Much Needed Help with 1.5 year old German Shep - German Shepherd Dog Forums
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 01:19 PM Thread Starter
New Member
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 2
Much Needed Help with 1.5 year old German Shep

Apologize for the long post in advance. Love my dog more than anything, but recently have been seeing increasing issues with my shepherd. I have read multiple forums and have tried to put some of the suggestions into practice. Like most people posting in here I am sure they believe there dog is a somewhat special case and would like some advice specifically tailored to their issues. A little background… I have about an 85 lb 1.5 year old male german shepherd, Oscar. This is the first dog I have owned, but was immediately drawn to the breed as they are very active, intelligent, and at the same time loving dogs. I don’t regret getting a dog for a minute, but there are definitely days he has pushed me to the boiling point.
Getting into the issues. My first and major obstacle is Oscar around other dogs/ people. I am walking him and socializing him as much as possible, but he still comes off as very aggressive (though I know he wouldn’t hurt a fly… even if he got off the leash during one of these episodes he wouldn’t know what to do). His initial reaction upon seeing a person and more so other dog is always hair raising and loud barking. This is difficult because many people think he is a gorgeous dog and want to pet him but immediately get turned off by his behavior. Again this is his initial reaction, if we stick it out for a minute or two and let him sniff the person or dog he quickly becomes comfortable and friendly. We are also working on tugging on the leash, but I believe I have found a method that has been helping (every time there is tension I immediately stop moving until slack is back in the leash). I understand repetition is key with any dog training it is just a matter of finding the method to get desired reactions from the dog. With this in mind I have not found a successful way to stop this initial reaction.
The other main issue I am running into is barking. Unfortunately for me Oscar has gotten to a point where when he barks and I say “Quiet” if he barks again he knows he is going to get a reaction out of me. Now it has gotten to the point that we will go back and forth with him almost “challenging” me when I say Quiet by barking back in my face (not sure if he thinks it is a game or is intentionally disobeying me). I know it is suggested to not use negative reactions, but in the past he has received spankings and been put into his crate (which I have learned should also not be used for punishment). I have recently begun trying an opposite approach where when he barks I say quiet once and if he repeat barks instead of a louder quiet or spank on the butt I just ignore him which usually results in him challenging with several more loud barks (to get a reaction) and running around a little and then quiets down when he sees it gets no response. What I am looking for is either how to adjust what I am currently doing or another suggestion to try? I feel the issue we ran into is that early on if he barked and I said quiet he would stop, and I would treat him gradually trying to increase the time I required him to become silent before getting the treat, however due to either timing or how I am treating he got the idea in his mind that barking was the action that got the treat and not the quieting down part. He is very intelligent and has the basic commands sit, down, stay, and heel down and I know he understands, but at times continues to challenge me and disobey. Again is this simply a matter repetition and working on trust between owner and dog or are there any other tips I can put into place? I have tried a clicker in the past with mixed results. Open to any and all advice! Thanks in advance.

Proud owner of 85 lb Male (Oscar)
Brewsky is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 02:29 PM
Crowned Member
Emoore's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 10,134
For the barking, I would try one of the citronella bark collars. The instant the dog barks it sprays citronella into the dog's face. The citronella is completely harmless but it smells horrible to a dog, and works on the fact that they have such sensitive noses. A solution like this would take any element of a "game" out of the equation.

For the issue with barking and hackling at people, is there any way possible you can get into a class or work with a trainer? Unfortunately in order to fix this you're going to have to put him into a lot of situations with strange people who are willing to do exactly what needs to be done to raise his threshold and make him comfortable. The best way to do this is in a class or trainer situation.

To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
- 6 years

At the Bridge:
Cash Adopted 2007 - 7/28/2010
To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.

Rocky 4/19/2002 - 1/16/2015 to DM
To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
Emoore is offline  
post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 04:14 PM
Knighted Member
Twyla's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Georgia
Posts: 2,028
Send a message via Yahoo to Twyla
Nothing in Life is Free

Look at That! A Counterintuitive Approach to Dealing with Reactive Dogs Dog Training for Dog Lovers Blog

BAT Ahimsa Dog Blog

Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) | Official site for BAT: dog-friendly training for reactivity (aggression, fear, frustration) by Grisha Stewart, MA

With Woolf and tugging, I tried the standing still, didn't work out so well. I moved to walking in the complete opposite direction, making quick turns, even at times just walking in a square in the backyard. He got the idea that this was a crazy woman who didn't know where she was going so he had to keep his eye on me and he couldn't if he was in front lol.

