Beginning to bark at strangers - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-04-2009, 09:35 PM Thread Starter
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Beginning to bark at strangers

My 8 month old male puppy has always been shy and now he's beginning to bark at some people he doesn't know very well or usually at all.

Ex 1. My friend and I went on a walk each with our dog. After the walk she came over to my house and he had a blast playing with her. About a week later, she came over again and he didn't seem to remember her. He was running around and barking for maybe 5 minutes because I couldn't catch him (not leashed before hand because he liked her last time). I got a toy to trying to distract him and then gave it to her. After that it was like he remembered her and wanted to play again.

Ex. 2 He goes up to sniff people (usually at the dog park), which they take as an invitation to pet him. He doesn't think so and he begins barking at some people. Some he just walks calmly away from. Some he waltzes right up to and allows them to pet him.

Ex. 3 He often barks at people outside of my apartment that are varying distances away. Distance doesn't make much of a difference. They can be right next to the front door or across the street. But he's not bothered by everybody. Sometimes he stops and curiously watches people walk by (and I try to praise him every time). Others he barks and and tries to run away from, with my being pulled along (I move him to where he can't see them).

A "dog trainer" at the dog park today told me that every time I called his name and tried to distract him to stop him from barking at people I was rewarding his bad behavior. While I can see how that can be true, I cannot just let him bark away at people(even though everyone so far has been very understanding, thankfully). He was telling me more about it but his accent was so thick I had trouble following what he was saying (unfortunately or maybe not?).

Sorry for my rambling but I'm trying to give as much info as I can. While he's becoming more welcoming to some, his barking at others is becoming worse and I obviously don't know how to handle it other than distract him. What else can I do?
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-04-2009, 09:57 PM
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Re: Beginning to bark at strangers

My 5 month old reacts the SAME exact way. Sometimes he greets politely, the next person he starts barking at, or sometimes he even snarls at people which is very frightening to them. He does the exact same thing with the forgetting people he knows... It's a very very wierd behavior. I'm going to be watching this post, im really interested to see what other people have to say about this behavior.

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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-04-2009, 10:04 PM
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Re: Beginning to bark at strangers

Sounds like maybe hes going through a fear period? I am not a behaviorist so maybe some more experienced people can chime in.


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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-04-2009, 10:30 PM
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Re: Beginning to bark at strangers

You don't mention how long you've had him & what you've done previously to socialize your pup but unfortunately the only 'solution' is patiently, consistently retraining this behavior through socialization (there can also be a genetic contribution to 'bad nerves', also early imprinting on the litter by 'nervy' moms, & complete lack of socialization by the breeder).
You do need to start now as it will only worsen if you wait for it to resolve - if he had previosly been OK & this was a sudden change in behavior it could just be a 'fear period" but given your comment that he's always been shy, I expect this is something that you will need to consistently work on.

I do think it's something that you really want the right trainer to help you & your dog.

read 3K9Mom's post at the bottom of this thread


Doing fun training classes with your dog will boost confidence, positive training builds confidence (constant or frequent corrections do not - try keeping a daily log & track how many times a day you reward your dog vs "No-don't do that").
Changing a dog's behavior/outlook on life is not going to happen in a couple of weeks.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-04-2009, 11:01 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Beginning to bark at strangers

I've had him since he was 2 months old so 6 months. We got him from the humane society and expected more of a mutt and not a pup that looks pure, so genetics are a mystery. He's been to a puppy training (socialization) class already. He goes on daily walks where we encounter people and their dogs in a trail around a lake by my neighborhood. I also take him on walks often at a park. Since he's gotten really confident around dogs I've been taking him to a dog park.

I assumed as his fear or strange dogs went away, the same would happen with their owners. That obviously hasn't been the case, although he is more okay with people. He stayed hidden behind me on walks when he was younger. Now he atleast sniffs people and doesn't show fear until they acknowledge him. But again there are a few strangers who he likes immediately.

I guess it doesn't sound like it but I'm so proud of how much he's improved around strangers. It's just the barking is starting to become more prevalent and worrisome.

Not a recent picture but one that's already on photobucket. No one has ever said he looks like a mix (vet/random people/GSD owners...) and comparing him to other pups here has assured me more.

Thank you for the links and suggestions.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-05-2009, 12:14 AM
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Re: Beginning to bark at strangers

cute puppy
I would keep doing classes with him (with almost any dog, really) for at least the first 2 years - they do go through stages where they are more reactive, or they will suddenly show fearful behavior in situations where they were previously confident.
If the dog is focused on you & doing a 'job', it's alot harder for them to get over-the-top reactive; the more 'tricks' ie distraction behaviors your dog knows, the easier it is for you to keep the distractions going BUT you need to start re-directing while he's still thinking about reacting - this takes practise.

Have you done any clicker training? are there any clicker trainers local to you? (check into any agility classes)
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-05-2009, 01:21 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Beginning to bark at strangers

I know my vet has a trainer that does obedience and I think clicker training at their facility but I'll need to find times and prices. Going to school, finding a job/working, and finding a class around those two hopefully won't be too challenging. I wish my mom, technically his owner, cared more to help.

What kind tricks/distraction behaviors are you talking about that I can teach at home for now?

Can I still take him to the dog park to socialize with dogs to keep that aspect positive for him even though the owners he's iffy with? Or do I need to keep away from off leash areas completely until he's 100% better with everyone?
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-05-2009, 11:51 PM
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Re: Beginning to bark at strangers

clicker training, rewarding when they get quiet

koch had a switch that flipped in her brain and she started barking at people like crazy

If you see someone coming and the dog starts barking, do a 180 and take them away from ther person as SOON as they start barking. teach them they won't get to see th person if they misbehave.

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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-06-2009, 07:50 AM
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Re: Beginning to bark at strangers

Quoteoing fun training classes with your dog will boost confidence, positive training builds confidence (constant or frequent corrections do not - try keeping a daily log & track how many times a day you reward your dog vs "No-don't do that").
Great ideas.

I don't want my dog to decide it's up to my dogs to decide who to bark at in general. And I always want them to stop when I say so.

But that is based on the fact I have been able to socialized and work with my pups so they know I am in charge and have confidence in me to take care of any situation. This leads them to be calm, look to me, follow my lead, and listen to my voice and react from there.

They don't just instantly react. They first look to me. And my doing that, seeing I am calm, they then cue from that and also decide everything is ok after all.

My ability to socialized my pups from the start has been key. Have you seen where my pups have been in these videos?

My pups thing everyone loves them, and all dogs love them or at least put up with them. Course I manage the situation to make it that way. Making sure there ARE only 'good' dogs and people they play with. I also either bring treats (real treats of cheese/liver/chicken/whatever not dog treats) and hand them out to people to feed the pups.

EXERCISE EXERCISE EXERCISE your puppy so they can be in a calmer state of mind and not so reactive. Go to a great set of classes FOR AS LONG AS YOU NEED TO as long as you and your pup are learning and getting better.


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