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Discussion Starter #1
I need some help with my little boy Jaxon. He is 8 months and starting to get into the typical devil-ish stage (which I can handle). I have been battling an anxiety / fear issue with him since I got him at 3 months old.

I got him from breeder in the hills of WV so his acclimation to people wasn’t great before I got him. Ill list some of his behavioral traits

Pros:

· He's amazing around people he knows well. Great loyal GSD
· He’s great with other dogs. Plays with a little 10lb sparkplug all day and is nice and considerate of how small he is.
· He is not food aggressive towards people he knows or other dogs.
· He knows his owner. Is loyal to me. Respects me, no matter how made I make him sometimes.

Cons:

· He is terrified / aggressive to strangers (more indoors than out)
· If they don’t look at him or try and touch him, he usually is ok.
· If someone he doesn’t know tries to approach him, his stance widens, glands open up, barks and lunges at them with a fright bite (snap and retreat, snap and retreat)
· He will try his hardest to avoid people by at least 5 feet.
· If anyone strange is up in my/his room, he will go into his crate where he sleeps and go nuts. (which is a territory trait I know)
· Walks - He is ok on walks. Will pass people on sidewalk but will shift to the outside / opposite side of me. He doesn’t like when people are too closely following. He walks with his head turned backwards.

It takes me about 30 minutes to get him acclimated to a stranger using treats. Once he sees that person enough, he is good with them.

He is my second GSD and I feel like I am a fairly experienced trainer. I take him on very public walks daily to keep him acclimated. But these are more complex issues. This is a mental fear / anxiety. Possibly from his breeder or even blood line. I would think my next step would be personal private training, but I don’t know if I can afford it.

**He has not been neutered yet. He has a hip guarantee that is void if I neuter him before he is full grown. (I could care less about the BS guarantee at this point. I want what’s best for him) I don’t know If neutering will make it better or worse.. Will it make him less aggressive or more afraid? I don’t know.

Thank you for your advice,
Mike
 

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I'm sorry but have I can't help you with this, hopefully someone more knowledgeable will chime in soon...good luck...
 

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I don't know how to help, but I'm assuming you're in WV, and depending on which part, I know of a good trainer you can talk to. I can send you a PM if you're interested.
 

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Neutering probably won't help his behavioral issues, but it certainly won't hurt either. I might wait a bit longer to do it, however.

I think if this were my dog I'd slow way down. Keep him far enough away from people that he's not stressed, and work with him there. Don't even try to acclimate him to strangers, have people completely ignore him. If this is genetic, and it may very well be, you're not going to be able to just train it out of him, you'll always need to manage him to some extent.

Training can certainly help, but once he's over threshold his ability to learn is compromised, so you need to find a way to work with him below threshold. Continually exposing him to stressful situations and environments will cause stress hormones to just keep building up and up and up, and it can take several days for them to return to normal levels. If he's not getting a chance to rest, and let the hormonal levels subside to normal, it's just making things worse.

Here's a book excerpt that talks about the effects of stress hormones - if you scroll down it also mentions the effect of testosterone: Stress in Dogs: Learn How Dogs Show Stress and What You Can Do to Help - Martina Scholz, Clarissa von Reinhardt - Google Books

One interesting thing mentioned is that long term or frequently repeated stress can lower thresholds, so the dog will react sooner or more strongly, and is less able to deal with situations that were not previously a problem.

And here's an excellent article from the Whole Dog Journal: Trying To Ease Your Dog's Stress - Whole Dog Journal Article
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I don't know how to help, but I'm assuming you're in WV, and depending on which part, I know of a good trainer you can talk to. I can send you a PM if you're interested.
I'm actually in Cleveland. I drove 4 hours to get him. I fell in love with the almost all black litter that the breeder had. Does anyone happen to know any trainers in NE Ohio?

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I'm in Mentor, Ohio and having some of the same issues going on with my 9 month old GSD. I am having great results working with Mary Berr at Canine Affair in Chesterland. Let me know if you need any information.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Wow that's a small world. I grew up off of 306 in Bainbridge. Is she reasonably priced?
 

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She is reasonably priced. This is the first trainer who hasn't made me feel like it is my fault that the dog has some issues that need to be worked through.
 

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Cons:

· He is terrified / aggressive to strangers (more indoors than out)
· If they don’t look at him or try and touch him, he usually is ok.
· If someone he doesn’t know tries to approach him, his stance widens, glands open up, barks and lunges at them with a fright bite (snap and retreat, snap and retreat)
· He will try his hardest to avoid people by at least 5 feet.
· If anyone strange is up in my/his room, he will go into his crate where he sleeps and go nuts. (which is a territory trait I know)
· Walks - He is ok on walks. Will pass people on sidewalk but will shift to the outside / opposite side of me. He doesn’t like when people are too closely following. He walks with his head turned backwards.

