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My 9 month old male german shepherd, Mako, has a pretty major problem with human strangers. We initially didn't know what to tell others to avoid when meeting him, so we sought help from our local Petsmart trainers. They told us about eye contact, though they said in their testing him with it he showed no issue, as well as body position (e.g. facing him directly, leaning forward quickly, etc.).

In spite of us being cautious with this, he is very sporatic with his interactions when I (mom) is holding the leash. My husband says he's not nearly as bad or inconsistent when I am not there.

This morning we went to drop him off at a dog day care (that he has been to and been boarded at recently!), and at first he was excited - tail wagging, moving toward the attendant without ANY signs of anxiety. She leaned forward to say hi, using an excited voice, pet his head, then he randomly started barking and lashing out..actually nipping the arm of her sweatshirt a bit! Needless to say he was not welcome at day care this morning.

We do not know what to do. The daycare attendant said that he didn't show any issues with eye contact and she would have been more cautious/slow to respond to him if he had showed any sort of signs. As we stood there talking he did not continue to bark or pull on the leash; he just sat there calmly and eventually even laid down (though he was shaking a little bit).

Any ideas and/or advice would be very helpful!
 

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My 9 month old male german shepherd, Mako, has a pretty major problem with human strangers. We initially didn't know what to tell others to avoid when meeting him, so we sought help from our local Petsmart trainers. They told us about eye contact, though they said in their testing him with it he showed no issue, as well as body position (e.g. facing him directly, leaning forward quickly, etc.).

In spite of us being cautious with this, he is very sporatic with his interactions when I (mom) is holding the leash. My husband says he's not nearly as bad or inconsistent when I am not there.

This morning we went to drop him off at a dog day care (that he has been to and been boarded at recently!), and at first he was excited - tail wagging, moving toward the attendant without ANY signs of anxiety. She leaned forward to say hi, using an excited voice, pet his head, then he randomly started barking and lashing out..actually nipping the arm of her sweatshirt a bit! Needless to say he was not welcome at day care this morning.

We do not know what to do. The daycare attendant said that he didn't show any issues with eye contact and she would have been more cautious/slow to respond to him if he had showed any sort of signs. As we stood there talking he did not continue to bark or pull on the leash; he just sat there calmly and eventually even laid down (though he was shaking a little bit).

Any ideas and/or advice would be very helpful!
All wrong! If you must leave him at a doggy daycare(not a fan here) find another one. Leaned over him, excited voice, petting his head, all things people who know dogs avoid.

PetSmart is not a good source for training advice.
Nine months old? Trying out his big boy pants, likely. I would up the obedience and make sure he is getting exercise both mental and physical.
 

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Some GSDs want to approach people on their own terms, rather than have people approach them. We tell strangers to ignore our gal-dog, since she is like that. It makes a very big difference in how she deals with strangers.

Petsmart, that is always a gamble if you are going to find a good trainer who can help with more than the basics. You might want to find another sitter or day-care that understands the differences in dog temperaments, etc. A good dog person might have greeted your pup more calmly and low key, which might have been just fine with him. Instead he had to say, "oh no, no touching the head today you squeeky person"
 

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Thank you all for the quick responses!

He is so great with us and my parents, who are helping us with our home remodel and are at our house almost every weekend, so I always feel overwhelmed when these situations happen *seemingly* out of nowhere. Obviously, we have a lot to learn. One of the Petsmart trainers did offer similar tips about having people ignore him and also stand offset to his position - it's a work in progress, clearly. His excitement to approach her just seemed like a positive cue.

A note: we do not do daycare often. We did it once before we boarded at that location just to try it out (no incidents, just some early anxiety). Then we boarded with no incidents and much less anxiety. Today we gave it a try because my dad was at the house alone to meet up with an electrical inspector (i.e. stranger in the house) and no access to outside due to a contractor with a tractor moving between the front and backyards.

It was supposed to be so seamless..
 

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Yes, agreed, all the wrong approaches by the "professionals". A GSD doesn't bite without giving off warning signs. They just didn't see them and it shows that they don't understand dog behavior and language. I had to teach our vet techs and vets to not use this infantile baby voice on them, but do the exam as a matter of fact; no treats, no squealing, just a no-nonsense approach. Luckily they complied and there were no further protests from Deja.
Hopefully you can skip day care and leave him home, find a good trainer who is not too worried about ditching the clicker and treats if needed. He is just a bratty adolescent who knows what he can get away with and with whom.
 

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My 9 month old male german shepherd, Mako, has a pretty major problem with human strangers. We initially didn't know what to tell others to avoid when meeting him, so we sought help from our local Petsmart trainers. They told us about eye contact, though they said in their testing him with it he showed no issue, as well as body position (e.g. facing him directly, leaning forward quickly, etc.).

In spite of us being cautious with this, he is very sporatic with his interactions when I (mom) is holding the leash. My husband says he's not nearly as bad or inconsistent when I am not there.

This morning we went to drop him off at a dog day care (that he has been to and been boarded at recently!), and at first he was excited - tail wagging, moving toward the attendant without ANY signs of anxiety. She leaned forward to say hi, using an excited voice, pet his head, then he randomly started barking and lashing out..actually nipping the arm of her sweatshirt a bit! Needless to say he was not welcome at day care this morning.

We do not know what to do. The daycare attendant said that he didn't show any issues with eye contact and she would have been more cautious/slow to respond to him if he had showed any sort of signs. As we stood there talking he did not continue to bark or pull on the leash; he just sat there calmly and eventually even laid down (though he was shaking a little bit).

