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Ok guys please don't drag me through the coals please. This is a very stressful situation and I would really appreciate it if judgement wasn't added into the mix.

That being said, I need help. I recently got a german shepherd, a 16 week old female. She just recently started showing signs if some pretty intense fear aggression toward strangers. I took her to the vet and she went absolutely nuts. She was barking, growling, and snapping at the veterinarian and the vet tech. They had to muzzle her just to work with her. The vet ended up telling me that I needed to get her professionally trained or rehome her because it's not something I'll be able to handle. I took her for walks because she recommended trying very hard to socialize her, all I can do is walk her down a trail with my daughter. Her behavior is very unsettling.

I have to hold her still from lunging at everything and growling and barking.

I'm a stay at home mom with no vehicle. We needed a dog for protection because I'm pretty isolated from people with a ton of sketchy trespassers.

She does well with my family, even my 2 year old. I'm just very concerned that this behaviour could lead to an all around aggressive dog and become a threat to my daughter as the dog gets bigger.

I care about this pup a great deal but this worries me. She has also started to do things that seems like she's challenging me. I'll call her to come and she listens only about 70% of the time, she'll lay on the ground staring at me and won't move, she bites in play but gets increasingly more bitey with harder bites with discipline. There are times where she gets nippy with my daughter during play that eventually turn into bites and when I intervene she redirects at me, jumping at me and biting.

I'm a little overwhelmed. I am solely responsible for all of her training and I'm doing my best to try to be consistent and do my fair share of training video watching.

Has anyone ran into this? Do you have tips on how to handle this? Right now it seems like over enthusiastic play but are these red flags that she's going to be aggressive with us?

Please help me guys.
 

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Sounds like you’re in a situation that is overwhelming and out of your comfort zone. I think that is huge to admit exactly where you are at, and nothing to judge or scoff at. Would you consider board and train at an experienced trainers? Sounds like you definitely need the help of a qualified trainer, and it would help with the fact that you have no vehicle to bring her to training sessions.
 

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Can you afford a good private trainer? Get ahead of this now or you will have a dog that can’t go anywhere near people outside your family. That is very young to show such aggression. Ask the vet if it could be physical. If the dog is more than you are prepared for, I agree, rehome her and get a different dog. Puppies that age are not protective. Her behavior is more than natural protectiveness. Can you return her to the breeder? If you need a protective dog, consider getting an older trained or partially trained dog.
 

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I have a 7 month old male and he still has his moments when he does not want to listen at all and play the biting game on my hands and arms. I am almost like a human chew toy to him and he thinks this is all funny when it really hurts. When he was younger he was pretty rough too but he slowly started to grow out all the puppy plays. He still has his puppy plays that comes out of no where when we are out walking, but he is still young. Puppies are a really hard stage and I have never experienced such high drive until we got ours.
I would suggest getting your pup in training and get this handled as soon as possible if you want to still keep her. That is a bit unusual though for her to act this way at such a very young age.
Give her a lot of chew toys and do lots of play to burn all the energy. But training classes or board/train is probably what i would do if you are committed to do this.
 

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You sound overwhelmed but you're doing the right thing by reaching out for help.

How have her other vet visits been? I definitely don't like the idea of muzzling a baby like that. I would consider the idea that the vet isn't the best source on training information. Vets are notorious for being high stress places for dogs. I've come to realize that socialization is very important to German Shepherds. That means they need positive exposure to the experience if you expect them to act well. We took our baby in to the vet soon after we got him, not for shots but for a hello visit. He got treats, a fake nail trim and pets from 3 different techs. He was nervous at first and vocalized some but it was a positive experience. When we went in for his actual shot the next time, he was calm. The techs gave him another fake nail trim. We've also brought him to the vet just for weights a few times which are short, low stress visits. I know it's hard for you without a car but vet socialization is a thing to consider. If your vet isn't willing to work with socializing a 16 week old, I would go to a different vet. I have a pit mix that had a bad experience at the vet. The vet was rough with an injury and after that she would always growl at vets. We even had to muzzle her at first. It took finding a vet that wasn't rushed in their meetings for her to get over that fear aggression. It was a long process to bring her back so don't be hard on yourself if vet socialization goes slow. I wouldn't exactly read a lot into vet behavior apart from thinking your puppy may have less than steel nerves.

