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Old 05-18-2010, 08:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default German shepherd as service dog

I have a question. I have a german shepherd pup that I hope to eventually train as a service dog for me. I currently have a lab mix service dog, but she did not get big enough to do the mobility assistance that I need her to do. I am about 220 lbs and 4'11". My current service dog is about 22" and 60 lbs.

My german shepherd pup is currently 9 weeks old and 20 lbs. He is very smart. I am running into a few problems though, and thought I would bring them to you guys and see what your thoughts were on them.

1) When Major meets a new person or dog he will bark at them, then slowly approach them, then let the person pet him, or sniff the dog, then things are fine. Is this normal for a german shepherd pup or is it something I need to worry about?

2) Whenever we are out anywhere with Major we keep hearing horror stories about german shepherds. We hear the people are afraid of them. We hear that a german shepherd attacked them or their kids . And today we heard that a german shepherd killed their dog.

How do I show people that Major won't hurt them? Most people will pet him, and he loves it. However, some won't, and it is because of what other german shepherds have done in their lives. How do I overcome this? Will this lead to access challenges when he eventually starts public access work?

Thanks,



Tammy
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Old 05-18-2010, 08:54 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tgolike View Post
1) When Major meets a new person or dog he will bark at them, then slowly approach them, then let the person pet him, or sniff the dog, then things are fine. Is this normal for a german shepherd pup or is it something I need to worry about?
heavy socialization, I saw in a previous thread of yours that you had been waiting to start until shots were done. Not sure if you have started or not yet but even if he is in a shopping cart or in your lap not interacting but seeing everything and that its not a big deal it goes a long way.

Quote:
2) Whenever we are out anywhere with Major we keep hearing horror stories about german shepherds. We hear the people are afraid of them. We hear that a german shepherd attacked them or their kids . And today we heard that a german shepherd killed their dog.
How do I show people that Major won't hurt them? Most people will pet him, and he loves it. However, some won't, and it is because of what other german shepherds have done in their lives. How do I overcome this?
some people will always act that way towards a GSD, even if your dog is the best trained most amazing dog. All you can do is train your dog, ensure that he is well behaved and show them how amazing these dogs really are. A bad GSD had bad owners.

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Will this lead to access challenges when he eventually starts public access work?
If I remember right, its illegal for a place to ban access based on your dogs breed.
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Old 05-18-2010, 10:20 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Socialization

Thanks for the quick response to my questions. So far, Major has been to the trails and walked on them. Been introduced to 3 other dogs, two puppies and an adult other than our own adult dog. Been introduced to many different people including women, men, men in hats, and children (both boys and girls). He has also been socialized with a cat, seen birds, rabbits, guinnea pigs, and fish. He has walked on wood chips, dirt, sand, grass, linoleum, carpet, and wood. He has also been introduced to a sort of lake. All this has taken place since we have had him. He has been to the park twice. He has been to a pet food place once. And he goes on van rides with me at least a few days a week. I think I may move up his socialization and start taking him everywhere with me. If it is a place that is not pet friendly, I will leave him in the van. However, he can go with me to banks, our Wal-Mart (they know me well and our bank is in there), to our other bank, to Rural King, to Lowe's and Home Depot, and most anywhere that does not have food out, right? I have a vest he can wear that says "puppy in training, please ask to pet me".

Is this a good idea, or no?

Tammy
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Old 05-18-2010, 10:49 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The rule of thumb I have heard for socialization is a puppy should be introduced to 100 different types of people by 12 weeks old.
Socialization is especially important between the age of 8-12 weeks old and I highly recommend entering a puppy class if there is one in your area as well as doing a lot of socialization in public.

You can read more about socialization and how to socialize a puppy (and I highly recommend reading these pages) here:
Socialization
and
How to socialize


This is also a good page to read, it's more of a general puppy raising info with some on socialization:
Socialization -How to
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Old 05-18-2010, 10:59 PM   #5 (permalink)
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When working with a service dog I would just ignore the people that have a prejudice against the breed. Right now you want to socialize him as much as possible, but down the line you DON'T want people to interact with him so I would just focus on the people that are fine with GSDs. It would be different if he was just a pet and you were trying to be an ambassador for the breed. Sagelfn is correct that it is illegal to deny access based on breed.