Any ideas and/or advice would be very helpful!

What did you do when he displayed the aggression?
 

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Thank you all for the quick responses!

He is so great with us and my parents, who are helping us with our home remodel and are at our house almost every weekend, so I always feel overwhelmed when these situations happen *seemingly* out of nowhere. Obviously, we have a lot to learn. One of the Petsmart trainers did offer similar tips about having people ignore him and also stand offset to his position - it's a work in progress, clearly. His excitement to approach her just seemed like a positive cue.

A note: we do not do daycare often. We did it once before we boarded at that location just to try it out (no incidents, just some early anxiety). Then we boarded with no incidents and much less anxiety. Today we gave it a try because my dad was at the house alone to meet up with an electrical inspector (i.e. stranger in the house) and no access to outside due to a contractor with a tractor moving between the front and backyards.

It was supposed to be so seamless..
Crate train your dog and put him in his crate when contractors are present. It's how most of us deal with these things and crating will be an invaluable tool throughout his life.
 

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After the aggression I pulled the leash back toward me, told him, "Off, Mako," and then made him sit while the daycare attendant and discussed it, her surprise that he went from excited to upset so quickly (and she says without sign), and potential training options beyond what we're doing. He sat as directed and eventually laid down. We did notice that he was shaking a little.

She mentioned a local man who offers training - said that they've had a very intensely aggressive (i.e. actually attempting to attack them) large-breed dog come back from him after something like 6 sessions in 2 months completely changed/improved. She added that they've heard of dogs attending one training with him and seeing success (not sure the issues with that dog, though). Our trainer at Petsmart warned of a local guy that uses forceful/unfortunate/etc. training methods that "sucked the life out of" a dog (paraphrasing, here) - not sure if this is the same guy.
 

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Crate train your dog and put him in his crate when contractors are present. It's how most of us deal with these things and crating will be an invaluable tool throughout his life.
We use the crate daily while we're at work and also when needed during our house projects (contractors usually aren't present). He enjoys it the vast majority of the time.

In this case, given that my father was the only one there for both the tractor contractor and the 2 separate inspection visits, we thought daycare would make it less stressful for him (my father, who isn't around for our training and daily rituals) and make for a fun day of play for Mako (like his initial visit).
 

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Ah. I wonder if this is part of the problem. A lot of folks neuter their dogs before they're mature. Think about neutering a human before they completed puberty and what sort of issues might arise.

I'm not saying you're in for a boatload of trouble, just that you might be required to exercise more patience, understanding and training for what you're experiencing.
 

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Ah. I wonder if this is part of the problem. A lot of folks neuter their dogs before they're mature. Think about neutering a human before they completed puberty and what sort of issues might arise.

I'm not saying you're in for a boatload of trouble, just that you might be required to exercise more patience, understanding and training for what you're experiencing.
I certainly have hope for all of us, it's just so upsetting that we can't seem to get a system down that works consistently. He has some real shining moments..then things like this happen.

We need a lot more practice - time dedicated to the right kind of training.
 

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I imagine he's frustrated too. I could NEVER imagine what goes on in a dog's mind, how they perceive things so differently from us. It's a wonder they like to work with us at all!

I do feel like you'll get it figured out. I don't think you have a "bad" dog, just one you're trying to figure out and one that is still making sense of the crazy human world!

I have heard (and can believe) that Petsmart training is not the best training. Apparently they have a cookie-cutter method they are not allowed to deviate from and this method will not work for every dog. The trainers are not inept, they just have strict guidelines regarding what they are/are not allowed to say/do, probably because of insurance liabilities! It is what it is.

Training and activities that would build your dog's confidence is what I think would help, but let's see if others think so too. How was your dog socialized? What was he like as a young puppy?
 

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For a lot of reasons, I'd ditch the daycare and petsmart. Both environments tend towards the positive only mentality, socializing type "playdates" etc, which are not always the best for GSDs. It sounds like neither place know what they were doing/talking about 100% Petsmart, like someone else said is very hit or miss. Mostly miss. As for daycare, anyone who leans over a GSD they are meeting and does squeaky voice, does NOT know a lot about these dogs at all.

I would contact your most local IPO Club or German Shepherd Club and ask about good trainers. In other words, find the local breed enthusiasts and ask them for a good trainer.
 

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Man proposes, dog disposes... You mean you didn't get a dog because you had to solve the problem of having too much money/sleep/free time? ;)
and not only do we get dogs but we get smart ones who think about things, but not always like a "Hooman" thinks about things. I swear, sometimes my dogs look at me like,"this would make sense to anyone with a brain. Humans can be as dumb as a rock" (usually when I pretend I don't understand that they want me to chase them around the yard)

I agree with finding someone who understands herding / working class dogs that might need more than clickers and cookies. Although marker training is very valuable and treats are handy. Just that there is more to it than, click and treat to get a German Shepherd understanding human rules.
 

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If you decide to use daycare select one where they understand the breed and are good with dogs. I used a cageless one for years with my rescues and they did fine there, but I took them often so they were used to it. They took the dogs immediately and put them in a holding area where they could sniff other dogs but were not in with them or people. They gradually added a few dogs until mine were comfortable, then let them into the larger area. My younger dog now who is intact did not like day care, so I quit. I did not plan to neuter so we wouldmhavemhad to quit anyway.
 
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