Newbie Here! Help a mama out? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-24-2019, 11:46 AM Thread Starter
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Question Newbie Here! Help a mama out?

Hello all! I am so grateful to have stumbled across this community!

My husband and I are the new, proud parents of 1-year old, 82 pound Riley. Riley is the perfect dog in SO many ways. He knows many basic obedience commands, is perfect in the house--no chewing or accidents or aggression. He is sweet, smart, goofy, and full of affection. He's my constant companion.

Riley came to us from a complicated situation where he belonged to a man with health issues who passed Riley on to his mother who already had 4 large dogs and a grandson she was raising. We were told by her that Riley is good with people, kids, and other dogs.

But Riley came to us with a bite wound on his neck from a golden retriever at his previous home and randomly charged after a golden doodle near our yard last week.

When we met Riley he was on a leash that was not being held. He ran up to us, barked, and calmed down after his handler shook our hands and began a game of fetch. He displayed no aggression or even real awareness of the other dogs hanging out 50 or so yards away at the public park we are at.

We've had Riley a month and have noticed leash reactivity to other dogs, the charging issue listed above, and also had an issue where while on lead he nipped at a neighbor's pants pocket. Granted the neighbor was over eager to pet Riley and I was very anxious at the moment, but still not appropriate.

We've been doing a ton of reading and think it largely comes down to new territorial instincts for Riley as well as him sensing our anxiety as to how he'll behave in situations with new people or animals. His previous Mom just let him go and we hold him tight on the leash because we just don't trust him--especially since the nipping incident. Nor do we think it's appropriate for an 82 pound animal to run up and bark at strangers like he did to us... we'd like to teach him a better approach.

So, I'm hoping one of you phenomenal, wise people can help a mama out:

Anyone have any idea where this behavior developed and how to best re-condition him?
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-24-2019, 01:12 PM
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I can't say what the cause of his behaviors are except it only takes one dog to attack another dog to make him dog aggressive. Holding him tight on the leash is just going to make the problem worse. With him pulling on the leash trying to get to other dogs or people, opposition reflex is stimulated, which will cause him to pull even harder. He needs solid obedience. Since you are not going to do competition obedience, you can rely on compulsion/corrections. You said he knows basic obedience commands, and if that is true, he should know sit and down. You will need a prong collar and know how to fit and give a correction with one. I would practice sits and downs away from distractions for a while to get used to training him on a prong. You can use food as a reinforce for correct sits and downs and corrections for disobedience. Use a quick pop up on the leash for a sit and a quick pop down for a down if he disobeys. The problem is always that if you really don't know to time and properly give a correction, the learning curve is going to be longer. The next step would be to take him where he sees a dog at a distance and as you get closer, as soon as he becomes reactive, sit or down him instantly. Praise him and always have a release command to let the dog know he can release from the obedience command. Over time, work on getting closer to other dogs. Always have him sit when a person approaches and they don't need to pet him. You are teaching him an incompatible behavior. He can't be hitting the end of the leash in a reactive state and sit or down at the same time-they are incompatible.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-24-2019, 01:15 PM
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Riley is a big, handsome boy. Congratulations.

If it were me I would start NILIF, loads of info on line about it and it's a pretty straightforward concept. I would also start focus exercises. Look at me, he needs to focus on you not the other things in the world. You need to teach him that any time he sees something exciting he should look at you for direction. Always basic obedience is a good foundation. Sit, come, down, stay and heel. The better his obedience is the quicker everything else will fall into place. A few private lessons with a trainer are probably a good place to start.
To calm greetings he needs to be taught that ONLY a calm, polite greeting will get him anything. You will need to enlist help for that. Start on leash and at home is the easiest. He gets rewarded/greeted for calm behavior and ignored for poor behavior.
I don't pet jumping, barking dogs and you would be surprised at how quickly they catch on.
If you haven't already he needs crate training and muzzle training. Whether you use them or not they are life skills that every dog should learn
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-24-2019, 01:48 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you! This is really helpful. He is crate trained and I did purchase a muzzle and I'm warming myself up to the idea-- I just hate that it's necessary to train him with a muzzle.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-24-2019, 01:48 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for these helpful tips.

I'd read about prong collars and got mixed messages so I've largely avoided them--can't prong collars just increase anxiety and create more aggression?
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-24-2019, 02:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jae2theD View Post
I'd read about prong collars and got mixed messages so I've largely avoided them--can't prong collars just increase anxiety and create more aggression?

Not necessarily, although with some dogs they can. For that reason, and since you don't have experience dealing with reactivity and haven't used a prong before, I would suggest finding a good trainer to work with.

Getting his obedience rock solid and implementing NILIF are things you can easily do on your own without having to worry about messing it up.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-24-2019, 10:35 PM
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A little levity here... now I don't feel so silly double posting on your double thread :-) all the success to you as you and he work through it. Just remember it's a journey and most will agree one worth traveling.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-25-2019, 07:31 AM
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Prong collars won't create anxiety and aggression unless the dog has weak nerves or is handler aggressive. Using a muzzle is not going to teach the dog much. It sounds like you have some anxiety about how to deal with your dog and he will feed off of that anxiety.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-25-2019, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Chip Blasiole View Post
Prong collars won't create anxiety and aggression unless the dog has weak nerves or is handler aggressive.
I don't believe that this is entirely correct. In the hands of a novice be the dog weak or strong nerve, a mis timed correction can increase drive caused by aggression. In hands of an experienced handler the tool is effective in increasing a desired drive that the experienced handler is looking for.

I'm just a novice but I have experienced both increases in both scenarios although my boy is not rock solid in nerve. I learned of the differences and the positive effective use for both from reading/watching trainer's who I highly respect along with my experiences with my guy and there is a definite learning curve in the uses of the prong.

Perhaps it is the wording and at a standstill and in absence of a known trigger in the area, then yes, I would not expect my guy to be triggered into drive via a prong collar pop but if a dog were to be in the area and my boy is acting calm, although I have not tested this nor would I, I'm pretty certain a prong collar pop could trigger it or create anxious signals due to confusion/conflict from what was trained into him and the unexpected unfair application of the collar pop.

I may be nit picking and don't mean to but too many novices just slap a prong on without giving it full consideration and trying to work through the learning curve with not enough instruction. I was one. I didn't just slap it on but I also didn't seek out more instruction to help with the learning curve.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-25-2019, 09:42 AM
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A proper correction with a prong is very unlikely with someone who has never used one, so your point is valid and it is probably the improper use and fitting of the prong that would increase a dog's drive rather than take him down in drive. The correction has to be timed properly with a loose leash and very sharp and fast quickly going back to a loose leash. Then you need to learn your dog's sensitivity to correction to determine if you need to attach the leash to both rings or just the live ring. Too often, people without experience or guidance on how to use a prong will give a nagging pull on the prong which just stimulates opposition reflex or doesn't snap the dog out of his drive state. It is kind of like handing someone a hula hoop who has never used one and expecting them to be able to keep it moving around their hips. It definitely takes some practice and someone to show you how it is done.
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