Should I continue? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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  • 2 Post By Heartandsoul
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-16-2019, 09:26 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2019
Location: Madison, WI
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Should I continue?

If you want to know the longer story, my post is here:

For the below, TL;DR: do I continue with classes when they provoke more reactivity than anything else, even though I'm also seeing some progress during class? 8 month old foster pup.

Basically, I'm fostering a GSD who became reactive after a few weeks in my home. He's 8 months old now.

The first few training classes are in the prior thread. Classes 4 and 5 were worse--we were in a closed off room except for free play time. Jett does big circles around the open floor during that time, might run up to a pup who attracts his attention in some way. He's displayed no aggression off leash. In lessons 4 and 5, the instant the leash went back on, he started barking and wouldn't calm until I had closed the door separating our work space from the larger group.

Lesson 6 was pretty different. He was able to stay in the group, on leash, until the other dogs started moving. I'm *only* able to focus on his reactivity and keeping him from barking, not able to get anything more than an occasional "sit" during this time, but letting him watch and look away successfully for a few minutes. Once the other dogs were moving, we ended up in the back room again--door open though. We were able to go through basic commands (mostly sit and follow, some down and stand) repeatedly with relatively little barking (he'd get loud when he saw another dog or person through the door, but responded to redirection and would follow me away).

When we are in the back room, he is still pretty agitated--more panting than the relaxed training state at home in a distraction free environment. I was able to give him more water this time and we did not have post-training potty accidents due to the late training/coming home too thirsty at bedtime.

So, do I sign up for more classes? A behaviorist is coming to the house on 3/25 and I'm really torn. After lessons 4 and 5, I was convinced it was all a huge mistake--too much time over threshold, no progress, blah blah blah. Then lesson 6 and visible progress.

The vet clinic is working with us 1 day/week. Yep, he's over threshold at times during that short training but responsive enough to stop and eat a treat or two that the vet and tech throw him when they walk past (we are working outside the clinic right now).

I'm using the car to socialize him, although we still have to be moving to keep him from reacting.

I'm noticing I can turn him away from barking more at home, in the yard. He still reacts but is more responsive as long as the trigger (people or dogs) are not close. We haven't had long, lunging, growling reactions at home in a while now. It's a low bark or two and then he turns away at my command.

I work really hard to keep him under threshold. Unless we go to class or the vet, he's not acting out much at all. We've just had our thaw, though, so the view from my backyard--which looks out across a nature conservancy to a trail on the other side--will soon become much busier. He saw some dogs this a.m. on that trail and I was able to redirect him but I was a bit disheartened b/c it seems so far away and yet he was starting to react.

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 6 (permalink) Old 03-16-2019, 11:29 AM
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I think some one on one work with a trainer will sharpen your handling skills and give you the confidence and knowledge you need.I think flooding him and you with so many dogs and people right now is not the best way to acquire the skills.Southend Dog Training has some excellent videos on reactive dogs and explains and shows the process from beginning to end.He's on YouTube and Facebook.I really need to to start saving links to his videos since I'm recommending often.No,I'm not affiliated,lol!
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-16-2019, 12:03 PM
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I agree with the one on one trainer. I read your other thread. Imho if a pup is having such a hard time focusing with all the noise distractions, no sight barrier is going to help or a class full of other dogs. I think at this point all your pup is learning is that once a week he is going to be taxed to the max with no let-up. It is not the environment that is setting him up for success. And I think that if this particular class was a good thing for him, you would have seen and should expect quite a bit more progress.

Also, if you're not leaving class more often than not feeling good about your pup and yourself, than it probably isn't the right one for you both.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-16-2019, 12:36 PM
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Sounds like you are making great progress to be honest. I really wouldn't get too disheartened or expect perfection just yet. An 8 month old GSD is never easy! My girl was very reactive with strange people, but I actually found that not overwhelming her and just relaxing about it was the best way to combat the issue. Neighbors or people wanting to "see the puppy" always want to stop and say hi, but unfortunately someone walking fast towards us or shouting out will always get my girls back up! But when I just took the approach of enjoying our walks, keeping her focused on me (distraction, a stick, commands, or maybe a treat) and basically ignoring other people, it really helped. The difference between where she was at 8 months and 1 year really was huge for her and we didn't do any training classes during that time, just stayed consistent with the corrections. I feel she is naturally calming down and maturing, sometimes the puppy excitement and uncertainty feeds into the reactive behavior and this will naturally diminish as long as you keep up with giving your dog the structure that it needs.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-16-2019, 07:31 PM
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When you first talked about this class I felt it was a bad idea, and I still do. I know that some people feel that isolating a reactive dog makes it worse but it really doesn't. You need to work at keeping him under his threshold, which you already know and forcing him time after time into what has to be a highly frustrating scene for him is not helping.
Reactivity is driven by either fear or frustration. Neither of those things are helped by flooding or force. Further to that if fear or shyness is the root cause what you are teaching your dog is that you DON'T have his back. Dogs don't learn in fearful states very well.
I think you have done amazingly well at getting him this far and I think with some one on one support you got this thing handled. I think as he continues to mature you will see changes for the better.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-17-2019, 12:55 AM
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I'm not at all saying that flooding a reactive dog or forcing it to be at threshold in order to work in reactivity is a good idea, but I will say that isolating a reactive dog can absolutely make it worse. I had an extremely dog reactive dog, and isolating him made him get worse and worse. Once I started addressing the problem, I quickly began to see process. He was an adult, so I firmly corrected him with a prong any time he reacted to another dog. I never brought him to classes or parks anything; just any time we happened to see a dog on our regular potty breaks and walks, I would correct him for reacting. Saw a major improvement within just a few weeks. Now, this isnt the course of action I personally would take with a younger dog like yours. I just wanted to say that you definitely need to address the problem, preferably (imo) without flooding or forcing, but I would strongly do not recommend isolating the dog.

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Last edited by Tulip; 03-17-2019 at 12:57 AM.
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