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I have a year-old GSD named Poppy who is pretty good. In my household it's me (28/f), two cats Sasha and Franny and then Poppy who is the youngest but biggest.

Our daily routine tends to be that we get up in the morning, I let her out of the crate and she does her thing while I get ready for work. Back in the crate, and I sometimes make it home at lunch to be let out or to play, and sometimes I work a full day. Right after work it's off to the field for about 2 miles with our dog friends - mostly a 1 year old (male) australian shepherd named Guida who is her best friend. Around twice a week, when I can afford it, she heads to daycare where she plays with the other dogs, and often Guida (we time it so they go on the same days). Poppy also plays well with an 8 month old black lab, Spy.

I am noticing some behaviors that concern me, though.

When we're walking the loop in the field, if it's just Guida and Poppy, they play great together - they chase and alternate who's the chaser and who's the chasee. They play nicely with sticks and balls and just run lickety split.

Sometimes, however, we get other dogs in the mix. There's no specific instigator when there's a third (or more, sometimes we have 5 or 6) dog, but as the pack grows, Poppy usually ends up being picked on. She will get chased the whole time, will run into the woods to avoid the pack, and occasionally will get nipped in the tail or rear which makes her yelp/howl and hide. The dogs are not acting aggressively from what we can tell, and aside from her running to my side to check in afterward, she tends to run right back out into the field to start the game over. She has never been hurt by the other dogs, and she doesn't hide from them or react to them when she sees them coming or playing together, before the chase game/"pick on Poppy" starts.

For the record, she's always been a sensitive dog - a big whiner, kind of dramatic - and I don't know if there's anything I should be doing to change that.

She is does get reactive sometimes when she's on leash, and has a prey drive that we're working on correcting - she likes to chase my cats, which is a no-no so I'm working on distracting her when she notices one of the cats walking by (we're at about 50% when I can stop her from moving; eg if she's lying on the couch and the cat walks by I will catch her eye and either distract her or "eh eh"; if she jumps up I jump up too and stop her). That said, sometimes she and my older cat, Sasha, like to play swatting games at each other (not chase), which I don't mind and Sasha seems to instigate.

She's pretty good listening to me when we're in the house, and when we're in the field her recall is great. When we walk together on leash she's a little tuggy so I use a halty. We just started running together and I've found that running really lets me be in control/lead so I'm hoping by doing that more than just running freely in the field will help her trust me more.

Now here are some questions beyond what's happening in the field - when we're at home she sits on the couch and looks out the window and growls at people who walk by. She also growls and barks when someone walks down my driveway. How do I teach her to alert me (bark once) but then settle down when I give the okay? Instead she barks incessantly as the person reaches my gate. If I let her out she'll greet the friendly person, but if I keep her inside she will bark until the person comes in and then greet them. This happens repeatedly with my boyfriend who she knows well and has a good relationship with, but until he's right in front of her she's reactive.

I also noticed yesterday we were visiting family a couple of hours away, and she was in the house with my mom's two pugs. She was surprisingly fine with them when we were just relaxing around the house (no prey-drive which we may have seen when she was a puppy), but the second one of the pugs tried to go toward me for attention, she came up and barked at him, and I had to let the pug go and take her out to the car where she spent some time taking a nap (I live in Maine, FYI, perfect weather for leaving-dog-in-car-with-windows-down, don't worry).

This brings me to my big concern - I realize now that in the evenings if one of my cats wants to sit with me, snuggle with me, be pet, Poppy will jump from the couch and try to get at them, the same way she did with the pug. Even if she's in her crate, in another room but just barely in my sightline, she'll wait until the cat jumps up on the couch for attention and then bark like crazy, scaring the cat (and me).

So, there's something going on with me and other animals, especially small animals like the cats and the pugs (if I interact with other dogs in the field or even when Guida comes to my house, she doesn't mind at all). What do I do? If I'm holding one of the cats Poppy tends to jump up and try to nip at their tail, and I have to juggle the cat (putting her "down" in a safe place) while Poppy is jumping to get at it or me.

She's not very food driven (she gets two cups in the AM and two cups at night and it just sits there until she's hungry), but maybe that's an area I could be better with in terms of giving her a set time to eat.

She's otherwise pretty good, although very independent - she doesn't mind being petted but she hates to be snuggled, refuses to sleep on my bed or next to me on the couch. She is so smart and we were doing agility classes for awhile but I can't quite afford them right now; maybe getting back into that would be helpful too.

Sorry this is so rambly just wanted to give you all the information I have. It's been a year since I've gotten her (tomorrow is her Gotcha Day!) so I think it's time for refocus and a refresher!
 

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Oh! And yesterday in my parents' house - she had no problem wandering out of my sight to explore (although I would be right behind her trying to wrangle her back where I could see her), but if she was lying down having a treat and I walked out of HER sight, she'd be up and next to me in two seconds.

(also, there was no aggression toward the other dogs when she had her rawhide out)
 

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Look up Patricia B. McConnell on Amazon or another site. She has several good, short, easy reads on fearful and timid dogs. The Cautious Dog is one :)

IMO, she's the authority on the subject!


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Keep us posted :)

I have two rescues who arrived fearful and are sweet and friendly now. Patience, and follow the books' advice!


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