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Discussion Starter #1
I was wondering if anyone else here has experience with a handler soft or even just soft dogs. I tried researching on the internet but theres not much information on it, especially for GSDs.

My 11 month old GSD still uses a flat collar. Ive only leash corrected him one time by popping the collar, the first time at 7 months by the trainer at which time he yelped and flew into my leg , Since the trainer was so close to me, he might have thought I did it. I was less than a foot away. The second time I popped the collar , and you would have thought i had just ran over his best friend , he just laid down and looked disinterested. I had to get his ball to perk him up. From reading everything here, hes a soft dog.
FYI: My son however can pop his collar when walking him and he doesnt mind too much, he just looks back and falls inline. So, I dunno maybe Im doing something wrong.

Any info on soft dogs would be appreciated.
 

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No, you have a handler soft dog - you are not doing anything wrong, your dog is just very sensitive to you, and is mortified that he would do anything to upset you and earn your disapproval.

A dog can be a hard dog, and still be handler soft. My dog is like that. I do SchH/IPO, has been worked by police dog trainers, and all agree that he is a serious, hard dog. But since I've had him, I've done all his training on a flat collar (except protection training - the hard dog in him comes out when we do bite-work), or no collar, walk him easily on a loose leash, he is very mindful to be a 'good' dog.

Since your dog is so sensitive to you, I would ditch the prong collar, doesn't seem to need it when you handle him. Others, like your son, may still want to use it though.
 

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I have one! She's tough as nails, you can shoot blanks over her head, have a stranger charge her, whatever... solid as a rock. But if I so much as whisper a 'no' she is flat on the ground and acts like she was just flogged. That's useful in the sense that she will recall out of ANYTHING and I never have to worry about compliance but it does make training difficult. She gets frustrated easily when she perceives she's not pleasing me. If she's not offering the behavior I'm looking for she's not very teflon or persistent, she just shuts down and starts soliciting or apologizing (offering her belly, whining etc) instead of shrugging it off and trying again. I've never had to use any sort of training collar with her. The most 'harsh' correction I've ever had to give her is a raised voice. The trick with her has been short sessions and very slow shaping. Marker training has worked superbly with her, as does training with other dogs. One-on-one seems to be a lot of pressure. She knows it's a 'session' and is easier to accidentally shut her down. If she's in a group she shrugs off a failed response and tries again instead. Once she understands a cue she's johnny-on-the-spot; instant response, flawless execution. The trick is just building her confidence.

I just edited to add that when I hand her off to someone else she's stubborn as a mule... it's hilarious. They can drag her all over kingdom come and she'll just ignore them. It's not necessarily a soft dog, just very handler respectful.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
We only use a flat 1 1'2 inch leather collar. I havent bought him a prong or choke yet. because like you said, hes a pretty good dog right now, i cant complain. I was thinking about it a few months back, just to be prepared for when he matures. Do these soft dogs change as they get older.

What kind of corrections should I give him? We train outside in the park now, so Mostly its for not paying attention to me because something is running around in the grass.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
I have one! She's tough as nails, you can shoot blanks over her head, have a stranger charge her, whatever... solid as a rock. But if I so much as whisper a 'no' she is flat on the ground and acts like she was just flogged. That's useful in the sense that she will recall out of ANYTHING and I never have to worry about compliance but it does make training difficult. She gets frustrated easily when she perceives she's not pleasing me. If she's not offering the behavior I'm looking for she's not very teflon or persistent, she just shuts down and starts soliciting or apologizing (offering her belly, whining etc) instead of shrugging it off and trying again. I've never had to use any sort of training collar with her. The most 'harsh' correction I've ever had to give her is a raised voice. The trick with her has been short sessions and very slow shaping. Marker training has worked superbly with her, as does training with other dogs. One-on-one seems to be a lot of pressure. She knows it's a 'session' and is easier to accidentally shut her down. If she's in a group she shrugs off a failed response and tries again instead. Once she understands a cue she's johnny-on-the-spot; instant response, flawless execution. The trick is just building her confidence.

I just edited to add that when I hand her off to someone else she's stubborn as a mule... it's hilarious. They can drag her all over kingdom come and she'll just ignore them. It's not necessarily a soft dog, just very handler respectful.
LOL this sounds just like Dexter. Although I dont know what hed do if someone charged him..LOL I havent tried that yet. Were still working on the flawless execution as sometimes he gets distracted. Not often but it happens. As fas as not listening to anyone outside of family , hes the same. If I tell him to stay with them he will but he doesnt listen to any of their command. What are the confidence building exercises? I play tug with him and let him win most of the time.

EDIT: Will he always be this way?
 

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We do a lot of flirt pole and tug. You can see her opening up over time. At first she'd start after the toy and then think too much. Now she just goes lady-balls out and gives it her all. Keep at it!
 

