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Hello:

We have a beautiful male 6.5 month old named Barley--we've had him for 2 months. He's West German show lines, not working lines. He is wonderful with my kids, my other shepherd Sadie, and is learning to be good with the pet cats. When guests come into our house he barks a lot at first, but settles down quickly, especially if given commands and then treats. Sadie, who we rescued at 8 months, is very friendly and loves pretty much everyone and everything.

Barley, however, is very very reactive on leash--to people walking or coming out of their houses, to garbage cans or recycling bins on garbage day, to bikes, to strollers, and especially to strange dogs. He was pretty fearful around strange dogs from the moment we got him (he peed when a calm friendly dog approached him at the vet) and so we took socializing very slowly so as not to overwhelm him and make it worse. In puppy class, we would stick to the edges, within his comfort zone, or else he would react. Last week we were asked to not come to puppy class if it was raining and class had to be held inside--since it's been a really rainy June here, I kind of take it that we've been dismissed from puppy class. I've now started taking him to a behavioral trainer for one-on-one training, using LAT and BAT and a lot of the methods used here. We just started with her (she was recommended by a friend with a fearful, aggressive dog) and she seems to be a very good trainer. Bonus: she owns two GSDs herself so she gets the breed.

My question here is: is there hope that this dog is ever going to be sort of normal? I've given up on his being the kind of dog I can take everywhere, like my other dog Sadie is, but I would love (LOVE) to be able to walk and eventually run, when he's older, around the neighborhood without a whole lot of drama. He's a big boy and he already looks full-grown, so people are terrified when he lunges and barks (he has a big deep bark too). I would have expected that with two months of working on redirection and watch me that he would be improving, even slightly improving, with the reactiveness. But that doesn't seem to be the case. I'm getting pretty discouraged, frankly. Any hopeful stories would be really, really appreciated right now.
 

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Thank you--I just read them and will go back and watch the videos. It's good to know there's hope. Although I have to admit, I don't understand why my guy is fearful. He's not a rescue, his life both before and after we got him has been (as far as I know) calm and pretty darned awesome. I met his mom and many of his female relatives, and they were not fearful--in fact they were calm and friendly. My other GSD Sadie is the opposite of fearful--she is happy and extremely friendly and lives each day with gusto. So what gives with Barley?
 

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http://www.germanshepherds.com/foru...inating-e-collar-training-article-review.html

That's a great thread on it. Lou Castle's site has some wonderful success stories (dog was a different dog after 1 or 2 sessions). There is always hope, and if the dog fits the bill, it can be "cured" and you would absolutely be able to take him anywhere just like your other dog. You don't have to "settle" for a semi-normal, dog. There are lots of methods out there to help him get over his reactivity. The stories/methods Lou Castle posted in the above thread comments are very informative. Good luck and it is absolutely not hopeless! :)

Edit: Just saw the dog is 6 months, maybe pm Lou Castle (I just suggest him because he has shared some amazing success stories with me about curing reactive dogs just like yours). He can give you some insight on age-appropriate training, etc...I am still learning, but like to help point people to trainers/owners with *proven methods, that cure/fix dogs that others say were "hopeless."
 

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Your dog has weak nerves/environmental insecurities. It is genetic, but you can build some confidence that will mask the problem.
"Mask" that's a really good word for training a fearful/reactive dog. My trainer has used that word and I think it's better than "cured" or "fixed" because you can't "fix" genetics. There was another thread about reactive dogs, and ones that are "cured" and if they were really "cured" or if they actually had better genetics than originally thought. And how do you tell if it's really genetics or training (ie one trainer says the dog is always going to react that way, it's genetics, and all you can do is manage the environment. Then another trainer can take the same dog, using different methods, and "fix" it). I'm starting to see that it isn't fixed vs not fixed, it's whether the trainer was able to use their methods to "mask" the reactivity or maybe "change/redirect" the reactivity.

I know I post a lot in fearful/reactive threads, but these types of dogs and how trainers use different methods to "fix" them, is fascinating to me. I think it's because ever since I started really getting into the dog world I notice how MANY dogs out there (not just gsd) are fearful/reactive, and owners have always said they were "protective/aggressive/bossy etc." So it's interesting to me to be able to label it, and then explore how to "mask" it best. If that makes sense.
 

