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Nico is now over 3 years old, had him from 8 weeks. He loves all people, kids, men, women, any skin color, and people with hats. He's pretty good to excellent at home. He's got the cutest face. He's obsessed with his ball. He's not scared of lightning, thunder, or fireworks.

But he is off-the-charts dog reactive.

I've come to accept this, though there's still some anger, somewhere. Paying the amount I did to a breeder should be paying for a good temperament. For that amount of money, we should be able to head to the park, or go for a walk downtown.

I have worked with him for years on desensitizing him. Everyone and their mother, my roommate who worked for the SPCA, the police handler I hit up for casual conversation, insisted that it just took time, some more than others. So I've taken years to get closer to other dogs with positive reinforcement. Over this summer I took him out a couple times a day, every day, near-ish other dogs to work on focus and obedience. It's worked some, but his best is still far from acceptable public behavior.

I'm at the point where, as an active, youngish (34) guy who loves to get out and play sports, go on hikes, explore cities, etc., am having huge doubts about our future. He can't do any of that with me. Would a family with no other pets and a fenced yard be a better life for him, for them, and for me?

That said, at the moment, I also have a deposit down for a board and train. I'm not a pay-someone-to-take-care-of-my-crap kind of person, but there's literally no alternative besides giving him up or keeping him inside his whole life. It's a reputable facility, the owner breeds GSDs and trains police dogs. I've contacted people who have reviewed them online, and have gotten excellent feedback. Still, I'm so incredibly nervous about it, and of course, it costs about the same as buying another dog from a breeder.

I don't even know what I'm asking here. But no one in my life understands having a reactive dog. I was just thinking the other day, I'm happy with my life, with work, friends, hobbies - but not Nico. Sure, we have our moments when we play, or when he jumps up to cuddle at night. He's the best at night when he's calm, I love it.

But I don't have that bond with him that everyone else seems to have with their dog. They just love their dog to death, and I spend all day managing my dog. It's a never ending process of being on edge, scanning for animals on walks, being interrupted throughout the day (or night) when he hears a dog outside.

Reading others' stories here, I see that I'm lucky that Nico is good with humans. But, I feel, permanently, this sense of "now what?" with him. Will I still have to be just as vigilant after the board and train, but with an e-collar remote in hand? Should I not do the board and train and just keep our world very small? Would medication help? Is the board and train a waste of money? Will it even work? If it doesn't, then I'm out of that money, and then what? And again - would a family with plenty of human contact but no animals be better for him?

Thanks for having this space to vent. If he ends up at the trainer, I'll update periodically. That won't be for a few weeks, and I wouldn't get him back until the end of October.
 

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I think your road map is pretty clear. It sounds like you did due diligence on the trainer. When his board is over then it is up to you to keep up the training. Sometimes dog aggression is related to the chemistry between the owner and the dog. After the training he might be fine when handled by other people but old reactions may come back because he senses your reactions if you anticipate problems due to learned reflexes on your part. If that happens then I suggest looking for a reputable GSD rescue to have him rehomed. When I was in my 20s and early 30s and single, I intentionally did not own any animal companions even though I was always a life long animal lover because it didn't fit my life style and situation.
 

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If you feel that you have did everything you could do and Train and board is your last resort then you should try it as long as it has very good references. It is important the board and train work with you as well. My dog is dog reactive.Max was never fond of strange dogs he is not crazy aggressive, he would want to run them off. I did a lot of leave it’s, focus exercises, obedience for him to behave. He gets along with the dogs in our house greatly and is a playful boy we added a puppy into our life’s two years ago and they are the greatest of friends. I do not need him to play with strange dogs but to ignore them. The things I do most with my dogs are taking them out for walks, beaches hiking trails. Max being dog reactive has not hindered me at all in doing those things. Yes it takes time and patience but it can be done. My goal was just to walk past dogs calmly - no need to interact. I worked with trainer with timing and made sure I had a worked with a trainer with ecollars so I can proof reliable off leash recalls also helps with dog reactivity if done right. Focus exercises starting with treats then balls or toys and obedience exercises helped. A solid “stay” will let your dog know what he needs to do. I also like the word leave it. Noseworks class or any anything your dog can excel in or practice will build more confidence and build a strong bond.

The most difficult thing to do is not get tense. Believe me i know it is easier said then done. German shepherds pick up every emotion we have so it is important to remember to breathe. It’s why I liked the beach for our practice it’s hard not to ignore the salt air. You have to find your zen place to work with your dog. I find the more mature they get everything starts to snap into place. The more progress you see the more confident you will feel. The most important though is consitency.

