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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Saw lots of threads on neutering and aggression, etc., but none on my concern. Apologies if I missed the relevant ones.

So, Beau will be 14 months next week and he turned into a major 'project' along the way. He's extremely timid/anxious, hyperactive (if he were human he'd be diagnosed ADHD) which the anxiety contributes to, reactive with other dogs on a leash, the least biddable GSD I've ever known (due at least in part to the anxiety and hyperactivity). I've been working with a trainer/behaviorist for the past several months and he's slowly improving, at least when he's on familiar terrain and in the company of people or dogs he knows, particularly our 10 year old big boy, Duke. He's on prozac and CBD oil treats, which seem to help a bit but, unfortunately, not enough. And, NO, we are not thinking of rehoming him. All this is a major PITA, but he's our PITA and we love him.

So, it's time to think about neutering him. The hormones are starting to flow, god forbid he breeds, and the last thing we need is dominance issues arising with Duke. I know it has little to no effect on aggression, but I wonder if any of you folks have any experience/knowledge about how it affects anxiety and timidity for better or worse. Any feedback would be appreciated.
 

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Breeding or not depends on how you manage him. Most dogs in EU are intact and it's tough to find a nice dog in their shelters, let alone pups. Neutering is not a fix-it-all. Best to hire a good trainer. Forget about vets; they will just tell you to neuter him and their reasons are that basically intact males are breeding obsessed, go into fights etc. If you think he has ADHD, he needs more exercise and things to do that requires using his and your brain. Prozac made my nervous dog worse. Can't you practice some agility that builds up is self esteem? What are the credentials of your trainer/behaviorist? Animal behaviorist requires a degree and is the equivalent to a human psychiatrist, being able to prescribe meds.
Prozac, CBD, neutering seems too invasive to this boy's body. Does he have issues with your older dog? One of my friend's GSD with some behavior issues became dog aggressive after neutering and his behavior issues remained the same.
What was his life like before you got him and at what age?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
We got him at 8 weeks from a reputable breeder and he became progressively more anxious/timid from (probably - I have no clear recollection of when it 'started') a few months old on. He's in doggie day care (for the exercise and socialization) for 6 hours a day, 3 days a week, and gets plenty of exercise there (he comes home exhausted and sleeps for a few hours). Yes, the prozac required easing him into the correct dosage, but without it my choices are to keep him in a constant heel while walking him or have him flit from one thing to the next every 2 seconds (a leaf blowing!, a bird!, a car passing!, another car!, another leaf! a piece of trash!, a dog!!! and so on pulling all the while) and him plaguing Duke without interruption to play with him for hours (and at 10, Duke really can't be bothered after the first 15 minutes).

To give you some idea of how bad his anxiety is, a neighbor got an 8 week old pug puppy (not much bigger than an adult Chihuahua). He was about 9 months old at the time and I brought him over to introduce him (it was dark out and that may have contributed). He approached, sniffed her, and within 2 seconds bolted away from her to the end of the leash and wouldn't approach her again. All he wanted to do was get away. It was downright embarrassing. Training is helping me manage the problems, but this goes way beyond correcting the problems though training or giving him more exercise.

He's strongly bonded with Duke and does a little better when I walk them together, which I do after dark due to there being fewer distractions (specifically fewer dogs being walked) for him and so less need to be ready to get him under immediate control. But, he's starting to show his teeth/bark at selected dogs at day care (sometimes without provocation), and Duke deserves better than that starting at home, because there is no way I'm going to crate and rotate Duke (we didn't get Beau for Duke to be unhappy about not being with us) and I'm not going to rehome Beau.

As for the trainer/behaviorist, she seems to know what she's doing and he is getting better very slowly. He'll never be 'normal,' like Duke and our previous shepherds (though our one before Duke also suffered from a degree of anxiety) and I can live with that. I just don't want the timidity/anxiety getting worse, because that is likely fueling the latent (fear-based?) aggression.

edit: In any case, I'm not really asking for help with the problems. That's what i have the trainer/behaviorist for (and we're contemplating going to see a behaviorist at the local university vet school animal hospital). I'm asking for information on the effects of neutering on a timid/anxious dog's timidity.
 

