Regaining leadership....long - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2016, 12:56 AM Thread Starter
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Regaining leadership....long

Hi everyone, long time lurker here, about 5 years I guess. I'll try to keep this as short as possible, I just don't want to leave anything out! I have 2 intact males, one 3 and the other just coming on 18 months. They are fine with each other, no problems between them at all. The problem is with me and my 18 month old.

I had some serious health problems at the end of the summer, a couple of surgeries, some complications, and a very long recovery. I'm still far from 100% but I'm better. I was in the hospital for almost a month and was bedridden for another couple of months when I came home. My younger dog was 10 months old at the beginning of all this.

During my downtime, family and friends took care of my dogs, here in my home, my daughter moved back in to help me for a while. There was no training, very little structure, and now he is a mess.

My older dog is fine, my younger, not so much. He became an anxious mess. Prior to all this, I saw no problems really other than the regular I want to kill my adolescent dog, lol. He lost his off switch, will not relax in the house unless crated. Very fearful in the car, never had a problem with him before, he has never had a bad experience in a vehicle. He is confident in the back yard (fenced, it is where we all play) but go out the front door and he becomes fearful.

Don't get me wrong, he listens and responds well when we are in the house or in the back yard, but anywhere else he is hyper vigilant, vocal and skittish.

For the last month or so I have really upped his structure, we train around 15 minutes twice a day, what I can stand. LOL. I enforce his house manners, waiting to eat, waiting to leave crate, go outside etc, no roughhousing in the house, no hogging the whole couch, lol. I know that my confidence isn't where it should be, my back is still fragile and I know that they can hurt me without meaning too, so I am careful around them. Is this coloring the way he sees me is what I'm wondering.

Does anyone have any suggestions of anything I might be missing to rebuild the relationship with my dog?

Sorry such a long read, thanks all!
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2016, 09:08 AM
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I am so sorry for everything that you have been through. It is easy to understand why your pup might feel a little anxious, unsure after all that, too.

I am no expert, but it sounds to me like you are doing the right things. The only thing that I would add is "Are you doing any fun things together? I realize you are limited because you are still recovering, but maybe pitching a few balls to him, take him for short walk, take a little dog food and scatter it around the yard so he can search for it and gobble it up, etc. I am also a believer in the power of touch, in that dogs are like children in that it makes them feel safe. Some things also just need time.
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2016, 11:34 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your response! You are right that he needs fun in his life lol. We do play fetch a few minutes when I take the boys out to potty. The boys have gotten better at putting the ball in my hand because I can't bend down to pick it up. We go out several times a day.

I'm not comfortable walking either dog, my restrictions are kinda strict right now and I try to follow them to the letter. I do "walk" in the yard though. Have him onleash walking with me, but I can drop the leash if I need to, but now I wonder if that could be part of the problem? Any pressure on the leash on his part and I drop it. Maybe I need to leave the leash in the house til I'm more able?
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2016, 11:54 AM
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Something that I think may benefit you and the dogs, especially the younger is to refocus on basic training, just so he understands you are still the boss. While walking around the property throw out a command to him, go through every command he knows that is doable, proceed to walk, so a walk and command training all at once. Imo, I think this will help in reestablishing every thing you had before your surgery. I also think that you can teach heel with him with out leash, so he can build a better bond and trust with you as well. This can be done several times a day, and after the training session throw a couple balls so he gets a reward for being focused on you. I wish you luck and that your health steadily improves, so you will be able to do more with your boys.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2016, 09:04 PM
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I would take a break with the younger one and stay within his comfort zone, let him mature, while you heal. He is what he is right now. Engage with him where he is comfortable while you get better and better. In three months, or four, or even six months, he will be more mature, you will be more confident and healthier, and then you can start moving out the front door with confidence, and if necessary take it slow. 5 minutes, and back home, and build up to a regular walk or outing. It is possible that by then, the bond you build within your home and fence will be strong enough to transfer out the front door.

That's what I would do.

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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2016, 11:19 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for your words of encouragement! I think you are probably right about just letting him be who he is right now, and rebuilding our relationship slowly and not get so worried about it. It's just sad to see him now compared to the PITA puppy he was.
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-28-2016, 02:23 AM
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I think you have gotten some wonderful advice. I don't have much to add. I just had a thought for you in regards to play time with your boys... since they like fetch perhaps you might look into getting one of the tennis ball launcher toys like a chuck it? I have a bad neck and have issues throwing the ball, the chuck it takes a lot of the strain off of my body so I can play with the dogs longer. Plus the medium and large size have handles long enough you can pick the ball up off the ground without bending over.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-08-2016, 04:31 PM Thread Starter
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Just thought I'd update on Grimm's anxiety. He's still acting like he's wound too tight on most days, will jump up barking at any small sound. He forgets (?) my daughter is home and in her room, and will bark when she comes down the hallway. He stops when he sees that it is her though. The last few days I have kept him either tethered to me, in a down/stay or crated while we are in the house, it seems to help with the startling at noises.

As far as the car goes, I parked it in the back yard. When we go outside I open all the doors and both dogs are free to get in and out as they please. He was wary of it at first but when he saw my other dog being comfortable with it he started hopping in and out too. I moved on to taking him out by himself and sitting in the car and letting him get in and out of the back seat. I plan on working up to us in the car with it running without him being anxious before we go for a ride.

I moved his crate. I realized it was directly across from the front door, he was having some anxiety about the front door. Don't know if it changed anything but it's something I'm trying. We have also just gone out on the front porch to hang out. The first time he was nervous, but seems to be settling faster each time we go out. I don't ask for any behaviors, we just hang out and listen to the birds.

Hopefully I didn't mess up our relationship beyond repair all those months he didn't have any guidance!
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-08-2016, 04:47 PM
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I am going backwards and trying to fix something with my pup too. I just wanted to chime in and say, it is only beyond repair if you give up and stop trying to repair it. You aren't doing that. You are trying very hard. Try not to worry too much about it (easier said that than done for me), because they pick up on that too.

If you remain dedicated, I doubt very seriously you won't get improvement. Dogs are willing to let things go. Hang in there! It sounds like this was an unavoidable thing. If what you are doing isn't working, don't be afraid to try something new. Do you know how to use a clicker or a marker word with food? Mark and reward any behavior you like, see if it helps that behavior.

Feed him his meals in the car? (When he is willing to eat in there)

Sometimes asking for really simple stuff can help, like running him through a sit, down, hand target type routine, gives him something to think about other than his nerves. But if you are seeing improvement, just keep doing what you are doing and hang in there!
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-30-2016, 06:28 PM Thread Starter
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Feeling kind of defeated and down. I found out yesterday I need another surgery and it's been scheduled for next week. It's not supposed to be as bad as my first 2 recovery wise but I'll admit I'm scared to death.

It comes at a horrible time because although I've been in alot of pain I have just in the past couple of months began to feel good enough to start training again with my dogs. And it's spring time too, I so want to play outside! I lost most of last year, I sure do hope I don't loose this one too...

I love my boys but I am wondering if it would be better to rehome my younger dog since I can't see an end to this...
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