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All, I'm looking for some recommendations on what to expect in this next year. My boy is a DDR dog who just turned a year old. It has been one heck of a year. I feel like we've just sailed through a hurricane and finally come out in one piece, if missing a few bits of sanity, LOL. I am new to working dogs, DDR dogs and dogs in general and frankly, probably bit off more than I could chew with this dog. But, here we are, still alive, and within just the last few weeks since turning one he seems to have magically turned into a calmer dog. His obedience has also really turned up a notch - it's like he suddenly got more focused, more calm and more aware of what's going on around him. It's absolutely glorious. :grin2:

But along with that he's developed some seriousness. Or is seriousness the right word? He has previously loved every person he's met (except for other dogs.) Over the past couple of months he's been slowly becoming more suspicious of certain things though, particularly people. He started with alerting/barking at random night sounds, then progressed to becoming reactive when startled - if one of us comes to bed late he gets in our face, if we come into the yard without announcing ourselves he gets defensive and the other day we had a friend come over and he became defensive when we let the friend in through the front door. He also got aggressive with the vet recently and he seems to be getting more suspicious of people on walks. He barks, growls and the hackles come up. For a couple of days earlier this week he would react (come out into the hall and bark, growl) any time one of us came in through the garage or front door, but he seems to have worked out that he needs to look and see who it is before he gets cranky.

In these scenarios we've launched immediately into obedience/training exercises to try to help bring him a sense of control/stability. There has been no praise or scolding over the behavior, more of a redirection into another activity. It takes a little to get his focus shifted over to the obedience, but it does seem to help calm him. I'd love to offer a treat or favorite toy to give an association of positive reward with whatever scary thing startled him, but it seems I never have the treat nearby when the moment happens. The breeder has suggested that he has quite a few serious dogs in his line, so he thinks we are likely seeing the "serious" side of him start to mature. It's actually rather interesting to watch him work through these situations and reason it out for himself, and it makes me so proud when I don't have to redirect him and he works it out for himself. But ideally, I would like to see better discernment on his part before he reacts.

Any advice for what to look out for with the serious side of things or what skills to really work on during DDR year 2? Are there suggestions for ways to help him learn to differentiate friend from foe or is this something that will settle into place as his brain continues to mature? He doesn't do a lot of meet and greet with people, but we do go on daily walks and see other dogs/people while we're walking. Sometimes he's reactive to other dogs on the leash, sometimes not - this is a behavior that has been steadily improving. I'm not looking for him to be an overly friendly dog, but I would like to be able to trust him to be calm around other people unless provoked. He's otherwise always been fairly unflappable...strange sounds, cars, fireworks, guns etc don't seem to bother him.
 

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Mary Beth, thanks! I also found a thread here too (in case anyone else is interested): http://www.germanshepherds.com/forum/bloodlines-pedigrees/308241-ddr-slow-mature-2.html

I think what I'm reading in general is that this phase is the beginning of my dog's maturity stage and that may last awhile...6 months or a year or even longer, depending on how he develops. It also sounds like it's pretty normal for them to bark, be suspicious and be a little "obnoxious" at this stage, because they're feeling these defensive instincts but don't really know what to do with them yet. It sounds like as he matures the discernment will come and one of the best things I can do now is not "push" him one way or the other in those situations.

Doubling down on the training has definitely been a big help and I think I'll work on expanding that to add more complexity.

It's difficult being a first-timer to know what is something to freak out over and something to just take in stride. The puppy phase was so hard - general GSD advice was somewhat helpful, regular dog advice was relatively useless (ie, my dad's golden retriever advice was simply not applicable) but ultimately, figuring out the "individual" dog here has honestly been one of the hardest things I've done in my life. He plays hard. He loves with a heart that is bottomless. He is so independent and intelligent that learning to "lead" a dog like this has been a tremendous undertaking. And yet he is often still a clueless, run-into-walls excited puppy who just wants to chase a ball that sometimes I just have to shake my head. Even my toddler isn't this hard, LOL. But the change in his maturity level recently has been so quick, it feels a little unsettling. On one hand it's like, "omigosh, I was waiting for this!" On the other it's like "oh crap, now what do I do..."

I just want to make sure I keep learning and working to make us both the best we can be.
 

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Do you have a pedigree that you can post?