I enjoyed going To the local beach one side allowed leashes dogs during season and off season either side allowed leashed dogs. Sharing what helped us.
 

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Nico is now over 3 years old, had him from 8 weeks. He loves all people, kids, men, women, any skin color, and people with hats. He's pretty good to excellent at home. He's got the cutest face. He's obsessed with his ball. He's not scared of lightning, thunder, or fireworks.

But he is off-the-charts dog reactive.

I've come to accept this, though there's still some anger, somewhere. Paying the amount I did to a breeder should be paying for a good temperament. For that amount of money, we should be able to head to the park, or go for a walk downtown.

I have worked with him for years on desensitizing him. Everyone and their mother, my roommate who worked for the SPCA, the police handler I hit up for casual conversation, insisted that it just took time, some more than others. So I've taken years to get closer to other dogs with positive reinforcement. Over this summer I took him out a couple times a day, every day, near-ish other dogs to work on focus and obedience. It's worked some, but his best is still far from acceptable public behavior.

I'm at the point where, as an active, youngish (34) guy who loves to get out and play sports, go on hikes, explore cities, etc., am having huge doubts about our future. He can't do any of that with me. Would a family with no other pets and a fenced yard be a better life for him, for them, and for me?

That said, at the moment, I also have a deposit down for a board and train. I'm not a pay-someone-to-take-care-of-my-crap kind of person, but there's literally no alternative besides giving him up or keeping him inside his whole life. It's a reputable facility, the owner breeds GSDs and trains police dogs. I've contacted people who have reviewed them online, and have gotten excellent feedback. Still, I'm so incredibly nervous about it, and of course, it costs about the same as buying another dog from a breeder.

I don't even know what I'm asking here. But no one in my life understands having a reactive dog. I was just thinking the other day, I'm happy with my life, with work, friends, hobbies - but not Nico. Sure, we have our moments when we play, or when he jumps up to cuddle at night. He's the best at night when he's calm, I love it.

But I don't have that bond with him that everyone else seems to have with their dog. They just love their dog to death, and I spend all day managing my dog. It's a never ending process of being on edge, scanning for animals on walks, being interrupted throughout the day (or night) when he hears a dog outside.

Reading others' stories here, I see that I'm lucky that Nico is good with humans. But, I feel, permanently, this sense of "now what?" with him. Will I still have to be just as vigilant after the board and train, but with an e-collar remote in hand? Should I not do the board and train and just keep our world very small? Would medication help? Is the board and train a waste of money? Will it even work? If it doesn't, then I'm out of that money, and then what? And again - would a family with plenty of human contact but no animals be better for him?

Thanks for having this space to vent. If he ends up at the trainer, I'll update periodically. That won't be for a few weeks, and I wouldn't get him back until the end of October.
Sorry to hear you're finding life with your dog so trying! The ideal time to address this issue with your dog would have been when he was still pretty young. That being said, your dog may never like other dogs, but he can very likely be trained to behave appropriately around them.

A board-and-train can be a good option, or it can cause more problems...So if that's your preference, just make darn sure you do sufficient research on the training facility you choose! Understand their approach, and talk to previous clients! And make sure they offer ample time to train you at the end.

My personal preference would be to work one-on-one with a trainer for this, because in the end it's your handling and relationship with the dog that counts. Since you've owned this dog since it was 8 wks old and haven't been able to stop this behavior, clearly you need to modify your handling of the dog, and a trainer could definitely help you with that. Of course, do the same ample research on the trainer you choose, if you choose this route. Find someone experienced with GSDs, who uses a balanced approach (IMHO he's beyond a purely positive approach). I wish you the best of luck however you decide to proceed! And welcome to the forum!
 

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I see that you mentioned that you spent years "close to other dogs with positive reinforcement" So it looks like positive reinforcement isn't the best training method for you and your dog. If it takes years to train something with little to no success then its time to look into other areas and be open minded about different training techniques. Which sounds like exactly what you are doing with this trainer you have for the board and train, make sure the trainer has success stories with reactivity/ aggression (although breeder and police trainer sounds experienced) So honestly, If I personally wasn't feeling capable of training/rehabbing my own dog, or not comfortable changing training techniques in fear of doing something wrong and making it worse, I would go for the board and train, and a good trainer will send you home with a strict schedule to keep him on and things to really continue working on, as well as, if you can, keep training with the trainer for a while after to really keep working on him and get him to the point you want him to be.

