Working on leash reactivity, advice welcome - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-18-2018, 03:44 PM Thread Starter
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Working on leash reactivity, advice welcome

Long post, hope it’s not too tedious 😏. Thanks in advance to anyone who wades through it:

As I’ve mentioned in other threads, Beau is a 3-yr-old intact male GSD, mostly if not all working lines in his pedigree. (He’s half West German lines, I don’t know enough to tell what all those lines are. Other half is DDR and Czech.) I have a problem with his occasional leash reactivity and I’m feeling frustrated by the behavior. It started when he was around 2.5 or so, and with work it’s gotten better, but not gone. Hoping another perspective will help. Any and all input is welcome.

He is not aggressive with every dog we see on leash, not even close. Mostly he ignores, or gives at most a passing glance to other dogs we see on our walks. Some he whines at, as if he wants to meet them, not many. We don’t do that and it passes quickly. Any dog who barks or acts aggressively towards him, though, even from behind a fence or wall, he will respond to with lunging and serious noise. All future encounters with those dogs will then inspire proactive lunging and noise from Beau, whether they start things next time or not. There are 3 or 4 such encounters likely on our usual walking routes.

I can get him to stop with a very loud stern No, Leave It! (sometimes repeated), most of the time. It actually quells the other dog more quickly than it does Beau. I can sometimes (but not always) prevent it by telling him to Leave It right before he gets near the dog, and rewarding him with a ball (this for dogs behind walls/fences) while walking. If we are walking by a likely target who’s also on leash, even across the street, Sit and Leave It and chance of reward will sometimes prevent Beau’s bad behavior, sometimes not. So far Watch Me has only worked once, he has a hard time watching me when a threat-dog is close by. Sit and Leave It works less often if the other dog is off leash and Beau is leashed.

I think it’s a mix of defensiveness and resource guarding at the source of the behavior, sometimes one or the other, sometimes both. The first time I carried a ball with us, his reactivity increased greatly - any dog who even looked at us was a problem that day. Next day he was back to base line, ignoring most dogs, ball notwithstanding. I think I am the resource even without the ball, though - he goes nuts at one pair of young GSDs that belong to our neighbor, that he ignored for months until one day I showed some interest in them, and one of them barked in an inviting way (he’s maybe a year old, sweet and friendly). Beau has acted like he hates him ever since. Mostly, though, he’s behaved this way with dogs who warned/threatened him first from behind a wall or fence, or approached him when he was leashed and they were not (at a public park where leash laws are ignored). Off leash he seems to have no problem with strange dogs, he greets them in a friendly way and that’s it, unless they try to mount him. Even then, aggressive displays are his last resort in those cases, not his first, and only for very persistent dogs.

My hope is that eventually he can be trained to stop resource guarding (if that’s what it is sometimes) and to ignore even the threatening dogs if they are contained. Is that possible, or a pipe dream? If possible, how do we get there? If not, what should I be aiming for instead?
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-18-2018, 03:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beau's Mom View Post
Long post, hope itís not too tedious 😏. Thanks in advance to anyone who wades through it:

As Iíve mentioned in other threads, Beau is a 3-yr-old intact male GSD, mostly if not all working lines in his pedigree. (Heís half West German lines, I donít know enough to tell what all those lines are. Other half is DDR and Czech.) I have a problem with his occasional leash reactivity and Iím feeling frustrated by the behavior. It started when he was around 2.5 or so, and with work itís gotten better, but not gone. Hoping another perspective will help. Any and all input is welcome.

He is not aggressive with every dog we see on leash, not even close. Mostly he ignores, or gives at most a passing glance to other dogs we see on our walks. Some he whines at, as if he wants to meet them, not many. We donít do that and it passes quickly. Any dog who barks or acts aggressively towards him, though, even from behind a fence or wall, he will respond to with lunging and serious noise. All future encounters with those dogs will then inspire proactive lunging and noise from Beau, whether they start things next time or not. There are 3 or 4 such encounters likely on our usual walking routes.

I can get him to stop with a very loud stern No, Leave It! (sometimes repeated), most of the time. It actually quells the other dog more quickly than it does Beau. I can sometimes (but not always) prevent it by telling him to Leave It right before he gets near the dog, and rewarding him with a ball (this for dogs behind walls/fences) while walking. If we are walking by a likely target whoís also on leash, even across the street, Sit and Leave It and chance of reward will sometimes prevent Beauís bad behavior, sometimes not. So far Watch Me has only worked once, he has a hard time watching me when a threat-dog is close by. Sit and Leave It works less often if the other dog is off leash and Beau is leashed.

