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Hello everybody,

I am new to this forum. We have had our GSD Norman for over three years now. Since he was a puppy I worked tirelessly to socialize him... and he did very well in the beginning. Then at 9 months he had an orthopedic issue that had to be addressed as soon as possible. His prognosis was not good and it was possible that he would be on pain medication and limping the rest of his life. Luckily we found an awesome surgeon who with a combination of surgery and stem cells completed rebuilt his elbow, no limping at all whatsoever in three years!

Problem was that from 9 months to 12 months he was not allowed any walking -- so we had to keep him in his kennel. After the three months kenneling is when problems started to arise -- barking at strangers, afraid of strange dogs. I continued to socialize him. Then, at a year and half he bit someone.. since then he has bitten a few more people (luckily not injuring anyone). Anyways, as the dysfunction got larger we catered to it more and more. Now, we can't have anyone strange around -- if we have visitors for an extended period of time we have to spend days getting the dog used to other people. He's afraid of dogs that he does not now and he will snap at them in fear.

Now comes the kicker --- we just had a baby two months ago. I do not trust this dog around the child, simple as that. I don't know what to do, I lay awake and night thinking about it. I am so attached to this dog but I am also so afraid something bad is going to happen at some point. I am just hoping there is someone else out there who can relate to all that we are going through. We have three dogs and I am firm believer that once you have a dog it is fully your commitment and you cannot just get rid of them because its "not a good fit"... well at least I used to feel that way. But now, I can't stop thinking about getting rid of him -- I just know that getting rid of him would very difficult (for me and trying to find someone that would want him).

I am sorry for the really long post --I just hope that someone can relate or pass on some information on what steps I should take -- I feel so lost right now about the whole thing.
 

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I dont know where you are from, if you gave a general location it would be easier to help you.
Because you have a baby in the house I think you should contact a behaviourist to work with you and Norman on his issues. I have a dog that had issues like Normans and still 5 months later she is only 80% better. These issues take time, sometimes YEARS in some cases. I firmly believe due to your tone that you need to contact a behaviourist or a very well reputed trainer to help you.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I dont know where you are from, if you gave a general location it would be easier to help you.
Because you have a baby in the house I think you should contact a behaviourist to work with you and Norman on his issues. I have a dog that had issues like Normans and still 5 months later she is only 80% better. These issues take time, sometimes YEARS in some cases. I firmly believe due to your tone that you need to contact a behaviourist or a very well reputed trainer to help you.
I live in Colorado Springs. Yes, i agree with you, I do need to spend some time with a behaviourist.
 

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I think you need a private trainer ASAP. I am going through similar issues with my 11 month old female who while fine with other dogs barks and lunges at strangers in the home I believe out of fear though I could be wrong. She is definitely a bite risk though so far we have avoided any bites. We crate her if we have a house full because unfortunately I know she can't be trusted and I have two kids as well though she is perfect with them.

In my search for a trainer I called a few places but most didn't seem to savvy about GSD's in particular so I declined their service. Find someone very familiar with the breed and start behavior modification as soon as possible. If you rehome this dog your just making it someone else's problem and unfortunately the dog will probably just be put to sleep. Of course your family comes first so if this dog after professional training can not be rehabilitated your going to have to make some very tough choices with your guy, but try some in home training first you never know:)
 

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I can completly relate to your situation-minus baby. I live in an apartment building so there are always people-this has both helped and hurt us.
I'm sorry that I cannot help you. I have honestly written this post a couple of times now and every time I think to myself 'ok, but this dog has a bite history' and the idea goes out the window. The only advice I have left is this.
I want you to go to your local petsmart/petco/whathave you and buy yourself a bucket muzzle-They come in wire and plastic and a clicker. I want you to make this muzzle Normans 'party hat'. The muzzle is going to be the OMG best idea EVER to the dog. The dog must be trained to LOVE (not like) the muzzle.
Please dont just stick the muzzle on Norman. It will cause him alot of stress. And you will be stressing him enough without him not liking the muzzle.
Once Norman LOVES the muzzle I want you to walk norman-EVERYWHERE. At first, just take him around the block. Then, take him on a walk across the street from a busy grocery store or something. Then, walk him on the same side as the grocery store. Gradually get closer and closer to people. You know him. You know what his 'boundaries' are. You need to find them if you dont and work on them. When he is good, click and treat. When he is bad, block what he is reacting to and get his attention with something he LOVES. A piece of chicken, beef, a favourite treat, whatever. Once he is quiet, click and give him the treat. There are opposing points of view on this subject, like I recently read I forget where the person belived making the dog look at it with a command 'Look at it!' click and treat when the dog looks at it because the dog then realizes it was a good thing and then focuses on you because they know a treat is coming. Use whatever makes more sense to you-I will be trying the suggestion myself.
For people coming into the home, muzzle Norman. With Shenzi I make people walk up to her crate as she is barking like a banshee and show her the treat. Tell her sit. and when she does give her a treat. Surprisingly enough after a few commands/treats in the crate and she is calm I tell them to open the crate themselves after she is in a sit/stay, and tell her to come. And treat. It tricks her because she is in 'obediance' mode, and come is just another command. Then she is foot to foot with a new pez dispensor. And pez dispensors are never bad. This ONLY WORKS when the stranger in your home is not scared of the dog. 'sssiiittt?' won't work, neither will 'SIT!!!' the person needs to be calm, and collected, and give the command like they would order a child. because really, thats what your dealing with.

