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Please help - don't know what to do next

2542 Views 19 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  Timber1
Bit of backstory. We have a nearly 7 year old male (came from a puppy farm), neutered GSD. Has been in obedience since 6 months of age and doing agility since he was nearly 2. We haven't been able to get to an obedience class for the last year or so but have tried to work him at home.

He is very, very clever, will pick up tricks and exercises in minutes and does well for a GSD in agility - speedy and listens!!

He has always been 'grumpy' with other dogs so we have always been very aware and on top of him, although he was able to work offlead with other dogs around we wouldn't ever actually let him off lead just running just in case.

We have a 4.5 year old GSD bitch who he is 100% fine with, they play, run around and generally spend most of the day together. We also now have a 1 year old male (entire) who we have had since a pup, generally they are fine with each other - we have had a couple of incidents were pup has gotten out of line and Os (older one) has told him off (growling, putting mouth on neck/snout) but done no harm.

Os has been getting worse and worse will other dogs over the last year or so and will charge at them (growling) and make body contact which sounds and looks horrific but all he does is leave slober behind. This is obviously not acceptable at all so we have stepped up being more vigilant and checking every situation before we let him off lead.

Recently at agility classes and trials he has gotten worse and we have put him in a DAP collar and also using a homeopathic remedy to see if either help. Last night he also growled and snapped at a friend of ours who came over (during an agility lesson) to say hello - no contact was made but he was pretty obviously telling her to back off even though he has known her for years.

We had a complete (everything) thyroid panel done a month or so ago which came back fine and he has no obvious pain or physical problems.

Basically I am at my wits end and I just don't know what to do next. We would never rehome him, despite all this, as he is our problem but I don't know what else to do. I am toying with the idea of retiring him 100% from agility although I think this would turn him stir crazy as he really needs a job. Also, if he starts being agressive to people then I hate to think that I may have to have him pts.

Any thoughts, exercises, comments etc would be really appreciated.
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Quote: We also now have a 1 year old male (entire) who we have had since a pup, generally they are fine with each other - we have had a couple of incidents were pup has gotten out of line and Os (older one) has told him off (growling, putting mouth on neck/snout) but done no harm.
Quote: Os has been getting worse and worse will other dogs over the last year or so
Quote: We had a complete (everything) thyroid panel done a month or so ago which came back fine and he has no obvious pain or physical problems.
Since this seems to have started about the time the young male joined the pack, maybe your older male is afraid of losing his position.
And it is escalating as the young dog approaches maturity.

I would reinforce the older male's position as alpha so that he doesn't feel as if he has to defend it so strongly. Always feed him first, let him go out first, etc, and I would be very careful leaving them together for play.

Just my opinion.
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Has he always been aggressive? When you got him, was he socialized with other people and animals? Don't put him to sleep yet, if it's something such as socialization that he's lacking, then it's all about showing the dog that not everyone is bad. If you were to try to socialize him, I would not do it without a muzzle, if he's lunged and made contact, you never know when he's gonna bite down hard, or leave drool. By no means am I an expert, but I have had an aggressive dog before, and it's scary when they lunge and bite.
Not sure if this will help at all, but I am going through something similar with my guy. He is perfectly fine with my two females but will go off on other dogs when we walk. I am talking about barking, lunging and just plain scary.

So I did try to re-direct with food and almost lost a finger, I tried having him calmly sit which just made it worse.

Finally I found a GOOD trainer and discovered that I was contributing to the problem by expecting my dog to go off when we saw another dog. I would tense up and expect my dog to behave badly. So he did.

So I had to change the way I do things, basically I had to find my inner alpha. When we walk he is always in Heel position so that I have enough lead to give a correction, as soon as he sees the other dog, It is a quick hard correction with a very firm leave it. And I keep on walking correcting if needed, with a loose leash and a fuss command. and a serious "mom" voice.
I Expect and demand that he give me his attention and I am the leader, no more peeing on every tree and shrub and a lot more NILF at home.
After a few days of this we have made huge progress and actually passed six dogs last night with no barking or lunging.

Hope this helps.
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I think it would definately be a good idea to do what ThreeDogs did and go out and get a good trainer to work with you and your dog. Also, a lot people on here such as myself practice NILIF with our dogs, and if you aren't, then I think it would help you a lot.

If you don't practice NILIF here's a helpful link to get you started.
Based on your post I assume you have had the dog since he was a pup. I am not a big fan of trainers or dog shrinks, but in this case if you can find a good dog behavior specialist it might be worth it.
I did that for my GSD, and it was well worth it, because she nailed the characteristics of the dog's behavior and why he was becoming aggressive.

As an aside, I would never consider killing the dog.
You know your dog dynamics sound a lot like mine. I have a 9 year old GSD, Max, rescued at 18 months, neutered. Also have a 5 year spayed female, Kayos, who is fine with other dogs as we got her as a pup. Our current pup is 12 month old Havoc, who was just neutered.

Max has put Havoc in his place appropriately. A few times he got heavy handed and we had to step in. Last night he got very assertive with him and I wonder if it is hormones shifting? Max also is dog aggressive and I DID retire him from agility for that.

It does sound as if there are some hormones being thrown around and the dogs are josling for position in the household. I would insure you have a good Nothing In Life Is Free program in your pack. I would alos retire your guy from dog sports. This dog is an accident waiting to happen adn a liability for you.

