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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This past week as part of Ole's dog reactivity while on a leash, I have been taking him to a well-run daycare facility. My trainer works out of the same facility and has a training room in the building. I like the daycare because they board and train reactive and aggressive dogs from a local shelter. Their staff is well equipped to handle challenging dogs. They have six separate rooms, so the dogs are sorted by size and temperament.

Overall, I am happy with the results. In combination with the other things we are doing, it appears to be helping him figure out how to be a happy, well-adjusted puppy. His confidence is continuing to increase while his on-leash reactivity to other dogs is dropping. We can now pass within 30 feet of another dog.... if Ole is paying attention on a loose leash walk. If a dog gets any closer, we take evasive action. This week in reactive dog class, we are going to start working with another person training their reactive dog in the same room. Yay, progress.

Currently, he has been going twice a week for 6-hour periods. When I pick him up, he does not seem to be under undue stress. My pick up routine is for the staff to quietly hand me the leash without any fuss or muss. We quietly leave the building and take about 30 seconds to sniff and give Ole a chance to do his business.

From there, we head off on a loose leash walk for a couple of blocks. Ole is surprisingly good at settling into the walk after a day of running around. At this point, I start to praise Ole and tell him what a good boy he is and the treats flow freely.

I am curious if 6 hours 2X times per week is a reasonable amount of time for Ole to spend with other dogs. I guess my concern is that I don't get into a situation where Ole likes playing with other dogs so much that I start to lose value as a leader and companion.

I count his time at daycare as our normal noon desensitizing session and I replace our evening training with a relaxing 30-45 minute off-leash walk. With the one walk and potty breaks every three hours, Ole sleeps solidly for a good 15 hour after getting home from daycare. I like the Off-leash walks because I just wander around a field near my home. The snow is deep enough and the dead weeds are thick enough that I can't always see Ole. Every 30 seconds or so, Ole checks in with me. Usually, I give him a good boy followed by 'go play.' Occasionally I do a recall, reward with a treat, and send him out again with 'go play.'

I understand that a good trainer could have accomplished in six days, something which has taken me six weeks. I am not too concerned about being time-efficient. I am more interested in becoming an effective leader to a solid and well-behaved dog.

Thanks
 

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What are your goals for Ole? Do you want to compete in a sport or will he be strictly a companion? What will his adult life be like? Will dog parks or daycare be a regular part of it?
 

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is he constantly going to be around dogs outside of the dog park? You don’t want him to get to used to having dogs around if it’s not going to be regular.
 

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My formerly dog reactive rescue GSD now gets about 2 days per week of doggy socialization which includes 3-4 dog parks.
She absolutely loves her ventures and has played or met several hundred different dogs, all sizes and breeds.
She's still a bit too rough for some dogs and has met a few who put her in her place, doggy style. But her dog reactivity
is pretty much gone except when riding in my son's pickup cab. Haven't extinguished that yet.
 

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A couple of things to think about...is it a good idea to train with another reactive dog?My choice would be to train with a calm stable dog.The other thing to be aware of is as GSDs mature they very often stop doing well at daycare.Hopefully the owners and staff there are aware and keep their eyes open for changes in attitude.
 

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Can you define what you mean by the daycare's staff is well equipped to handle challenging dogs? That has always been something I have seen as a major problem with doggy daycares, young, inexperienced employees coupled with way too many dogs per employee. You have been putting a lot of work into your puppy. One whoops at a daycare can have very serious consequences.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for all the great replies.

I keep forgetting to state my goals with Ole. After learning what a handful was starting off, I became nearly OCD with my planning. :)

My primary goal for Ole is to be a companion/pet dog who can accompany me on walks and hike both on a leash in my residential neighborhood and off-lease in our expansive bluff lands. We live in the coulee region of Wisconsin.

My secondary goal is to have Ole people neutral enough that he can hang out with me at veterans' support meetings. The vets are good about not trying to walk up and touch a dog that is working. But he would have to deal with emotional outbursts. I don't expect a school therapy dog who has strange kids running up to him all day. But, it would be great if he could calmly nap beside or behind my chair in a group of 5-15 men.

My third goal is to compete with him in something. I have not thought this through too much. But with his energy and intelligence, we are going to have to keep his mind nice and busy.

My guess is that dog parks and daycare are not going to be a regular part of our lives. This daycare routine is probably temporary. It is something to help him get over the hump with his uncomfortably around strange dogs. My goal is to start regular obedience training classes on March 12th. I have made arrangements so that we can work from the corner of the room near a door to a grooming room. Based on pup's stress levels, we can move further in or out of the main room. Hopefully, the group obedience sessions (Ole has learned all the necessary skills covered in the class, I want to go to proof that he can do them around other dogs) and typical day to day dog interactions with replacing the immersive experience at daycare.