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The issues I have with Dex right now is he is starting to not let strangers pet him. Hes not aggressive but when they try to pet his head he moves just his head back and wants to smell them. Is this also a sign of a soft dog/nerves? are they even the same thing? He never used to do this, when he was younger he was very friendly.
I am trying to get more people to pet him using treats. Which he takes but sometimes still moves his head away from being petted.
 

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Stop forcing him to accept affection from strangers. There is no need for that approach. As long as he is stranger nuetral your ahead of the game.

Handler soft dogs usually imply less then optimum nerves. I find such dogs tend to require a lot of guidance from the handler. I would just feed and play around strangers and in public place. Not force him to socialize if he doesnt want to.

A very experienced breeder once explained it to me like this. Your child tells you theres a monster in her closet and she is afraid. You help her with this silly fear by forcing her into the closet and shutting the door.
It might work...but more then likely your just going to make things worse.
 

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Handler soft and biddable are two different things. A dog that shuts down after a correction is soft. A dog that wants to please is biddable.
I agree, don't allow complete strangers to approach/pet your dog. GSD's are usually not into that. If they solicit the petting, then fine, but don't force anyone on them.
My rescue Kacie is on the soft side, she has never needed anything more than a flat collar, she doesn't shut down with a correction, but will have avoidance behavior.
She isn't what I'd call a biddable dog, though...her nerves have her to inhibited to go out of her safe zone. New experiences are sometimes overwhelming to her. She won't make eye contact, or take treats when uncomfortable.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Stop forcing him to accept affection from strangers. There is no need for that approach. As long as he is stranger nuetral your ahead of the game.

Handler soft dogs usually imply less then optimum nerves. I find such dogs tend to require a lot of guidance from the handler. I would just feed and play around strangers and in public place. Not force him to socialize if he doesnt want to.

A very experienced breeder once explained it to me like this. Your child tells you theres a monster in her closet and she is afraid. You help her with this silly fear by forcing her into the closet and shutting the door.
It might work...but more then likely your just going to make things worse.

Thank You and your probably right. I was doing this because this was the only thing stopping Dex from becoming a therapy dog. Hes so good, doesnt jump, listens, is not afraid of the hustle and bustle of the senior home, is very calm, he loves loves loves people that he knows and is very loving to friends and family but strangers get no response. Alas, you may be right.
 

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My golden has that issue with strangers. He gets nervous about most of them and kids flat out terrify him. He has gotten better with continued exposure but one important thing is that I keep people from meeting him unless he expresses interest. He knows people at pet stores mean cookies. Otherwise he doesn't usually want to interact, especially in large noisy places.

One trick that has worked with my dog - but you have to remember he is a golden not a GSD - was playing the "Look" game. Walking around dog friendly stores with a bag of treats and any time we saw someone and he didn't panic or try to run, I would say Look! And pop a treat into his mouth. It was recommended for me by someone who had a fear reactive Border Collie and Myles can now walk past strangers and even scary kids without breaking my arm off trying to run off.

I had wanted to do therapy with him, but unless he has met the people a few times, he is nervous but very tolerant and willing to interact slowly. Not sure if it will help him or not, but Myles is a unique boy lol. The more pressure he gets the better he focuses.

My GSD came very social and friendly, but trying to do obedience with her shuts her down. I have to hide it in daily events and activities to keep her interested. No idea how she was first taught, but they sure can shut down in certain situations.


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I agree about the socialization thing. GSD's should be "approachable but aloof". IMO it is perfectly acceptable to not solicit attention but to accept it. If being aloof is a disqualifying factor for therapy work (as I would assume it is) I would say he's probably not the dog for that job if he doesnt enjoy attention from strangers. That fact does not make his any "less than" but if he wouldnt enjoy it it would be an unneeded chore. There are many other venues to get more involved with your dog as well as your community. Agility, Flyball, SAR, Obedience, Rally etc.
 

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never understand why people want to do therapy work with their gsd? if you want to do that stuff then get a dog that craves attention from strangers like a golden retriever. a normal gsd (social yet aloof) would hate to be stuck inside with strangers putting their hands all over them. they are one person dogs. they are outside dogs. they want to be outside interacting with you. if i could rank all the activities a normal gsd would enjoy i'd go schuzhund, sar, obedience, agility, dock diving, rally, a bunch more stuff and then therapy work.
 

