German Shepherds Forum banner

Fear aggression?

2301 Views 12 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  StGeorgeK9
Hello I’m Rosa. I’m Ray05’s wife and I just had a possible fear aggression problem while at Allie’s first day of obedience training class yesterday. I’ll try and outline exactly what happened from the start. I really would appreciate any ideas on our next course of action. Allie is 6 months old.

Upon entering the school, Allie was very nervous and staying behind me. Allie was a hesitating little around the other dogs but did not lunge or bark at anyone. I proceeded to the center of the room with Allie where the female instructor told us to go. Allie seemed a bit nervous and shaking a bit but seemed to be listening to my instructions. When the instructor came around to shake my hand Allie seemed fine and even let the instructor touch her. The instructor continued on, but then turned around and noticed Allie was shivering, I guess she was a little scared (first time around 12 or 13 dogs of various breeds and sizes). I thought she was handling it ok for her first time, but the instructor suggested I go in the back of room with her by myself to let her get used to the environment. I told the instructor ok. So, I proceeded to go to back of the room with Allie and there was another instructor there and said he said he was work with me for a bit to try and get Allie used to room. We sat down and tried to get Allie to calm down, he instructed me to pet Allie and try to get her to eat some treats. At first Allie did not want any treats, but after a few minutes she seemed to be getting used to the instructor and the environment. Allie proceeded to eat the treats on the floor and from my hand.

So the instructor suggested we move over toward the other side of room closer to the other dogs but still being on the other side of the fence they had up. Allie seemed to get a little more nervous again, but did not show any aggression or different behavior. The instructor started placing treats on the ground to I guess let Allie know he had treats for her. She was finally getting close to him and sniffing him and eating the treats from the ground. He then threw the bag he had the treats in on the floor to let Allie sniff it. She was looking around watching the other dogs and watching me and also looking at the instructor. Allie was standing next to me when the instructor got up and moved very quickly toward me and the bag on the floor. Allie lunged at the instructor and he said he felt her teeth on his hand. Allie did not break skin. He admitted that what he did was not smart. Allie then began to bark at him and pulling on her leash to get to him. The instructor said he will go to other side of room and let Allie calm down. The instructor came back over after a few minutes, the class was just about over and people were starting to leave. So he suggested lets go outside and try walking with her and see if she’d feel more comfortable.

This is when my husband came over and I told him what was going on and that we were going outside with the instructor. We walked with Allie a little bit and stopped at a quieter street. The instructor stood a bit far away from us and Allie seemed fine, but when the instructor came closer Allie barked once or twice toward the instructor. My husband had Allie on the leash. Allie then seemed to be fine and proceeded to sniff around and acted normal. After the whole incident Allie just ignored the instructor.

The instructor proceeded to tell us that we would be wasting our money in continuing obedience classes with Allie. He suggested we go to an aggression specialist or behaviorist (other than him). The instructor made it seem that Allie was this highly aggressive dog and that we should be careful.

I want to give you some background on Allie’s behavior at home; she is very loving, sweet and playful. Allie has no problems with us taking her toys, taking her food, touching her or even putting our hand in her mouth to take something out. We have not seen Allie be aggressive toward anyone. We have my brother over very often and she fine with him and has been around a few of our neighbors and has not shown any aggressive behavior.
See less See more
1 - 13 of 13 Posts
Hi Rosa

How much socializing has Allie had since you have gotten her? Have you ever seen her act like this before? IMO what you described is not the behavior of some highly aggressive was the behavior of a fearful puppy that was very stressed. Has Allie ever experienced high stress before? (I learned a long time ago that it is important for puppies to be stressed as their brains develop read "A Dog's Mind" By Bruce Fogle)

It seems like your puppy was quite scared of what was going on, the instructor's advice to pet her and give her treats was counterproductive. Giving her treats and affection while she was in this hightened state only told her that it was ok to feel as she was feeling. His then pushing the issue only caused her to react out of fear. She is just a baby.....and just like children sometimes puppies can be fearful as she was, it happens. Just like with our kids though we have to support them and demonstrate with our own behavior that everything is ok.