Since Major is very young I wouldn't worry too much about his barking at people. I recommend the LAT (look at that) game though to keep his focus on you. Down the line you don't want him barking at people, when he is in full work that would be a big no-no. Sounds like you are doing a good job socializing him so just keep it up!

Why is your current service dog too small? I understand why you are not wanting to use her from the other thread. But I am 5'3 and my service dog is 24" and is definitely big enough. I use a mobility assistance harness with her that has a 6 inch rigid handle. What type of tasks do you depend on your dog for? Tessa has no problem being used for balance, stability, pulling up stairs, pulling me in a wheelchair etc.
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Old 05-18-2010, 11:13 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Major and Summer

Thanks for the links. I did read them, and they make a lot of sense. We are going to step up his socialization and start taking him out more.

As for Summer being too small, we were told that by a previous service dog trainer that I had. I am 220 lbs and 4'11". I was told that as heavy as I am, a 60 lb dog is not enough to help me out of the tub, help me up when I fall, or help me up/down steps/curbs. Mainly for mobility for me though she wears a harness with a bridge handle attached that I hold onto while she pulls me and provides anti-balance so I don't fall. My daughter likes to say that I "wobble" without something to hold onto. It can be kind of embarrasing when we are out, and I have left Summer at home and have my daughter helping me instead, and I let go of her for a minute and she makes me take hold of her again immediately and says loud enough for everyone to hear "Mom, you have to hold on to me, you are wobbling.". If it were just for that though, I would not be retiring her except as a back up dog and an at home service dog. I am also semi-retiring her because she is too reactive in public.

However, now that we are back in classes, she does seem to be getting better. Also, she is a lab mix, and everyone just wants to come up and pet her and pet her. I have PTSD and have anxiety disorder and don't do well around people I don't know well. It makes me very anxious. So, to have a dog that provides a "physical presence" without being mean is the way to go for me according to my therapist. So, Major seems to be the key for me.

Tammy
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Old 05-18-2010, 11:29 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Are you trying to lose weight at all? I know thats a quite sensitive topic. It really helps mobility issues though. I gained a lot of weight quite quickly due to hypothyroidism. When I finally got back down I noticed a big difference in my joint issues.

I also sort of wobble. I'm fine when I'm holding Tessa's harness, leaning on a shopping cart, or leaning on my forearm crutch. Around the house I constantly reach out and push on the walls, furniture, etc to steady myself as I walk. I always steady myself on Tessa when getting up or down. If I don't have anything to steady myself I walk quite slowly and feel very off balance; I noticed it during a recent ER visit. I said I was fine without a wheelchair, but I swear it seemed like they walked me a mile from admitting to a room! When we were done my boyfriend spoke up for me and said I needed a wheelchair to leave lol.
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Old 05-19-2010, 03:38 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Losing weight

Yes, I am trying to lose weight, and am slowly losing it. With the medications that I take, including insulin (which causes a person to put on weight) and the fact that I can't get around very well, it is a very slow process. I could lose weight quickly if I went off of my insulin, but that isn't an option for me.

I have much the same problems that you do. Plus, I have severe neuropathy. Holding on to something, be it a bridge handle on a service dog, a walker, or a person's arm helps tremendously.

Tammy
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Old 05-19-2010, 11:14 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Eeek definitely do not go off your insulin! Are there any types of exercise you can do? Swimming is often good. Or even just walking in a pool, the water helps hold you up and provides gentle resistance.

I was thinking about this thread earlier and thought of something funny. I have trouble walking and trip myself or just plain fall from bad balance, but I can still ride a buck from a horse better than most people! I know the reason, its completely different muscles being used. And riding is a great form of physical therapy- the benefits are amazing because it works your entire body in a gentle way especially muscles in your core. But its pretty amusing that I trip over my own feet while being able to ride a bucking bronco
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Old 05-20-2010, 12:42 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I have flash backs at pools so can't handle them. They send me into panic attacks. Long story. I would love to learn to ride a horse. I love horses. Right now, though, we can't afford to do lessons or anything like that.

Good for you being able to ride a bucking bronco. Giddyup cowgirl!
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