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Discussion Starter #1
I am not sure where to start, but every now and then my GSD, Timber, becomes very aggressive toward strangers who visit me.

Timber is approaching two years of age and is an un-neutered male. He is a working line European bred dog, now about 92 pounds.

When he was younger, the dog would chase bikers and joggers, and based in part on advice from this board, those issues were resolved.

He is well socalized having met all the neighbors, attending numerous festivals and dog events, etc. He plays well with other dogs, and just loves the people he knows.

The concern is when a stranger visits Timber at times he becomes extremely aggressive. As some of you know I am involved with rescue, so let me give you a few examples.

I have had three different rescue folks visit. The home inspection went great, and Timber's behavior was perfect. However, in the case of the latter visitors Timber was very aggressive, and you could tell, that despite treats, these people and Timber were just not going to get along.

Another example, my father is 90 years old, and he rents to a woman that helps provide for his care. She is very nice, but Timber has absolutely no time for her. I have tried to get them to bond a bit, but last week while she was walking to her car Timber grabbed her by the jacket and only released upon my command.

I did hire a well known behavior specialist, and her conclusion was that Timber's number 1 job is to protect you, and given that your dad is old and fragile perhaps he also protects him. So her advice was I should not put Timber in situations in which he had cause to protect either myself or my dad.

The one problem I have with the advice is Timber has been fine with certain strangers, and very aggressive toward others.

Any suggestions on how to change his behavior would be appreciated.
 

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More information is needed...

1. Who handles Timber in these situations? Only you, or your father too.

2. What is Timber's life like? i.e. freedoms, where does he sleep, what areas of NILF have you been focusing on if any.

3. What has Timber's body language looked like in the instances he's been "aggressive". Has he vocalized anything?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the response.

I provided a reply to each pf your questions, but was told the board was closed.

I will give it another shot.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The following is in response to your questions:

1. I handle Timber in all situations and am with him 24 hours a day.
My father and Timber get along great, but he is far to sick
to handle Timber. My son, Ex wife and breeder have also
taken care of Timber and he has been perfect.

2. Timber lives with me on a small, dog friendly Island with six
other homes. My neighbor has a black lab, and they play
together almost daily. Several other dogs also join us at
times and they all play well together.

Timber's training has slowed, but we still do search, some
basic training, etc. Timber loves Dock Diving, we are
working on Extreme Vertical, and he loves swimming and
retrieving, perhaps because as a pup he had a lot of
interaction with my son's yellow labs.

This may sound silly, but Timber gets very excited when it is
time for a car ride. The dog just goes wild, and even when
I make him calm down, once the garage door is open he will
start barking and run to the truck.

Timber and my rescue sleep in my bedroom, but are not allowed
on my bed at night.

During Timber's first year I used NILF extensively, albeit that
has dropped off a bit lately.

3. When Timber becomes aggressive the fur goes up, he barks and
runs toward the person immediately. However, he has not
bitten anyone,albeit he did grab the jacket of my dad's
caretaker.

I noted your connection with Leerburg. Suffice it to say Ed's advice regarding my son's labs has been very helpful.
 

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Well, my take on this is that he needs to be managed. He does not sound like a bag of nerves or anything, just protective and feels a bit overwhelmed by certain people in his territory. Leadership in all situations is what he needs, and an understanding that he needs to feed off of you and your decisions about who is welcome in your home. Continue with the NILF, but you need to be in control of him to walk him through these interactions. Any time you have a visitor around he needs to be on lead so you can see him start to have a fear response and let him know there's no reason to be afraid and there is NO threat. Be careful not to be on edge or worried about him as that will travel down leash and make things worse. If you know you will be having someone over that he may not like help him out by getting him a good amount of exercise and some mental stimulation prior as well as feeding him.

FYI, I do not read this as "extremely aggressive". Extremely aggressive translates to blood drawn. He has the capability, he just has a fear response to some people that he does not know on his own territory which is not that uncommon for younger dogs.
 

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This sounds like a fear response to me, too.

First, I agree with putting him on leash whenever someone is coming into the house. This is HIS territory (although you need to work toward getting him to understand that this really is YOUR territory) and he's demonstrating a need to protect it from some people.

Second, I'd go back to whatever you did with the bikers and joggers. If it worked for that situation, it should work for this. New problem, but same solution. Dogs don't generalize very well, so you need to keep addressing issues in various surroundings and with different set-ups. I would think this might be the same problem, different venue.

