I don't know what to do anymore - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-21-2019, 08:01 AM Thread Starter
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I don't know what to do anymore

Hey everyone, this is my first post, I joined the forum hoping for some advice.

I have owned GSDs my whole life, my family always owned them, I can't imagine my life without one.

I currently have a 5 year old neutered male, Diesel. In the house he is the most loving, affectionate and perfectly trained dog you can imagine. He is fantastic with children and all animals, except dogs.

We have worked with several fantastic behaviourists since he was around 1 year old, as I could not put my finger on what I was doing wrong. A little bit of research revealed that all of his litter mates had been put to sleep (by the time they were 2) due to serious aggression issues, his sire had been destroyed not long after breeding due to attacking a family member (when I went to view diesel they told us the sire was living with a family friend).

Diesel has always been around my collie and never shown aggression as they were raised together, but the other day my neighbor phoned me in a panic as he'd heard diesel attacking my collie, luckily had a key to my property as was able to get in to separate it, but it has left my collie incredibly shaken up with some bad puncture wounds.

Next door to me has dogs, and every time Diesel sees them he will bounce off windows and my glass doors in an attempt to get to them, he has even broken my key in the door hitting it with such force.

I'm living like a prisoner in my own house, I can't open blinds or Windows because if diesel sees another dog he will go in to a frenzy desperate to get to them, he has also smashed through a fence post in the past when a dog walked by.

He is healthy, loved, and happy regarding he doesn't see other dogs. He even lived with a house rabbit for almost a year who would jump over his head and he never cared! He also grooms and follows around my sister's guinea pigs when we go visit.

The problem is, he will do anything to get to other dogs. He is so focused that it becomes dangerous if children are around, because he doesn't care who he has to "get out of the way" no matter what it takes, to get to it.

We have a consultation with a vet tomorrow, hoping there is an underlying health issue that we've missed (he has been checked several times), but behaviourists and trainers are now starting to mention euthanasia as he has no quality of life 😞 I can't move home, I can't afford to. He can no longer be walked with my collie, because he will attack my collie with frustration if we see another dog (even a tiny dot in the distance) and every time we walk we get abuse, and now I am constantly on edge. We did wonder if the anxiety that has developed in me was contributing but he dislocated one trainers wrist during a session in an attempt to get to another dog.

Has anyone else been in this situation? I've cried for days, I don't know what to do. I've tried local rescue centres but they're overflowing and unable to help, and I know he can't be rehomed to just anybody, because I'm experienced with the breed and everyone whose worked with him (myself included) believe it's all down to genetics. I don't want to have him put to sleep, and I will do everything in my power to stop it, but I am exhausted. I live in darkness, I dread walking because it is like walking an annoyed bear and I can no longer leave my dogs to even go to the shop (when the attack happened I had been gone for 20 minutes). I've asked family if they can take him, but nobody can because they cannot avoid dogs and everybody is waiting for something to happen. It isn't a question of if, it's a question of when, because as soon as he has the tiniest opportunity he will take it.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-21-2019, 09:26 AM
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First, I am so sorry you are going through this and I commend you for going the medical, training, and behaviorist route. Plenty do not put in half of that effort. Wow, his whole litter and his sire euthanized due to aggression? Based on that (genetics) I would sadly say stick with whatever the trainers, behaviorist, and vets say. I don't think rehoming him is a good idea..it is near impossible to go through life without encountering other dogs. Unless you know someone rural who can leave him home safely contained when they leave the property and who is committed and skilled enough to make sure he doesnt get off the property and go to other's properties. I had to put a dog down due to instability, so I know how you feel about what may be ahead of you. Again, very sorry
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-21-2019, 10:09 AM
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What medications have you tried? Is he muzzle trained? I'm dealing with a young dog that I didn't intend to have to keep, who has shown aggression since 5 months. I'm noticing a reduction in aggression (I think) after about 3-4 weeks on meds. We are also muzzle training. This pup has no future without both--and the jury will be out for some time as we train, modify behavior, medicate, manage, and assess. You should be doing all of this while considering whether rehoming is an option (I'm still not sure).