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I'm not qualified to give professional advice but I do want to say something about that pug puppy story.
If I had a dog behave in such a strange and unexpectedly fearful manner toward a puppy I would seriously start to wonder what sort of experiences my dog was having at that doggy day care.

6 hours a day, 3 days a week of doggie day care. How old was he when he started? And are you absolutely sure there aren't bad experiences there contributing to your dogs anxiety ?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
It happened a month before he started day care. And it's just the most extreme example of his anxiety. I honestly can't point to anything that 'started" it. It's something he exhibited with strangers who wanted to pet him from a couple of months old on: Approach, sniff, run back, approach, sniff, run back, and so on. He's done the same with empty trash cans. Or, for that matter anything new. The absolute panic with the pug was atypical, but it's part of a consistent pattern.

edit: But now that I think of it, he was doing it at 9-10 weeks old with the neighbor's kids who wanted to pet him while he was in the fenced in back yard where I would take him while house traing him (they approached on the other side of the fence). He would approach them, tail wagging, then retreat, approach again, retreat, and so on. Don't recall them ever getting much of a chance to actually pet or play with him to this day.

edit: I'm pretty sure that if the source was environmental as opposed to genetic, it was during the first 8 weeks of his life.
 

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I don't know of course if he would behave with a normal built puppy. Pugs bring out weird responses in dogs who don't know them. I can fully understand why. Nothing sounds or looks normal in that breed. One of my Whippets (never shown any sign of aggression to anyone or anything) jumped back growling when a friendly pug approached him.
I would give your dog a week off from daycare and see if that helps any.
 

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There are some studies showing that neutering seems to increase anxiety in males. (I don't have them at hand but I came accross these while doing my research before neutering my dog).
One thing I remember is that testosterone plays a role in balancing stress hormones...
I was quite concerned about this when I adopted Buck (he's a rescue), because he was VERY leash reactive and a bit anxious of everything (being a garage dog for most of his puppyhood).
Anyway I didn't have a choice as there is a neutering obligation for rescues with this organisation, so he was neutered in August.
Since then we have made tremendous progress, his reactivity is under control and he is an overall happy-go-lucky dog I can take about anywhere with me. He can still be a bit tense in some situations but nothing unmanageable. He loves to work, loves to play and he's just happy about all the time.
His progress is definitely beyond my expectations, he's ways more balanced I thought he would ever be.

So at least for now, I'm not seing any adverse effects of neutering. Had the decision been mine to make though, I would not have neutered that early when he was still in "acute phase" (in August he was still reacting pretty badly in some situations and you could see that his temperament was not set yet if that makes sense/not sure how to put it in English).
My main concern at the time was that creating a hormonal change in his body at this point would have hindered the progress I was starting to see in him (we had been working for a few months already).
It seems that we got lucky... but I personnaly would avoid neutering a dog that is "a mess" emotionnaly. I would try to find the root cause of emotional imbalance, and maybe talk to a hormones specialist (endorcrinology) to make sure that taking the testo levels down is not going to have adverse effects.
 

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I think you should look for the studies and try to understand them as noted above. Taking away hormones can introduce an imbalance and make behavior worse. And sometimes people note an improvement. So find the studies. Contact the vets that did the studies. Sometimes they answer :)
 

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Breeding or not depends on how you manage him. Most dogs in EU are intact and it's tough to find a nice dog in their shelters, let alone pups.
Do you mean it as "neutering shelter dogs doesn't make them nice"? I'm not sure I undertand what you're saying here but it makes me think of the main bias to these "neutering studies" (not knowing which populations we are talking about)
 

