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Greetings,

I'ev got a small (large?) problem I was hopnig I could get some insight on. I've got a GSD that will be 4 years old in May. He is a wonderful, loving, dog that has been an invaluable companion to me and my wife through the years. On the down side though, he seems to have...for lack of a better way of putting it..multiple personalities. He will sometimes get incredibly aggressive and even attack my wife. He will never do it with me.

I think he respects me but does not entirely respect her. It might have something to do with the fact I was the one who took him to all his training classes when he was younger. He is very territorial (of course) and has claimed his own spot on the bed. We have a large bed, so it's not a huge problem. Sometimes though, he'll lay on her pillow and when it's bed time, he won't get up unless I yell at him too. If she approaches he'll growl and he has snapped and bit her before. Also, if he takes something he's not supposed to, he won't let her near him to take it away. He'll snap at her. If I try to take it away, he'll let me without any problems.

Is there anything I can do about this? Is 4 years old too late to even train this dog? He's a wonderful dog and I could never imagine life without him. However, this is a problem I have ignored (to my error) and I figured I'd pursue trying to get some insight. His name is Diego BTW, a smaller GSD, weighing only about 85 lbs.

We just moved too and he's been stuck in the house a lot lately (although this problem existed before the move). We are in the process of building a fence (or will be in May) so he can have his own place to run.

Thanks,
James
 

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It's never too late to train a dog. I would suggest your wife take a training class with him and exercise him in the yard. Look into NILIF on this board. Tune into Cesar Milan on the Dog Wisperer, could be something in her attitude or body language that's making Diego disrespect her. YOu're right, that's exactly what he's doing.
 

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It sounds like your dog is the top of the leadership pack with you by his side and the wife at the bottom. And you are a bit lucky you are by his side.

The proper line of leadership should be you and the wife on top, with the dog below.

If I were you, that dog would never be allowed on the bed anymore. That's for the leaders, and that's your wife and you. Additionally, a NILF program for BOTH of you and the dog. With your wife taking the lead on this.

http://k9deb.com/nilif.htm

http://www.firstfrienddogtraining.com/nilif.cfm

http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/nothingfree.htm

And though if I were you wife, I'd be afraid of the dog, she can work on this and step up if you can support her. ZERO tolerance from you with bad behavior. But not sayiing to fix this with corrections and verbals. Instead you need to 'teach' your dog that he's living in a new world, new house, and there are now (for the first time) rules that are absolute. If he wants good things, he has to listen and do good things. 'Earn' his way thru life.

NO FREE FEEDING. All food comes in a bowl from you wife and the dog needs to sit/stay before released to the food. No dog on the furniture or bed (that's for the leaders), so make sure you have a dog bed you can take him to, have him sit/down/reward and that is his spot.

You need to teach him the new behaviors you DO want, rather than correct for the bad behaviors he is choosing.

GREAT book on this is The Dog Listener by Jan Fennell. Also good articles here:

http://www.flyingdogpress.com/leadership.html

http://www.flyingdogpress.com/relationshipbased.html

And if you get The Animal Planet there's a great show on this called It's Me or the Dog that has situations like yours, and helpful information with real dogs/people.
 

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James,

I have bad news and good news for you. The bad news is that this problem is 10% dog and 90% human, and it's a MAJOR PROBLEM. The good news is that you can correct it. This is what is we call a rank issue, meaning the dog feels that he has a higher rank in your household than your wife. This is an easier signal to send to a dog than you may think, since the way we raise human children (nurture, love and support) often can be read as weakness to a dog. If you walked around your neighborhood or called all your friends and family and asked them about this you would get all kinds of idiotic advice from putting the dog down, to kicking the crap out of him, to lord knows what else. The bottom line though is that your wife needs to enforce her rank, which is above the dog. here is how she can do that...

1. First and foremost the dog is no longer allowed on the bed. AT ALL. EVER. This is part of an overall NILF (nothing in life is free) program - which you can read more about all over this board - but I stress the bed part because this is a main area that you are having an issue with.

2. How much physical and mental exercise does Diego get and who gives it to him? He needs to be walked, and he needs some training time and both of these should be done by your wife at least to start. The training will tie into the next suggestion, but the walking is very powerful. Both Diego and your wife moving in the same direction under her control does not happen without an effect on him (the effect is that he follows her lead - very important) . Exercise will help "even out" his personality and assist you in changing his frame of mind in your home.

