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Old 12-05-2012, 02:08 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default I could use some help

So this is my first post. I'll give a brief introduction first:
I am a single Dad with a stepdaughter that lives with me part time. I have a beautiful female German Shepard mix that is 3 yrs and 2 months old. I have a problem that I could use some help with, and I don't know where to turn.

First off, I want to clear something up. I am very confused about when an appropriate time is for someone to start socializing their dog. I was given explicit instructions from the rescue that I should not bring my dog, Natasha, around people or other dogs until she is vaccinated completely. But that doesn't happen until she's 1 year old (rabies). I keep hearing about (and seeing) dog owners bringing their dogs out waaaay before that time frame is up. So what's the deal? I followed those instructions and did not risk socializing my dog before she was fully vaccinated. Any clarification would be appreciated.

On to my other topic: socialization.
When we got Natasha at about 2 months old, my wife and step daughter agreed to do their part in raising her, training her, and socializing her. Unfortunately, they did not do their part. I pretty much did 75% or more of the work. On top of that, I later got a divorce and now my daughter is 16 and with me only half the time... 'nuff said there. Bottom line - she is a working-class Shepard who I think did not (and does not now) get out enough. She cannot control herself around other dogs, and it's a gamble as to whether or not she'll 'click' with a particular dog. I walk her every day, sometimes twice. And at least 2 or 3 times a week, I'll bring her to a reasonably busy plaza or park where there are people running about.

I took her to the dog park regularly when she was young, but around 2 years old she started acting differently. She would continually bump other dogs away from me, and eventually, she started getting aggressive to the point where we could no longer return. I took her one or two times a week (all that I could manage). On top of that, she started getting aggressive with certain people. I hate this... I feel like she needs to find a new home, but I love her more than any other pet I've ever had.

Anyway, I decided it was time to get some professional help. So I got a trainer and we started working with her. Unfortunately, I think she needs more exposure to other dogs and people every day, and the training sessions were only once a week. I just don't know where to go or who to meet for that. And it would need to be a support group of some kind. Does anyone have any suggestions?

I live in San Diego, Rancho Bernardo area.
Thanks in advance. Please feel free to ask questions. I suppose this post should actually be somewhere else. Sorry.
-J
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Old 12-05-2012, 10:07 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Well, sometimes it winds up that they're just not quite exactly what we want them to be.

My last GSD was pretty much terrified of strangers and especially children. When he was a pup, on approach of a child, he would cower, try to break free of the leash, and eventually pee out of fright. I tried some stuff, but in the end, that's just who he was.

I learned to deal with it. I taught him to heel very well, took him on walks every day, kept him under good control and if kids tried to approach him, I warned them off with "He doesn't like kids very much." He was a GSD after all; it didn't take much convincing. It sounds to me honestly like your situation isn't quite that bad. It sounds like your main issue is dog parks, so maybe you should just not take her to dog parks.

You say your girl might need to find another home, but the thing is: Even if she does, she's still going to be the same dog.

So if it was me, I think I'd probably just accept her personality and work on getting her to behave on a leash. If you get her to do that, then you may not ever be able to turn her loose around people or other dogs, but she'll certainly be manageable.
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Old 12-05-2012, 10:22 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Socialization begins with the breeder and continues with the new family then to the outside world. We have young pups out to socialize all the time. We just make sure to keep them off well-traveled ground and away from other dogs. After the 3rd set of puppy shots, they can mingle with others. This is around 3-4 months old. I'm not sure where you got the info that you had to wait till 1 year old. That is certainly too long in terms of delaying contact to others.

Development & Socialization - German Shepherd Dog Forums good subforum for socialization tips and topics
Why bother to 'socialize' and I want photos/videos of puppies/dogs.....

Walk 2x/day will not be enough for a high activity dog. Engage her mentally. Obedience, classes, training, dog sport...anything to tire her out mentally and physically. In addition, try activities like hiking, running, biking with her running alongside (try the walky dog attachment), swimming, playing ball etc. Switch it up and make it interesting for her. Other than 1 or 2 of my lazy coach potatoes, most of my dogs would NOT be happy with a walk or two a day.

NO DOG PARKS! GSDs do NOT need friends. It is high risk to let adult GSDs run around in a dog park unless the dog is rock solid. Even then, I do not like or visit dog parks. My dogs are content with their person and their pack. They do not need or require outside contact. Especially a human/dog aggressive GSD does not need to be in dog parks.

She is not a highly adoptable candidate and wherever she ends up, her problems will still be there. If you are willing to do the work, there are ways to improve her quality of life and to make her more manageable.

Congrats on getting a trainer. That will help a lot. Socialization and working with a fearful/aggressive dogs takes incredible patience. I have worked with dogs like this before and some days, all we did was go sit in a park bench far away from others and work on focus work for 10 min with people 200m away. Then we went home and returned tomorrow to practice again. It takes baby steps and management. Slowly continue exposing her to new situations (some good tips in that link above) and work with the trainer. Good luck!

