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Discussion Starter #1
Not sure the best place to put this, so I picked the puppy area because it's not full blown scary fear aggression, but I want to catch it before it gets that way.

Here's the deal. Blue's 4 months old and pretty well socialized (in fact, I need to start teaching him some manners - he loves rushing up to other dogs to meet). He does well with people and kids. We walk regularly and his training's coming along well enough - I'm a little lazy about training sessions but we're consistant about NILIF - sit/stays before food/treats or coming up on the bed (haven't quite implemented it with the doors, yet - need to get busy with that).

The problem - this morning we were in the front yard when another dog walked by with his owners and Blue charged up hackles raised barking. It wasn't a 'real' problem because I knew it wouldn't go anywhere and the other dog was just a big teddy bear so I used the opportunity to watch Blue, but I want to stop this while he's young. From what I've read of fear aggression that's what this was. I'm not possitive, but it might have been a territorial thing, also - I don't think he does this at the dog park, but I need to watch him more - he's a very vocal dog and I'm not always sure why. We just went for a weekend trip and stayed in a motel and I noticed the hackles thing a couple times there, also. I figured that might have had some to do with it being a new/strange place and his first trip like this (although, it won't be his last - we like traveling and camping, etc). He also did the charge/bark thing last night with the pizza guy - didn't notice the hackles, but it was definately a change from the curious puppy to a more aggressive charge. And some of it might be because our other dog is very fearful - is he picking it up from her?

I've read a fair bit (but it's always harder to actually IMPLIMENT this stuff!) and from what I gather he needs to trust and respect me as the pack leader. He needs to look to me for all decisions about agression and needs to trust that I will take care of him.

Does this sound right to you all?

And if so can you offer some suggestions on how to curb this behaviour early? I really want Blue to be a friendly fella who I can take with me anywhere. I want him to be comfortable in his skin and I'm not at all looking for a 'guard dog'. The fact that he's going to be a big fella (like any GSD) is all the deterant I'm looking for.

I know that I need to work on his recall. He's pretty good - at the park while he's playing I'll call him, give him a treat and send him off again and it's about 90% effective. But this morning he didn't respond (too big a distraction).

Also, he's a pretty solid little fella temperament-wise. The testing from the breeder at 7 weeks came out all 3's and I've not known him to be overly timid although, the other day I charged him (he had dropped his ball and I was gonna get it before him) and it scared him pretty good - he bolted for the doggie door. Hehe - I felt bad for the little fella, but realized I'd never done that to him before. I'm assuming that means he does see me as a dominant figure, but doesn't entirely trust me.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

~L'aura

P.S.: I'm also concerned about coddling - if he's scared I want to reassure him, but how do you do that without reinforcing the 'bad' behaviour? Often at the dog park when he's been nervous I'll kneel down so he can come 'be safe' if he needs to, but I don't say anything or do any more than rest a hand on him. Unless, of course, it's one of those yappy little dogs who insist on being dominant and aggressive - then I swipe those dogs away from him, but I always stay calm about it.
 

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I know I am not an expert at all, but I just went to a trainer who is helping me w/ Onyx. Positive redirection should happen immediately when your pup is focusing like that on another dog. Treats and focus back on you. Get him to look at you... Sounds like you are doing everything right with his training. He is probably going through a fear stage and as long as he knows you are his protector(not the other way around) he should get through this and grow from it!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Oo! Positive redirection! Good point! Thanks! I thought about sitting out in the front yard with him in the evenings while people go by, but other than having the people give him treats I wasn't sure how to handle the other dogs. Looks like it's time to upgrade my treats, too. The cat food bits were ok for 'sit' and 'stay', but now we're getting to the important stuff.

Thanks!

~L'aura
 

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I would be the one to give the treats not friends or strangers. You want your dog to focus on YOU and he will see that people=treats, but coming from your direction only. There are good books out there that are recommended as well: The other End of the Leash, by Patricia McConnell, and Click to Calm, by Emma Parsons.
 

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I'm working with food aggresion with a foster right now, I dont know if it would help and it may not seem related, but I think the thought process is. I am monitoring the situation, if I see him getting closer to his food, I see what is causing his discomfort, If my Ava has gotten too close, I step between them and back Ava up away from Manny. I'm trying to demonstrate that I can protect both him and his food, he doesnt have to, so he can relax more at meal time, because I've got it covered. I know it is different, but I'm wondering if he thinks something needs to be happening with this other dog, and no one else is stepping up? Just a thought, sometimes they can be so hard to read, and while I might think there is no danger, the dog obviously feels otherwise...so find out what is really causing it and let him watch you take care of the problem. It may relax him in more stressful situations.......Of course I am no expert either, but it seems to be working for me to step up and let the dogs know that I can handle the business at hand and not to worry their pretty little heads about it.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks, Betsy - that does make sense - show him I've got things under control - I'm taking care of things (even though they don't need taking care of - you're right he doesn't know that and needs me to demonstrate).

Any suggestions on how I demonstrate that?

Maybe when we're out front and I see people approaching I put him in a sit/stay and I pleasantly greet the people/dog? It does mean changing some of my habits. At the moment whenever I go out to start the car in the morning I just let him run along with me off leash and that's how this morning's incident happend - I didn't have control of him and the people walking by were unexpected for both of us.

And another good point, onyx'girl - I've always let other people give him treats so he'll associate people with good things, but you're right - the good things STILL need to come from me.

Thanks!

~L'aura
 

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The only thing I can think of is for you to greet them first, not allow the pup to go up to anyone without you checking them out first (just in case they are dangerous, you know?) then introduce the pup, Keep him on leash so you can make sure he stays back, then "allow" him to come check it out (you know, after you've scoped it out, hehehe). I wouldnt try to sooth him, I think sometimes that justifies the behavior, just make him hang back.
 

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One of the things I'd do is read up on the NORMAL fear and mental growth stages all our pups go thru. So something they ignored one day can FREAK THEM OUT the next, leaving you sitting there scratching your head....

and possibly overreacting cause you just found out your adorable puppy is (apparently) a Jekyl and Hyde!

These are great sites that help me:

http://www.diamondsintheruff.com/DevelopmentalStages.html

http://www.vonfalconer.com/puppy.html

http://www.doberman.org/articles/puppy.htm

http://home.flash.net/~astroman/primer1.html

And, for puppies, I let anyone and everyone feed them!!!!!! At the young age I may have issues with, my goal isn't for ME TO BE THE BOSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nopers, that's coming later on.

For my puppy, my main goal is to be the calm leader my puppy cues from is guided by in a happy world that may have things that surprise and startle them. But all the new and possibly scary people seem to have the AMAZING ABILITY to hand out the best treats EVER!!!!! Now the treats are still coming from me and my pup sees ME be calm and happy (look at me puppy!!), me greet the person and be calm and happy (look at me puppy!!!!), me handing the treats to the person while my puppy has NOT been touched yet or overwhelmed, so while I'm chatting up the stranger and asking the 'would you feed my puppy' my puppy is able to calm it'self and THINK!!!! (and look at me!).

The fact that all these people in the world seem to be loving to give my pups chicken/cheese/hotdogs, while being non threatening cause the 'food in the hand' makes the hand come down and low and UNDER the pups head (non-threatening!!!). And MY voice is calm but directed at the person.

Other huge help is puppy classes cause the instructor will have seen tons of puppies and owners and be able to immediately give guidance and suggestions in a safe environment. Full of distractions, new people and other puppies!
 
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