It takes me about 30 minutes to get him acclimated to a stranger using treats. Once he sees that person enough, he is good with them.
Sounds a lot like my Jack used to be...he came out of a longbarn breeding operation at 11 months and was sorely undersocialized.

I am not a behavioralist, but what worked for us was just a very gradual progression of new people over time. Since your dog already shows that he can accept someone after about 30 minutes with treats, keep that up. I think it will cut down the time if the person is hanging out focused on you (not the dog) and just has the treat available when the dog is ready to introduce himself.

As far as strangers approaching the dog, etc., I asked them not to. Don't approach my dog, don't look at my dog, etc. Please just ignore the dog...it gets old sometimes. But, with the stress of being approached removed, he was able to take his own time and approach them instead.

I think it also helped tremendously that I had the two older, friendly females setting a positive example.

Oh, and barking and lunging was an INSTANT kennel up. He felt safer there, anyway, and I would open it up after a few minutes so he could come out if he was ready to be polite. If he barked again, hackled or any of that nonsense, right back he went. No exceptions.

Oh, and I had to move his kennel out of a high traffic area. I figured out that having it in the living room reinforced his territorial behavior. He would just bark and lunge from inside the kennel. I moved it instead to an alcove in the laundry area. Out of sight, but within earshot.

In the very beginning, when he was really crazy, I would cover it with a heavy blanket to help him calm down. I have no idea whether or not that's acceptable, but it worked for us.

I hope this helps! He's a different dog today. Went to a party with me Saturday night a couple of blocks away. Followed us over there on the golf cart, off leash, made the rounds and got his pats, and played fetch with the kids for a couple of hours. Of course, it's a year and a half of maturing and a LOT of work later :rolleyes:
 

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Discussion Starter #11
That makes me feel alittle better. Im starting to feel like if im doing the right things, time will cure this.

Funny that you mentioned the blanket.. I tried it once. Dont ask me how.. But the little Houdini managed to pull an entire 8'x8' blanket through the inch wide slots in his crate. I think the more I get mad at him the more I love him.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Well iv been working hours everyday with him and it seems like its not getting better.

During his walk yesterday it seriously looked like he was on speed. His head was shooting all over the place and his eyes were moving at 100mph. Someone came around the corner and he almost did flip on to his back trying to get away. I dont know what to do. Can this be something he grows out of? Would a medication help?
 

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I probably would not work with him hours every day. I think that socialization can be a little is a lot. A lot tends to be counterproductive.

When your dog is having a fear-reaction he is getting nothing positive out of it. The art of socializing a scared puppy is to do it very gradually. Maybe this week the dog goes around the block that he is most familiar with and all people, dogs, are at least 5' away from him.

One new person, place or thing in a whole day.

As the routine of this simple, short, familiar, starts to set, then expand your horizens by just a little bit.

Take him to class just one day a week. You will have to get the dog out of its comfort zone, but just in little bits.

Maybe with gradual and careful socialization, training that matches you and your dog, and the pup maturing, things will get easier. It is possible that the dog has a genetic problem with poor nerves. It happens. If this is the case, you can go only so far with training/socializing, and you will have to manage the dog.

Managing the dog means being aware of the environment and getting your dog away from potential situations before he becomes stressed to the point of reacting.

Have you talked to the breeder at all about this?

I think that drugs may help a dog that has severe anxiety. But I don't know the risks or under what circumstances drugs are the best choice.
 

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I have a (genetics, definitely) fear-aggressive 4yo boy now. IF this is the case with your guy, you cannot train it out, and you cannot ever lull yourself into a false sense of security about him and new people.

He really does sound like my Jaeger was at that age, he was BAD about his fear aggression as a pup/teen. He mellowed out a lot as he matured. He still does not accept any stranger unless we go through a big complicated intro, but he can walk in public and right around strangers as long as I am between them, or they ignore him. IF you want to work on his threshold for strangers, a few sessions a day of neutral strangers and rewards for good behavior. The strangers should be non-threatening, and not trying to interact. Say, sitting down reading a newspaper while you work around them, gradually moving in and working more. You find his threshold for a non-threatening stranger, when he becomes tense, ears perked, movements jerky, on alert, not to where he is feeling the need to put on an actual display to scare the person. You stop before he becomes stressed and work, just obedience work for rewards, toy games, etc, and move in a little closer. Take is slow.

