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Discussion Starter #1
So, I am a first-time GSD owner. I've had dogs before but my main dog growing up was a marshmallow of a bichon frise. This board has been SO helpful to me. I can't thank you all enough.

The dog I adopted from our rural town's shelter ended up being leash reactive and dog aggressive (full mouth bites, not just warning signals). After I told the shelter about it, they said she never should have been adopted out in the first place.

Well, I've been trying to train and manage her but it's been an isolating experience. There is literally no one out here who can help us. I swear I've called or emailed every trainer within 1.5 hours drive (even a freaking pet psychic!) but either they won't work with her because she's too DA, they're retiring, their schedule doesn't fit mine, or they're just flat out bad trainers. We did find one lady who would work, but she does not allow corrections which I find absurd. I contacted the GSD rescue and our local GSD breeder for help, and they've done what they could. But you can't make resources appear where there are none.

There are good days and bad. I've cried a lot over this dog. We train on every single walk three times a day. She is a really great dog but she is stressing me out so much that I really need help. I'm a dog lover and a fast learner, but no pro at dealing with major behavior issues. I also worry every day that I will handle her wrong and make her worse.

I live in Walla Walla, btw. Supposedly there is a schutzhund club in the Tri-Cities, but I can't imagine they would want newbs coming to them crying for help about their shelter dog.




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Sorry you are having a hard time finding help :(

You should try posting this in the Aggression help section , you may get more traffic on it and ideas that may help!
 

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I struggle with the same issues with my dog aggressive rescue GSD. It is VERY stressful, and I enlisted the help of not one but two trainers. I am in NO WAY a professional at this, my training background is in horses and prey vs predator is completely different.

Here are the things I am working on currently and having mild success with thus far. It is a long road there are no quick fixes and there is a chance that it can never be "fixed" just managed.

1. Solid Obedience, like super solid, no doubt in your mind OB. We tried treat, positive, negative training. For my GSD personally (who was a wild elephant) we now use an E-Collar for OB (NOT FOR THE AGGRESSION). We mix it with a treat or reward for the correct action but it is also use the E-collar for reinforcement. I would say in the last two months my OB is now at about 60%. Meaning no distractions, it is spot on. Mild distractions once I obtain focus it is still pretty good, another dog in sight and the Ecollar must be used to get a response.
2. Muzzle. It does not hurt them, they can get use to wearing it and it protects other dogs as well as your own (should it decide it wants to bite another dog and that owner takes you to court the dog is put down etc etc) I have a soft muzzle which he can still get ahold of something with his front teeth but cannot get a full grip.
3. Practice, practice, practice OB. My confidence was completely shattered at first when I realized how bad the aggression was, after a TON of OB training it slowly came back and now I can be confident in my timing, watching his signals (if I am watching him closely, we did have two incidents recently UGH!) It can be something as small as a nose twitch, an ear turns, the expression on his face, or he gets up and its a full on raise hackles posture...
4. Exposure, I was to the point at first I literally drove my GSD to an area where the chances of me running into another dog were basically zero. I now do the exact opposite I intentionally take him places where I know there will be other dogs. We keep a distance and work on OB. When he gives a signal we do something else, sit, down, shake, heel, walk. The E-Collar is a reinforcement for me and my commands it may just be a vibrate if he is listening, a nick if he decides its not what he wants, or a full out constant if he is disobeying completely. My collar goes up to 100 and I have never had to take it past a 20 to get him in full OB. (I shocked myself at a 15 so I know what its like)
5. Keep calm, dont get emotional about it, you cant, which I find is the hardest thing to do. Practice not getting excited, anxious, mad, frustrated. Your dog WILL feed off all of those and it will make it worse. Breathe deep and focus on OB not the fact there is another dog.

Dont give up, it will get better thank you for rescuing and taking on something like this...
 

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Diesel and Lace, thank you for the tips. It's wonderful that there are so many people online willing to help. I have learned a ton about dog training and behavior just from the past few months of having to figure out how to manage her. She came to me untrained and reactive and I can get her to heel for our entire walk and go past dogs barking behind fences, etc. But we can't get within 20 ft of another dog.

I think if I knew it would get better and had someone to check in with regularly (like a doggie therapist) we could make it through this. It's not really the training that is hard, but the emotional aspect. Having to be hypervigilant/stressed out avoiding loose dogs and clueless owners every day has been taking its toll on our relationship. When you work so hard and then people tell you things like "It's genetic, it will never get better," or "It's too much for most people to handle, you should give her up," it makes me wonder if I'm really doing a good thing. Most of my interactions with her are tinged with negative emotions and I don't think it's healthy.
 