I think itís a mix of defensiveness and resource guarding at the source of the behavior, sometimes one or the other, sometimes both. The first time I carried a ball with us, his reactivity increased greatly - any dog who even looked at us was a problem that day. Next day he was back to base line, ignoring most dogs, ball notwithstanding. I think I am the resource even without the ball, though - he goes nuts at one pair of young GSDs that belong to our neighbor, that he ignored for months until one day I showed some interest in them, and one of them barked in an inviting way (heís maybe a year old, sweet and friendly). Beau has acted like he hates him ever since. Mostly, though, heís behaved this way with dogs who warned/threatened him first from behind a wall or fence, or approached him when he was leashed and they were not (at a public park where leash laws are ignored). Off leash he seems to have no problem with strange dogs, he greets them in a friendly way and thatís it, unless they try to mount him. Even then, aggressive displays are his last resort in those cases, not his first, and only for very persistent dogs.

My hope is that eventually he can be trained to stop resource guarding (if thatís what it is sometimes) and to ignore even the threatening dogs if they are contained. Is that possible, or a pipe dream? If possible, how do we get there? If not, what should I be aiming for instead?
To the part Iíve bolded... sounds more like insecurity and leash/barrier frustration. Reactivity issues can be difficult to fix if you donít know what you are doing. Iíd contact a trainer who is familiar with working dogs/GSDs and see what they have to say. If you post your location, maybe someone can recommend a good trainer to you.

Train the dog in front of you.
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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-18-2018, 03:53 PM
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Oops, just saw your location IS posted, lol. Hopefully someone out your way has a good recommendation!

Train the dog in front of you.
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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-18-2018, 04:04 PM
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can you please PM his pedigree?
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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-21-2018, 07:52 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, @GypsyGhost, I do think the whining episodes are just frustration at not getting to greet the particular dog being whined at. Those are mild and pretty infrequent, doesn’t take much to keep him walking instead. Most dogs we pass right by, no problem.

I might be wrong about the motives, but the reactivity that concerns me is probably not just barrier frustration. He’s not just stopping and barking but making strong, lunging, unmistakeably aggressive displays. The proactive displays are probably just posturing, as both he and the other dog will go quiet abruptly if my No, Leave It is loud and very firm. The initial reactive ones feel like he would go after the other dog if he were free and the other dog loose, and he is harder to quiet down then. Both displays scare passers by, so if it’s possible I want to train him not to do it. For the record, he’s never actually bitten or been bitten.

Advice or Tucson trainer recommendations are welcome!
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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-21-2018, 08:13 PM
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Are you strong enough to correct him? I mean REALLY correct him. If he's actively the aggressor then it seems to me that he needs to be told NO in absolute terms. And given his pedigree, I don't imagine he's going to take a correction from anyone but you.
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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-21-2018, 09:03 PM Thread Starter
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@Jax08, thanks, maybe I just need to be more consistently at the extreme end of firm when I correct him for this, thinking about it in that light I’m not sure I’m always correcting him the same way. Yes, I’m physically strong enough. I’ll see if that’s all it is.

He’ll accept corrections he deems fair from someone else, but not if he thinks they’re unfair. E.g. He’ll take a light leash pop on a prong collar from a new trainer to correct his Heel, and he will correct; but he will rear up on someone and put his feet on them, making complaining noises, over a hard yank for same. Hasn’t bitten anyone yet.
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-22-2018, 07:46 PM
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Sorry to hear you and Beau are having this issue. My boy started lunging on leash when he was 7 months old, 65lb. Now he is 80lb at the least and still sometimes react.

What I've done so far is practice the 'look' command and have him sit and focus on me. And number 2 is I pull his chain collar to the side so he loses focus BEFORE he can react.

Last edited by McGloomy; 08-22-2018 at 08:09 PM.
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-22-2018, 07:48 PM
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Worked with a trainer too but didn't really help. So if you proceed with a trainer I suggest get a legitimate one that could really help you and be on the same page as you are. Because if you don't agree with your trainer and the trainer's technique doesn't work on your dog... It's really a waste.
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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-22-2018, 08:01 PM Thread Starter
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@McGloomy, then you know what it’s like! Been to a few trainers already, the next one I’ll try breeds GSDs and trains protection dogs. Sometimes distracting or correcting early helps, sometimes not. I’m going to try stronger corrections. He’s very handler sensitive, I’ll also be observing more closely to see if my mood or handling is making him more reactive.

Thanks for the suggestions, and good luck with your guy, too!
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