6 Months Nervous/Aggressive Barker, HELP! - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-17-2010, 02:03 PM Thread Starter
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6 Months Nervous/Aggressive Barker, HELP!

Hey everyone, Bison is just under 6 months and scheduled to get fixed in a couple of weeks. His adulthood descended about a month ago and now his teeth have all finally grown in. Anyways, ever since he could bark he has barked at any stranger or other dog within proximity. We tried turning him away and reintroducing him and going back and forth with that but not to much success. The final straw happened yesterday when one of our neighbors threatened to call the cops on us if it got any further out of hand (I know the woman has no real grounds for legal action, but none the less my wife was crying when she called to tell me what had happened). With Bison at 70 lbs and 6 more months to grow, this can become a huge problem. His behavior is a bark and run method, where he barks AT someone and then hides behind me, he'll continue this process for quite some time and not too many people are willing to be patient enough to let him get comfortable with them. We've tried all the methods of training in this area we could come up with but his behavior has not changed, so now I'm seeking assistance. Thanks in advance for any advice!
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-17-2010, 02:16 PM
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How much has he been socialized? I think a lack of socialization/exposure could play a huge part in what is happening with him. He seems that he is nervous if he hides behind you and is probably barking because he is unsure/scared of what he sees. Have you tried introducing him slowly to new people and dogs? Does he go for walks? Getting him out and about as much as possible will help with that!

When we got our lab, it was the dead of winter and he was like that because it was impossible for me to take him for walks with my son and a stroller with all the snow. But after we got him out more, his behavior dramatically decreased and he is fine now at 9 months. I know my dog went through a stage like that when he was about that age too, where he would bark and then run. Remember how short of a time he has been on this earth, and almost everything he knows has been taught by his experience thus far w/ people, new situations, etc. and a lack of could result in a little fear.

Also, I read that neutering only curbs behavioral problems by possibly 10% if that IF they are hormonal, and there are negative effects on your dogs health if neutered before he's physically mature such as bone growth problems/bone cancer. Make SURE you educate yourself about that before you neuter because his behavior can most likley be changed, but physical damage from neutering too soon cannot so just make sure that is the best decision for you and your dog!!! I learned of this just 3 days after I neutered our lab at 6 months, if I would have known this sooner I would have waitied ... I would cancel the neuter appt, contact a trainer and see how they can help then go from there.

Laura

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Last edited by PupperLove; 07-17-2010 at 02:19 PM.
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-17-2010, 03:11 PM
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Puppies will go through fear stages - though if your Bison has always acted this way, then being insecure is part of his core personality. Overcoming this behaviour will take a lot of time and comitment and constant training.

Have you done classes with Bison? That would be my first step. I would socialize the be-jezus out of him too! But work him up GRADUALLY to new situations and people, keeping him in his comfort zone, rewarding him heavily for not reacting, keeping the sessions short at first to not over-stimulate him, gradually working him up to more.

In some areas they have classes for reactive/fearful dogs, where they can teach you specific techniques to work with. As of now, the more he can engage in the barking/hiding behaviour, the more that behaviour repertoire will get ingrained in his systme. So your challenge is to give him new behaviours, and build his confidence.

If Bison was my dog, some of the strategies I would use with him:

-Build his confidence. Set him up to succeed. Make him believe he is the BEST, most WONDERFUL dog in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD!!

-Always have yummy treats on me. Start building a foundation of focusing on ME, and IGNORING everything else around him. When he looks at me he get a treat. When I call him and he comes he gets a treat. If he wants something, he has to look at me and he gets a treat. Gradually expect him to hold the eye-contact longer and longer (like one second at first - build up slowly).
-I would take him EVERYWHERE, but not push him past his confort zone. Crowds and people scare him? Go to a mall, park at one end of the parking lot. Get him out. Play, do obedience excercises, let him sniff and explore, watch the cars and people from a distance, get lots of treats. Bison is fine with all that? End on a good note and go home. Next time, park a bit closer to the mall. Repeat. If he gets overstimulated and reacts, start again further away, stay at that distance a bit, move forward gradually.
-Try the above strategy in a lot of different locations.
-Play the "look at that" game. Rewarding him for looking at stuff that makes him nervous, but looking only! No barking, no reaction! Good boy!! Associates new stuff and looking at you as being a good thing = looking at you new behaviour that replaces barking/hiding.
-Don't force interactions on him. Instruct people to ignore him, to not look at him. Let Bison initial interactions at his own pace.
-Did I mention classes? Does WONDERS for a young dog's self-confidence! And it is fun, too!!! Other activities like agility and tracking are also great confidence boosters!
-If you know someone with a calm, confident older dog, see if you can arrange walks and visits with this dog and Bison. Young dogs can gain a ton of confidence by following the example set by an older dog that they respect and get along with.

Good luck with Bison!!! Supervise him and engage him in activities when outside in the yard to keep him from barking. Don't make him think that he is all alone in dealing with all the scary stuff in the big bad world. Show him that mom and dad will always be there with him to give him support.

It will take time, but the effort is worth it!