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The issues I have with Dex right now is he is starting to not let strangers pet him. Hes not aggressive but when they try to pet his head he moves just his head back and wants to smell them. Is this also a sign of a soft dog/nerves? are they even the same thing? He never used to do this, when he was younger he was very friendly.
I am trying to get more people to pet him using treats. Which he takes but sometimes still moves his head away from being petted.
Curiosity is a double-edged sword in the animal kingdom. There are drawbacks to any extreme of the spectrum of the trait. To my primate mind allowing a hand near my cortex and sensory organs seems pretty dangerous and I would try and control the situation as much as possible. Take it as a compliment, I bet when you reach for Dex's head his ears go down, his eyes soften and he leans into the rub? That's trust and it's special. Why on earth would he trust a stranger with that level of access to his important delicate bits attached to his head?
 

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Curiosity is a double-edged sword in the animal kingdom. There are drawbacks to any extreme of the spectrum of the trait. To my primate mind allowing a hand near my cortex and sensory organs seems pretty dangerous and I would try and control the situation as much as possible. Take it as a compliment, I bet when you reach for Dex's head his ears go down, his eyes soften and he leans into the rub? That's trust and it's special. Why on earth would he trust a stranger with that level of access to his important delicate bits attached to his head?
So true! In alot of ways dogs have been more domesticated than me! I dont want someone petting my head. :p
 

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never understand why people want to do therapy work with their gsd? if you want to do that stuff then get a dog that craves attention from strangers like a golden retriever. a normal gsd (social yet aloof) would hate to be stuck inside with strangers putting their hands all over them. they are one person dogs. they are outside dogs. they want to be outside interacting with you. if i could rank all the activities a normal gsd would enjoy i'd go schuzhund, sar, obedience, agility, dock diving, rally, a bunch more stuff and then therapy work.
This is insulting. Therapy work is a job and any dog that is an "all around" dog should have no problem with it. I can go to a million places with Midnite and he doesn't care one way or another if people approach. He accepts them if they do and can walk right past them if they don't. It's completely different at the nursing home, its like he knows why he is there. I tell him we are going to work and he is in that mode. The interaction between me and him at the nursing home has made our bond stronger then any sport would. He is more normal then lots of GSD's I have met and I wouldn't want him any other way. He excels in everything he does and tries and that is what a GSD is.
 

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no offense as i think therapy dogs do great work but how is going around letting people pet you "working"? dog isnt really using its mind or isnt doing anything physically taxing; both things that a german shepherd loves. imo if you think a normal gsd would rather walk around a retirement home over running through an agility course you're fooling yourself.

just saying that therapy work is better suited for a breed that likes attention from strangers. i mean gsd are described as one person dogs for a reason. just my opinion, not meaning to insult.
 

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no offense as i think therapy dogs do great work but how is going around letting people pet you "working"? dog isnt really using its mind or isnt doing anything physically taxing; both things that a german shepherd loves. imo if you think a normal gsd would rather walk around a retirement home over running through an agility course you're fooling yourself.

just saying that therapy work is better suited for a breed that likes attention from strangers. i mean gsd are described as one person dogs for a reason. just my opinion, not meaning to insult.
The GSD standard......It is poised, but when the occasion demands, eager and alert; both fit and willing to serve in its capacity as companion, watchdog, blind leader, herding dog, or guardian, whichever the circumstances may demand. The dog must not be timid, shrinking behind its master or handler; it should not be nervous, looking about or upward with anxious expression or showing nervous reactions, such as tucking of tail, to strange sounds or sights. Lack of confidence under any surroundings is not typical of good character. Any of the above deficiencies in character which indicate shyness must be penalized as very serious faults.....

This description of how a GSD should be is what therapy work is all about. They can't react to anything, they have to have confidence and solid nerves. I have a golden that is certified for therapy and he is almost to happy to do the job, sometimes it takes a more serious dog/breed.
 

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never understand why people want to do therapy work with their gsd? if you want to do that stuff then get a dog that craves attention from strangers like a golden retriever.
Lol, boomer11 - for someone who admits to a lack of understanding on the subject, you sure are opinionated. Here's some fun trivia for you:
"Never idle, always on the go; well disposed to harmless people, but no cringer, crazy about children and always - in love....he was delighted whenever someone gave him attention and he was then the most tractable of dogs." OK, so which famous GSD lover described their very first GSD in that quote? Nobody help him cheat! :D

Llombardo, there's no sense in being "insulted" when someone says something that's based on personal musings, lol. You know for a fact that it's not the breed but the personality that's what matters. Heck, you know better than most, since it was the TD evaluator who chose your GSD over your Golden, lol!
 

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I think what the other poster was trying to say is that if this particular dog doesnt necessarily solicit attention from others he may be better suited for another task. There are many GSD's who are beyond approachable and love the attention from strangers but alot of GSD's dont and thats ok. As long as being aloof doesnt translate to fearful or nervous or aggressive. That's the beauty of the GSD breed. Nowadays, there is a GSD for nearly every single task and a perfect fit for most because of their versatility. Not saying the breed standard should be overlooked just that there are GSD's on every level of the spectrum.
 
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