Fear Aggression/6 Month Male....Help needed! - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-28-2013, 07:06 PM Thread Starter
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Fear Aggression/6 Month Male....Help needed!

hello All,

i have been trying to read about fear aggression all day to try and understand our 6 month old German Shepherd's behavior.

Lobo is now nearly 6 months old,we got him from a breeder's who has been dealing with these type of dogs all her life and we met his entire family from great grandparents to his mother and father, they all seem friendly dogs who barked at first but were pleased to meet us - his mother was a little bit more shy and frightened of us at first but this was her first litter. we were assured of great temperament and good dogs.

We had a first pick of the litter and Lobo wasn't shy at all he was keen in knowing who we were and playful as there were others who were more quieter.

Since then he as been introduced to different people, family, friends, children and other dogs. He has always been quite shy with stranger dogs but perfectly fine with those he is comfortable with. He was okay until what we were told his fear instinct kicked in and things seem to have got worse.

The main issue is when Lobo is taken on a leash on footpaths. He now launches himself at people, cars and dogs going past. He also growls at the people and other dogs as we walk by them.

We do have the help of a dog behaviorist who is telling us to avoid situations where Lobo shows fear aggression. (i,e confronting people and dogs on a leash) When off a leash he never growls at humans just other dogs. Contradicting the dog behaviorist the breeder has advised to get the dog used to people more, with perhaps a muzzle for peace of mind, in busier areas. Like starting off out side a supermarket etc building up from small dozes.

P.s: he doesnt do this to people who he met and knows when he was a pup - just to strangers who he has never met before. He hasn't been attacked by any other animal or badly treated by a human.

Any advice on how to handle this as we really want this to work? Any help would be greatly appreciated..

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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-28-2013, 07:23 PM
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It could be many things. It could be a genetic temperament problem that is worse in the puppy that it was in her dam. It could be that your pup is going through a fear stage and just needs to have you work through it with him. It could be that your dog has suddenly decided that you can't protect him and he needs to protect himself, in which case the leadership/bonding isn't where it should be at this point. And it could be that too much of a good thing is not so good, and the pup needs a little breather and space and to mature a bit.

I disagree with your trainer. Your dog is not going to improve in a vaccuum. I also disagree with your breeder somewhat. I would not force this dog into situations he is uncomfortable with using a muzzle. Nothing wrong with a muzzle if your dog has bitten or is very likely to bite people. But I think it can make an insecure dog more insecure.

I do agree with getting him out there, but staying farther away, and taking it slow and doing just a little bit every day. Try to stay far enough away that your dog doesn't react like a lunatic. If he does, give a quick tug at the leash, Eh! It's just a ____ (dog, boy, girl, man, lady) and KEEP on walking, not necessarily closer to the object of his frustration, but not away either. Try to keep the loose leash, but do not get close enough to anybody so that he is able to make contact. Eh! and keep on going.

As you are working with him, near but within his comfort zone, drop treats for him, so long as he is not reacting. If people are walking by and you are 10 feet away and he is taking chees out of your hand even though he knows there are people there, great. Keep going. And slowly decrease that distance. Don't say or have strangers do anything. Ignore them. Hopefully you can get your dog to that point. Down the road, when he seems fine with people walking by and isn't acting like a nut when dogs are walking with their people, then you can start working with dog-savy people that your dog does not know. With treats, and slowly.

For now though, I think just working within his comfort zone, and slowly increasing his comfort zone is where you want to be.

At the same time, look up NILIF to improve your management/leadership, join dog classes, once a week, keep it positive, lots of praise -- set your dog up to succeed and praise/treat him for doing so to increase the bond between you and him and to increase his confidence while working around a small number of regular dogs and people.

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-28-2013, 07:25 PM
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we got him from a breeder's who has been dealing with these type of dogs all her life and we met his entire family from great grandparents to his mother and father, they all seem friendly dogs who barked at first but were pleased to meet us - his mother was a little bit more shy and frightened of us at first but this was her first litter. we were assured of great temperament and good dogs.
Why is the breeder breeding dogs with fear aggression reactivity? And why did you choose to go with a puppy from dogs that are that way? It is genetic and very hard to train out.
The most you can do is keep him under threshold(like the behavoirist suggested/stay outside the fringe of activity~don't totally isolate your pup) and build up the level of confidence, which happens in training. Seeing as you are using a behaviorist, I would stay with the methods they suggest, consistency is important. Hopefully this trainer is very knowledgeable and will help. 6 months is usually the age it starts showing because the puppy is gaining more independence. My own dog, Onyx was the same way at the same age. She got better with maturity and my management, but is a dog that I can't trust out and about. I need to manage her carefully and set her up for success.

