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We are first-time dog owners with a (mostly) German Shepherd that we picked up from the human society a few weeks ago. We were originally practicing Cesar Milan methods of training/discipline. We have just started with the non-violent/positive reinforcement training instead and it seemed to be working well.

Tonight my wife took the dog for a walk around dark and everything was going well until she couldn't get his attention diverted from some kids at a skate park. Treats and commands were not working so she did her best to calmly pull him away. This happened again with someone passing by on the sidewalk. He then proceeded to start biting at the leash and getting very excited/anxious. She waited for him to calm down and then proceeded on. Later on the walk he was barking and growling at a lady in her yard and again was unresponsive. She was able to pull him away but after another 5 minutes he (seemingly out of nowhere) began to go crazy, jumping around and mouthing/biting at the leash and her. After waiting patiently for the episode to subside, she ended up having to grab his collar and twist it to get him to quit jumping and biting/mouthing at her arms. His "biting" didn't break skin but it did scratch her.

Back at the house, I put the leash back on and walked him around the house to make sure he was OK and he did the same to me. When I tried to bring his collar higher on his neck he mouthed at me but he really went nuts when I made him Sit and Stay. He kept trying to walk out of his Sit and then started jumping on me and mouthing me and the leash. He even put his mouth around my thigh. He didn't bite down but it definitely does not sit well with me.

I have a feeling that some of the cause of his behavior probably stems from our Cesar methods but regardless we are wanting to know what to do and whether we should be concerned. Can anyone help us to understand his behavior (what caused it, what he's thinking), how handle it once it's started and, most importantly, how to prevent it. We have met a trainer that seems to know what she's doing and we will be contacting her for advice, as well but we would love to get your thoughts and feedback.
Thanks,
Jon and Jamie
 

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Do you know the age of your dog? Any background on him? Have you practiced NILIF with him since bringing him home? I would be sure the trainer you are going to get with have experiences dealing with reactive behaviors.
What type collar were/are you using?
I would start ramping up the NILIF and don't take him places where he is going to act up. Stay in your own area or a place that isn't highly populated for now until you get a handle on his personality and who he is really.

By practicing NILIF he will see that he can trust you, look to you instead of taking care of things himself.
He also needs to have confidence. Many times people think a dog that is acting out is very confident when in reality it is all fear based.
They act all big and bad because they want the "threat" to go away. Fight or flight. On leash they cannot flee so will "fight"

Most dogs that are adopted don't show their true personality until they've been in the home for a few months.
There is a game you can play called "look at that" (LAT) based on Leslie McDevitts book Control Unleashed. I would start doing this as well.
Cesars methods are usually quick fix and the foundation of his training is not as strong as working slowly to recondition the dogs behaviors.
Look at the video clips on different forms of aggression(scroll down) and fear periods in young dogs that Michael Ellis has done, they may help you to understand your dog a bit better:
http://leerburg.com/stream/videolistcat.php?cat=Michael%20Ellis
 

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Well there's a lot of adjusting going on with your new dog and it take a while for him to settle in. Sounds as though he's a little overwhelmed and is trying to figure out what's going on and what his place is in the home. Like onyx'girl said, try the NILF, make sure he feels secure- do you know his history? A crate is also useful. You might look into obedience classes and/or some in-home training so you're able to relate on a common level. Thanks for giving him a loving caring home
 

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I don't think Cesar Milan is your problem. I can't imagine anything I have seen him do that would result in your dog's "Brattish" behavior. I agree that a crate would be useful. I think you and your wife are allowing the dog too much time to settle down. You both need to show leadership and let the dog know that it is not OK to act out on walks by using firmer, quicker corrections and not giving him "time to settle down." "Calmy" pulling a dog distracted by something else is not likely to yield results. Getting a dog's attention needs to equal the level of his distraction. If you are just pulling on the leash to get him to come along or waiting for him to settle down, I believe that you are only sending a message that there is no consequence for his behavior.
I think additional training is a good idea. But you have to be ready to respond to what seems like "bullying" to me.

My dog gets one chance to "mouth", "bite" "Scratch" me or a family member out of anger or frustration. At that point a firm correction to let the dog know that his behavior will not be tolerated is applied until he gets it!!! Not nice but dogs that think they can retaliate against corrections from their owners only get worse if the behavior is allowed unchecked.
 

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I don't think Cesar Milan is your problem. I can't imagine anything I have seen him do that would result in your dog's "Brattish" behavior.
Do you mean brattish behavior like being a puppy or bad behavior in general? Just curious, because I know if I pulled half of Cesar's stuff on my dog or others, I'd probably get bit.
 

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Do you mean brattish behavior like being a puppy or bad behavior in general? Just curious, because I know if I pulled half of Cesar's stuff on my dog or others, I'd probably get bit.
I can't speak for your relationship with your dog, but I haven't seen any techniques employed by Cesar that would be the cause of a dog acting out on the end of a leash. I didn't translate the described behavior as puppy issues. I would wonder what "Cesar Milan" techniques they were using.
 

