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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
My dog, Leo, recently turned 1 this month. He is a male German Shepherd from an industrial area.

He was purchased from a breeder that sells guard dogs to construction companies, and other "yard" work sites. All of the dogs on the site where he grew up are very large and alert.

The problem is that Leo just plain out attacks other dogs. There is no other way to say or justify what he is doing. If he weren't on a leash, he would have his way with whatever he sees.

His first "attack" was on a trail, pretty deep into a forest. I made the embarrassingly cliche mistake as to let him of his leash because I wanted him to "feel free".

Not even 10 minutes after letting him off his leash, a big Rottweiler came running down a hill, also not on a leash. Leo stood there in his "alert" stance as the dog approached. Leo then went crazy which freaked the other dog out so much that it dropped to the ground. While the dog was submitting, Leo circled around it, growling and biting. It felt like a dream, that's how ugly it was. He has never been off his leash since then.

When passing by other dogs, Leo goes nuts. My girlfriend and I no longer walk him down the streets or anywhere in the city because it is so uncontrollable and horrific sounding.

We always drive out to new trails or other random places but still run in to other dogs occasionally. Whenever a dog walks by, we just try to get out of the way and get it all over with as soon as possible.

Since Leo is no longer let off of his leash, every other "attack" has happened because another dog has been off of it's own leash.

The same thing will happen every time. A dog off of its leash will run up to Leo, and then it either gets attacked, or it will get scared away/dragged away by it's owner.

Obviously when these things occur I'm doing everything in my power to prevent this from happening, but the other dogs just run right up and put themselves into danger.

Leo is very intelligent and self reliant. He has no trouble forging his way through the forest and has hiked some pretty amazing trails. (not to mention off the path)

He gets along great with people though. Always getting compliments and such. People can pet him and shake his paw, he's weird in that way.

Night time is the only time he ever gets annoyingly defensive at home. Sometimes he does this crazy bark when he hears or notices something, it's rare but scary.

I'd be willing to be take any advice at this point, as I've exhausted many methods.
 

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Other more knowlegable people will chime in soon hopefully, this forum gets kind of dead at night.

But usually in these cases they are acting this way out of fear. How old was he when you got him and was he socialized at all as a puppy? This "breeder" he came from sorry to say sounds mostly like a backyard type that may not nessecarily be breeding sound stock. Unfortunately with GSD's if they are bred like this without any care to what their actual temperaments should be you often end up with what you're experiencing now. This is why it's so important to go with a reputable breeder if you're going to go that route.

A sound GSD should not act like this, they should be able to tell the difference from a non threat to an actual one. So reacting that way to something that is in no way an actual threat is usually fear based. Most people here will recommend finding a good trainer or behaviorist that knows this breed and working with them.

LAT and BAT training can sometimes help in these situations...

BAT, Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) | Official site for BAT: dog-friendly training for reactivity (aggression, fear, frustration) by Grisha Stewart, MA
LAT HAT BAT What is That? | Life With Dogs

Unfortunately these cases can be very difficult to work with sometimes but you will get some excellent advice here and I would definitely recommend working with a professional if you really want help. Sometimes with these sort of dogs, you just have to manage and try to keep them out of the situations that set them off.

Hopefully you'll get some better advice soon!
 

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How about training and socializing with other dogs? Does he know how to meet or even play with another dog? I have a 1 yr old male that is leash reactive, even with my other dogs in the house that he loves. He has no clue how to greet another dog and its something we are working on and I have enlisted the help of a few trainers. I just got mine and its obvious that he had no training or socialization. It gets me mad that someone didn't take that time with him. One thing all the trainers say is that since mine loves people that is half the battle.
 

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I guess I would rather have a dog who disliked dogs vs a dog who disliked humans.

Easier to deal with, manage situations.
 

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I guess I would rather have a dog who disliked dogs vs a dog who disliked humans.