3. Diego works for his food, and his food comes directly from your wife's hands. If he does not take food nicely, then it's time for him to learn. You can do this with him on leash and you on leash ready to restrain or correct him if neccesary. For every little handful of kibble she gives him he must sit and then lay down for her. Down is key, since it is the most submissive position. If he knows other commands, he must do them for her. Over and over, for each and every bit of his food. If he will not, or if he shows aggression towards her he does not get to eat. He can go 2-3 days without eating and be none the worse for wear, but he needs to understand that his survival is in her hands.

4. NILF, NILF, NILF. Everything the dog likes needs to come from your wife, and for everything she "gives him" he must do something for her first. Down is what I recommend. If he likes to go outside, then he must lay down for her before she lets him out. All toys and bones are picked up, and before he gets one from her he must lay down. After a while she is the one to take it back. Nothing is left laying around. These are your wifes toys, and she is allowing him to play with them. NOT the other way around. If he can be handled on a flat collar, great. If not, put him on a prong collar and have him drag a leash around when your wife is home. Better yet, do a search on this forum for tethering and keep a bit of a longer leash tied to your wife's belt and keep him tethered to her. Again, message to dog... she controls everything. These are just a few examples of NILF.

5. Back to school. Have her go through a training class with him. Who cares if he already knows everything, he doesn't know it with her!

Last, but not least she needs to relax and be confident around him. Having him on leash and under control should help her with that. Also, do not forget to praise for good behavior. When Diego listens to her, she should praise. When he is a butthead, she ignores it and he does not get what he wants whether it be food, toys, outside or whatever.

Some of these suggestions will bring up other issues I'm sure. Ask away.
 

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Hi James,

As a first-time GSD owner and a small woman, I would just like to emphasize one of John's points
Originally Posted By: ZeusGSD
she needs to relax and be confident around him.
If your wife has any activity with Diego that they both enjoy, she should make that part of a regular routine. It can be jogging, or grooming, or "find it" games in the house-the idea is that he can look to her for real-life rewards and she can strengthen her position in her own mind.

Maybe I took the wrong angle from your post, but personally I would not like an 85lb dog growling at me from my own pillow. Conversely, having the same 85lb dog eagerly waiting at the door as I put on jogging shoes is a trip.

Since you've had Diego for some time, I imagine that your wife has some of those pleasures with Diego-they're a great tool to build their relationship. Somewhere I read that you should hand feed your dog every couple of weeks just to reinforce who supplies those 40lb bags of kibble. It's fun and I think that's the goal.

Mary Jane
 

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Absolutely this dog must never be allowed on the bed, the sofa, the chair-- he cannot have his own chair, either. Only leaders get access to prime resting spots that are elevated-- furniture.

Time for NILIF for sure! But, your wife, not you, must be the one to implement this.

Important: Time for Space Games! Your wife must now, when Diego is laying on the carpet and wife wants to walk there, she must: eyes UP, not looking down at Diego-- and just confidantly walk right through him. HE moves for HER. She can shuffle to avoid harming him. He will learn VERY fast-- that when Momma comes a strollin', Baby Dog had better GIVE WAY TO The Queen.


Space Games II: Diego wants to barge through the doorway ahead of wife as she and he stroll into the house after a walk? Nope. Your wife now goes through every doorway- all of them-- before Dioego does. He must sit, wait, give focus-- and wait for HER to INVITE him in. This is every time he goes in or out of the house (really), before he gets into the car, before he goes into the doorway of the bedroom (i know, but it is needed for now).

Good luck,
sending you and your wife good thoughts on this!
 

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I would go one step further than keeping the dog off the bed- keep the dog OUT OF THE BEDROOM. This room will now be reserved for the pack bosses and is now off-limits to the dog. Keep him off all furniture in the rest of the house. Have your wife enroll in training classes with the dog. I think this was already said.

Have your wife feed ALL meals, and have her handfeed them to the dog in exchange for obedience. She need not have the dog eat out of her hand, she can toss the kibble but she needs to control it. No obedience from the dog, no meal, period. The dog must learn that your wife now has the power to control his survival.