I really hope that you meet with a behaviourist. I really hope that you spend time, like 10-15 minutes a day, (4-5 minutes each session) getting Norman to love the muzzle. and I really hope that when Norman loves the muzzle you walk him in new situations every day. It will take time. You will get frustrated. You will have setbacks. Its 2 steps forwards 3 steps back 6 steps forwards, but you do make amazing progress.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you so much for your pointers! Yes I have thought of a muzzle before as a last resort. Believe it or not I have him very well leash trained, he is actually great on walks even in crowds of people (so at least I can do that). I do already a really good muzzle that I got at Ray Allen the K-9 store. So what I will do is start working with him, like you said, make him like it not hate it. He is actually a very easliy trainable dog.

So thats encouraging! Thanks so much.. .I will let you know how things are going.
 

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I agree with all the advice given above. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks, While you may never have a perfect dog, with dedication and diligence you should be able to get him to "deal" with life.

I just wanted to add, placing this dog would not be a good thing, you would be passing on a big liability to someone else, unfortunately.

Definately seek out a behaviorist and try some of the ideas above:)
 

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Work on him, but go with your gut . If you're uneasy, get help and if you still worry, find good home for him.

I had to re-home one dog, but I worked hard and found a good home home for him with an experienced owner.

Good luck and congrats on your baby.
 

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A dog of this personality will be very difficult to "re-home" He is really a dog that needs his people and probably isn't confident in situations where others are present. So really he would be considered a liability and bite risk.
I agree with working with a behaviorist.
My thoughts would be NOT to isolate him from the baby, the more you keep the baby from him, the more curious he is and the need to get at the baby increases. Then he may feel(already does) that the baby is a threat to the "pack" establishment he has in his mind.

I would use the babies scent(clothing etc) to show Norman the baby isn't a threat and you are the one to protect Norman and the baby as well. Don't correct him when he shows behaviors that are reactive to the baby, but give him positive reenforcement that the baby isn't a threat. Build Normans confidence by taking him and the baby for a brisk walk. Of course two of you, one for Norman, one for the stroller, keep a pace and happy tone thru-out.
Norman may benefit from some classes that are based on reactive dogs. The book Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt is a great start to managing a reactive dog if you can't find a good, qualified behaviorist in your area.

A calm, firm leader goes a long way with a dog of this temperament.
But please, go with a good behaviorist to work out the kinks til your dog can live happily with his pack, no matter how many you add to it.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Jane,

I guess I wasn't totally clear on my post.. Currently Norman is around the baby all of the time (only when we are with him though) -- I totally agree with you that isolating him from the baby will only make it worse. We go on walks all of the time and he does awesome! He is very aware of her and we always make point to not make the baby the focus of attention -- just act like we would around him before the baby. So far that has been working great!

We just had a bit of relapse where he barked at the baby when my wife was holding her -- so I was it was just but frustrating. But we will continue to do the things we are doing. I also realize the re-homing him is not an option.
 

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I can relate. We got our Sadie when she was a year old. The previous owners did not tell us that she was scared of men. I brought her home and for the first week, she growled and barked at my husband and my oldest son. She did fine however with our 2 & 5 yr old kids. Eventually she accepted them and things were great. Then started the aggression towards other people when they came to visit. We wanted her to protect the house but didn't know how to deal with the behavior when it was someone we wanted there. I also tried trainers (plural) and none could help us. I'm sure I was doing something wrong!! She had an unplanned pregnancy a few months back. With having potential adopters come to visit with her pups, her behavior changed. I don't know if it was all the socializing with people or what, but now I trust her 95% of the time with people. She still barks but as long as we introduce her to them, she calms right down. I wish I could say the same for her dog aggression. Thats a whole different story!!!! Just continue to work with him. He sounds like he is a big part of your family. I wish you luck and please keep us updated on his progress. Congrats on the new baby!!!
 
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