Stranger socialization isn't too different. If you want her to act well with strangers, she needs exposure to strangers. If she's lunging and freaking out, you are too close. She won't learn anything. You need to get to a distance where she doesn't react, work her, let her watch and then slowly bring it in over different sessions. Are you able to walk somewhere and get exposure to strangers? It doesn't have to be a busy street just a few strangers is a good start.

As far as the biting is concerned, these guys bite. A lot. If mine is tired, he bites. If he's over stimulated, he can bite like a rabid shark. Mine is 3 months old and he takes two set naps a day just like a baby. This helps tremendously in controlling the inner shark.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Sounds like you’re in a situation that is overwhelming and out of your comfort zone. I think that is huge to admit exactly where you are at, and nothing to judge or scoff at. Would you consider board and train at an experienced trainers? Sounds like you definitely need the help of a qualified trainer, and it would help with the fact that you have no vehicle to bring her to training sessions.
Thank you. I'm trying to do right by the pup but you're very right that it is overwhelming. I actually reached out to a few trainers today. I can't do board and train because that is way more expensive than we are able to afford at the moment.
 

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Can you afford a good private trainer? Get ahead of this now or you will have a dog that can’t go anywhere near people outside your family. That is very young to show such aggression. Ask the vet if it could be physical. If the dog is more than you are prepared for, I agree, rehome her and get a different dog. Puppies that age are not protective. Her behavior is more than natural protectiveness. Can you return her to the breeder? If you need a protective dog, consider getting an older trained or partially trained dog.
I reached out to a few trainers. You stated the very thing that the vet said and one of the trainers. Thar this is really young for that to be happening. The vet didn't say anything about it being a physical problem, she just kept saying that she was guarding me and that if was a pretty serious case of fear aggression. She was really trying to urge me to rehome her but I want to at least try a trainer and give her a chance. At least then I would at least know I tried my very best to the right thing for her before having to turn to rehoming.
 

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You sound overwhelmed but you're doing the right thing by reaching out for help.

How have her other vet visits been? I definitely don't like the idea of muzzling a baby like that. I would consider the idea that the vet isn't the best source on training information. Vets are notorious for being high stress places for dogs. I've come to realize that socialization is very important to German Shepherds. That means they need positive exposure to the experience if you expect them to act well. We took our baby in to the vet soon after we got him, not for shots but for a hello visit. He got treats, a fake nail trim and pets from 3 different techs. He was nervous at first and vocalized some but it was a positive experience. When we went in for his actual shot the next time, he was calm. The techs gave him another fake nail trim. We've also brought him to the vet just for weights a few times which are short, low stress visits. I know it's hard for you without a car but vet socialization is a thing to consider. If your vet isn't willing to work with socializing a 16 week old, I would go to a different vet. I have a pit mix that had a bad experience at the vet. The vet was rough with an injury and after that she would always growl at vets. We even had to muzzle her at first. It took finding a vet that wasn't rushed in their meetings for her to get over that fear aggression. It was a long process to bring her back so don't be hard on yourself if vet socialization goes slow. I wouldn't exactly read a lot into vet behavior apart from thinking your puppy may have less than steel nerves.

Stranger socialization isn't too different. If you want her to act well with strangers, she needs exposure to strangers. If she's lunging and freaking out, you are too close. She won't learn anything. You need to get to a distance where she doesn't react, work her, let her watch and then slowly bring it in over different sessions. Are you able to walk somewhere and get exposure to strangers? It doesn't have to be a busy street just a few strangers is a good start.

As far as the biting is concerned, these guys bite. A lot. If mine is tired, he bites. If he's over stimulated, he can bite like a rabid shark. Mine is 3 months old and he takes two set naps a day just like a baby. This helps tremendously in controlling the inner shark.
Well thank you for easing my mind about the biting! This is only her 2nd vet visit. Her breeder said that she didn't use vets she did the wormer and shots herself and sent us info about that. The first vet visit she was super lethargic and actually fell asleep because she had worms at the time.