I was devastated when Max went after a border collie at an agility trial. No bites or contact just noise and slobber like your guy. Retire him before he does make contact and puncture skin or get involved with a very good trainer to work hard on this issue. He can alwasy play at agility in your yard and go on hikes etc so he does stay active.

Good luck!
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Did you check specifically for Lyme's disease? I know it is a long shot. Having a dog be increasingly unfriendly as a young dog reaches maturity is not that uncommon, but that he is transferring it to humans is worth looking closer.

I do not know how they check for lymes disease but I know that it can cause serious aggression and when the dog is properly medicated it gets better.

I had to put my boy down at seven because he was in pain, but also getting increasingly aggressive toward toddlers, family members, and myself. As he hadn't cause serious damage or bitten any one but me, I might have been able to fix the issues with the NILIF methodology. I hope you have better luck with your boy.
Thanks all - I am definitely not going to have him PTS but seeing him lunge at a person really, really rattled me as he has never done anything to people before. We have been working with him for 6 .5 years now on his 'issues' and I have no intention of giving up now - I think I wrote the post when I was still panicing. We have had him since a pup although my parents had him most days for the first 6 months - he wasn't extensively socialised then but has been since.

We do use NILIF with him but I think I will step it up. We also reinforce his alpha status all the time (feeding, play, but do sometimes let pup and our bitch out first - will look to change that too!) We will also look into a behaviourist but they seem to be thin on the ground here in the south of the UK. I have never tested for Lyme's disease as it isn't that prevalent in the UK but will have a chat to the vets about it.
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What do you do when he lunges at a dog or person? What are you going before it happens? Is he corrected, or how is it addressed?
Have you heard of Jan Fennell, The Dog Listener? She's from YOUR neck of the woods.

If I were you I'd try to communicate with her and maybe attend a clinic/seminar/whatever. is her website with tons of info.
When around other dogs he is kept on a headcollar and is *nostly* being worked, hellwork, finishes, stays, holding dumbbell etc. Sometimes he will be played with (tug with his lead).

If he does growl, bark or lunge he is told no (very strongly), redirected into obedience work or else (if it is very bad like early in the week when he lunged at a person) he is put to the floor (not an alpha roll but made to lay flat on the floor).

We have had people comment in the past that we are hard on him when he reacts like this..... Mind you they weren't GSD people!
We'll things have rapidly gone downhill. Last week at training he caught a bar and went slightly lame, my OH and the trainer were checking him over and as the trainer stood up to walk away he bit her. Fortunately the damage is not great to her and she wants us to work through the problems but it has shaken us further.

I believe that he may think that he is being protective of us when other people are around and getting into 'our' space, so from now on he is muzzled when in public and agility is no longer.

I can't believe things have gone downhill so rapidly.

(We already use all the Jan Fennell stuff in day to day life).
Jayne, can you arrange a meeting with Jan Fennell? Or are any clinics/seminars listed in you area you could attend?

Nice to have a new set of eyes look at the situation and evaluate it.

It does NOT sound like 'protection' to me. Biting someone as they are leaving is a 'fear' thing. He's not biting cause people are in YOUR space. He's biting cause they are in HIS space and he can't bear the stress it causes. Along with the fact if I am calm and saying someone is ok, my dog shouldn't just react on their own but be cuing from me.

I can't remember if you have the DVD 'Calming Signals' by Turid Rugaas? This DVD was a huge heads up for me learning to see if my dog is on edge (not calm) by all the subtle signals they constantly are throwing out, but we only see the final one when they bite or otherwise react badly.
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Jan Fennelll is really far North from us but I had a quick look at the associates list and there is one closer who I will try and contact. At this point in time I am willing to try anything rather than loose my boy.

I don't have the dvd of calming signals but do have the book - it's just having to be 100% aware of him all the time and applying it all which is difficult and we are learning to do.
Wow, your last post, trying to bite the trainer reminds me a bit of my dog, Timber.

MRL recommdend Jan Fennell, and I wish she was closer to you. The kicker, of course, is finding someone competent to evaluate the dog.

As I mentioned, Timber had so similar problems, albeit not identical.

Send me a note, mention your post, and I will give you a recap of what the suggestions were from my behaviorist. I will also provide her name, if you wish to follow up.
Would you mind recapping the suggestions here for the rest of us? Thank you.

I found the DVD on Calming Signal MUCH better than the book. She must have filmed hundreds of hours of dogs to get the best clips to best display what we are supposed to look at.

The fact that many of the dogs are GSD's made it even easier for me to recognize in my own dog.
Could it be he is taking his role as alpha too seriously? I would think you couldn't allow any of your dogs to be alpha, since you are.
I read somewhere that two dogs are two dogs, but three dogs are a pack. Pack dynamics are a total shame because I would never suggest you get rid of any dogs now that you have them.
I so hope that the Jan Fennell associate is able to help. Please let us know how it turns out

I am sorry but I will not recap her suggestions on this board. German Shepherds are all a bit different, and in Timber's case her suggestions worked well. I have also provided a great deal of information in prior posts, and some disagree. Suffice it to say I have no desire to try and defend her advice again.

I will add I have another German Shepherd, female, and she is the most friendly and non-protective dog I have ever seen.

A few things she did mention. First, there is a hugh differance between a Male European GSD, and even other Shepherds bred for different purposes. Secondly, I need to spend more time understanding my dog and why he reacts aggressively in certain situations. Of course, the advice on training went beyond that, and initially involved controlling the in one on one situations, whether a biker, jogger or other dog.

Ironically, since a pup large crowds were never an issue.
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