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This is our first GSD; Kyra (dark lady).

In 2009 we found a good breeder, with nothing but good recommendations, and our own experiences with him to date have all been positive.

We were the second to put our name in when we learned he was planning to breed his female; he told us from the beginning that the male (sire?) was from Eastern Europe with strong lines (e.g. border guard) – with a bear of a head. We met his female and saw pictures of her previous litters at various ages; she seemed to be a typical well behaved GSD, raised by a caring breeder with his family.

When the pups were born there was only one male, which is what the family ahead of us wanted, so we had the choice of the two females. He added that this was probably a good thing, since this would be our first GSD - we may not be ready for a male with the strong lines of the sire.

She is now six months old, and while not like any dog we’ve previously owned (another point that the breeder stressed beforehand), we love her dearly. She seems as happy to be part of our family as we are to have her.

But of course there are hurdles to overcome; some based in our ignorance and some normal puppy behavior. But we are all learning, and coping – in large part thanks to the information and many stories that people like you have shared.

The only significant issue that I have not gotten a good sense of direction for yet is her defiance.

Most of the time she is very well behaved, though as mouthy as any GSD pup (we’ve been tolerating it to help her develop a soft mouth, and for the most part it seems to be working).

But at times she gets into a mindset where she’s being too aggressive with her biting and behavior, and when we try to get her to ease off she amps up instead; we might tell her no, or bad, or shake her scruff or collar, and she only curls her lips back and looks nasty, amping it up more.

For a while putting her on her side and making her stay there for a few minutes while we stroked her muzzle and body (something we learned in puppy class) helped. But after a while she discovered that she could intimidate my teenage son by snarling and snapping when I wasn't home, and soon only I could do this (and at times it seemed even I was risking serious bites).

At outer times I might be walking her, and if she spotted a cat turd before me she’d grab it and challenge me should I try to pry it out of her mouth.

For now we’ve tried to avoid these situations; if she gives my son a hard time he either puts her in the crate or the kennel and she has to be without us for a while. And I no longer go after the nasty but otherwise not too dangerous things she picks up – I just make it clear that I disapprove.

There has even been a couple of occasions where the breeder (who typically runs the training classes) has pointed out that she is showing defiance and challenging us and it needs to be dealt with. When I told him about the issues we’ve had he told us to give her a hard smack on the muzzle to put her in her place. He said that the male from the litter was showing similar issues and after he was dealt with this way he has been much better (I spoke with the males owner who confirmed this).

I’ve been around dogs all my life, but this one has a much stronger spirit, and judging by how rough she likes to play, and the amping up issues, I think I’d have to use much more force that I want to at this point. I don’t want to hurt her, or break the trust that we have. But at the same time I’ve read some horror stories, and want to prevent big trouble down the road.

I’d appreciate any suggestions and thoughts on how to handle this.
Bruce.
 

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GSD's need a firm hand. If you correct her and back off, then it isn't really a correction. I find that when I make a correction and move forward towards him, making myself as big as possible until he turns away or breaks eye contact, the correction seems to stick with him. Shaking her or pulling away isn't showing her any dominance on your part. The shaking of the collar or scruff of her neck may seem like more rough play to her.
 

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My suggestion would be to start from scratch and have everyone play the part as alpha....Like feeding her food one piece of food at a time from her bowl...that type of thing...especially your son. I also believe in the NILIF method..I have been making mine sit and wait before she gets anything...in door, out door, treats, taking turn with the other dogs, food, being petted, and letting the other dogs go in front of her sometimes...
 

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My first female, Maggie, showed some of the behaviors that you are experiencing... but not the showing of teeth. I did use the putting her on her side and holding her until she calmed down. At times it was very hard to do. And, there were days when I needed to do it repeatedly!! When she turned two, it was like a switch went off and she stopped all of this. She became the best GSD anyone could ever have. I had the feeling, when she was younger, that she felt my husband was pack leader, she was next and I followed her. It left me to establish myself as an authority. Our daughters were younger at the time, and while she did not show them teeth, she would take them by the arm to pull them out of rooms. I never resorted to hitting her - wouldn't that make them MORE aggressive?? Good luck with your girl, Kyra. I am sure many people will be able to give you suggestions. This is a great network.
 

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I'm no expert myself but the leerburg website has a lot of information on training and behavior for dogs. There is a wealth of knowledge there.
 

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Oh man, I would not put the dog on her side nor smack her on the muzzle.