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Diesel and Lace, thank you for the tips. It's wonderful that there are so many people online willing to help. I have learned a ton about dog training and behavior just from the past few months of having to figure out how to manage her. She came to me untrained and reactive and I can get her to heel for our entire walk and go past dogs barking behind fences, etc. But we can't get within 20 ft of another dog.

I think if I knew it would get better and had someone to check in with regularly (like a doggie therapist) we could make it through this. It's not really the training that is hard, but the emotional aspect. Having to be hypervigilant/stressed out avoiding loose dogs and clueless owners every day has been taking its toll on our relationship. When you work so hard and then people tell you things like "It's genetic, it will never get better," or "It's too much for most people to handle, you should give her up," it makes me wonder if I'm really doing a good thing. Most of my interactions with her are tinged with negative emotions and I don't think it's healthy.
It will get better, I promise, you have to remove the emotional aspect of it. Work on that before anything else. This is a dog and as much as we humans would like to associate our own emotions to what they think / feel and how it makes us feel it is pointless and escalates the situation. They are not human, this is all instinct nothing emotional about it. If that means taking a day or two for yourself to sort through your own emotions and asking someone else to care for her or walk her then so be it. Get your emotions in check about this situation and it will progress much more quickly. It is a battle for me and is most certainly the hardest part of this whole issue.

The muzzle is exactly for those dogs who are lose or their clueless owners. If a dog gets within reach of you and you are walking her do not stop do not acknowledge drag her along (because if she is like mine she is going to be lunging and trying to pull you off your feet) do not reel her in on the leash and correct it. Moving forward and not acknowledging it is the correction. What type of collar do you have? I have to walk Diesel in a pinch collar I have no choice, he has pulled me off my feet and drug me to attack another dog with any other collar I have used.

Have you thought about an ecollar? They can be a great tool to reinforce your OB because if she is reacting when she see's / hears / gets within what ever distance and you cannot control her, it goes back to OB.

This woman has many video's on training with an Ecollar on aggressive dogs. Again it is not used to correct the aggression, it is used to reinforce the OB which in turn lets you manage the aggression because the dog is focused on you and what you want and listens.

E Collar Pager Training!! plus! - YouTube

BTW, the chances of this being "genetic" are extremely extremely rare. If the dog is a balanced dog everywhere else it is not genetic it is something she has learned, from fear, lack of socialization, lack of rules in her life, and not being taught what the proper behavior is.
 

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I think if I knew it would get better and had someone to check in with regularly (like a doggie therapist) we could make it through this. It's not really the training that is hard, but the emotional aspect. Having to be hypervigilant/stressed out avoiding loose dogs and clueless owners every day has been taking its toll on our relationship. When you work so hard and then people tell you things like "It's genetic, it will never get better," or "It's too much for most people to handle, you should give her up," it makes me wonder if I'm really doing a good thing. Most of my interactions with her are tinged with negative emotions and I don't think it's healthy.
You have the board. :)

I find that journaling helps. Blogging, too. It doesn't have to be anything formal: just a little notation of things that frustrated you and things that went well. When you go back and revisit it months later, you may be amazed at how much progress you've made, and how the things that once seemed insurmountably frustrating are now just tiny blips in the rearview mirror. It's easy to forget in the moment, but if you are consistent with and supportive of your dog, it does get better.
 

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It will get better, I promise, you have to remove the emotional aspect of it. Work on that before anything else. This is a dog and as much as we humans would like to associate our own emotions to what they think / feel and how it makes us feel it is pointless and escalates the situation. They are not human, this is all instinct nothing emotional about it. If that means taking a day or two for yourself to sort through your own emotions and asking someone else to care for her or walk her then so be it. Get your emotions in check about this situation and it will progress much more quickly. It is a battle for me and is most certainly the hardest part of this whole issue.
:thumbup:

I admit, I was SO frustrated at the beginning. I got Delgado from a good breeder with good genetics to limit the chances of problems, I socialized him extensively with both with dogs and humans, we went through two sessions group classes with four seperate trainers. We worked obedience and focus until it was flawless both inside and outside of the house. Everything about him was perfect and I was flying on cloud 9

I still ended up with a dog that became dog reactive around six months old and it got worse for two months before I had to admit to myself that it wasn't just a phase.

You can do everything right and still come up with issues. Don't blame yourself and don't blame the dog, just take the cards you were dealt and work with it.

