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I'm new to raising a German shepherd puppy -- all of our previous dogs were adults or past the adolescent stage when we adopted them. Our new pup is 17 weeks old and is doing well. We went to the vet this week for his final round of puppy shots and the vet complimented him on both his health and demeanor. But he said, "Your puppy is very self confident. Be aware that when he hits adolescence, that can change into..." and he started listing a bunch of behaviors that frankly scared me. Growling, attempts at dominance, etc.

What was your experience with a GSD male going through adolescence? How did you handle it? Did they challenge more than they did as puppies? Or did your dog sail through with nothing more than the occasional teenage tantrum?
 

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I've heard the same thing about adolescent dogs having some sort of "phase" but I didn't notice it with mine. He's still only 13 months, but he's never growled at me or anyone else and he's never challenged me in the way I've heard dominant dogs are apt to do. If there was any teenage behavior out of mine it was probably just him being more stubborn and sometimes ignoring commands until I made him follow through. Maybe he's not old enough to be in the clear yet, but I also don't recall having any of those issues with my other dog who is now 13 yrs old and definitely out of the woods for any adolescent phase.
 

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IMO, vets are not particular qualified in educating about or problem solving behavioral/temperament issues. Your dog might test what he can get away with as he matures, but it sounds like your vet overstated potential problems. Confidence in a dog is one of the best temperament traits to have. The main thing is if he ever does start to challenge you is to never show any fear and immediately and clearly let the dog know the behavior is unacceptable. Otherwise, your display of fear or uncertainty will strongly reinforce the dog's challenging behavior, while assertively communicating the behavior is not acceptable will strongly lead to the likelihood that the behavior will not be displayed again. Ignoring the behavior can also be effective in specific situations. For example, if you try to take something from your dog and for the first time he growls at you, the last thing you want to do is show any hesitation or fear. You can simply assertively take the item from him or sternly tell him "no" while assertively taking it away from him. Remember, he is testing you and is not going to go Cujo on you. But if you show fear or avoidance, you are opening up a can of worms. I don't know what training your dog has had, but as your dog matures, and he is trained/taught, you need to raise the expectations.
 

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Chip, I've been working with him daily (training) since he was 7 weeks old. My husband and I both work from home so we are working with him all the time. He's a great dog so far and no red flags. In fact, we get complimented (including by the vet) on how well the dog is trained, how calm he is, and how responsive he is to us. I had a feeling the vet is being overly cautious and/or had a personal bad experience but wanted to hear from people more experienced with GSDs.
 

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I have a 2.5 year old male. He’s not neutered.

I went through some challenges in adolescence. He’s pretty handler soft...so he never challenge me. He has never growled, bit, or redirected on me. With mine, he stopped wanting strangers in his space. He’s perfectly fine approaching people on his own terms. But he wants to be the one to initiate. If a stranger is pushy with him, he’ll move away. In some cases, he has growled if he doesn’t have a means of escape.

He basically went from loving everyone, to watchful and selective.
 
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