They had to muzzle her or they would have never been able to do anything. She was being absolutely vicious. They even had me leave the room and see if that helped and she completely lost it. I could here her growling and snarling from the waiting room.

I have the trail. There are joggers and cyclists and the occasional dog. Can you explain more about how to work up to it? How far away should I start? How do K get her comfortable with the people? I've been trying to gef as many relatives and friends to stop by as possibly. The vet told me to crate her right before anyone comes over because she should never be the one to greet people at the door so I started doing that and she eased up a little with the barking but it also could have been the fact that she had been around that person a few times.
 

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There is biting, and there is gatoring.

Without a video, there is no way to tell which one she is doing.
If she is truly fear aggressive, no training on this earth will change that, and you have a toddler to consider.

Also, I find that many vets think GSD weak nerves = guarding.
They are not guarding their humans, they are guarding themselves.
 

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Well thank you for easing my mind about the biting! This is only her 2nd vet visit. Her breeder said that she didn't use vets she did the wormer and shots herself and sent us info about that. The first vet visit she was super lethargic and actually fell asleep because she had worms at the time.

They had to muzzle her or they would have never been able to do anything. She was being absolutely vicious. They even had me leave the room and see if that helped and she completely lost it. I could here her growling and snarling from the waiting room.

I have the trail. There are joggers and cyclists and the occasional dog. Can you explain more about how to work up to it? How far away should I start? How do K get her comfortable with the people? I've been trying to gef as many relatives and friends to stop by as possibly. The vet told me to crate her right before anyone comes over because she should never be the one to greet people at the door so I started doing that and she eased up a little with the barking but it also could have been the fact that she had been around that person a few times.
A trainer will be better able to tell you if she is experiencing fear aggression or protective tendencies. So I think an eval is a great start.

If you think you can, I would try and do a vet visit where she just goes in and gets a treat and leaves. Maybe next time go in and get a treat from the counter and then leave. Maybe then a tech gives a treat. I had a tech come out to my car and give a treat on our first visit. I would also consider walking out of the appointment if she's in a bad state, no need to push her over the edge and instill bad habits. You can try again when she doesn't think the world is ending. If she fears strangers, the vet and techs coming in and touching would be really scary for her. Of course she is going to react.

I think trails are tricky because it's often a head to head confrontation or someone coming up behind them. Both those situations are scary to an insecure, young dog. We use an area near a trail with a grassy place nearby. You basically want to get far enough away that your dog isn't freaking out. That distance is different for different dogs and situations but we started dog distraction/'don't freak out' work probably 50 yards out. I'll try and find a pic of it and upload it so you can get an idea. The dog can see the thing that sets them off but it's far away. The first time we just sat on the ground, him on my lap because he was nervous. If he looked at the thing and didn't freak out, he got a treat. Eventually, I took mine in the nearly empty garden section at home depot and had the check out person toss an awesome treat at him. Then it was a light bulb moment, "Strangers carry cheese? That's awesome." The sessions should be short if you can make it that way. A quick positive experience and then they get to go back into their comfort zone.
 

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I'll address the biting. It's very normal with puppies to explore their world with their mouths but GSD puppies are commonly referred to as "land sharks" because they take it to a whole different level. Rest assured with consistency, redirection, fairness and patience it will pass. In general, with redirection and the end of teething (around 7 months) you should see a dramatic drop off of the mouthiness. Redirection: puppy gets mouthy you replace your body part with a chew approved toy. Keep chews and toys everywhere and handy. During play if pup gets too mouthy or rough playtime stops.

Basic obedience training helps here as well. Pup gets mouthy ask for a sit, if pup sits pup gets a treat or a chew toy. Exercise is important as well. Exercise isn't just physical with this breed. They need to work their minds and often mind work actually tires them more then physical. Short training sessions (5-10 min at this age) several times a day teaching the common manners...sit, down, place, stay, loose leash walking. These are all things you can do inside or out in a yard.