Last edited by qbchottu; 12-05-2012 at 10:24 AM.
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Old 12-05-2012, 10:23 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I am not a proffessional but if I were you I would wear a muzzle on her until you are comfortable with her being in public without attacking dogs/people..I see plenty of those at the dog park.. Also if this behavior is sudden she might have a health problem that you are not aware of. Also if you give her up that person will be stuck with agressive dog and who knows what can happen after that... she is in best hands she can be which is you. And by the way GSD always need to be socialized throughout their lifetime, from puppy age which is like 2 months old until the end. If you can affrod it get a dog walker who can spend some time exercising her/exposing her to other dogs. There are also Doggy day care where for a few hours a day they spend time with trainers and other dogs while you are at work or doing other things..again if you can afford it. Good luck.
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Old 12-05-2012, 10:28 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kstorm75 View Post
Bottom line - she is a working-class Shepard who I think did not (and does not now) get out enough. She cannot control herself around other dogs, and it's a gamble as to whether or not she'll 'click' with a particular dog.

She would continually bump other dogs away from me, and eventually, she started getting aggressive to the point where we could no longer return. On top of that, she started getting aggressive with certain people.
julie87: sorry but this not a dog that should be in a high volume, high stress situation like doggy daycare. That will be a liability. She needs a lot more work and might *never* be able to get along with other dogs. But as long as she can be managed and can live a healthy life, that is ok. Doggy daycare, dog parks and dog walkers with multiple dogs is not the answer right now.
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Old 12-05-2012, 11:19 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Yes but keeping the dog isolated is not a solution , if he puts muzzle on her the dog won't bite therefor no liability. The way I understood post is that he has no time to spend with dog to properly train her and give her exercise if you have no time and your dog attacks people I don't know what else to suggest but a muzzle while socializing and training... But again I am new to GSD myself and I don't want to start arguments pages and pages long like some threads on this forum, take care.


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Old 12-05-2012, 11:43 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Argument? No argument here. I am merely stating that putting this dog into dog parks, daycare and such is not the solution right now. He has a trainer and needs to slowly work the dog up. I made no mention of isolation - I used an example where I had the dog out. It's about working the dog up, managing the dog and not pushing the dog past its capabilities.
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Old 12-05-2012, 12:15 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Thanks to everyone for their quick responses. I appreciate the tips and information. The trainer I have has an intermediate/advance group obedience class on Sundays to which I have a lifetime membership to. I bring her to that weekly (though for the past three months, I have not been able to - either because I was out of town or the trainer's class was not in session). I will continue doing this indefinitely.
She does well on a leash so long as there aren't other dogs near her. She heels very well, stays, sits, comes, and even lays down from a distance and stays as I can walk all the way around her (at a 20 ft lead) - all in a public setting like a park. She loves it when visitors come over to the house and is friendly towards them. I even bring her to the local pet store once a week to interact with the staff (she loves that, too). But on occasion, something will set her off and she'll nip or growl (not in the pet store though). I've noticed this occurs most often when we're sitting at a bench at a park and men run by... sometimes women to. Maybe she's uncomfortable with that and views them as a threat? I wonder if I should bring her to the skateboard park, lol.
Regardless, I watch her like a hawk and know her mannerisms very well.
I think I will try to train her more in a public setting. Should I get a muzzle?? Does anyone else have suggestions?
Thanks so much!
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Old 12-05-2012, 12:40 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Rabies is usually given in the 4-6 month old range, I've never heard of anyone waiting until a year old. And usually when people talk about a puppy being vaccinated and socialization they're referring to parvo, not rabies, which would be in the series of puppy shots given every 2 to 3 weeks up to around 16 weeks old. The puppy classes I went to required the first two series of puppy shots, and was for puppies from 10 weeks old. That early socialization is very important, but there's nothing you can do about that except work on it now.
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Old 12-05-2012, 02:01 PM   #10 (permalink)
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kstorm75,

My intact male GSD had dog-dog aggression issues until he was 5 years old. He had been attacked by dogs when he was under a year old and he simply never forgot. Just like yours, mine would "click" or not with other dogs seemingly at random. Sometimes he'd even be totally nice to another dog then moments later "click" and he's ready to fight that same dog! It was like a light switch. Anyway, I found the very best way to handle dog to dog meetings/passing by was to slowly approach or pass by the other dog from a wide circle not face on. If my dog started to react, I'd excitedly tell him, "OK, Let's go" and break off into another direction away from the dog. I don't take him to the dog parks and he doesn't socialize much with other dogs, but he's happy being with me and I've managed to break his overreactive attitude so he can at least be calm with another dog in the vicinity.
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