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My adopted GSD is 11 months old and hasnt had a lot of new people experience. He basically knew the family that was taking care of him and thats it! So i brought him to my house, and took to my sister immediately. And loved my mom no problem. But he met them all during the day.

Well tonight, my dad got home from a business trip. I was taking Gustav for a walk, and we walking up to the house and my dad was getting his bag out of the car. The lighting was very low and he said, "hi gustav" in a very mellow voice. put his hand out for Gustav to smell and Gustav slightly lunged at it and snipped at him. I wouldnt consider it a bite, but it did puncture skin. Gustav was wearing his Halti collar, so i immediately pulled him back, tightened the noose on his nose, and said, "no!" then loosened my grip. My dad tried again, and Gustav did it again. I again restrained him, told him "no!" and took him to the back yard.

Now, my first instinct is not that Gustav is mean. it was just that he was perhaps protecting me. the lighting was low. it was a man he hadn't met once. i figure tomorrow i will introduce gustav to my dad tomorrow in the sunlight. I just hope he hasnt developed a "tag" for my father as dangerous.

Any tips on how i should handle the situation?
 

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Have you read Susan Clothier's "Bones Rained from the Sky" or Sheila Booth's "Purely Positive Training: Companion to Competition"? If you haven't, that's where I would start.

If you don't consider a meeting of GSD teeth with human skin which results in a puncture wound to the human a bite, what do you consider a bite?

It sounds to me like Gustav met people physically in the home/yard and that this meeting was very different. I would review how and when the dog met your other family members carefully. Then I'd consider what you were "telling" the dog by your own body language in each case and look at how the dog interpreted that. From that information you can figure out what was misinterpreted, what you communicated to your dog that you didn't intend to communicate and build on that. One thing to start immediately is to associate your dad to only positive experiences in your dogs mind. (That is - the sharp corrections/punishment aren't helping endear your dad to your dog.)
 

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You have a point. but its hard not to be stern when the dog does something wrong. How am I supposed to tell him he is being bad if I am not giving him a negative reaction?
 

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NOT normal! It was a bite-- it broke skin. If it happened to the meter reader, this could have been bigtime lawsuit-on-a-leash.

How about an evaluation from a good canine behaviorist? If this dog is fearful and bites out of fear, corrections can make things worse.

But if this dog is dominant also, going purely positive with zero corrections, can make the problem worse, too. You need to get a great evaluation by a behaviorist. Learning WHY he behaves this way can help formulate a treatment plan.

I know you said Gustav was undersocialized, so very possibly this is just a fear issue... but maybe this is a genetic temperament/nerve issue too.. or dominance?... in any case, an eval by a behaviorist (shelters can help hook you up with behaviorists) will help determine what is behind the behavior, to then treat it as kindly, yet effectively, as possible.

Begin NILIF-- nothing in life is free. Amazing how calming this can be for a new dog in a new situation who is unsure what his role is or what to expect. NILIF can be found on the net, if you want to read up on it. Many of us life our lives with NILIF with our dogs. Sure helps to calm them!

Also sounds like Gustav never had much love in his life. Does he enjoy being brushed? This increases pack drive, and can relax and soothe a dog. Doing NILIF, and giving your dog earned affection, really can warm him up to you and help him feel loved, too, in his new home. ( it is a very new home for him.. and at 11 months and being so new there, the bite incident was probably not protecting you)

Good luck with Gustav. HANDSOME dog-- I saw his pic.
 

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It sounds more like fear than protection to me. Whenever a GSD (or any dog really) bites like that I suspect fear first. I would think that if the dog were serious about protecting you, your dad would be in a lot worse shape than a puncture on his hand. Not saying the bites don't count, but they are what they are. I have experience with a GSD who is skittish of men. What has worked for us is first of all, to have everyone in the family basically ignore the dog for the first two weeks. Sometimes even too much positive can be stressful for the dog, especially an undersocialized dog. Just give the dog a lot of space for a while. Hand-feeding is a great way for you to bond with the dog and start avoiding food guarding. You could even have your dad try, just make sure at first the dog gets to initiate the interaction, don't have your dad directly approaching the dog. Have your dad randomly drop treats around the house, or drop a treat anytime the dog approaches him. He does not need to look at the dog, touch the dog, or say anything. This would just help the dog start perceiving him as something good (treats) and something that is not going to hurt him. If Gustav is OK with it, I'd have your dad take him for some walks when it's light out, again your dad should just be calm and neutral, no quick movements or quick direct approaches. Walking as a pack is a natural thing for a dog. Just have your dad walk him, even if it's just around the block. Again he does not need to be talking to the dog or trying to train it, they are just going for a walk together so Gustav can see they are in the pack together. Now if Gustav is not so great at walking manners, maybe you can walk him but your dad tags along. To help prevent future issues with dominance, I would do NILIF with Gustav. I don't have any good links but someone else will probably have some good NILIF links for you or you can Google it.
 

