11month old did a 180... Suddenly doesn’t like people. - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-14-2019, 12:38 PM Thread Starter
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11month old did a 180... Suddenly doesn’t like people.

Greetings from Colorado!

We have an 11 month old male named Jackson. Since he was 12 weeks old, I had been adamant on socializing him. Examples include taking him to the vet (just to stop in), to Home Improvement stores to walk around, dog parks, pet stores, having his ears cleaned and nails trimmed at a groomer, other people’s homes, having people over to our home, and taking him to the neighborhood brewery where he was exposed to lots of people of all ages and sizes 3-4x a week on average.

Another tidbit that might be important to add, he is/was “puppy-mouthy” for much longer than I had anticipated, despite doing as much as the recommended redirection and training as possible. He is still “mouthy” when we play with him, he’s gentle about it at this point (at least with his immediate humans), but mouthy none the less and we continue to work on this behavior.

At 7 months old he started exhibiting some new response when people would come to our house. People he has met several times prior and is familiar with. He would nip at their fingers when he ‘greeted’ them, and we honestly couldn’t tell if that was him being mouthy or if it was more-so a “warning”. As soon as he got his “greeting” out of the way, he was off doing his own thing, your typical friendly pup the remainder of their visit.

Due to this continued response and his increasing size and strength, we began separating him when people came over. He’s totally fine with them when separated (baby gate or kennel), but again we didn’t want to take the risk of injury even if he was just being playful & mouthy.

Keeping in mind we were still taking him out on “field trips” multiple times a week, around 9 months old the sweet, social, and friendly Jackson everyone has watched grow up, started nipping at people who reached to pet him while in public. This is when it became pretty obvious he was not being mouthy as a result of being playful...

Months ago I could say, “Say hi”, bringing his attention to a person holding their hand out to pet him, he would sniff them and then love all over them. Now, I don’t trust him. He has made multiple attempts to snap at people, regardless if he knows them or not. He minds his own business until someone holds their hand out to let him sniff or reaches to pet him if he accepted said sniff.

I can’t bring him out in public anymore without stressing the entire time or people being afraid of him now... I don’t trust him not to snap at someone, anyone but his “immediate humans”.

There have been no “traumatic events” or dramatic changes in schedule/lifestyle whatsoever. We are looking into consulting with a behaviorist and in the meantime, he’s wearing his “party hat” aka muzzle when we leave the house.

Just sad that all our hard work and dedication to making him “not scary” has apparently gone down the drain, making him on house arrest. I’m just wondering what the heck happened? What made him do this complete 180?!
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Fort Collins, Colorado
DOB: October 1, 2018

@jax.noco.gsd
Follow us on Instagram to see cute pictures and videos of Jax, and watch him grow up!
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-14-2019, 12:57 PM
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It's perfectly normal for a Gsd to only want to interact with his family and be aloof with strangers. It's in the breed standard.He doesn't need or want the attention.I would encourage calm aloofness and respect his need for personal space

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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-14-2019, 01:22 PM
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He is maturing and with that comes the behaviors the breed was meant to have. They are supposed to have some amount of human aggression. They are not intended to be extremely social or friendly. Even my very social four year old is more aloof now with strangers.

We buy into the popular myth that socialization overcomes genetic, but that is not true. Yes, you can expose him to many people and he would likely be more accepting than he might have been. It doesnít change his breeding or genetics. Heís clearly not comfortable being approached by strangers, so stop doing that. I would change the way you allow people to interact with him. There is no reason why anyone needs to reach a hand toward him to sniff. German Shepherds can smell things hundreds of yards away. My dog ran 200í to smell a tiny drop of small animal poop in my yard. So they donít need a hand in their face to smell someone. A hand in his face now seems threatening to him and isnít necessary or important. He may never be friendly or cuddly to strangers and that is alright. Itís actually not his problem, itís yours. If you think of his genetics and what the breed is expected to do, you will be less stressed and anxious.
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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-14-2019, 01:31 PM
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^Well said!

If you need equipment to maintain control of your dog, understand youíre hanging on to your dogís body because youíve lost his mind!