Research NILIF. She gets NOTHING without working for it. She needs a routine. If you aren't engaging her, crate her.

The best way to show her that you are "dominant" is to control everything she does in a calm and fair manner. Don't yell or scream, no hitting or controling her body physically. She gets no toys or treats unless you give them to her and you take them away when you don't want her to play with them any longer (this does not mean constantly taking things away from her to prove that you can, always trade for a treat).

If she is acting up, correct or ignore her. No atttention is a correction for a young pup.
 

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Oh man, I would not put the dog on her side nor smack her on the muzzle.

Research NILIF. She gets NOTHING without working for it. She needs a routine. If you aren't engaging her, crate her.

The best way to show her that you are "dominant" is to control everything she does in a calm and fair manner. Don't yell or scream, no hitting or controling her body physically. She gets no toys or treats unless you give them to her and you take them away when you don't want her to play with them any longer (this does not mean constantly taking things away from her to prove that you can, always trade for a treat).

If she is acting up, correct or ignore her. No atttention is a correction for a young pup.
^^^^^^
What she said!!!!!
 

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All I can really say is I'm horrified that your breeder/trainer would advise you to HIT the puppy. That will only teach your puppy that you cause pain.

All of this is normal puppy stuff. First, alpha rolls and scruffing are outdated. In my experience, treating aggressive behavior with aggressive behavior will only ramp them up.

Also, staring a dog down is only intimidating them. Staring a dog in the eyes is challenging them to a fight. If you do that to my dog you'll have teeth in your face. That is the only thing that sets her off and I will NOT allow anyone to do that to her.

You need to look up NILIF (Nothing in life is free) training and look for more positive ways to train.
 

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I agree with the NILIF meathod. It truly works, just takes a bit more of your time to do normal routine things, like at meal time.

Our trainer told us to NEVER hit our dogs. Hitting did not enforce anything. She did show me how to imitate a dog bite - but that was only if I had lost control and feared for the life of one of my barn cats. I have never had to use it.
 

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Buddy is our first gsd, too. I've learned so much from him about the breed. First of all, it's a very intense breed. They mirror your emotions. If you get a little irritated because her mouthing became rough, she will amp up and act irritated right back at you. If you say a rough "NO", or shake her a little, she will match your intensity and get all riled up.

My advice is to stay calm. Teach your son to always stay calm, always stay in control. Teaching NILIF is a lifesaver. Before she gets anything from you, she needs to do something FOR you (even if it's as simple as a "sit".) Teach your son that she doesn't even get any petting without working for him.

Please don't take the trainer's advice and smack your pup. I can't think of any good that will come from teaching your puppy that a human hand can cause pain. Teach her sit, down, paw, "touch", "watch me", stay, and come. When she starts to amp up, give her a command she knows, setting her up to succeed, and praise the heck out of her when she listens, giving lots of treats and love. Make being obedient be lots of fun.

Definitely put her in her crate when you need a break (but don't use the crate as a punishment, always happily and calmly have her go to her crate, even if you feel like you're about to explode.) And I remember Buddy at 6 mos. was a canine garbage can, he ate everything he saw. That does get better in a few months. For now, make sure you stay one step ahead of her on walks to make sure she doesn't eat anything dangerous.

Good luck!!!!
 

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I forgot one thing ~~ making sure she gets enough exercise is crucial. Remember that a tired pup is a good pup. :)

Buddy has gone for a long walk every morning, followed by a game of fetch since the day we got him (with dh); and then I take him for another walk during the day, and he runs around the yard with my boys a few times a day. You'll be amazed at the difference in her behavior with just a little more exercise added.
 

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I agree with no hitting, or alpha rolls (the pinning down of the pup). True leaders don't lead by forcing their subordinates into submission, they are in charge because they provide all that is good, you control her water, her food, her toys, your affection, treats, outside time, car rides....everything. GSDs also thrive on structure. If she knows that every morning at the same time she wakes up, gets a walk, eats breakfast, goes in her crate, then comes out for potty, then play time.... Then her life becomes more expected and she will not see the need for taking charge, her dad has it under control.

For the instances where she bears her teeth at you and snaps when you try to take away something glorious like poop (yuck!), you need to work on this in 2 ways. You need to teach her a strong leave it command. By strong, I don't mean you being strong with her, but you starting at something small, like a piece of kibble and slowly working up to her favorite toy, or a rolling ball, or a piece of raw meat. Eventually to a piece of poop!

