Where do I start?
I have another thread explaining my whole situation, regarding why I had an unexpected move and updates on my new living situation. To get more backround of that whole story, here is that thread: http://www.germanshepherds.com/forum/ubb...true#Post700238
To give a reader's digest version of my backround, if you don't want to read the thread I put a link to above, I had an unexpected move to get out of a bad situation. Old roommate has a really bad drinking problem, he was becomming more and more emotionally unstable, and eventually decided he didn't want the responsibility of having a dog anymore and expected me to just give up my GSD, Doc, and continue being his roommate. Now I see that as a blessing in disguise, because I got out of a bad situation that I didn't realize how bad it was until I left.
After a huge scramble to find a new place to live that was big dog friendly, close to work and affordable, I found an aquantence that owns a house and rents the whole upstairs to me. She owns a 2 1/2 yr old boxer named Fred and has 2 siamese cats. All of the things I was worried about with the move - Doc adjusting to new house/environment/neighborhood, seperation anxiety, Doc adjusting to living with cats (has only been around cats a handful of times), Doc seeing my new roommate as the alpha, etc... you know... the normal things you worry about with bringing a Doc into a new home. But those things have been the least of my worries!!
I moved on May 27-28th (so 2 weeks ago). The first week, there were a couple times that Doc got loose in the neighborhood. From him bolting through the back door, the stake coming out of the ground when he was on a long line, his collar breaking off when he started running when he was on a long line, which was tied to a heavy stone bird feeder this time since we can't trust the stake to stay in the ground anymore. He didn't runaway or leave the neighborhood, he played the "come and chase me game", which he hasn't tried to do since he was about 6-9 months old (He's 21 mos. now). He is very smart and knows when there isn't a line attached to him. I also don't go running after him and try to grab him. I should also mention that either myself or my roommate were with the dogs outside during the times when Doc had gotten loose, so its not like we were just putting them on a long line and leaving them out there alone.
So, I figured I would just keep him on a 20 foot line and not stake him to the ground. I have done that MANY times, in many different environments in the past, that way he can have his freedom to run around in his allowed areas, but as soon as he starts to go towards where he isn't allowed (neighbors yard, street, etc) I pull on the line to correct him and teach him his boundries. Well, this idea worked against me TWICE within the last week.
Last Friday, I had the dogs in the backyard playing. There was an electrical line that was down in our front yard, so uniformed police were driving in a Fire SUV on our street. Both the dogs and myself heard the door slam when they got out of their truck. Both dogs' heads perked up and they barked once, but niether the cops nor the SUV was in eyesight at that time, so they went back to playing. About 5 minutes later, all of a sudden the cops came walking into the front yard and to the side of the house to grab one of our garbage cans to place the yellow "Do not Cross" tape on, because of the electrical line that was in our yard. Both dogs bolted at full speed towards them before I could even grab their leads. The cops stepped back into the street, both dogs ran to the edge of our property line, where they have been trained not to cross, barking very viciously, showing body language like they were going to attack. The cops were flailing their arms all over the place, one cop had his hand on his gun, screaming for me to get the dogs inside. This didn't help the situation much at all. I came back outside, apologized up and down, tried to explain my situation, but they kept cutting me off saying "If those dogs approached the wrong people like that, they would be dead by now!" Again, I tried to explain that it has been a trial and error with keeping the dogs from getting loose, I'm trying to be proactive about it, bla bla bla... and I also said that we live a block from North Minneapolis border (those not familiar with the north side of minneapolis, lets just say its one of the most unsafe areas of the city) and if 2 strange men came walking into the yard unannounced, I would WANT my dogs to react that way. The cop's response was "Well... dogs that vicious and aggressive need to be contained!"
Don't get me wrong, I am not defending the dogs nor defending myself. I was definately suprised at how only living in his new house for only a week and half at the time of this incident, how Doc is already knows what is his territory, yet not crossing the yard boundries when the cops stepped back in the street. But this opened my eyes to how much the dogs feed off of eachother's energy. Neither of the dogs have ever bitten anyone, but I can see how much they get wound up together and am really afraid of things escalading. At this point I figured, "Ok, well, they didn't go into the street, they didn't try to lunge or bite at the cops... I suppose it is time to bump up obedience - work on recalls, work on keeping both dogs calm so that I can control the feeding off of eachother's energy and do work with both dogs with appropriate ways to greet people walking onto our property."
