Retraining a guard dog - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-02-2013, 10:52 AM Thread Starter
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Retraining a guard dog


I adopted a four year old GSD four months ago. She is an ex guard dog and in the house and with people she knows (even for a short time) she is a poppet. But she goes balistic when anyone tries to come through the garden gate or the front door. If I did not hold her back I'm sure she'd go for the jugular.

I have taken advice and put a short leash on her when someone rings the bell (which is outside the garden gate) to stop her charging and she is much better. She is very obedient and will go to her kennel so that I can open the gate safely but I would like to be able to let people in without her "claiming" her territory.

Does anyone have any ideas? This is my first post so I hope I have found myself in the right place.

I'd love to hear from you.

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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-02-2013, 11:02 AM
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I think you're going to have to give more information about the type of guard dog training your dog has had. At this point, I believe what you're doing is the only thing that will help her figure out that she doesn't have the same job that she used to anymore but it might take quite a bit of time. You are pretty much going to have to start correcting her for doing what she is used to...barking and protecting property. She has to re-learn that this type of behavior is wrong and depending on the training she's had, it might be extremely difficult.

But please provide more information on the type of guard dog she was and what exactly she was expected to do.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-02-2013, 01:18 PM
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Actually, a guard dog is left on its own to guard something such as a warehouse, etc. and will bite anyone that enters the property. Doesn't sound like your dog trained as a guard dog. Possible a personal protection job.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-02-2013, 03:06 PM
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If she doesnt have nerve issues..shouldnt be to hard. Curious if she is a PP dog too?

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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-02-2013, 05:23 PM
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I was thinking K9...some sort of police dog that either retired out/didn't make the cut?
Could be wrong. Need more info.


Last edited by KatsMuse; 10-02-2013 at 05:28 PM.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-03-2013, 08:58 AM Thread Starter
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Police Dog?

Hi everybody

Thanks for your replies.

My problem is I don't have the information to give. I don't think she's a reject police dog as she has no electronic chip and I'm pretty sure the police and other responsible bodies e-identify their dogs. She doesn't have a tatoo in her ear either, a common way of identifying dogs in France.

All I know is that she was seen being dumped on a roundabout and no-one could catch her. She waited there for her owner to come back for a fortnight by which time she was so thin and hungry that someone threw some food and they captured her.

She was picked up by the dog warden who (!!!!!) gave her to an 88 year old man (a buddy of his apparently) to guard his abbatoir. I am told she was tied up and beaten but I see no evidence of beating so I think that might have gone into the mix.

She was apparently with this man for 2 months before the rescue organisation I got her from stepped in. It sounds like it was all a bit "Flying Squad". She then went to board with a dog trainer under the direction of the adoption agency as she was flagged up as a "problem" dog. She was there for 2 months also at which point I adopted her and she has been with me since mid May.

I am very optimistic for her as she has recently stopped looking suspiciously at everyone and shows all the signs of becoming a dog! I have had some private lessons with her and she has just started at doggy school where she is meeting other dogs as well as people.

That's all the info I have.

Thank you again.

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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-03-2013, 09:04 AM
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I think the training meeting other people and dogs is a good idea. It will give her a second look at how to think about people. If she was trained as a guard dog for someone's personal use it may not be so hard to retrain her. If she was trained as a K9 as in attack trained, it will be a little harder probably. Good luck. It sounds like you have a good friend that will protect you if you treat her right. For awhile I would either keep her on a leash or crate her when people are coming over just to be safe.


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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-03-2013, 09:29 AM
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Hi Kati,

From what you have said so far it doesn't sound like your dog has had any type of guard or protection training at all. He sounds like he is a previously neglected, fearful, reactive dog that has never had the leadership and direction he needs to feel confident.

Good news is that he is with you now, and he sounds that with you he will learn that he does not have to go overboard with the killer act to scare potential threats away. With you, he will also learn that the world is a good, safe place, and he won't have to feel that everything is a potential threat.

Bad news is that you will always have to be very vigilant that he does not act out his fear by going after someone or biting.

I would start by taking him to training as you are doing: that is a great way to have fun with your dog, strenghten the bond, and show him that you are in charge. Learning and doing obedience exercises puts you in charge, and gives him behaviours to do INSTEAD of his default going berserk. In addition this dog will need a lot of management, a strong leader, a dependable routine, and a normal active life, which you are providing. If you don't already, implement NILIF (Nothing in Life is Free), and often this makes a huge difference for many dogs.

I for one would not allow him to go crazy in the yard or at the door. Get him in his crate, or train a strong replacement behaviour (like going to a mat and staying there) when people come over. You may have to work on this with friends who help you by coming over and standing at the gate, or coming to your door, while you work on proofing the training.

Remember he isn't acting the way he is because he was trained to act that way, he is acting this way because he knows no different, is unsure, and so far, when he was tied up and scared to be all alone, acting all aggressive scared scary the people away, so the behaviour was rewarded. So not so much that you need to re-train him, but you need to train him and show him that you are in charge, that the yard and house is YOUR yard and house and YOU make the decisions of who is allowed to come and go, and not allow him to make those decisions for himself.

Often, as you starting to see, many dogs really calm down and relax when they start feeling secure in their owner's leadership.

Another thing you can do is to contact a K9 trainer or Schutzhund trainer and have him evaluated to see if he did, in fact, have any guard dog or protection training. Then you will know for sure what you are dealing with.


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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-03-2013, 02:02 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you so much

Thank you Teri and Lucia

I forgot to put in my post that after taking her out on the short lead she goes to a mat by the water butt. I give her the down command and stay and she has to stay while I open the gate. She is not perfect yet but she is calmer, say when the post woman arrives (sorry forgotten the American for that). She does move from the mat as the temptation is too great but she is not as "rabid" as she was. Of course I keep the gate half closed so that she can't get through but it is not a "free for all".

I do know and have been to a Schutzhund trainer but to be honest he is so macho he sees a threat in every dog he looks at so I gave that a miss after two sessions.

Absolutely, I need a band of folk who will keep coming and pressing the bell. Unfortunately, in this corner of France almost everybody is terrified of dogs (and especially GSDs) so it's hard to find the volunteers. I'm living in a community where owners beat their dogs if they run away and then come back. They have no idea they are punishing the dog for doing the right thing (coming home) and even less idea that it was their fault for letting the dog get out in the first place!

Thank you all for the posts, they have been very useful and given me confidence that I am on the right path for putting Elise on her's.

We all share our lives with such a beautiful breed of dog, so loyal, so calm and yet so brave and fearless at the same time. What more can (wo)mankind ask for?

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