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I am in a quandry and just beside myself. I came here and typed in "Puppy agression", read through a whole lot, but none of it seemed applicable (not really agression-just play, fear agression, food agression, etc). I am really upset and don't know who to ask.

First off, looking back, I made a HUGE mistake by choosing this breeder. I not only don't trust her, I think she is certifiable! I wouldn't call and ask her anything nor do I care to ever see her, again. This means asking her is out. Now, the mistake? I never got to see the parents, other than pictures. She said (and I could hear them) it's because they were both too aggressive to be around people. The male who was behind a wooden privacy fence sounded like he was going to rip the thing down and tear me apart. Honestly, and I swear this, I didn't realize that was a bad thing. Now, I do.

Anyway, on to the problem. I have an amazing and wonderful, loving girl who just turned 4 months old a few days ago. I am so attached to her and she to me. I very much love her. We play, we train, we do tricks, she eats great, gets vet care, etc. There are 3 other dogs in the house and she has always been fine with them, even the mouthy old man of the house who likes to get snipping with her if he is in a pissy mood (rest of the time he plays with her). She is fine with our daughter, our guests, us, the dogs.

The problem? First, it was taking her to class and she would not quit barking. This was the "strain at the collar, I'm gonna tear your face off" bark at the other dogs. Dogs that were close, dogs that were far, dogs who were moving or not. We sought a trainer to help with this and he worked wonders. She still "ruffs" a bit, but I distract quickly and usually it's nothing, now, or a slight "ruff", maybe two and then nothing. WAY better. I thought all was well...until today.

We went to the park, the one we usually do. I brought her two fave distractors, the treats and her ball. If I see sign of agression (ears up, struggle at collar, ruffing) then I start bouncing the ball. This has worked GREAT with people and other dogs, with one VITAL exception. Small kids. I honestly believe that if I did not have a full weight counter-bearing on her, she would tear them up. One little boy, about age 2, didn't listen to me or his mother or heed the dogs warning and just kept getting closer and closer. I was bouncing the ball...nothing. I did the treats...nothing (wouldn't even look at them). I made the usual sounds to get her attention, nothing. Finally, the kid was so close and I was trying everything to drag this dog away and the kid reached out a hand. I yelled at the same time the mom did (as in not the yelling she WAS doing but the panic scream of a fearful mother) and I had to physically grab her snout because I could see her lunging that little hand. I am not kidding! She was going to bite that little boy.

I am literally crying as I write this. As soon as he was gone, she was fine. I apologized, in tears, not even being prepared for that reaction. There was no threat!!! WTF??? I was talking to the kid nicely, I was talking to the mom, I wasn't acting nervous until I really saw she was not going to be controlled or distracted. This is the first time, ever, I have not been able to control her. This is, sadly, not the first time of showing child agression, though. The first time at the park, we walked by a toddler girl getting her little shoe tied by momma and she was barking and snarling but she was 12 weeks old and I just picked her up and kept walking.

Please tell me what I can do. I can't keep exposing her to kids if this will happen, thus desensitizing her to them. I don't even understand why on Earth this is happening. I tell you, outside of this, I didn't think she has an agressive bone in her big ol' body.

I have seen fear agressive dogs, too, and this isn't it. There is no shying away, ever. There is no hiding. There is no trying to nip as they walk by. There is none of that. Just "police dog at bad guy" aggression, dead on, in your face and ONLY with little kids now!

Please tell me I don't have to put my dog down. She is only 4 months old. What do I do?
 

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You need to work with a behaviorist, or a trainer who is experienced with this kind of thing. Not a class at PetSmart.

Most likely, the trainer will have you work with your dog on focusing on you when she sees something that riles her up. Does your dog know "watch me" or "focus"?
 

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I agree with Emoore - PetSmart isn't going to cut it (it never does lol). Call a qualified behaviorist because this issue can easily get out of hand if not nixed early.
 

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For what its worth....

First, she is a puppy. Puppies are not capable (usually) of self-control. Many, many times I have seen and worked with reactive dogs, that if the owner would not make it an issue, it would not BE an issue.

Quit taking her out around kids. Train her really, really, well. SIT means sit there, no barking, moving etc. Proof it at home... when you can throw her ball across the yard, put down a can of tuna, or do jumping jacks in front of her without her moving, then she is ready to start going out.
When you do start to take her out, watch your distance. The second she reacts, you are too close. And do not reach down and mess with her, grabbing the collar or the dog will make it worse. Quit tying to stick treats in her face..... turn around and walk away. Remember, you are bigger than she is.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
For what its worth....

First, she is a puppy. Puppies are not capable (usually) of self-control. Many, many times I have seen and worked with reactive dogs, that if the owner would not make it an issue, it would not BE an issue.

