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Hi all, my male GSD is a little over 6mo now. He started getting reactive around 4.5mo where he barks, growls, hackles, and lunges at almost every dog he sees and most people. This happens on walks and when he sees or hears things in the house, he’ll also do that for any squirrels or birds he sees through the window. He’s very friendly with people once he gets close enough to greet hem and he’s never shown any inclination to bite someone.

I brought him for a behavioral consult yesterday and the trainer says he’s afraid of new things and tries to act scary to keep everything new away. I’ve been told to get hot dogs and go expose him to people and dogs from a distance he’s comfortable with and heavily praise him looking at them but not reacting until it rewires that response.

I got him from a breeder a 8 weeks that is well recommended on this site and his breeding lines looked good. Lockdown is still an issue so going to obedience classes are impossible currently, but he’s got most of the basic commands somewhat down. He currently goes to daycare twice a week and does well there, he stayed on the fringes originally but has started playing with the group recently after warming up for a few weeks. He’s been to the dog park a few times but I stopped after he got spooked by another dog for no apparent reason once and hid by me while hackling and barking when the dog got curious (dog was friendly and wasn’t even paying attention to him when he decided he was afraid). For socialization as a younger puppy I carried him in a few stores and tried to expose him to different things but I’m guessing I didn’t do enough considering his issues.

Does anyone have any further tips to work on this or success stories? I’m just really trying to hold on to hope that he will turn out okay in the end and that I’m not forever going to have a fear aggressive dog that I can’t really bring anywhere without having it be stressful for everyone. He’s also a cryptorchid so I’m kind of bummed that i thought I was getting a high quality working line dog, but ended up with a genetic defect and weak nerves (don’t get me wrong I love my dog and would never get rid of him, just not what I expected from a reputable breeder). Thanks!
 

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I would caution you regarding your conclusion that your dog has weak nerves based on a little reactivity on leash. It happens a lot, and more often than not can be resolved pretty easily.

The main thing is for you to keep calm and not to tense up whenever a dog or person comes around! Your puppy feeds on your tension more than you can imagine!

Sounds simple, and it is, but it is not easy. So you have to really work at it! It's also very helpful to give the puppy something to do to help him work through his tension. Does he know heel? I like that best because they keep moving, so the pressure the pup feels eases more quickly. And do start at a distance as your trainer advised, and work your way closer over time incrementally.

The main thing is you want to control the environment so your puppy isn't practicing this undesirable behavior. So take your dog only around other on leash dogs, and don't allow any interaction while practicing. Praise profusely for non reactive encounters, and give a leash pop and/tor a verbal correction for bad behavior. Catching him before he's reacting, when you see him starting to build up.

Upstate Canine Academy has lots of good videos on leash reactivity. Watch closely at the timing, and mimic that as closely as you can!

Definitely a fixable issue.
 

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I've got a very similar issue with my 6 month GSD Heidi. She is also reacting due to fear, I'm thinking of consulting a Professional but if possible I am trying to fix it myself as trainers are pretty expensive. So far I have tried to walk away, keep a distance and give treats and walking past quickly but I am not sure if I have made progress. If you find a method that helps, it would be appreciated if you can share with me. Thanks and good luck, it is hard. 😊
 

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I would caution you regarding your conclusion that your dog has weak nerves based on a little reactivity on leash
After over a year with my dog, I have come to the conclusion that there are several causes for my dog's leash reactivity. I have not read much about them so I might be completely off base:
1. Prey drive. My dog is very prey-driven. Sometimes he reacts to small dogs who scurry around like prey.
2. Predator protection. For Ole, this appears subtly different than fear or aggression-based reactivity. This generally happens when we come across a large, assertive, and unknown dog. Pup seems to react with a business-like, I don't know you or trust you. I will chase you away unless someone lets me know that your presence is acceptable.
3. Frustration. With his buddies, Ole shows signs of frustration that he wants to interact with them without the confines of the leash.
4. Confusion. Sometimes it seems like Ole and the other dog, are frustrated and confused because they can't use their natural forms of communication.

Maybe I am making this too complicated.... But over the last year, I have spent hundreds of hours wanding around with my Dog which gives me plenty of time to think:)
 

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@davewis I see just two causes -frustration (1,3,4) and insecurity (2). Insecurity will go away with age and positive experience paired with good handling, it’s not always a nerve issue.

I’ve learned a wonderful new command that I use a lot now: “On By!” It means go by any distractions without stopping, slowing down etc. The distractions are dogs, squirrels, birds, bikes, fire hydrants, anything that may be a trigger. It’s different from leave it because there is no stopping, he knows that stopping will not happen, and his job is just to carry on with moving forward, simple.

I’m walking my dog ahead of me and work on direction commands in preparation for running when he gets older.
 

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I agree with above posters about the dog being too young to call it "bad nerves". I think the dog just needs to learn how to navigate life in your environment. Also the car and dog reactivity can be for 2 different reasons.

Few things that have helped us.
1. Long downs at safe distance watching the world .. cars, dogs, kids, people on bicycles etc.
2. Distraction using a toy (we use a ball on string) and reward being the toy or a little game of tug.
3. For car reactivity couple of weeks of 30 minutes of daily walks by the side of a daily busy road starting with making sure she knows what you don't want her doing and then rewarding when she behaves appropriately.

Things that have not worked.
1. Making the dog sit while walking and letting the other dog/reactive element go by. This works well if you notice/see the reactive element before the dog, otherwise I felt the dog almost feels like she has to backoff when she sees a car or dog.
2. Prong collar for dog reactivity. The having a toy in hand that the dog wants more than anything works wonders and is way less conflict than a prong collar. The dog can still be on a prong but use should be limited to when really needed.

Again I am no expert, above is just our experience and I am learning everyday from this forum, the internet and the way my dog responds to the training.
 

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My dog was reactive at 3-5 months but we worked through it. She is completely solid now. I wouldn’t say it is due to weak nerves. From what I’ve read lots of pups have a bit of that at around the 3-6 month age even ones from reputable breeders.
Hi, I am wondering how you worked through it. I need help with this issue. Thanks.😀
 

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Hi, I am wondering how you worked through it. I need help with this issue. Thanks.😀
This is one of my old posts that summarized what I did. If you read my old posts, you’ll see I was initially quite worried about the reactivity and made a lot of beginners mistakes with her like taking her to the dog park, doggy daycare etc when she was still in that insecure stage at 14 weeks. Despite it all, we pulled through and she’s great with dogs of all breeds now.

 

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Thanks so much for the response, I have actually been teaching her the 'heel' and 'leave it' and 'this way' commands and I have been on a walk without her reacting for the first time in months. It really helps. 😀
 
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