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Do you mean it as "neutering shelter dogs doesn't make them nice"? I'm not sure I undertand what you're saying here but it makes me think of the main bias to these "neutering studies" (not knowing which populations we are talking about)
I meant that despite most males and females being intact, doesn't mean that there is random breeding going on in there (NL) because most people are responsible enough to contain the love-deprived dogs
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I would try to find the root cause of emotional imbalance, and maybe talk to a hormones specialist (endorcrinology) to make sure that taking the testo levels down is not going to have adverse effects.
Thanks for the info: 1 pro point & 1 con. Lots to think about. I'll try to locate the studies
Interesting suggestion. Thanks also for that. I'll look into it. Nothing would please me more than correcting the underlying problem to a degree.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks everyone for your advice/experiences. The most recent legit study published in a legit scientific journal (PLoS One. 2018; 13(5): e0196284) that I found concludes that lower exposure to what the authors call "percentage lifetime exposure to gonadal hormones (PLGH)" in males tends to increase anxiety (as well as some other undesirable behaviors), which either confirms what Chloe&buck heard/read or is the same study. Since his anxiety is the root cause of all of Beau's behavioral problems, including his lack of attention span, compulsive licking of anyone petting him, and all the other things I didn't specifically list, neutering is definitely out as a solution. I guess investigating endocrinology is the next step and/or maybe asking about a stronger anti-anxiety medicine than prosac to see if that helps. I've been hesitant to do the last because of the difficulty in getting him onto the prosac (reduced appetite for first few weeks, etc.), but I guess there's no way around it.
 

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Hi Michael, yes that's probably that same study :)
I'm going to sound weird here but did you try "exhaution-therapy"? (don't look, I just made it up ^^ lol)
I know good exercice and physical exhaustion can work wonders on anxiety, as I use it for myself and often also for the dogs I foster that are overexcited or having a hard time to adjust.
Just get all of that steam out you know, and then you have a tired wobbly dog and there's no more fuel for anxiety. In this tired/wobbly state, your dog won't react with the same intensity, and sometimes you can build this on.
But not "exciting"/mind-puzzling activities like day care (I understand that doggy day care in the US means that your dog is in a free area with many other dogs, is that correct ?), more like pure physical exercise (running, walking with a backpack, etc.)
Hope that makes sense.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Yes, your understanding of how (at least Beau's) daycare works is correct, and in fact he's particularly wound up when I walk him on the way back from daycare (manifest particularly as regards his barking at passing cars, which is pretty much under control now at other times).

The problem with your your suggestion is that I'm in my mid 70's, retired now (and yes, this is the last thing we wanted with what is in all likelihood our last dog-size dog - our personal definition of what size a dog should be), and my running days are long over. One of our neighbor's kids (in her late teens) has in fact asked if she could take him on her daily runs, but I've put off answering affirmatively for a good while now because Beau's recall is still totally unreliable. He will even ignore taking treats for obeying "leave it" when focused on that something (car, bird, dog, etc.) in his mind even if he's no longer eyeing it, and quite frankly I'm afraid of what might happen if he gets away from her (he can pull very hard and suddenly). Yes, he's chipped and all, but his propensity to lunge at moving cars is a recipe for disaster if he gets away from her. Like I said in the first post. He's a project.
 

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Neutering won't help.
But I live with an anxious dog. So I want to mention something that @Jax08 brought to my attention when Punk was younger.
Read up on stress, and what it does.
I am a responsible dog owner. I walked my dog, I socialized my dog. I was hurting my dog, and didn't know it.
I was forcing her to live in a state of constant fear and anxiety. And the training was progressing at a snails pace.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
@Sabis mom, Did searches for both Jax08+anxiety (151 results) and +stress (326) and don't know what needle to look for in that haystack. Do you happen to recall the basics of what was said? I assume it was something along the lines of the anxiety is stress related. If so, I wonder what's causing the stress.

Other than the compulsive licking of any hand petting him, he seems pretty relaxed at home (and yes, the licking indicates anxiety).
 

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Stress releases chemicals in the body that can take days to wear off. By forcing my dog out of her comfort zone daily I was forcing her to live under constant stress. I kept her strictly at home for a long time and the difference was night and day. When we started walking again I only took her out every few days to allow her to relax inbetween.
I suspect the daycare is very stressful for your boy and is actually causing the behaviour you are trying to stop.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
@Bearshandler There's an indoor area they are free to roam and play in, or just take a nap. Also a larger outdoor area where they can run and play in. The staff do a little bit of basic training (sit, stay sort of stuff). From what i can see, he's actually more relaxed at home and in the immediate neighborhood, in that he will be skittish with both new dogs and new staff at daycare (we get daily reports).
 
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