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If he is weak-nerved because of genetics (I've been holding out hope that this was just a very long fear period) than I'm crushed. We paid an enormous amount of money for him, and I was assured that he and his parents have great temperaments. If this is an issue that's going to last his entire life, well, that's very sobering.
 

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If he is weak-nerved because of genetics (I've been holding out hope that this was just a very long fear period) than I'm crushed. We paid an enormous amount of money for him, and I was assured that he and his parents have great temperaments. If this is an issue that's going to last his entire life, well, that's very sobering.
You're on a good path with the trainer that you just started with, so give it time. He's still very young.

There are a few things that could be going on here, and one is definitely genetically weak nerves. But do you know what kind, if any, socialization was done with him before you got him? He's entering adolescence, which can be challenging all by itself, but he was already 4-1/2 months old when you got him, which is past the most critical socialization period. He may have missed out on being exposed to new people/places/things in a positive way from an early age.

This could also be at least partly the phase that he's going through, exacerbated by a lack of early socialization and/or weak nerves. Halo, who does NOT have weak nerves, and has always been confident, fearless, and pretty darned full of herself :)wild:) went through a spooky phase when she was younger. She had a pretty low startle reflex and would bark at all sorts of benign things. She was also really sensitive to anyone that was at all "off" - people acting in strange ways, and had a thing about certain kinds of hats for awhile. We were concerned at the time about her barking at people since while we'd dealt with reactivity towards other dogs before, this was new for us.

I continued training the snot out of her, and because I knew that she had good genetics and did not have weak nerves I didn't bother to be all that careful about how I exposed her to new things either - I pretty much bombarded her by taking her out in very busy public places to train. I don't necessarily suggest that you do this with your puppy! But she totally outgrew the spooky phase, and now she takes everything in stride. I take her out on long hikes at a park where there are tons of people - joggers, bicyclists, families with toddlers and babies in strollers, people walking their dogs, and she walks perfectly with me. My husband jumps her in dock diving events, and I've been racing her in flyball for a little over a year, where she's off leash around other dogs all the time at practice and tournaments.

Keefer has always been somewhat leash reactive too, although he just gets excited by other dogs, he's not afraid of them. He's extremely social off leash and gets frustrated when he's on leash and can't go greet the other dog. He's also gotten WAY better over the years. A few years ago the idea of taking him for a leash walk where we might encounter other dogs was out of the question because he would have been such a PITA, but now we take him to the same park where we take Halo, several times a week, and he's wonderful. I haven't done any formal training with him since he was around 3, and he hasn't been in a class since well before that (he'll be 8 in August), but our walks are all training walks, where we work on polite leash skills and I reinforce the behavior I expect. Maturity has made a huge difference for him, and I believe that had a lot to do with Halo as well.

Don't give up, and don't be too discouraged. Instead, be determined!
 

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Thank you Debbie, for your response. I like the "be determined." :) I'll certainly try. I will do whatever work it takes to try and make him a good citizen--I'm just really hoping that someday I can take him all the places I take my other dog (vacations, hiking, runs) and that his won't be a fear-filled life whenever he leaves the house.

I was told he was socialized when I bought him but I didn't press for specifics, unfortunately. I've tried to continue to socialize him, but he's so reactive at this point that we've put that on hold for now. He's big for his age and has a very, very loud deep voice, so if his plan is to scare off whatever he sees, it works (very well!) and his reactive behavior basically reinforces itself. I'm now exercising him very early in the morning and later at night when we're unlikely to run into anyone. I would love to socialize him like crazy (he's gorgeous! he's great! I'd love to show him off) but at this moment I and his trainer think it's doing more harm than good. On the plus side, I am pretty much guaranteed I won't be mugged. :)

He is, as I said, absolutely fantastic with my young children, my other dog (when they're both offleash), and other family members. He's shown no aggression or even fear *at home*. And he is very easy to train. He learns quickly and is easy to please. So there's that.

Thanks again for your reply. It helps.
 

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I would love to socialize him like crazy (he's gorgeous! he's great! I'd love to show him off) but at this moment I and his trainer think it's doing more harm than good.
I would tend to agree. If you're not careful you can make things worse, not better.

