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In need of some advice on what to do with our boy, Ronan. We've had him since he was 7 weeks old and we absolutely love him to death. We've practiced basic obedience training consistently with him, and he is very smart, and for the most part, obedient. We have been complimented on multiple occasions how well behaved and obedient he is. He has never been abused, but tends to shy away from your touch when you attempt to pet him and it often results in his face/body tensing and showing his teeth and/or growling. We kept up with the recommended messing with his paws as a pup to prevent issues with being touched as he got older, but he's always hated having his paws touched, let alone his body - good luck attempting to trim his nails, brush or bathe him. It all results in baring his teeth and growling. We have to muzzle him (which is a difficult and scary task in itself) to do any hygiene upkeep. He's a big boy.

The weird thing is that he only shows this aggression toward my husband and I. Anytime we have people over, we warn them to just ignore him and don't try to pet, let him smell you and do his own thing. They are surprised when we "psych them out" because he is incredibly sweet and just wants to play. He loves people and has never shown aggression toward another dog either. He has never exhibited this poor behavior in front of anyone else - aside from the vet. Again, he doesn't love being touched, let alone examined. He has snapped at me a few times due to possessiveness over food, toys or my husband. Lately, he bares his teeth, growls and sometimes lunges when we bend over to get a look at his muddy paws or his healing neuter incision or when we attempt to put his collar on for walks. He can go from being so sweet to suddenly very on edge without provocation.

The other night, my husband noticed a small scratch beneath his eye and leaned in to get a closer look. Ronan showed his teeth to warn him away, and my husband turned away to tell me about the scratch, and Ronan lunged forward out of a sit and bit his arm - completely unprovoked. He has NEVER snapped at my husband before - that is HIS boy, 100%. It wasn't a hard enough bite to puncture him, but he marked him up pretty good and left some bruising. Nevertheless, a bite is a bite.

Does this sound like aggression/bad temperament? or just poor training that can be corrected by a professional? We are expecting a baby soon and want to know exactly what we are dealing with... I worry we can't trust him in our home with a child, and it absolutely breaks our hearts to even consider the thought of re homing him, but we are not willing to put our daughter in harms way. If anyone has dealt with this kind of situation/behavior before, we would very much appreciate your input before making any decisions. Thanks
 

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I should add, he will come to us for affection at times, giving lots of love and kisses and he seems very happy. But if we pet him when he does, sometimes he loves it and will let us love on him, or he will get weird and pull away with that look of annoyance on his face - even though he came to us for the affection? We've learned to read his expressions when he starts to get this way to avoid it escalating. Unfortunately, it is a regular thing and it really sucks that we can't love on him like we want to.
 

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Without having eyes on the way you and your dog interact it's pretty much impossible to give accurate advice.My first thought is it's possible by persisting on handling him often in ways that make him uncomfortable had the opposite effect of what your goal was: to acclimate him to being touched and examined at will.One of my dogs doesn't like to be petted or handled much.She's very happy to be talked to and given a little rub on her chest occasionally.She endures nail trimming because she gets a special treat after and effusive praise.If I or the vet needs to examine her she'll accept it but without enthusiasm,lol!
If you could get an experienced trainer to observe and give some feedback that would be ideal.My dog and my experience may be totally irrelevant to your situation.You're right to be concerned about the safety of your child.
 

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Welcome to the forum! I agree whole heartedly with Teri, there's so much bad advice floating around!

We kept up with the recommended messing with his paws as a pup to prevent issues with being touched as he got older, but he's always hated having his paws touched, let alone his body
Getting them used to being handled is important, but messing with their feet unnecessarily is just that, messing. These are intelligent, living creatures. You can't expect, and likely won't get, respect from them if you don't show them respect as well. He's been telling you all along that you were making him uncomfortable, and you persisted because you thought it would help him get over it. From his perspective you were ignoring his signals and torturing him. And now he's old enough to stop it on his own and he's showing you that he will, it's a potentially dangerous situation.

I'm certainly not suggesting you did this maliciously, but it definitely didn't work right? And now that your dog has been practicing this behavior for awhile it will take some work to get him to stop!

The weird thing is that he only shows this aggression toward my husband and I. Anytime we have people over, we warn them to just ignore him and don't try to pet, let him smell you and do his own thing. They are surprised when we "psych them out" because he is incredibly sweet and just wants to play. He loves people and has never shown aggression toward another dog either.
The point above convinces me that it's a relationship issue, not a flawed temperment or possibly a medical issue.

Honestly, my advice to you is don't try working with him without a good, balanced trainer present to help you, it's just too dangerous.

We've learned to read his expressions when he starts to get this way to avoid it escalating. Unfortunately, it is a regular thing and it really sucks that we can't love on him like we want to.
I included the highlighted quote above because it's a very common theme I've noticed in situations like this. All dog's are different, but in my experience many hate being hugged or kissed, or even handled too much.

They like to be near you, but don't need or want anything more. Could it be that he tried telling you that is his preference, and you missed or ignored his cues?

Again, either way, find a trainer to work with you. I think the "problem" is likely resolvable with some work. And it's very helpful to have another, experienced set of eyes on you and your dog...

Good Luck! And show us a picture or two!
 

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I agree with Tim 100%--sounds to me like you took some well intentioned advice and over did it...i don't think your dog is "broken" your relationship with him is broken...he doesn't trust your motives anymore when you each out to him likely because of the "messing with his paws".....the way he interacts with other people tells me he wants attention from people....I agree with the trainer advice from Terri and Tim --find a balanced trainer familiar with GSDs...good trainers can be very hard to find so take the time to get references --talk to some people who have used the trainer you're considering...I feel that once he trusts both of you....other things will fall in place....good luck
 

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  1. Welcome to the forum! I agree whole heartedly with Teri, there's so much bad advice floating around!