Yes, I agree that Ole probably won't be able to go to daycare much longer. He won't take commands from anyone outside his inner circle. If a stranger tells him to sit, he looks at them with an expression that says, "listen up 'butter bar,' you need to earn my respect before I follow orders from you." The only exception is touch which he takes as an invitation to approach someone and touch his nose to their hand... if he wants to.

Yes, I struggled with the idea of immersive daycare for a long time. The one I took my last dog to was just as @MineAreWorkingline described. The staff was well-meaning but under-trained to handle a dog like Ole. I prefer Ole to interact with one or two very solid dogs during this phase of his development. But, I don't know anyone who has a solid dog, well enough to ask to let my dog work with their dog. So daycare was the only option available.

It became a matter of finding the best one for us within a reasonable distance. During our adventures, we visited several daycare facilities. I would always go in first and ask whoever looked to be in charge if I could walk around their building and lobby a few times to desensitize my reactive German Shepard puppy. Everyone said yes.
1. If, after going in, a staff member would directly approach us and start talking baby talk to Ole, I crossed that place off as not a good fit for us. On the other hand, if the staff ignored us or engaged in a very brief conversation directed toward me, I took that as a good sign.
2. Secondly, I asked to look at dogs in their play area. If the dogs were just hanging out. That looked like potential trouble waiting to happen. However, in a couple of places, the staff had the main pack slowly circling the room. The dogs could break off in ones and twos to play together... but overall, the pack kept moving. It meant considerably more work for the staff. Those rooms seemed more at ease.
3. Thirdly, I looked for dens. I took it as a good sign if each playroom had several den-like structures or beds where a dog could just chill. It was good to see that in some place, the staff would gently redirect any dog that infringed on a dog who was chilling in a den. If the staff was actively trying to coax a dog out from a den, I looked elsewhere.
4. Fourth, I tried to figure out where the senior staff was working. If they were clustered in the office or around the front desk, I looked elsewhere. If the boss or a partner was actively involved in handling the dog, I took that as a good sign.
5. Finally, I tried to engage the staff in a discussion about reactive dogs and powerful dogs like German Shepherd.

Of the seven daycares within 45 minutes of me, one stood out as better than the rest for my needs.
 

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I think your options could include a dog park where there is usually a minimum of one person per dog, sometimes more, although some people might bring in two or three dogs. I have been to many different dog parks snd have found most dogs to be friendly and most owners to be on top of things. I have also found that those closest to a problem in a dog park are quick to jump in even if their own dogs aren't involved.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Yes, I am trying to figure out how dog parks can fit into our life. There are strong opinions on both sides of the issue.

We spent about 3 hours playing outside a local dog park today. The entire time we were within 30 of the fence. That was huge progress for us!

Today was a little crazy. In Wisconsin, a spring day that is over forty and sunny means T-shirt weather. A lot of dogs were at the park for the first time. Most of the regulars drove into the parking lot, took one look at the mayhem, and turned around to go home.
 

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I think for a companion animal it doesn't really matter a whole bunch in terms of 'healthy'. A lot of it will depend on the individual dog. My female hardly spent any time with other dogs as a young pup, but she always LOVED dogs, trusted them, loved to play and probably would have rather run off with any strange dog than be with me from day one. I lost all focus from her whenever a dog was around. I didn't encourage it, it just was (no other dogs, no doggy daycare etc.). Luckily she has matured a lot now at 2 years old, much more focused on me :)

My current puppy spends most of the day loose with my other dog. He has always had dogs around and I also have frequent get togethers with 4 to 8 GSD's in the family, they have to get along. Despite this, my puppy is mostly focused on me and he isn't as dog social as my female. He is very food and trainer driven, so much easier all around (just his natural personality). For me, having my dogs be tolerant with each other and other dogs in my family is pretty important as it's a big part of our lives. I also don't think it really impacts on the bond we have between each dog / owner.

Personally, I really don't do public parks / doggy daycares etc. I wouldn't recommend it long-term. That's a whole other ball game to manage, I have had bad experiences in dog parks and generally find the dogs completely untrained and the owners un-knowledgeable / busy on their phones / tell you about how they just picked up this huge dog yesterday from the shelter and want to see how it is with other dogs... Anyway, some areas might have better options than others, but that's just my limited experience. I know you've done your homework in finding a good facility, so I hope it goes well! I would just keep an eye on it so that it dogs aren't picking on him, or his stress signs are being ignored etc.
 
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