Dog’s aggression getting worse - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-24-2019, 02:44 PM Thread Starter
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Dog’s aggression getting worse

Hi everyone,

My 1 1/2 year old female GSD has been causing us headaches for a few months now. Ever since February, she has gradually become more aggressive.
Four months ago, I was in the park with my dog (off leash) and two women asked if they could pet her. She loves getting pets from strangers so I said yes. The women walked in and started petting her and suddenly my dog yelped really loud and ran away. I thought maybe one of the women accidentally stepped on her paw but then I saw blood everywhere. She probably cut her paw on a sharp object.
Anyways, I feel like ever since that accident she doesn’t trust strangers anymore because she probably thinks the women caused her that pain.
But the weird thing is that it’s only specific strangers. Today she barked at a woman completely dressed in black with a small hat who was walking by our house. Last week she was walking calmly by my side and we passed a man carrying an umbrella. As soon as the man was right next to me, she lunged at him. No growling or barking or whatever. Thankfully nothing serious happened.
She NEVER had any problems with any kind of person before. We even let her off leash in public places all the time but now I’m scared that she might cause serious harm so we never let her off leash anymore and try to avoid crowded places.

I’m dealing with this situation by using a clicker and treats. Whenever she sees a stranger, I click and give her a treat. When she focuses too hard on one person, I throw the treat in the opposite direction so she actively ignores the person with her whole body.
I have already had sessions with two trainers but both said they can’t sense any aggression from her and that the way how I was handling the situation was correct.
But my method only works when there’s a certain distance between her and whatever is causing her to be (too) alert. I thought we’d be making progress by now but it just keeps getting worse!
I feel like she just sets up a “safe space” between us on walks and scares off everyone who gets too close. But I really don’t want the situation to escalate any further.
The funny thing is she has no problem with strangers whatsoever at home. She greets everyone with licks and kisses and she makes a really bad guard dog to be honest. Just a few weeks ago we were in our garden with the dog of a friend. Suddenly their dog started barking really loud and I went to check on them. The reason for her barking was that a stranger had walked up to the fence. And the stranger was petting our dog! She looked so happy getting pets while another dog was protecting her territory...

What do you guys think? What else can I do? Could the reason for her behavior really be the incident or is she just getting “mature” now and showing typical GSD behavior?
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-24-2019, 02:48 PM
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Correct the aggression with a prong collar.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-24-2019, 03:45 PM
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Quote:
When she focuses too hard on one person, I throw the treat in the opposite direction so she actively ignores the person with her whole body.
You are rewarding her for staring by throwing that treat. Stop. Don't let her stare. Correct her for that and break the stare, get her attention on you. Reward her when she's not zero'd in.

Give her a command that is counter intuitive to having a reaction. If she breaks that command, correct her. A physical correction that gives her a repercussion for bad behavior. Reward the good behavior.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-26-2019, 02:46 AM
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90% of all behavioral problems are solved indirectly. You don't correct a dog's behavior, you teach them what is a more desirable behavior!

In this case, I think just good old fashioned obedience solves the whole problem (as it does in the vast majority of situations!). Teach your dog what "to do" not what "not to do"! It's a subtle difference, but one that will help immensely!

The idea is that when your dog has been taught and knows what you're asking, then it's fair to correct them for non-compliance. Any other time, not so much! Dog's don't really get why or what you mean if you're telling them NO all the time! Give a command they know though, and you'll see dramatic improvement... Bear in mind though, that it doesn't happen overnight, it does take patience and repitition for them to really "get" it.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-26-2019, 08:05 AM
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We can all toss ideas at you but you really need someone knowledgeable to watch how you are handling it. My gal-dog started displaying some random "stranger danger" and I was ignorantly rewarding it. A trainer caught my error and things are much better now. I personally think that strangers need to be neutral for your dog, no more important than trees. If your gal starts to stare, give her a quick check and have her focus on you instead. We tell people to "just ignore her and talk to us". That takes the pressure off of the dog to figure out how to respond, be it "please pet me" or "give me space". Then your dog can relax by your side and decide for themselves to approach. If she comes to a person she will often accept a quick petting and then she moves off. Everyone is happy.
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