"My 9 month old German Shepherd is very possessive of me and my family. No matter who is walking him he always barks/growls, whines, and lunges at other dogs, but if they're at a good distance from us he'll just stare until I've snapped him out of it."
Not sure this is possessiveness? ...for my dog, who used to do the same thing, it was because he really really wanted to go meet & sniff with the other dog who was passing by, but he couldn't go over there because I was holding his leash...
"Then when I have him off leash and running around in a fenced area at the park he's fine with people passing by the fence with their dogs."
It sounds he generally likes other dogs then? He's probably happy because this time, he can go say Hi - no leash frustration...
"When I'm walking him he's constantly on alert and it's very difficult to get his attention because his focus is literally all over the place. Whether using an e-collar, treats, or all my absolute enthusiasm I can't keep his attention for more than five seconds and it's become very frustrating. I can't get him to remain focused on me and listen for anything."
I think this is normal. It is a very interesting world out there, especially if you are young!
Maybe train him to pay attention when he needs to, but I don't think he has to be watching you for the whole walk? Unless you are training an obedience champion (I bow down)
"I was looking into this article on a method used by owners of stubborn huskies and the like that don't listen very well"
I have a husky-shep mix. I think he listens ok! So funny that huskies get a bad rap by everybody. :-)
Seems like you could try it...why not!
So I am just a pet dog owner.
But we worked through this SAME issue using the "Look at Me" command before he gets all riled up at the other dog (sounds like your standing/staring phase, maybe) and then giving a series of treats.
We also have other nifty strategies like:
- stepping off sidewalk, walking conveniently behind parked cars, taking a little detour into the woods off the trail, etc - so we don't have to pass too closely
- I don't make the leash really short and tight, or pull him back hard. That made him rear up and growl and howl, and scare everybody to death!
It ain't perfect!
But at least now we can go on walks without constantly scanning the horizon for dogs.
It's definitely not that he just wants to play. There's quite a difference between his "I want to play/friend!" bark and his alert bark. When he's excited and playing he has an adorable, high-pitched baby bark (he sounds a bit like a zebra sometimes!), but when he hears something out of the ordinary or a knock at the door or simply sees another dog out the window/on walks he starts the average deep bark you'd typically hear from a shepherd, along with some growling. Plus he'll usually stand or sit on my foot when another dog or person comes by, which is typically a sign of possessiveness.
He used to be alert about other dogs even off leash in the fenced area, but I think I was able to kick that habit with the e-collar. And he can be very friendly with other dogs once he's properly met them. He used to be wary of my Husky's two best friends at the park, but when they met in the fenced area he was happy to play with them. But for dogs he hasn't met he's like a kid yelling "Mom! Stranger danger!"
I actually do need him to be watching me haha! He's my service dog in training. When I take him on a simple exercise or potty walk then I let him be a dog and explore his surroundings, but when we're having a training session or his vest is on I try my best to keep his attention on me, but he's just so alert all the time.
Yeah, it's in a Husky's nature to be stubborn, but I think people exaggerate it a bit much sometimes! They seem to start to mature once they're around a year and a half.
Anyway, I suppose I will give it a shot then
Distance is your friend. Also, on leash remember to keep yourself calm and don't tighten the leash. That could signal your dog to get even more alert. If you could get someone to watch what you are doing, they may see something you are missing, like waiting too long to start redirecting or changing pace and direction, etc.
Yes, I do my best to pay attention to my mood and how I hold the leash