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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 5-month-old GSD male. Great dog. He's smart, developing good obedience and good with people. His problem is other dogs when I am walking him. When he sees another dog, he barks his fool head off, raises his fur and lunges. I first noticed his reaction to other dogs when I got him at 10 weeks. In hopes of fixing the problem, I have taken him to the dog park, puppy class and doggy daycare. He plays with the other dogs, runs and doesn't seem to have an agressive or insecure bone in his body.

However, the socialization route hasn't worked. Last night, I took him to his first obedience class at PetSmart. He barked his head off, and the instructor told us that we can't participate in the class until he learns to cool it. She watches me handle my dog and says the problem is pack leadership. I have to learn how to show him that I am the pack leader. Her solution is to take the private lessons there with her and work on corrections with him. She said the problem is fear-aggression. To be honest, I haven't done a lot of corrections with him AND he does go nuts when he sees another dog. Sound good? Here's the catch. It's like 80 bucks an hour!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I DEFINITELY want to fix this problem, and I am no expert on dogs. She seems to know her stuff. Is it worth it?
 

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It does sound like you have a fear aggressive dog and you don't know what to do about it. If you don't do something about it, it will just get worse. In general, I have a very low opinion of PetSmart training and can't imagine paying that much for a private lesson from there. I would suggest you look outside of PetSmart for a better trainer.
 

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No it is definitely NOT worth it at petsmart. YES it's worth it at a real trainer.

IMHO the dog needs corrections when he behaves like this, and you will need to learn how to utilize them in training via a trainer that uses them in a swift and fair way.
 

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That is no trainer! The reason you are in there is for training, how on earth could she tell you that. SOunds to me it's so she can get paid for 'private lessions'. It is not uncommon for puppys to bark their first few times in a group class. What a moron she is.

I would speak with the manager and request a refund. Petsmart is not going to have the cream of the crop when it comes to trainers.
 

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That is no trainer! The reason you are in there is for training, how on earth could she tell you that. SOunds to me it's so she can get paid for 'private lessions'. It is not uncommon for puppys to bark their first few times in a group class. What a moron she is.

I would speak with the manager and request a refund. Petsmart is not going to have the cream of the crop when it comes to trainers.
Not to mention they'll probably take a dim view of one of their employees poaching customers for their private business.
 

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One of the reasons I hit the socialization path with my pups the day they hit my house, is cause I know they left their mom and littermates well socialized and now it's MY JOB to continue with the good work. From day one and forever.

I personally feel your pup is just acting completely inappropriately from over excitement and maybe a bit of fear/anxiety. So to come down on a puppy like a load of bricks would be a huge mistake. You aren't seeing any 'alpha' stuff. Instead you are seeing a puppy who has been lacking the leadership and guidance they needed to ACT APPROPRIATELY, trusting the human in their life is in control of the situation.

So this is like most dog training situations I run into. Not about the dog. It's about training ME! And with a 5 month old, you are running 3 months behind but can easily catch up if you start changing YOUR behaviors and how YOU are working with your pup.

Distance is your friend, you can only teach your pup if they are calm enough to keep their brain together. Once they are freaked out and barking like nuts, they aren't in a learning mode. So back off to some distance that works.

Clicker training!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Clicker Training: Marking Your Dog's Successful Behavior




THIS is the stuff that we should be doing with our pups when we first get them. Look, no leashes! Yet the puppy is all attention, focus, listening and learning. Even with other dogs around. No corrections in sight!

 

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I personally feel your pup is just acting completely inappropriately from over excitement and maybe a bit of fear/anxiety. So to come down on a puppy like a load of bricks would be a huge mistake. You aren't seeing any 'alpha' stuff. Instead you are seeing a puppy who has been lacking the leadership and guidance they needed to ACT APPROPRIATELY, trusting the human in their life is in control of the situation.
I'm going to agree with this also. Fur up can also be a sign of excitement as is lunging on the leash. I see way many more dogs that are overly excited and barking from leash frustration than dogs that are fear aggressive.

