Teaching to Accept Strangers - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-11-2018, 12:06 PM Thread Starter
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Teaching to Accept Strangers

I joined this forum a few weeks ago, just been reading up as much as I can. I have a question that I don't seem to find much info on. Can our GSD be "taught" to allow a stranger to pet them? This is actually one of the parts of the Canine Good Citizen test. Not that this test is my goal, but it illustrates our problem. Let me give some background....

We adopted a 9 mo old GSD from the local German Shepherd rescue. We had no recent experience with training a GSD. Recognizing our lack of experience, we solicited the help of a trainer. After a few sessions/interviews with different trainers, we settled on one who was billed as "100% positive reinforcement". We worked with her for 2 1/2 months, implementing what she called Counter Conditioning, for the reactiveness. We didn't accomplish much, after this we strongly considered sending her back to the rescue. We just didn't know what to do!

Consulting with some GSD specific trainers, we came to the conclusion that "positive only reinforcement", while it may work for some breeds, probably isn't the best approach for a GSD. We then found someone local who has a Rehabilitation program. He is a colleague of Sean O'Shea, based on the methodology in his book, The Good Dog Way.

We sent her away for 3 weeks. The difference now with her is amazing. She is a changed dog, although she isn't given 100% freedom yet. Its been 3 months since, and she is mostly forced to down/place in the house, which keeps her calm. We still have her in an E collar. She also does great with heel and recall. In most ways, she is a great pet and now a pleasure to have, except one thing.

She is still a nervous dog. She is not aggressive, in fact I would say she is overly submissive. We entertain a lot and travel in our RV. We want her to be a better "people" dog. When anyone else, even friends she knows, gets near her, she gets WAY too excited, sometimes even losing her bladder. Its like her personal space is 2 ft., as soon as someone gets closer, she just gets wound up; licking, mouthing, jumping, etc.

Our trainer (and everything I have read) says this behavior really can't be changed, unless she outgrows it. His solution is to put her in her crate or a place/down when we have visitors. We can do this, and she will be fine, BUT feel like that is doing nothing to "teach" her to be more accomodating. She is such a pretty dog, everyone wants to pet her! We're fine telling strangers no, but would like friends/family to be able to interact with her.

Since this is part of the CGC program, we thought there might be some techniques to train or overcome this?

Thanks,
Dale
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post #2 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 11:48 AM
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If she is the only dog, perhaps, adopting a stable, friendly, older dog will calm her and give her confidence. She can then observe the other dog interacting with people and not only will that take all the attention off of her, but also she can see that it is all right to do so.
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post #3 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 12:04 PM
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I expect it will take a lot of patience and waiting for more maturity. 9 to 12 months can be a trying age, with many changes. Putting her in her crate is nothing to feel bad about. She feels safe and knows no one is going to mess with her. She doesn't have to do anything or make any decisions other than to watch. Strangers should always be told to completely ignore the dog and talk to you when you are out on a walk. Next to your leg is her safe place, which will be like her crate. No one is going to bother her. She doesn't have to decide what to do, just relax and watch. As she gets older and learns that you have some control over all these strangers, she may decide to come up and meet people calmly on her own.

Friends and family have to ignore her, too. As she sees them hanging around with you, she will most likely get up on her own and meet and greet them. As she gets older and she recognizes them and knows that they aren't going to ask much of her, she'll be calmer.

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post #4 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 12:48 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, that my wife's solution too. Maybe we foster a senior dog for a bit, can't see us traveling around in RV with two!
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post #5 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 12:55 PM Thread Starter
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Thank You, I hope I didn't mischaracterize this, she WILL lay quietly at my side, its only when I allow her to get up and meet someone, or visa versa. even after a few hours of place, totally relaxed, she will get very excited if allowed to come in contact with guests. You are suggesting basically what our trainer said, I have no reason to doubt him. Its only when I cam across this Canine Good Citizen testing that led me to believe this be could be taught.
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post #6 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 01:40 PM
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I’m confused. Is your dog afraid of people or over excited ?

What did she used to be reactive too?
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post #7 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 03:08 PM Thread Starter
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Sorry to be confusing, she gets overly excited, itís not aggression seems more submissive to me? When we got her, 9 months ago now, she was reactive to other dogs, hence the counter conditioning. We now take her on pack walks every week, she is very well behaved.
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post #8 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 04:45 PM
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Can you video what she does and post it or a link? It sounds like nerves to me but without seeing it who knows.
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post #9 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 04:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sanjosedale View Post
Sorry to be confusing, she gets overly excited, itís not aggression seems more submissive to me? When we got her, 9 months ago now, she was reactive to other dogs, hence the counter conditioning. We now take her on pack walks every week, she is very well behaved.
Its not that she doesn't accept people, she just doesn't know how to behave with them. Teach her to sit, someone can calmly approach and pet her then. If she gets up out of the sit, the person turns away, you sit her and try again. Everything calm, slow, and deliberate.

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post #10 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 06:10 PM
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You are seeing the result of that type of training. Yes, you will see changes, but allowing someone else to do the work based on a type of training that doesnít address the fundamental behavior doesnít translate to what you need. You see the results. They used an e collar to teach obedience. It worked because they gave her no options except to comply. It didnít fix her nervous behavior or reluctance around strangers because it canít. Only you can do that.

I suggest you donít use an e collar to get her used to other people. Start with one or two family members or close friends and let her approach them if she wants to. Have them ignore her completely in your home. Give her an escape route, like an open crate or access to another room. Give them treats or toys that she can see and smell, but not try to give them to her. If she approaches, let her come up and take the food or toys and still not give her any attention. If she takes from them, say good girl, then let her leave. If she has full freedom to decide, and she chooses to approach people, itís her idea, her decision, her solution. Strangers donít get to approach and touch her, they havenít earned that right in her eyes. If you allow strangers to force themselves on her from her perspective, it could push her into biting.
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