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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi All,

I need your opinions/advice on an issue I'm dealing with with my 18 week old GSD pup, Whisky. He is a big boy, weighing approx. 40-45 lbs at 18 weeks old. His Dad is 120 lbs and his Mom is ~85lbs but produces much bigger than herself (Royal Air Shepherds, she breeds for big boned, family dogs). I'll start off by saying I've grown up with shepherds all my life (although I'm only 24..) so I am used to their strong wills and "challenges" as they develop and grow. My girlfriend and I have lived together for 8 months and we've had Whisky for 2.5 months. She has grown up with small dogs and currently has 2 female miniature poodles that also live with us. Whisky does pretty well with them, we take him to a puppy playgroup at a local obedience club once a week so occasionally he will come on to the poodles a little strong trying to play but other than that does very well with them. He has never shown aggression to anyone, he has his tantrums/fits where he may bark or try to mouth our hands (darn needle-sharp puppy teeth!) but my girlfriend has asked several trainers we've had interactions with if it is aggression (out of worry) and they all have said definitely not, its typical puppy behavior. His tantrums are also only limited to my girlfriend and I, he does phenomenal with strangers, wagging his tail furiously when approaching, ears back, and licks their hands and lets them pet him.

My girlfriend works from home and I work 30min away 8-5. The current issue we are having is that my girlfriend will be sitting in our office or on the couch at home working and he will approach her, mouth her feet/legs or mess with her in general and then when she pays attention to him, bark at her. When she tries to correct him he usually continues to bark/nip air and misbehave. He also will mouth her hand when she attempts to correct him with a collar snap. We've used everything we can think of for corrections: coins in a can, prong collar, giving him a toy, giving him a chew, taking him out to potty, a firm no, the alpha rollover. We have used primarily the prong collar. All of them he usually responds to for a day or so then is unaffected by them. I have never had any issues with him trying to boss me around or throw fits at me but I also refuse to take any crap from him and have a much more dominant voice and body language than her. I will mention, because I think it is very important, that throughout these episodes of his he does not show what I consider aggression (and probably why I have brushed it off lately as puppy behavior) because he has NEVER raised lips/showed teeth, raised the hair on his back or really shown any aggressive body language. His body language during it is upright, almost playful, tail commonly wagging, but it is still a problem behavior.

He knows basic obedience and we have begun formal obedience with him in private lessons with a very reputable trainer in our area. The trainer is the training coordinator for the Iowa Dept. of Corrections and has been a K9 unit handler for 20 years (very experienced with GSD's!). His methods use a Dogtra E-collar which I have some experience with from growing up and my parents using one with one of their shepherds (who had fear aggression issues, hence my girlfriend's worry of our own shepherd's behavior being aggression). Also, disclaimer to those of you who think E-collars are inhumane/cruel, I'm sorry you feel that way, I believe when used correctly and responsibly they are a very valuable training aid. Our trainer also made us feel a nick at the 20 setting on our bare hand (not a double coat like our pup) and it didn't hurt whatsoever. I would describe it as a strong vibration, maybe like one of those prank/gag hand buzzers.

The worst part of the problem is that whenever I am home, he acts very well-behaved with none of these tantrums. I believe the underlying issue, and a reasonable explanation for it all, is that he does not respect/see my girlfriend as a leader of our pack and so thinks he can boss her around. She is not used to dogs that require this much leadership, and when he gets going in a tantrum she is a little intimidated by him. I've asked our trainer what exercises can we do to help teach her leadership over him, and help him learn to respect her and he suggested to keep working on the obedience we began with him (only had 1 lesson so far) in which he is learning to loose leash walk at our left side, sit and remain sitting until released (trainer does not teach stay, it should happen with sit/down), and to come when called. All of the training has been on-lead.

Our trainer's recommendations for her handling this problem behavior are to stand up when he barks at her and give him the "off" command (general stop what you're doing, I don't like it command) and to "nick" the collar once. If he doesn't stop the behavior, continue tapping the collar every other second for 3-4 nicks, and if he doesn't respond/back down to increase the strength a few points, from say 20-23. Our trainer also instructed her to try getting him out in our fenced backyard if he starts acting up and let him run some of his puppy energy burst off.