The LAT and BAT links above will work about the same for him. He would learn that he can get closer if he doesn't react. You will need a helper to work with.

I agree with Emoore, get with a trainer. It will help with the frustration you are having, will be another set of eyes to observe the behavior he is exhibiting during the barking. And will give you hands on training on how to handle Oscar.
Twyla is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 05:02 PM
Master Member
rooandtree's Avatar
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Woodbridge,Va
Posts: 646
i had a barker at home...i taught him to be quiet by keeping a squirt bottle with me when he would bark at times he wasnt allowed i would say quiet with a quick squirt of water..he hated the water and it worked..the pup i have now loves water so a trainer told me to use somethng loud like a plastic bottle full of coins or something and shake it loudly while saying quiet.
rooandtree is offline  
post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 06:07 PM
Master Member
billsharp's Avatar
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 666
Not to overgeneralize, but I get the feeling from your entire post that your dog has successfully challenged you for the alpha position in the family. It appears to me that you aren't clear, consistent, or forceful enough with him to teach him what you want him to do. He is fearful of strangers and dogs, so he barks, and doesn't realize that he is not to do that. When he tugs on the leash you employ the most passive method possible for correcting that. When he barks you say "Quiet", a word not in his native language; and he has trained you to produce treats for him when he barks. Oscar is clearly in control.

Get a pinch or choke collar and learn how to use it.
When he barks at strangers you correct him so he doesn't bark at strangers, because he doesn't want you to correct him. You should read the many posts here about how to train "reactive" dogs, and use those methods. Train him that when you say "Leave it" he will ignore the dog, person, etc. that has just captured his attention. Once he knows this limitation from you, praise and treat him when he calmly accepts attention from strangers, or acts calmly with dogs.

Tugging on the leash: same prescription. Choke chain used correctly so he knows that he must walk calmly by your side. Use "Heel" to train him to do this on your verbal command and not require so much correction.

Barking: I think the treat has to be used immediately after he stops barking to reinforce that he has correctly interpreted the word "Quiet": Bark-"Quiet!" (with correction at first)-he looks at you-you treat him. Repeat as needed, phase out the corrections as he gets what "Quiet" means. Let him know your disapproval for the barking--and then reward when he does what you want.

Many here will advocate positive only training, and I'm certainly no expert, but I believe that strong-willed GSDs need someone to set limits, and they respect it and fall into line once they know the pecking order. Otherwise, love, pet, scratch and bond with him at every opportunity so he sees you not only as boss but also as best friend.

Liesl, b. 1/1/11
Maxie, 1994-2009
King, 1963-1968
billsharp is offline  
post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 06:11 PM
Master Member
billsharp's Avatar
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 666
Oh, and no spankings, ever. They're worthless and harmful.

Liesl, b. 1/1/11
Maxie, 1994-2009
King, 1963-1968
billsharp is offline  
post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-23-2012, 11:33 PM
Crowned Member
Mary Beth's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Pierre, South Dakota
Posts: 5,129
For the barking, give him something else to do so. When he barks, well, first see what he is barking at - someone coming. Okay -you looked. Then say quiet, like you have been doing. When he keeps it up -you can try putting your hand on the top of his nose- below his eyes -mild pressure. So he still barks (mine did) - have him sit - treat by nose - then go down - put treat in you hand - lower your hand to the ground - be sure to stand in front of him - so he can focus on you - the second he stops barking - then give him the treat - but don't let him get up right away - have him hold the downstay -to the count of ten and first - you can lengthen the time with practice - when he stays quiet - then reward and release. When you are out walking and he barks - do the same thing. You may want to use a front ring harness (the gentle leader didn't fit my dog well though it may yours, I use the walk in sync) that way when you stop as you have been doing - the action of the harness by putting pressure on the dog's chest will help him to stop and turn to you. You can then turn him and go in the other direction or curve around or have him sit. If you aren't doing it already, be sure to play tug with him - only after a struggle - let him win - then reward and praise him for being a good hunter. Tug when he ends up winning helps to satisfy his prey drive and build up his confidence. A confident dog doesn't bark at everything in sight.