My advice? Find another training group that has more experienced people before the puppy develops habits that are harder to correct. I would socialize her in high activity environments and ignore her as you do so (meaning do not "reward" or console any fearful behaviors) just be a leader and walk in with confidance and let her take cues from you and your confidance. Also, at home, start doing things she does not expect like dropping a pan or keys on the floor. Do things that are noisy or unusual and totally *ignore* any response from her as if it is something perfectly normal. This will help her develop skills that help her to recover from unexpected stress. If she runs and hides do not go looking for her, just go about your business. If she recovers and approaches whatever you have dropped, praise her and talk to her like "oh my what happened....silly pan, good girl"

Hope that helps, I highly recommend the book I mentioned as it is about how a dog's brain functions and develops and helps give insight as to how they think and why they think what they think....easy to read as well

See less See more
I totally agree with Cherri.

This isn't an agressive dog, she's a puppy, and this is part fearfulness, and part testing of limits. She's asserting herself to see what she can get away with.

The situation in training class you describe is almost identical to my experience with Luca at about the same age. Luckily, the trainer in our class didn't respond the way yours did. But I was just as embarrassed and concerned as I'm sure you were.

This isn't a huge issue--it's somewhat to be expected--but it does require you to "step up to the plate" training-wise, not retreat. I think this is the point in many GSD's lives that their owners decide to give up and leave them at home forever ("she's so good at home, we'll just never take her anywhere...")

Increase training and socializing and increase your level of leadership at home. "Nothing in Life is Free" is a good philosophy for providing the structure she needs.

This will pass. I'm convinced that part of it is simply waiting it out for the dog to mature, while keeping up a leadership routine, continuing to train and socialization to stuff outside the home.

Good luck.
See less See more
i think you should back way up. i assume she hasn't been socialized much in public since you got her?
it was obviously totally overwhelming for her to go into an inviroment like that right now. small steps at a time, and where i am assuming she hasn't been socialized you need to set up different situations for her a little at a time. i don't understand why the instructor would not help you with her, instead sent you somewhere else. if i were you i would research other training places, go observe the classes yourself. talk to instructors, tell them your situation. its always best to scope a place out first.
i don't think your dog sounds that bad, (yet), but getting the right help now is going to dictate where it goes from here. getting the right help now, will save you both from a stressful, frustrating life, with fear based issues.

I agree with all of the above and it was probably a good thing the trainer suggested going somewhere else. They didn't know how to handle that situation. When you go to the next place your pup will see the same type of environment and may or may not feel the anxiety. I would let the new trainers know not to approach her/let her do the sniff first. I would get into a new place- asap - so your pup can get socialized in this very important forming time in her life.
You have some good advice.

Moving the pup away from the action and giving her a chance to settle in. I think you can give treats and be productive, but you pup needs to give you something first, ie eye contact, a sit, then you can reward those behaviors.

Treats can be given to a pup that is scared, I use it as a gage on how stressed the pup is. Like I said as long as the pup gives me something I have a chance to reward. If I call the pups name and pup looks at me then even if they are stressed they gave me what I asked for and earned a treat.

You instructor messed up by moving quickly at you and to the treat bag. I can see why he asked to try a meeting outside after the incident, first it removed the pup from the original contact place and the more stressful enviornment, but he was also looking to see if the pup recovered. BUT and here is the BIG BUT, IMHO the pup was already too stressed. You can do a lot of damage by pushing a pup way past it's threshold at this point.

Some stress is good for a pup, but you have to learn and read your dog and know when enough is enough. The trainer should have been able to pick up on how stressed the pup was. Also once outside, the trainer could have made himself very small and non threatening to the pup and hopefully come out of the earlier incident with a bit of confidence.

There were several things which could have been handled better. If you could find a different trainer to work with it is probably the best choice.

See less See more
Hi this is Ray again. First of all I like to thank everyone who replied for their help, it was very much appreciated. He have sort of update for everyone. Shortly after making our original post, her original trainer called to discuss what happened and our best way of dealing with it.

First she agreed with the other trainer that, while she is still welcome to particapate at the school, they think it would be best for us to get a refund and back out. She also said we were welcome to still show up with Allie during the sessions for her to take "baby steps" into participating at a later class. For instance, that we show up next Saturday and see if she will come into the building. Next time stay a 10 minutes or so to see how she reacts. We can do this as long as it takes to get her comfortable.

She also hooked us up with another trainer who specializes in fearful dogs and she feels she can help. She would come right to the house, but it's very expensive. I most likely could hire a Pyschologist at the price she charges. But she sounded real bright so it may pay to bring her in on atleast one session to see what she has to say.