Make 100% sure the trainer is actually good, not all trainers or board and trains are good or will work. if you want to double check im sure if you post your approx location people could have trainer to recommend so you make the best choice for you and Nico
 

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I think the board-and-train, assuming it is a good trainer, will be a good opportunity to make your final decision. In case you do decide to re-home him, it will at least ease your mind that you did good for him. In case you decide to keep him, you probably need to change your ways as the behavior is a two-way-street, based on your description of him as a pretty stable sounding dog/pup to start with. Has he had any past bad experiences when he was young? Like being attacked or maybe just one scare that you thought was no big deal but which could have changed him nevertheless? Even after a successful b&t, you always have to be vigilant as old habit die hard. Are you up for that? I personally would consider my own quality of life as well. You are only young once and it has to be good; for you and the dog. Keep us posted.
 

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Make 100% sure the trainer is actually good, not all trainers or board and trains are good or will work. if you want to double check im sure if you post your approx location people could have trainer to recommend so you make the best choice for you and Nico
We're planning on K9 Instincts in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Anywhere close to Providence (including Boston) I would consider. Unless there's something head and shoulders better, I'd likely stick with this location, since it took contacting them at the beginning of August to get an October start date. They seemed quite booked up both for consultations and the actual training.
 

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based on your description of him as a pretty stable sounding dog/pup to start with. Has he had any past bad experiences when he was young? Like being attacked or maybe just one scare that you thought was no big deal but which could have changed him nevertheless?
It is possible some younger experiences in a dog park (we stopped going to those early in his life, for all the reasons people write about on here) were negative, even though they would have been isolated incidents, and nothing "big". There was a bigger GSD mix that bothered him constantly whenever they were both there. Nico finally "stood up for himself" one day, but of course looking back that may have not been the best thing.

He's stable in the ways I mentioned, but highly excitable. I did leave that out looking back at the post. He's always been very excitable, so even with humans, he's happy to see them, but it requires treats/ball/everything to get him to stay calm greeting one. He's again, much better now, largely will sit for people, but often with these high pitched, somewhat deafening shouts of excitement haha. I think this excitability translates over negatively with dogs. That's why I wondered about medication.

With just me, it's usually different. Right now he's plopped down on his place taking a snooze next to me while I type.
 

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Mikey, just checked out their website, and they sound like they have the tools they will need to work with your dog. Their head trainer breeds GSDs and works with law enforcement dogs, so they are familiar with high drive dogs that may have some aggression issues.

Just make SURE they do follow-up with you, to give you the ability to deal with his issues!

As someone who tried to rehab a dog aggressive dog, and wound up having to euthanize her, I wish you the best of luck! It isn't an easy road to walk. :crying:
 

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I also reviewed their website, and I like that they emphasize a customized training regimen for each dog. They also offer unlimited, free follow ups to help you maintain the training received in the board-and-train, which is awesome if they're close by.

One thing I've seen at other facilities, mainly the big-box stores/training centers, is that a lot of them rely on the same basic approach - every dog gets an e-collar, for example - very slightly "customized" or tweaked for any given dog...though they offer the same sort of marketing philosophy. But if youve talked to former clients and heard no red flags like that, AND good results, a board-and-train might be just the ticket to get you and your dog back on track!

Keep us posted!
 
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I got my previous GSD, as a 2 year old shelter dog. I lived with her for the next 12.5 years. She was perfect in every way. She adored my young children, was completely housebroken, crate trained, and non-destructive. BUT - she was dog aggressive. I am not sure dog aggression can be fixed. I took a different approach.

When I took my girl out, she was muzzled. At first, she wore a prong collar and some other type of collar and I had two leashes on her. Guarantee, when people saw us coming, they crossed the street - them and their little dogs too. 'Annie' was taught to ignore. Our walks were fast paced and focus was on me. Even though she was good with people, she didn't need to meet them either. She was fine with everyone who came into the house. Not fine with dogs. I could live with that.

We had a big fenced yard. We were able to exercise her there. She had a good life. It wasn't a big deal to me. Some dogs aren't 'go everywhere' kind of dogs. To be honest, I think you have done too much rewarding to try to get your desired behavior. Positive reinforcement for meeting dogs and people - I'd lose that. My dogs don't get treats, balls, etc. to calm down. They sit. They don't get to meet anybody, unless they sit. You can work on 'sitting on the dog' to help him learn to calm himself down. Sit on his leash for 30 minutes every day. Ignore him. No talking. No eye contact. Eventually, he will lie down. He will start to do this in less time and will do it in other places - like the vet office. The exercise teaches them to relax.

