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After reading this forum, I see alot of people have alot of experience with this breed, so I am trying to see if what I have is normal.

I have a puppy that I fear my be aggressive and/or dangerous. He is german bloodline, and most of the time is fine. He can be unpredictable though. From the time I got him, you can do anything to him, touch any part of him, pick him up, and there is no problem. He is very mouthy, and has drawn blood several times from his puppy teeth. He is getting better. As someone else described on here, he does not like to be pushed away. He will come back and bark and nip. Starting at about 3 months of age, if he is startled, the hair will rise on his back and he will bark like crazy. He alerts on other dogs presence and I am afraid he will bite (he was socialized early with my in-laws dogs, but now does not like other dogs). He will also bark at certain visitors to the house, especially if they ignore him. Most visitors he will just run up to very friendly. He has bitten my husband (lightly, but still a bite) when I was petting him and he touched the dogs leg (the dog may have a joint issue, not sure it wasn't uncomfortable). He can be food aggressive, and will growl and protect his food items (not sure he wouldn't bite). I practice NILF, and he will drop the item if I say. Sometimes he looks ashamed when he growls and will bring the item to you immediately after the growl like he caught himself doing something wrong. Other times he can have the same item, and just bring it up to you uninvited to share. If it is a highly valued item, such as a meaty bone, he will growl and then urinate. We are not messing with him, we may just be walking by. Even the vet mentioned his aggression when they took him back in the room where other caged animals were. They were surprised that at 19 weeks old his hackles came up, and he nipped at the assistant. On the other hand, I have kittens at home, sometimes he ignores them, sometimes chases them.

I guess I am just concerned that I may have a dog that could be dangerous.

He knows sit, stay, come and down, but not sure when he is in the "zone" that he would obey.
 

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From everything you described it sounds like fear aggression. What kind of training are you doing? Coercive, corrective based training or positive, reward based training? I would recommend the latter exclusively. This is entirely from my own experience living with and training fear aggressive dogs as well as reading lots on the topic.

Have you been to obedience classes yet? How old is your puppy? If you could find someone doing clicker training in your area I think that would be a good place to start.

As for the joint issue--are there are other symptoms or is it that he just doesn't like to be touched in certain areas?

Here are some books to get you started:

The Power of Positive Training, Pat Miller
Mine, Jean Donaldson
Help for your Fearful Dog, Nicole Wilde http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=DTB878
 

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Not sure I'd jump to 'aggressive' conclusion.

He sounds like a puppy that may be just testing.

Mouthy is normal for some. Barking and raising his hackles may be fear - makes him bigger - as well as aggression.

As far as nipping your husband and vet tech, maybe he does hurt somewhere.

Does your vet treat a lot of GSDs? Some vets are more informed about the breed than others. Your vet may be great, but it's worth noticing how he and his office reacts to the breed in general.

See if you can get some help. Puppy class or trainer. Just make sure, as with vet, that the trainer is familiar with GSDs.

Sounds like you're on the right pathway.

Good luck.
 

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sounds like he just needs time, training and ALOT more socialization.

i would get into some OB classes, and work with a professional trainer to guide you from here. showing aggression now will only get worse if not dealt with early. it could be a fear aggression, but also sounds like he's possessive of his stuff, and i would definitely deal with the biting/nipping, etc.

don't make the mistake to think he will out grow this behavior, and don't blow off getting help early. with time, and the correct training and trainer it can be dealt with.

debbie
 

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I agree he sounds like a normal GSD puppy, that said, you are in the situation that shows why I almost never recommend GSD's to my friends when looking for a new dog/puppy.

I have found my GSD puppies to be alot harder to raise than my first puppy, a yellow Lab. They need TONS more exercise to take the edge off (and I'm talking miles and miles of off leash tears thru the woods every week). They have to have an owner who is a 'leader' in their life. All the time. And their owner has to go to dog classes with the dog. Lot's of classes with an instructor who is good and helping them progress and learn with the dog.