Easier to deal with, manage situations.
This is exactly what my trainer was getting at. It is even more difficult if the dog doesn't like anything or even just people. The dog situation can be managed somewhat easier. I don't even know what I would do if I had a dog that was human aggressive.
 

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Diesel is the same way. Given the chance he will eat another dog in a heart beat. I have got to the point that we can walk him and although he is not happy about it we make him walk the other way, sit down or lay down, and let the other dog pass or we keep walking.

The pinch collar has helped me with walking him paired with a muzzle for others dogs protection. The muzzle back fired once when a little ankle biter attacked him but for the safety of other peoples animals (and his should he really hurt someones dog) he is muzzled. Also, I *think* the muzzle makes him realize he cannot actually do anything so he is not quite as reactive. Get with a trainer he is still young enough to have this taken care of. Be prepared for it to cost though, the trainers I have interviewed ranged from $400-$2000 and the 400 trainer was a joke.....

I have been told we may never be able to correct it just manage it with strict rules and a really strong recall / sit. I am at this point doing just that, managing it with a strong recall assisted by an e-collar and a sit that makes him stop in his tracks.
 

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First, basket muzzle to keep other dogs safe. Second, a good trainer that can help you desensitize him to other dogs around. BAT as mentioned above would be very helpful. You could train him to the point of co exisiting with other dogs but your most realistic goal should be for him to ignore other dogs.

This dog was likely bred to be a guard dog, not a pet.
 

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I have been told we may never be able to correct it just manage it with strict rules and a really strong recall / sit. I am at this point doing just that, managing it with a strong recall assisted by an e-collar and a sit that makes him stop in his tracks.
Mine is the same way, but all the trainers I've talked to think with some work he will be fine. I haven't paid for an evaluation, they all have evaluated him for free. I found one closer to where I'm moving and she will even allow him into classes to help get him used to it for free. I can't use an e collar or prong on mine...its been determined that he was trained with these and is how is because of that training. Not to mention he gets loose poop if either are used:(
 

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Your dog is in the adolescent stage, a rebel teenager.
Besides looking into a trainer for help, here's what has worked for us.
Although I used a prong for training, I found around other dogs, made mine more aggressive because I would unconsciously pull back when passing close to another dog, therefore making a negative association when meeting dogs.
We used a flat collar and lots of treats. We may sit at a park and watch from a distance other dogs, and feed treats using a nice, calm voice, we'd say, "nice".
When walking, as a dog approached we give a treat, say nice, give another treat as dog got closer, as it passed, and if our dog did not react a big praise and another treat. We would make a wide arc when passing the other dog, and put my body between the dog, she'd heel on either left or right, whatever position kept her farthest away from another dog.
Our dog happened to perform the "down" command better than all the others, so we used it. Once she got friendly to other dogs, when first meeting we have her go down until both dogs are comfortable. Also if playing gets out of hand, we can make her go down, and that calms the other dogs too.
We learned about calming signals from this author, Calming signals, photos - Turid Rugaas - International Dog Trainer

And slowed down and let our dog go through the process of performing her calming signals when approaching other dogs.
Our dog is generally very good now with other dogs, especially little ones and GSD,s.
Unlike yours, she is not friendly to all people which is OK with us. Good Luck.
 

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I haven't paid for an evaluation, they all have evaluated him for free. I found one closer to where I'm moving and she will even allow him into classes to help get him used to it for free.
I didnt pay for any of the evaluations or interviews, the cost was when I actually started working with the trainer. And we really didnt do much as far as socialization, other than when we worked on something such as the sit he would bring another dog in and we would have to make him sit. Or down. Or work his recall.

The key with the e-collar is that he is not associating the shock with the other dog more to the command and lack of response. We worked at making sure he knew that the stim only came on when and if he decided he did not want to listen and he fully understood that before introducing another dog into the environment.
 

