Balancing Act: Housebreaking, Sensitive Tummy, and Reactivity - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 03-03-2019, 01:03 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2019
Location: Madison, WI
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Balancing Act: Housebreaking, Sensitive Tummy, and Reactivity

I've been actively working with my foster pup enough now to know that the three "competing" concerns are confusing me.

I would really appreciate very specific suggestions that mention time, amounts, etc., if you can. I know each dog is different, but if you can tell me what you did and precisely how you did it, I will be very grateful.

Anyway, Jett came to me at 20 weeks as a foster pup with no housebreaking and no socialization. We did not do much for the first couple of weeks and then I was gone a few days at Xmas and he had to put up with some change of care giver in that time. After Xmas, he became very reactive. He is both dog- and human-reactive.

Housebreaking has been going better in the past month. The only time he has pooped in the house was after a kong with frozen peanut butter paste I gave him as a treat one evening. His vet is aware he has very soft stools most of the time, but right now it is hard to say if it is his food and/or the "high value" treats he needs for training class. (I train with his dog food/meal allowance at home but need to use other treats much of time at class b/c of his reactivity).

Anyway, I'm looking for thoughts on how to balance the concerns. I don't want to aggravate his tummy problems and also trigger diarrhea using a lot of high value treats. It has to be uncomfortable for him and might disrupt housebreaking. At the same time, keeping him quietly at home will not address his reactivity--and ultimately, that is a safety concerns. I want him to be able to go to go back to his owner if she is able to take him again. Right now he is highly reactive with her, all strangers, and most people he knows outside myself and my two young adult children. I have 2 friends who are very comfortable working with him but he still reactis for the first couple of minutes when he sees them (they come by about 1 time/week or so). He is reactive with the trainers at first, too, and while he is fine off leash at class, we cannot train with the group.

Some random thoughts:
--I'm working to reduce random reactivity by greatly limiting his exposure to things that will make him react and introducing him slowly, with distance, to those things (pretty much any normal outdoor activity).
--I have appointments at the vet's to do more "meet and greets" and will take advantage of those. They are great about clearing the waiting room and letting me get him to an exam room, thankfully. He can walk in and out without reacting if no one else is around. Well, except yesterday he reacted to his own reflection in glass by the entrance door, but got over that ok.
--I've heard about dehydrated carrots and have ordered some but am not sure how to use them.
--I've started using a halti on the recommendation of a trainer. I will get a muzzle and start muzzle training today.

Any and all thoughts about how to address pieces of this (without disrupting the other pieces) will be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Radar, Aussie/BC mix, b. 2/27/2012
Jett, GSD foster pup, b. 7/15/2018
Madison, WI
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 03-03-2019, 02:10 PM
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Location: NNE PA
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As far as reactivity, there are a lot of different ideas of "reactive" and each might be handled a little differently depending on the dog. A cookie cutter response may not help you.

Personally, in most cases unless it's just a flat out fearful dog, I don't care if they like other dogs or people. They just have to respect their right to exist. Have you ever just told him No in a way a dog would understand? You can't correct reactivity but you can correct an ignored command. React, Sit, no sit?-Correct, Sit? Reward. Often I see these "reactive" dogs as ones that nobody is taking charge of so they feel they have to take charge. They can't even think because they are so far into a tantrum. Quite often, when you tell them they can't behave this way, they will calm down and only then can they actually think. Giving them a command helps them think. But they can not do that while they are reacting.

Ideally you want to get them into a command and into engagement with you prior to their reacting. Which leads to the next question....what have you done to work on engagement with this puppy? Are you just letting him sit and focus on the things that he reacts to? In my world, the sport world, my dog should be focused on me. Can he look? Absolutely. But he can not FOCUS in on an object and behave like a bone head. THe more engagement you have with this puppy, the less he will react to every outside force because what he will want is to play with you.

I would never use a halti, or any other harness. There is so much information out there showing how they are bad for the dogs. Please google this. First you have no control over the dog. Think about it, if you had your head forced down unnaturally for extended periods of time and when you pulled it cranked it unnaturally, would that not hurt? Think about the damage to the spine from the position and to the natural muscular development of the dog. IMO, that is worse than a correction from a prong collar. As a note, I do not like choke collars except in specific situations. They can to easily cause damage to the trachea and that damage can not be fixed.

I'm willing to be your group class is at a major corporation. I've been in the store when these "trainers" are working. Some of it has been downright dangerous with out of control aggressive dogs.

Dogs can not digest vegetables. Especially dehydrated vegetables. There is no value to this. If the dog has soft stool on certain foods then I would look at reasons such as SIBO, IBD. Food allergies are RARE. I don't care what keyboard warriors say. Been there, done that with my dog and food allergies are rare per every vet I've consulted with. So look into medical causes such as parasites, SIBO, IBD or even just simply stress. Stressing a dog will cause soft stools as well. Low fat meat bits would be my go to in this case.
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Last edited by Jax08; 03-03-2019 at 02:33 PM.
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 03-03-2019, 04:57 PM
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House training should take tops a couple of weeks. You are stressing out the dog and yourself by letting it take longer. Get on board and get it done.
Almost every time I hear about soft stools with no parasites over feeding is the cause.
Why dehydrated carrots? I just buy bags of baby carrots and chop them up. Dogs love them but I don't know if they qualify as high value. For that I just use baked chicken hearts, sliced up.
Not a fan of the Halti. I used one on Sabs as a cue that we were not working and she needed to chill. It was short lived and tbh she wasn't often attached to a leash so it had no purpose. Tried one on Shadow and she did a somersault so I ditched it. They can and do cause serious injuries so if you really want to use one be very careful.
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