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Hi Everyone.

I'm sorry to say I have to ask this question as I'm started to get frustrated and need to know what I need to be doing.

So my dog Olivia is officially turning one in 9 days! However I'm still having issues with her training and socialization.

I've done positive exclusively for the past 10 months I've had my dog, however aside form very minimal changes (due to general exposure) we've had hardly any progress.

She is a fearful dog but on the vocal (barking/growling) side. However should someone touch her she will back up and move and come back. We have been told this is her personality by various trainers so no debating on that. She also has lots of anxiety when new or unusual things happen.

When she is introduced to a new person she gets what seems like tunnel vision. She will not listen to commands (unless you physically force her to) and will not take treats no matter what they are. Could be chicken or cheese and she still could care less. You can shove it in her mouth but she just swallows and continues with no acknowledgement.

Which leads me to think I need something to break that mind barrier she has. I love her so much but I'm at my wits ends with the behaviors I'll talk about later. I would never get rid of her but she stops us from doing anything outside of the house and it's getting frustrating. We can't take her anywhere and she refused to let anyone in the house without an hour plus barking and growling at them (more if its a man.)

I say a video that showed a man who uses a mixture of positive and negative reinforcement and it was with a dog that acted exactly like her. Everything from behavior to dogs and to people to her breed, same exact. He said the dog was fearful and anxious but because she had never been given boundaries or told what was ok so she behaved like this. Sounds very similar to my own dog.

In his video he showed the dog receiving treats at moments when they were quiet and focused but when the dog lashed out he (the dog had a prong on) pulled the dog away and got closer over time to the object of issue. He popped the dog rarely and only when necessary (unlike some trainers I've seen who just go crazy popping.) By the end of the video (about an hour session condensed) the dog was happy and calm being by another person and dog (obviously not having contact as they weren't there yet.)

This seemed like a perfect idea since it was exactly like how my dog acts when strangers and other dogs come by (I'll include the video so you can see, it's the exact same behavior and all.) I'd like to know what your opinions on this is.

I really need something other then strictly positive as it isn't working and believe me I've tried. I'd like to go with the prong method even though I do have a shock collar (never used) because I myself would rather be popped then shocked. I've shocked myself up to 5 on the collar and I couldn't do that to my dog. However I would feel more comfortable with a prong as I know it won't hurt her (more a distraction as opposed to the pain of a shock collar.)

For my dogs behaviors here they are.

Strangers - Barking/Growling/Lunging but backing away once they try to touch her. Takes several sessions before she likes someone but once she does you can't get her off them. Loves to lick and give hugs.

Dogs - Calm mellow dogs are no issue. However high energy dogs (aka perfect playmate) she barks and growls at and I have never successfully introduced her to one.

Dogs Surprise - When a dog runs up to her or turns a corner she's fine with saying hi (even high energy dogs) but after a minute resumes her defensive personality. I only know this because people in her puppy class always had dogs that would get off the collar and leash and beeline for my dog. I just dropped the leash and stepped away per the trainers suggestion.

Off Leash with Dogs - (Unknown that it) she will charge them like she's going to get them but moves away. This is not in a playful way however. She has tried playing with the group play (barking and running) but as soon as she's engaged becomes defensive.

Strangers at a Distance - No issue. She could care less if we walk past them even an inch away as long as they don't say hi or interact with her. If she sees someone across the street she gets super happy and excited but its like a trigger is switched when she gets close to them. It's like she just doesn't know how to act around them once up close. Side note it is excitement it's the same reaction when she has someone comes over she knows.

Dogs at a Distance - Again gets super excited to say hi and wags tail like she knows them, but once up close it's like a flip being switched and she resumes being defensive. It's like two different dogs in these situations, ones a happy lab and ones a fearful unsocialized dog.

I have high hopes that she could be happy with strangers and random dogs after some boundaries and training. She gets excited it's just up close she doesn't know how to act. She was under socialized when I got her at 2 months old (she's a rescue) and she has gotten better but not as much as I was hoping.

(She is not in puppy class at the moment)

This is the video. Please watch a bit before commenting so you can see what I'm talking about.


Just hoping to get some advice please.
 

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Couple things

1. A GSD has physiological differences that make comparison for things like ecollars problematic, so I wouldn’t read as much into it as you’re doing. But also the point of them, is when a dog is ignoring a known command to “snap them out of it” (by it I mean tunnel vision). It’s supposed to hurt enough to accomplish that.