Yesterday hit a climax in this behavior in that my girlfriend got up to a setting of 40 on the collar before he backed down, and it appeared he backed down from distraction/boredom. The max setting on the collar is 137 I believe, so still not an incredibly high, cruel correction as some may think. Through a call with our trainer last night, he said, judging by our dog's personality, he was surprised she had to go to 40 already with him and to check the tightness of his collar to ensure the collar was making good contact. When we mentioned Whisky has never yelped from a "nick" as a result of too much correction with the collar, our trainer said if that's the case it might very well take a higher correction for him to understand that behavior is unacceptable but at the same time only correct him when he is coming at her and when he stops praise him immediately. I would also remind you, at this point, of his size because although I'm calling him a puppy, he's 45 lbs and probably 18"-20" at his haunches so he's already a big boy. I'll also attach a picture form just this week for reference.

My girlfriend is very frustrated with him to the point where she thinks we should consider a doggy day camp because she can't get her work done. I am very impressed with our trainer but I guess I'm on here writing this much down because I'm asking for reassurance that it will get better and maybe immediate things we could try to calm him down when he does this. He is in the height of teething so that can't be helping either.

Thank you all in advance, sorry for the lengthy report but I wanted to be very thorough!

Our Whisky:
 

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This is still a teething baby. If girlfriend is working and needs to get stuff done. Crate him until you get home and have time to play and work with him.

My personal opinion would be to get rid of the girlfriend.
 

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The first thing I would do is find a new trainer. IMO, a trainer that can help teach you how to develop a relationship with your dog.

Your puppy has simply learned how to initiate playtime. Went through the same with mine, both my breeder and trainer both told me to get up and walk away. Simply ignore wMich is NOT what the puppy wants. Problem was gone after 2 days.

To use a pinch and ecollar on an 18 week old puppy is wrong and will not do anything to develop a relationship.
 

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Why does a puppy get free roam in the house? He is a dog - he needs rules, boundaries, down time, and a strict schedule. This dog needs to be crate trained, and secured so you can see to your normal routine. He sounds like a typical pup that is allowed to have too much freedom and does not have his needs met properly.

In regards to the size: keep him lean and feed the minimum needed for proper growth and development. He comes from oversized lines so you have to be very careful.

Barking and play biting are not tantrums - it is normal GSD pup behavior. Redirect, and shape the behavior. If you saw a true tantrum and acting out...you would realize that this is nothing, but puppy habits. http://www.germanshepherds.com/forum/puppy-behavior/85888-puppy-biting-teaching-bite-inhibition.html

Stop the shaking cans, alpha rolls, and correction for NORMAL behavior. You are creating a reactive, pushy, and frustrated dog. Up his exercise, stimulate him mentally with games, increase training sessions, get the GF involved in training, socialize him etc. Putting him in the yard is not enough - he needs active engagement and activity. Contain the animal when he is not actively engaged with you, formulate a strict schedule, and stick to it. Dogs like routine, and consistency. Personally, I believe it is harmful to use correction devices before 6 months old - you are creating problems for the future.
 

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Ignore the dog, don't correct. You're going to just teach him that interacting with your girlfriend is always unpleasant and that will be a huge problem later. Forget a prong and a shock collar, if he's energetic and being like that give him a short crate time out and then exercise him until he's tired, when he's napping do your work.

"he current issue we are having is that my girlfriend will be sitting in our office or on the couch at home working and he will approach her, mouth her feet/legs or mess with her in general and then when she pays attention to him, bark at her" - She should NOT pay attention to him when he does this, that's making him do it more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
He goes on a long walk with me every morning and I play ball in our long, empty finished basement (rental house) every evening for 30-45 minutes until hes good and worn out. I have been working with her on how much wearing him out during the day when he starts to act out will help and make life easier and the response is usually that she doesn't want him worn out she wants him to listen to her when he goes after her.

