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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi I am looking for any advice on my dog as I am at wits end with him.

I have an intact 2.5 year old GSD male who has some serious red zone aggression issues that is mostly directed to other dogs but sometimes to humans as well.

Some background on his genetics:
He is from strong WG working lines on his father's side and WG (Sieger) show lines on his mother's side. There are a lot of titled dogs in his line and thus he has a reasonably good pedigree. Some people might argue though that out-crossing a show and working line is not a good idea and despite his excellent conformation I agree in retrospect.

Some background on his upbringing and training.
I took him to puppy school when he was 9 weeks, I socialised him extensively with other dogs and people but due to circumstances beyond my control I had to stop when he was about 4 months old. He was also attacked by an idiot neighbour's pitbull who came out of his property when out on a walk during this time but luckily I picked him up before the dog could get to him. I suspect that is where his dog aggression issues started. I took him back to dog training when he was about a year old and have spent a lot of time working him and got him to reduce his reactive aggression. We started working him 50 metres from other dogs and gradually as his reactivity and recovery time decreased we moved slowly closer to other dogs in the class. He is now OK and by OK I mean he would tolerate most dogs within a 2 meter radius of him. Any dog coming into his personal space would be met with severe aggression though. Most of the success I achieved could be attributed to the use of a prong collar. I also make a point of giving him daily mental and physical stimulation as expected of a working line dog. I have never done any bite work with him because of his aggression issues.

Some background on his temperament.
He has an extremely high prey drive and a lot of energy. Just as high as any working line mallinois I have ever seen. He is a motivated worker but could be stubborn and headstrong at times – especially when there are a lot of distractions in the environment. He is probably the best scent dog I have ever come across. On the negative side he is very sharp, territorial, dislikes strangers and also acts dominant but not overly aggressive to the other dogs and cats that he grew up with in our household. Another good thing about him is he is not handler aggressive at all and very affectionate towards me and my family.

My wife recently brought a female Mallinois puppy and despite our dog trainer's opinion that he would not hurt her because she is a puppy he was seriously aggressive towards her when we tried to introduce them at the training school. In fact, he escalated so much that when the trainer held the puppy he tried to bite her to get to the puppy. Obviously we keep them apart 24/7.

I am at my wits end with my dog and despite having spent a lot of money, time and dedication in trying to get him to become a good canine citizen he has constantly disappointed me with his reactive aggression problems. I am used to working and living with challenging high drive dogs as we own Belgian Shepherds as well but my GSD is really constantly testing my limits. In fact the last three GSD's I had all had serious temperament and/or health issues and all came from supposedly good stock. These nervy modern GSDs are a far cry from the calm, assertive and hardy old school dogs with their distinctive on/off switches.

Any advice on how to integrate my dog with the new puppy would be highly appreciated
 

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Dave, since you are new here I'm not sure if you can get PMs yet. I wanted to tell you- have you seen the Leerburg site? Leerburg.com There are more working line type GSD and owners over there. Mr Leerburg himself would be a great resource for you.

Your dog sounds like a very fine, serious, hard GSD. Also, on this germanshepherds.com site there are some very good advisors such as Slandunk, a police officer and his very bas azz K9 named Boru who has been a handful to train. I hope Slamdunk will come over and give you some advice.
 

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@Slamdunc

Maybe now it will be seen and he can give some good advice.

Do you have a pedigree you can post?
 

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You have had 4 German Shepherds with out of control aggression, so it’s probably more likely you or your wife are allowing or encouraging that behavior than the breed itself. GSDs are supppsed to have some HA but dog aggression is not standard. Your trainer made a huge mistake, which should tell you that you need a different trainer. It’s very easy to blame another dog, mixed lines or a prong collar. It’s not the tools or the environment but how you react to your dog when it happens and afterwards. I’m curious to see what Slamdunc advises. If it was my dog, I would look for a much higher level trainer with GSD experience, or even consider rehoming one of the dogs if you can even find a home for him. Would his breeder take him back?
 