Lucia


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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-18-2010, 10:35 AM Thread Starter
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thanks for the advice, we went and purchased a dog whistle as a training aid but i honestly don't think Bison is reacting to it in the manner we can use for training
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-18-2010, 10:45 AM
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A dog whistle? I don't see how that can be used to help his anxiety and improve his confidence. how is it supposed to work?

Be wary of "instant" fix gadgets - "fixing" Bison will take a LOT of time and consistent work.
Best thing to do is classes, classes, classes!!! A good instructor will help you to set Bison up for success, will be able to observe Bison and give you handling tips, and having to work and focus on you in a distracting environment will give Bison better coping skills. Be sure it is a positive/reward based class - corrections will only set him back.

Lucia


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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-18-2010, 10:49 AM Thread Starter
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also, last night we let one of my coworkers, whom Bison has only met once and barked "uncontrollably" at, take hold of the leash/lead. The result was: he did well on the leash with my coworker after a few minutes, but as soon as I took the lead again he barked at my co worker again...
Just prior to that while my co worker was talking to my wife i would walk Bison around and away, coming closer until Bison appeared nervous which at that moment I would lead him away again...after a few minutes he actually didn't bark...he sniffed and sniffed...we thought this was great progress until he started barking again for no apparent reason. Of course I immediately removed him.
Tomorrow I am planning to attempt the parking lot training method you suggested Castlemaid, I'm hoping that it is better received by Bison than everything else we've tried.
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-18-2010, 10:52 AM Thread Starter
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The whistle is simply used as a means to distract his focus from barking, when he's barking, blow the whistle to distract....clapping, snapping, calling has all been ignored. So we are trying the whistle. And trust me, if I had $600 to throw at an obedience class I wouldn't hesitate but not everyone has that luxury. People have been successfully owning dogs and not using trainers for a long long long time. I'm fully confident that I can be successful without them as well.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-18-2010, 11:35 AM
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Distracting him AFTER he has been barking is not going to work, you have to stop him and prevent him from even thinking about doing that behaviour. Everytime he reacts in a barking frenzy at anything, that behaviour gets ingrained more strongly. Group classes normally run around 80-120 dollars for six or eight weeks - well worth the money!!! 600 dollars is ridiculous! I would call around and ask around and see in anything more affordable is available in your area.

In the meantime, always have someone with him, engage him when outside so that he does not even START to react to stuff. Have people ignore him, instruct them to not look at him. Reward Bison for being good!!! Have treats galore on you and at hand, reward him for engaging with you, reward him for NOT reacting to stuff, which means rewarding him for doing . . . nothing! (that is what you want!!! Good boy!!!)

His barking is not a bad habit that you can break, but more a core personality issue that will need to take time. He is still young, you can put in the time and effort now to ensure that he grows up a well-adjusted and confident adult that is a joy to have and own, and ensure a happy, long life with you and your wife - otherwise, you may be dealing with nothing but issues in the long-run, and that is not fun .

Lucia


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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-18-2010, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by brew1985 View Post
And trust me, if I had $600 to throw at an obedience class I wouldn't hesitate but not everyone has that luxury.
$600 for a training class?!?!? Even here in the Bay Area, where everything is more expensive, I've paid $150 to $200 for a 6 or 7 week group class. For $700 I'm getting a package of 10 private one on one sessions with a very good trainer.

I've never heard of any place that charges that much for group obedience classes. And I'm sorry, but it sounds like you really DO need help and are not having much success on your own:

Quote:
...one of our neighbors threatened to call the cops on us if it got any further out of hand...
Quote:
...my wife was crying...
Quote:
...We've tried all the methods of training in this area we could come up with but his behavior has not changed...
Advice on the internet, even here, where we have some very experienced and knowledgeable people, is just no substitute for a good training class where someone will be able to observe your handling skills and your dog's behavior first hand.

-Debbie-
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-18-2010, 12:28 PM
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The whistle is simply used as a means to distract his focus from barking, when he's barking, blow the whistle to distract....clapping, snapping, calling has all been ignored.
I agree with Castlemaid, once he's already started barking it's too late, that ship has sailed. You have to learn to recognize the first signs that he's noticed a trigger and distract him at that exact moment, BEFORE he's reacted to it.

The only way I could see that a whistle would help is to make it a conditioned reinforcer by spending a lot of time pairing it with something good, starting at home, in a low distraction environment. Blow the whistle, give him a lick of peanut butter. Blow the whistle, give him a piece of freeze dried liver. Blow the whistle, he gets a cube of cheese, or a piece of leftover steak or chicken, anything yummy that he doesn't get at any other time, a super high-value treat. Do this at random a dozen times a day, every day.

Once he's immediately whipping his head around and running to you for a treat the second he hears the whistle, try it in the backyard, and then out in public where there aren't strangers or other dogs around. Only when you always get his 100% attention every single time you blow that whistle would I even attempt to use it to distract him in the presence of a trigger, and even then, when it's at a distance that he can handle without reacting, before gradually decreasing that distance.

This is a process that takes time - how much time have you spent working with the whistle so far?

-Debbie-
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Halo 11/9/08-6/17/18 ~ You left pawprints on our hearts
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