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We have had Boo for two weeks now and we finally have learned the reason the family wanted to find him a home, lol. He just turned 9 months old and is SO well behaved and well trained, and very easily adapted to our home life, so much so that it seems like we've had him for MONTHS rather than a couple of weeks.

However, the dog is scared of ANYTHING new. People come over and he loses his mind - hackles, growling, barking, advancing towards them aggressively, etc. It takes someone coming over 3-4 times before he greets them normally, in a relaxed manner. He's never bitten, and once he sniffs and the person stands there and lets him get used to them he's totally fine, and affectionate with them, even, but initially he is rather frightening. He's almost 90 pounds and 30" at the shoulder (his mama was a dane) so it is intimidating.

Last night my daughter came in the door with friends helping her carry large objects, and he absolutely lost his mind, and even peed on the floor as he was barking and growling. I did not realize she was coming, and so she just walked in with her friends so I could not prepare anyone. Yikes.

Since we got him we've taken him places every day, like the park and the pet stores that let you bring dogs in, Home Depot, and even to my office. Every place we go is scary to him, and he growls at certain people if they approach us. We don't let him actually meet people or other dogs, but just get used to seeing people and dogs, with nothing bad happening. We go for 4-mile walks in the mornings, and a 2-3 mile walk in the evenings. He also fetches endlessly, and now that the weather is slightly cooler we're enjoying our outings more.

Is this the right approach? I am waiting for the next round of obedience classes to start in a couple of weeks but wonder if he'll even be able to handle going to a group class.

It took him 30 minutes of feeding him peanut butter before he'd even relax enough to let the vet pet him, but he finally did. When she went to listen to his heart and lungs I had to talk to him and pet his head and make him focus on me before he'd allow it. This was after visiting the vet's office twice the week prior just to have the staff give him treats and talk sweet to him - I was trying to get him used to going there and associate good things, but he was not having it with the vet, though she is a very sweet, young female.

I have never had a dog with this kind of issue, and hope we can work through it. The only thing I know to do is expose him to new situations regularly so he can get accustomed to his new world. I don't think he was socialized much as a young pup and hope this behavior is not totally ingrained at 9 months. I figure he might always have a bit of leeriness when meeting people, but I don't have a problem with that, only the freaking out part, lol.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
P.S. Boo will not take treats from people. It took him quite a long time to eat the peanut butter the vet was giving him on the end of a tongue depressor. He would not even eat it when she smeared it on the floor in front of him.
 

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Are you using really high value treats? Like real chicken or dehydrated liver or tripe treats?

Here are a few old threads that might help you (I have counter-conditioned 2 fear aggressive dogs but don't feel like writing everything up again). I would read the books recommended (some are available from the library) and see if you can find a behaviorist/training who is well respected and uses positive reinforcement and counter conditioning and will ideally come to your home to help you:

http://www.germanshepherds.com/foru...-books-fear-aggression-resource-guarding.html

http://www.germanshepherds.com/foru...-ugly/180736-development-fear-aggression.html

http://www.germanshepherds.com/foru...d-aggressive-reactive-fearful-what-going.html
 

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Thank you!

Yes, we use the highest value treats we can come up with, but out in public he's just too nervous and doesn't seem to even notice.

Appreciate the links - I'll get started reading up
 

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The only thing I know to do is expose him to new situations regularly so he can get accustomed to his new world.
You would think that but that method will condition the dog to act fearfully through repetition. I would think it better to take small steps and get him used to you and your home and getting to know your family and friends and when he shows more confidence bring him where he will meet random people and dogs.

The issue the dog has is it doesn't trust people until it smells them as you described. Simplest way to deal with it at home is ask everybody to not approach the dog, and no touch, talk or eye contact until the dog acts relaxed in there company. You can't ask the general public to be so considerate so limit the time you expose the dog until it is in better shape.

Boo will not take treats from people.
If the dog doesn't trust someone it won't take a treat from them. Encouraging them to take the treat is pointless. What you want to do is let the dog know the person has a treat by letting him scent it. And if he wants it and trusts the person he will go and get it.

If the person crouches down and looks into the dogs eyes and says 'here boy have a treat' the dog will loose trust and interest in the person.

I see fearful dogs leaning into a person they don't fully trust and taking a treat from them. The tail is tucked and the dog is half ready to escape if the person makes an unexpected move or sound. This is also counter productive.

I simply stopped any body giving my fearful(at the time ) dog treats as their timing was awful and they were not waiting for the dog to be in the right frame of mind to accept the treat.
 

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I wondering about the name Boo. Did you give that name.

A name can bring a resonance and to me Boo is a bad name for a fearful dog. I would call him Larry or bobo or anything but BOO!
 

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His name is actually Busa. We came up with a million other names, especially ones that reference his rather LARGE ears, lol, but none of them seemed to work with him. We just kept going back to Busa, and that shortened to Boo. Busa is a reference to the Hayabusa motorcycle that was admired by his previous owners. We call him Busa quite often too, and that name has grown on me.

This evening we had a bunch of friends and family come over at random times and he was ignored completely when he was going off, and high level treats given the very instant he relaxed and became calm.

Later on, my neighbor came over unexpectedly and he eagerly came over to her and there was absolutely no fear reaction at all - just eager and happy to see her.

We'll keep on doing this kind of thing and firmly establish what we want. I have had mastiffs for 20 years, dogs who could care less what YOU might want, lol, and now I have to work with a dog who really wants to be with me (Shadow might have been a more appropriate name) and wants to do what I want. He has learned a whole lot of things already at a very rapid pace, IMO.

His overall behavior seems very much more shepherd like than dane like. This is him impersonating a deer:

 
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