Alot of reading the beahvior lies in the posture of the dog. Does your pup lunge and then back up in a quick darting motion? Or is it more like a pulling, jumping let me get over there type thing? How is the bark? Little high? Or deeper? Where are the ears? Forward and alert or off to the side/back? Where is your dog's tail? Level with the back, curled up and over? Down? Is it moving at all or is it very stiff?

Reading all of this kind fo behavior is why you usually need a real trainer. Ideally someone who had worked with your breed of dog before and one who has some real accomplishments in training...not just a certificate saying they completed a 2 week course. Personally I don't have much faith in the ability of the average PetsMart trainer. I've seen them do too many things. And much of their money is made off of comissions.
 

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I have a private trainer and I sometimes have problems with my 9 month old. Usually a new dog new area he does the barking, etc. He has told me I must make my corrections more meaningful so to speak. Now that Max knows his obedience he has something to fall back on it is time to correct the behavior. I am sometimes a bit weak in that area but we are not talking about being mean just getting my point across.

I think you should look for private training else where. I trained at Petsmart for basic and for socialization but even my instructor there told me they are limited on what they are allowed to do. Most are not even allowed to use pinch collars. So if you have a real issue they are not going to help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks everyone for the advice. I'll look for another trainer. He started with a good one, so maybe I'll go back. I also agree that I need to learn what to do with fear-aggression. There are some videos on clicker training and focus, but they are not helpful. I get that and don't want to buy anything. Does someone have a video on how to handle fear-aggression?
 

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Get the book Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. It has exercises to manage a reactive dog. I would get into classes of course, but this method helped me to manage Onyx's fear aggression.
 

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I'm with JKLatsky. Shasta acts exactly the same way when she's on leash. She lunges and pulls and generally acts so fierce that people are afraid to let their dogs approach her. But, trust me...it's not aggression at all. It all excitement. Let her off the leash and she is all wiggles and kisses.

So I'm just saying...it could be that she's fear aggressive, but I don't think it's a sure thing.
 

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Check into an obedience training club in your area- ours is great, all the trainers volunteer their time so the fee for classes is minimal. Or maybe a gsd club if you're in a large city.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I made a few small steps of progress today with Rider. Our neighbor has a yappy beagle. It runs along our shared fence, and it is bark, bark, bark all the live-long day. Rider will run along the fence and bark at this menacing little **** or just whine. So, today I stood between Rider and the fence and said, "NO". The first time I did it, Rider just looked at me. I pointed my finger, and he quit. The second time I did it, he walked off and that was the end of it. We went back to playing ball and there was no more barking at the beagle.

I think of it as kind of a Ceaser thing in which I claimed ownership of the fence---became the pack leader. It's only one victory, but am thinking that there is some hope.
 

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Good job on claiming the fence! One small step at a time is all it takes.
 

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I can't believe that a trainer would insist that a dog come into their class already well behaved. Uhm, isn't this the reason someone brings their dogs to obedience class?

When my current GSD, Heidi, went to her first obedience class we were there with nearly a dozen other strange dogs who've never met one another in a medium sized room. Of course nearly all of the dogs were barking at one another but our trainer who had instructed us to bring mats had us place our dogs on them and do body handling and it was amazing within 5 minutes every dog was quiet, settled and focused on their owner. What she had done with us she had learned from concepts and techniques called TTouch, developed by Linda Tellington Jones, which you can read more about here: www.ttouch.com

As for the fear-agression just be patient and accept that it may take several months of counter-conditioning and desensitization but you can change your dog's reactivity in time. I had to do the same but now when a strange dog passes us I just as for a sit and watch me and it's become a non-event.

Good luck.
 

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If this is a fear aggression problem, corrections WILL NOT HELP. You cannot correct the fear out of anyone, canine or human. You need to find a COMPETENT behaviorist who has experience dealing with fear aggression. Your pup is young; this behavior CAN be rectified but it will take serious attention on your part and regular, slow, methodically work. Correcting a nervous dog, or becoming heavy handed in a misguided attempt to "show him who is boss" will only serve to INCREASE the anxiety. You may get a nominal change in behavior out of fear of correction, but the underlying anxiety will still be there, and a frightened GSD who does not trust his handler is a dangerous thing.
 
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