Socializing my 4mo. old GSD - Help!? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-04-2012, 03:00 AM Thread Starter
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Socializing my 4mo. old GSD - Help!?

My husband and I have a 4 month old male GSD(you can see him in my avitar). We got him when he was 3.5 months old. He is extremely smart and has learned to respond to his name (Bronson) and the commands 'come' 'sit' 'stay' 'heal' 'leave it' and 'give it' in that short amount of time. We are using treat-based positive training techniques (when he does the command asked of him, he gets a treat and lots of petting and praise). We walk him around our suburban neighborhood for at least 20 - 30 minutes a day and we train for about 10 - 15 minutes a day. He is a great dog in the yard and on walks, when it's just him and us.

But when he see's anyone, dog, person, or cars driving by, he gets overly excited and barks repeatedly (machine-gun) and tries to lunge and charge at them. We've been letting him "meet" the person or dog if they are willing and he stops barking to let them pet him - but always starts peeing submissively. He does this sometimes when we're playing, or when we first let him out in the morning.

When the people and/or dogs are not willing to meet him, (usually because he sounds and looks so fierce and aggressive) we just tell him 'no' and 'quiet' to try and stop his barking/lunging and keep walking in the opposite direction. He continues to bark and pull at the leash until they are either out of sight or far enough away that he loses interest.

I've been reading up on this and some people say that dog parks are great because it gives them lots of opportunities to socialize with other dogs and people. Some say not to go to dog parks till your dog is much older, in case he has a bad experience with another dog that will scar him for life and he will always be fearful/aggressive towards others.

In that case how are we supposed to socialize him to more dogs and people??

How have you socialized you're GSD's toward other dogs and people? And fear/aggression towards cars driving by? How long will this behavior last?

Any comments are welcome. Thanks so much!

~ Hilary

Last edited by Spiderlash; 03-04-2012 at 03:05 AM.
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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-04-2012, 06:00 AM
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A big fat NO WAY on the dog parks. Leerburg | Dog Parks: Why They Are A Bad Idea
That is a decent/good article, but it must be added that GSDs also tend to play very rough...other dog owners can be quite put off by it. Also, ONE bad experience could very well give him lifetime issues.

Your little guy needs to really get out n' about! His reaction is fear based due to the submissive peeing. At least that what it seems like. If you can (I know times are tight) try getting a GSD experienced trainer to guide you and your pup.

If a trainer isn't in your financial or time budget...

Introduce him to a very playful and gentle dog. Then as many more as you can. This worked magic for me, as I could not afford puppy class. If you can afford puppy class, by all means take it!

His behavior can become a problem...there are a few things I would recommend.

1) Introduce him to as many people and dogs, in as many places, as you can. Always make it positive, and back off if he is overstimulated. Find a reward that reeeaaaally floats his boat. Use it LOTS.

2) Find that golden reward of his (pieces of steak or cheese, a certain toy, playing tug w/you, etc.) and let him have that whenever he looks at you. Build this up nice and solid, gradually increasing the time he looks at you before getting rewarded.
When you feel more comfortable, do this in more places of your house. Then the backyard. Then the front yard. Then the front yard and out on walks with distractions far away. Then keep building until he stares at you when something weird happens.
Easier said than done, I know :P

Things that helped me n' my pup: Introduce to other playful dogs, playing tug and fetch on a long line in my front yard while the world whizzed by, carrying food with me and counter conditioning, and time.

A lot of this could very well just be a fear period.
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-04-2012, 07:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spiderlash View Post
My husband and I have a 4 month old male GSD(you can see him in my avitar). We got him when he was 3.5 months old. He is extremely smart and has learned to respond to his name (Bronson) and the commands 'come' 'sit' 'stay' 'heal' 'leave it' and 'give it' in that short amount of time. We are using treat-based positive training techniques (when he does the command asked of him, he gets a treat and lots of petting and praise). We walk him around our suburban neighborhood for at least 20 - 30 minutes a day and we train for about 10 - 15 minutes a day. He is a great dog in the yard and on walks, when it's just him and us.