All dogs are different. I have always accepted who mine are. You can't make them into something they aren't. It sounds like Nico has so many positive qualities. If you can't love and bond with him, due to one negative quality, then hopefully you can find him a home with people who can.

I wish you well, with the board and train.
 

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I'll be short with this ---- look at Whole Dog Journal's articles on working with dog aggressive dogs, working under threshold. I think these are mostly Pam Miller (or is it Pat Miller?) articles. You'll be able to get shorter thresholds so you can go out and about more comfortably but I think that it never in her experience got down to absolutely gone. Most dogs are less than perfect in some aspect or another.


I would not expect to use a shock collar to "correct" this issue. I would think that would be likely to make it worse. As in "Huh! I get close to that dog and I get a nasty shock! I knew he was no darned good! I should rip his face off!" I might expect to have my dog on lead at most times and most places.
 

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An electric collar will work as long as it is properly used and the dog clearly understands both negative and positive markers (yes, I want that, no- I don't want that).

Dog reactivity isn't real difficult to fix, quickly, at a good board and train, but it will need to be maintained by the owner for life. It's really pretty easy for a trainer to 'turn a dog around' and have the dog out in a group play yard really fast BUT that hasn't really changed the dog. The importance is maintaining control with the particular 'picture' that the dog has practiced dog reactivity many times.

At the trainers, environment is controlled, and other dogs are controlled. The real world is a bit more difficult, but hopefully the board and train can give you the tools you need to live a happy, more social life with him.
 

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Just adding my 2cents based on my own experience, it sounds like you found a good B&T. That offer of follow-ups as needed for the life of your dog will probably be invaluable to you. As was said, it is much different walking a newly adjusted dog in a controlled group as opposed to dogs in the general public.

I'm not normally for B&T but your dog is 3 now and that's a good chunk of his life where due to the issues has restricted fun options for both of you. Seems time to let a pro who works and knows the lines help.

Fwiw, mine is what I call reactive but trained. Took a different route with group classes but I had to get my own fears under control and I knew that I had to be an integral part of the process in order to get over myself.

Going through reactivity and getting the help necessary made me deeply appreciate just how hard my boy was willing to work for me. It was hard and a couple times fought getting out of the car, kind of shut down, but he got over it. then one day during a few mins break (last day of class) while on the fringes of the group milling around, he and I looked at each other and started playing with all others forgotten. I swelled with pride that day. We still aren't perfect but we are able to go out and about with less stress and no outbursts. I hope you experience that with your boy.
 

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...he and I looked at each other and started playing with all others forgotten. I swelled with pride that day. We still aren't perfect but we are able to go out and about with less stress and no outbursts. I hope you experience that with your boy.
Thank you so much. It's amazing to hear it's possible, and I really appreciate the encouragement and well wishes. I see glimpses of that with Nico, and hope we (the trainer and I) are able to help him focus on that part of himself and ignore the rest.
 

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My male was dog reactive. I worked on his focus on me. I literally walked around with a ball in my pocket. Saw a dog, played tug with the ball. It took time. 2 years straight. A few weekends ago, he got his cgc. So its possible. You just need help getting there.
 

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I think you have two options. One is to keep working with this dog while you deprive yourself of the things you love and dreamed of doing with him. Your other option is to make him your "stay at home" dog and get a second dog from lines not known for dog reactivity or aggression. Life is too short to fool around trying to make this dog into something he is not. You have worked with this dog for years to no avail. You deserve to be happy and to pursue activities you enjoy.

Dog aggressive dogs are no fun. It is like having all the work and expense of owning a dog without the joy and benefits. Either re-home him or keep him, but get a dog you deserve that you can enjoy the activities with that you are missing out on.

I have had two dog aggressive dogs and it stinks. I am active and enjoy the outdoors, especially hiking. I understand your frustrations and resentment. For outdoorsy people, dog reactive / aggressive dogs are joy stealers. IMO, you are sacrificing too much.
 