Suzanne Clothier
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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-14-2019, 05:23 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LuvShepherds View Post
He is maturing and with that comes the behaviors the breed was meant to have. They are supposed to have some amount of human aggression. They are not intended to be extremely social or friendly. Even my very social four year old is more aloof now with strangers.

We buy into the popular myth that socialization overcomes genetic, but that is not true. Yes, you can expose him to many people and he would likely be more accepting than he might have been. It doesn’t change his breeding or genetics. He’s clearly not comfortable being approached by strangers, so stop doing that. I would change the way you allow people to interact with him. There is no reason why anyone needs to reach a hand toward him to sniff. German Shepherds can smell things hundreds of yards away. My dog ran 200’ to smell a tiny drop of small animal poop in my yard. So they don’t need a hand in their face to smell someone. A hand in his face now seems threatening to him and isn’t necessary or important. He may never be friendly or cuddly to strangers and that is alright. It’s actually not his problem, it’s yours. If you think of his genetics and what the breed is expected to do, you will be less stressed and anxious.
I certainly see where you’re coming from, you make some great points! We have certainly adjusted how we handle social interactions as we’ve observed his reactions change. I guess for me, it’s more stressful in adjusting to suddenly taking all these precautions for seemingly normal activities. We won’t ever be able to have a pet sitter if we need to, have his nails trimmed or him groomed, take him to our family’s home for the holidays, go camping with other people, take him to the vet without a muzzle, etc. We along with two other adult dogs are suddenly having to adjust the life we’re accustomed to without reasonable limitations to mold what fits best with Jackson’s behavior at the moment.

I don’t believe introducing him to someone is as oblivious as I previously described with “hand in face”. It’s more so a casual “hey, this person is here, in your/our bubble, and would like to say hi if you want” type encounter but it’s never forced. Hard to explain I guess.

I’m just struggling with finding or identifying a common ground between normal/expected GSD traits vs establishing leadership in teaching when it is and isn’t appropriate to display this behavior, that could end up being potentially dangerous for someone.

Fort Collins, Colorado
DOB: October 1, 2018

@jax.noco.gsd
Follow us on Instagram to see cute pictures and videos of Jax, and watch him grow up!

Last edited by Tsheaby1; 09-14-2019 at 05:31 PM.
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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-14-2019, 08:52 PM
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You can go to a groomer, the vet or use a pet sitter if you take time to get him used to each person involved. My 4 year old had bad vet handling as a young puppy and became vet phobic. If a vet or tech touched him he started wriggling and dancing and would not let them touch his back. I worked on desensitizing him for a long time. At home I hugged him and touched his back and then rewarded. We visited the vet office weekly or more for 6 months when they weren’t busy for treats and attention. I weighed him each time so he got used to the scale. Now, he allows vetting and they can touch him anywhere. If he needs a muzzle, there are worse things than that. I switched to a real fear free vet.
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-15-2019, 12:59 AM
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No insights, but I'm interested as Jupiter is 11 months old. He has never been that interested in people, but has always tolerated them and sometimes gone over to lick them. However, yesterday, I brought him to school to pick up my daughter and noticed some fearful behavior towards some of the more aggressive kids (the ones doing the textbook wrong things like running up yelling with their hands up). This was pretty stressful and I wonder if he is starting to change, too.
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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-15-2019, 03:24 AM
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DH and I took the kids to a huge park this evening. We also brought Seiran (6 months) and Floki (7 month Belgian Mal) with us as well. It has a perimeter fence around the park as a dog walk. That way parents can walk the dogs and have full view of their kids the whole time. It’s a really nice setup. I was holding Floki’s leash and on my motorized chair, and DH was walking Seiran. A ton of people approached and wanted to pet the puppies. Had I been alone, I would have said no, but DH is super outgoing and wants all the people to love on the people as much as he does. Sigh.

