let me know what it is called. I looked it up and now have it saved on my bookmarks.

MichaelE how do you correct gently? When he is on the couch or bed I gently grab him behind the neck and say "off", once he is off I direct him to his bed and on e hi sits or lays down I say "good boy" and praise him. Is that gentle enough? What other gentle reprimands can I use for other things?

Susan Gsd mom he was 7 weeks 5 days when we got him.

Twyla thanks! I will try verbal correction and no. As well as look up leerburg.

Onyx'grl we try not to play tug of war and usually he is not very interested in it. He much prefers you hold a toy for him to chew on so he doesn't have to hold it lol. But I will look into some of that training.

Thanks everyone so far for the good pointers and hope.
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Old 08-04-2014, 11:50 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Just real quick, don't let him get on the furniture to begin with. Teach him a place command instead. Basically a dog bed, rug, or mat you teach him to lay on and not get up till he's told to. Quit grabbing him like that, he's going to keep biting you, badly at some point. Leave a leash with no handle on it, on him. Its called a drag line. Correct him with that.

Don't worry about being gentle, think in terms of interrupting or stopping something. Don't worry about him behaving because he thinks you have food. Thats fine for now. Dogs don't work very well for free.
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Old 08-04-2014, 11:58 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Some dogs don't need to be in your space all the time. My dog isn't constantly on me, in fact, I invite him to sit on the couch or get up on the bed, and he will, to humor me--briefly. He lasts about 10 minutes, then he's off. Mostly because he is too hot. I don't take it personally. He's a secure, well-adjusted dog that doesn't need me to be with him or he with me every second. Do I know he's 'bonded'? Sure. He shows it in many other ways.

18 months is young. Try several (all of them) different toys until you find one he likes. My dog doesn't 'love' tug with regular tugs nearly as much as he loves it with his blue ball. You have to experiment. One of his favorite games with me is 'soccer'. I have a steep grassy hill in the back and he sits at the top and releases the ball, waits until I kick it, and then dives for it. I don't even remember how this started. But he runs to get his blue ball every day when I come home from work. You don't have to play for hours, just a few minutes. I interspersed it with obedience too. He is always sharp as a tack when he wants that freaking ball.
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Old 08-05-2014, 01:57 AM   #9 (permalink)
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In training I never repeat the command. Say it once and wait him out. I wouldn't walk away without him doing what I asked. There is nothing wrong with treating until he understands what you want, it's the same way you would teach a puppy. Since he didn't have that when he was younger, start it now. The wait command is a great command so that he stays while you go through doors and stuff. You can also periodically call him to you throughout the day, give him a treat and carry on with what your doing. This will give him the idea that when he comes to you, good things happen(treats, then eventually just praise). Don't ruin that by calling him to cut his nails, clean ears,etc. that isn't fun for them and you should go to him to do these things. Playing tug and soccer are my dogs favorite games, it's fun for everyone.
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Old 08-05-2014, 10:03 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by llombardo View Post
In training I never repeat the command. Say it once and wait him out. I wouldn't walk away without him doing what I asked. There is nothing wrong with treating until he understands what you want, it's the same way you would teach a puppy. Since he didn't have that when he was younger, start it now. The wait command is a great command so that he stays while you go through doors and stuff. You can also periodically call him to you throughout the day, give him a treat and carry on with what your doing. This will give him the idea that when he comes to you, good things happen(treats, then eventually just praise). Don't ruin that by calling him to cut his nails, clean ears,etc. that isn't fun for them and you should go to him to do these things. Playing tug and soccer are my dogs favorite games, it's fun for everyone.
I agree.

The dog is trying to engage you when it is mouthing you. It WANTS to bond with you. Your lack of training the puppy is why you are currently not feeling bonded. When the puppy starts mouthing you, put a tug in its mouth and start playing with the dog. Or take it outside and throw the ball and tire the puppy out. Or take the puppy for walk.

Agree, by telling the dog five times, you are TEACHING the dog to ignore your requests. By walking away, you are teaching the dog that he has a choice to do your bidding or not. These are bad training, and you will not bond with your dog with bad training. What you need to do is say it once, and then help him. Do not give commands that you cannot immediately enforce.

Yes, you can call to him in the day and give a treat if he comes: Rudy!!! Rudy comes, give him a treat. Good Boy! But if you use the word COME, or HERE! then for now he should be on lead, so that if he does not come the very first time you call, and relatively quickly, you go to him and bring him to where you want him to be, every single time.

Rudy SIT! give him a moment, if he doesn't then help him get into the position you want and then praise, good sit.

Treats are ok to teach the dog what you want, and then, to get the best response, give them only for the best effort. But in the beginning you can be much more free with them.

You need to mark good behavior positively and quickly. If you are talking to your neighbor and you call the dog, Rudy Come, and the neighbor asks you a question, and Rudy has come and is looking at you, do not continue your conversation and ignore the dog, tell the dog, Good boy, and pet or treat and then continue your conversation.

You have to mark positive behavior immediately in the beginning. As the dog improves, you can start stringing behaviors together and then praise.

I do not like to let any command of mine be ignored. If I say OFF! then the dog needs to get off of me or off of the bet, etc. If they do not, no way am I going to walk away -- that is teaching the dog to ignore me. Instead, I will say, Eh-eH! and point to the position I want the dog in, off the bed or off of me and wait until they comply with that, if necessary I will put a leash on the dog and compel the dog off the bed, or bump the dog with my knee to get them to jump down off of me.

The best way to get them not to jump on you is to not allow it at all. I choose to allow it for my own reasons, but I train them to come HUPP! or get OFF!.

You need to follow through.
Give a command once, then help the dog.

I don't like the way I read that you are forcibly removing the dog from furniture and the dog nipped you. This is concerning. If necessary, put a leash on the dog, but do not grab the dog and remove it from the furniture. If OFF! does not work, limit access to the furniture for a while until you can train that. You should be able to control the dog with your voice and not manhandle the dog to get it off of things.

The dog sounds fine. It WANTS to engage with you, otherwise it would not mouth you. Training, Play, Exercise, are all ways to engage with your dog and build the bond. Train in obedience, yes, but also train tricks and games. Keep it light and fun.

Do not sit there and work on sit and down for 15 minutes. That will be terrible.

Instead, repeat each thing no more than 3 times in a row. Break it up. SIT, Good boy.
WATCH ME, Good boy.
SIT, STAY (pivot in front of the dog) Good boy!
DOWN. Good.

SIT,
HEEL (Back up and call)FRONT, and SIT (dog sits in front) Good boy.
FINISH -- teach the dog to return to the heel position and sit.

Now, heavy on the treats and teach him to shake or give you his paw.

Do a sit and a down and then try to get him to stay for 5 or 10 seconds, then back.

Now go ahead and thrown the ball for him a few times. good.

Back to getting him to stay while you walk around him, Good.

Put a line on hm, tell him to stay and walk a little further away. If he breaks the stay, then put him back and stay closer (do not have treats in your hand for this exercise). If he doesn't break, pause then call him to you. Lavish praise if he comes.

Start and end each session with something fun.
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