2nd thing to work on (for tiems when you can't see the poop ahead of time) if to work on her seeing you taking things from her as a good thing. The trading up game is a good way to teach this. Start with something that she likes but has low value to her.... (you can do this with food or toys, or both). For instance, let her have a nylabone, then offer her a piece of kibble and say trade (or Aus, or out, or drop), when she drops the bone for the food, praise her and give her the food. Something higher in value might be her favorite ball, So you will have a high value food item like cheese cubes or pieces of hotdog. You won't go right away to something high value but after she is consistantly dropping the low value item, you can move up to something higher in value. Eventually, you can just do treats intermitently and she should be ok with it, but for now, you should always offer her a trade. She needs to see it as a positive experience. Think about if your mom, always kept coming up and taking your toy, eventually you would get mad and try to keep her from taking it. But if as a kid she took away the toy but gave you something better, like a popsicle.... would you care that much?

Lastly (sorry for the long message) I am guessing that she comes from working lines? So its possible she has a decent drive and most likely a high energy requirement. I was just curious what she has as outlet for her energy, and in what ways you wear out her growing brain. Not mean, but I know most GSDs need more than fetch and walks. It does work for some dogs, but working dogs need outlets for their brain. Something to make them think.
 

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Also welcome to the board and your girl is gorgeous!
 

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I am also appauled that the breeder would tell you to hit the dog. Training, Leadership, NILIF, constant vigilence/supervision, but no hitting.

I also think that your teenager needs to be very active in her training. Use lots of treats and praise.

I do not know what lines your dog is, but six months old is a bit old to still be mouthing painfully. Maybe you need to be a little more assertive and teach her to be gentle with your fingers. I call my hands and arms my fingers for this. "Gentle with my fingers." Soon it is just "Gentle." I train GENTLE with treats. They only get the treat if they are careful, or gentle with my fingers.

They are smart, generally not defiant, and if you keep things light, positive, and appropriate for their age, they are usually very willing to please.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thank you all for taking the time to help by posting your thoughts and suggestions, I really appreciate it.

I can see how shaking the scruff of her neck, etc, can just seem like rough play and make it worse.

I had seen NILIF mentioned for the first time about a month ago, when I first discovered this board. I hadn’t thought much of it then, but with so many of you recommending it now, I’ll definitely try it.

We do a bit of it already (making her do something she has learned for many things), just not consistently, and I can see how that’d be an issue – especially at this stage.

We tend to leave all her toys out, letting her play with them as she pleases. I’ll start putting them away and only letting her play with them when she does something. Most of her meals are given to her freely, I’ll work on that too.

Also like the suggestion about having family members do things like feed her one kibble at a time from her bowl. And I feel so stupid that it never occurred to me to use the trade up method to get her to drop things – wow!

I can see the truth in the dog mirroring our emotions, and how it may be us that is amping it up. Also love the idea of making it fun for her to behave properly.

I am so glad that so many of you disagree with the hitting. It’s something that felt wrong, but coming from such a well respected and knowledgeable person, my own ignorance of this breed and the obvious differences from our prior dogs (much stronger spirit), plus that fact that he said that she’s got strong lines (like she’s descended from East German border guards) made me start to think it may be correct to hit.

I should point out that he presented it as more of a one-time thing, than something to be done as part of regular training, and only because the dogs were so strong and defiant. I have never seen him do anything more painful than to give a sharp pop of the leash to get a dog pay attention while he was teaching. And he frequently points out that you can’t leave the dog on an island – you need to show them how to succeed, to help them get there, and then praise and reward them when they get it right. I have seen him interact with all of the pups from this litter, and they all love him and don’t show fear. He is kind and patient, even to us humans – though it’s got to be awfully trying at times… :)

Definitely agree with the importance of exercise; there have been days we’ve walked her legs off and she was a delight later in the house. On the days that I work late and she only gets a walk in the morning and another late, she tends to be more bratty. Other family members help, but it’s mostly me and my son (and he’s a young teen, who can easily get distracted from doing what he should).

We have gone through the puppy class, and just completed the basic obedience course with her, and signed her up for an advanced class though that doesn’t start for about a month. I’ve been doing some research on the web to learn what else to do, but until this week I’ve been so busy with work that I haven’t been able to give here the time she deserves (and my son too – who defaults to video games when I’m not pushing him…). I’ll put more effort into engaging her mentally.