To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
Royal K9s Baron Sting DB 7/9/2017

To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
Sting Chance von Gaard 2006-2017
Mary Beth is offline  
post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-26-2012, 10:08 PM Thread Starter
New Member
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 2

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the quick feedback. A couple things to mention.He is currently on a choke\pinch collar and has been for close to half a year. It does not seem to have the same reaction as when initially used and he has come to expect the pinch. He is very good with Heel indoors and we are continuing to work on it outdoors but he breaks concentration too easily. Regarding the barking I seem to agree with the Alpha theory as it seems he is trying to challenge me. When he barks I show disapproval after I say Quiet and he repeat Barks. If I get louder saying quiet he barks louder and runs around expecting I will chase him around to get him to be quiet. Recently I have begun making him heel immediately after he repeat barks which worked initially as he settles when in the heel position and we aren't moving, but again after a couple times would disregard heel command and challenge with another bark. Also within the last couple days I tried the squirt bottle suggestion, which again worked initially but after he realized what it was threw him into a running and barking fit that was difficult to calm down. I have tried staying firm and consistent with commands and make sure to show him affection and he definitely enjoys being by my side and will follow me around. I am at the point now where I need to put him in his crate when he does not respond to the quiet command and starts barking multiple times in a row until I can contain him. More feedback would be appreciated. I am considering trying the citronella collar soon as it would not be an increased noise and may snap him out of his barking fits.

Brewsky is offline  
post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-26-2012, 10:36 PM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Beautiful Pacific NW
Posts: 11,005
Barking is really the least of your concerns. You need to change how you interact with the dog.

Please click the link and begin to implement these "way of life" suggestions that will enforce your leadership in the house.

Mind Games (version 1.0) by M. Shirley Chong
msvette2u is offline  
post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-27-2012, 12:06 PM
Master Member
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: W. Midlands, UK
Posts: 714
Hi Dan

Sounds like you've got a dog who's unsure of himself, and of you as his leader.

I would definately implement the 'Mind Games' in the the link that msvette2u has posted, that will firmly establish you're leadership.

Secondly, as Oscar is unsure around other dogs and people, keep your distance from them. If he pulls, barks or reacts you're too close.

You need to work on letting him know you're in charge and won't put him into situations he's not comfortable with. You will handle problems for him, until he's more confident in himself and you.

Keep some really tasty treats with you and everytime you see a dog or person give him a treat, so he starts to associate the presence of dogs and people with good things. Over time you'll notice that when Oscar sees a dog or person he'll look to you for a treat. A park where dogs have to be on leash is a good place to work, because you can control the distance.

Perhaps you can sit on a bench somewhere at a safe distance and just give him treats everytime a dog or person comes into view. Gently praise Oscar when he doesn't bark or react. That way instead of pulling him or shouting at him, you're letting him know how you expect him to behave - rather than getting annoyed with behaviour you don't want.

I wouldn't use the choke chain or prong collar, as corrections can make matters worse. Either use a front fastening harness as suggested by Mary Beth or/and a good head collar. I used the Dogmatic halter.

When you can get Oscar to walk without reacting to other dogs/people at a distance you can try moving closer. Do not rush it, you need to go at Oscar's pace. He needs to be able to 'sit' or 'down' or just play with you while he ignores other dogs. When he does you know it's ok to go a bit closer. Work on teaching him a strong 'leave it' or 'watch me', both of these are very useful when around other dogs.

If you need new people to meet him, ask them not to look at him or touch him - let him sniff them in his own time.

For the pulling on the leash, you're doing ok with standing still but you need to do it before he hits the end of the leash, not after there's tension. The second his shoulder passes your leg - stop - stand rigid - he'll hit the end of the leash, wait until the leash goes slack - back up so Oscar has to come to you - praise him and then move on. He'll very quickly learn, if you're consistant, that the only way he's allowed to move on is if he's by your side.

If he only pulls when other dogs are about move him away - give him more distance.

As for the barking, it sounds like you have taught him that 'quiet' means bark, and the when you shout 'quiet' he barks louder and gets more excited thinking it's a game.

Try this. When Oscar barks, completely ignore him, turn your back on him or even leave the room. Eventually if he gets no response from you, he'll stop - wait 3 seconds - pet him as you say gently 'Shhhh Shhhh good boy'. Be consistant you'll soon get it. Don't use the 'quiet' command again, as it will confuse him. Find a new word or just use shhhh, but only use it when he's actually barking once you're as sure as you can be that he understands what 'shhhh' actually means.

Hope that of some help.
jakes mom is offline  
Sponsored Links

Quick Reply

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the German Shepherd Dog Forums forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome