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Discussion Starter #1
Major is 90# male about to turn one. He is full of energy and has never shown aggression toward anyone. He'll play endlessly with any person or dog he is familiar with. In short, he just acts like a very large puppy. He does bark when someone comes to the door. But, so does the chihuahua. My concern is he is quite scared of anything or anyone he isn't familiar with. Every person or animal we meet outside of the house terrifies him. He is also scared of some inanimate objects. So much so that we have to give every storm drain a wide birth on walks. Is this normal for a GSD?
 

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If you think that's normal you have never read the breed standard!

CKC breed standard:

The Shepherd Dog must not be timid, shrinking behind its master or
handler, nervous, looking about or upward with anxious expression or
showing nervous reactions to strange sounds or sights, or lackadaisical,
sluggish, or manifestly disinterested in what goes on about him. Lack of
confidence under any surroundings is not typical of good character.

Cases of extreme timidity and nervous unbalance sometimes give
the dog an apparent, but totally unreal, courage and it becomes a
“fear biter,” snapping not for any justifiable reason but because it
is apprehensive of the approach of a stranger. This is a serious fault
subject to heavy penalty.
No, it's not normal and unfortunately, it is likely genetic. When did these fears first develop? Please tell us a bit more about his history.

I had a Shiloh shepherd who was fine as a pup, but went into a 'fear period' at about 8 months, and never came out of it. Suddenly she was scared of children, small dogs, men, bicycles...the list goes on. I worked with her for a year and a half and there was very little improvement. It took 3 weeks in an obedience class before she'd even take a treat from me, and nearly the full 8 weeks before she took one from the instructor. Her preferred spot in the class was hiding underneath my chair.

I assisted at her whelping, and took her home with me at 8 weeks, so there were never any things in her life that might have caused these fears. Other Shiloh owners also reported problems with timidity in their dogs. Some even had trouble getting them to leave the house to go on walks!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
He is afraid of things outside the house and backyard. If we have friends or friends dogs over he'll acts like a big puppy and play with / lick everyone. The front yard isn't fenced and he is slowly getting comfortable there. The minute he is off his property he's scared. Trips to the vet, walks down the street, etc are terrifying. That said, after a week of walking down the block he has improved, slowly. He leads on the walk until a strange person, dog, or drains are encountered. Last week he'd flip out. Now, just pulls on the leash to get away.
 

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How long have you had this dog?
 

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He is afraid of things outside the house and backyard. If we have friends or friends dogs over he'll acts like a big puppy and play with / lick everyone. The front yard isn't fenced and he is slowly getting comfortable there. The minute he is off his property he's scared. Trips to the vet, walks down the street, etc are terrifying. That said, after a week of walking down the block he has improved, slowly. He leads on the walk until a strange person, dog, or drains are encountered. Last week he'd flip out. Now, just pulls on the leash to get away.
He sounds just like my girl, so buckle up because it's likely genetic and won't go away. That said, with work, you can minimize the impact and help him build confidence. I used to joke that Shadow was the only dog I had ever met who was pulling harder on the way home.
I am a huge fan of using agility equipment/obstacles to boost confidence and trust. I worked hard at getting Shadow to stay solidly focused on me when she is scared. We started in the yard with a simple "look at me" heavy rewards and praise for eye contact.
Shadow had an issue with lawn signs, we spent endless hours standing 20 feet away, then 15, then 10. I just moved her away until she settled enough to manage and kept her there until she was calm enough to be looking around, then we moved closer.
We had to work at finding a vet, because she would freak out and snap at them. She's always muzzled but they still didn't want to deal with her.
 

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He's in good company...Rumo (my dog) is uneasy about storm drains too! I thought maybe he never lived in a neighborhood with storm drains before?

Over time, with my total Non-Reaction (I let him avoid it, or I let him approach cautiously, whatever...I leave leash loose) he has gradually stopped his weird behavior of circling far away from them. I even caught him standing there sniffing down into the hole a few times. So I guess he could be said to be cured.

I think part of helping Major is just to be relaxed on your end of the leash, like, "What? Meh. This is nothing."
 

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We picked him up at 7 weeks. He appeared to be the pick of the litter, the only one of the pups that came over to meet us. The others all hid.
That right there proves an issue. You should have turned and walked away immediately. I'm guessing the breeder did things very poorly and the pups got no socialization, along with them having weak nerves. It sounds like you will be in for life with his fear issues. A trainer might be able to help you build some confidence in him, but I highly doubt he will ever be a solid dog. Hopefully you love him anyway.
 