Third, I would make certain that I am BETWEEN Timber and the other person to demonstrate to him that I am taking control of this situation and he (1) is protected from this scary person and (2) needs to let me make these decisions. Reward him if he's good and calm with other people in the house. There are some people to whom he doesn't react, so you have opportunities to reinforce that behavior, which can then be used to set up that he doesn't get rewarded for being barky and snarly when other people are around.

I would even remove him from the room if he reacts. If he can't behave, he can't have the privilege of being included.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
John and susan,

I appreciate both your responses and will go ahead and follow your advice.

Susan, I do not think this is a fear issue. Rather it revolves more aroud Timber feeling his number 1 job is to protect me and our home. John also mentioned fear response in his last paragraph. However, Timber interacts with some visitors very well, but seems to be more aggressive toward others, mostly that exhibit an un-easy concern toward the dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
John,

I decided to bumb this. Today I went to Green Bay, WI. with my rescue and sheba was adopted. I rode with a lady that works for the Rescue Group and when we got to my home, I leased Timber and let him out to meet her. She was good in terms of her reacting to the dog, but he was terrible. I kept them apart initially, but he literally pulled me through the garage toward her and grabbed her by the jacket.

That was enough, and when I told him to go to his cage he went immediately.

The suggestions on my post basically say I need to better manage the dog in those situations. But want does that mean, I revert to an E-Collar in those situations. I will admit I am not an E-Collar fan.

I did hire a behavior specialist to evaluate him, and her response was basically that you and Timber live together 24 hours a day, and his number 1 job is to protect you. Therefore, you should never put him in a situation in which he becomes aggressive.

That sounds great, but I would prefer that Timber behave with strangers.

It is tough to get a person to act as a guinea pig in those situations, but nonetheless Timber's behavior needs improvement.

As I mentioned earlier, the pronged collar worked great for teaching the dog not to chase bikers and joggers.

Perhaps that is the answer, but I would appreciate more feedback from anyone that reads this post.
 

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Timber1, the fact he's aggressive is clearly an issue. But not what I'd focus on.

Instead, I see the problem is he is IGNORING YOU when this happens.

So, to me, this means he has (for some reason) decided you have extremely poor judgement sometimes so he has to step up to the plate to do what HE feels is needed. He has somehow come to think YOU don't know what the heck is going on so HE has to take over.

Now THAT is a problem. So the problem, in my eyes, isn't the agression. It's the fact he's not looking to you, cueing from you, getting guidance from you, you you you you you you......

So this is, a LEADERSHIP thing. That in certain circumstances he feel he is the leader and you are just an annoying buzzing bothersome person he's dragging along at the end of the leash.

Have you read and put in place The Dog Listener by Jan Fennell? NOT about obedience, all about how to become a leader in the dogs eyes. How about all of Suzanne Clothier's articles about 'leadership' at http://www.flyingdogpress.com/articles.html ?

This isn't about stronger corrections, or being louder, or using an e-collar. Because the problem isn't the exact moment your dog is taking over. It's all the stuff PRIOR to the visitor coming over, each and every day, that has led your dog to believe your judgement is poor and can be disregarded. So that is what I would work on. Being the leader in your dogs eyes 100% of the time so he WILL listen to you BEFORE he 'attacks'.

My dogs know that if I say someone is ok, they are. PERIOD. It's not up to them. I don't want them thinking they need to make a judgement call with each and every new person they meet. Not their job. IT IS MY JOB. And if/when I say someone is ok, they are, PERIOD.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Maggie,

normally I agree with you, but in this case you are not even close.

I took Timber to the pet expo in Green Bay today and he was perfect. Futhermore, he is not ignoring me 95 percent of the time, quite the opposite. Albeit, I will admit that he did for a bit during the last aggressive incident. However, aside from your suggestion I should read a few books, you have not provided any constructive advice.

As for the books, I have read more then you can count. If you need a few just send the titles and I will mail them.

I do agree that this is a leadership issue. I also feel that because Timber is with me 24 hours a day, he does feel his number 1 job is to protect me and my property.

Perhaps you have not read my prior E Mails, but in terms of visitors I have followed suggestions from my breeder, etc. Some times Timber is great, for example when I got my first visit after volunteering for a rescue group. But not always, despite I follow the same advice.

Lord knows I am glad you and your dogs are perfect. Yet with such perfection you have not provided even one recommendation that is constructive.

There have been some constructive responses, including from a fellow named John, who also mentions Leerburg Kennels, and of course Chris.

I suspect I will go with Leerburg
 

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The behaviorist you invited over certainly did not give you constructive advice, or, in my opinion, a very good assessment of the situation. I suspect they had no idea what was going on so they made something up. I have had several gsds who have spent almost all of their time with me (coming to work, etc.) and who did not feel it necessary to protect me in situations where I did not need protection.