We do usually do training sessions for 15-20 minutes 2-3 times a day. He is very crate trained but I do not want him see the crate as a punishment. He does not get free roam of our home. If she is in the living room, we baby gate the hall to the bedrooms so he has access to the living room and adjoining kitchen; if she is in the office, we close doors in the hallway except the office's and baby gate the other end of the hall.

I have read that entire "Teaching Bite Inhibition Thread" and alot of the corrections we have used came from that thread. He generally mouths softly, but his puppy teeth are so sharp, they draw blood or at least serious pain with barely any pressure. We have gone above and beyond for socialization with walks in our neighborhood every day, at least 1 trip to Pet Smart each week and just stand at intersections in the store to maximize people approaching him, weekly puppy preschool class where they receive socialization with owner puppy owners and off leash socialization with other puppies, weekly puppy playgroup classes, basically anywhere we see chances to get people to come to our home or can take him around new people we leap at the opportunities.

We have tried the ignoring him routine and the get up, the walking away routine, and the put him in a time out routine and as soon as we return he goes right back to it.

I guess I'm just trying to avoid having him crated for half the day (3-4 hours) if we don't have to.
 

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He goes on a long walk with me every morning and I play ball in our long, empty finished basement (rental house) every evening for 30-45 minutes until hes good and worn out. I have been working with her on how much wearing him out during the day when he starts to act out will help and make life easier and the response is usually that she doesn't want him worn out she wants him to listen to her when he goes after her.

We do usually do training sessions for 15-20 minutes 2-3 times a day. He is very crate trained but I do not want him see the crate as a punishment. He does not get free roam of our home. If she is in the living room, we baby gate the hall to the bedrooms so he has access to the living room and adjoining kitchen; if she is in the office, we close doors in the hallway except the office's and baby gate the other end of the hall.

I have read that entire "Teaching Bite Inhibition Thread" and alot of the corrections we have used came from that thread. He generally mouths softly, but his puppy teeth are so sharp, they draw blood or at least serious pain with barely any pressure. We have gone above and beyond for socialization with walks in our neighborhood every day, at least 1 trip to Pet Smart each week and just stand at intersections in the store to maximize people approaching him, weekly puppy preschool class where they receive socialization with owner puppy owners and off leash socialization with other puppies, weekly puppy playgroup classes, basically anywhere we see chances to get people to come to our home or can take him around new people we leap at the opportunities.

We have tried the ignoring him routine and the get up, the walking away routine, and the put him in a time out routine and as soon as we return he goes right back to it.

I guess I'm just trying to avoid having him crated for half the day (3-4 hours) if we don't have to.
Okay, remind your girlfriend that this dog is a baby, it won't listen to her until it's much older. Right now even at 18 weeks it knows how to sleep, eat, play, and do obedience when it wants something. That is too high of expectations for a puppy

If you play fun crate games and give him special treats (raw bones, bully sticks) in the crate while you are at home it won't be seen as a punishment. 3-4 hours is not long in a crate for all day if you split it up,most people work 8 hour jobs and let their dog out for a pee break for an hour in between, maybe she can do a 1-2 hour nap, wake the dog up, play for an hour, put him down for another 1-2 hour nap.

You guys sound like you're doing a good job with socialization and other things, the dog acts nice when your'e home and you tire him out playing ball every night :)
 

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He is a puppy - he likely won't listen reliably for a very long time. Do you expect a toddler to catch on in a snap? You just have to get over the idea that he will immediately become a model citizen. It requires months/years of training, patience, reinforcement, and consistency.

Redirect with a toy or game. Make it fun - most people don't play tug right so the game is not as interesting as your moving parts. Read those tugging threads - watch people tug the right way. Engage the dog actively so he is not as likely to act out negatively.

Does she actively train with him?

3-4 hours in a crate is nothing. Don't treat him like a human being - he is a dog. He needs to be crated or kenneled when you are not actively engaging him. He is showing you loud and clear that he is not ready for this much freedom. My dogs are in the crate or run if they are not being worked - the one or two "house dogs" have earned that privilege. I have a 15 week old - guess where she is right now? Crated and snoozing peacefully. In another half hr, we will go do some tracking and take a hike. Afterwards, she goes back in the crate. Routine - rules - consistency - patience. Don't blame him for your shortcomings.
 