Play games to work the mind. Find it games like hiding treats around a room and having pup find them. Use old shoe boxes, put a treat in one and leave some empty and have pup find the treat. These are all doable things that will wear out pup and help keep pup from being so mouthy.

Another thing to remember is that your pup can sense how you feel. So if you are feeling stressed, tense and overwhelmed your pup will feel that way too. It's hard sometimes, we all know, but being calm and relaxed when working with your pup will go a very long way. If you are feeling too stressed put your pup in it's crate for a bit until you can regroup. Humans and pups alike need timeouts every now and then and it's perfectly ok.

Your pup needs you to be clear what you expect. Be firm yet fair. Always try to end play and training on a positive note.

As has already been suggested a private trainer experienced with the breed is an invaluable source that will be money well spent in the long run.
 

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One question: In your original post you stated your pup bites harder with discipline. What is your method of discipline in these instances? It's helpful to know to understand better what is causing escalation of the biting.
 

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I'll address the biting. It's very normal with puppies to explore their world with their mouths but GSD puppies are commonly referred to as "land sharks" because they take it to a whole different level. Rest assured with consistency, redirection, fairness and patience it will pass. In general, with redirection and the end of teething (around 7 months) you should see a dramatic drop off of the mouthiness. Redirection: puppy gets mouthy you replace your body part with a chew approved toy. Keep chews and toys everywhere and handy. During play if pup gets too mouthy or rough playtime stops.

Basic obedience training helps here as well. Pup gets mouthy ask for a sit, if pup sits pup gets a treat or a chew toy. Exercise is important as well. Exercise isn't just physical with this breed. They need to work their minds and often mind work actually tires them more then physical. Short training sessions (5-10 min at this age) several times a day teaching the common manners...sit, down, place, stay, loose leash walking. These are all things you can do inside or out in a yard.

Play games to work the mind. Find it games like hiding treats around a room and having pup find them. Use old shoe boxes, put a treat in one and leave some empty and have pup find the treat. These are all doable things that will wear out pup and help keep pup from being so mouthy.

Another thing to remember is that your pup can sense how you feel. So if you are feeling stressed, tense and overwhelmed your pup will feel that way too. It's hard sometimes, we all know, but being calm and relaxed when working with your pup will go a very long way. If you are feeling too stressed put your pup in it's crate for a bit until you can regroup. Humans and pups alike need timeouts every now and then and it's perfectly ok.

Your pup needs you to be clear what you expect. Be firm yet fair. Always try to end play and training on a positive note.

As has already been suggested a private trainer experienced with the breed is an invaluable source that will be money well spent in the long run.
All of this. I’d also recommend, in addition to private lessons, puppy class where puppies interact. Classes help burn energy, help your pup learn how to socialize and importantly if your pup gets mouthy, the other pups will tell her that’s uncool.

Classes allow you to be around other dogs and other owners so you’ll see, your puppy is pretty normal for a GSD pup. She doesn’t sound aggressive nor reactive to me.

She sounds like a GSD pup.

I bring a training bag (I use a small roller bag) to my young puppy vet visits. It’s filled with lots of different toys, treats, a water bowl, a water bottle, and his pad to put on the table to make him more comfortable. So while the vet is doing their stuff, I’m busy keeping my puppy busy with his favorite stuff.

I control what’s going on with my pup at all times, not the vet. There are a lot of veterinarians who are hesitant around GSDs, which is ok. There are lots of clueless GSD owners. Many veterinarians have earned that concern honestly.

My job always to manage my dogs so that both they and their doctors feel comfortable and safe.

As the others mentioned, bring your dog to the vet’s office often. Weigh him, give him a treat. Have him meet staff for a quick hello and head out. Hanging out at the vet clinic is one of my top training tasks.

As a result, my dogs love going there. They thing everyone at the vet hospital is their best friend, even when we’re at a whole other hospital like the specialist’s clinic or an emergency clinic while traveling.

Finally, if this vet continues to be stressed and makes you and/or your dog uncomfortable, it might be best to find another vet if there’s one within 30minutes.

If this clinic is closer to your home, just be honest with them why you’re leaving. You may need to go here in an emergency. They’ll appreciate your honesty and you’ll want to leave on good terms in case you need to drop by later.
 