Is he food motivated, or does he prefer toys? My guy could work like a pro in a crowd as long as he had his chuckit ball and launcher - find his kryptonite and use it.

Move on to more distracting strangers, I.E. someone walking by at a distance, talking at a distance, TWO people sitting and being neutral etc.

Obviously the strangers could be a dog-loving friend/neighbor that he doesn't know. The biggest hurdle with upping the threshold of a dog like him is having a lot of people at your disposal who are going to LISTEN to you.

Be very careful with trainers. I tried one when he was around 4 months old, and apparently they have no idea what positive reinforcement IS and are morons, I told them to take my $300 and shove it up their.. well, anyway. They traumatized Jaeger more than they helped, and offered no refund. And I didn't even care I just wanted them away from him.

Fearful, and genetically nervy dogs, like he sounds like are managed. Usually for life. It's stressful, difficult, and yes a liability. I would get him evaluated at home, and then in a neutral place, and etc. by a very good behaviorist who will do all kinds of stimuli tests with him. If you can get him to accept her/him, that would make life easier as far as the testing goes.

And THIS, is why breeding should be left to people who know what they're doing. Have you talked to his breeder?
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Well i guess wouldnt say hours a day.. But i try and do 2 or 3 miles with him a day.

Another thing I forgot to mention.. When other dogs are around, he disregards all human life. He gets himself in the 'play' zone and will brush right by strangers like theyre nothing.
 

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I have a (genetics, definitely) fear-aggressive 4yo boy now. IF this is the case with your guy, you cannot train it out, and you cannot ever lull yourself into a false sense of security about him and new people.

He really does sound like my Jaeger was at that age, he was BAD about his fear aggression as a pup/teen. He mellowed out a lot as he matured. He still does not accept any stranger unless we go through a big complicated intro, but he can walk in public and right around strangers as long as I am between them, or they ignore him. IF you want to work on his threshold for strangers, a few sessions a day of neutral strangers and rewards for good behavior. The strangers should be non-threatening, and not trying to interact. Say, sitting down reading a newspaper while you work around them, gradually moving in and working more. You find his threshold for a non-threatening stranger, when he becomes tense, ears perked, movements jerky, on alert, not to where he is feeling the need to put on an actual display to scare the person. You stop before he becomes stressed and work, just obedience work for rewards, toy games, etc, and move in a little closer. Take is slow.

Is he food motivated, or does he prefer toys? My guy could work like a pro in a crowd as long as he had his chuckit ball and launcher - find his kryptonite and use it.

Move on to more distracting strangers, I.E. someone walking by at a distance, talking at a distance, TWO people sitting and being neutral etc.

Obviously the strangers could be a dog-loving friend/neighbor that he doesn't know. The biggest hurdle with upping the threshold of a dog like him is having a lot of people at your disposal who are going to LISTEN to you.

Be very careful with trainers. I tried one when he was around 4 months old, and apparently they have no idea what positive reinforcement IS and are morons, I told them to take my $300 and shove it up their.. well, anyway. They traumatized Jaeger more than they helped, and offered no refund. And I didn't even care I just wanted them away from him.

Fearful, and genetically nervy dogs, like he sounds like are managed. Usually for life. It's stressful, difficult, and yes a liability. I would get him evaluated at home, and then in a neutral place, and etc. by a very good behaviorist who will do all kinds of stimuli tests with him. If you can get him to accept her/him, that would make life easier as far as the testing goes.

And THIS, is why breeding should be left to people who know what they're doing. Have you talked to his breeder?

Thank you for the help. I still havent found his 'kryptonite' as you put it. There are toys he likes, but nothing yet that makes the world stop. I just ordered him a Kong today so we will see how that works.
 

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That's great that he likes other dogs so much. Use that to your advantage however you can. Unfortunately my boys' aggression and fear is toward other dogs as well as people. Perhaps working dogs into the threshold sessions after a while will help build his confidence? I don't know how you'd go about it, but I'm sure you could figure out a way to utilize this.

Feel free to PM me any time, if you want to talk or even just vent. I've dealt with Mr Crazy every day for four years now and I understand the toll it takes.
 

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"Thunder Shirt"

Hey
Just reading through the thread.
Have not personally had these issues
But I help with a lot of foster based rescues.
And one that that has been helpful for some of the dogs (and it is very hit or miss) (and the dogs are rescues, not GSD per say)
Is the "thunder shirt"
It is a tight shirt wrap thing, that is meant to make dogs feel more secure.
As I said very hit or miss, but some dogs find it very comforting, and with the stuff you are already doing it *could* help.

No promises but could be worth a shot!
 
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