I have found that the problems with my dogs, issues that I see in them, is NOT cause of the dogs. It's because of me. I need more knowledge, skills and abilities. And though this site, and reading, and fumbling along on my past skills is what I always try first. As soon as I notice things aren't improving (getting worse????) is when I now that I need real help.

And it's neither my dogs or my fault that I don't know enough (yet) to help the situation. To remove my frustration and anger I need more skills and training so then my dog starts to really make strides and learn too.

I think many GSD puppies are harder to raise. I really do. So it's not my fault I'm having problems, but it IS my fault if I don't start getting proactive to get more help. Contacting the breeder. Locating good dog classes in my area (and they are not all the same). Going to classes for as long as we have to. REAL exercise for my dog.

Making the dog a priority in the house for a few months. Scheduling (on the calendar) dog time for exercise, PLAY as well as training and classes. Realizing that normal behavior (that's so frustrating for me) in a GSD puppy is just that, normal. I need to focus it, re-direct it, LEARN TO guide it to do 'good' instead of evil.

One of the huge things I initially did wrong was constantly correct my dogs and go on with the 'no no no' all day long with many of the bad behaviors my pups would show. I was certainly no fun. Didn't really show my over enthusiastic puppies what to do that was good, but I was all over them constantly on all the BAD decisions they were constantly making all around the house. Bad dog bad dog bad dog.

But now I know to MANAGE my house and the dog to set them up to do right. If they always growl when my other dog gets near and they have a rawhide, rather than yelling at them for the growling, no one gets rawhides for awhile. I am proactive to prevent situations from occuring. Instead of reacting when they do (he knows not to get into the trash, but I still leave it out and if I yell at him everytime he makes a mess he'll learnn some day, right? Or maybe I can put the trash can in the closet???????)

Some great sites on 'leadership' (and it's not all the NILF, we have to be fun and partners, not just serious disciplinarians) are on http://www.flyingdogpress.com/articles.html:

http://www.flyingdogpress.com/relationshipbased.html

http://www.flyingdogpress.com/puppack.html

How's the general socialization continued? Your dog constantly on car rides? Walking down Main St? Met hundreds of new dogs and people by this time?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I have contacted a trainer, but have not yet started classes. I am a little behind on the shots. I believe she usually starts puppy classes at around 13 weeks (?) because that when they have finished their shots. He just turned 19 weeks. Very surprised at how rapidly he has changed in that short amount of time
.

You are right, they are definitely a much harder puppy to raise. We have had a GSD before, but he was about a year old when we got him, and extremely mellow. Not this one. Smartest dog I have known though.

He is riding in the car with me. Was good earlier with my in-laws dogs, and my cats, and people, but at around 10 or 12 weeks he changed, and became much more dominant. My brother in law thought it was cute to make his dog growl at my puppy (I guess a macho thing) so I stopped bringing my puppy over. That only happened once, and my puppy was so young he just shrugged it off, but I still don't think that is appropriate. Now, I believe my puppy would easily become aggressive to other dogs. That is what prompted the nipping at the vets office.
 

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Good for you for being so observant on his attitude and behaviors. Cause the first year this changes alot as they go thru different stages. It's VITAL we prepare them prior to the stages, as well as being aware and not surprised when a new weirdness shows up.

Here's a few great sites to give you a bit more of a heads up:

http://www.doberman.org/articles/puppy.htm

http://www.vanerp.net/ilse/GSDINFO/understandyourpuppy.htm

http://home.flash.net/~astroman/primer1.html

http://www.gsdhelpline.com/willis2.htm
 

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To me it doesn't sound like this dog is dangerous. I think you have a wide variety of things going on. Most are attributed to silly, obnoxious puppy. And most can be successfully dealt with through socialization, obedience training, and a good dose of maturity on puppy's part.


Originally Posted By: Tonto He is very mouthy, and has drawn blood several times from his puppy teeth. He is getting better. As someone else described on here, he does not like to be pushed away. He will come back and bark and nip.
He thinks you're playing.