Quit taking her out around kids. Train her really, really, well. SIT means sit there, no barking, moving etc. Proof it at home... when you can throw her ball across the yard, put down a can of tuna, or do jumping jacks in front of her without her moving, then she is ready to start going out.
When you do start to take her out, watch your distance. And do not reach down and mess with her, grabbing the collar or the dog will make it worse. Quit tying to stick treats in her face..... turn around and walk away. Remember, you are bigger than she is.
I thought I made it clear but maybe I didn't...my fault. I didn't and have never made it an issue, thinking that if I ignore it then it will not reinforce any reaction. That wasn't working, and the incessant barking at other dogs got us removed from a club where no one even once offered a suggestion. This is why we went to a pro trainer for one-on-one. He absoultely calmed the other dog and adult human issue by the methods I described of distraction and ignoring the other being, just getting my girl to focus on me (he used treats but that doesn't work with me, only the bouncing ball does). This is what the pro German-based Schutzhund trainer, kennel owner said to do (they just moved here from Germany).

About the "don't take her out", I am really confused. I thought she is supposed to be taken out often and to lots of places to get her socialized. This is the first I've heard NOT to take a puppy out. I'm not being argumentative, honest to God, just trying to understand because this is a real problem. Also, what does this mean: " The second she reacts, you are too close."? If she growls, I'm supposed to back off her and let her go, did you mean I'm not supposed to be near her at all (she usually walks at heel) or am I misreading that completely?

If I had not grabbed her collar at that last second (and subsequently landed atop her) that little boy would be in the ER getting stitches right now and I'd likely have a dog at the pound getting ready to be put down. I am not exaggerating, she was gonna tear him apart. She had spit flying from her mouth, teeth bared, lunging toward him as he approached...I've never seen her like this (the other kid incident was not this bad, nor as any dog/adult incident)!! That's how he got so close. I kept trying to walk away and ignore it but she was being drug as she turned to keep trying to get to that little boy, who just would not stop coming toward her.

At home, inside or in the yard, she does "sit or down and stay" while I toss the ball, frisbee, food (not tuna but raw egg or raw chicken leg/wing), run around her, jump or walk away (though with walking away she will follow after about 5 seconds, still, and I have to put her back and start over) and will only get up when I say "ok" or "get it". She does this off leash or on...at home.

If I am reading this suggestion right, I just need to not take her outside or anywhere where kids may be nearby (trails, pet stores, parks, neighborhood walks) and just leave her in the house?
 

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Small kids are strange. They move weird, smell weird, and can be very unnerving to dogs. I remember taking Cade to a fair when he was younger, and he was good with all the animals (elephants, horses, other dogs), older children, adults, noise, etc. But I remember there was a little girl on her dad's shoulder and Dad put her down on the ground and she started to toddle...and Cade freaked. He got better over time with continued training and maturity and now is perfectly fine. And no I didn't go out of my way to expose him to children.

For safety reasons you cannot have this pup NEAR children, because it sounds like you are hard pressed to control her when she goes off. If she reacts you are to close to the CHILD. Distraction techniques work great when you are at the point where the reward is of more concern than the child/dog/etc. But ti sounds like this was too much adn once the brain goes that way...it's very difficult to break it. Personally- I don't know what kind of collar you are using, but I woudl use a nylon slip collar as that is what I have found most successful with reactive dogs and will likely give you more control than just a flat collar.

I would KEEP working with a trainer. And if you wouldn't mind PMing me...I would like to know where you picked up the pup and the SchH group you visited.
 

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About the "don't take her out", I am really confused. I thought she is supposed to be taken out often and to lots of places to get her socialized.
My opinion, again for what its worth…. If you are socializing and having episodes of growling, barking, lunging, etc—then your socializing is counterproductive. Your goal should not be to socialize, but rather to have an uneventful outing. For example, I see people all of the time with dogs who are uncomfortable with strangers. Sometimes the very worst thing that can be done, is to force the situation. Strangers should be asked to ignore this type of dog, not stare at them, touch them or toss them treats (and yes, it depends on the dog).

If she growls, I'm supposed to back off her and let her go, did you mean I'm not supposed to be near her at all (she usually walks at heel) or am I misreading that completely?
If she growls, you have already made a mistake. You are past her threshold. You should be watching for things like an intense look, forward movement (leaning) of her body, etc. Those will be your first cues that you are too close to whatever it is. You should immediately walk in the opposite direction, call her in a happy voice and do a sit or heel and reward. You need to change her “mood” before it escalates. Once it escalates, for many dogs, no toy or treat will break their fixation.

At home, inside or in the yard, she does "sit or down and stay" while I toss the ball, frisbee, food (not tuna but raw egg or raw chicken leg/wing), run around her, jump or walk away (though with walking away she will follow after about 5 seconds, still, and I have to put her back and start over) and will only get up when I say "ok" or "get it". She does this off leash or on...at home.
Sounds like you have a really good start.
When I take a reactive dog out in public, I need to know that they absolutely understand the command. I feel more confident and the dog picks up on that. Also, if they break the sit, they should understand that any correction is for breaking the sit. That is why “SIT” should mean a certain thing, which includes no growling, barking, whining.