But when he see's anyone, dog, person, or cars driving by, he gets overly excited and barks repeatedly (machine-gun) and tries to lunge and charge at them. We've been letting him "meet" the person or dog if they are willing and he stops barking to let them pet him - but always starts peeing submissively. He does this sometimes when we're playing, or when we first let him out in the morning.

When the people and/or dogs are not willing to meet him, (usually because he sounds and looks so fierce and aggressive) we just tell him 'no' and 'quiet' to try and stop his barking/lunging and keep walking in the opposite direction. He continues to bark and pull at the leash until they are either out of sight or far enough away that he loses interest.

I've been reading up on this and some people say that dog parks are great because it gives them lots of opportunities to socialize with other dogs and people. Some say not to go to dog parks till your dog is much older, in case he has a bad experience with another dog that will scar him for life and he will always be fearful/aggressive towards others.

In that case how are we supposed to socialize him to more dogs and people??

How have you socialized you're GSD's toward other dogs and people? And fear/aggression towards cars driving by? How long will this behavior last?

Any comments are welcome. Thanks so much!

~ Hilary
Your puppy is so cute!! You just described my 4 month old male perfectly. I feel better now! We also got Jake at 3.5 mos. old. He is smart, learns fast. We have 2 other dogs in our house that he is fine with. He will only pees submissively when my husband, son or son-in-law go over to pet him. Getting a little better, but since we are all under one roof, and he's been here for a month...I find it strange. He lets out a little bark if someone comes up to him on a walk, will allowed to be petted, but isn't overly excited about it. But if he encounters other dogs (pet stores, vet, walks..) forget it. Same situation, and very discourgaing. I honestly don't think a puppy class would let him in. I'm just going to keep bringing him around as many places as possible and try to work on his focus...which he doesn't have at the moment. Good luck with your boy!

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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-04-2012, 07:47 AM
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I don't do the dog parks..so I have no advice about that.

Puppy class is wonderful. It's not that expensive either. You should check into that. The plus side to this..You could meet some good doggie owners to hang out with outside of training.

When my male use to be afraid.....I drove up to mall with him. We would sit out in the parking lot with the windows rolled down. He would listen and hear all the busy sounds. We did that for a week or so. Then we moved on to a children's park. We would just sit in the car so he could hear the sounds. After a few visits there, we went to the walmart parking lot. After awhile of doing that, we took him out of the car and stood by the car. It took awhile...but he calmed down. The sounds, smells, and people didn't bother him anymore.

Your little guy is just scared. Probably a huge overload of sounds, smells, and noise.
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-04-2012, 08:51 AM
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Dogs parks can be very hit or miss with GSDs, and often more miss than hit. He could be showing signs of fear, or he could just be that excited; either way, you'll want to work on it, and a puppy class is generally the best way to go about that, IMO. You should be able to google for puppy classes near you, and call a couple and see what the cost is, and find out if you can observe a class without your pup first. If you like the trainer's methods (I think with puppies it should really be more positive based than anything, like you're doing now), then enroll him. I feel the class should have playtime and a little bit of one-on-one focusing so the pup gets to be in with the other dogs, but also learns to focus on you with distractions. And the trainer should be able to offer you lots of suggestions on how to socialize him without letting him get scared or too ramped up.

He looks like a total cutie!

My Dog: Krissie ~ Beagle Mix Extraordinaire 09/09
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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-04-2012, 09:22 AM
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I would go to a obed/puppy class before I'd go to a dog park. With that, check out trainers/puppy classes in your area and get him into one. Good training not only for the dog but for you as well on how to deal with situations.

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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-04-2012, 10:22 AM
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I'd like to share my personal experience.
My dog is now 8 months, so I'll have to go backwards for you.

When Kira was 3.5 months, I was walking past a dog park. The particular park was an open field, without fencing or boundaries..

I was simply walking, and another GSD came over and pinned my puppy, causing her tremendous fear and future anxiety towards other dogs.

Fast forward...