Pushing the pup away is (in his mind) you inviting him to engage in a wrestling game. He's playing with you the same way he would another dog, and that involves using his mouth a lot. Pup's don't understand how sharp their teeth are, nor do they understand that what wouldn't bother another dog in the least (given the thicker skin and all the hair) can cause discomfort and damage to people


Originally Posted By: Tonto Starting at about 3 months of age, if he is startled, the hair will rise on his back and he will bark like crazy. He alerts on other dogs presence and I am afraid he will bite (he was socialized early with my in-laws dogs, but now does not like other dogs).

Raised hackles is usually a defensive reaction. He's a bit afraid, so his hair bushes out to make him appear larger and more imposing in hopes of frightening away the perceived threat. There are some dogs who are wired a bit differently and will raise their hackles when in a high level of excitement without their being any fear, even when just playing. But in most dogs it indicates fear.

That is something you'll want to work on with him through more socialization to get him comfortable in those situations, and through obedience training to help show him he can count on you to be a trusted, fair leader who can handle any situation.

While this reaction isn't ideal in a dog and can indicate weak nerves or other temperament problems, it's also not entirely uncommon for perfectly soundly temperamented dogs to go through a phase where they act a bit squirrely and can get frightened somewhat easily. This is especially true amongst working breeds who have a higher level of suspicion than say a Lab or a Pointer. Many adolescent dogs come to a point where their natural suspicion is starting to surface, but they don't yet have the confidence, maturity or life experience to understand what they're feeling. As adolescents are also lacking in self control, they can be prone to overreacting.

So while I think this is something that bears carful watching, since it sounds like it's somewhat new and he hasn't always been this way, it may very well just be a silly phase that will sort itself out with more maturity, socialization and training.


Originally Posted By: Tonto He will also bark at certain visitors to the house, especially if they ignore him. Most visitors he will just run up to very friendly. He has bitten my husband (lightly, but still a bite) when I was petting him and he touched the dogs leg (the dog may have a joint issue, not sure it wasn't uncomfortable).

Without having much more information about the situation and the body language he displayed, it's impossible to know the exact cause of this. It could be fear based, but could also be playing. Both are pretty much equally likely causes for barking and biting in a young pup.

Originally Posted By: Tonto
He can be food aggressive, and will growl and protect his food items (not sure he wouldn't bite). I practice NILF, and he will drop the item if I say. Sometimes he looks ashamed when he growls and will bring the item to you immediately after the growl like he caught himself doing something wrong. Other times he can have the same item, and just bring it up to you uninvited to share. If it is a highly valued item, such as a meaty bone, he will growl and then urinate. We are not messing with him, we may just be walking by.

Resource guarding, as this is called, is caused by the dog feeling stressed and uncomfortable when he has something and someone else approaches. Basically, he's afraid you'll try to take it away. Canine law, which all dogs are born knowing, follows the "possession is 9/10s" rule. It is perfectly acceptable for even the lowest ranking dog in a pack to defend his possessions against even the highest ranking dog in the pack. This same thing goes for human "pack members".

He growls because he's afraid you'll take it away, and he's warning you not to. If you follow that up by trying to take it away, or bothering him in any way, all that does is reinforce his fear. Sure enough, he suspected something bad would happen and it did! The best way around this is to instead teach him that you approaching isn't a threat, but is in fact a good thing. Have a bunch of super special treats and when he has a bone and you walk up to him, toss a treat his way. Over time as he gets more comfortable, you'll be able to walk up and pet him and hand him a treat, trade him his bone for a treat, etc... Just go slowly and don't push him far enough to the point where he feels he has to growl.

Unfortunately, many people end up causing resource guarding in their dogs due to the commonly held belief that a person should be able to take anything away from their dog because they "outrank" the dog. While true in principle, this leads many people to go about acomplishing it in the wrong way. They overpower their dog, demanding that he give up what he has, rather than building trust and showing the dog he doesn't need to worry.

Not saying you've caused this behavior in any way. Some dogs are just quicker to trigger in resource guarding than others and don't necessarily need to have something happen to cause it. I'm just trying to point out that once it shows up, regardless of why, how it's handled is very important. Handling it the wrong way, as many are prone to do because they're angry or offended that their dog dared to growl at them, can make it worse rather than better.