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What kind of obedience training does your dog have? I would absolutely establish a consistent obedience training program for him.
Re: the dog aggression, have him on a prong collar correctly fitted and find a place where there is a dog in a fenced in area. Approach the fenced in dog from a distance and heel your dog and make him sit while still quite a distance from the dog. Then heel closer and repeat. Keep doing this as your approach the dog. Praise the dog for correct behavior. At some point, your dog will likely start to show some dog aggression and immediately make him sit and be quiet. If he doesn't have the obedience training for sitting, you have to back up the training. You can also teach the quiet command. Always praise the non aggressive sit. Wait a bit longer after he has shown aggression before moving closer. Then try another sit after moving forward and he vocalizes aggression. This way you will find the area of influence where you can build the goal of getting closer with better control. You have to have some skill with timing and giving a proper correction with the prong, not a nagging pull on the collar. Some dogs will always be dog aggressive, but this method begins to get some control over the problem.
If it goes well, you can ventually expose him to more dogs and use a muzzle. You need to know if the other dogs are social/ not dog aggressive.
 

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I agree with what others have said about finding a professional. It will be really important to have someone knowledgeable (preferably a certified behaviorist) look at his chain of behaviors around a trigger to come up with a treatment program. And yes it will be expensive. The trainer I went to is $75/hour, but she is a CPDT and behaviorist. It may take a month or so of weekly sessions just to start to understand the depth of the problem, and longer to see progress. My dog isn't quite as bad since it seems like only certain dogs set her off and she can sometimes "settle," but that doesn't mean you won't see huge improvement with the right treatment plan.

In the mean time, I walk my dog with a prong collar and it gives me the control I need to keep everyone safe. It is not a complete training tool, but it gives you the opportunity to feel more secure on-leash. Other people use a halti for this purpose but I don't like them. I made sure to teach her how the collar works so she would understand that it is her behavior and not mine that elicits a correction. However I would not correct after he starts freaking out, just hold on tight. Once he goes over his threshold he is no longer thinking and the pinching from the collar can just rile them up even more. You have to give a command for deference far in advance before he gets so distracted he can't think.

You can work on commands like "heel, watch me, leave it" in non-distracting environments and gradually add distractions: first a dog in the far distance, eventually a dog across the street. Dogs that are safely contained behind a fence can work well for this exercise. The bigger the distraction, the higher value and more frequent the rewards should be. Around other dogs, I may increase the frequency of treats to one every three seconds. Eventually I will hopefully be able to phase them out. We have been able to get through an on-leash agility class this way. Good luck to you.


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I want to clarify on this subject just a little. There are many reasons a dog is aggressive and until you know what the root of the aggression is (fear, lack of socialization, previously attacked, or rooted in their DNA etc) it is really hard to train for it properly. The foundation of good OB is the number one key, I was told my the many trainers I interviewed that it may not at all be aggression and it will work its self out after the dog has rules and a good OB down.

Now I am working with a rescue that his history is unknown, what we DO know is he has scars both on his face and his back legs that appear to be from being attacked. If he is in that "aggressive" mode (not yet to the all out freak out and doesnt listen to what anyone has to say) and say his leash gets wraped around his back leg he will FLIP out and attack himself... Trainer and I seem to think that he was attacked by multiple dogs at once which is where our aggression comes from. It is a mix of fear and self defense, kind of I will bite you before you can bite me. Will it go away? Maybe... One thing I have done at the suggestion from someone here actually, is when there is another dog around BEFORE he gets into aggressive mode I get his flirt pole out and play with him like crazy! Showing him that something positive can come from another dog being around...
 

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The value of having a second set of eyes on the dog goes far beyond saving money :) . Especially since we can't see the dog's behavior, trigger and threshold.

Op, a trainer/behaviorist will help you learn his threshold signals which can be something as small as muscles tightening to the side of his eye, how to manage him and keep him below threshold so he is able to learn and get his obedience rock solid.

Jumping in both feet exposing him to dogs without training for you and your dog can set him back even further or worse.
 

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You're getting lots of good advice. If you work with the right professional it can save you much heartache in the long run. I looked for someone who specializes in GSDs and is experienced in Schutzhund training for my reactive dog. The peace of mind I'm gaining just knowing we're in good hands is worth every cent. The trainer sees things I would never have recognized alone.