Well, 3 days later... another incident happened. On Monday, I had the dogs on the long leads again, playing in the backyard. They noticed a man walking his dog in the street. They bolted and once again, I couldn't catch their leads in time. This time they both crossed the yard boundries and ran into the street to sniff the dog. Both are friendly with strange dogs, so I wasn't worried about them, but wasn't sure if this dog was friendly towards strange dogs and didn't want to piss off the guy walking his dog in the street, since I KNOW
it is unacceptable to let your dogs bolt off in the street and run up to unknown people and unknown dogs. Just want to make that clear to everyone reading this. Unfortunately, this dog was very skiddish and was barking his head off. Both my GSD and my roommate's boxer were fine, they were just sniffing. Since this man's dog was freaking out, he started kicking my dogs. Luckily my dogs stayed pretty calm, they let out 1 or 2 non-aggressive barks because of the "excitement" of the other dog being riled up and the man throwing out kicks and yelling. I grabbed both dogs, apologized, and took them inside. A few minutes later, the guy who was walking his dog and another neighbor who saw the incident, came and knocked on our door. They said they were calling the police to warn them of a "potentially vicious" dog. They said they were all afraid of their kids' lives, that Doc might get loose again and bite them. About an hour later, a police officer came to the house to talk to my roommate and I. We stood on the front step with both dogs looking out the front glass door, panting and tails wagging. No barking at all. The officer said "Obviously, these aren't vicious dogs, but when the police get a call, we have to follow up.. bla bla bla... I'm not gona give you a citation, you guys are obviously trying to be responsible dog owners and being proactive about trying to keep them in the yard, etc." This officer was the most understanding out of everyone we've dealt with between the 2 incidents.
Now - before I get critized, please bare with me here. I try very hard to be a responsible and educated dog owner. I don't let my GSD run loose. Since we don't have a fenced in yard, I don't have very many options for keeping the dogs contained. Like I mentioned earlier, it has been a trial and error as far as making sure they can't break free when they are on long leads that are tied up on the other end. Fred, my roommate's boxer's, recall is about 95%, and obviously needs work since he bolts off. Doc, my GSD, I'd say his recall is about 85% right now. We used to live in a fenced in yard, his recall was about 99% in there. The other 1% were times that he became focused on something, and it would take him 5-10 seconds before he would recall. The only other place I can take him to practice recall without a long lead on, is a dog park, which his recall has always been pretty good there. I obviously can't work on recall in my yard anymore because there is still that chance of him bolting off. But at the same time, the recall NEEDS to be practiced in his "territory". I can't guarentee that he won't get loose again. I am trying my hardest right now not to set them up for failure (got new collar, new stake that holds dogs up to 250 lbs, new leads, etc.) but in the event that they DO get loose again, I want them to be able to have a 100% recall and be more relaxed and less "vicious acting" towards people walking in the street or approaching our yard. I know that Fred, the boxer, is more fear aggressive. He barks at strangers out of fear, but backs up after he barks. My GSD's aggression is purely territorial. I had problems with him in the past where he would try to lunge at people approaching him while we would be on walks in our neighborhood. By approaching, I mean either someone wanting to come up and talk to me, or someone walking on the other side of the street not even looking at us. But he never displayed ANY type of aggressive behavior (lunging, barking, growling, hackles,etc) to any stranger that came into our house or anyone that walked by us on walks or pet him on walks. So after doing LOTS of reading and observing when he would display his aggressive behavior, it is definately purely territorial.
I am just so stressed right now, I am worried that something is going to happen. Here are things that I have for goals that we'll be working on in the immediate future:
-Working on 100% recall with BOTH dogs.
-Re-training the property lines/boundries with both dogs.
-Working on desensitizing them to people walking in the street or walking into our yard with them staying calm and not go into "defend my territory" mode. This is where I need help. How do you do this? I know GSDs are territorial by nature. Can this be done? Can they be trained to stay calm in these situations? How do you channel this aggression for when it is really necessary? For now, I have thought about working with them one on one and have them leashed with me in the front yard, and recruit some friends to come walking down the street, toss some treats in the yard as they walk by, etc. What else can I do?
-And most importantly, how do I keep a handle on the 2 dogs feeding off of eachother's energy? I need to have better control. I have never lived with 2 dogs before and this is my first GSD as well! The dogs I've owned before niether had fear aggression nor territorial aggression (at least to the degree that my GSD has), so this is all new to me!
Please give me some tips on what I can do to get a better handle on this situation and help correct this behavior. Also, please give me some tips on how I can accomplish the goals listed right above.
I see where I have gone wrong, as far as setting up the dogs for failure to get out of yard. Right now when I take the dogs out, I have them both on leads in the yard, tied to the big new stake AND the stone bird feeder. It's so sad, cause they can't run and play in our huge backyard, and when they try, they just get tangled up or try to run, and you hear a big yelp once they get to the end of the lead. :-(
I'd also like to add that I do practice NILIF with both dogs. I do spend time with them seperately, for short little training exercises. They also do not roam the house all day and all night together. Doc sleeps with me in my room and is crated when noone is home. Fred is contained on the main floor when no one is home. So as far as them bonding more with eachother than myself and my roommate, we have that under control. My roommate also makes both of the dogs do a down/stay for when the cats are eating, and since the dogs have different meal times, the dog that ISN'T eating has to do a down/stay while the other is eating. So there are many ways that we reinforce the pack structure daily.
Sorry so long... but... please help?