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Back when my husband was still alive, we stopped to see a litter of GSD pups.

Mom hid behind her owner, barking at us.

I couldn't get us out of there fast enough. Even back then, I knew that timid temperament could be genetic.
 

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He sounds just like my girl, so buckle up because it's likely genetic and won't go away. That said, with work, you can minimize the impact and help him build confidence. I used to joke that Shadow was the only dog I had ever met who was pulling harder on the way home.
I am a huge fan of using agility equipment/obstacles to boost confidence and trust. I worked hard at getting Shadow to stay solidly focused on me when she is scared. We started in the yard with a simple "look at me" heavy rewards and praise for eye contact.
Shadow had an issue with lawn signs, we spent endless hours standing 20 feet away, then 15, then 10. I just moved her away until she settled enough to manage and kept her there until she was calm enough to be looking around, then we moved closer.
We had to work at finding a vet, because she would freak out and snap at them. She's always muzzled but they still didn't want to deal with her.
Oh my goodness! We all have the same dog. I had no idea. Shelby is high content GSD, so I thought it might be because she is mixed. She is only comfortable in her house, her yard, or her car. Ironically, she loves going to the vet and relaxes there - even had a big GSD boyfriend at her last visit. Generally, she is afraid of dogs too, but not at the vet.

Walking Shelby is like walking a horse. If something freaks her out, she starts backing up. It's a wonder she doesn't rear up. And yes, Sabis, she always wants to get back home.

In addition, my Shelby is the Forrest Gump of the dog world. She's not a smart dog, but she knows what love is. LOL!
 

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We picked him up at 7 weeks. He appeared to be the pick of the litter, the only one of the pups that came over to meet us. The others all hid.
the breeder , who ever they are , should stop .

you have a problem that has nothing to do with socializing .

there are people out there breeding GSD for the pet market and they
do not have a single molecule of a clue as to what the GSD temperament
should be and the importance of "aggression" in the breed.

it is one of the fundamental cornerstones of this breeds character.

when not considered or deliberately removed (attempted) then you have
a confused mess of an animal and you can not properly know what to expect

tgere is no reliable . there is no predictable .

is this a breeder who bragged about large dogs?

90 pounds is heavy .

He " has never shown aggression toward anyone."

why should he? Has there been a reason where you felt he failed .

he plays endlessly with dogs or people that he is familiar with -- ???
the big puppy thing --

BUT here is a big problem

"My concern is he is quite scared of anything or anyone he isn't familiar with. Every person or animal we meet outside of the house terrifies him. He is also scared of some inanimate objects."

this is NOT normal -- the dog lacks sound nerve . His entire litter from your description
lack sound nerve .
How do you transition from stranger danger to "familiar" play mate friend?

you can't let your guard down -- he may be accepting of someone and then freak
and without warning bolt o do a defensive bite when he can not escape.

same with your environmental issues -- you don't know the full extent of what might
trigger a fear reaction -- for his safety , yours and the public at large - you have to
be fully focused on the dog while out and the dog on lead.

being a passive dog walker isn't going to cut it.

you aren't going to fix genetic problems - but you can help with some of the
brain chemistry

diet -- what is he eating .
 

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Discussion Starter #12
the breeder , who ever they are , should stop .

you have a problem that has nothing to do with socializing .

there are people out there breeding GSD for the pet market and they
do not have a single molecule of a clue as to what the GSD temperament
should be and the importance of "aggression" in the breed.

it is one of the fundamental cornerstones of this breeds character.

when not considered or deliberately removed (attempted) then you have
a confused mess of an animal and you can not properly know what to expect

tgere is no reliable . there is no predictable .

is this a breeder who bragged about large dogs?

90 pounds is heavy .

He " has never shown aggression toward anyone."

why should he? Has there been a reason where you felt he failed .

he plays endlessly with dogs or people that he is familiar with -- ???
the big puppy thing --

BUT here is a big problem

"My concern is he is quite scared of anything or anyone he isn't familiar with. Every person or animal we meet outside of the house terrifies him. He is also scared of some inanimate objects."

this is NOT normal -- the dog lacks sound nerve . His entire litter from your description
lack sound nerve .
How do you transition from stranger danger to "familiar" play mate friend?

you can't let your guard down -- he may be accepting of someone and then freak
and without warning bolt o do a defensive bite when he can not escape.

same with your environmental issues -- you don't know the full extent of what might
trigger a fear reaction -- for his safety , yours and the public at large - you have to
be fully focused on the dog while out and the dog on lead.

being a passive dog walker isn't going to cut it.

you aren't going to fix genetic problems - but you can help with some of the
brain chemistry

diet -- what is he eating .
The breeder did not advertise larger dogs. We met the mother and father. The mother was normal sized are came up to meet us. The father maybe a bit larger. He is big, but still thin. His favorite playmate is my son's greatdane as they are nearly the same size.

