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Hello,
I have a female German Shepherd who will be turning 3 years old this February. She has always had pretty bad anxiety. When she was a puppy she would bark like crazy if she couldn’t see me or my other roomate. She has been in training classes and like most puppies the separation anxiety lessened as she grew and learned new things. I can fully leave her home alone with 100% trust that nothing will get destroyed and she stays quiet. But she still has massive anxiety out in public. She is fine at dog parks and she does daycare just fine. I work at a dog daycare and boarding facility and bring her to work with me. If she spots me while she is in daycare she goes crazy and barks and tries to claw or even chew at the fence. ( I don’t work in the daycare area, I work in the kennels with the dogs who are boarding so I’m not around her while at work) I would like to keep bringing her so she can still get exercise and stimulation while I work, but it stresses her and me out completely.

Even during walks around the city she starts to pant excessively and get stressed out. I know I should talk to my vet about it, I just want to use all the training tips and tricks before having to put her on medication, if needed. Any suggestions on where to start?

Some background info on her: I got her when I was in the military, or rather my friend got her. I came home from a deployment and found a German Shepherd puppy in the house lol. Anyway, my friend couldn’t take care of her anymore because she had gotten pregnant so she asked if I wanted to take her. I did, but then I had another deployment so she stayed from 8 months old to a year and a half old with my parents. I don’t believe she was properly socialized with them so I wanna know what I can do now to help her out.

Thanks! And sorry it’s so long lol.
 

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First, thank you very much for your service.

Now. Questions:
  • Does she pant excessively or stress if she's out in the city with anyone else?
  • What does she do when you first go to put her in her area at work and walk away?
  • What does she do if someone takes her leash from you and walks off with her (i.e. the vet tech taking her to another room, daycare personnel moving her back to her area)?
  • What does she do when you're at home and you go into another room but don't allow her to follow?
  • What does she do when you're just about to leave the house without her?
  • How intense are all of these responses?
Let's start there and see if we can figure out which situations cause which types of stress.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
First, thank you very much for your service.

Now. Questions:
  • Does she pant excessively or stress if she's out in the city with anyone else?
  • What does she do when you first go to put her in her area at work and walk away?
  • What does she do if someone takes her leash from you and walks off with her (i.e. the vet tech taking her to another room, daycare personnel moving her back to her area)?
  • What does she do when you're at home and you go into another room but don't allow her to follow?
  • What does she do when you're just about to leave the house without her?
  • How intense are all of these responses?
Let's start there and see if we can figure out which situations cause which types of stress.

-I’m the only one she goes out with but if we go out with a group of people and they stray away she will start to stress out and try and get the group back together. Even on walks around the neighborhood she needs to be next to whoever I’m walking with or she starts trying to pull to get next to them. I’ll have to ask my parents if she was like that with them.
-She is always excited (in a good way) when we pull into the parking lot of my work because she wants to play but as soon as I put her into daycare she barks and tries to claw the door open as she realizes I’m leaving. She will walk with someone on the lead but she always looks back and always tries to get herself back to me.
  • She is fine if I don’t allow her into the room with me. I have a baby gate I put up around the house if I want some space. The only time she will make a point to get my attention is if I put her in her crate and I’m still home. Even then she will just paw at the door softly, which she does when she needs to go outside or something. Still it’s a reaction.
  • When I leave the house she is calm and she just looks at me but no real reaction. The only time it is pretty intense is when I’m at work and she is in the daycare area. She will bark and claw at the gate because she wants to be with me. When we are closed but I’m still working, just to calm her down, I let her follow me around while I do my work and she is completely fine. The next strongest reaction is when we are in a group and get separated she tries really hard to get back to them.
 

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In general, it sounds like your dog might have a naturally anxious disposition. Ask your parents and your friend if she showed anxious tendencies when they were with her.

One of our dogs is like that and exhibits similar levels of distress in the same situations you describe, even though nothing ever happened to him that should have given him any indication that he's going to be abandoned "forever". There are other GSDs that behave similarly that I've seen on this forum.

A K-9 trainer we saw also advised us to make our dog work and execute multiple commands whenever he started to get nervous. It helps. The theory is sound enough: German Shepherds love to have a job and will prioritize the job over the situation that's making them nervous (this is why a GSD will jump out of a plane on command even though every fiber of their being is screaming "DON'T!"--the job is to jump from the plane. Job > brain screaming). It takes practice to help them break through their emotional state into a "working" state, but once they do, they DO get distracted enough to relax a little.

-I’m the only one she goes out with but if we go out with a group of people and they stray away she will start to stress out and try and get the group back together. Even on walks around the neighborhood she needs to be next to whoever I’m walking with or she starts trying to pull to get next to them. I’ll have to ask my parents if she was like that with them.
I think that's actually normal behavior for a herding dog. Jack does it. Our new puppy Kodi does it. They both want to be near the largest amount of people in the group, and will keep looking at whomever is lagging behind as if to check to make sure they're still there or if that person is holding the leash, pull them back to the group.

This is one of those behaviors that takes patience and repetition to correct. Essentially, you need to teach her that the person holding the leash is the one she should be next to and the one she should be obeying. Work on teaching her to heel while on a leash (with you first, then your friends), then executing commands while she's heeling. (For example, sitting when you stop and not getting up until you start walking again).


Ultimately, I think a trainer would be great in helping you set up the scenarios you need to accomplish this. As well as help you get your timing right with commands and reading her body language (so you can catch the anxiety right as it's starting, not when she's already overwhelmed).
 

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As well as help you get your timing right with commands and reading her body language (so you can catch the anxiety right as it's starting, not when she's already overwhelmed).
As a new German Shepherd owner, this has been invaluable. I have had many dogs over the years, none have been anything like Ole. It often seems like he is a 33 RPM record playing on a 45 RPM turntable. His thoughts and emotions are faster than I am used to. The most important things for me as been to learn to read and anticipated his moods.

For Ole, there is a really fine line between happy/alert and anxious. I have been working the past couple of weeks moving him back and forth between relaxed and happy/alert. I like to take him places in the car. We get out and play somewhere, Then we get back in the car to relax. We do this several times in a session.

The back seat of the car has become like his crate. He hops in, has a snack and a drink then lays down to take a nap.

One of my goals is that in the happy/alert stage he never escalates enough not to come running back to me for a treat if I whistle (He is on a long line for safety and control)

Gradually, we have been increasing the external stressors. Whenever he looks like he is about the escalate to anxious I call him back and have him watch me until either he calms down or the stressor goes away. If he doesn't' look like he is calming down we take a break in the car.

He is learning the confidence to explore the world with the knowledge that if anything looks scary he can check in with me to see that I am perfectly calm. If I am calm, e continues exploring.

I would guess that experienced GSD trainers can bypass most of these steps. But, for a newbie like me, it is invaluable.
 
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