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They've only had the dog for 3 weeks, I don't think anything they've done has caused his issues...he came with baggage, and they need to know how to address it.

I think a firm leader for this dog will show him he is safe, and they need to be consistant with that. Stay calm on the other end of the leash so the dog doesn't feel the owner stressing or weakness. Do I sound like Cesar(I hope not!!)

It's too bad Cesar has coined words that are commonly used, methods he is using may not be the same however.
 

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Without being there, it's really hard to tell what was going on. I think Jane gave excellent advice. Stay calm, use NILIF, be consistent and get a good trainer.

I certainly wouldn't give a dog I've had 3 weeks a "firm correction" when he's already coming up the leash at me. I'm not sure what is meant by a "firm correction" but I do know that I popped a foster with a prong collar when he was frustrated and he grabbed my arm in his mouth so if a firm correction is a leash correction, then I would advise against any kind of physical reaction to him in the case that it would escalate him.

I would follow Jane's advice to the letter for right now. It's very logical and it starts to build a bond with your dog. The trainer will be able to help you better and evaluate your dog.
 

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I can't speak for your relationship with your dog, but I haven't seen any techniques employed by Cesar that would be the cause of a dog acting out on the end of a leash. I didn't translate the described behavior as puppy issues. I would wonder what "Cesar Milan" techniques they were using.
I was exaggerating about my dog actually biting me. He'd look at me like I was crazy and be upset, but I do know a lot of well-balanced and socialized dogs that would not take well to being alpha rolled and pinned to the ground. Alpha rolls and "dominanting" a dog can definitely cause negative psychological issues and aggression.

What I was asking was if you were talking about puppy behavior at the end of the leash, or bad behavior period?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Do you know the age of your dog? Any background on him? Have you practiced NILIF with him since bringing him home? I would be sure the trainer you are going to get with have experiences dealing with reactive behaviors.
What type collar were/are you using?

He is almost a year old. The only background we got from the humane society was that his owners had a baby, so that's why they gave him up. The trainer that we have seen is convinced that he is part Akita because of his coloring. We had posted a couple days ago and everyone else seems to think that he's GSD, just not well bred. We have been practicing some of the NILIF. Making him sit for his food and wait for my signal to go out the door. What we've been bad about is responding to his requests for attention, so that will change after reading that website. We are using the Martingale (spelling?) collar on him after talking with the trainer.

I would start ramping up the NILIF and don't take him places where he is going to act up. Stay in your own area or a place that isn't highly populated for now until you get a handle on his personality and who he is really.

By practicing NILIF he will see that he can trust you, look to you instead of taking care of things himself.
He also needs to have confidence. Many times people think a dog that is acting out is very confident when in reality it is all fear based.
They act all big and bad because they want the "threat" to go away. Fight or flight. On leash they cannot flee so will "fight"

Most dogs that are adopted don't show their true personality until they've been in the home for a few months.
There is a game you can play called "look at that" (LAT) based on Leslie McDevitts book Control Unleashed. I would start doing this as well.
Cesars methods are usually quick fix and the foundation of his training is not as strong as working slowly to recondition the dogs behaviors.
Look at the video clips on different forms of aggression(scroll down) and fear periods in young dogs that Michael Ellis has done, they may help you to understand your dog a bit better:
Leerburg Streaming Video
Thank you for those websites. The LAT looks like something we should definately work on, since on walks is where we starts to behave bad. He might have had bad experiences in the past with his lease and we are trying not to repeat them. Unfortunately I don't know how to get him off my arm without grabbing and twisting the collar to get him off. By the Cesar method, what I mean is the quick correction, the snap of the lease. We learned quickly that the alpha roll is NOT recommended after we did it once. We've been researching and training since we got him from day one to socialize him better. Unfortunately for him and us, we have a steep learning curve for training dogs, but I feel like we are on the right path with the positive reinforcement and clicker training. Thanks for you help.
 

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I'm also wondering how others get their dogs attention when they are so keyed in. My trainer recommended treats, but even after waving it in front of his nose while calling his name, I couldn't get his attention. Sometimes I think that maybe I'm tensing up while walking him, because I hear the trainer's words in my about him being part Akita. I'm not so convinced that he is, but I think I still hear those words while I'm walking him.
 

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Treats don't work with my dog, either. She's much too focused on the other dog to care about anything I say. I try to keep her at a comfortable distance and identify problems before they get close enough to bother her.

From what I've been reading, NILIF, Obedience will help a lot. I want to try the LAT method. At least it looks good in the video.
 

