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Discussion Starter #1
I have been having trouble recently with my 10 m/o Gunner. A little bit of background first... He was purchased from a BYB (I know - believe me, I have learned a lot since being on this board!). They said he was 12 weeks old but he was tiny and I think he may have been younger. He wasn't the smallest in the litter - they were all the same size. Anyway, he also had a lot of characteristics of a fearful puppy - afraid of everything! He did quickly bond to me and I most likely encouraged some of his behavior by babying him (again, I have learned a lot since then!!). I did take him out with me every opportunity I had - whether it was in the car, to PetSmart, to the park, walks around the town I live once he became less afraid, to the bus stop with my kids, etc. He always seemed to tolerate petting from strangers, even kids, but did not really enjoy it. I did try to make these interactions positive by having the neighborhood kids give him treats at the bus stop. He never growled or snapped at anyone (including the kids) but did growl at his vet - he has never liked her for some reason. So fast forward to a couple of months ago - I have experienced a couple of very disturbing incidents since then that have me very concerned:

1) On our way back from a several mile walk, we passed a woman walking a small dog about 15 feet away from us. With no warning, Gunner lunged at the dog. I practically jumped on him to keep him back.

2) My older daughter had some friends over for a sleep-over. The dogs were on the first floor with me and the kids were upstairs. I have a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs and one of the kids approached the gate to ask me a question. Gunner went over to check things out and the girl held out her hand for him to sniff. He grabbed her hand in his mouth - no blood, but he did place pressure.

3) Had Gunner outside on his leash talking to the neighbors. Other neighbor's dog was loose and ran up to greet Gunner. Gunner immediately lunged at the other dog and went to bite him.

4) One day at the bus stop a girl with long hair arrived that Gunner was very interested in. I broke his attention on her and put him in a sit and everything seemed to be fine. The girl was standing about 6 feet away, not talking or moving or anything, when Gunner suddenly growled and lunged at her. I corrected him with the choke collar and then we left.

Gunner has not had formal training. My ex kept saying he was going to train Gunner but never did and honestly since October my life has been pretty crazy and we haven't gone. I have kept Gunner crated if kids come over and no longer take him to the bus stop. However, I have contacted a couple of trainers and have received some advice that I wanted to pass by you guys. Both trainers seem to think that much of his current behavior (such as the incidents above) are all due to his fear and are indicative of a natural progression (my interpretation, not the term they used) of this fear since I have not done anything to stop it. It was also suggested since I always immediately removed Gunner from the situations that I was reinforcing the fear/behavior since he got what he wanted by no longer being in that situation with whatever was causing him the fear/stress.

The trainers have different ideas on the appropriate collar for Gunner for training/corrections. One recommends a prong collar while the other recommends a rope choke collar. I know there has been quite a bit of discussion here debating prong versus choke, and I am thinking the prong may be best for him. The trainer recommending the rope collar no longer trains (due to some health issues) and has asked my friend, who was her training assistant at one time, to help me out with some tips at home. The other trainer has recommended I schedule an evaluation with them at their facility to determine whether Gunner can attend group sessions or needs private instruction. This trainer also told me that they cannot guarantee to fix Gunner and he may never be able to be "free" around kids, but they feel he will improve and everyone will be much happier with some obedience training.

So, I have contacted the latter facility regarding the evaluation and will hopefully have something setup soon. The only downside is if they decide private instruction will be better, it is $40 per hour whereas the group sessions are around $80 for a 6-week class - BIG price difference! But I know I have to do something. Is there anything besides the obedience training that I should be doing with him? Are there any good books/videos/etc. out there for dealing with a fearful dog?
 

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<u>Fiesty Fido</u> by Patricia McConnell
<u>Scaredy Dog</u> by Ali Brown
<u>Focus Not Fear</u> by Ali Brown

I have read and implemented some of the exercises in <u>Fiesty Fido</u> with my fearful dog. I just purchased the 2nd two I listed and they haven't arrived yet. But they were recommended to me by someone who's opinions I value. So I hope they are helpful.

Personally, I don't think leash-corrections are the best way to handle fearful behavior. What it ends up doing is teaching your dog that if he sees X then he gets hurt. See: http://www.flyingdogpress.com/casehis.html There are also some other great articles on aggression on Suzanne Clothier's site: http://www.flyingdogpress.com that might be helpful.

And some other links on leash-reactivity:
http://www.4pawsu.com/onleashaggression.htm
http://www.ourpack.org/aggressreactivity.html
http://www.canineculture.net/leashReact.html
http://www.canineuniversity.com/articles/behavior/behave_12.html
http://www.diamondsintheruff.com/onleashreactive.html
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, Jamie! I will check out these links.

How have you seen things improve with your dog? I guess I am afraid that Gunner will always have to be locked away whenever we have kids come over.
I would love to have him trained to the point where he would either ignore the kids or remain in a down/stay if I told him to.
 

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Ris is a rescue who I got from a shelter at 2.5 years of age about 1.5 years ago. She was undersocialized around other dogs, people, and places. She also had no obedience training.

I honestly didn't start out on the best foot with her. I thought I knew what I was doing. Turns out, I was wrong!!
I'm not sure who taught who more. It's been a long road and we're probably not even halfway down it. But I've seen improvement and that keeps us (me?) going.

