German Shepherds Forum banner
1 - 16 of 16 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello folks, this is my first post here. For some background, I had a shepherd/retriever mix of some sort I picked up from the beach in Baja in 1999. She was a stray and turned out to be almost a perfect dog until she passed in 2010. Only a few weeks later I got a rescue pure bred GSD who I had for 11 years, until she gave out last November.

3 weeks ago I got a new shepherd who is about 4 years old. I have her and could still return her to the Rescue, but aside from some reactivity she's mostly been a gem, very sweet and affectionate, a great companion. She has some prey drive, desiring garden lizards and neighborhood rabbits. That I can deal with, no problem. She's not very reactive to dogs on a walk, often paying little attention, which is excellent.

My one real concern with her is she's reactive to some people, depending on the circumstances. This morning on a walk we were approaching the end of the block to go left at the corner, and a guy I didn't see was going the opposite direction around the corner about 6-8 feet outside of us, and my dog lunged at him. I held onto the leash, pulled back and yelled "Hey!" as an instinctive reaction to the dog. She apparently made contact, as the guy said "Geez, got me on the butt" to which he quickly added "I'm fine." So I don't know if she nipped him but it seems she may have just touched him as I was pulling back on the leash.

This has dampened my enthusiasm for the dog, at least for a couple hours, I'm not sure. I had intended to text the Rescue this morning to let them know we're good to go for adoption, but now I don't know. I think I'm mostly feeling less secure about leaving the dog occasionally at day care and worry about liability issues. The dog seems fine after being properly introduced to people, and in most cases doesn't react with random strangers passing by.

I was really spoiled with my other 2 dogs- the pure bred with some mild reactivity but nothing serious.

How concerned should I be with this dog? Should I keep her, or is this behavior a sufficient enough red flag to give her up?

One added note: She was in the shelter for 4 months and had been scheduled to be euthanized March 25, before a Rescue picked her up and she was later taken by a lady with a small Rescue I got her from. (Her comment about the dog upon hearing about this morning's incident "She definitely doesn't like surprises."
 

·
Registered
Jazmine Auf Der Marquis, Reacher Auf Der Marquis
Joined
·
1,601 Posts
Without first hand seeing the dog it will be very hard for anyone to give a great answer. Could be a serious problem or could have been herding instinct got triggered and with some training can be corrected.

I suggest having a good GSD trainer evaluate the dog. What part of the country are you in?

I'd also ask the rescue to elaborate on "doesn't like surprises" with examples of the surprise and the response. Most dog don't like surprises, it kicks in flight or fight harmones.
 

·
Registered
Krypto, Hiro and now Bernie who is a Golden Saint rescue
Joined
·
212 Posts
Well, was it a bite or a kiss? If I don't pay attention, I have one dog who will pull toward a person on a crowded sidewalk and put his nose on someone if he can reach. The first time I thought, "Oh poop" as Bernie is a 4-year-old rescue and he does react to dogs on the street. But turns out, he most likely is trying to bury his nose in a crotch than bite. It could be that with urs? I think you have to look at other signs, hair standing, posture, growls, etc. to determine, and I hate to say it, but you could have asked if your dog had actually bit the butt.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Without first hand seeing the dog it will be very hard for anyone to give a great answer. Could be a serious problem or could have been herding instinct got triggered and with some training can be corrected.

I suggest having a good GSD trainer evaluate the dog. What part of the country are you in?

I'd also ask the rescue to elaborate on "doesn't like surprises" with examples of the surprise and the response. Most dog don't like surprises, it kicks in flight or fight harmones.
Thanks, I'm in California. I have a trainer I can contact, but was hoping not to have to go through that process again. I didn't mention that I had a young shepherd for 4 months after I lost my old dog and before this one. That dog was extremely reactive to other dogs to the point I couldn't take her on a walk around the neighborhood without a huge blow up. I worked really hard with the trainer to improve her but my anxiety level was through the roof and I finally had to give her up (fortunately she has a new owner). So up it's mostly been a great relief to have this dog who I can actually take with me on walks and on day trips, though she's not always perfect leash walking once she gets over excited. With the dog I had for 4 months, for the first time I learned a lot about training, ending up with a positive trainer. So I can apply some of those training exercises and have started with the current dog (Lacey). Lacey also responds to "No" and will come back over to me at times when I need her to stop a behavior, so in those cases of course it's not an entirely positive approach.