This sounds to me more of a temperament issue than a "DDR" or type issue. From what I can gather from your original post, this very well could be a nerve issue. I would focus more on the temperament of your dog than what to expect from a "DDR" dog. I would like to see his pedigree as that may give some insight and there may be far less "DDR" influence in your dog than you think. This sounds like a genetic issue with nerves, not a "type" issue. If that makes sense.

At this age your dog raising his hackles around people says something to me.
 

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But along with that he's developed some seriousness. Or is seriousness the right word? He has previously loved every person he's met (except for other dogs.) Over the past couple of months he's been slowly becoming more suspicious of certain things though, particularly people. He started with alerting/barking at random night sounds, then progressed to becoming reactive when startled - if one of us comes to bed late he gets in our face, if we come into the yard without announcing ourselves he gets defensive and the other day we had a friend come over and he became defensive when we let the friend in through the front door. He also got aggressive with the vet recently and he seems to be getting more suspicious of people on walks. He barks, growls and the hackles come up. For a couple of days earlier this week he would react (come out into the hall and bark, growl) any time one of us came in through the garage or front door, but he seems to have worked out that he needs to look and see who it is before he gets cranky.
To me, there's nothing good about your own dog challenging you like that. That's what I'd call a kennel dog. There's probably some that would look at it as a "serious" "real protection" "That ain't no sport dog" type. But I'd start thinking right now about how to live with a dog like that once those behaviors escalate and he bites you for trying to go to bed.
 

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With unwanted barking behavior the command is Enough! Teach it and enforce it. This is a one year old puppy. In my (brief) experience is the magic change comes around age 2.
 

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I have a question for the OP. Have you been doing any personal protection work with this dog recently? If not, could there possibly be situations where your dog is at home unsupervised and there are unfamiliar people (meter readers or foolish teenagers) that come into his territory? Maybe your dog has had a negative experience with strangers that has caused him to become more suspicious of people in general. I find it odd that a puppy which you describe as previously "loving everyone he meets" becomes suspicious of people to the degree that you describe, without there being an influencing event.
 

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This is a genetic and temperament issue and needs to be dealt with accordingly. The dog needs to be reinforced for correct behavior and corrected strongly for inappropriate aggression. The barking and the hackles going up are signs of insecurity.
@Nurse Bishop this behavior is far more complicated than "Enough." There is no magic change with a nerve issue, only management as Steve Strom is alluding too.

As @Steve Strom correctly points out there is nothing good about this right now. AS of now this is not a serious PPD, nor should it be. Perhaps, with a lot of work this dog will be a nice, stable family member. IPO training may help, not protection training. This may be a breeding where drives overwhelm nerve nerve strength and that gives you a dog that is insecure and can't control his nerves.

When nerve threshold is lower than drives you have issues. Can you correct this or teach this dog how to behave? Absolutely! Will it take work, patience and being open to learning, you bet it will.

As Steve is alluding too and not saying, don't believe the people that say this dog is a "real dog" or perfect for PPD. The nerves simply don't support that nonsense. Please don't confuse temperament issues with a "serious" personal protection dog.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
At this age your dog raising his hackles around people says something to me.
What kind of behaviors would you expect from an average maturing dog at this age?

From a temperament standpoint I've never considered him particularly nervy, but I'm basing that on an understanding that a nervy dog would have difficulty dealing with/reacting to new situations. It's possible I don't grasp the whole concept. He doesn't show fear or aversion to sounds - cars, trucks, dump trucks, sirens, jake brakes, guns, fireworks, the drag racers on our street, air compressors, car horns, fog horns, etc don't bother him. He's been exposed to them all and could care less. The night barking lasted for a short period from about 9-10 months and doesn't happen anymore. He is pretty independent - he prefers to be in the house with us, but doesn't freak if we put him outside for a couple of hours to do his own thing. Never shown any reaction to bikes, joggers, wheelchairs, kids etc. On walks these days his ears come up and he is curious, but doesn't get aggressive to people on walks - yet. Riding in the car was never an issue and doesn't seem to have any issues if we change up the walk, drive to a different neighborhood, etc.

Two main issues he's had:

Other dogs - he was originally pretty outgoing and gradually became more leash aggressive. Through training and exposure we've worked a lot of that out...he still reacts occasionally, but it's extremely minimal. For training, I worked strongly on IGNORING the other animals we encountered. This had a huge impact on him and he started ignoring them too. It's not perfect, but we walked by a lady with another GSD walking beside a man in a wheelchair a couple of weeks ago and passed within two feet of each other on a loose leash and he showed zero interest. That is a win in my book.

