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Hi, my new addition, Titus, is 10 months old now, and we have some fear/aggression issues with him. We got him at 15 weeks old from a local Washington state breeder. She breeds for an older style, straight back, and from what she says, a family friendly temperment. Titus is my 3rd GSD from working lines, and the first I've had show fear or aggression toward people. We did the usual socialization when we got him. Nothing crazy, we just took him on walks around the neighborhood, had people over (that is limited because we don't know many people and family is far away), took him to the pet store once a week for socialization classes. He did ok, at first, but as the weeks went on, got more and more tense. Nothing "bad" ever happened. We were told by trainers and the breeder to back off on socializing a bit, and stick to walks, no more getting close to other dogs and streamers for a while. We focus mostly on obidience training at home and on walks now. He was also weaned early. He's getting more vocal when he sees other dogs on walks. Corrections don't do much, he's hyper focused on the offending thing/dog\person, treats do help some. We are doing counter conditioning, along with firm No when he shows aggression. Is this behavior do to being under socialized, or is it mostly genetic? He is nothing like my other GSDs, more like an Anatolian I had, that I later found out was very inbred. This is his dad's pedigree.
 

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It’s not supposed to but my purebred male German shepherds have all shown more aggression than my female dogs. I also train and handle males differently than females. My females have been sharper dogs, bossier and more vocal, but much easier to socialize to both people and other animals. My males have needed a firmer hand and have shown less room for me to make mistakes.

Some lines also can be more dog aggressive or reactive than others.
 

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I’ve had the opposite experience, my males have always been more mellow and easier to handle than my females.

Your at a stage age wise where they go through a fear period, which is what you may be experiencing here. I’d stop with the click and treat unless you know your timing is spot on. Otherwise, you may inadvertently be treating for the fear behavior.

I ignore a lot of behaviors when on walks. I don’t make it a big deal, my dogs realize it isn’t a big deal, and we move on. So if one focuses on say a cat, I say look at me, keeping walking, and once past the distraction I’ll give another command, and treat for that. At times, I’ll do redirects through commands. Put them in a sit, or a stay, or any command that demands their attention on me. When they are 100% focused on me, I give them a “yes” and move on, sometimes with a treat, sometimes not. That’s what has worked for me. Not every dog is the same though, do what works for you!
 

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My males have been mellower and more attached to me. My females have been sharper and more independent. Mellow and DA or HA are different things.

Have you talked to the breeder? Worked with a private trainer on this specific issue? Classes don’t always give you hands on training with behavior problems.
 

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First, I'm not sure how a pedigree can be that heavy with West German Showlines and have the breeder claim they breed "old fashioned-straight back" That's a flag right there.
Second, that pedigree is mixed with some Czech working line and then some AKC type names. So you have a mishmash of lines, not a working line.

Nerves are nerves. You can help them by socialization but you can't fix them. Both my dogs were puppies in the winter so got very little socialization. Zero issues because they are stable.

Yes, there is a difference between males and females. Big differences in my opinion. I've experienced the same things as LuvShepherds. The males are more attached and more forgiving of handler mistakes. The females are still attached but maintain their independence and far less forgiving. Bad correction and they are like "yeah human, we are done here". The males are like "that's ok I still love you". But the males are much more likely to display aggression towards strangers, not thru fear, just as a male. My male doesn't like anyone in my space. He's fine with you until you get to close to me. He'll play tug with you, work with you, take treats....just don't get to close to me.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thank you all for your input. My old female I have now is super sweet and lovey, very forgiving. Titus is also sweet and affectionate, but very sensitive and it's really easy to over correct. I am firm, but not heavy handed with him. I'm hoping that if we keep working with him, and walking/training him, he will grow out of the nervous behaviors. I have worked with a trainer one on one, just a little. It's so very expensive, I might have to wait a while and save money to do it more. I have talked to the breeder, a lot. She says it's just the working lines and he needs more training. Maybe so, but I work with him in several small sessions a day, plus walks, and fetch. I also have 4 kids, so time and money are somewhat limited. He did also have pano, and extreme carsickness, which limited walking and other outings.
 

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About the breeding, the breeder said she mixes lines to get the temperment and straight back she wants. I don't know if that makes sense, or is common. I also didn't realize until after we'd gotten him, she doesn't work her dogs.

We really were looking for a good pet, that would be healthy, sound, and stable, and also protective. I'm worried that what we got was a liability. He's great with the kids, but having people over is stressful. The vet gave us Trazodone, and 200 mg of that before guests arrive helps immensely. I'm really hoping that I don't have to medicate him all the time.
 

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Jax, I also wondered about the mash up of lines. I saw it when I looked at their website.