Lacey has been very normal with some people, laying down and ignoring the auto mechanic as I was chatting with him at his shop recently, and with a couple of neighbors who came up to see the dog, one who after asking gave her some belly scratches. When I first met Lacey she was afraid of me, smelling my hand but also backing off and letting out a quiet bark. Actually growled at me slightly after I had gotten her home, whereupon I went and took a short nap, returned, sat down and started talking to her from a distance- then she totally transformed and we became fast friends.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Well, was it a bite or a kiss? If I don't pay attention, I have one dog who will pull toward a person on a crowded sidewalk and put his nose on someone if he can reach. The first time I thought, "Oh poop" as Bernie is a 4-year-old rescue and he does react to dogs on the street. But turns out, he most likely is trying to bury his nose in a crotch than bite. It could be that with urs? I think you have to look at other signs, hair standing, posture, growls, etc. to determine, and I hate to say it, but you could have asked if your dog had actually bit the butt.
Yes I should have asked and wondered why I didn't but I think it happened so fast and the guy was moving right on with his walk after saying "I'm fine" that I just let it go.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,135 Posts
I'm not qualified to give advice. Seems you like the dog. Do you think it's nice dog who got startled? Being rescued and it's only been 3 weeks dog isn't settled yet. For all that has been thrown at it seems like a good dog.
Pulling back on the leash I'm sure contributing. Once the dog learns the rules and if you feel the dog respects you, could work out fine. Only you can decide to take the chance.
 

·
Registered
Krypto, Hiro and now Bernie who is a Golden Saint rescue
Joined
·
212 Posts
Yes I should have asked and wondered why I didn't but I think it happened so fast and the guy was moving right on with his walk after saying "I'm fine" that I just let it go.
well, keep watching and asking! if u only had ur GSD rescue for 4 months, that's not long... if u see constant improvement, he/she will prob be fine. I think between 6 months to a year is the time period when breakthroughs come... perhaps it takes that long for a dog brain to sort things out. Behavior during the first days can be wildly different once a dog is settled. Well, that's what I see here.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,127 Posts
I remember the first time Willow did this; for the first week or two she seemed not to care about most people on walks, but then she became very reactive; lunged at a jogger passing by and it really startled me.

Just took some confidence-building and TIME. She'll still react if people move toward her or try to touch her (she'll jump away, maybe give a bark or a low growl) but she's so good on walks now, I'm so glad I was patient with her. So my advice would be, just give the dog time to get used to things, get used to you, and build her confidence in her new situation.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I remember the first time Willow did this; for the first week or two she seemed not to care about most people on walks, but then she became very reactive; lunged at a jogger passing by and it really startled me.

Just took some confidence-building and TIME. She'll still react if people move toward her or try to touch her (she'll jump away, maybe give a bark or a low growl) but she's so good on walks now, I'm so glad I was patient with her. So my advice would be, just give the dog time to get used to things, get used to you, and build her confidence in her new situation.
That is pretty much what the Rescue lady said in response today- that some dogs are bounced around so much in shelters they don't have a solid footing to trust. Then again I've read that fearful dogs may just keep reinforcing the behavior and so it gets worse. I was told by the trainer in regard to the shepherd I had 4 months (that was reactive to dogs, not people- the opposite situation as with Lacey) that without training it could only get worse. And there was no promise training would ultimately change the behavior either.

The thing is, with Lacey (as with the other dog) she is fine at home and maybe for a time outside, but once she hits the overexcited stage she just reacts. I will say she responds to me and can be interrupted but sometimes that may only be for a moment or a short stretch of time. It's good I suppose that Lacey's reactivity to people is less severe than the previous dog's reactivity to other dogs.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,127 Posts
That is pretty much what the Rescue lady said in response today- that some dogs are bounced around so much in shelters they don't have a solid footing to trust. Then again I've read that fearful dogs may just keep reinforcing the behavior and so it gets worse. I was told by the trainer in regard to the shepherd I had 4 months (that was reactive to dogs, not people- the opposite situation as with Lacey) that without training it could only get worse. And there was no promise training would ultimately change the behavior either.