I have no experience with GSDs so I am trusting the experts (vets, behaviorists) as we move forward. Trust your gut--you have experience. But for your own peace of mind, do what you can while you can.

As a very wise person said to me on this site, companion animals are supposed to add joy to our lives. Don't let one dog ruin yours. Work the problem--make a decision--reassess as needed, and if your life is changing so much you don't like it, you may have your answer.

Get help for your anxiety, too, by the way, if you don't mind my saying so. You will make better decisions if you are less anxious and more rational. Good luck.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-21-2019, 10:52 AM
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First, dog aggression is often genetic unless it's caused by trauma and attacks on the dog. I'm concerned that the sire was euthanized for attacking their handler. Aggression to other dogs does not usually carry over into aggression to people or other animals (as you can see). This is a huge flag for me.

Second, crate and rotate. Get a good crate he can not break out of. Only one dog out at a time. It is a pain. It is limiting. and believe me....I feel your pain. We lived like this for years because of one dog.

Third, get a GOOD trainer. A balanced one that understands well time corrections and rewards. Not a trainer that only does treats and clickers. That will not work for your dog.

Where are you located at? Maybe someone here can direct you to a good trainer that really knows German Shepherds. I'm guessing the UK from the way you spelled "centres"

What kind of training have you been doing? Before I would agree with the euthanasia, I would want to know if he's ever been told NO. The fact that a trainer's wrist was dislocated tells me there was no correction collar like a prong on and there was no control going into the situation. And there needed to be a serious consequence for lunging like that.

Unfortunately, if you are not able to tell him No. in a meaningful way (and I know most correction collars are not legal in the UK and Europe) I don't think that leaves you with many choices. Cookies and clickers will not help you here. And medication will only be a short term solution. I see this over and over with positive only training where the dog has never been told No and never had a correction so it continues to escalate with the behavior itself being self rewarding. Especially when there is already a genetic component.

The ONLY solution to this kind of aggression is obedience. It's "I don't care if you don't like that other dog. They have the right to breathe and you will have consequences" Your obedience has to be stellar. Your rewards perfectly timed. Your dog has to be crated when you are not there to control the situation. Walks in public STOP until you have that kind of obedience. And the crating and rotating dogs in your house continue for the rest of his life.

If you've exhausted all of these, then you have a hard decision to make to keep everyone safe. Can you live with strict crate and rotate? Will the dog have quality of life? Believe me, there is no judgement here. We had a dog that would attack any other dog and we had to crate, rotate and carefully manage in our household of 3 dogs. We ended up at the vet for wounds many times. However, she was 42#, not 80#, and our kids were never in danger of getting caught in the cross fire.

Nobody here can advise you on what to do. You are living this. CometDog is one of the few people on this board that has had to make this hard decision. Personally, I would advise you talk to her privately to bounce off of instead of getting 1000 conflicting answers publicly.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-21-2019, 11:21 AM Thread Starter
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First, dog aggression is often genetic unless it's caused by trauma and attacks on the dog. I'm concerned that the sire was euthanized for attacking their handler. Aggression to other dogs does not usually carry over into aggression to people or other animals (as you can see). This is a huge flag for me.

Second, crate and rotate. Get a good crate he can not break out of. Only one dog out at a time. It is a pain. It is limiting. and believe me....I feel your pain. We lived like this for years because of one dog.

Third, get a GOOD trainer. A balanced one that understands well time corrections and rewards. Not a trainer that only does treats and clickers. That will not work for your dog.

Where are you located at? Maybe someone here can direct you to a good trainer that really knows German Shepherds. I'm guessing the UK from the way you spelled "centres"

What kind of training have you been doing? Before I would agree with the euthanasia, I would want to know if he's ever been told NO. The fact that a trainer's wrist was dislocated tells me there was no correction collar like a prong on and there was no control going into the situation. And there needed to be a serious consequence for lunging like that.

Unfortunately, if you are not able to tell him No. in a meaningful way (and I know most correction collars are not legal in the UK and Europe) I don't think that leaves you with many choices. Cookies and clickers will not help you here. And medication will only be a short term solution. I see this over and over with positive only training where the dog has never been told No and never had a correction so it continues to escalate with the behavior itself being self rewarding. Especially when there is already a genetic component.