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My thought was if your dog is 2 1/2 years old and is that out of control, hard, soft, or otherwise, it's a training issue. If/when my dog gets too rough (in my estimation) with a puppy, I tell her to leave it, and she does so immediately -due to proper training! I would also question the "picking the puppy up" thing, as that always gets interested dogs more hyper focused. If I were you, I'd be looking for someone with more experience with dogs in general, and with GSDs in particular! Jim?
 

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Dave, you seem to have had some experience with this breed. If I were you I would get a trainer that specialises in this type of behaviour OR specialises in German Shepherds. Sometimes a little perspective from a REAL professional can go a long way.

And Tim, like you, I despise it when someone picks up their dog, and then a dog jumps on him/her and that person becomes angry. Like, dude you're literally holding a dog up above. How do you not expect a dog to jump on you? Jeez. Those people.
 

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Let's back up a minute.

You say he has a "good pedigree".............there are so many people on here and even in the sport who don't understand a thing about pedigrees. If there are dogs with Sch3 throughout - it is a "good pedigree". .....if there are V's and VA's ~ ditto. If there are recognizable names, dogs who are known as BSP, WUSV, BSZS top placers ~ once again, ditto.....

I see constantly people being pointed to litters that are full of "good" names, but in truth carry very very high risk for weak, thin, edgy nerves, risk for handler aggression, risk for a lack of biddablity and resourrce guarding that turns into aggression....yet people here blithely push posters to these "well bred" dogs EVERY SINGLE TIME...one poster in particular touts litters that I shudder in trepidation over....

I would venture to say that your dog carries a combination of traits that just plain do not mix well....and being a show work cross is going to exacerbate the genetic tendencies towards the nerve type and aggression....it happens all the time as dogs get older...those sweet puppies grow up and become what their genetics dictate....or they stay sweet and the genetics show up in the next generation....


All the training advice will help management, but the temperament is genetic - all you can do is manage and manipulate the dog in the environment, Good luck!

Lee
 

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Wow. Just want to say so sorry for you having to go through with this. Teaching a solid eye-contact command really helps with my 2 year old girl, but her issue is no where as serious as your dog's just standard on leash reactivity. Regarding introducing new dog, my trainer introduces her GSD to mine by starting at a distance and then we gradually walk parallel towards each other and closing that distance while both dogs remain calm and focused on the owner, then let them meet and sniff and play once the dogs can stay focused on us owners even when the other dog is within leash distance. I am lucky that my dog can pretty much get along with most other dogs after this 10-30min introduction stage, and boy she loves playing with other dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for all the advice so far. I am familiar with Leerburg and Ed Frawley and Ed's type of training although a bit controversial in today's very PC world is just what my dog needs. We have started to slowly integrate my dog and the puppy from a distance which we will shrink over a considerable period of time. I watch my dog's body language very intently while my wife holds the puppy and any sign of aggression from my dog is countered with a hard correction. If he focuses on me and/or behaves in a calm manner I use positive reinforcement methods. It seems to be working so far. Holding thumbs
 

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I would keep these dogs separated until the puppy is maybe 7 - 8 months old. Your male dog may not physically harm the puppy but will absolutely traumatize it. I would keep them separate and only have them together for on leash walks. Your wife walks the puppy from a distance and you walk the male. If the male shows any sign of inappropriate aggression you correct him. By correct the dog, I mean a correction that will instantly stop the behavior and a correction that your dog will remember for weeks and months. That is an effective correction.

You mentioned that your dog is a mix of working and show lines, you also correctly mentioned that this could be an issue. You are very correct in this regard. There are times when mixing lines gives you a dog with high drive and aggression that the nerves can not handle. Then you wind up with a somewhat unstable, possibly insecure dog that lacks the nerve strength to handle the drive. Your dog may have high drive and low thresholds, another issue. I've owned dogs like this and it takes a lot of work.

I don't know what your dog's temperament is like and how long it will take him to accept the puppy. The good news is that even a dog aggressive male dog like yours can learn to live very nicely with a female. I've had some DA GSD's and have brought puppies home and they learned to love each other. I compete or work my dogs, so I keep my puppies separate from the other dogs until they are older. I will have some supervised time together, but it is short and structured. I do a lot of walks with both dogs and that is their main interaction. I will kennel the male outside and leave the puppy loose to walk up to the kennel on it's own. Puppies are pretty resilient and will win the older over.