Mixing lines is complicated. They don’t always get the traits they want. I looked at dogs that were half WGSL and half ASL. They ended up with extremely high prey drive and very little human aggression. They were sweet dogs but the breed is not supposed to be exceptionally sweet to strangers. It’s fine if they are sweet to their owners. We want them to adore us.
 

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Can you describe how he reacts and to what degree? Perhaps he is feeding off of your anxiety too. I have a male who is 15 months old and he exhibits some characteristics similar but nothing unmanageable. He does take note and will alert bark with raised hair if he sees a strange dog, but is easily averted with a stern no and a redirection with treats. Or if we are moving a “none your business” and keep on like nothing is going on. We are enrolled in a weekly agility class and once he gets his initial “greeting” over we can stand nearby and focus on our training with no problems surrounded by other dogs and people.

He is my first and only GSD, but I agree with other observations. He absolutely adores me and nobody else. Not that he isn’t friendly with family but he doesn’t “love” them like me, and strangers he will accept a pat but isn’t all about them. And that is after he evaluates them to be ok. He has a noticeable degree of suspicion but the sense to know when it is warranted with an action or not.
 

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No, it's not "just the working lines". It's putting together dogs that that are bred to have high aggression with dogs that don't have the nerve to make the stable. That statement drives me crazy. My working lines don't behave like that.

Yes, he needs more training. They always need training. Keep going to your trainer as you much as you can. Even if it's every 3 weeks. Learn, work on what you're taught and then go back. Keep counter conditioning. Perhaps your correction for the behavior needs to be more than a No. I use a nylon choke for this particular behavior. It's the only thing I use a choke collar for at all. Talk to your trainer about this. IMO, you need to shut this down now before he hits full maturity.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
He reacts with raised hackles all the way down the back when the neighbor dog is out, running toward the fence and barking. He doesn't react as bad when we are walking, he gets tense, and I use my voice to distract him, keep him heeling, and use treats so long as he isn't barking and he is listening. When people come over, he is kept on a leash, and his reaction seems both exited and nervous, he wants to sniff, but if they reach out to him, he backs up and might whine or woof. The last time we had guests, we medicated him before they came, and exercised him right before they got here. He did ok, but he was very nervous even with the meds.

I don't know how much of it might be my energy he's picking up on. When we first got him I was so sure he'd be fine. He was very friendly, but also hyper, whining, licking, jumping. We mostly just tried to keep him from jumping up. He started getting nervous most notably around 5 months old, same time as he got pano. We also had a vet visit around 6 months, and she squeezed his front legs (they were very sore from the pano), he yelped, and showed his teeth. I was very surprised, he'd never ever done that before. After that, he didn't seem to trust anyone, and no matter how many nice people he met, he never got over it. I wonder, is that a sign of weak nerves? I'm thinking we might have picked the wrong dog. The breeder said he was fearless and self confident, but he seems to be the opposite. Does anyone have experience with this breeder? And, has anyone had a dog go through a really bad secondary fear stage, and come out ok as an adult?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I can certainly try a nylon choker, I have one. I usually end up using the halti because he pulls and I have bad joints.
 

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He looks to be a mismatch of lines- this has to be done carefully. I have seen some really nice mix of lines that come from very reputable breeders though who know what they are doing. Some gsds have weaker nerves in all lines combine that together and I would imagine you have issues. Or you can still have a great breeding and still have issues with some pups.
It is gospel on here that you don’t take your puppy to a puppy romper room. It is also good that your dog knows not have to meet every stranger or dog you see on the street means an interaction- so many threads in this. You need to know if your pup actually enjoyed the interactions with people and other dogs and if you did not notice any stress then that may be part of the problem. Some pups are more social then others. Some are not and if you keep forcing interactions that makes you pup uncomfortable it will take a lot of knowledge to handle manage that if the dog has issue with nerves. I would advise a reputable gsd trainer.
 

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Does anyone know of a good trainer in the Spokane Washington area? I've contacted many. Most are clicker trainers, and that's ok, but might not be what we need. I've had three trainers just kind of shrug and say "he's a shepherd". My other two shepherd, bred for police work, didn't act so nervous. I don't want to ruin him, but at this point, I'm not sure if he was ever going to be ok. I'm guessing that a professional evaluation is the only way to determine that? I hate the idea of giving him back to the breeder, but I hate the idea of him hurting someone even more. Any chance he might grow out of it?
 

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I can certainly try a nylon choker, I have one. I usually end up using the halti because he pulls and I have bad joints.
Spokane is kind of a black hole for training.

Dump the halti and put a prong and the choke collar on him. Make him understand No.
 
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