Following that incident, my puppy would be very afraid of any dogs larger than her. She would cower behind me, and tuck her tail.

What I did was make "play dates" with other pups, that I knew would not pose a threat. She was fine.
Then somewhere along the way, I would venture to the dog park ( just to see how she's doing), and I'd be very disappointed to see that she would just sit next to me. On occasion, another dog would aggressively play with her, and she would yelp and run and hide.

After seeing this, and taking the advice to stay away, I finally decided that dog parks were not in her best interest.

I would suggest that you make play dates, join obedience school, and bring her wherever you go. Get lots of greetings from people, and do whatever you possibly can, to make other dogs a positive experience.

Kira is now 8 months, she's fully socialized, still a bit skittish around other dogs, but very friendly and social.

BTW....puppy class are a must!!!!!!
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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-04-2012, 10:54 AM
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Agreed with everyone who suggested puppy classes. Even if you don't need help with the obedience training aspect the classes are a great opportunity for socializing, and learning manners and bite inhibition with other dogs close to his age. We've been taking our four month old girl since she was about 12 weeks and she loves it. She is still cautious with new dogs, especially those bigger than her, but cautious in a good way, not fearful or anxious. So it's definitely worth the price of admission in my opinion, and you may learn something about training and dealing with situations and problems too.

I'm not so sure about dog parks myself either. Before we even consider taking Jasmine to one I will definitely go without her and check it out. See what the place is like, how many dogs are generally there and how easy it would be to intervene and stop a potential fight or scuffle should one occur. I'd be much more apt to take her to someplace with more control and supervision than to a park where you don't know what to expect.
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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-04-2012, 12:08 PM
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I got my dog when she was 3 months and started classes with her about 2 weeks later. The first class only had one other dog-a german shepherd mix, so we had a lot of one on one training and puppy play time was fine because although mine was 5 months younger, she was rougher, but the other dog handled it well. We are graduating from our second class today and mine loves other dogs and people. I credit this to early socialization(or as early as I could get) in the puppy classes. I also considered the dog park, I had my dogs registered there before my german shepherd came along and my 4 month old golden was viciously attacked by a Rott. I found another dog park, with less aggressive dogs, but it wasn't the same. I had fear that a poodle would hurt my baby I guess it depends on the dog, but I know mine plays rough and that can turn into a fight(with the dog and other dog owners) Mine is very high energy and a "normal" dog would be freaked out by her play. So I'm leaning toward never going to a dog park, I don't ever want to see another dog fight like I did when my golden got attacked. But I will keep her in some kind of classes all the time to keep the stimulation and socialization at a good level.

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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-04-2012, 12:11 PM
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I've been thru this one. I'll tell you what was suggested to me and can also tell you it worked *wonders.*

Do you have a city park or other place where you can go and just sit, far off the beaten path? Somewhere there is a decent amount of activity, but you can get away from it far enough that the dog isn't reacting? Prior to going, make sure he's good and worn out. Sit down and give him some treats, have him do some simple sits, etc. Maybe play a little tug. Let him check things out, but if he reacts, you're too close so move back. If he doesn't care about the people/bikes/kids, etc from your distance, slowly move it in. This could take many sessions. It did for us. Many. Each session might only gain five feet from the last session. You might not want to even move it up each time. Keep it at 25 or whatever feet for four or five sessions. Literally until the dog is kind of bored!

We can now go to the city park and sit within a foot of the walkway, while skateboards, bicycles, tricycles, toddlers, walkers, people pushing strollers, joggers - you name it - go on by and Bailey just looks at them all. He will get excited if a dog goes by, though, because he wants to play with all of them. I never would've believed this was possible when we first started, but it has worked better than I ever imagined. Good luck!

Oh oops ETA - No dog park now. Not a good place if he's fearful/reactive like you explain. I also strongly support the classes, but I'd try the above for a few weeks before starting. It will be very overwhelming for him if he's acting this way to just be flooded by 10 dogs and owners in a room all of the sudden. It's also likely to stress you out pretty bad.

Last edited by chelle; 03-04-2012 at 12:14 PM.
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