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Why are you so worried about him being part Akita? A dog is a dog is a dog, regardless of breed. Breed will give you general temperment, general looks, etc. But trying to fit every dog into a square box isnt going to work when they happen to be a circle.
Now, you have a reactive dog. Remember to take, and keep, his breed away from this.
When you notice him starting to react(hair on back of neck stands, ears perk forward, body tenses, glazed look in eyes) you need to snap him out of it immediatly. A quick leash correction, a quick light tap on the throat, etc. I see you want to use positive methods. I 'drill' Shenzi. Sit.High Five. Down. Stand. Down. Stand. Look. Sit. Wave. And during this time I pop her full of treats when she completes a command. Although I find this doesnt work as well as snapping her out of it, because unless I go into drill sargeant mode where a too slow sit merits a correction, I do not get the result I want. Another way is to take a tug with you. When he starts, take out the tug and play a game of tug. Or a ball, anything he loves more than reacting.

Also, tethering. NILF. Feeding out of hand. There are a multitude of ways to positively show the dog who is in care and control.
 

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Try to re-direct him before his body language shows he is going to react. You will be able to see these situations coming, and at that time get the dogs attention back to you. Squeaky toys, balls, tugs high value treats....whatever it takes to bring back the focus or snap him out of it if he's already "in the zone"

As far as the Akita...I don't see it at all. They have high curled tails, smaller earset, and more of a bulk in the structure. I still see a sable GSD with white spotting.
I wish I knew where the one(identical to yours) that Onyx's breeder ended up, if I didn't know better you have him! She lived in Indiana at the time of whelp and this would have been a couple years ago, so your dog is probably younger.
 

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Hi Mr.Max,

Your dog sounds like my shelter rescue when she was newly adopted. She was about the same age as yours when I got her. She had absolutely ZERO training, didn't even know what "sit" was, and would "lock" on other dogs, people, noises, anything, so that I had to grab her by the collar and drag her away, that is how unresponsive she would get.

She would also get the zoomies on leash, and go nuts like how you describe your boy. She would jump on me, grab my jacket, and try to start a game of tug. When she turned and barked and growled at me for not letting her run after a jogger (she was on leash), that is when I gave up and got her into classes.

What worked for me:

- Obedience classes so she learned to work and focus around the distraction of other dogs, noises, people, and I learned how to shape, lure, and reward behaviour. I learned that positives go a long way over negatives, but prong and corrections are also important to communicate with a dog with behaviours that are already set and ingrained.

- challenging physical and mental stimulation: tracking classes, ongoing obedience classes with some fun agility thrown in. Schutzhund - she loved it!!! The control I gained over her took a long time coming, but boy, was it worth it!!

- for the zoomies: upped exercise. Lots of fetch, play with a flirt pole (lunging whip - she got to chase and catch the end) long walks of over an hour, off leash safe areas to run around. No zoomies allowed on leash (what a pain when she got like that on leash!)

-jumping on me, grabbing my clothes: nothing I did worked to get her to stop. the harder I got with my correction, the more amped up she got. So when she did that, I went completely and utterly "blank" - I withdrew my energy and all my attention. She would stop in suprise. As soon as she was calm, I turned to her and gave her quiet praise - at first as soon as I looked at her, she thought the game was back on! So back I went to being "absent" and limp, and withdrawn - she didn't like that much, it didn't take long for her to learn that being calm = attention. Going nuts = no fun!

I would also get a prong, (don't remember if you have one?), and start using it. I waited way too long to go to a prong, wish I had done so earlier.

Don't give up! You are doing all the right things! It takes time to get results with a wild child like yours. I now can do eye-contact heels past barking, snarling dogs and rabbits darting around in the ditches with my girl, and do long downs in a group, but it took a few years and a lot of work. But I'm sure your new family member is worth it! Good luck!
 

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I have had great results using the "Control Unleashed" protocol, and I don't hesitate to recommend it to other dog owners who are having problems.

If it is at all possible, try and find a trainer experienced and qualified in the "Control Unleashed" methods. Nothing beats having great guidance as you start the process.

If you can't find a "Control Unleashed" trainer in your area, go to apdt.com and use their trainer referral section. In your case it is really important that you work with someone that has lots of experience working with reactive dogs. You mentioned that you don't have much experience with dogs, so you are really going to be dependent on the trainer at least initially. Timing is everything! Your current trainer might be a good fit already, but I would want to make sure that they have enough experience. The average Petsmart/Petco/box store "trainer" is not experienced enough to help a reactive dog, and they can sure make the situation worse. I am not saying that your trainer is a Petsmart/Petco employee! I am using those classes as an example of how easy it is for inexperienced people to be given a voice of authority.

Good luck. It can be done! Your guy might not ever be a social butterfly, but he should be able to get to the point where he can walk down the street without losing his mind.
Sheilah
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks everyone for the encouragement. Sometimes after feeling so disappointed that Max did something like that, I just need to move on. We did have a good walk this morning. Granted the distractions were less than last night, but I still practiced getting his attention when he was distracted by school kids, a neighbor and the neighbor's barky dog. I brought his ball that he loves and when the treats weren't working trying to get his attention away from the dog, the ball worked. I will definately check into "Control Unleashed" and keep working with his trainer. I feel so much better than last night and we both feel encouraged that this morning went so well. Thanks again everyone for your suggestions. We don't have a lot of well behaved dogs and their owners that we can model after, so your experiences are really helping us!
 
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