The thing is, with Lacey (as with the other dog) she is fine at home and maybe for a time outside, but once she hits the overexcited stage she just reacts. I will say she responds to me and can be interrupted but sometimes that may only be for a moment or a short stretch of time. It's good I suppose that Lacey's reactivity to people is less severe than the previous dog's reactivity to other dogs.
For what it's worth...the training Willow and I did was basically obedience and confidence-building. We were not positive only (walked with a prong collar and gentle leash corrections) but after training ME on markers, the trainer had me carry treats and stop at intervals to do some basic obedience. I remember she told me to have Willow jump on random things, and then give her a marker ("Yes!") and treat. Really built up Willow's confidence over only a few weeks, and gave her something else to think about when we went on our walks. I know a lot of people on here use the "look at me" thing, where they pull their dogs off the trail and have them focus on the handler when someone else walks by. I guess I don't like that, I'd prefer Willow to be able to just calmly pass by people without caring about them rather than me having to pull her aside and distract her every time. And she does that now.

Willow still gets excited when we encounter another dog on a walk, especially if both are leashed. Ears up, pulling on the leash, because she loves other dogs and wants to say hi. She also has problems with overexcitability, mainly in the car and when we're getting ready to go for a walk, she CANNOT calm down and it's something we keep struggling with. But once we're on the walk she's absolutely fine. I don't even leash her anymore, and as I mentioned she mostly doesn't like when people look directly at her or try to pet her (and that sounds like it's a German shepherd thing) but if people ignore her, she ignores them right back and it's great. And, joy of joys...she's overall much more okay with new people than she was when I got her, and it's been wonderful to witness. I'm much better and quicker at telling people, "She's not very friendly" when we're out walking, so they leave her alone.

One other thing I might recommend, would be to try to minimize the encounters for now while you're working on this. Maybe hard to do where you're at, but until there's a solid trust and confidence and "rhythm" to the walk, encounter after encounter might indeed reinforce the fearful behavior. Willow and I would walk at off-peak times and intentionally avoid people if we saw them, for a while. We still kinda do but if an encounter is inevitable it's not as big a deal as it was. And there are numerous other threads on this board about "positive only" training and how it might not work very well for this breed; well, it didn't work for Willow (our first trainer was positive only). She's very sensitive so I worried about negative training, and still gets really sad if I say "No!" too harshly, but she responds well to gentle "uh-uh", "leave it", and leash corrections. So...take that or leave it, it's up to you. :)

Also I stopped using the prong collar a year or so ago. She no longer needs it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
For what it's worth...the training Willow and I did was basically obedience and confidence-building. We were not positive only (walked with a prong collar and gentle leash corrections) but after training ME on markers, the trainer had me carry treats and stop at intervals to do some basic obedience. I remember she told me to have Willow jump on random things, and then give her a marker ("Yes!") and treat. Really built up Willow's confidence over only a few weeks, and gave her something else to think about when we went on our walks. I know a lot of people on here use the "look at me" thing, where they pull their dogs off the trail and have them focus on the handler when someone else walks by. I guess I don't like that, I'd prefer Willow to be able to just calmly pass by people without caring about them rather than me having to pull her aside and distract her every time. And she does that now.

Willow still gets excited when we encounter another dog on a walk, especially if both are leashed. Ears up, pulling on the leash, because she loves other dogs and wants to say hi. She also has problems with overexcitability, mainly in the car and when we're getting ready to go for a walk, she CANNOT calm down and it's something we keep struggling with. But once we're on the walk she's absolutely fine. I don't even leash her anymore, and as I mentioned she mostly doesn't like when people look directly at her or try to pet her (and that sounds like it's a German shepherd thing) but if people ignore her, she ignores them right back and it's great. And, joy of joys...she's overall much more okay with new people than she was when I got her, and it's been wonderful to witness. I'm much better and quicker at telling people, "She's not very friendly" when we're out walking, so they leave her alone.