2. Is there anything else she likes? Ball, tug toy? All you mentioned was food. See if she’ll interact with a toy.

3. Don’t go buy a prong collar slap it on and get to work. This is something you need to be shown by a trainer, there’s a technique to it.

4. Before I tried a prong, i would get a fur saver and see how she interacts with that. Double it over to get it nice and tight and high up on the neck behind the ear. See if she will listen when given corrections with that.

Reason I say that is there’s pressure points behind the dogs ears. You give a correction this way it’s a duller more miserable pain that tends to clear the mind rather quickly. (If you’ve ever had someone push on a pressure point you’ll know what I’m talking about LOL). Point being, with some dogs prongs can amp them up more. (Sudden sharp pain, triggering the fight/flight)

5. Finally I don’t get what you’re trying to accomplish at all. I don’t get why your dog needs to like other dogs, needs to play with rough high drive dogs, needs to be happy around strangers. Get her to where she ignores them completely and reassess.

I’m not one of the dog fear reactive experts here by any means, but a trainer telling you to drop the leash and leave your dog to fend for herself to a strange dog sprinting towards her.... that makes absolutely no sense to me. Showing a fearful dog that she has to fend for herself? How on earth is that helpful?

This sort of thing is why this website as a whole doesn’t like “all positive”. She’s not a golden retriever, she’s not supposed to like everybody. She’s supposed to have some traits, that make depending on her kind disposition to win out a poor decision.

So again, that’s where I’d start. Ease back and stop putting her under so much pressure. Control the interactions she has, step between her and another dog to show her you’ve got her back, see if you can’t find something that wins over distractions, and if necessary see if correcting with a fursaver gets the job done.
 

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I would have to say I agree with Tennessee, I dont see why she has to be happy with people or dogs. I actually dont like other people coming up and petting my dogs and unless I really know a dog I never let them interact. Almost 2 years ago I brought my one pup (mutt) up to my moms, and even tho her dog knew Dixon, Otis went after him and drew blood. Some dogs have there own "pack" and I know that all of mine get along and what to look for to avoid fighting but a random dog running at any of them? That's just trouble in dog language.

Also keep in mind, just because a dogs tail is wagging dosnt mean there happy. That can be a sign of anxiety or stress, kinda like when you tap your foot on the ground waiting in line.

Those are just my opinions but I'm also not a people person and like my space so I would prefer my dog to just ignore l, focus on me and that's it really.
 

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My gal-dog is suspicious and shy. As a pup she seemed so brave and curious and then around her 2nd heat, her shyness became more evident. She is now 3 and doing pretty well. I don't expect her to accept petting from strangers. She tolerates it now and even might go investigate a stranger on her own. We did this not with rewards but with distance. We told strangers to ignore her, totally. We did use a prong pop for reactive behavior. The reactivity might come from being on the leash, they have no way to escape so they think they need to strike out first. That may be why a trainer may suggest dropping the leash. Now my dog knows that leash or not, she is not forced to deal with strangers. She can decide for herself. It made a huge difference.

As far as other dogs, I don't take her to play with strange dogs. My two play together in the yard and sometimes in the house. When I had just one dog we did "play dates" with people we trusted. But my boy plays rough so those were rare. Our poor dogs don't often get to be "doggy". They are so restricted in their movements by our laws, other people not training their dogs, etc, that they don't get the chance to learn dog social skills from each other. Things they might have learned when they were little, we often have to teach after the fact and that takes a lot of time and patience.
 

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My gal-dog is suspicious and shy. As a pup she seemed so brave and curious and then around her 2nd heat, her shyness became more evident. She is now 3 and doing pretty well. I don't expect her to accept petting from strangers. She tolerates it now and even might go investigate a stranger on her own. We did this not with rewards but with distance. We told strangers to ignore her, totally. We did use a prong pop for reactive behavior. The reactivity might come from being on the leash, they have no way to escape so they think they need to strike out first. That may be why a trainer may suggest dropping the leash. Now my dog knows that leash or not, she is not forced to deal with strangers. She can decide for herself. It made a huge difference.