We are done at the park, and as we are leaving, DH remarked on how well behaved and outgoing the dogs were. I told him not to get used to it, and explained why. He couldn’t understand why a super social puppy would turn into a not so people friendly adolescences. He’s not a dog person, but bless him, he’s learning. So I explained it to him in non dog terms, and it finally seemed to sink in. This is what I told him:

Think of it like this. As a small child, you would normally hide behind your parents leg if someone you didn’t know came up and started talking to your parents. You’d peek around their legs curiously, but wouldn’t be confident enough to come around and say hi. After a few years, you realize people talking to your parents is perfectly safe because your parents taught you that an adult talking to an adult was fine and normal. So you gained more confidence and started saying hi. The following year, you were even more confident because you started school and learned social skills outside your normal parental supervision. You learn how to make your way through some things that might seem a little scary, but quickly learned that school and friends and recess were fun, and you blossomed. Fast forward to high school. This is when you start to realize some people are crappy. Just crappy people. You learn not everyone is out with your best interests at heart, and you find your grove with your own people, and kinda rag on other groups. Insecurity comes back, and flight or fight becomes an everyday occurrence. THIS is the equivalent of a dog from 8 weeks to 8-12 months. Your once super social child is now a leery teenager, and has learned not all people that approach are good people with good intentions. The difference between a teenager and a dog is verbal language skills. Your dog can’t say “hey, get out of my bubble, I don’t know you, and you’re invading my space.” So they give body language that you’re likely missing before that snap or growl or lunge. They give you the warning, and when you don’t have them covered and keep people out of their bubble, they lose confidence in you, and take it into their own paws to get the bubble takers to go away. But just like a teenager, you manage your dog. You need to teach them what is okay behavior and teach yourself to read your dog to see if he is comfortable in the situations you are putting him in.

Luckily for both species, teenage years don’t last forever. And if you learn to properly communicate with your dog via reading body language, and prevent people from pushing their way rudely into your teenage dogs bubble, he’s gonna learn that you can and will protect him, and be fine ignoring those people rather than snapping and growling. Then they turn into adults and learn a whole need set of life lessons, and aren’t so self aware. The angsty teenager because a (hopefully) well adjusted adult that doesn’t freak out over every little thing.

Hopefully that helps someone, it helped DH.

But the basics are simple. Your dog is telling you he isn’t comfortable in these situations anymore, and when you respect that, and keep people away, they relax and learn people can walk by and you won’t allow them to enter their bubble, and if someone tries, you’ll put a stop to it. This is how you get a well rounded adult GSD that can be in social situations without engaging in social behavior. GSD’s are not social dogs, so you’re essentially trying to put a square peg into a round hole at this stage, and if you try to force it, you’re going to end up with a reactive adult dog that is ten times worse managing than they were as adolescents.
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-15-2019, 09:17 AM
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All of this is normal at his age.

Clearly, your dog doesn't want to be pet by strangers at this time. He's coming around to his genetic role of wanting to protect his people, his territory, and himself, so he's not so happy about strangers in his face anymore. Plus, your anxiety keeps traveling right down the leash and is going to make him anxious about people.

I think your goal should be a neutral reaction around strangers while they're minding their own business. If people want to pet him, say "No, he's in training" because now he is. He's being trained every moment you're out in public. Your job is to fend off strangers from getting close or in his face. Show him you understand and respect his need for increased personal space and will take the lead in dealing with the human part of the world.

A really good trainer that is familiar with GSDs or similar dogs (herding or guarding breeds) will be able to help you out. I'd definitely contact one and have them do an evaluation. You may find you only need a couple of sessions to show you how to teach the dog to do the right thing and when to correct him for doing the wrong thing.
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-15-2019, 09:55 AM
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Do you have any contact with the owners of your pup's siblings? How is he with other dogs?

I think this behavior is totally within the spectrum of "normal" GSD, from how I understand it. However, I think this behavior falls outside the spectrum of what *most dog owners expect from a dog they own.

There are training and management solutions to the camping and family gathering concerns.

There are training and management solutions to the vet and groomer.

There are very good training solutions to his behavior towards people in public. But management may also be necessary.

My point is, a GSD who is perfectly normal may fall outside of what you migth expect of your typical family pet. So that is where learning how to both train and manage the dog become critically important. To keeping both the dog and the general public safe.

My best suggestion is to find a good trainer to work with and go from there. But some (many?) GSD are just not going to be dogs who can hang out at family reunions. And that is OK as far as breed standard goes, but maybe not OK for "average pet".
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