One other thing I might recommend, would be to try to minimize the encounters for now while you're working on this. Maybe hard to do where you're at, but until there's a solid trust and confidence and "rhythm" to the walk, encounter after encounter might indeed reinforce the fearful behavior. Willow and I would walk at off-peak times and intentionally avoid people if we saw them, for a while. We still kinda do but if an encounter is inevitable it's not as big a deal as it was. And there are numerous other threads on this board about "positive only" training and how it might not work very well for this breed; well, it didn't work for Willow (our first trainer was positive only). She's very sensitive so I worried about negative training, and still gets really sad if I say "No!" too harshly, but she responds well to gentle "uh-uh", "leave it", and leash corrections. So...take that or leave it, it's up to you. :)

Also I stopped using the prong collar a year or so ago. She no longer needs it.
It sounds like your dog, at least initially, may have been more sensitive to people than mine. Lacey usually doesn't pay that much attention to people on a walk. I think with what happened it was mostly the surprise of the guy just showing up from around the corner unexpectedly. Also he was wearing a silky type sports outfit with a material that somewhat fluttered with the breeze, so that bit of movement and out of the ordinary attire may have startled her. It's only random people that she reacts to, maybe because of what they're wearing, or the energy they give off, who knows. Normally though on a walk if someone is directly ahead of us I just divert our path around them a bit and it's no problem. I've also discovered she's more reactive inside a pet store, so for the most part I will just avoid taking her in.

After some time now the incident yesterday doesn't seem as important, it's more something I'll keep in mind and be aware of. A bigger issue is probably leash walking, which she does fairly well but needs some work. I have her on a harness and though she's typically ahead of me a good part of the time the leash is loose. Not always though, so when she starts pulling I stop for a few moments before continuing on. I'd like her to walk alongside, and will try to practice that inside the house with treats, though she's not too food motivated. Maybe some cooked chicken bits of higher value than kibble will motivate her to train with me...

She also has a high prey drive, and one of the problems with that is the only thing she wants to do in the backyard is hunt lizards under my plants, and it's so intense she's destroying the plants! I can't divert her at all throwing a ball she has no interest in, so the only other thing I can do is put her on leash and walk around the yard, or sit with her on leash, where she does relax but still has her eyes on the plants in the distance. Not being able to play fetch or run some energy off in the yard I think makes the leash walking a bit more difficult. Hoping to get her more toy motivated because fetch can be played inside as well… I do let her go off the path if she thinks she sees something like lizards on a walk, as long as she doesn't ruin someone else's greenery.

What is the thing about having your dog Willow "jump on random things"? What does that mean?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,127 Posts
What is the thing about having your dog Willow "jump on random things"? What does that mean?
Oh that was a confidence building exercise the trainer recommended. Like we're walking in the park and there's a bench or a rock, have her jump on it ("Up!") and mark and treat. Silly little tricks that make her feel accomplished and earn her a reward and make walks more interesting and help build the bond and focus with the handler, I guess.
 

·
Registered
Melody DOB 5-5-21, Maizey 11-3-09 to 3-10-19
Joined
·
96 Posts
Similar to Apex, I’m not qualified to give advice but can offer from my experience dealing with similar issues.

Being startled around a corner is 100% something we deal with. As we approach blind corners, I generally slow down ahead of time, have treats in hand and the dog on the opposite side from the blind corner, in heel position. Remember, it’s not just your dog that needs to be trusted, but also whether there’s a less trustworthy dog/owner coming around the corner, a kid or kids running carefree and not paying attention, a bicyclist, etc etc. edited to add, that when she’s been startled in the past whether from someone coming around a blind corner or just a sudden movement from anything (she’s in her second fear period so more of this lately), the behavior you and Banzai described (startled backing off/jumping away followed by a bark) is exactly the same as I see.