Thanks again and Allie thanks you for your help. Feel free to keep the advice coming
See less See more
It is good to hear the trainers followed through with your pup. I would still socialize any chance you get. Onyx is fear aggressive and at 14 months it hasn't gotten much better. I don't take her out too much,(hard to find places to go w/her, and because of winter) and that doesn't help her to get over it. She has been thru two different training facilities and does great with general obedience, but if someone approaches her, hackles are up and growling begins. On our last night of training, testing, we were in a long down stay and Onyx growled/ lunged at a little girl who was "twirling around" about ten feet away. I corrected her and she still didn't like the child when we had to pass her. I wanted child go give a treat to her, but didn't want to subject child to Onyx if she wouldn't behave.
So I hope you can work through this easily, sounds at least like you have options!!
Well I guess it is obvious that you need to find a new trainer one that doesn't fear your dog or tell you to put it down. You will have to take her out since (believe me I know where you will be in a few years) she will not get used to those outside strangers. I recommend all Positive training because any other kind of training with a dog like this can make the dog more aggressive. I really like Pam Dennison's 'Bringing Light to Shadow". It isn't a training book but a diary of how she tamed a people aggressive dog...I mean extremely aggressive. I have met this dog and you would never know the dog was a rescue that any other person would have pts. You need to socialize her in a way that isn't threatening to her and she is young so you have lots to work with. Please don't keep her in the house as this will make matters worse. Also, is she a GSD? you might want to contact a GSD rescue group in your area and ask if they recommend any trainers.
New update.... And not a good one. Tuesday my wife took Allie to get spayed at the Vet. she wasn't there for 2 minutes before the was another incident. She nipped the receptionists butt ripping her jeans. She claimied to my wife that she broke skin but never left the room to check. So basically I have no choice to hire the trainer that I mentioned in the previous post. She will come over and meet Allie on Wendsday. Hopefully Allie will make progress with her so I don't have a dangerous dog on our hands.
Ray where did you get Allie? Do you have the support of her breeder?

I admit this is worrisome and I am sure you are just very anxious over it. I have a 3yr old male here that lacks confidence (my sister's male) and last year he did bite my neighbor, not badly but, he did do it. I know how that felt and was just as alarmed as you and I have years of dog experience...... it is frustrating because in order to improve the situation *you* have to act confidant and continue to socialize the dog so that the dog can improve...but your anxiety over another possible incident causes this to be very difficult and...well been there, done that. My solution was to get Isaac a basket/cage muzzle that he wears in the house when people are here or he is going out and will be around people. This has enabled him to socialize with people without danger, relieves my anxiety about him possibly hurting someone and *HAS* helped tremendously with the situation..... his confidence is improving and he very much looks forward to visitors and I am not a nervous wreck. He does not mind the muzzle at all and gladly lets me put it on him.

Since Allie is still growing I would recommend a head halter since you can control her head with it and pull her quickly away if you need to. Or you could see if she is large enough for a muzzle....I know it sounds terrible but it really helped us and takes away the anxiety that is fueling the situation. Once you are reasonable certain she cannot possibly hurt someone you will be more relaxed and she will be as well.

This is the muzzle I purchased for Isaac and I was VERY impressed with the quality of the muzzle and the price of it. It is very comfortable and well made. ( The leather leash I ordered was also amazing for the cost, very well made, high quality.)

I know some people may disagree with me and that is ok.....I can only say that this really helped our situation.

Good luck and please keep us updated.

See less See more
I agree with those saying she was stressed. But there is also the possibility that once "threatened" she doesn't forget. And there's some people that some dogs just don't like.

Bella is a big baby - but DOES NOT like our neighbor. It's worth noting that my old girl Gael, who loved everyone, also did not like this neighbor, nor does a few other dogs. I'm taking that a unanimous 'vote' there's something about the man that is 'off' even if we humans don't see it. Additionally, his teenager was caught once teasing the dogs over our fence...and my other half reprimanded him for it. I've taken Bella in public and she's never acted aggressive to anyone - but she clearly does not like these neighbors in any way.
My first reaction after reading your post was apparently the same as many others, look for a new trainer, preferably one that has his/her own dogs to help socialize new dogs appropriately. Interview your trainer carefully, he will be the most important person outside yourself in your dogs life as his guidance will help shape this puppy's future.
1 - 13 of 13 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.