Originally Posted By: Tonto
Even the vet mentioned his aggression when they took him back in the room where other caged animals were. They were surprised that at 19 weeks old his hackles came up, and he nipped at the assistant.
As was said, hackles aren't an indicator of a big, mean, aggressive Cujo dog, but rather of fear. I don't think it terribly strange for a young puppy to be afraid when taken away from his owner by a strange person (the assistant) who is probably in a hurry and thus not exactly being warm and understanding toward him, and walked into a cramped area full of strange barking dogs in cages, which no doubt reeks of fear and stress smells coming from those other dogs. Certainly to we adult humans who understand what is going on this seems like a perfectly safe and normal situation. But try to look at it from the perspective of a young puppy who has no idea what's going on, who's been removed from anything familiar that he can trust, and confronted with a bunch of strange dogs (which he may be prone to being a bit afraid of anyway) in a very chaotic and anxiety ridden environment full of scary sounds and smells. I think freaking out is pretty understandable and it doesn't necessarily indicate a dangerous dog in the making.

Doesn't surprise me that the vet would label him as such, and that just reinforces my belief based on lots of experience with many different vets that you should take anything most vets say about dog temperament and behavior with a grain of salt. A big grain. Heck, the whole shaker. Most vets are horribly ignorant about these things, and they are also prone to painting all dogs with the same brush and expecting a GSD to act the same way as that Lab or Pointer.
 

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Great post Chris. You are one of the only people that I have come across that has experienced raised hackles from excitement that is not fear based at all. My female would hackle a bit early on when playing two toy. It was the wierdest thing as there was no conflict or anything. Tonto, take notes. You have much useful information here. I second the grain of salt in regards to what vets have to say about behavior, and nutrition as well.
 

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Quote: Doesn't surprise me that the vet would label him as such, and that just reinforces my belief based on lots of experience with many different vets that you should take anything most vets say about dog temperament and behavior with a grain of salt. A big grain. Heck, the whole shaker. Most vets are horribly ignorant about these things, and they are also prone to painting all dogs with the same brush and expecting a GSD to act the same way as that Lab or Pointer.

Isn't that the truth. That said, the vets office is a perfect example of how we can socialize and work on an issue AHEAD of time (or before it even comes up). Many dogs are fearful at the vets (geez, go once a year, always get a shot, go figure?). I know my dogs will be going to the vet many times in their lives, so I have chosen to set my dogs up PRIOR to their exams so they love the vet (or at least don't mind them). I always bring a big ziplock of treats with cheese/chicken/liver etc. I have my dog get fed these treats by the vet techs, the vet, other people waiting in the lobby, in the exam room. I have my girls do tricks, go thru their clicker training, and generally whoop it up and have a good time. So the fact a teeny part of the visit involves a shot? No big deal cause when the needle is going in one end, the other end is usually with a fistfull of cheese/chicken/whatever.

Better still is visiting the vet when I don't have an exam set up at all! Periodically throughout the year (make sure you vet is a good one who allows these) we just go for a visit! Just get the treats and tricks done in the lobby. Have the vet techs feed them up. Usually go in the back to lure her onto the scale (with the treats) for a weighing.

I have found it so much easier to prepare my dogs for 'life' before the scary stuff crops up. So for things I know will occur (vet visits) I can easily work on making my dogs love and enjoy stuff than many other owners/dogs have not had the foresight to help their dogs.
 

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Thank you all for posting this information. This dog is quite intimidating (aren't all GSD's!) and it is good to hear that he is probably not a deficient, insane dog, and others have seen this type of behavior. I tell you when you hear that growl, or that huge bark, that a GSD has even at a young age, you will certainly pay attention!

Glad to know about the hackles too, I have read that a GSD does not normally get protective until they mature some, but you can't tell it from him. Maybe it is fear based instead of protective!
 