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I have been working with her on how much wearing him out during the day when he starts to act out will help and make life easier and the response is usually that she doesn't want him worn out she wants him to listen to her when he goes after her.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ there is the problem right there.

I guess I'm just trying to avoid having him crated for half the day (3-4 hours) if we don't have to.
3-4 hours of crating isn't going to harm the puppy. Angry girlfriend turning up the collar will.

I got my Ivan at 4-5 months. He had injuries on his neck from what shelter thought was an e-collar. It took me a halter, 6 months and lots of socialization (3 -4 times a week) to get him un-afraid of people again. He would pee if anyone grabbed toward his neck to quickly. Now he wears a collar walks on a leash and loves people but it took a lot of work and a lot of love to show him that people were good.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
He needs to be crated or kenneled when you are not actively engaging him. He is showing you loud and clear that he is not ready for this much freedom. My dogs are in the crate or run if they are not being worked - the one or two "house dogs" have earned that privilege. I have a 15 week old - guess where she is right now? Crated and snoozing peacefully. In another half hr, we will go do some tracking and take a hike. Afterwards, she goes back in the crate. Routine - rules - consistency - patience. Don't blame him for your shortcomings.
I guess I argue with the point you make that your dogs are in their crate/run if you are not actively playing or exercising with them (engaging). We have 3 dogs, 1 of which requires any real full attention (Whisky). He is one of our family dogs, and is without a doubt a house dog. I want our dog to be with us as much as possible and interpret your point as he would be in his crate most of the day because we cannot exercise him constantly for the majority of the day. I interpret your comment as he shouldn't be taught/allowed to simply lay in the room with us if we're working or watching TV, or sleep in the room we're in after exercising with us. They live short enough lives as-is, I want to spend as much time with him as I can, even if I'm not actively engaged with him whether it be playing, grooming, training, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I believe our trainer's methods with the collar are correct and it might be more accurate through advice from all of you that we (my girlfriend and I) are misusing/misinterpreting his instruction. He was surprised our puppy did not back down with the collar set to 40 and said even going that high, check/try all other things (i.e. collar not tight, he needs to potty, he's cranky/tired) before resulting in that. Using the collar as a training aid with it at a low, no-pain setting is very effective. I would equate it to being there a small version of you mounted on the dog's shoulder, tapping on the dog's shoulder, reminding him that the full version of you just instructed him to sit so he should do that.
 

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I believe our trainer's methods with the collar are correct and it might be more accurate through advice from all of you that we (my girlfriend and I) are misusing/misinterpreting his instruction. He was surprised our puppy did not back down with the collar set to 40 and said even going that high, check/try all other things (i.e. collar not tight, he needs to potty, he's cranky/tired) before resulting in that. Using the collar as a training aid with it at a low, no-pain setting is very effective. I would equate it to being there a small version of you mounted on the dog's shoulder, tapping on the dog's shoulder, reminding him that the full version of you just instructed him to sit so he should do that.
A lot of people here are just opposed to the e collar on a puppy, including myself. I hope one day my puppy will sit not because I'm sitting on her shoulder towering over her tapping her reminding I'm boss, but because I want her to be excited that she's going to please me and get that ball or treat.
To each their own, I'm not going to tell you to not use it because everyone has different methods, but I personally do not believe in negative stimuli /positive punishment and prefer positive reinforcement for the long run.