The ONLY solution to this kind of aggression is obedience. It's "I don't care if you don't like that other dog. They have the right to breathe and you will have consequences" Your obedience has to be stellar. Your rewards perfectly timed. Your dog has to be crated when you are not there to control the situation. Walks in public STOP until you have that kind of obedience. And the crating and rotating dogs in your house continue for the rest of his life.

If you've exhausted all of these, then you have a hard decision to make to keep everyone safe. Can you live with strict crate and rotate? Will the dog have quality of life? Believe me, there is no judgement here. We had a dog that would attack any other dog and we had to crate, rotate and carefully manage in our household of 3 dogs. We ended up at the vet for wounds many times. However, she was 42#, not 80#, and our kids were never in danger of getting caught in the cross fire.

Nobody here can advise you on what to do. You are living this. CometDog is one of the few people on this board that has had to make this hard decision. Personally, I would advise you talk to her privately to bounce off of instead of getting 1000 conflicting answers publicly.
I'm still figuring out how to use this forum so I'm sorry if I'm not replying correctly!

The trainer/behaviourist we have worked with mainly for the past 2 years is fantastic, he is the only man we've worked with who doesn't believe clickers and treats will always work and trains military/police dogs. We use a slip lead, and we've been working on keeping him focused on me whilst out walking in an attempt to stop him only focusing on other dogs. This worked, until he sees another dog... then I am invisible, when we walk he has his eyes on me constantly, but if he so much as hears a bark in the distance, he loses all concentration. We correct by quickly tugging the slip lead, shouting 'NO' and turning quickly away, walking in the opposite direction. These aren't gentle pulls on the lead, I mean a full on hard pull which would certainly regain any normal dogs attention!
We did this once for over an hour just to try and get him relaxed enough to walk past a dog which was around 30 metres away from us (this was set up, to see how long it would take and determine how bad his reaction was from certain distances). After around 60-90 minutes we managed to walk him about 10 steps past, before it started again.

The dislocation was caused as Diesel does occasionally (rarely) decide not to give warning, but will suddenly lunge. He had his slip lead on, had spotted a dog in the distance and initially ignored, but as it took a few steps closer he lunged incredibly quick, despite the slip lead/collar.

He has also previously done this with an ex partner of mine, who trains bloodhounds and has 3 as pets (so is used to handling large dogs), Diesel was laid under a picnic bench, spotted a dog in the distance whilst my ex was on the phone, lunged without warning and dragged my ex partners arm under the bench, ripping off all the skin and causing very bad bruising.

I don't personally believe that positive reinforcement is the best way to train all dogs, having owned GSDs for a long time, I know some can be a lot more stubborn than others and will happily take the place as leader if given the chance but I have never owned one who has been so impossible to train, during my life, combined with GSDs I grew up with.. we must have had 30+, often owning a few at a time.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-21-2019, 12:49 PM
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We had a dog that would attack any other dog and we had to crate, rotate and carefully manage in our household of 3 dogs. We ended up at the vet for wounds many times. However, she was 42#, not 80#, and our kids were never in danger of getting caught in the cross fire.
And that's the problem with 'crate and rotate'. Eventually mistakes are made. Been there, done that. The third time the dog-aggressive dog got loose, due to someone leaving a gate open, she killed another dog. That was it. I decided I had to take her on a one-way trip to the vet.

Yes, I cried many tears. She was a beautiful, purebred showline GSD I rescued from a shelter. But it was just no longer worth the risk, or the vet bills. When she attacked, she would NOT let go, and each time, serious damage was done to the other dog.

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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-21-2019, 02:37 PM
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This will be unpopular, but I think, from what you wrote, particularly about the sire and littermates, that your dog's aggression is genetic, and you should probably euthanize the dog.

"... but I am exhausted. I live in darkness, I dread walking because it is like walking an annoyed bear and I can no longer leave my dogs to even go to the shop (when the attack happened I had been gone for 20 minutes)…"

You got a dog for a companion, to improve your health, for mental/emotional health, and whatever else. It isn't working. I know, that he is a living creature and he's not like a Northern Light that you turn on for a few hours and if it makes you feel better you do it every day, but if it doesn't it can go in the closet or drawer. I know a living creature is a different story.

