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Hi, my girl Heidi has recently turned 6 months and she is very dog reactive. Normally she walks by my side but will occasionally pull but it's okay because she is still learning. It's the barking and lunging at other dogs that gets me. She would first tense up, then pull and lunge and starts barking furiously and it doesn't matter what i do (treats,tug) she would not pay attention to me. I think that the reactivity comes from lack of confidence because at dog parks, she never barks and sometimes will even tuck her tail when meeting another dog. I have tried to walk in the other direction, using treats to make her sit and rewarding when she sees another dog, and just walking past quickly, but none of this seems to have an effect. Do you have any suggestions or methods I can use? Any help will be greatly appreciated. 馃榾

Thanks.
 

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I had a similar situation with my GSD rescue, who was three years old with an unknown history when I adopted him. He responded quickly to obedience training and was respectful of our 16 years old, blind teacup poodle. He would walk fine loose and tight leash, until we'd encounter another dog. My GSD would ignore me and any treats, laser focus on the dog ,bark viciously and violently pull on the leash. He was especially reactive to large white dogs.

I had him evaluated by a trainer, who determined it was fear based reactivity, exacerbated by my handling. As soon as I would observe another dog, I would subconsciously tension the leash, telegraphing my anxiety as danger to my dog, encouraging his reactivity

The first thing my trainer did after evaluating the dog and I was train me to relax and be conscious of my body language. Next, he dumped the flat collar and used a Herm Spencer prong collar, the gold standard training collar for administering quick, crisp correction. He then demonstrated to me with my dog how to respond to reactivity: distraction, redirection, correction and praise/reward. My trainer started with endless eye contact and focus maintaining drills, repetitively using corrections and high value treats to obtain and maintain my dogs focus. Once that was mastered he would do drills, such as walking in gradually tightening concentric circles around a passive dog in down position, distracting, redirecting and correcting in response to reaction. We would progress to more complex maneuvering. Another effective technique was to go to a local park with a large fenced in area for unleashed dogs and stand outside the fence with my leashed dog, offering correction and reward.

Despite all the training, I never lose sight of fact my dog is still "potentially" reactive. With mild focusing and distraction techniques I am able to nip reactivity episodes in the bud before they develop, and calmly walk my dog when encountering other dogs. I realize I have a dog, predisposed to reaction and have to regularly train to prevent it and be vigilant of any backsliding.
 

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Thanks for the reply, do you think I should consult a professional dog trainer? Or can I try to do it myself. I am trying to take her to dog parks and beaches so that she can socialise but I still find that she is scared. What should I do?
 

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You should absolutely consult a trainer. If you don't know a trainer with German Shepherd specific experience, I suggest you reach out to your closest Schutzhund club and ask if there is a member nearby who gives lessons. I did that and saved a lot of money and got a fabulous trainer.

I strongly urge you to avoid dog parks. There are a lot of irresponsible owners that bring aggressive dogs that can physically and psychologically injure your puppy. I've seen dog parks degenerate into an alpha gladiator match. You should socialize your dog in a controlled environment with a known dog and master. You're tempting fate in a dog park and possibly further aggravating a puppy with fear issues.

Here is a link to contact your nearest club: CLUBS
 

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I would stop going to dog parks and stop meeting with random unknown dogs in general. Meetings with dogs she鈥檚 already comfortable with are fine but I would try to get her away from the idea that she is going to meet and interact with every dog she sees. How it goes from here depends on you and the dog. I would use a prong and give a pop the second she starts to look and fixate in another dog while changing directions once she follows and is paying attention I would reward with praise and tug or food if it was available. The timing and strength is important because if the correction is too late or not strong enough it will only make it worse.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I have been seeing dog training vids and they said that a prong collar can be used to correct it. Is it a good idea?
 

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I have been seeing dog training vids and they said that a prong collar can be used to correct it. Is it a good idea?
If you know what you're doing.

Here is where I posted some videos on how to use prong collar and the rest of the video may be useful to you as well - post #16 in the following thread:

 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks, I have checked out the videos and I am not familiar with the prong collar, but I don't really want to spend a lot of money on a professional trainer unless it comes to that. Is there any other methods that might help a bit?
 

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Get a trainer. If you can train it out of her while she is young, it鈥檚 worth the cost. It鈥檚 much harder to fix after it鈥檚 become a habit. If nothing else, have a trainer show you how to use a prong properly.
 

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I am also a new German Shepard owner who had/has a highly reactive dog who is now 18 months old. After a lifetime of lab and lab mixes, I understand how a reactive GSD can drive you crazy. From my limited experience:

1. Be careful when looking at local trainers. IE make sure they have experience with GSD or similar breeds. No matter how well-meaning a trainer without GSD experience can cause more harm than good.

2. Until your dog can manage herself, you must manage her environment to prevent the rapid escalation of bad habits. IE if you see another dog turn around, take a side street, or even go up someone's driveway to create the distance to prevent a reaction. Once pup has the bad habits, they are harder to break.

3. The best resource I have come across for learning how to deal with leash reactivity is Leerburg University | Leash Reactivity .

4. I have chosen to go with a prong collar. I believe my dog found barking and lunging against the flat buckle collar rewarding.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks everyone for all the help, I really appreciate it. 馃榾 I will check out the links and look for a trainer with GSD experience and hopefully correct this behaviour before it is too late. Thank you all.
 
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