As far as other dogs, I don't take her to play with strange dogs. My two play together in the yard and sometimes in the house. When I had just one dog we did "play dates" with people we trusted. But my boy plays rough so those were rare. Our poor dogs don't often get to be "doggy". They are so restricted in their movements by our laws, other people not training their dogs, etc, that they don't get the chance to learn dog social skills from each other. Things they might have learned when they were little, we often have to teach after the fact and that takes a lot of time and patience.
Good point Car, I didn’t consider that but it makes sense in context after reading the OP again from a different perspective.

Never wise with just a snippet of a story
 

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A fearful dog will be much easier to manage when she feels safe rather than forced into situations that she can't handle.My boy is fearful of strangers and I spent a lot of time figuring out how to keep him calm in various situations.Observation from a comfortable distance is a good place to start.A "watch me" command is very useful if you need to hustle past a scenario that's unavoidable - your dog will focus on you instead of stressing over the scary thing as you whisk by it.
Taking a basic obedience class was a huge help for us.We spent the first two classes way off to the side so he could understand that it was indeed possible to be near strangers and nothing bad happened.By the third class we had figured out his comfort zone was juuust out of arms reach from another person.If someone got too close he would step behind me and stay calm.
Now we can go pretty much anywhere and you'd never guess he has an aversion to people unless they reach toward him.He'll just pop behind me and avoid them.
 
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Your comment about strangers at a distance is a bit confusing. Is she is able to walk past a stranger within an inch of her without reacting then Imho, she is making great progress. The issue I'm getting is that you were hoping that she will automatically accept attention from a stranger and when she doesn't and reacts, it is disappointing.

Whether it is genetic nerves or how she was raised as a very young pup, I think the only way to get past some of this is to change your mindset. Really look at her and try seeing, hearing smelling as she does. Can you really see her as "happy" interacting with everyone and every dog? Do you experience her complete happiness when she is just with you while playing and training? Does she feel completely safe while you are by her side. If not, perhaps your goals for right now should be the latter.


"I have high hopes that she could be happy with strangers and random dogs after some boundaries and training. She gets excited it's just up close she doesn't know how to act. She was under socialized when I got her at 2 months old (she's a rescue) and she has gotten better but not as much as I was hoping."

"Strangers at a Distance - No issue. She could care less if we walk past them even an inch away as long as they don't say hi or interact with her."

How happy will you be after everything that you are able to try still comes out with a dog who will react under certain circomestances? I think after everything that you have posted about her reactivity in this thread and other threads, she has been consistent in letting you know where her boundaries are and what her temperament is. I think that going forward you need to keep this in mind and respect it.

It doesn't mean that you have to accept bad behavior but how you correct it needs to be tempered with who she is. What I'm saying leads up to your question of the prong. My caution as others have stated, do not put one on her without a very knowledgeable trainer to teach you. With her fear/shyness/ nerve issues, a poorly timed or inappropriately harsh correction can set her ablilty to "walk past strangers within an inch with no problem" way back.

Also you asked about the video. But I'm wondering what you saw. At first I saw an owner with his dog lunging at another dog at the gated entrance way, the prong collar (if it was a prong) was not placed correctly, it was too low on the neck. (Should be up high on the neck) nor did I see the owner observe the dog and respond correctly at the first sign (tense body) when the door opened. The dog was able to lunge and prong pressure continued which amped the dog more and improper use of a prong collar imho.

I'm not sure you noticed, but further in the vid (without the other dog present, when the trainer was handling the dog, that dog at first was acting anxious and focusing on the people sitting. A lot of lip licking etc. but did you notice that the dog's focus was pin pointed to his owner that was sitting with the rest of the group? Also, unless I missed it, the trainer did not give treats as a reward, he used calm praise.

I'm pointing the last sentence out in case you thought that the dog was acting anxious just because of the group sitting as a whole and didn't see that it was probably more the fact that the dog wanted to be with owner.

I'm not critiquing the vid as I have no right or business to do so. I'm just pointing out some observations that I made that you may have missed.

I think a good trainer can help you and your girl but I also think that you should look back and reread all your threads and the replies concerning these issues so that the 20/20 hindsight doesn't nip you in the backside years down the road.

Fwiw, my backside has been nipped so many times from that 20/20 hindsight vision while figuring me and my own boy out.
 

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Hi everyone!

I'd like to say first that my issue with her reactiveness is due to strange (often terratorial) dogs that are offleash in my neighborhood and young children who I worry will not know not to hug or pet my dog.

However I've come to the conclusion that whatever happens in life will happen and that I need to manage but I can't control my dog.