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Ok guys please don't drag me through the coals please. This is a very stressful situation and I would really appreciate it if judgement wasn't added into the mix.
I LOVE this opening statement, we all should live by it. I don't have anything to add that already hasn't been mentioned, but it's nice to see a thread where people aren't jumping down your throat and making you feel crappier than you already feel.
 

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Ok as a veterinarian I would suspect that this is very severe fear aggression. Only once or twice have I seen pups that aggression shown so early didn't appear to be primarily fear based. You can try socialization and training and given the severity a behaviorist and meds might be worth considering -meds may help reduce the anxiety enough so that training can be more effective. Not something I usually consider at this age. I think you are in over your head(said kindly) and returning the pup to the breeder would make the most sense. This dog will be very expensive to own-for example all trips to the vet will likely require sedation, boarding for vacations may be difficult etc. You may have difficulty even finding a veterinarian who will see the dog. No one with children needs to be in this situation. Also consider the legal ramifications such as dog attacking a visiting child, relative etc. I can tell you that I see the ramifications of these situations more often than I care to.
 

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I'm not thinking fear agression. I'm thinking a typical bratty GSD pup, whose owner doesn't have the training skills needed to deal with her. But without actually being able to SEE what the OP is talking about, I COULD be wrong...

Is this your first GSD? Your first dog?

Most people don't realize 90% of dog training is training YOURSELF. You cannot learn everything you need to know off the internet. You NEED to go to classes, and it sounds like this is not something you are able to do, due to lack of transportation and cost.

Please, if you really want to keep the dog, you really need to find some way of getting training. Otherwise, the dog is going to be a terrible liability as she grows and gets stronger.

Many people want a dog to protect them, then find they don't know how to teach the dog when to protect and when NOT to protect. Those protective instincts need to be channeled appropriately.

It's often much safer for the average person to get a dog that will just bark when someone comes to the door, then is friendly when the visitor comes inside. Maybe a less intense/genetically protective breed than the GSD would work better for you.
 

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I agree with some other members.. find a trainer to work with you. take the time to contact a dog club near you and see if they have suggestions on a trainer..... it's important that the trainer doesn't just call themselves a "trainer" but actually have experience AND success with GSDs. I think 16 weeks is Waaayyy to soon for anyone here to suggest what this pup may grow into. ..are the genes this pup got from mom/dad a part of the adult dog sure they are....but how you handle this 16 week old moving forward is what's most important. You say you're overwhelmed so again it sounds like time for a good trainer to put their eyes on you and the pup
 

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I reached out to a few trainers. You stated the very thing that the vet said and one of the trainers. Thar this is really young for that to be happening. The vet didn't say anything about it being a physical problem, she just kept saying that she was guarding me and that if was a pretty serious case of fear aggression. She was really trying to urge me to rehome her but I want to at least try a trainer and give her a chance. At least then I would at least know I tried my very best to the right thing for her before having to turn to rehoming.
The reason I suggested a trainer is that we weren’t there and didn’t see exactly how she was behaving. Worlds can only describe so much. A trainer looks at body language, types of indicators the dog is giving and can tell you if it’s fixable or not. I would pay a trainer to meet met at the vet’s office and probably pay for an office visit too, to see your do PO in that situation. Do you know her early history? A 16 week old puppy is not resource guarding. I suspect she was mishandled in a vet type situation and developed a fear toward that. My working line was vet phobic due to clumsy handling. So, when I got a new vet, we visited the office weekly for six months. It was very time consuming, but he also think going to the vet is a play date now. I also paid a trainer to go with me to a vet visit to show him that nothing bad happens there. It’s interesting, my dog didn’t react at all to shots or to someone reaching to touch him, but he did not want to be restrained from behind. Once I knew that, I worked on restraint handling at home for another six months. Now he loves being hugged and held. He wasn’t growling, though, he was squirming so much they could not control him. I also never let the vet take him out of my sight. When he must be removed from me, like at the allergist, he still doesn’t behave very well. I don’t have a two year old, so I had the time and space to do what it takes. Do you?
 
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