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Discussion Starter #1
Hi-
I am new here though not to the breed. We currently have a male GSD, 2 years old as of this past May. He came to us as a foster for the local animal shelter when he was about 8.5 months old. He was to stay with us while he underwent and recovered from surgery. Ultimately we have been dealing with various health issue with this dog since he came to our home. Due to his ongoing health issues and the inability for the shelter to find a suitable home we have adopted him. I do not necessarily feel we ARE the right match for him, but we will work our hardest to give him what he needs.

All of that said, we have finally addressed all of his physical health issues. throughout his time with us we have "trained" at home and been working toward having him participate in group classes. We have been working with a particular facility but have not had much success attending (it is hard to go to a class when your dog is on mandatory crate rest for torn ACL, etc). When he does attend classes he is SO anxious it is quite difficult. Whe trainers there have been most helpful trying to work with his issues and we will finally be able to join the class again when the next session begins. Their plan is for us just to come each week until he is comfortable with the facility and being in a group setting- no real training or calss participation is set to happen.

His anxiety is also coupled with aggression. He moved into a household of two old female GSDs (who are accustomed to vrious foster dogs). He will "shark" them and punch them if not attended. He must at all times be given a task to do or he will bug them. Sometimes he seems to be trying to initiate play (he will nip and shark and then flip about and bump them with his backside); sometimes he seems to be displacing his anxiety on to them. my solution has been to identify the situations in which he may behave in such a fashion (such as feeding times, or someone coming into the house) and require him to down stay. This seems to work well as long as I am watching him- he has never achieved the reliability we have had with all our other GSDs despite constant work. He also has other triggers, such as the vaccuum or steam cleaner(he will attack the machiine if we do not put him outside or in a crate during use) His aggitation after such events is hard to remedy.

Taking him in public, to a vet or even a walk around the block is a terrible experience. He is anxious and crazy. He barks and jumps and is uncontrollable. I try to distract with a sit and reward but he is very focused on the things that make him anxious. To take him to the vet we must medicate him (he has to have the full FIVE pills that they say usually only take 2) and he is still anxious. We continue to take him out to see other dogs. We used to have successful meetings with other dogs- and time to play. In the past year he has not been able to "meet" anotheer dog- we seem to be sliding backward. Our vet has him on xanax- but it does not seem to be as effective as it was when he first started on it.

Recently we did some puppy sitting for a friend (an 11 week old basset) and our male was so agressive we had to keep them separated. He has no problem with a greyhound who occasionally visits.

Interstingly, while he loves to go out in the backyard and romp and play he NEVER attempts to get out the front doors. Earlier this week I coaxed him out on the front porch but he wanted only to go back into the house.

He is quite smart and learns what you want. He initially was a cat chaser but has learned "leave it" and will respond to it. He has picked up other commands as well and even my small children can tell him a command and have an immediate response. Our issues are solely at this point his anxiety and aggression.

We have been to a behaviorist who has adjusted his diet, monitored his exercise and training, and has given us things to work on with our dog. The biggest thing that we have not been able to do is complete a general training course WITH other dogs. The behaviorist would like us to do that and then sign up to participate and practice a dog sport (he has suggested schutzhund, but we know nothing about this). Does anyone have any suggestions for us to try to help our dog be successful in a group of dogs? To complete a training course? To build confidence in a sport other than schutzhund? Or suggestions on how we start a dog in schutzhund? How can we help curb his aggression to the other dogs? We will ever again be able to have foster dogs with this dog in our house? Is there a way to help with his anxiety/aggression?

Sorry this is so long.....just trying to give a full picture of him. Thanks in advance for any help
 

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I don't know what "shark them" means but he does seem to have dog-dog and territorial agression, whether or not that also includes prey-agression, I am not at all qualified to say. Have you looked into Patricia McConnell's methods for treating dogs with aggression issues. Her book "Feisty Fidos" and "Dog-Dog Agression" DVD has some tips for redirecting your dog to more controlled and therefore "better" behaviour. The DVD was for me most valuable in her interpretation of body language and, while it is not professionally made, I am glad I have seen it. There are many excellent books dealing with similar issues that may also help you.