In the meantime, I agree with those who say you should muzzle. You're facing some liability otherwise. And even though the dog is human friendly, people can still get hurt breaking up dog fights. I have a scar on my forearm I earned pulling my housemate's dog out from under my own. It could have been much worse.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
How old was he when you got him and was he socialized at all as a puppy?
Leo was just about six months when he got him. He lived with a pack of German Shepherds on the construction site. I know that sounds weird, but the dogs are solely on this property to protect things. I've never met a "guard dog" before Leo, so this is new to me.

The dogs all got along very well with each other, working as a unit. If you drive up to the property and stop, the dogs will come close to the fence but won't bark, but as soon as you get out of your car, they go crazy, stomping up and down almost like a burglar alarm.

How about training and socializing with other dogs? Does he know how to meet or even play with another dog?
He has never met or played with another dog. (besides his family at the construction site)

I've thought of finding an older German Shepherd that is very well trained that Leo could look at as a role model. It's a big risk though because Leo will automatically attack anything that comes his way. I've owned a German Shepherd before, and am very used to being around large breed dogs, but Leo is completely different. It's not normal dog "aggression".


This dog was likely bred to be a guard dog, not a pet.
Yes, he was definitely bred to be a guard dog. I'm just hoping he can get to the point where he can ignore other dogs when we're out. He will probably always bark on his own territory though.
 

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I've attached another picture of Leo in this post for size reference. I'm wondering if a prong collar might be the way to go for now. His choker does absolutely nothing...

The first picture is Leo and my girlfriend. She is about 5'8 and Leo is the same size as her in that picture, which was taken a few months ago. He was much skinnier here, and has since filled out and is continuing to get furrier.

The second picture is Leos father. When I went to go see Leo for the first time, his father came inside of the building where the owner was. He listened and reacted as quickly as a computer when the owner talked to him.

His father was very intimidating when I was inside the building. Easily the thickest Shepherd I've been around. Leo is already taller than his father though, which is unbelievable.
 

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Getting him that late and under those circumstances is definitely going to present some challenges. As a guard dog he's very likely missed out on important socialization that should have happened during development periods that occurred well before you got him. While socialization can and should continue beyond 6 months and even the first year, it's never going to be the same as if it happened during several critical periods.

Have you done any training with him? Because he's so bad around other dogs I wouldn't recommend a group class, like I normally would. I think you need a good private trainer who has experience with working breeds. I also think gsdraven's idea of a muzzle when he's out in public is a good one. I would never take him off leash either. You just can't take the risk that he'll injure or kill another dog so he needs to be under your direct control.

It could be that you'll always need a certain amount of management, because training can only do so much. That means his world would shrink to the point where he's never put in situations where things could go bad. it's nice to have a dog that you can take everywhere and go on off leash hikes in the woods with, but you have to be realistic about the dog you have, and he may not ever be that kind of dog.
 

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I've attached another picture of Leo in this post for size reference. I'm wondering if a prong collar might be the way to go for now. His choker does absolutely nothing...

The first picture is Leo and my girlfriend. She is about 5'8 and Leo is the same size as her in that picture, which was taken a few months ago. He was much skinnier here, and has since filled out and is continuing to get furrier.

The second picture is Leos father. When I went to go see Leo for the first time, his father came inside of the building where the owner was. He listened and reacted as quickly as a computer when the owner talked to him.

His father was very intimidating when I was inside the building. Easily the thickest Shepherd I've been around. Leo is already taller than his father though, which is unbelievable.
Wow! Dad would certainly deter me, and I'm super comfortable around large dogs ;)

Leo sure is handsome. I hope you'll keep us posted on his progress. With a dog that size with DA issues, you've got your work cut out for you! Just chiming back in to say you have my moral support :) wish I had more advice, but this is a great forum and hopefully will help you get a handle on Leo!


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