We live in an apartment so we see people and other dogs almost daily. It used to be I couldn't walk her past someone in the hall without her running full tilt to the end of her lead trying to get away. Forget having another person pet her--it just wasn't going to happen. We finally got into training classes (clicker) 4 months after I got her. In classes she met new people and was given treats by them. I still take every opportunity I can (which unfortunately isn't a lot) to get new people to give Ris treats. Once she sees a stranger has food, she is willing to go right up to them and take the treats from their hand. Most new people still cannot pet her right away. Though I have seen her elicit petting from strangers on her first meeting. I can now walk her past people without her bolting (in fact she likes to 'sniff them on the fly' now). She is still not comfortable with strangers though. I caught her growling at a guy as we were waiting for the elevator last night. I know it's out of fear so I didn't react other than to tell her 'that's enough.'

She's still not very good when people knock on the door. It doesn't happen often and it's not usually anyone I know on the other side of the door. I'm tempted to see if I can get any of my coworkers to come over, knock on my door, throw treats to Ris, and leave. That way she stops 'Cujo-barking' every time someone comes over.

It's hard to know how far you'll be able to go. A lot depends on the genetic temperment of your dog as well as environmental factors. I know Risa prefers to run rather than stay and fight. So when I have people over, I tell them to just ignore her. If she wants to come over and sniff, fine. But I advise them not to pet her. Unless of course they're someone who Ris has already accepted. Then they cannot get rid of her.
 

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I think it's good you are going to a training facility and will get some formal training. I agree with the other poster - avoid leash corrections. If they are not done correctly, this just escalates the dog's aggression or reactivity because now he is basically being "bit" in the neck while he sees something that he is already fearful of. It sounds like you can tell when he is taking interest in something and that can end up badly for him. When he does this with certain people and dogs from now on, I think the best thing is to quickly turn and leave. Sometimes continued exposure just makes them more nervous/reactive and then you get the lunging/aggressive behaviors. You want to avoid it escalating to that. Work on slower desensitization to other people and dogs, preferably in controlled environments (with a professional trainer and willing participants, not school kids or loose dogs). You don't want to leave after or while he is lunging or acting aggressively, you want to learn his signals and leave before that so that the exposure remains a neutral or positive experience. It may sound backwards at first, but trust me, flooding is NOT the way to deal with reactivity or fear aggression, especially with a breed like a GSD where they are held to a higher standard because people assume they are aggressive and dangerous.

Honestly I would NOT put a prong, mountain choke, or ANY type of "corrective" collar on a dog like this. Those collars just exacerbate the aggression and reactivity. Think about it from his point of view: He sees another dog, he is nervous, the dog continues to approach, he is still nervous so he lunges to defend himself, he gets poked/pinched in the neck! Wow! Other dog MUST really BE bad since poking and pinching is happening in his presence!

I encourage you to read the very beginning of Emma Parson's Click to Calm. She talks about how ONE session with a "trainer" who put a prong collar on her dog turned him into a reactive, aggressive mess that took her years to undo.

If I were you, I would be using a nylon martingale collar. It's not going to pinch or poke at the wrong times and he won't slip out of it.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Wow, Liesje!! The trainer pretty much said everything you did!!
Gunner is fearful, shy, and borderline aggressive BUT she feels he can be worked with to be better. She showed me how to use the clicker and how to work on focus and "leave it". We did put a prong collar on him but he did not over-react to it and we are only using it in the beginning for mild corrections. The trainer brought in her Dobe (GORGEOUS dog!!) after a while and Gunner did okay, but we didn't get them close to each other - just kept practicing the focus with the other dog in the room. I was so proud of him for his first session!! I also learned that I have a lot to learn for myself, too!! I will definitely be reading up on the clicker training and on how to be a better leader. Thanks, Jamie and Liesje, for your help!
 

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Clicker = awesome in my book. I spent our whole obedience class and the class afterwards working with Risa looking at me and focusing on me while other dogs are around. It's so much easier with the clicker to mark exactly what you want your dog to do.

I'm glad you've found a good trainer to work with you. It really does help make things easier. Best of luck to both you and Gunner. Maybe someday you'll look back and not recognize that dog you owned.
 

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I'm glad it worked out. I also found a trainer that I love and now we are usually enrolled non-stop at the club, once we were in three different classes at once! Also, you will probably find that you were doing a lot of things right or had the right idea. For me, I was worried about a lot of things and the trainer has at times been more of someone who encourages me and approves what I'm doing rather than actually training my dog. It's great to find someone who shares the same philosophies and goals. There are a lot of trainers that use tools and techniques I am not comfortable with. I don't mind driving 45 minutes each way 2-3 times a week for Kenya. The trainer also gives me books and videos.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I have purchased the following books:

"Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog"
Emma Parsons

"The Cautious Canine"
Patricia B. McConnell

"How to be the Leader of the Pack...And have Your Dog Love You For It"
Patricia B. McConnell

I'm also still going to check out all the great links posted above. Thanks again for both of your advice!
 

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Those are GREAT books!!! I'd also recommend "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor. It's a very objective book about clicker training in general. It really helps you understand the psychology behind clicker training and operant conditioning, but it's easy to understand (not too scientific). Oh, and Jean Donaldson's "The Culture Clash."
 

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Originally Posted By: butrfngrz The only downside is if they decide private instruction will be better, it is $40 per hour whereas the group sessions are around $80 for a 6-week class - BIG price difference!
I don't have much advice, but I wonder if you could negotiate a deal with the trainers? If we buy private lessons for Bond, we get free group lessons. It might make it seem more worthwhile financially if they would allow this. Just a thought...
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks for the idea! Because of Gunner's issues with other dogs at the moment, though, he will not be able to attend group sessions. I am going to meet with the trainer once every other week for now and then once a month or so as we both progress. She did say that Gunner may eventually be able to join a small group session once he is better trained and he has good focus. Otherwise it would be asking too much of him at the moment to put him in that kind of situation.
 
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