But you are living in darkness. I am worried about you. The liability to you, yourself, to you, financially, to you emotionally, to the children around you.

Yes, yes, you can crate your dogs when you go out to shop. Won't kill them to be crated or kenneled when you aren't there. And you can rehome your collie -- we might want to rehome the one with serious problems but if we choose to keep a dangerous dog alive, it is up to us to take care of it, so even if the collie was there first, even if the collie is easier, even if deep down you know you love the collie more (if you do, I don't know, but even if), the one to rehome is the collie.

And even if you rehome you collie, you may still fine it necessary to put the GSD down.

The thing is, this is NOT normal behavior for a GSD. What you witnessed with your GSD and the rabbit -- that's normal for a dog raised with other pets. A GSD should be able to live with another dog (ok bitches living in close quarters might fight with each other and they may fight to the death, and that may be normal). But we aren't talking about Same Sex Aggression in bitches. For one thing, in SSA in bitches it is almost always confined to bitches who live together. That same bitch can go to training classes, walks, parades, dog shows -- no problem. Usually, bitch-bitch aggression can be really bad, but managed by crating one when the other is out, or watching resources (like you) and managing those situations. You get really good at reading your bitch and acting before the bitches act/react.

But I am not hearing SSA/bitch aggression here. I am hearing a dog that cant stand to be in the vicinity of any other dog. I am guessing that this is getting progressively worse, he attacked you collie, he will attack the collie if you walk them together and you see another dog (re-directed aggression). People who do dog-training as their thing are being injured around other dogs by your dog. Little children may be trampled or worse if another dog breathes within a quarter of a mile of your dog.

If a dog trainer dislocates their hand, that's bad, but they sign up for this, this is their bag so to speak. If your dog turns on a child (redirected aggression), because he cannot get to the dog outside, it is safe to say that you will feel 5000 times worse than you will feel if you put your dog down.

You can spend 3 more years, thousands of dollars on trainers and tools, you can change your entire lifestyle, and still have to put the dog down. And, it won't be any easier.

This is what happens when you put your dog down: You go to the vet at the appointed hour, or they come to your home (some will). The find a vein and give the dog a strong sedative. The dog relaxes and falls into a deep sleep. Then they push the stuff that will shut down the organs. They will listen to the heart and let you know that he is gone. There may be a shudder or reflex, but often there is not. Physically it is the most humane way a creature can die. Dying in one's sleep of old age might be better, but that is really rare. In nature most death is really not very humane at all.

And then you walk away and tell yourself, as many times as you need to, that your dog is not suffering now. He had an illness/condition and was not right. You loved him very much, but you did the right thing.

There are a lot of dogs being put down because they are too big, or because they are black or because they have more energy than their owner expected, or because their owner died, or because they did not match the new furniture, or because they chewed on the new furniture. If you want, go and get one of these and give it all the love you have, because you have an incredible amount of love within your for critters, and it would be a **** shame for this one dog to have removed for you the joy of dog ownership.

Or, if you want, enjoy your collie and let it be an only for a while. Try something new with him, Rally, Agility, Herding. And let your collie help you to heal your heart.

Or, go and get a puppy from a breeder. You know some of the things to look for in breeders, the dam, the puppies, etc. These cases are pretty rare, actually. So the chances of a repeat of this are pretty slim.

I am sorry you are going through this. It is sad. And whatever you do, if you choose to try another trainer, some other tools like e-collars, crating and rotating, or building a good solid kennel system. Well that's your decision and no one should fault you for that either. Sometimes we have to try until there is just nothing to try left.

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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-21-2019, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by KerryT View Post
Hey everyone, this is my first post, I joined the forum hoping for some advice.

I have owned GSDs my whole life, my family always owned them, I can't imagine my life without one.

I currently have a 5 year old neutered male, Diesel. In the house he is the most loving, affectionate and perfectly trained dog you can imagine. He is fantastic with children and all animals, except dogs.