I’ve watched some of the free videos on the Leerburg site, and am considering purchasing some of the DVDs; Your puppy - 8 weeks to 8 months, establishing pack structure, basic obedience, dealing with dominant and aggressive dogs, and the power of series (training with food, markers, etc).

I really like what I’ve seen of Michael Ellis on the Leerburg site, would like to get a DVD of his if anyone has a suggestion appropriate for a 6 month old.

I appreciate the reminder not to crate her as punishment, to remain calm even when I want to explode inside…

But I am a little confused on how much to crate her. We let he have almost free reign in the house when we can, gating off parts so we can supervise. We use the crate sparingly; basically overnight and when we can’t watch her or we are having dinner, etc. It seems many people crate their GSDs much more. How frequently and how much time is normal?

PS: I’ve included a photo of her from this morning, quite a difference from the baby shot posted earlier.

Thanks again.
Bruce.
 

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NILIF and positive training rather than ramping the pup up by smacking it around (as you have told us that doesn't work it should be OK to give it up.) Reward the good, ignor the bad.
 

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I have kennels, which are easier for the dog as they can potty, move around, rest, play, etc. But they are completely safe while they are in them. There is nothing in there that they can destroy or ingest that will hurt them. They cannot get out of them. So, when I am not right with the pup, I have them kenneled to protect them from the many dangers in the house.

I also use baby gates so that if I am working on something and the puppy is in the same room and can keep an eye on the pup.

The puppy should be crated or in its absolutely safe place whenever you cannot pay attention to what it is doing. This is for its safety.

But you are absolutely right that it can be used too much. I find it a little troublesome that people crate very young puppies for the entire work day. At the same time, I would not want to leave newspaper or a potty pad with a puppy as a bored puppy will shred it happily and probably ingest much of it.

So, crating the pup when you cannot pay attention, while at the same time, not leaving the puppy in the crate for endless hours. A puppy should be able to last without pottying for one hour for each month they are old. So a two month old puppy should be able to last 2 hours, and a six month old six hours. Some can make it nine hours, but it would be better to have someone come in mid-day to let them potty and throw the ball for a few minutes.

Not everyone can afford this, or has anyone available to do it.

If I had to crate a puppy for the work day, I would make it a point to give a good work out -- training/play session prior to leaving for work, and then when I got home, I would physically leash the dog to myself when I am doing something that takes attention, like cooking or eating dinner, rather than crating again. I usually puppy proof my bedroom early on, and let the puppy spend the night in my room, with a baby gate to the hallway. The puppy will have her own toys, and maybe something to chew on. Usually I do not have any problems with them being in my room at night. (I will not discuss the slipper bandits.)
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks for the great ideas and comments everyone, I'll be making a memo from them (refrigerator door material).
Bruce.
 

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You've gotten a lot of good advice and it seems like you're off to a good start (wow, you're actually taking the advice given to you, what a refreshing change from some of the other posts I've seen on this board! :thumbup: ).

Just wanted to add that in addition to physical exercise like walks, mental exercise also goes a long way in tiring out your pup. You said she already went through a beginner's obedience course, so she should know simple commands like sit and down, right? Do some short obedience drills with her, like rapid successions of "down" - "sit" - "stand" - "down" for a reward, like a game of tug or a treat. Keep things upbeat and light, and stop when she wants more so that next time she'll be eager to go again. I find that 10 - 15 minutes of this tires out my pup just as much as 45 minutes of running around in the park.

You can also play some games with her, like find it. I usually show my boy a piece of food, put him in a down-stay in another room, and hide the food. Then I tell him to find it, and he goes around and sniffs out the food. To add a human element you can have your son hold the food (something really high value, like steak or cheese) and hide, so that your pup has to find him to get the treat. There are also non-obedience activies you can try...agility is a popular one. My boy and I take herding lessons, which has been a lot of fun and really wears him out, both physically and mentally.
 

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I agree with all posts. Lots of exercise then training. We also love hiding treats and having them find them, GSDs need mental stimulation. And your attitude and your son's attitude are also key, dogs are very sensitive and can pick up on anxiety and fear. Keep a calm and assertive attitude. I agree with no hitting. GSDs can be trying but they are the best dogs ever! They generally calm down a lot after 2 or 3 but those first years are high maintenance! Costco has some good large kennels that you can set up in a garage. Good luck!
 
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