Dogs are dogs, as much as I would love to scream "why are you so stupid!" when he's about to puff up at a dog that's done nothing but walk calmly toward us, it doesn't help. The more I relaxed and realized the problem wasn't going to be fixed overnight the more I realized I was measuring success entirely the wrong way. Instead of moaning inwardly about a single "boof", I realized that it was much better then a full out barking fit. When he only barked twice instead of six times that was progress! When we expanded the threshold from 20' to 15' to 5' that was progress as well.

Don't compare your dog to others, it just makes you feel worse. Each dog has their issues just like humans, some are just more noticable then others. :) Ignore the stares or comments if they happen, act casual as you cross the street quickly rather then walk on the same side of the road. A quick "I'm sorry" or "he's in training" along with the obvious effort you're using to control and train your dog makes 95% of people give you a thumbs up.

I'll share a story:

I still remember right in the beginning, on summer day my family got together for a picnic and took the dogs to this public beach which allowed dogs. There were tons of people but only 2-3 dogs around, we played in the water for a long time and Delgado was doing great. Socializing well and having a blast swimming and we were all having a great time, until it was time to get out of the water and the beach was swarming with offleash dogs and Delgado started to bark and bark and bark.

I took him back into the water and we played for a long time again, we had set up our picnic at the very top of the large beach and my family was up there having fun and eating and I was stuck in the water with a overeager 6 month old barking dog with no help or buffer. I tried for over a hour to leave the water and he just lunged and barked and I was literally in tears trying to figure out how to get him back to the rest of my family.

This older lady is walking down the beach and stops in front of me, I hung my head waiting for her to scold me for taking this wild out of control barking dog out in public. She smiled kindly at me and said, "he's young isn't he" I nodded and she patted my arm, "don't worry, you're working at training him" and she continued walking down the beach.

I paused and then held my head up high and walked quickly through the beach ignoring the barking Delgado was doing and sat down on the blanket with my family. I didn't get one single angry look, noone was judging me, they all we having fun soaking up the sun and enjoying themselves. It was a lightbulb moment for me that it truly didn't matter what people thought of me and my dog, I was working hard at training him and that's all that mattered.
 

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Shade, that is such a nice story! :)

Here's one in exchange: Crookytail, my Akita mix, used to be perfect with other dogs. Just perfect. I was so proud of his patience and good nature and ability to read other dogs and adapt his behavior to theirs. He was great at self-handicapping for puppies, elderly dogs, or small ones, but he could also ramp up to match the most boisterous bully breeds in play.

I used him to socialize foster dogs constantly. Here's a video of him playing with a couple of foster puppies -- it's long, but the moment was so idyllic that I just kept taping that day because I knew I'd want to remember it later.


Around the time he turned 2 and hit social maturity, it was like a switch flipped. Suddenly my perfect dog was a bully. He beat up other dogs at the park. He ignored their signals to stop. He ignored my recalls, too -- and while Crooky's recall was never as stop-on-a-dime awesome as Pongu's, he never used to ignore me. When we took him on vacation last winter, he absolutely terrified this six-month-old GSD puppy who was out practicing with his owner. The owner packed her dog up in the car, yelled at me for failing to control my dog, and drove off. I was mortified.

Crooky spent the rest of that vacation on leash. Pongu could run around freely, because I trusted him, but Crooky used up his trust. The rest of that trip went like this (the "longline" is Crooky's leash clipped to Pongu's, because when I packed for that trip I did not expect to need an actual longline):



That was February. As soon as we got home, I got my head out of my butt, accepted that my formerly so-perfect dog was now a canine Nelson Muntz, and set to work fixing it.

We did so many recall drills, first on a longline and then eventually off. SO MANY. Everywhere in the city I could possibly have my dog 10' away from me and not get him hit by a car, we did recall drills. City parks, quiet streets, fenced-in parking lots, top-level garages. Constant drilling -- and constant work to build up the value of the recall via games and treats.

And we practiced "don't be a jerk to other dogs," first with foster dogs, then with Crooky's few remaining dog friends, then finally with unfamiliar dogs at the park. Any sign of bullying behavior at the dog park meant time-out in doggie jail. Ignoring a recall meant another time-out. Answering the recall meant a treat and a cue to go back and play some more.

It's been five months. Crooky is not perfect. He still bullies other dogs at the park sometimes, and he still gets time-outs when he does it. But the behavior is much reduced in both frequency and intensity, because he knows that the only way he gets to keep playing is if he controls himself and quits being a jerk.

His recall response rate hovers around 80%-90% in open-field environments where there aren't huge distractions. I don't expect I'll be able to recall him off a rabbit anytime soon, and his response is not as snappy as I'd like (although I'm spoiled by Pongu on that front), but he's good enough to have earned a chance to go hiking off leash again.