We have worked with several fantastic behaviourists since he was around 1 year old, as I could not put my finger on what I was doing wrong. A little bit of research revealed that all of his litter mates had been put to sleep (by the time they were 2) due to serious aggression issues, his sire had been destroyed not long after breeding due to attacking a family member (when I went to view diesel they told us the sire was living with a family friend).

Diesel has always been around my collie and never shown aggression as they were raised together, but the other day my neighbor phoned me in a panic as he'd heard diesel attacking my collie, luckily had a key to my property as was able to get in to separate it, but it has left my collie incredibly shaken up with some bad puncture wounds.

Next door to me has dogs, and every time Diesel sees them he will bounce off windows and my glass doors in an attempt to get to them, he has even broken my key in the door hitting it with such force.

I'm living like a prisoner in my own house, I can't open blinds or Windows because if diesel sees another dog he will go in to a frenzy desperate to get to them, he has also smashed through a fence post in the past when a dog walked by.

He is healthy, loved, and happy regarding he doesn't see other dogs. He even lived with a house rabbit for almost a year who would jump over his head and he never cared! He also grooms and follows around my sister's guinea pigs when we go visit.

The problem is, he will do anything to get to other dogs. He is so focused that it becomes dangerous if children are around, because he doesn't care who he has to "get out of the way" no matter what it takes, to get to it.

We have a consultation with a vet tomorrow, hoping there is an underlying health issue that we've missed (he has been checked several times), but behaviourists and trainers are now starting to mention euthanasia as he has no quality of life 😞 I can't move home, I can't afford to. He can no longer be walked with my collie, because he will attack my collie with frustration if we see another dog (even a tiny dot in the distance) and every time we walk we get abuse, and now I am constantly on edge. We did wonder if the anxiety that has developed in me was contributing but he dislocated one trainers wrist during a session in an attempt to get to another dog.

Has anyone else been in this situation? I've cried for days, I don't know what to do. I've tried local rescue centres but they're overflowing and unable to help, and I know he can't be rehomed to just anybody, because I'm experienced with the breed and everyone whose worked with him (myself included) believe it's all down to genetics. I don't want to have him put to sleep, and I will do everything in my power to stop it, but I am exhausted. I live in darkness, I dread walking because it is like walking an annoyed bear and I can no longer leave my dogs to even go to the shop (when the attack happened I had been gone for 20 minutes). I've asked family if they can take him, but nobody can because they cannot avoid dogs and everybody is waiting for something to happen. It isn't a question of if, it's a question of when, because as soon as he has the tiniest opportunity he will take it.

Vet check, assessment by a knowledgeable, balanced trainer who knows the breed but the behavior you describe is not normal and should not be tolerated. Pending the results of the assessments and based solely on what you describe I would euthanize. This is not fair to you or your family, and not to the dog either.
Stop beating yourself up, if sire and littermates were aggressive then this is likely genetic and nothing you did or didn't do impacts that. Someone with more/different experience may or may not have managed it better but the underlying issue would remain.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-21-2019, 03:25 PM
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I have been around dogs and dog owners long enough to realize the story from the dog owner is rarely as it is. Peoples glasses have tendencies to create blind spots that appear and disappear when it comes to the direction their feelings are taking them. Feelings are not facts.

With that caveat out there and no personal offense to you the OP should be gleaned from my comment, I'm with selzer on that post above.

Theres two very important times when we have to put our feelings our glasses deep into the back pocket and do whats best for the things we love in spite of the pain that will occur. End of natural life progression for old dogs no longer wishing to stay and end of life much earlier when its truly best for everyone involved, including the dog.

Without immediate placement option to those who know what they are getting into and can handle that type of situation its appropriate to make the hard decision, baring any additional information. Theres no getting past the what ifs that will come from the hard choices ahead. They will ease and quiet, but if my dog can't be controlled in that state and my child or family or another child could be hurt by the dogs inability to control themselves with all other options exhausted, the ugly becomes clearer.

While the what ifs will slow or disappear, the man I should have will not be as kind should a serious or fatal accident occur.

Good luck no matter your decision its a straight crappy one.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-21-2019, 03:53 PM
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I'm so sorry you're going through this. Best wishes regardless on what decision you make.
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