German Shepherds Forum banner

1 - 8 of 8 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
16 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Reactivity - can it be "trained out" or do I need to accept that my dog is a pest?

Hi guys,

I have a male who is now about 11 months old. He's generally well behaved - he's a delight with us (his owners), he's obedient, easy to train, keen to learn, and well, just generally a lovely dog.

We have one issue with him - strangers. When I walk him off of his lead (In the UK - pretty standard to have your dogs off lead), he's usually good. He ignores most people - I've successfully taught him to ignore bikes, cars and runners. He's also now faaaiirly good with other dogs. He's never been one for playing with other dogs, but generally he just ignores them. Occasionally, he'll have a bark at one but no dogs have found this offensive so far. He doesn't look or sound aggressive.

The problem I have is this. He's a big, cuddly white GSD and people just assume it is ok to approach him. It isn't. Off his lead, he will generally just back away from them, but when he's on his lead I have a big problem with people just grabbing him as they walk past him or talking to him as they walk past etc.

This is particularly apparent if we go to the town centre. We quite often walk him into town and my girlfriend will pop into the shops while we wait outside. This stresses him out, but generally he is fine until someone approaches him, and he starts barking. From this point on, he basically barks at everyone that goes past.

I'm finding it a bit frustrating. Most of the time he is a great dog, but I worry that while walking him someone will touch him or approach him and get a nip. I really worry about kids too - they are prone to just approach him or give him a sneaky stroke as we walk past. Occasionally, this has happened and he has barked at a kid, resulting in me getting the look of death from the parent.

I'd really like to teach him to be more confident around strangers, but the training we do with him does not seem to work. Is it a reasonable expectation that if I continue to train him he will one day be happy with people approaching him and interacting with him? Once he has met someone a few times he's fine with them, but he can be quite scary when people just assume they can approach him and he goes mental.

Is he permanently broken? Or can we train this out of him? I'm not looking for him to start hugging random strangers in the street, but his general skittishness is a problem at the moment (sometimes).

Anyone else had a similar dog? I do wonder if it's partly due to his age, but don't want to pass this off as an excuse and let the behaviour escalate.

Thanks!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,690 Posts
I highly recommend looking up LAT (Look At This) training by Leslie McDevitt

Leslie McDevitt: Control Unleashed®: Home Page

Also, BAT (Behaviour Adjustment Training) training by Grisha Stewart

Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) | Official site for BAT: dog-friendly training for reactivity (aggression, fear, frustration) by Grisha Stewart, MA

If you do a search even just on the forum there will be lots of information on both.

Delgado loves other dogs and it's been a struggle getting him to ignore other dogs. He started barking at them and I found both LAT & BAT very helpful in teaching me how to correct the behaviour. He's now able to ignore dogs behind fences without problems and onleash dogs within 5' which is a big improvement.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
16 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the links. I've come across Control Unleashed before. I'll check it out.

I was really just wondering if other people have found the training successful, or whether a highly strung dog is just always going to be that way. I have used counter conditioning techniques for lots of things with our boy (chasing bikes, cars, runners etc) but don't seem to be getting anywhere with the stranger danger thing.

Just looking at your links now - thanks again.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
987 Posts
Frank has never cared for strangers to pet him. Some he would bark at and some he wouldn't, but he didn't want any of them to pet him. He's never growled or lunged like he would bite, he would just move out of their reach stand between me and them and bark.
That all started when he was about 8months old.
I used LAT at first when we would just be out with strangers walking around us. He learned to ignore everyone but me,
Then I moved on to letting people I know that I could trust but he didn't know. walk up to me and just hold high value treats down to him. They didn't offer to pet him just treated and walked away. After he was comfortable with that, I used those same people to treat then give a scratch under the chin as he took the food.
I never used strangers that I didn't know for any of the treating or petting, I made sure to set him up with people we could have a good experience with.