He is, as I said, absolutely fantastic with my young children, my other dog (when they're both offleash), and other family members. He's shown no aggression or even fear *at home*. And he is very easy to train. He learns quickly and is easy to please. So there's that.
And THAT is nothing to sneeze at! Personally, I'd much rather deal with reactivity towards other dogs than towards humans, especially since you have children. This behavior may not ever be completely "fixed", but I do believe with diligence and the help of a good trainer he can be greatly improved. You may still have to manage his environment to a certain extent by not exposing him to situations where he's going to go over threshold, but at least you have a very nice family dog at home.

Oh, and as far as determination, Cassidy was our first experience with an extremely leash reactive dog. We didn't understand why she was totally fine around other dogs off leash at the park, and turned into a barking, lunging, hackling monster in obedience class. She was our second GSD, and Sneaker, our first, just had one OB class and was good to go. Sneaker lived to 14-1/2 years old, so not only had I forgotten everything I had learned about dog training by the time Cassidy came along, what I actually knew wasn't very much, so she was my crash course in dog training and behavior. I was NOT going to let a dog get the best of me, so I started learning everything I could, and we found a special class for reactive dogs, which helped so much. As difficult as she was, I came through that experience knowing so much more than I did before, knowledge and experience that has benefitted me with each successive dog.
 

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This is what I read into your post:

I think you are transferring your fear/anxiety/apprehension/nerves to the dog. They are smart cookies and will cue from you on how to act. You can't fake it with them. They know.

Example: you think your dog has a problem already, you leash him/her up and try to avoid any encounter that will cause a reaction. You teach the dog: see situation, react fearfully. It can be so amazingly subtle, what we transfer to our dogs.

I recommend that you start alternating with relaxed/familiar encounters and the encounters you fear (and transfer to the dog), perhaps at a 3:1 ratio EVERY day, every walk. Or adjust the ratio however you think is best.

In the new situations, don't change your voice, your posture, your pace or anything. You may have to silently self talk yourself into a peaceful state, breathing deeply and keeping your muscles relaxed. Then, about 10-20ft away from the stimulus (new dog, person, sound, whatever), put the dog in a sit. Calmly. Work your distances closer over time. Start with your dog in a sit facing you, keeping relaxed focus. Treat sparingly, if you must, but only when he/she is relaxed and not bothered by the stimulus. Calmly praise, then move on as if nothing happened at all. You teach the dog a new normal.

No yanking on leashes, no turn and avoiding the stimulus. Just practice calmly sitting. I promise you, if you train yourself to be peaceful and accepting of new situations, your dog will too.

Myah and I purposefully go everyday to find new stimuli. If she's fearful (hackles up, darting a bit left and right with her head and/or body, or showing ANY concern at all), we sit and relax in the presence of the stimuli. We've had sitting sessions watching lawnmowers, vacuums, kids playing, babies crying, motorcycles revving (she hates that one!), dogs barking at her, you name it. And if a dog off leash charges us, I'm the alpha and I take care of it. She does not. I stand between them, and give a very stern verbal correction to the other dog. Her job is to learn to not react. Then when she matures, she can be taught to react on command, if we choose to go that route. But the foundation is teaching dogs to chill out and cue from you - providing you are sending the right cues!

Smart cookies, they are.

Best wishes :)
 

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I'm sure I am transferring *somewhat*, yeah. But I don't think that's the total problem. He's also very very reactive when my unflappable husband walks him. And I work for a dog walking company where I handle a lot of dogs every week, walking them in parks and other public spaces. The dogs aren't all angels, but I can handle them without making them more amped up and reactive.

But I totally agree that the leash is the problem.

Even with private training Barley seems to be getting worse, not better. My trainer wants to get his thyroid levels checked, but from what I've read here thyroid problems are pretty much never the issue in reactive dogs. I'm starting to think that despite my research on the breeder and lines, I have a dog with some serious issues.
 

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if my dog was reacting in that manner i would turn up the
socializing. invite people (friends, family, neighbors) to vist
so you can socialize and train. 24 hour stores are a great place
to train because of the hours. don't give up. giving up doesn't
accomplish anything.
 
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