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OK, I am sure that you don't know or were just not thinking really well at that moment. But having your dad try to pet the dog in the same place under the same circumstances and expecting a different outcome is not realistic. Some thing set this dog off, wehter it was because it was dark, the dog doesn't know you or trust you yet. These are all things that can be managed an over come.

Some classes for you and your dog is a good place to start. You need to learn how to manage your dog.

You have had some great suggestions. If your dog keeps having problems with your dad, then I would suggest you dad hand feed at least one meal a day to the dog and become a walking treat dispenser around the dog.

Val
 

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I doubt Gustav is mean.

Others have suggested the follwoing, but my Dog had some aggression issues, after which I thought he was a wimp. There are situations in which a dog will become fearful or protective.

My best suggestion is to hire a behavior expert to meet and evaluate the dog. Of course the problem is you need to find someone that is top notch.

As an aside, whether a dad or your neighbor, you do need to prevent the dog from being in a situation in which this could happen again.
 

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Well I guess my dad went out into the back yard today and met Gustav. When I woke up he said that Gustav was very friendly with him, and that they got along very well. Which was great to hear.

I also took Gustav for a walk down the street to our local Supermarket shopping center, so he could see lots of new random people. I didn't really walk him super close to people, but being the handsome
he is lots of people came up to him and wanted to say hi. They would say how pretty he was, I would thank them for their kind words and continue walking. One lady did come up to pet him though, said she had GSD of her own, and Gustav reacted very well to her. I just scratched behind his ears while he was in contact with her. And gave him praise and a treat afterwards for behaving himself.
 

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Originally Posted By: iCaptureWell I guess my dad went out into the back yard today and met Gustav. When I woke up he said that Gustav was very friendly with him, and that they got along very well. Which was great to hear.

I also took Gustav for a walk down the street to our local Supermarket shopping center, so he could see lots of new random people. I didn't really walk him super close to people, but being the handsome
he is lots of people came up to him and wanted to say hi. They would say how pretty he was, I would thank them for their kind words and continue walking. One lady did come up to pet him though, said she had GSD of her own, and Gustav reacted very well to her. I just scratched behind his ears while he was in contact with her. And gave him praise and a treat afterwards for behaving himself.
Sounds like he was just scared of your dad in the dark then. What you describe is how I started with mine - taking her lots of places but keeping interactions very short, typically not letting people touch unless I got a very good vibe, and always touching the dog myself if someone else was touching. Now she will approach people on her own. Back then I just kept the interactions lasting no more than 5 seconds or so, to give her a chance to see a short interaction, but not leave enough time for the stranger to do something that would upset her.
 

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Being scared or aggressive in the dark is precisely what happened with my dog.

Again, I would be careful but not overly concerned.
 

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Man, this dog is just full of surprises. So tonight was my dads birthday. And we had some friends over. His friend mark saw Gustav in the back yard and commented on how much he loved GSD's. So I was in the back yard playing with Gustav, and mark opens the house door and pokes his head out to say hi to Gustav and let Gustav smell him. I stand close to Gustav, and have my hand on his back, giving him some kind words. Then Gustav gets agitated and barks at my dads friend. So I go inside, apologize for Gustav's behavior, and my dads friend's wife says she would like to meet Gustav. I say "ok", and go out into the back with her. I dont stand close to Gustav, and just act casual. Gustav came up to her, smelt her, and walked away to grab his toy.

Then she goes back inside and says how nice Gustav is. Then, Mark, her husband says that he would like to try and meet Gustav again. I say thats fine. He asks if he could bring a treat with him, and I say "sure." We go in the back, and Gustav immediately barks at him (deep mean bark), mark then throws the treat on the ground, Gustav eats it, then goes after mark again, barking and snipping at him. I immediately push Gustav away from mark (i mean what else was i supposed to do, i didnt want him hurting the guy.) In the end, Mark had a ripped shirt.