I don’t quite agree with Banzai’s characterization of LAT training. We don’t stop (necessarily) to do that. We let the situation develop naturally and let the dog decide whether to stop or keep moving. The key is positive vibe, treat at the ready or treat to the nose to break focus if needed, treating in the process and moving on. The point is that it’s ok to look at that and that thing is safe and we’re all good no worries here but also I’m still more interesting and fun than whatever that thing is so all eyes on me and you will be rewarded. It helps us to break up walks or build into walks some obedience work because then she knows to be “on” and it’s not just always a free walk.

I do totally agree with Banzai that confidence building and trust exercises sound like a key part of what you need to do. And I also hear you about being shaken initially but also glad to hear that with some time that emotion has subsided. Sounds like you’re a great and committed owner who is mindful of your limits and willing to push through them. Thanks for rescuing what I am sure is a dog with great potential and hope it works out!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,127 Posts
I don’t quite agree with Banzai’s characterization of LAT training. We don’t stop (necessarily) to do that. We let the situation develop naturally and let the dog decide whether to stop or keep moving. The key is positive vibe, treat at the ready or treat to the nose to break focus if needed, treating in the process and moving on. The point is that it’s ok to look at that and that thing is safe and we’re all good no worries here but also I’m still more interesting and fun than whatever that thing is so all eyes on me and you will be rewarded. It helps us to break up walks or build into walks some obedience work because then she knows to be “on” and it’s not just always a free walk.
Yeah I confuse "look at me" and "look at that" [LAT]. I know they work well for some people. I just never got the hang of it and found fumbling with leash and dog and markers and treats kinda difficult. So now I just tell her "leave it" and maybe do a gentle leash correction if I see her getting a bit too focused on something.

Honestly...yesterday I almost made a "braggs" thread on here because I was walking Willow home from the hardware store, stopped and waited for a stoplight, and three preteen kids on bikes/scooters came up and waited with us. One of them said, "I like your dog", and I said "thanks" and just kinda hoped they'd leave us alone. Willow ignored them. Then the light turned green and we walked across the intersection, and these bikes and scooters rolled past us in the crosswalk, feet from Willow, and she was totally calm. It felt like a huge win. :) Anyway not to hijack your post but...I guess the most important two things I've learned in the almost 3 years since I first brought Willow home, is 1) things that initially really bother you at first, turn out to not be such a big deal after a while, and/or you learn a way to manage them that is workable for you and 2) training and time both help a ton!
 

·
Registered
Melody DOB 5-5-21, Maizey 11-3-09 to 3-10-19
Joined
·
96 Posts
Ah, that’s my bad - didn’t read closely enough. Yeah, I prefer LAT personally to just jumping straight to focus on me, but I guess I’m using LAT more behavioral modification (meaning, de-escalating a hyper arousal state, or better yet if possible preempting a hyper arousal state) as a bridge to focus on me. You are right that some people just jump straight to focus on owner/handler without the LAT part which I suppose isn’t always necessary.

I should also say that our primary trainer is positive only so leash corrections are off limits and LAT is more positive in nature. That said, I am ok with a more balance approach that leans heavily toward treats and we do boarding through our breeder who then does training while our girl is boarded with them and they are definitely not positive only (although they put her with one of their trainers that is more aligned with a positive leaning, treat based balance).

Anyway, something else that occurred to me is also consider a flirt pole for training impulse control to work on and proof “wait” for obedience, which I’ve found very useful. A startle reflex is exactly that, a reflex. So, I imagine it could be hard to eliminate that. But a good “wait” can control what happens next. Especially if the first reaction is to back off, that might even be good because it provides more space and then you can do a “wait” to prevent any movement into the space that the dog created.

Then, you’ve got them in OB mode and can step back and do a heel where your stepping back will hopefully draw them towards you and create further space from the situation. If you are opposite your natural heel side then you can do a “touch” target to approximate a heel movement while stepping back to do the same thing if the heel side is closer to the action you want to avoid. Again, I’m not a trainer but these are the things we’ve been trained to do/consider in this sort of situation.
 
1 - 16 of 16 Posts
Top