Quote:Important: Time for Space Games! Your wife must now, when Diego is laying on the carpet and wife wants to walk there, she must: eyes UP, not looking down at Diego-- and just confidantly walk right through him. HE moves for HER. She can shuffle to avoid harming him. He will learn VERY fast-- that when Momma comes a strollin', Baby Dog had better GIVE WAY TO The Queen.
Yes. I always tell my fiance to move the dog if the dog is blocking his way. The dog will mostly ignore him until I come into the picture.
#1 rule: MY house, you, The Dog, are just lucky to live here. I love you, you're cute, but just like I move out of the way for my boss and my mom, so you must respect me and kindly step aside, or else I *will* walk through you! Likewise, if I drop food while I am in the kitchen, you are to patiently wait until I call you in to clean up the spills IF you're even allowed. You are also to relinquish your ball on command, and woe betide you if you even THINK about snatching a meal off my plate if I set it down! Yes, the dog clearly knows his place with me, still working on it between dog and my dear guy.


Also, no more chew toys for this guy or toys if he gets growly around your wife. If you want to give him a toy or bone to chew on, in the crate he goes so he cannot get possessive. He is NOT allowed to chew on anything outside of the crate until he allows your wife to come up to him and pet him without so much as batting an eye. Don't push taking anything away until everything else is stellar. Food aggression and possessiveness are the last battles to be fought and should be saved for when all other aspects of lifestyle and leadership are firmly in place where they should be. Do not get discouraged, this will take a lot of time and it may get worse before it gets better. Diego may put up a quick hissy, but if you stick to your guns and make him earn every single pawstep and breath in your house (and ensure he takes his orders from your wife), he will settle back, release the reins of command, and ease into being a good GSD. Not many dogs really want to be leaders and are comfy being leaders and the majority that are forced in the role due to inadequate human leadership really wish their people would step up to the plate so they can relax and not worry!

Quote:a smaller GSD, weighing only about 85 lbs.
Actually, that's not small at all. According to the breed standard, that is an excellent male size. If he's physically fit, muscular, and lean, you have the true ideal male GSD size!

Also, check out the link below in my signature. Great leadership info! I highly recommend the book by Jan Fennel, "The Dog Listener." EXCELLENT leadership resource!
 

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Nice how we all seems to agree on 'the plan'. And with the advice given and all the additional specifics on NILF on the websites I posted, you should soon get a handle on the situation.
 

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Where is he during the day when no one is home? I would also be containing/controlling his space and movement. I know someone who does Malamute rescue and they never allow doggy doors because it gives the dog too much decision power. So letting him out to run during the day would not be good-he would then be in control of the yard...just in case that was the thinking.

I would say off the furniture, but not banish from a room. If the off the furniture isn't enough, then no bed room.

I would also want to look at having a trainer there with you while you are taking all this advice.

I would definitely do it in stages. First the NILIF and no bed. Then the other stuff. Your wife has to earn the dog's respect. She's basically like a substitute teacher. He's throwing spitballs (or in more current school environments-chairs) while she's just trying to get by.

Once she ups her leadership, he has to have some time to accept it. So when I get or have a more aggressive dog, they first have to have the time to accept me as the leader before I start getting pushy in any way with them-or challenging them through body language. To do it at the same time or in a different order could be dangerous if you weren't ready for a reaction.

I have done it (hey, I'm your leader-how's it going!) with foster dogs that are fairly normal and nice in about two weeks. With foster dogs that are not so nice, it can take months of NILIF to get to the point where I don't feel like we are going to have a peeing match (which is not a good thing) every time I say something. BUT over time, using that patience, I get good results that are solid and stick.

I just don't want the dog to go up the leash at your wife.

Relationships are important as well as who is in charge.
http://www.flyingdogpress.com/artlibreg.htm has some nice articles!
 

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i would add that if your dog uses his teeth (the OP says the dog has bitten wife) to get his way then you should condition him to wearing a wire basket muzzle so biting is not a possibility for him.

Also, I want to stress that this is about establishing pack leadership but not about being mean to your dog. Sometimes people get confused about that and go a little overboard and that will not help the situation. I also agree that kicking the dog out of the bedroom shouldn't be necessary and really could be a bit cruel in my book. Crating him in your bedroom at night should solve the space issue. He still gets to be with his pack but he has his own space to sleep.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thank you all very much for your insight and suggestions. I'm going to sit down with the wife, show her this thread and then start following some of the suggestions outlined here. You folks have given me hope that this situation can be corrected. I think both my wife and me have become a bit too...tolerant of it and that will hopefully change.

Thanks again and I'm sure I will have more questions!
 
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