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-28-2013, 07:41 PM
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i think most shepherds go through this phase. mine went through it around 5 months. whether you can get rid of the leash reactivity or just be able to manage it ultimately comes down to his genetics.

i'd take a little bit of both the breeder and trainers advice. you need to put your dogs in situations so he will learn but you need to keep him at a distance where you still have his attention and can still give him commands. once he is lunging and barking then he is over threshold and your commands go on deaf ears. it takes patience and hopefully your dog isnt too nervy and it gets fixed because even a simple walk around the neighborhood with a reactive dog is a chore.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-28-2013, 07:56 PM
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If he is crazy for the ball or tug use this. When the stranger or dogs gets close enough for him to notice and he starts posturing get his attention pull out the ball and play with him. Take him to public places parks, play with him a lot. Ask for focus, mark then play. Dont have people pet him or any other silliness. Also, correct any negative reaction to other dogs/people and reward focus on you.

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-29-2013, 05:56 PM
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I've been in your situation and can categorically say muzzling and letting the dog loose only makes things a lot worse! I was advised by a trainer to do this but it resulted in my already fearful dog feeling more vulnerable and it increased the intensity of her fear reaction. I agree in that it's a little bit if advice from both. Keep mixing your dog with stable dogs it knows and work at a distance with unfamiliar dogs when out on walks. Try and avoid close contact or head on with new dogs and use good treats or a favourite toy as a distraction.
Good luck.

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-02-2014, 04:27 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the replies so far. They are all very helpful. Things do seem to be getting a little bit better. He is certainly less reactive to cars and perhaps a little less to people and dogs. The only slight trouble we had is that he charged at a poor lady walking in the field when off leash. I wouldn't say it was overly aggressive but enough to scare a stranger. If i keep him on a flexi leash (perhaps the best way forward at the moment) and he charges at strangers what action should i take? I must admit I'm a little confused as some people say don't tell him off whilst others say do.
I have been giving him his tug toy when passing by people as its almost like his dummy to him and does seem to work although with the incident we had a family member's dog had stolen it from him!
The breeder did advise teaching him the 'leave command' - is that a good idea or isn't it just disguising the problem as he shouldn't have to leave a human alone on command!?
Thanks again for any previous replies, any help i appreciated as we very much want our puppy to enjoy his life as much as possible without restrictions!
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-02-2014, 05:24 PM
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I was going to suggest teaching him a good LEAVE IT command..Leave it for my dogs mean, stop whatever your doing, don't think about doing whatever it is,

I hate flexi's You can burn your hands if the dog decides to take off, get a LONG line, and YES I would be giving him a correction for lunging at cars, lunging at people.

With 'leave it', for example, say your walking down the street, you see someone coming, you "know" your dog is probably going to react, work on using LEAVE IT, BEFORE the dog reacts.

Things I have done in the above scenerio..step off to the side, put the dog in a sit/down, whatever, again a 'leave it', wait till they pass.

If he's charging at strangers, he has no business being off a leash/long line whatevr your using. Know your surroundings, know what' triggers a reaction, and stop the reaction BEFORE it happens.

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-02-2014, 05:29 PM
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I love flexi leads, but the key to enjoying them is to have a dog that knows leash manners. If your dog is lunging, don't even condsider using one, lol. I also use a tug to redirect my dog's attention and it works wonders.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-02-2014, 07:06 PM
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First of all - there is no such a thing exists as "fear agression". It should be written "fear/agression" , that is where confusion begins. The difference between fear and agression is amount of adrenaline in your dog's blood. This amount increses with age. Due to the fact that young creatures are vulnerable they are scared of anything large in size, human babies under 2 years are scared of stranges as well. This character is an indication that your dog could be agressive in the future. But, I can tell you - to deal with agression is far easier than with a fearful dog. By avoiding situations you would simply keep him at the same stage. By meeting people often you would teach him bad habits, people shouldn't touch young puppy before he knows basic commands well, he must sit before anyone crouches in front of him and stretches his hand and better to train that in good classes. In order to experience fear he must isolate that object prior to experience from surrounding environment. Take him to really busy parks, where are many noises ( not too loud) and many people walk with dogs, so, to make it difficult for him to concentrate his attention. Try not to stop at other dogs longer than half a minute, keep on walking, say "Sorry!" to people who want to pet your dog, just walk. The next time take his toy with you, and again, keep on walking playing on the way. Then stop for a short while somewhere to play, and start walking only he pays attention to something else than his ball. It is very important to train him to keep his attention on yourself first during your walks.Try different pace, try to run, stop, run again and play. In the later days stop at dogs and people for longer. Thus he will understand that place as a safe place. Go to some other place, like a shopping centre, use stairs, go in and out different exits. When you start noticing that the only thing he wants is his toy, only then you can do in public places what you do in your classes of socialization.
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