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Lol I completely disagree with mineareworkingline dogs statement although it is her opinion. Though,I do believe adding a second dog can be good thing when you are ready. It is more then possible you can enjoy life with your dog reactive/aggressive not liking other dogs dog. If you so choose to put the work in. It all depends upon the invidual owner and dog- the indvidual circumstances. Op- you have to remember your advise given on this thread is per people’s experiences, as is mine. An experienced trainer can nip dog reactive isSues much quicker then people with no experience. You will learn to be more experienced and your training skills advanced over time. Yes the dog will never like other dogs but they do start to become more comfortable because they know the rules. I also believe that comes with maturity. Unless you live in the city and the only off leash options are at a dog park yes your dog reactive/aggressive will be more miserable then you unless you have a trainer like Cesar Milan by your side guiding you.

Working with a favorite ball toy is like magic. Since your dog loves the ball you will be amazed at the focus you can accomplish versus a treat. I often bring balls to the beach or hikes. It’s where i train/play amongst the chaos in a fun atmosphere.

I had surgery recently instructions by the doctors is that Im still am not allowed to walk my dogs because stitches inside still much healing - just in case the rare chance dogs may pull. I trust max entirely not to pull even so much as that I took him to the beach on a very busy weekend because it was where I really needed to be. As I was practicing our training skills on the beach and I will say it has been an awfully long time I had done much with my dogs because of medical reasons - a very quiet terrier type dog did come over unbegonst to us and sniffed max’s Butt as we were training and rewarding with a ball. Max barely noticed. The focus was on me. Without much care to max the owner scooped up their dog. I was excited max got his but sniffed by a strange dog lol! As we were walking along the beach A not so seemingly growling ,barking, obnoxious, not so friendly golden retriever off leash charged up to us ignoring their owner. Max barked but midway turned around to me looked right at me and stopped as I said leave it. As they dragged their dog away from us. I walked pass them with max in a loose leash smiling and secretly laughing at them.

It was a busy day at the beach we walked through all kinds crowds Family playing ball - which landed right in front of Max’s face as a little kid ran over to scoop it up. Another man looked like he was charging us as he was trying to catch a frisbee. All of max just watching and taking everything in stride. Real life is filled with uncontrolled situations I’m proud of my dogs.. After walking a few miles we finally got to a quiet place on the beach to reward max with his favorite game of off leash fetch. Max not liking other dogs does not keep us up cooped up in any house. It just makes him not perfect. It has not hindered the thing I have always enjoyed at all not even from the Beginning even with mistakes. The day I had at the beach had been many but like i mentioned due to health issues it has been quite awhile where it was just be and him and it was quiet an incredible day - spending alone time -playing fetch and having fun on the shore cooling off - I can’t describe in words how much fun that is.

We have come a really long way training wise and learned from many mistakes and embarrassing moments - truth. Sure I wish max liked strange dogs but that was not a priority and everything living thing has an issue or something that makes them imperfect. In my circumstances it just works. I have a chihuahua, another gsd there is no crate and rotate in our home. They all live together peacefully. I feel incredibly bonded to max not because life was just easy but because what we continue to overcome together. Just some photos of max and myself enjoying a incredibly beautiful breathtaking day. Only to show yes you can enjoy your dog reactive/aggressive dog and he does not need to have to live his life not enjoying life. I cannot begin to tell you how much fun we have. Please don’t give up on your dog.
 

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I think that it takes a lot of experience to determine whether a dog is truely dog aggressive where no matter the training method, the dog is out to kill other dogs. I don't question those who have been there. I do know for myself because of my inexperience, it took time and a couple of instances for me to realize that mine didn't want to kill other dogs but that he does need some space and was/is willing to fight and not back down and that he does have a habit of staring and posturing which provokes. We are basically past that now with just verbal reminders once in a while and a happy redirection.
@Jenny720 I love what you and he have accomplished and those gorgeous pics you post! Celebrating a surprise butt sniff w/o a reactivity reaction made me laugh. That happened to my boy while we were in a feed and grain store and he was checking out aka sniffing the treat section. His nose was so into what he was doing, he didn't even notice or maybe he did but chose not to notice because I didn't react either. Thanks for that laugh and a forgotten memory.

A little off topic but figured I'd say this here, I am so thankful for your encouragement to look into NoseWorks way back when for my boy. Trialing this weekend. :)

Mikeyg, if you've seen glimpses then there's a foundation waiting to be built and added onto imho. maybe change your mindset a tad from disappointment to pride and he will probably pick up and feed off of it. Btw, that experience in the group, I had no treats or toys to work with, none were allowed, all I had was happy emotion and praise. These dogs thrive on that.
 
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