These issues are very minor compared to yours, of course. Crooky is not actually dog-aggressive, he's just a big obnoxious playground bully. But his issues were still frustrating and embarrassing, particularly since for over a year I felt like I really had a perfect dog (in terms of his social behavior, anyway...) -- and then suddenly he turned into a jerk.

One thing I try to tell myself is that everyone who has a well-trained dog knows exactly how much work it took to get there, and they will empathize when they see someone else (i.e., me) struggling. Because they know. They've been there.
 

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Merciel, it is great that you are working with Crooky but I wonder why you are taking him to a dog park. Do you know that "just" bullying can make any impressionable young dog DA as well? This is why I avoid dog parks.
 

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Because it's the only place I can safely exercise him off-leash regularly.

I'm well aware of the potential drawbacks, and I didn't start taking Crooky again until I was sure he could handle it without causing stress to other people and dogs. We usually go quite late at night, during rainy days, or other times that few or no other people will be present.

When I say I pull him out at the first sign of bullying, what I mean is that I will pull him out when he starts putting his head over another dog's shoulders, when his body language indicates he's getting too aroused, or if I ask for his attention and he responds with an ear twitch but no eye contact. I don't wait for him to start knocking over dogs like a furry bowling ball. Usually the other owners have no idea why Crooky's got to go, unless they know his history (which I've told many of the regulars about and have posted on the dog park FB page).

It's a very real concern, and I don't make light of it. The reason I stepped in after the episode on vacation was precisely because his behavior was very likely to cause defensive aggression in other dogs if it wasn't checked immediately. I couldn't be in denial about that anymore. But, at this point, I feel reasonably confident that I can manage Crookytail without stressing anyone else.
 

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Thanks for explaining. In the past I had a weak nerved mutt that became dog aggressive after a bully dog jumped on him. He never really recovered from it but I managed him by training him to come back to me, sit by my side in the presence of an unfamiliar dog. It gave him predictability and the security that his problem was taken care of by me.
 

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I've been on the bad end of it too.

Pongu once gave me a bad scare by getting bowled over by a body-slamming pit bull he was playing with. The dog was not aggressive, wasn't even really a bully -- she was just a very physical, rough-playing dog whose owner refused to recognize that there could be issues with another dog who didn't play that way.

That dog slammed into Pongu, knocked him off his feet, and left him unable to stand up for a solid minute. He just lay there, sprawled in the dirt. I thought his legs were broken and his sport career might be over for good. It was terrifying. And the other owner was completely unsympathetic, said it wasn't his fault or his problem, and wouldn't stop bringing that dog or make any effort to corral the behavior. (I eventually got him kicked out for good via being a terrible confrontational person with a lot of friends on the park board. Sorry!)

As it turned out, somehow, Pongu was fine. No lasting physical or behavioral repercussions. His sport career continued with no more bobbles than his craziness already caused.

But it sure taught me to be careful about rambunctious behavior.

And Kaimeju, sorry about derailing your thread! I'll go be quiet now. ;)
 

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Well, I've been trying to train and manage her but it's been an isolating experience. There is literally no one out here who can help us. I swear I've called or emailed every trainer within 1.5 hours drive (even a freaking pet psychic!) but either they won't work with her because she's too DA, they're retiring, their schedule doesn't fit mine, or they're just flat out bad trainers. We did find one lady who would work, but she does not allow corrections which I find absurd. I contacted the GSD rescue and our local GSD breeder for help, and they've done what they could. But you can't make resources appear where there are none.

I live in Walla Walla, btw. Supposedly there is a schutzhund club in the Tri-Cities, but I can't imagine they would want newbs coming to them crying for help about their shelter dog.

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You really don't want to correct her for reacting to a dog. She will begin associating the corrections with dogs and that will only increase the aggression. That was tough for me to learn. Learn her stress signals, as soon as you see them appearing, redirect her attention, get her focus on you, either by calling her name, have a favorite toy with you - at the beginning I used a ball that squeaks. Once you have her attention, turn and walk another way. The timing is critical as reactions can escalate in seconds from an eye twitch to a full lunge, bark reaction.

Definitely check with the club, they may or may not be set up to work with you, but there may be a member or they can direct you to someone who can.

As for training every day, depends on the dog if they are up to it. Woolf's trainer gave it to me early in training when she realized we were training every day. Especially as reactive as he was and can still be if I'm off in lala land. She put us on a schedule of every other day for behavioral training, alternate days just obedience and a day off each week. This allowed him to settle down in between and just relax. He still doesn't like other dogs, but for the most part he simply ignores them.
 