Post updates with how you guys are doing, hope everything works out and your pup becomes a little easier to manage! :)
 

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I guess I argue with the point you make that your dogs are in their crate/run if you are not actively playing or exercising with them (engaging). We have 3 dogs, 1 of which requires any real full attention (Whisky). He is one of our family dogs, and is without a doubt a house dog. I want our dog to be with us as much as possible and interpret your point as he would be in his crate most of the day because we cannot exercise him constantly for the majority of the day. I interpret your comment as he shouldn't be taught/allowed to simply lay in the room with us if we're working or watching TV, or sleep in the room we're in after exercising with us. They live short enough lives as-is, I want to spend as much time with him as I can, even if I'm not actively engaged with him whether it be playing, grooming, training, etc.
You are humanizing an animal that is NOT ready for this type of lifestyle. It will require years of work and dedication on your part to get him there. He is NOT ready for this lifestyle right now. If you are unwilling to make the changes that HE needs, you will continue to experience the problems you have now. The dog is not a baby - treat him like a dog and set boundaries. There is no magic fix - consistency, schedule, containment, patience, and reinforcement. He does not need free roam, he does not need to be engaged 24/7, and he does not need to be around you constantly. You do though it seems, and it is detrimental for the animal. You can either set boundaries and contain the animal properly or continue to zap him for perfectly normal puppy behaviors - your choice.
 

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I guess I argue with the point you make that your dogs are in their crate/run if you are not actively playing or exercising with them (engaging). We have 3 dogs, 1 of which requires any real full attention (Whisky). He is one of our family dogs, and is without a doubt a house dog. I want our dog to be with us as much as possible and interpret your point as he would be in his crate most of the day because we cannot exercise him .
I think you are misunderstanding a crate. Maybe an x-pen would be a better example. Crate or x-pen (like a play pen for dogs) can be in the room with you, puppy can be chewing a kong or another treat or sleeping but when you are not actively watching him (as a puppy) he is locked up for his own safety. After teething stage when he has earned house privileges by showing he is a big boy (not chewing the furniture, not initiating play on his terms but your terms, then he can have more freedom. I do not advocate a dog locked in a crate all day. My dogs are part of the family but puppies are crated at times for their own safety. You wouldn't hesitate to put a baby down for a nap.... This is just nap time for puppies.
 

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The problem with your interpretation of crating is that this puppy is not an adult, trained dog. When it is older, then it will not have to be crated more than likely while your girlfriend is home working. You are expecting too much of a baby at this point. A toddler doesn't want to be put down for a nap when it needs one either. You still do it because they do need the rest, more rest than adults do. It's the same for dogs. Puppies especially can become overstimulated and also out of control when tired or bored. You don't spank a toddler because it's tired and cranky .. you put them to bed.

I wouldn't use either correctional collar on him at this age. But that's just me. I would crate if he wouldn't redirect until he calmed, giving him something fun to do while in there (stuffed kong or something safe to chew).
 

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You are humanizing an animal that is NOT ready for this type of lifestyle. It will require years of work and dedication on your part to get him there.
I think he wants a furry family member not a trained champion. He can get there more easily than you make it out, but he does need to understand that his puppy is still a baby. One that needs structure, set rules and down time in a crate or pen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Why can't your girlfriend have the crate beside her while she's working?
Well his crate is a big, heavy wire crate... He could I suppose but we keep it next to our bed so I can hear him if he whines at night, although now that he is potty trained I guess that is not as necessary... it would also cure the issue of him whining at 5AM because he's hungry and wants breakfast...

To each their own, I'm not going to tell you to not use it because everyone has different methods, but I personally do not believe in negative stimuli /positive punishment and prefer positive reinforcement for the long run.
Again this may be our novice experience in having a young GSD of our own shining through again because I know that when asking our trainer his training method/ideology he told us he believes 100% in leadership through positive reinforcement and at the same time being fair, trusted, and consistent to the dog.
 

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I am not talking about a trained champion - a dog needs to earn free roam. It is a privilege - not a right. This puppy cannot handle it right now. He refuses to contain the animal, and set a schedule for the benefit of the puppy. The alternative is to allow the dog to run about, frustrate the GF, develop bad behaviors, zap him with junior each time the dog "throws a tantrum", day care etc.

Is the alternative of juicing the dog each time he behaves like a pup the answer? Hardly.

Dogs don't need constant engagement and interaction. They should learn to accept downtime - you are not a dancing monkey that has to amuse the animal 24/7.
 
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