The vet's office - he hates it. He'll go in without much issue but once he gets locked in the room he gets upset. He hears/ smells things and wants to get at them. We work obedience in these situations and it calms him down. The recent vet visit where he got aggressive with the vet was the first time I've seen him show real people aggression.


The dog needs to be reinforced for correct behavior and corrected strongly for inappropriate aggression. The barking and the hackles going up are signs of insecurity.
I have thought about the insecurity side of this and yes, we are working to correct behaviors. Maybe we have not "corrected strongly?" We use an e-collar for most training but rarely need more than a tone. But when he is in these scenarios we go to obedience. He knows sit/stown/come/stay/place pretty solidly. In the couple of times he's come into the hall and barked when we came in the house, I made him "come" then made him go through a routine of sit/down. When he responds successfully (which in these situations he always did immediately) he gets praise. What would a strong correction look like in a scenario like at the vet or with a friend coming into the house? Would you have him in the e-collar?

That's what I'd call a kennel dog. There's probably some that would look at it as a "serious" "real protection" "That ain't no sport dog" type. But I'd start thinking right now about how to live with a dog like that once those behaviors escalate and he bites you for trying to go to bed.
He's not a kennel dog, if by that phrase you mean "never been socialized, left in a kennel all day, ignored." Our schedules are such that 3 days a week we are both at work during the day, so he does spend that time outside in the backyard. We ARE a working family who gets home between 5-6 pm on those days. The rest of the time one of us is home and he is with us constantly. We usually spend some time in the evening throwing a ball or playing tug. He gets his meals in the house in frozen kongs or tug-a-jugs, anything to give him something to work at. He's with us until we go to bed, usually cuddling on the couch or being a foot pillow, and occasionally (mostly on weekends or when my husband is gone) he sleeps on the bed with us - otherwise he sleeps in his crate. We get up sometime between 3-5 am to go for a 2-3 mile walk or run. He's with us until my husband leaves sometime around 7 or 8. In other words, we spend as much time with him as we spend with each other.

We have no issues with him in the house or hanging around us - for a large part of the young puppy phase it was a constant battle to tame his energy, but in the last month or so his "off-switch" has been really superb, along with his focus during training. He hangs with my 3 year old and lets him chase him, pull on him, hang on him, etc and I am usually having to pull the child off the dog because he just takes it. He has even started doing special obedience commands just for his boy. If the boy wanders off, the dog follows to keep an eye on him. He has never shown any aggression toward my son.

To me, there's nothing good about your own dog challenging you like that.
Let me clarify a bit on the aggression, maybe I created some misconceptions here because I summarized.

The times I've come to bed late and he got in my face - I opened the bedroom door, he got in my face with lots of barking, but within a moment he realized it was me and went immediately into a submissive down posture. I don't think he was reacting aggressively to me, per se, but to the sound of someone coming down the hall in the dark when he did not expect someone to be there. I didn't have to correct him, he submitted on his own. We moved his crate into the foyer/living area and he doesn't have issues anymore, even when we get up and come down the hall in the dark. This seems like a sensory thing to me, where he can perceive who we are when he has some visual or audible clue but when he can't see us, he is not sure if it is friend or foe.

The time my husband came into the backyard from the sideyard and he became defensive, it was like he didn't recognize my husband. He did not try to attack but stood his ground, hackles up, barking and growling. Husband tried to talk him down and he wasn't budging. I came outside and the distraction was enough to diffuse the moment. Afterward, we talked about this and thought he had somehow been startled but couldn't snap out of it without some kind of familiar stimulus.

We had a friend come over a week or so ago and I had the dog on a leash because I just wasn't sure what would happen. Maybe I shouldn't have done that; he's met people at the door before and never had issues, but he hasn't been leashed. My husband met the friend at the door and my dog and I followed after he let the gentleman in. My dog saw the newcomer and began barking. I put him into a sit/down and he did that but continued to bark, so we started doing figure 8's in the kitchen with sit/down and when he wouldn't calm I put him into his crate. Once in the crate, he was fine, so it may have well have been a fear response. But if that's a nerve issue, why is it showing now instead of the dozen or more other times someone has come over in recent months?

The latest thing that happened is that there were two, maybe three days last week where he "woofed" at us when we came in from the garage. He came out into the hall, stood with head down and shoulders squared, and woofed before he could see who it was. When he saw us, he relaxed and was happy to see us. We've come and gone multiple times since then without the woofing or guard stance. He does still alert to any of us coming inside and will come see who it is, but there's no barking or other aggression stuff.