If I am reading this suggestion right, I just need to not take her outside or anywhere where kids may be nearby (trails, pet stores, parks, neighborhood walks) and just leave her in the house?
Not really what I mean. What is the most important is to NOT have episodes like this. Every time it happens, it makes you more nervous, and it makes her learn to do it over and over. I always take reactive dogs out. But I am very, very, very careful not to go over the dog’s threshold, and I am constantly watching for my “safe escape” route
 

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I sent you a PM with all the info. I never thought about the little kid thing that way. I just assumed they would instinctively "know" that little kids are to be protected and are not a threat. This little boy lives across from the park and he ran away from his mom who was pushing a baby stroller with her new baby. The boy ran between the bushes to get to us while mom had to take stroller around to the paved lot access.

She was initially reacting to him as he was on the other side of the bushes, trying to get through, then when he popped through, she went ballistic. I also learned a lesson, taking a lot of the blame, because I just had surgery on my shoulder and was unable to control my 39# girl. Above all else, I won't take her to the park, again, without a helper or a healed shoulder. I never even considered there would be an issue, as the trainer who worked with her seemed to have the whole thing solved.

I was wrong for taking her when physically unable to control her if something arose, the mom was wrong for letting the kid run away from her, the kid was wrong for approaching a snarling dog after jumping through the bushes at her...it was all an unfortunate learning experience for all concerned.
 

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Same problem

I have the same issue with my GSD who is now 9 months old. She loves all people except young kids, probably younger than 10 or so. We also do not have children, so she has not been exposed a whole lot.

She had no problem with children or any other people until we invited my niece and nephew ( 3 and 5) over to meet her.
When she was a young puppy, she was ran at by both children when her back was to them (my neice and nephew) and she reacted in a protective way (she was about 4 or 5 months at the time). They were a little bigger than her and she did not like it. AT ALL. She barked and growled and ruffed up and after that she did not want them near her.

Now since then, she reacts this way to all children. We still take her out for socialization and if children are around, I am very careful with her. I will talk to the parent immediately and tell them to keep their child back and I put my dog in a down stay, sometimes dropping down to my dogs level just in case she were to get up from her stay. When we go on walks, she is now on a prong collar because she listens to that immediately. Have you tried a prong collar? Our breeder and trainers recommend them for quick corrections in obedience as long as they are placed in the correct positioning on their neck.

i am not fearful to take her in public or around children because I feel like I am in control of my dog and the situation. I think that communication with parents is important if children are around. I understand that this is not always the case since we were at a dog show a couple weeks ago and a child ran up to pet my dog, really startled her, and she went nuts growling and barking, and it took a good couple minutes to calm her down.

Not sure if this helps, but I think I understand what you are experiencing.
 

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Hmm... I'm wondering if these awful breeders attempted to "socialize" the puppies with children before you got your pup?

The "old school" (and incorrect!) method of "training" a dog to be okay with kids would be to let the kids poke, prod, and otherwise annoy/hurt the puppy and severely correct the dog if he/she so much as growls at the child. The dog will learn that children equal pain and misery, and some dogs start displaying behavior like you describe. They are actually very fearful of young children, and think, "I have to get them before they get me!"

I agree with the posters that recommended a good behavioral trainer. A regular trainer (petsmart or otherwise) simply isn't going to cut it. I would also recommend a full vet workup just to make sure there isn't something physical going on.
 

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I was bouncing the ball...nothing. I did the treats...nothing (wouldn't even look at them). I made the usual sounds to get her attention, nothing. Finally, the kid was so close and I was trying everything to drag this dog away and the kid reached out a hand.
First of all I fear for this dog if you are all ready saying "Please don't tell me i have to put this dog down". You have just begun the twists and turns of raising a pup and if your saying that already your in big trouble.

I am not an expert trainer and I think some people that have posted already have made some really good suggestions especially gagsd by saying "If she growls, you have already made a mistake. You are past her threshold. You should be watching for things like an intense look, forward movement (leaning) of her body, etc. "

I feel as though if your dog is barking, growling and basically freaking out and you are sitting there bouncing a ball that just sounds a bit ridiculous to me. A 4 month old pup has no idea what to do in situations where she is scared or unsure and needs some guidance from an owner. Bouncing a ball certainly is not guidance and giving treats for unwanted behavior will just reinforce this behavior.

Like
gagsd said already, at the first sign of heightened intensity you should be diverting her attention. Turn around, run backwards make her pay attention to you not the threat. Scary situation=look at mom/dad for direction

If you can not drag a 4 month old puppy away your going to be in a heap load of trouble with a strong full grown GSD.

 

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I agree with all the suggestions made especially Mary's.

You don't have to stop socializing her you just need to be aware of your surroundings and keep small kids away from her right now.

Masi was not fond of small kids, (no where near to the extent of your puppy)..to work thru it, out in public, we did exactly as Mary describes, removing from the situation before she had time to react. It didn't stop me from taking her everywhere I could, but I was very aware of 'where' we were and the surroundings.

I' also highly recommend a one on one behaviorist as suggested..just wanted to say if she is the gsd in your avatar she's gorgeous:)
 
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