The issue is that you can't have Timber deciding who you need protection from or not so that IS a leadership issue. I would keep him on a leash when new people are around, without exception. I would teach him a focus command and have him focused on you when the new people are around and reward him for all good behavior and ignore anything else. If he is attached to you then he won't be able to go after other people. I suspect that if you do this for a while he will naturally look to you to make decisions about how he should act when new people are around in the future.

Btw, I let my dog Basu be loose around new people and he DID bite someone. I ignored the warning signs that you are now seeing very clearly. After that he was NEVER loose around new people until I took a clear leadership position and he understood what was expected of him. After that he was fine.
 

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Timber1, it is very confusing when our dogs act perfect in 95% of the time, but not in the other 5%. Bottom line is that even in that 5%, the dog should never think, or feel, or decide to make decisions on his own. Timber should be deffering ALL decisions to you, and allow YOU to make the call as to who is allowed in your home, and who isn't. It IS a leadership issue. And Timber has the potential to be a perfect dog also by learning to trust your leadership not 95%, but 100%, 100% of the time.

Asking for help from a behaviorist, who instead of offereing specific and constructive techniques to deal with unwanted behavior makes excuses for Timber's is a cop-out. Timber shouldn't feel like it is his job to protect you. He should feel 100% confident that YOU can protect him, and protect yourself, because that is what is expected from a leader that merits respect.

My suggestion would be to get a second opinion. Find another behaviourist and see what that person has to say. Don't mention anything about the previous behaviourist assessment, nor your own, nor what others on this board may have suggested so as not to influence his or her decision. Just ask for help with Timber's aggression, and see what a third outside party has to say.

I agree that it does not sound like a fear issue. That Timber pulled you to the person and you could hardly hold him back shows to me that he wasn't scared, but had taken over control of the situation and was doing things HIS way. He may THINK that it is his job to protect you, but it is YOUR job to let him know that YOU are in control, that friends and acquaintances are there in YOUR house at YOUR bidding, and it isn't up to him to say otherwise.

Yup, leadership issues! You've done well with Timber so far, just a bit more work and you'll be there too!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I really appreciate the subsequent replies to my comments about MRL.

The behavorlist I hired to evaluate Timber is known world wide for her expertise regarding the German Shepherd Dog. She is literally booked for three years. I got an appointment because I literally begged. I would be happy to provide you with her name, but only via a personal E Mail.

Regarding the leadership, and as John said the management issue I do not disagree.

After me rescue was adopted Saturday, at the Green Bay Pet Expo, I took Timber, my forever dog on Sunday. He was absolutely perfect.

I also brought Timber in to meet a highly recommended trainer. She had a few little dogs with her that became aggressive toward Timber. Timber never reacted, just looked at the little dogs. This was not my first negative feeling toward most so-called trainers. She could not even control her own dogs, and knew little about dealing with a dog like Timber.

The bottom line is I figure I have three options.

1. Accept Timber as he is. A dog that is great is crowds, etc.,
but is and will always be protective of me, because he has
decided that is his number 1 job. Of course, always control
him so he is never put in a positiion to be aggressive toward
others. This, the high end specialist suggested, and I know
you disagree

2. NILIF, NILIF and more NILIF. Start slow and work to make sure
he perfectly obeys till you move on to other stuff. Of course,
the more difficult things need to be addressed, such as
teaching him to obey 100 percent even when strangers visit.

3. Go with a group you respect, such as Leerbugh. I do not mean
to advertise, but they have been very helpful with my son's
labs. Of course, this may mean using a shock collar.

I do rescue, and that does take time from me training Timber, nonetheless, the problem existed before I got my first rescue dog.

For now, we are going with option 2, and 100 percent obedience is required.

If any disagrees, I would appreciate their opinion.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I really appreciate the subsequent replies to my comments about MRL.

The behavorlist I hired to evaluate Timber is known world wide for her expertise regarding the German Shepherd Dog. She is literally booked for three years. I got an appointment because I literally begged. I would be happy to provide you with her name, but only via a personal E Mail.

Regarding the leadership, and as John said the management issue I do not disagree.

After me rescue was adopted Saturday, at the Green Bay Pet Expo, I took Timber, my forever dog on Sunday. He was absolutely perfect.

I also brought Timber in to meet a highly recommended trainer. She had a few little dogs with her that became aggressive toward Timber. Timber never reacted, just looked at the little dogs. This was not my first negative feeling toward most so-called trainers. She could not even control her own dogs, and knew little about dealing with a dog like Timber.