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You really don't want to correct her for reacting to a dog. She will begin associating the corrections with dogs and that will only increase the aggression. That was tough for me to learn. Learn her stress signals, as soon as you see them appearing, redirect her attention, get her focus on you, either by calling her name, have a favorite toy with you - at the beginning I used a ball that squeaks. Once you have her attention, turn and walk another way. The timing is critical as reactions can escalate in seconds from an eye twitch to a full lunge, bark reaction.

Definitely check with the club, they may or may not be set up to work with you, but there may be a member or they can direct you to someone who can.

As for training every day, depends on the dog if they are up to it. Woolf's trainer gave it to me early in training when she realized we were training every day. Especially as reactive as he was and can still be if I'm off in lala land. She put us on a schedule of every other day for behavioral training, alternate days just obedience and a day off each week. This allowed him to settle down in between and just relax. He still doesn't like other dogs, but for the most part he simply ignores them.
Thanks, I should clarify. I NEVER punish her for reacting. I correct her well below threshold if she is off in space cadet land not listening to me. Then when she refocuses I reward. The behavioral mod that we do is all reward-based, with the exception of cat chasing because that is not fear-based aggression. I have been able to keep her below threshold on our walks for a while now, but the effort this takes is exhausting me.

I sent the Sch club an email and found another person to call in Milton-Freewater. So at least I have some leads!

It would be useful to know how I can take a "break" with her. Is it okay, for example, to let basic OB slide on walks, or does that cause problems? Where can you take a reactive dog where they can just relax and be a dog? I've tried hiking in remote areas but we keep running into dogs anyway 7/10 times.




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In order to take a "break" with her you may have to not handle her at all. Do you live with or know someone who would pet sit her for a day or two? If not can you maybe send her to a pet resort for the day or two? I think your emotions are getting in the way (they certainly did for me and it was blinding) Once you can let some of that go( I dont think we as humans can let ALL of it go) you will have the clarity and sanity you need to handle this issue.

What are you doing specifically that is reward based that is becoming exhausting? (like explain you are out on your walk and you.....)

Are you open to other training tools and methods? I mean, like having a pinch collar? The pinch collar literally changed my dog as a whole. I didnt have a choice and I thought it was cruel but once I learned to use the tool properly (tried it on myself - I cant put anything on my animal I dont try on myself, I put it on my thigh and it PINCHES does not puncture) it was the best thing that ever happened to my relationship with my GSD. I wanted to crawl in bed and die before I was given this tool. I really cannot express how much it has changed my relationship with my dog. It is almost like self correction, and he is rewarded by me for the behavior I want.
 

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I sent the Sch club an email and found another person to call in Milton-Freewater. So at least I have some leads!

It would be useful to know how I can take a "break" with her. Is it okay, for example, to let basic OB slide on walks, or does that cause problems? Where can you take a reactive dog where they can just relax and be a dog? I've tried hiking in remote areas but we keep running into dogs anyway 7/10 times.

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Great, keep following those leads.

Just for a relaxing walk? I've taken Woolf to office parks on the weekends when they are closed, during the week - church campuses, even a large cemetery close by. School is out so that leaves that option open as well. Once or twice a month we load the beasts up and head for state parks for some lake or river swimming. Off season we also head for the hunting land DH goes to. Found out then just how focused Woolf can be when tracking deer :) Any time going out anywhere, there is the chance you will run into a situation, that is where the work in obedience and the training you get in reading and managing your dog really pay off.
 

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Just a quick question about you taking him for a walk, when I became so overwhelmed by my GSD's aggression before I started driving somewhere I knew I would not run into other dogs with I stopped walking him. Is that an option? I put together a flirt pole, left him on a 30ft long line and he got his exercise that way in my yard. Someone here gave me that idea. This is just a suggestion so you can get back to enjoying your dog without the stress and still exercise her daily if you have no option for removing yourself for a day or two. Do that for a week if you need to until you learn to let go of the frustration and are ready to start tackling it again. The flirt pole is an awesome tool for OB too! When we started I had to trade food to get it back now I can put him in a down / stay and walk to the other end of a football field with him staying in a down until released.
 

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We have a fenced backyard so I could definitely spend time with her there when I'm too beat to go out. She hasn't shown any interest in toys yet. But maybe a flirt pole with some meat on the end would get her going.

I spoke with the humane society again (man my phone has been busy) and there may be a possibility of sessions with a behaviorist through them. I need to check with a few more people higher up to get it approved, but it sounds awesome. Glad they want to help keep dogs in their homes.


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I was just going to suggest calling local shelters, vets, even pet stores. It's all about connections!

I really hope it works out and you get some help :)
 
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