I have not felt I was in a fight or flight situation, ever. I have felt annoyed that he's being obnoxious and misjudging the situation, but never felt like if I didn't "do something" quick he was going to hurt one of us. I do want to make sure there are no scenarios where that could be an issue. I don't have a problem increasing the corrections, and I don't have a problem accepting that there's a fear thing here that we need to work on. But I'm having trouble grasping why this is JUST starting to happen. If it was temperament shouldn't we have seen this before now? How does any dog "just know" how to handle these kinds of situations without some kind of exposure/socialization that teaches them this?

I have a question for the OP. Have you been doing any personal protection work with this dog recently? If not, could there possibly be situations where your dog is at home unsupervised and there are unfamiliar people (meter readers or foolish teenagers) that come into his territory? Maybe your dog has had a negative experience with strangers that has caused him to become more suspicious of people in general. I find it odd that a puppy which you describe as previously "loving everyone he meets" becomes suspicious of people to the degree that you describe, without there being an influencing event.
Hmm. The backyard gate is padlocked and there is a 7 ft block wall around our property, so it's not likely people are coming into the yard to heckle him. We have had a dog walker coming for the last month to walk him during the days we're gone. She's never reported any aggression (she comes in the middle of the day when no one is home) and she is a positive method trainer. As far as I know she's never been involved in or shown interest in protection work. But I ultimately don't know because I'm not there. This is a good point to consider - we stopped the dog walker sessions a week ago just because of cost and we felt like we needed to try harder, which is also approximately the last time we had aggression issues. The vet is coming up again next week, so it will be an interesting thing to observe his behavior then.

We decided to leave all the protection training for later and just focus on obedience and being a puppy for now. He has a high ball drive. Ball is life. So we throw the ball a lot and he kills the ball every time. By that I mean he literally destroys the ball in a single session. I'm still trying to find indestructible balls! He plays a fierce game of tug but the minute I tell him to "drop it" he releases and sits back to wait for the next round. With tug he has no give in him...he will hang on until he is so tired he can't lift his head but he will not let go. The same goes for walks and runs and play. He will work as hard as you think you can work him and still be ready for more.

He has been a beast to train. If I gave up a fraction of a millimeter, he would take advantage of it. Learning how to be a leader has been one thing, learning how to be this dog's leader had been an exercise in complete frustration. Stubborn would be how I'd have described him before. In the last few weeks that entire picture has changed and he has become what I would call "compliant."
 

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NewtonK9....from your further clarifications in last post, maybe I can help. I have owned and bred these lines in the past. I can picture your dog and have a “ feel” for his future development. Send me a pm. ( Give me a day or two to answer as I don’t visit this site daily anymore.
 

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When I say Kennel dog, I'm talking about what Slam said. Management. That's not a dog I'd give a lot of free run too. At a year old, he KNOWs who you are. When they're clear headed,they know who's car pulls in the driveway. When you say "times" like that. I look at that as exactly what Jim pointed out. Nerves. As they mature, yeah, you're going to see the different pieces of their temperament kick in, the suspicion with different people. Territorial of their yard. But at a year old he's experienced all those situations with you enough that he shouldn't react like that. That's his nerves. At that moment he's not clear in the head.

The older he gets, the stronger the drives come up, maybe the nerves don't hold it together all the time. All I'm saying is you have to live with him, and I'd think in terms of management and limiting situations where he's going to "startle" or react aggressively first. I'd crate him at night too.
 

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I have owned and raised a dog like this who turned out to be an exceptional dog. As a young dog, he definitely had an underlying insecurity which he took forward into a rage. The dog was people aggressive, handler aggressive and dog aggressive. I did a lot of work with the dog and HOT him to a SchH 3. The protection work helped him a lot as did all of our training and socialization. That dog would have been a nightmare in a family environment or a weak owner.

I do not want anyone to think that I am knocking the OP's dog. There is no perfect dog in this world. My point was that the OP needs to focus on temperament and not so much the lines. The dog is what the dog is. The OP is certainly working with the dog and doing a nice job. It's a bump in the road that the OP needs to work out and manage. A dog like this will make you a better owner and a better handler. Dog's like this can teach us a lot.
 