The bottom line is I figure I have three options.

1. Accept Timber as he is. A dog that is great is crowds, etc.,
but is and will always be protective of me, because he has
decided that is his number 1 job. Of course, always control
him so he is never put in a positiion to be aggressive toward
others. This, the high end specialist suggested, and I know
you disagree

2. NILIF, NILIF and more NILIF. Start slow and work to make sure
he perfectly obeys till you move on to other stuff. Of course,
the more difficult things need to be addressed, such as
teaching him to obey 100 percent even when strangers visit.

3. Go with a group you respect, such as Leerbugh. I do not mean
to advertise, but they have been very helpful with my son's
labs. Of course, this may mean using a shock collar.

I do rescue, and that does take time from me training Timber, nonetheless, the problem existed before I got my first rescue dog.

For now, we are going with option 2, and 100 percent obedience is required.

If any disagrees, I would appreciate their opinion.
 

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Quote: Lord knows I am glad you and your dogs are perfect. Yet with such perfection you have not provided even one recommendation that is constructive.
Whoa there! If I ever made people think I am perfect and so are my dogs, that is wrong. What I THOUGHT I convey is that because I am not and my dogs are not, we got to tons of training, classes, seminars, clinics so that we can be as good as we can be.

Since I'm on my THIRD dog, I'd say I'm a work in process and doing much better with my 3rd dog than my first. Thank goodness dogs are flexible and forgiving so when I learn more and do better, than so do my dogs.

Quote:I do agree that this is a leadership issue.
Those are YOUR words! So how you can say I'm way off base and not constructive when I said:
Quote: So this is, a LEADERSHIP thing. That in certain circumstances he feel he is the leader and you are just an annoying buzzing bothersome person he's dragging along at the end of the leash.
confuses the heck out of me???


Additionally, I posted Suzanne Clothier's site that is all about 'leadership' with quite a few articles to help. They are articles that have helped me and that's why I recommended them. Once again, the link is http://www.flyingdogpress.com/articles.html

I will say I have huge issues with your statement
Quote:I also feel that because Timber is with me 24 hours a day, he does feel his number 1 job is to protect me and my property.
and see that as the core of your 'problem'. As long as you see that as a truth, then your situation will not change with your dog.

My understanding of a good 'protection dog' is that they either 1) attack on command or 2) know REAL threats and will attack then. So if my dog was doing anything but that IT WOULD BE A HUGE ISSUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Additionally, I believe that a 'real' protection dog will stop any and all attacks when told to do so.

Your dog does not.

BTW, I think it's great that you are using all your resources and also going to leerburg with this. And if they give you suggestions that help, then I think that's great!
 

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I skimmed-I confess!


I think you should do what you did at the vet with him, but at home.

You were in control, and no one was in danger (leashed) which has to be a primary concern for all of us, but you dealt positively and in a way that seems to have stuck, and shaped the behavior that you wanted.

All while being a good, careful, fair and firm leader who is protecting his dog and not vice versa.

It was a win-win-win (dog-person-vet/visitor) and very impressive.

I also know that sometimes dogs who are smart will take advantage that our attention was elsewhere, or attempt to get more attention (with the foster dog situation) by climbing up the ladder in terms of status or by getting nervous about their place or being nervous in general about things. So that is something to consider. Doesn't change what you will do, but always something to think about.

And you know why this makes a lot of sense to me right now? My Ilsa was WONDERFUL at the vet. Without me there.
She obviously sees deficits in my leadership and was able to relax-whether it was fear or dominance based I don't yet know-but the behavior result was the same. She was-according to them-perfect. HA! This after the last time we were there she pegged the vet on the pantleg...with me in the room. SO guess who is getting her stitches out in the back without me being there! So when we are out I need to be really looking at what I am doing from now on because she is uber aware of everything I do and don't do.

Now after all that babble, please re-read the beginning of the post where I think I may have made sense! Because I don't want that part to be lost in my blathering. Back to work for me!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
MRL and Jean, a quick note before responding to Wisc Tiger's question.

MRl, you came on so strong, but I do believe it is a leadership issue. I did provide three possible suggestions so future opinions are appreciated. Jean, I will read your initial comment.

Wisc Tiger, in regard to your question, when Timber was younger he would also chase bikers and joggers. With the use of a pronged collar, and some advice from my breeder that issue has been resolved long ago.