So what do you think is going on? He is fine around some people, and not around others. He hated my dad one night, and now he is totally fine with him. He was defensive against mark, but totally ok with his wife. There has to be a way to figure this dog out. Obviously he is not mean, he just has issues. I'm thinking its the body language. When he first met Mark I was close to him, and concerned about what he might do. And he attacked. Then, when I was nonchalant he acted fine with strangers.

tomorrow I am gonna take him on a walk to a pretty crowded place. Keep him close just in case he gets fiesty, but he will be somewhat tired because of the exercise and hopefully that will keep him calm. I love this dog, and I can handle taking time to train him. But its kinda hard to train a dog to be social without giving him social interactions. But its hard to give him those social interactions when your not sure how he will react.
 

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You have done a wonderful thing rescuing this dog.
You clearly love him! It is obvious that you want the best for him, and have the best intentions to make his life a safe, peaceful one. Gustav is so lucky you took him in!


BUT:
1.)Why are you not looking for a canine behaviorist?
2.)Why are you still experimenting, and letting folks get torn clothing? After the bite to your Dad, you need to take this seriously. Please stop trying to learn what Gustav likes and doesn't like. Stop trying to test and see what happens with different people and situations-- someone already got bitten. Blood was drawn. It may seem like no big deal, because it wasn't the utility man, who could sue you-- and worse.

Gustav may (or may not) have been beaten by his former Russian owner, in an attempt to "make him mean" as a guard/protection dog. Men might scare me too, after that. OR-- Gustav could just have a faulty, weak-nerved temperament. You cannot determine this on your own-- you need professional help, and not from a trainer at Petsmart. You need to get a real evaluation done by a canine behaviorist on Gustav. Let the behaviorist figure out the why's and how's with this dog.... before another family member or guest gets bitten. The third bite (torn clothing-- yes, the dog did try to bite the guest!) can well be a non-family member who can cause you legal trouble and cause Gustav's days to be numbered.

A behaviorist will give you the guidance and support you need.
You will have ideas, suggestions, and real help. You are meaning to do well and fairly to this dog... the kindest thing you can do is get help for yourself right now, with a canine behaviorist to guide you from here. Envision a day where you can safely, calmly walk a relaxed Gustav through a busy park full of men, kids, other dogs, etc. Is that a possibility? Perhaps! A behaviorist can make that relaxing, comfortable, sunny dream a reality for you, and for Gustav.
Good luck with Gustav!
 

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Totally agree with Patti. At this point you have no idea what you are doing with this dog and you may lay a worse fate for him as his former owner. You know the saying about good intentions... You do need to see a behaviorist that knows what s/he is doing.

Yesterday I took Yana to one myself and got really scolded for being confusing, not enforcing the rules and making excuses for her instead. Weak nerve dogs need a leader and a proactive leader, they don't need baby talk and petting. I've already asked you in some other of your previous threads what you are doing when your dog is barking, posturing, biting, snapping? What do you do afterwards? Because if you don't send the right signals to your dog your next outing in public can become the instilling the wrong behaviour in your dog again and it will be harder to fix.
 

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Originally Posted By: iCapture
But its hard to give him those social interactions when your not sure how he will react.
You have to be prepared for the worst reaction and know what to do in that case. If you are confused your dog will be confused and nervous which is not a good combination. iCapture, it's very nice that you want to save the dog but I am afraid you don't truly realize the amount of work you are looking at and what liability you have on your hands.
 

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It sounds like he is afraid of men, maybe abused by one in the past.

I still stand by what I said earlier, he needs to NOT meet ANY men head on like that. ALL men need to TOTALLY ignore him, and if they can't promise to do that, Gustav should be kept away from them. Every time a man scares him and he reacts like that, it reinforces his fear and the reaction. Your job is to manage the environment so that never happens again. If men want to be around Gustav, they may not look at him, touch him, or talk to him. They should pretend like he does not exist, carry lots of treats, and simply drop them at random times (NOT reach out and offer the treat, just drop it so Gustav can pick it up when he wants).