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Slambunk, about the Enough command I also said Teach it and Reinforce it. As with correction for disobeying a command he knows. You said the same thing worded differently.

Slamdunk> "This is a genetic and temperament issue and needs to be dealt with accordingly. The dog needs to be reinforced for correct behavior and corrected strongly for inappropriate aggression. "
 

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My bitch at a young age started making a snarly face when told to down. Just a brief snarly face then she would comply. She got corrected and she stopped doing it. Going to the e collar from the prong got me out of her face and perhaps she stopped associating me with the correction. But she stopped that in about a month. Maybe she grew out of it.
 

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Slam, this is an interesting concept of innate drives overcoming nerve.

I wonder is there any possibility that the Ops dog can not see well? Does she say something to the dog from down the dark hall or the other side of the door so he knows its you?
 

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@NewtoK9,
I would rule out any kind of medical issues with your dog. You mentioned that he has been a beast to train, but has become "compliant" in the past few weeks. What do you think caused this change? Just curious, is your dog neutered or intact?

Here is what I would do if he were my dog. I would keep working on the obedience, I would work him with the ball or a kong on a rope as a reward. You mentioned that he has high ball drive, I would use that to your advantage. I would be very consistent with him, praising lavishly when he is correct. For behaviors that he understands and knows, he gets told once or given a command one time. He has two seconds to respond and when he does he is rewarded. If he is not doing a trained command, like sit for example with in two seconds, you make him do it. Do not repeat commands and correct for disobedience. Then praise at a higher level then the correction once the dog is correct.

I might consider doing agility with this dog. Agility will be a great way to build confidence and bond with your dog. Agility folks are experts at praising and motivating their dogs.

I would take this dog everywhere, outside of train stations and stand on the platform at rush hour. Every time he is neutral to people passing by he gets a treat. Anytime he shows any inappropriate aggression he gets corrected sternly. Probably, 3 or 4 times harder than you think he needs.

Before you start correcting him harshly, has he ever shown any handler aggression after a correction? How does he respond to corrections.

How old is he currently?

Male dogs, especially working line dogs start to change at about a year or so. What was previously a friendly fun loving pup, now starts to become a more serious dog. They may not tolerate strangers and may start to show aggression as your is. My dog Boomer, did this at a year old. Strangers could no longer pet him and he was a beast at the vet. But, he had strong nerves and a solid temperament that could handle his drives and his aggression.

I would crate this dog at night as suggested. I probably at this point would not make a big deal of the barking at you when you come in the garage. I'd say his name, tell him firmly to "knock it off" and give him something to do, like sit or down. Praise for the correct behavior.

Dogs like this need a strong leader and prefer when people take charge. Upping his obedience will help and really taking charge will go a long way. Dogs with this type of temperament can not make decisions on their own. He needs to know you are in charge and he has to respect you and the rest of your family. When he knows you are in charge and how he has to act, he will relax. Having a strong leader will ease his mind.
 

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We are at the 1 year old mark now; and the changes the OP described are what you are now describing Slamdunc (along with some additional antics, yes).

So, what comes next during year 2? My male is not exhibiting the above, but he is maybe a later(r) bloomer. (Or pulled different genes, or nature vs. nurture arguments, or... ). I get that its all generalizations but its nice to know what CAN be going on and what to look for.
 

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We are at the 1 year old mark now; and the changes the OP described are what you are now describing Slamdunc (along with some additional antics, yes).

So, what comes next during year 2? My male is not exhibiting the above, but he is maybe a later(r) bloomer. (Or pulled different genes, or nature vs. nurture arguments, or... ). I get that its all generalizations but its nice to know what CAN be going on and what to look for.
Steve Strom mentioned what will happen. Dogs with these drives and temperament only get stronger as they mature. Some dogs with low thresholds and higher drives need to be handled and managed. They need a strong owner and leader. Some dogs are not the dogs you bring to the family picnic. My two males are good examples of this. They are put outside or away when people visit. Boomer is good with kids, Boru is not. In the wrong household these dogs run roughshod over everyone. They become unruly, disobedient and aggressive. If you match a dog with more drive than nerves you will have a real issue and people will get bit. Boomer is the greatest dog I have ever owned and worked. He is a pleasure to handle and super easy for me. He would have been a nightmare in a household with a novice owner. You need to be prepared to handle these dogs appropriately and be hyper vigilant. With the right owners and management they can be excellent pets. In the wrong home they can be a real pain in the butt.
 
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