I would think that a dog suitable for shutzhund would not be nervous or anxious but would be required to have excellent drives and also capable of reliable offs - I don't see your dog that way as you have described him but I am no expert. I would be concentrating on obedience and agility to "burn off" both mental and physical energy and work up from there. All the best. I hope you get some advice from more experienced people that can correct my suggestions.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you for your response. The behaviorist evaluated him a year ago- and he has certainly gotten much worse! He seems to be more anxious and more aggressive as time marches along. He used to be able to meet other dogs and play- now he is too "crazy". I use the term sharking because his action reminds of a shark, hunting then grabbing. He will displce on to them(the old girls) when he is aggitated or arroused- use a high pitched bark and run to find one of them to attack. The bark is helpful- because if you have missed a trigger (for example, he is in another room and sees something aggitating out the window like a cat) you can hear his sound off, call him to you and divert the actions.
I will look for the video you suggested. We would like to do our best for this dog, whatever that might take.

The only reliable commands I think we have are come, leave it, drop it, off(in terms of off the sofa, or paws off a windowsill), down, sit, stay, and hold- and those are only reliable because we work at them every day, all day. He is exhausting! I think of all the shepherds we have had, he is likely the smartest, and the most difficult and challenging.

Our behaviorist (who we consult with in terms of following the plan- he sees no reason to see us again until we have completed the plan of action- we are monitored by our regular vet) feels that a sport will raise his self confidence and give him an outlet that will reduce his anxiety. We did see a reduction in anxiety when we increased his physical exercise so I tend to think he is right. I just can't see how we can get him to a dog sport if we can't get him through a group class!

What sort of book might help us get through a class? Our training facility has us set to go- but wants him wearing a calming face mask- it looks like a bandana and covers his eyes and such- it seems to annoy him more! I am feeling a bit of anxiety about the whole thing, so likely will send my husband to the class (he has not yet attended with the dog so does not know the insanity of it first hand- and I am hoping that will make him more even tempered before the first class). Do you have any advice before we go? My plan is to run him ragged for the few hours before class......
 

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How do you run your pack of dogs? Do you have a pack mentality set up? Who's the calm assertive leader? If you aren't, your male might be assuming this role and it maybe stressing him out. I would lay down some heavy duty NILIF. (Nothing In Life Is Free) Every time he goes to lash out at one of your girls, you need to set him straight, and either put him in a time out(Sit or Down - Stay in one designated area) or in the crate. You have to teach him that the behavior he is exhibiting is unacceptable. However, use positive reinforcement. If he's laying down, minding his own business when one of your girls walk past, PRAISE and treat him. Work on Obedience with him, walk him several times a day. Do you have a treadmill? You could even use that to wear him down. If he is mentily and physically stimulated, working with him should be a lot easer.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
So far we ARE in fact doing those things. I am the pack leader(I think) with my husband a close second (simply because he is not here as often). We do correct him when he lashes out- which I tried to indicate- he DOES respond when you call to him and give him something else to do- and in fact the ONLY reason I feel we have a handful of reliable comands is BECAUSE we work them over and over and over every day as an attempt at redirecting him from improper behavior. We even use his triggers (noisy machines, cats on the street) to tell us it is time to put him through the paces in order to avoid a misbehavior incident.
For this dog, there is absolutely no down time. None. If you cannot be constantly running him through some activity he gets rowdy and anxious. He gets a thirty minute jog first thing in the morning with my husband. When he comes home he eats and takes his meds. While the children eat he gets put through paces- sit, down, stay, open, off, etc. He goes in the yard where we play (ball, frisbee, keepaway- we chase him around like fools). After that life goes about its business. He comes around to what we are doing and we tell him to sit or stay, or settle or hold...just to give him something to do. I might fill a kong or the buster cube to keep him busy. We hide things for him to find; play the shell game with him, etc. If he gets really anxious I will crate him to allow him to calm. Midafternoon he gets another outside play session (chase, ball, frisbee, etc). I take him for a walk after dinner; husband will take him for a run before bed. In the evening we have 30 minutes where we focus on the exercise of the week (these are set by the trainer). In any given week we take him swimming or out to the woods for a romp- and to places where he will have a chance to be close to other dogs (though this is always a disaster). I am feeling frustrated that despite following the advice of the trainer and behaviorist and making a complete lifestyle change to try to help him, we are seeming to move backward!

I think the treadmill is an interesting idea. I will have to see about getting one- at this point I am eager to add in anything that might help. I am thinking we might need to tweak his drugs to a stronger dose or a different one altogether. We will continue to work his obedience- it has always been a part of life here (since we have had other GSDs for years). I think having a designated area for him to go to EVERY time he feels chompy is a great suggestion. I will start that one right away!