I understand how it is to have a dog that is perfectly fine one day and then scared and nippy the next. Sometimes I am exhausted like I need eyes on the back of my head. I think the main thing is to not set up interactions any more. No more of Gustav standing or sitting still while someone approaches him head on. Interactions need to be very short, VERY informal, and Gustav should initiate them (ie, if he wants to go up and sniff someone, he may, and that person should be turned sideways/parallel as he does, not reaching at him from the front).

He just doesn't understand that people are trying to be nice, and in order to correct this you need to work from HIS reality. To him, a man coming towards him is a bad, mean thing. You cannot force a fear biter so simply stop; the best way is to start over and re-teach the dog that men = good treats, no hitting.

You are right that your emotions and body language will affect his reactions. What I have learned is that when I get a bad vibe and start to tense up about my dog meeting someone, it's not me that has the problem, but that's a person my dog should just not be meeting. For example, I tend to tense up whenever my brother in law approaches my dog. Several times I have asked him not to do certain things to my dog, and yet he still does them and she gets very nervous and will air snap at him. So, instead of trying to tell myself to relax, I don't let this person interact with my dog. That way, I avoid the tense feelings AND this person interacting inappropriately with my dog. If you get a bad vibe, just move on to someone else.
 

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Originally Posted By: LiesjeI still stand by what I said earlier, he needs to NOT meet ANY men head on like that. ALL men need to TOTALLY ignore him, and if they can't promise to do that, Gustav should be kept away from them. Every time a man scares him and he reacts like that, it reinforces his fear and the reaction. Your job is to manage the environment so that never happens again. If men want to be around Gustav, they may not look at him, touch him, or talk to him. They should pretend like he does not exist, carry lots of treats, and simply drop them at random times (NOT reach out and offer the treat, just drop it so Gustav can pick it up when he wants).
I totally agree. He needs months and months and months of this, no pressure to meet anyone, and the presence of men always mean good things. And I don't mean a dog biscuit, I mean very yummy treats - chopped up chicken, hot dogs, cheese, something special that he never gets any other time preferably. All dropped randomly while they treat him as if he's the invisible dog. NO eye contact, no frontal approaches, nothing.
 

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And I should add, it WILL get better if you stick with it. When I got my GSD she was very well behaved, very easy to train, stuck to me like glue...but she had one bad experience with a man (totally accidental) and was basically scared of men after that. The more they *tried* to be nice, the more scared she became. She didn't react like Gustav (she would duck her head, try to run away), but the same principles were at work. At first I thought "oh no biggie, DH will give her treats for a few weeks and she will be fine." Erm, no! I've had her for 11 months now and just in the past month or two she as come out of her shell and will approach men with tail wagging, take treats from men on her own, and jump up on DH's chest. I still have to carefully monitor her reactions to new people and gauge that with my instinct, make sure certain people aren't TOO friendly to her. Yes, for a fearful dog, there IS such a thing as being too friendly. The dog doesn't understand the person wants to be friends, to the dog it's just a big person coming straight at them. Really, asking men to ignore her completely is what had to be done to get over this. Once she started getting better initially, I did a bunch of "go visit!" work in class where I would point to a person and say "go visit!". She would run over to that person, they'd simply say "hi doggy", give her a treat, and then she would come back to me. Very short, simply interactions.
 

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Agree with the above, with one addition. GSDs go thru fear stages as they mature, and Gustav has been through an adjustment just moving to your home. So he could be just overstressed and the people, commotion, confusion on his part at the party the other day pushed him over the edge. Baby steps are key at this age, and if a situation is overwhelming to him, get him out of it. He needs to look to you for "protection", and not feel the need to protect you.
 

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I agree that he is likely afraid of men.

I think taking him to a crowded place could be too much, too soon. Let him get used to you and your family and some of your friends a little at a time.

Parties are hard on people too, everyone is acting a little different from usual, lots of people, it may be a good idea to keep a new dog crated a little out of the way the first few times, so he can rest in a safe spot and observe.

I think it is great you rescued this guy, but I am worried that if you go too fast, especially with people that are not family members, you may end up on the wrong side of a lawsuit. If the boy is afraid of men, you need to carefully and slowly socialize him to good guys that know dogs. I mean people affiliated with training and behavior, not anyone who says that dog love them.

Good luck with your new dog. He is young and you can probably work with this dog and get him where you want him. I think you should try a behaviorist, but if not, a competent trainer may be able to do a lot with him.
 
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