Timber's recent responses toward strangers have been only on my property. However, if Timber is suprised away from my property my hunch is his response will still be aggressive. I have been very careful to avoid this situation. But last summer while on vacation, I was letting Timber out of his cage at night and someone walked by my truck. Before he could be leased he went after the guy. He stopped upon command, but managed to grab the guy by the pants.

At this stage in Timber's training I will admit it could happen again.

I will say Timber has been socialized more then some of you realize.
Although Timber has been in numerous crowds, met the neighbors, etc. I was concerned about taking him to the Pet Expo in Green Bay last Sunday. He had not been to one of these events since the fall of 2007. Nonetheless, he was perfect, and just fine with the two rescue dog folks, that he was aggressive toward in my home.

Because the Dock Diving stuff at the Pet Expo is mostly labs, Timber got a great deal of attention from children, their parents, etc. I keephim on a short lease, but there was no need. Again, his behavior was great.

You and someone mentioned what we did with the vet after his surgery and the positive results that followed. The difference was Timber was fear aggressive toward the vet. In the home agressive cases he is not fearful; he just wants to protect his property.

Suggestions, I am proceeding with #2, but if anyone disagrees or knows a person in the Milwaukee area that could be helpful let me.
 

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Timber,

I am going to give my opinions, which of course are only my opinions. Some of what I say may ruffle some serious feathers from people that do not like compulsion of any kind, but so be it. I do feel that some of what this behavioralist said was good, and then some of it really seems like it's out in left field provided nothing has been lost in explanation. This dog is now a large powerful young adult working line male GSD, correct? He is pretty well adjusted outside of his home after working out the issues with bikers and joggers (prey drive issues). At home, the dog is a powder keg. The fact that he feels his job is to protect you is a rank issue. The highest ranking pack member decides who is accepted and who must be repelled. For some reason he believes it is his job to make this decision in your home. Virtually everyone replying to this is saying the same thing in slightly different ways including MRL from what I can see. You care for him, and are willing to try anything so it's quite personal to you (understandably so) so you are reacting a bit to what some people have said. This is not purely fear aggression, as he's not unstable outside of the house. That is why I say there IS a rank issue. I would personally take that as good news. Comments on your plan...

1. I don't like just accepting him, and I disagree with the expert on the "He's just protective" take.

2. Yes, yes and YES!!! I think hard core NILF a great start. This is a dog you will need to put under your thumb. I would have him leashed at all times in the home period. I would have him leashed with a prong and a nylon slip collar back up as well whenever you have visitors. If you have not, I suggest starting to work on obedience with prong collar corrections for sits, downs, stands, etc. One quick POP for slow or non compliance timed within 3 seconds (1.5 seconds if possible) along with a "NO, NEIN OR PFOOEY" verbal correction to ensure he knows 100% that you are creating the prong stimulation. This is necessary so he does not associate the prong stimulation with a visitor as a physical attack, which can happen especially with a dog like this. One hard POP, not a light or medium one and especially not repetitive pops which will bring the dog up in drive and fire him up more. If you need to give a second one, the first one was not hard enough. DO NOT FORGET TO PRAISE AND REWARD! Immediately smile and give toy or food for the desired response. Then you will be ready to apply this to the home with a visitor with him pronged and on leash. You control everything, and if you catch him staring or starting to lock on to the person you put him in a down stay and if he thinks about not doing it he needs to be reminded with a level 7 or higher pop for the dog. He is no longer a puppy, and after you've done all your shaping of behavior and positive imprinting there are some things that are just unacceptable. Him not following your lead on this is tops on that list.

3. Leerburg is a good resource too, but I don't like an e-collar for this situation at least not yet. I would also send you to http://www.loucastle.com if the e-collar is how you want to go. I would suggest you find the best Schutzhund club you can and enlist the help of the training director if at all possible. A helper and protection dog (PSD, PPD, SchH) handler will have way more experience teaching people how to handle a dog in defense or fight drive.
 

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I am going to give my opinion. You have more territorial aggression than just aggression. If you want Timber to be more accepting of strangers in your home, then you need to step it up. I have DeeDee who is territorial, the biggest thing I found for dealing with it is to be 110% in charge. It starts with the attitude, it is MY house, I decide who is ok to be in the house on on the property not HER.

I would guess that you EXPECT Timber to behave a certain way in public and you keep him on a short leash, so he knows what you want and who is in charge. Now take that same attitude at home. Since he responded to your command to crate, then he can learn to be calm when people are in your house. The one thing I also do with DeeDee is to make sure that every person who comes in the house gives her biscuits, but before she understood that I made the decisions I didn't put her in a position from taking treats from stangers, we worked our way up to it.
 
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