We feed him Science diet, 6 cups a day per the chart.

He has never bit, or attempted to bite anyone and I've never seen any indication he would bite defensively.

We introduce strangers outside, in the front yard. Never a problem.

One odd thing; he seems too smart. I've seen him do things that required planning. There an old post about him playing practical jokes. I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around that.

He is, without a doubt, the perfect GSD. Except he appears to have agoraphobia.
 

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I have to ask, you got this dog at 7 wks and now he's a yr old? Did you take him out and about at all as he was growing up? I ask because of your comment about him doing better in the neighborhood...

That said, after a week of walking down the block he has improved, slowly.
 

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I agree with what Carmen said. I’m sorry you have a dog that has thin nerves. I have one as well. Be grateful he’s not showing inappropriate aggression, but do keep your eyes open, as he is still not fully mature.

Have you ever considered getting involved in some sort of scent work with your boy? Nosework or tracking could be great confidence builders for him, and they will each let him use that brain of his in a constructive way. My fearful boy is also too smart for his own good, and nosework has been wonderful for him.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I have to ask, you got this dog at 7 wks and now he's a yr old? Did you take him out and about at all as he was growing up? I ask because of your comment about him doing better in the neighborhood...
We took him to local stores when he was younger, no issues other than the car sickness. I can't really take a black dog for walks around here during the summer. Now that is has cooled off, below 90F, we go on evening walks.
 

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Sounds like he has weak nerves, at 1 year old if it is still on-going it sounds like it will continue. What lines is he from? Im guessing ASL/BYB or GSL? As a puppy was he scared of vacuums, nail trimmer, cars, loud noises and strangers? The good news is you can build his confidence with training, though it will take a lot of work.
 

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Sounds like he has weak nerves, at 1 year old if it is still on-going it sounds like it will continue. What lines is he from? Im guessing ASL/BYB or GSL? As a puppy was he scared of vacuums, nail trimmer, cars, loud noises and strangers? The good news is you can build his confidence with training, though it will take a lot of work.
Before this thread takes a turn into line bashing, I just want to point out that there can be weak nerved dogs in ALL lines. My oldest boy is from working lines and he is extremely weak nerved. I’ve met ASL, BYB and WGSL dogs that function perfectly well in society. It’s unfair to make the assumption of lines based solely on the dog being nervy.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Sounds like he has weak nerves, at 1 year old if it is still on-going it sounds like it will continue. What lines is he from? Im guessing ASL/BYB or GSL? As a puppy was he scared of vacuums, nail trimmer, cars, loud noises and strangers? The good news is you can build his confidence with training, though it will take a lot of work.
Major isn't scared of anything, as long as he is home. His bark and manner would indicate he is ready to attack anything that comes through the door. But, it has to come through the door. But, he isn't going the door.
 

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But he's afraid of things he shouldn't be as soon as he's off your property. A kind description of that is weak nerves. Its not the end of the world if you're happy with your dog. One of mine is a nerve bag in some situations, but his good qualities outweigh it. Just keep him out and around as much as possible, use a little distance to make it easier with things that bother him. Don't make a big deal about anything, and see what he settles into.
 

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Sounds like he has weak nerves, at 1 year old if it is still on-going it sounds like it will continue. What lines is he from? Im guessing ASL/BYB or GSL? As a puppy was he scared of vacuums, nail trimmer, cars, loud noises and strangers? The good news is you can build his confidence with training, though it will take a lot of work.
That is really presumptive. On numerous counts. The OP has already indicated that at home the dog is fine, which is very much in line with my dog as well. People who meet my dog on her turf would swear she is nothing but stable and well adjusted. It is only off the property that her fear is noticeable. As a puppy she was absolutely bent on conquering the world, 100% fearless and full of swagger.
And my BYB dog was to date the ONLY working security dog in this city commended by our police. She also served as our demo dog and was the only one on our team EVER to be trained and used for protection, detection and crowd control. She was also utilized by the RCMP to track a mentally unstable individual when their own dog was 3 hours away.

Never, ever judge a dog on breeding alone.
 
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