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Hey Everyone! Ever since I got my GSD he has been extremely skiddish. We got him when he was about 3 months old, and i got him off someone on craigslist so I do not know his past before he became ours. He has come a long way as I've tried to socialize him with as many people, and dogs as possible but he is still very cautious around people. He loves to watch people from a distance, and even go as far as follow them but he will never get too close and if they turn around to say hello he will run back behind me. Sometimes he is wagging his tail and has his ass in the air but still hiding, and other times he seems legitmately scared so I am not sure what to do. I've noticed hes better with men than with women, but more or less the difference isn't drastic. He doesn't really ever bark at people, and very rarely does his hair go up he just seems extremely cautious and curious. I've tried to carry treats with me when we go for walks and have people give him treats, but this doesn't appear to be working well enough. Does anyone have any suggestions? He is MUCH better with dogs, but the big goof is around 80-90lbs now and if he wants to play with a dog he has really bad habits of doing drive by nips which cause other dogs to go crazy and then people don't want him near their pup and I can't blame them but it is getting increasingly hard for him to have interactions with other dogs. Thanks for all the tips!

Super Moderator
5,874 Posts
You can inadvertently make him more anxious by flooding him with close contact.Keep a distance where he is comfortable.It's really not possible to turn an introvert into an extrovert.Enjoy him!

813 Posts
Worst thing you can do is force him to socialize

Let him be. Give him his space. Best thing I ever did with my dog who was similar. Now she will go up to people on her own and isn’t hiding.

Also DO NOT have people feed your dog treats. I got this terrible advice and it made things worse. Members here told me to have people leave her alone and I’m so glad I did.

4,519 Posts
GSDs can play rough and may try to herd other dogs. That is one reason I don't take my dogs to dog parks to play with strange dogs.

As far as the skittish part, just like us some don't want to be rushed or crowded by huge strangers. I insist that my dogs have space and time to figure people out. We also should be giving them ideas of what we expect them to do, for instance sit by your side or lay in the shade of a table. We go to outdoor restaurants with our dogs. My dogs have learned where to plunk themselves down so that not only are they out of the way of feet, but also unwanted attention. By the time we are sitting down for lunch at a cafe we've already been walking for quite some time and the dogs are ready for a rest.

1,778 Posts
I have/had an extremely frightened rescue little pit. He use to scent if people tried to pet him. That was 6 months ago. Last week I took him to IPO practice and he did GREAT! There is hope for being able to be places with him without drama. But:

He will never like for people to approach him, so I ask people not to. Sometimes you have to be firm when you get the stranger that says "but all dogs love me!" Just remember, your dog does not owe society attention and affection. He only owes that to his close circle. And that is FINE.

Don't flood him. When we went to IPO he determined how close to get. Him. He has progressed to cautiously sniffing strangers rather than cowering, as long as they are neutral. He has even made some friends. On his terms.

Enjoy your dog. There are worse things in a world than a dog who things you hung the sun and moon, and you are his safety net. Rather than trying to socialize him, focus on bonding with him, basic obedience, focus exercises, and maybe learn how to play confidence building tug with him. Look up Collard Scholar. The Collared Scholar Online Dog Training School for Pet and Working Dog Owners They have a relationships game challenge starting April 9th. It looks like fun, I joined :)

Good luck! How old is he now? EDITED TO ADD- Derrrr your title of your thread said he is 9 months old lol He looks beautiful in your avatar.

13,884 Posts
okay here we go .

his past is his ancestry , his early primary socialization where the breeder and family represent "people", then the environment and experience that you provide.

some things can change , some things can not .

you did not say (or did you) how old this dog is - 90 pounds sounds hefty -
that can be from being food-indulged or calorie high , nutrient low starchy grainy filler food

how does this happen?
quote "follow them but he will never get too close and if they turn around to say hello he will run back behind me"\
is the dog off lead?

and quote "carry treats with me when we go for walks and have people give him treats"

suggestion --- we all feel the most secure when we know what is expected of us and knowing what to expect , finiding
a setting for what is normal and adapting to this

to the first point --- the dog is allowed to be too focused on others in the environment - he sits and watches them, he is somehow allowed to go forward and follow them . He should be focused and connect to YOU , the leader .
Train the dog.
Train all the basic akc/ckc companion dog exercises -

heel , walk with manners consistently in the space - traditionally left side , not ahead , not behind , close but not interfering
this is not a precision drill -- good manners , knowing how and where to be , reliablity from dog and from you.
You have to be consistent . Knowing what to expect and knowing how to help yourself to get approval is the basis
of security.

sit -- ask once , and guide into position if dog does not sit. When you stop it is nice to have the dog sit and mind his own business. His mind is connected to you. Stop and sit intersections with lights .

down - another static exercise - self explanatory . Down is not OFF . Both down and sit should be held until released or further instructed.
use the environment to your advantage for training .
like car2ner who used an outdoor eating area and had the dog plunk down --- do the same , after a training session which had lots of the moving exercises - shift to the static - in this case the DOWN -
grab a coffee , and find a bench and sit and enjoy -- the dog will be asked to lplunk himself down and relax .

he can watch the world go by . if he leaves position , then you correct him an put him into a down again.

start off in an area where there is not heavy traffic with joggers or dog walkers , and don't have a dog walker bring his dog into your dogs zone to go visit . If they start to approach -- often accompanied (lol) by the person talking to the dog - not you - the dog . Just tell them , no , please don't. And control your dog showing your dog that you are reliable and trustworthy by being consistent.

Most important --- the RECALL - come to me . The dog should be able to be recalled no matter what .

Heeling and recalls can have a lot of fun put into them because you are moving .
I have done a class of young dogs taught recall with a square dance configuration --
Dog can recall from any position, front , either side , and behind --- recall being a position where the dog positions himself in front , focused , and available for next instruction.

when the trainer is relaxed and has fun the dog looks forward to class and responds with pleasure

most classes still have the put your dog into a stay , walk away and face the dog -- and then the guy takes a gun fighter stance , arms crossed and glowering - staring at the dog , daring him to move. --- and often the dog does
because he becomes anxious with the pressure

to point two - where people are treat dispensers -- oh no they are not !
stop lying to the dog.
show the dog normal.

there shouldn't be any need to interact with other people . You can't orchestrate a predictable "stranger"
reaction -- mostly and ideally people shouldn't care if you are there with the dog -- neutral

there is no need to go play with other dogs ---
the dog should mind his own business , be responsive to you

dog parks are opportunities for drama -- if you want the dog to enjoy inter-dog play time , then do so
with an owner and dog that you know "friends"

101 Posts
Carmen, this is such good advice for the owner of a dog with genetically weak nerves--or any dog, for that matter. The training will not cure the underlying problem, but it will make life so much more enjoyable and predictable for the owner and the dog.
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