He is a good dog- he learns rapidly, obeys even the children (who are small)...he just has this issue that is dominating his life. We would love to do as the behaviorist wants and get him in a sport, but I just can't see how to get him to that point! He is more of a challenge than I am knowledgeable to handle- which is why i am hoping people here can help!



PS I don't want to seem like I am naysaying any suggestions- I just want to make sure I provide all the information on what we ARE doing so I can get suggestions on what ELSE we can do. We agreed to provide this dog a home- it is our responsibility to be the best home we can for him- and that means meeting his needs. He obviously needs something to help with his anxiety and aggression- and I am struggling to find what canimpact it in a positive way. I really appreciate that you have taken the time to read our problem and try to help. It means a lot to us- and has offerd so far some good tips we will try!
I am off to find a tread mill.....
 

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I think mentally stimulating him with a find game is great, maybe getting him into detection training would help?
Also, I take my GSD swimming, and play disc with him. He is really good at disc and I hope to have him competing next year. The swimming is great because it is minimal impact but takes it out of him. I would suggest something other than schuzhund as well, since he doesn't have a lot of self control. I would get a second opinion from a more involved behaviorist or trainer.
Some things I noticed in your post:
He gives off a high pitched bark and then sharks them. A high pitched bark would indicate a prey/play situation. He may not have had the proper socialization as a pup and therefore does not know how to play properly. Getting him into some kind of pack situation with stable dogs could be beneficial.
I would also say ditch the group class. Get a private trainer and work on your in home situations first. Before he can respond in a high distraction situation he needs to be balanced in his home environment.
Check out http://www.dogwise.com for some get reference books. I love clicker training for building focus and self control http://www.clickertraining.com and anything karen pryor is helpful.
Good Luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks again for the advice- i am still online searching for the suggested treadmill- I thought they mihgt make ones specifically for dogs but searching for that broguht up some scary links to dog fighting!

I have often felt he would like to have a playmate. Our old girls just aren't all that interested since he can be rough and they are getting on in years. Sometimes our oldest gal will chase him about the yard and herd him- or hide and jump out and chase him and they seem joyful. When she is laying about (which she does a lot these days) she really does not appreciate his play overtures. He LOVES to be active and play. i had hoped to get him through the gorup and ready to be around others to meet his play nees, but as I mentioned he seems ot be moving back rather than forward.

I think we will just have to do even MORE with him- since he seems to be nonstop. It would be nice to be able to not always have to be on top of him, but I think he is just never going to be the kind of dog who just lets it go and relaxes- he is just on the go and driven!

I will look for some books from the site you suggested- for scent games? I am guessing that would be something I could start with that would be similar to detection training. I am off ot do more research. Thank goodness my husabnd is able to occupy the dog so I canhave a minute at the computer...
 

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Just your average treadmill will work, you don't need anything special. Maybe you could get a book on tracking and teach him that? You could track at your own home, especially when he's just learning.
 

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I agree that increasing his exercise is necessary. Have you tried clicker training to shape behaviors and help build his confidence? That would also give him some mental stimulation.

You might also try some different things besides sedatives. The DAP spray on a bandana often helps as well as does the plug in for inside. Rescue Remedy works for some dogs. And T-Touch and the anxiety wrap are also very helpful for dogs as anxious as your guy. Here are some websites:

http://www.lindatellingtonjones.com/

http://www.anxietywrap.com/anxietywrap.htm
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I googled this DAP spray- very interessting. Have you used it? Does it seem to work longterm? Is it something you want a constant exposure level for or is it best used for moments that you know will affect your dog? If you use the plug in difuser is it something that needs to be placed in every room of the house or does one or two diffuse through the whole environment?
 

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I have used DAP to try to help calm my 4 yr old abused Shepherd down when on walks. I haven't really noticed a change in his behavior, but I have been told you have to use it a number of times. I was also advised by a trainer NOT to get the diffuser and get the spray. You can spray on the inside of his collar so he gets a good whiff.

My trainer has told me she has seen it work wonders with dogs that bark incessantly....who knows, it may be worth a try. I do use Rescue Remedy and it definitely helps calm my boy down a bit. The best thing to do is to get him to lick it directly from your hand or finger so that it gets into his system quickly. You could always put 4-5 drops on a treat if he doesn't want to lick.
 