He's now 3 years old, he still doesn't care if people pet him or not, he's just not a loves everyone dog, which is fine with me. I take him to all kinds of places people and dogs walk past and he ignores everyone, if people approach I make the decision on wether or not they should be able to treat and pet him. Sometimes I let them sometimes not. If we're walking along and someone just reaches out and pets him, he simply looks at them and walks on, no big deal anymore.
I do watch out for small kids, they dont' know any better and parents can be idiots.
From not watching their kids to Macho Dads telling sons to pet the big dog don't be a chicken (yep it's happened) when the kid looked petrified.
Frank treats the kids the same as he does adults, ignores them. I just don't trust what they might do and keep an extra eye out for them.

I dont' know how much of what he does now is training and how much is that he's just matured in age. But I wouldn't of trusted him to just mature out of the barking without the training.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,690 Posts
The main thing is finding the threshold, for Delgado it started with being able to see the other dog. So whether it was 20' away or 2' away he would bark, so we started as far away as needed and worked on focus work and obedience. Slowly we would move closer and work on the same, it eventually becomes a habit. See other dog - look at me. Once he learned that was what I was looking for his threshold dropped and he could get closer. I'm still working on that 5' bubble, but considering where we were 6 months ago it's a big improvement. There are walks where he does fantastic and walks where he struggles

You may have to stop the walks to the town centre for a bit, work in his comfort zone at home and in quiet places and get a good foundation before pushing the threshold with having lots of people around.

Delgado barks because he's excited, it's drive leaking because he wants to greet and play with the other dogs. He ignores people, cars, bikes, etc because they're not really interesting to him but dogs are fun in his eyes. He didn't understand at first that it was his barking that was getting him into trouble with me, that's where the LAT helped.

In your case it sounds like the barking is because he's trying to tell people to back off and give him space. Another thing that might help with keeping people away is a vest with patches, they can say "PLEASE DON'T PET" or "IN TRAINING" so people will know and hopefully not touch.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
16 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Franksmom - sounds like our dogs are quite similar.

I'm not fussed about people being able to pet him really. As long as my family and friends (that he knows) can, I don't care. It's really just a preventative measure in case someone approaches him and doesn't read his "Get away from me" signals.

I was sat outside Tesco the other day (away from the door and human traffic) and a woman approached us. He was clearly distressed because my girlfriend had abandoned the pack and gone shopping, but the woman insisted she was "great with dogs" and approached anyway. He made it quite clear that he didn't want her near and she backed away, but some people really annoy me. On the rare occasion that they do ask permission and permission is denied, they approach anyway. I'm sure this makes him even more nervous about strangers. He is telling them to stay away and they just wander over regardless.

Rant over!

I do wonder how much of it is his age. He has always been "barky", and probably always will be. He's in that "demon" stage now apparently, although he is still very good with general obedience and that. In fact, at just under one year I'd say he's the best behaved he has ever been. Just got to get his confidence up and we'll have the perfect dog. Except for the moulting everywhere, general barking, drooling water everywhere, whining and other general GSD goodness!

I'll give your system a test. Just have to find some volunteers that aren't scared of big bear-looking dogs!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
710 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
987 Posts
Franksmom - sounds like our dogs are quite similar.

I'm not fussed about people being able to pet him really. As long as my family and friends (that he knows) can, I don't care. It's really just a preventative measure in case someone approaches him and doesn't read his "Get away from me" signals.

I was sat outside Tesco the other day (away from the door and human traffic) and a woman approached us. He was clearly distressed because my girlfriend had abandoned the pack and gone shopping, but the woman insisted she was "great with dogs" and approached anyway. He made it quite clear that he didn't want her near and she backed away, but some people really annoy me. On the rare occasion that they do ask permission and permission is denied, they approach anyway. I'm sure this makes him even more nervous about strangers. He is telling them to stay away and they just wander over regardless.

Rant over!

I do wonder how much of it is his age. He has always been "barky", and probably always will be. He's in that "demon" stage now apparently, although he is still very good with general obedience and that. In fact, at just under one year I'd say he's the best behaved he has ever been. Just got to get his confidence up and we'll have the perfect dog. Except for the moulting everywhere, general barking, drooling water everywhere, whining and other general GSD goodness!

I'll give your system a test. Just have to find some volunteers that aren't scared of big bear-looking dogs!
Just remember to take it slowly, I tried to push Frank at first and it set us back to square 1.
 
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
Top