What I need to be looking into instead of a controlling method is confidence building. I've seen her when she was younger with strangers be happy and kiss them if they weren't trying to pet or hug her. Which is why I think she can be happy to an extent with people.

I have a suspicion that after my vet was rough with her and yelled at her (at 3-4 months old) that this is where the issues have escalated from. She did nothing wrong except try to back away and I think our vet was having a really bad day.

She's never had a good trip to the vet since. We still use the office but I no longer use that vet which is unfortunate because he's always and still is great with our cats. She won't even enter the building anymore.

I don't force her into interactions and I know my post doesn't really convey that well. The only time she's forces into interactions is when someone comes over she doesn't know. However I keep her back until she calms down and I never force her to greet someone.

Also regarding the video I think I mixed up the videos I was talking about. However I realize that my info was incorrect about that one.

So from now on I'm going to take life as it comes and while I will manage my dog she is a dog and I can only do so much. Having this perfect dog I initially thought I had is not the reality and I need to focus on her.

From now on I will be taking her places for more exposure but not pushing her into anything.

She's a great dog and what I need. She challenges me and she's a very active dog. We play all day and she runs with me and comforts me when I need her.

What I need to do is focus on how amazing my dog is and then building up her confidence. Things could be way worse and I need to love my dog for who she is.

This is going to be my final post regarding these things as I feel like I've finally figured it out.

We are going on her second hike this weekend and I'll take a few pictures during it ?

Thanks for all the help!
Alyssa
 

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Alyssa, you obviously love your dog and have done a lot for her and put careful thought into her issues. I just wanted to add this for your consideration concerning her confidence as it has been a blessing to us.

If she can get to a point where she can tolerate other dogs at a reasonable distance and you find a method where she will listen to you, (a good trainer can help you with choosing a method and help you perfect the use of it) then it could be worth you while to look into NoseWorks as a sport that you and she can do together. The NACSW welcomes all dogs, even reactive ones as long as the owner has control and the dog is not normally aggressive. There are rules put in place for the dog's who need extra space. I know you would be welcome very kindly as they have a soft spot for rescued dogs and even offer a special award during each trial for a rescue who has titled.

If your girl loves to sniff and track while hiking, this may be just right for you. It has been an amazing confidence builder for my boy and me and it is something that he loves doing so his mind is on the sport instead of other people and their dogs.

And you do have an amazing dog. I know because I also have an amazingly wonderful dog who through his reactive issues has taught me what I never would have learned without him.
 

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All of the behaviors you describe, sound like a dog who wants strange humans and strange dogs to Keep Their Distance. She is nervous and tense in their presence - whether approached by people on the street, loose with other dogs, people coming into the home, etc.

So when out and about, I would try finding the Distance that she needs to be relaxed...and respect that. Keep the distance, keep her calm, be pleasant and relaxed, give her treats. When you have gone a while without outbursts, shorten the distance. And repeat...this way is slow and systematic and tedious BUT it's unlikely to have "fallout".

I believe that prongs should be used under guidance of a pro trainer. Jerking the prong at the wrong time, can cause your dog to make associations like "other dogs approaching = Pain". It could make her anxiety worse. (This is pretty much what everybody else has already said, sorry.)

Maybe when people come over, she could be in her crate. and after people have settled down and are sitting around, you can casually open crate door. She can come out if she wants, but if she prefers to stay in there, that's fine too. Let her emerge on her own when she wants, and approach people if she wants, but don't let people be all over her.

I used to be somebody who had to walk at weird times of the day, cross the street, and hide strategically behind bushes and cars! And he used to lunge after joggers and bikes. We now can go anywhere at any time - it wasn't anything special, just daily consistent teaching of how I expect him to behave ("look at me", treats for passing calmly, correction & reprimand if he lunges after a jogger, etc).

And lastly, don't underestimate how much your dog looks up to you! Mine, when he sees a strange object or hears a strange noise, will look at me. I catch him scanning my face and "checking in" to see how bad I think it is...so make sure you're relaxed yourself when passing other people and dogs.

Hope things get better! For us, it was improvement + setbacks - like, you think he's doing better and then one day you turn the corner and find a lunging barking dog at the end of its leash, nose to nose with your dog...:-\



PS There is no such thing as a perfect dog anyway.

PPS Happy First Birthday to Olivia!
 