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WOW what a great bunch of dog owners on this site, I just rescued a GSD 6 mo old, HELP!!!!! haha well he is great has no training sooooo a few issues, mouthing is the one I hate, he's very happy on my little farm, and very brave after first horse siting lots of work ahead , need advive about mouthing correction asap, and will welcome any thing else, have only had very young pups up until this guy.
 

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congratulations on rescuing your guy!! There will be lots of info and help on this site. Have you tried the ole "here is your toy" putting the toy in his mouth instead of your body part? Or the loud "ouch" when he puts his mouth on you?? We adopted a six month old over about 1 1/2 years ago and he was also very mouthy...very mouthy!! No aggression just wanted to be in oral contact! He still is a kisser but grew out of the mouthing thing. Good luck and good fun!!
 

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Chris, thanks for the 'plain speak' re vets. I was tiptoeing around that, but, it's so true that many do not know boo about GSDs behavior and can be quick to tar them with the wrong brush.

I tend to think puppies raising their hackles is similar to a two year old covering their eyes and thinking they've made you disappear.. LOL. They think they're sooo big.

Please interview the trainer carefully about experience with GSD puppies.

Your pup sounds withing norms to me.
 

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Originally Posted By: ZeusGSD...Great post Chris. You are one of the only people that I have come across that has experienced raised hackles from excitement that is not fear based at all. My female would hackle a bit early on when playing two toy. It was the wierdest thing as there was no conflict or anything....
I agree - very informative post Chris!

My Heidi would also "dinosaur up" when she was excited - especially when getting chased or doing her "zooms" out in the yard with us. (She did this almost her entire life of 13 years) She was not a fearful dog, or aggressive either.
 

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i totally agree!!!!!!!!!!


i would put more stock in getting into a good OB class and good trainer than i would with a vets evaluation of the dog. to bad more people don't realize this about most vets.
to bad, because they are probably giving alot of people some not so good advice on training, behavior, etc.

i always do this, seek a professional in whatever area i need help in, go to a nutritionist/holistic person for nutrition advice, go to a trainer for training advice, etc, etc. vets are there to treat our dogs, and have great insight in that dept, but behaviorists, nutritionists, most are not. plus, they do not have time to discuss nutrition, or behavior, most of the time, because they are treating your dog for whatever, and only have so much time to do it. so, any other topics aren't addressed.

debbie
 

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Just an update on the situation - I enrolled my puppy (will be six months next week) in an obedience class. Warned the trainers that I wasn't sure what to expect. She has four german shepherds herself so she said not to worry, we would just assess the situation, and put him on a prong and muzzle if it was necessary. Well, it was necessary! He did settle down fairly well after about 20 minutes, and I was able to complete the obedience class with him, but I couldn't let him get near another dog. Next class is tomorrow, so I will have to come with my own prong collar I guess. He growled and lunged at the other dogs at first, so we are working on visiting skills. She was able to pet him and love on him by the time to go, but she did say he was extremely stubborn, and hard to correct (I guess meaning the level of correction before you could get his attention when he was in the zone was pretty high).

Don't know if I will ever be able to trust him around strangers and other dogs.

At home, he is very good. Very easy to train (loves to eat!!!!). Doesn't mind me very well unless I have a treat in my hand, so we will have to work on that. Minds my husband excellently. Unfortunately, works a different shift, and I am the primary caregiver for the dog. My question is this: His growling and lunging is better the last couple of weeks, but he will still do it at times, when he has an item that he values highly at the time. If he has a chew toy or a blanket and I sweep near him while he has it, he will growl ferociously and lunge at the broom. When I say he is better, I mean it doesn't happen as often, and when it does it doesn't last as long. Instead of lunging towards us now, he will snatch up the item while growling. When I first brought him into the training facility, the lady tried to show the submission position (where you lay the dog down and wait for him to submit - he did grab her hand but didn't break the skin). It is as if he restrains himself somewhat, but I'm afraid if he got mad enough, he wouldn't.

How should I handle the growling at grabbing at his items? I can take them from him, but don't know if that would make it worst. If I scold him, but apply a correction, I'm afraid it will reinforce his dominance issue.
 
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