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Thanks for the reply! I was all set to buy the difuser for the house as well as the spray! No need to waste money when I am now in the market for a treadmill(wow those can be pricey).

He has been uncharacteristically low key today- that usually means he injured something- he will need a fulll body inspection once my husband is here to offer a second set of hands to help check.
 

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I found with my dog that 'watch me' is really hard to teach, but key in a group class. I spent the first 15 minutes getting her focus so I used to arrive in class early just to get her settled (and it used to take longer than 15 min but she was workable at that point). When I first took her to class I had the loudest dog there and we were set off in the corner so she couldn't get near anyone else. It is amazing to me that so many people will let their dogs in striking range of an obviously aggressive dog!!
Often times I couldn't hear the instructions but I already knew the basics or they would allow me to put her in a crate in another room, then go back and get her again.
Find a trainer you can work through this with if you can. Thank goodness mine accomodated our problems, because a lot of them wouldn't. And with my dog it seemed to be fear related so I would never have taught her schutzund. We take agility now and she still looses focus at the blink of an eye, but she isn't aggressive anymore. She gets really ramped up when they other dogs do their runs so I still have to work on focus throughout the class, or she won't do the obstacles. She tries to run to the other dogs instead but now she just thinks its playtime!! Kind of alarming for some of the other dog owners though LOL!
When he is about 4 he will start to settle down a little IMO, and by the time he is 6 he should be a lot better.
 

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It is nice to believe that any dog with hard work and training will be comfortable/steady/reliable under ALL circumstances.I believe it is just NOT true.Not all humans are happy in crowds/meeting new people etc.I believe the best thing you can do for your dog is to try and make sure he is safe to be around under your guidance and to let him be where and who he wants to be and NOT push him if he is not a dog social or people lover dog as long as he tolerates but doesn't react negatively to situations.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
He IS a "people lover" dog...and once upon a time he seemed to like other German Shepherds (he met a few when they were tryng to place him for adoption- before so many of his health issues were known and he achieved the permanent foster status through the local rescue). He does like to please so he seems motivated to learn- just not so motivated to always comply.... it is a constant work in progress.

He came to us as a foster at about 8 months of age. I had him evaluated to be taken into the police training program. He was everything they wanted- EXCEPT for a knee problem (he had to have surgery). I was frank with the program co-ordinator and said I had reservations about a dog with such a temperament being placed into a nonworking home. I told him we had been long time shepherd people and I felt he was unlike any of the shep's we'd had before him. He told me we now had a "ferrari"...and welcome to a new world. GREAT! I actually think though, that this is PART of his problem- he needs to DO MORE.... but I am not sure how to accomodate that need when I can't get him through a group class!

The training center we have been attending has been wonderful. They had us come to the group class (which is limited to 6 dogs). The dogs are spread out acorss the facility main hall (it is a giant warehouse type building). They had me on the way end so that he was furthes from any other class member. When he was still upset, they placed a "wall" between us and the other dogs (pvc piping with canvas stretched between it to make a barrier for cvision). He still was upset and anxious. They came over and showed us some claming techniques they wanted us to try, and some basic commands they wanted us to do and prase and reward for when he did get "crazy". All pretty standard, but he STILL remained anxious. They asked us to come in at a time when the facility was empty to let him run around and get comfy. they fit him with the calming cap and gave us some instructions to get him calm with it at home. At that point he tore an ACL and we had to pull him from class for surgery and recovery. The trainer called us at home and suggested games to keep him from getting bored while on crate rest, and training exercises to compliment the physical therapy he was receiving. Immediately upon recovery from THAT we found some other health issues with him. We had to address all those and did not return to the facility. We are now ready, and the facility has suggested we come to a class that has only 2 other dogs to get started. We will go for a romp alone this weekend to get him used to the physical location again. Anyway, I feel like they are pretty dedicated to us (they charged us the initial class fee, but told us until we can actually participate in the class the fee would not be used- meaning we go to all the classes for free until he is READY to be a part of it and get something out of it) and the well being of this dog and not just in it for the $.

I certainly don't want to try to make him be a dog he dos not want tobe- and force him into situations he is not able to handle. However, when we consulted the behaviorist and made the changes involving his ACTIVITY we saw a big improvement. It makes me think he (the behaviorist) is likely right that the dog needs a sport- I just can't figure out how to get him there.....
 
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