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If your girl loves to sniff and track while hiking, this may be just right for you. It has been an amazing confidence builder for my boy and me and it is something that he loves doing so his mind is on the sport instead of other people and their dogs.

My gal, once she learned what man-trailing / tracking was, she loved it. In fact today we had one heck of a track through rough woods, muddy streams, under fallen logs, past thorns...and we had a ball!
 

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I have one of those dogs to, Alyssa. I am a 25 year old female of less than 50kg, and I own an 8 month old male pup of 34kg who happens to be reactive. Then again, right now we are seeing the light for the first time. He started like this around the time he got better from Parvo, before it, he was quite social, he loved people and smelling small dogs.

We tried to fix it with a trainer at group classes. It was a terrible mistake. The trainer got him scared many of the first classes. But he got to a point in which he could be in "stay" even next to other dogs, with me and other people walking around in the class. In the class he was close to perfect, out of it, he was a mess.

We stopped going to those classes cause of mine and my sister's schedule, also because we personally hated our pretentious trainer and because I lost my better income and got a not so good one with my job. But we learned a few things from there, like walking with a leash, and putting up and using a prong (he made sure we knew how and when to correct). He also kept saying our pup is a nice dog and we should trust him (from his good lines).

So, after we left the class, I bought a front ring harness and a Herm Sprenger prong. We started working confidence with the harness and a martingale, we took him to lonely places, with no more than a person or two every once in a while. We explored and allowed him to explore.

Then we got to the point of walking around parks, with kids, dogs and people, but kept our distance from them. We would only enter the park at 3 or 4 in the afternoon when close to no one was there. He loved it. So, we kept working, getting closer to the park when people was there. Till the point, we finally got in. We just kept our distance inside the park.

Then we started with the prong. Now we walk inside the park closer to people and dogs with it (kids and people have gotten really really close sometimes, there was even a kid that came straight to us in a bike and asked to pet him, we said No, and our puppy remained sitted just 10 inches from the kid and bike). We feel more confident and he feels more confident. My sister and I, we are really nervous people, so we might had transfer some of that to him before, but we are trying our best to control ourselves. Sometimes we shoot videos of each other to see what we do wrong. We take him to an outdoor mall sometimes, and he is doing far better now.

On a side note, my dad also walks our puppy, and he is bigger and with more experience with GSD (never a reactive one though), but he walks the pup with regular flat collar most of the time, and he gets quite good results lately. He gets reactive, but my dad says No and he calms till the point he is down or sitted while my dad talks to people out there, he also has a great recall with my dad.

We are not in a perfect spot now, and I do wonder if a should muzzled him to get him to interact with other known pups (not sure yet, but sounds like an idea), but we keep working. We use a lot of treats, and we keep things with the prong. The prong collar makes things better when it comes to his size and strength. He is also pretty focused when he uses it. We make sure the leash is not tight and he does not get corrections when he does not deserves them. He loves to see the prong collar out, cause it means he is going places (and he loves going places haha). Other than what our trainer said and instructed us, we have read a lot of articles and forums and everything online (in english and spanish), we keep trying things, and keep trying them (he is still quite reactive in the front house fence, crazy mode), but other than that, our walks and outings are far far better. I do not need a dog that loves people/dogs, just want him to know they have the right to breath around him.

To make my point. Things get better, but with a lot of patience and the tools you need.


ps. We are not from the US.
 

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My gal, once she learned what man-trailing / tracking was, she loved it. In fact today we had one heck of a track through rough woods, muddy streams, under fallen logs, past thorns...and we had a ball!
This is so off topic but that made me chuckle. I go into off beaten path woods just to give us alone time breathing space. The muddy streams, fallen logs and thorns are just a plus.:grin2:
 
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You have been given a lot of good advice on this thread. I too have a dog that can be reactive around strangers. (She gets all wiggly and acts like a flock of seagulls but I recognize it as her way of dealing with the anxiety of the situation.) We do take her out to public places but keep her on a short leash. When strangers try to come up to her, especially children, we tell them NO and sometimes we have to be adamant about it. Some people ask and some don't but if I'm alert and I can avoid most situations. I also often use a head halter on her when out and about. The halter, e.g. Gentle Leader (which she hates, btw) serves as a distraction and she will then revert to what she's been trained to do. Once she gets used to a place, I can usually forgo the halter. It might help you if you know you are going to be in a crowded environment that would be stressful to the dog.
 
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