    Getting them used to being handled is important, but messing with their feet unnecessarily is just that, messing. These are intelligent, living creatures. You can't expect, and likely won't get, respect from them if you don't show them respect as well. He's been telling you all along that you were making him uncomfortable, and you persisted because you thought it would help him get over it. From his perspective you were ignoring his signals and torturing him. And now he's old enough to stop it on his own and he's showing you that he will, it's a potentially dangerous situation.

    I'm certainly not suggesting you did this maliciously, but it definitely didn't work right? And now that your dog has been practicing this behavior for awhile it will take some work to get him to stop!



    The point above convinces me that it's a relationship issue, not a flawed temperment or possibly a medical issue.

    Honestly, my advice to you is don't try working with him without a good, balanced trainer present to help you, it's just too dangerous.



    I included the highlighted quote above because it's a very common theme I've noticed in situations like this. All dog's are different, but in my experience many hate being hugged or kissed, or even handled too much.

    They like to be near you, but don't need or want anything more. Could it be that he tried telling you that is his preference, and you missed or ignored his cues?

    Again, either way, find a trainer to work with you. I think the "problem" is likely resolvable with some work. And it's very helpful to have another, experienced set of eyes on you and your dog...

    Good Luck! And show us a picture or two!
    Very well said Tim.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Thank you guys for the feedback! We were also thinking that contacting a professional trainer to evaluate our situation in person would be wisest. Looking back, I don't think we did it so often that we really OVER did it, but i admit, we ignored his queues of discomfort and annoyance thinking we were doing the right thing in an effort to acclimate him - which may have been overdoing it in itself. It's sad for me to think that our attempts to follow advice we've read left and right might have backfired at his and our expense. Just goes to show you that all dogs are different and sometimes require different training. Hopefully we can turn this around for him! He deserves to feel comfortable and at ease in his home. He really is such a good and sweet dog, he just gets moody and unsure.
I also wonder about the vet we first took him to. He used to grab at his face as a tiny pup and tell us he was going to be a problem dog when he pulled away or playfully went after his hand. That always bugged us the way he was aggressive in his handling of Ronan and then blamed Ronan's reactions on bad temperament at like 10 weeks old. We started requesting a different vet after that continued for a few visits.
Thank you guys, again! We appreciate you taking the time! Here is a pic of our boy. :)
 

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So I'm not as accepting as a family pet biting an owner due to he "uncomfortable" as others. I agree with a competent trainer quickly also. That dog would be on lock down in my house. I just can't fathom this happening. A new baby with such an unpredictable dog makes me nervous. I wonder what people would say if this was some other breed or are we more generous to ours.
 

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I agree he shouldn't be near any child until further evaluation and it's possible he may not be a good fit for this family even with a different handling technique.There's honestly no way to know unless the family gets hands on advice.
 

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I have to ask since it sounds like your a young couple? Have you owned dogs before. Have you owned GSD before. I have continually own a GSD since childhood an me and wife are close to 70. We have never had one that wasn’t loving to us or our children. We did have one that was aggressive with anyone who would dare come on to our property even other children visiting ours. You are in a tough spot. Yes you can spend 100 or 1000 of dollars trying to find out what is wrong and still have a dog you can’t trust. In our case we decided the best way to go for us and the dog was to find a new home we could trust. ( not easy) we had a lot of sleepless night but it’s really best for you and the dog before something happens that no one wants. I loved all my pups and every time that time come to say good by just kills us . This one we have now is 5 years old and we are getting old and this might be the last one not because we don’t want one , but we want to be fair to the dog and us. . I guess what I’m saying is if what you say is going on regularly you have a tough decision to make. I also ask if you have owned GSD before because they can be a challenge but are a fantastic family dog if socialized properly at a very young age. Best luck to you you and your dog.
 

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If you don't mind telling us the area you live in, someone might be able to recommend a good trainer. The quality of trainers varies a great deal and getting the wrong one can make things worse.
 

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Family-owner aggression is a tough one. It's so hard to say what is going on without getting an experienced trainer in there. If I were the OP, I'd start looking for a good home now. It sounds like he could thrive in a home without kids as he is human and dog friendly. So he's not so much a project dog as a dog who needs a different situation. With an infant coming along, it's not fair to this dog to expect behavior he simply is not capable of- and unless the OP is willing to change management of this dog drastically, a different home situation is the best option- again all my opinion as I don't mess around or "guess" when it comes to infants and dogs.
 

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I agree with Muskeg - about playing it safe when it comes to infants and dogs. It's a very tiring time when you will be busy and distracted and it's not the easiest time to do be doing extra dog training or behavioral modification, management via crates, gates, etc ... I hate to tell anybody to rehome their dog though!! :-(

Just a small note about the conflict you mentioned over Muzzling...I trained my dog to put his nose in the muzzle and accept wearing it. There are many videos on how to do it, and directions came with his muzzle as well. Anyway, at first I cut small thin "french fries" out of cheddar cheese and held them so they poked through the end of the muzzle. I said "Nose!" while he was poking his face into the muzzle to get the cheese. Then, he would do it just when I said "Nose!" and I'd give the cheese AFTER. Then I started holding the muzzle on him for a few beats before giving the cheese, then eventually I could FASTEN the muzzle and give the cheese then. Then he would wear the muzzle for a few minutes and we would do fun things. Now when sitting in vet's office, I say "Nose!" and I put on his muzzle in a second. There is no conflict, no force involved...I think a lot of animal handling can be achieved this way...it's slow, and it's a bit of a pain, but end result is worth it, I think.
 
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