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Hi all! I’ve used this site for advice for a while now but just decided to make my own account. I have a 4 year old german shepherd dog (she was bought a “purebred” but the breeder never gave us the papers to prove it as he had said). Anyways, she was never socialized. I was quite young when we got her so my parents wouldn’t listen to me when I wanted to get her out to people and other animals more. However now we go on our daily walks and hours outside playing fetch and such. She’s great on a leash until another dog comes by. She doesn’t mind people, she just ignores them until they enter the house and she gets weary of them. My main question is about her and other dogs. She met like three dogs in total as a pup and only a few times each. She goes crazy if a dog is too close, lunging, barking, growling etc. when on walks I always turn around or we pull off as far to the side as we can and she sits as I hold her collar until they pass. She’s never hurt a dog but I’ve also never given her that chance. She ignores me as well once a dog is too close; she will listen if they’re far enough away to turn around. However me standing in front of her to block the other dog doesn’t stop her from freaking out. Now that I’m responsible for her, I want to know if there’s a possibility she’ll ever come to the point of walking by a dog without going crazy? She doesn’t have to play with other dogs nor does she have to love them, but I’d be nice to not have to always be on high alert anytime a dog is in sight. I have not yet met with a behaviorist, but I might need to. I have talked with one and she told me to take her on a long walk before this dog class and then bring her in. But I don’t feel she would handle that well. Does anyone have any suggestions? (Please no attacking of the lack of socializing. I understand the mistake but I cannot undo it now.) thank you!
 

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Old dogs can learn new tricks! But your dog has been doing this for a long time, so there's no quick fix...it will take lots of time and effort! But with most dogs, it can be done.

If you're serious about trying, try taking her to a park that has lots of space and a fair amount of people walking their dogs. Keep your dog back away from the path used by the dog walkers. Let her look, but the second you see her getting amped up or fixating gently tell her no. Not a command so much as a steering directive. Try to get her to ignore the dog in the distance and focus on you or a ball. If she can't, maybe you're starting too close, so move back a bit. Praise and give treats when she looks at something other than the dog in the distance. It's a process, and it takes time, but eventually you can move closer and closer to the path without her freaking out. If you move closer one day and she starts reacting poorly to dogs walking by, move back again. It's a long, and sometimes slow, process called "desensitization" and it does work, but it takes time. A professional trainer can help you move forward in this process sometimes much more quickly, because they can help you understand your dog's signals, and they can also help you understand the causes for the behavior. It's not at all uncommon for dogs to act this way due to something you do when other dogs approach...so if you're able, hiring a good balanced GSD experienced trainer can help immensely! Bottom line though, it is most likely resolvable...good luck, and keep us posted on how it's going!
 

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Tim has great tips here but let me add, keep the sessions short.

this gal Meagan, was given a mali who was more than a handful. She would take him out places from a park to a parking lot. They would get out of the car, play tug or something for 5 minutes, get back in the car and go home. Over time her dog learned that when the two of them went out together, it was to have fun. After awhile people and other animals meant nothing because he and "mom" were together.

Here you can find her articles. She has a wealth of free info here, including how she helped change her wild child into a more social animal.

Articles | The Collared Scholar
 

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Old dogs can learn new tricks! But your dog has been doing this for a long time, so there's no quick fix...it will take lots of time and effort! But with most dogs, it can be done.

If you're serious about trying, try taking her to a park that has lots of space and a fair amount of people walking their dogs. Keep your dog back away from the path used by the dog walkers. Let her look, but the second you see her getting amped up or fixating gently tell her no. Not a command so much as a steering directive. Try to get her to ignore the dog in the distance and focus on you or a ball. If she can't, maybe you're starting too close, so move back a bit. Praise and give treats when she looks at something other than the dog in the distance. It's a process, and it takes time, but eventually you can move closer and closer to the path without her freaking out. If you move closer one day and she starts reacting poorly to dogs walking by, move back again. It's a long, and sometimes slow, process called "desensitization" and it does work, but it takes time. A professional trainer can help you move forward in this process sometimes much more quickly, because they can help you understand your dog's signals, and they can also help you understand the causes for the behavior. It's not at all uncommon for dogs to act this way due to something you do when other dogs approach...so if you're able, hiring a good balanced GSD experienced trainer can help immensely! Bottom line though, it is most likely resolvable...good luck, and keep us posted on how it's going!

Great advice.....this will work.....Tim's already said it but.......it'll take lots of time.....repeating with your dog over and over again.......many folks with similar issues....assume this method won't or is not working with their dog....sooo they quit to early....they look back over a few weeks and in their eyes no improvement....so they stop......don't get discouraged....time...time....time...repetition...consistency.......in the end you'll win and your dog will too.
 

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Really good advise from Tim and Car2ner.

You mentioned hiring a behaviorist. I’m not sure that’s a good idea only because you’ve figured out for yourself why your dog is reactive and what situations triggers her reactions.
Behaviorist can be really expensive.

If you’re serious about finding a trainer you could start a new thread asking if anyone knows of a trainer close to where you live. It’s important that the trainer you choose has experience working with GSDs.

It sounds like you have a good handle on your dog. And you understand her. I do think you would like taking her to formal obedience classes. She’ll settle in after a few classes.
She’ll get to know what her job is once she’s there and she’ll rise to the occasion.
Plus a lot of bonding goes on between the dog and owner team during training.

But IMO a lot has to do with the effectiveness of the trainer.

I’ve been where you are with my former GSD.
He was aggressive toward some men and all male dogs.
His aggression was never resolved but I learned to manage him through training.
 
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