It takes time and patience but absolutely can be done. Don't be in a rush and don't push it.

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I would keep these dogs separated until the puppy is maybe 7 - 8 months old. Your male dog may not physically harm the puppy but will absolutely traumatize it. I would keep them separate and only have them together for on leash walks. Your wife walks the puppy from a distance and you walk the male. If the male shows any sign of inappropriate aggression you correct him. By correct the dog, I mean a correction that will instantly stop the behavior and a correction that your dog will remember for weeks and months. That is an effective correction.

You mentioned that your dog is a mix of working and show lines, you also correctly mentioned that this could be an issue. You are very correct in this regard. There are times when mixing lines gives you a dog with high drive and aggression that the nerves can not handle. Then you wind up with a somewhat unstable, possibly insecure dog that lacks the nerve strength to handle the drive. Your dog may have high drive and low thresholds, another issue. I've owned dogs like this and it takes a lot of work.

I don't know what your dog's temperament is like and how long it will take him to accept the puppy. The good news is that even a dog aggressive male dog like yours can learn to live very nicely with a female. I've had some DA GSD's and have brought puppies home and they learned to love each other. I compete or work my dogs, so I keep my puppies separate from the other dogs until they are older. I will have some supervised time together, but it is short and structured. I do a lot of walks with both dogs and that is their main interaction. I will kennel the male outside and leave the puppy loose to walk up to the kennel on it's own. Puppies are pretty resilient and will win the older over.

It takes time and patience but absolutely can be done. Don't be in a rush and don't push it.

Good luck.
Thank you Slamdunc! This is exactly what we will do.

This is indeed very good advice and I can see that you have a lot of knowledge and experience with the breed.
I have 2 quick further questions:
Would neutering have any impact on his behaviour?
Also, I have not done any man work with him yet. In your experience would man work with a professional helper channelize his aggression and build confidence?
 

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Thank you Slamdunc! This is exactly what we will do.

This is indeed very good advice and I can see that you have a lot of knowledge and experience with the breed.
I have 2 quick further questions:
Would neutering have any impact on his behaviour?
Also, I have not done any man work with him yet. In your experience would man work with a professional helper channelize his aggression and build confidence?
I do not believe that neutering helps with behavioral problems. I've never neutered any of my male GSD's. Training and strong obedience is the key. You may not be able to change temperament, but you can certainly modify behavior.

Yes, doing protection work can help build confidence and channel aggression. Granted, the dog has the nerves for it. Doing protection work with your dog will teach you how to handle him in a high drive state. Often times the handler gains much more confidence and control of their dog doing protection work.

Also, doing protection work will teach your dog when aggression is appropriate and inappropriate. This translates to all areas of the dog's life.

The two dog aggressive males GSD's that I mentioned earlier were both intact (not neutered) and had extensive protection work. One was trained to a SchH 3 or IPO 3 by me from a pup, the other was raised from a pup, started in IPO and then became my Dual Purpose Patrol, Narcotic and SWAT K-9. Both strong and high drive dogs with serious aggression that loved the female dogs they lived with. One dog would not get in my car unless the female was in the car also. He would run back to the front door looking for his pal.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks again Slamdunc. I agree with you on all accounts. I think my dog will excel in manwork and I am seeing a certified IPO trainer soon. I am currently working on a lot drive/impulse control with him. He has insane (Malinois level) ball drive and I will put him in a down stay and then throw his ball. He is not allowed to move from the down stay to retrieve his ball until I give the command. He is doing well with this. I am doing this with other things that trigger his drives as well such as putting him in a down stay next to the gate of our property and he is not allowed to bark at anyone walking past while he is in this position. I will gradually increase the level of distractions until I have 100% control over him in any situation.
He is an extremely high energy dog (my previous trainer called him a malinois in a GSD body) and I found that I have to bring his drives down a bit by talking in a low soothing voice and acting very calm but assertive around him to successfully work him otherwise he gets too hectic. He actually has too much drive and he struggles to focus so the key with him is to build drive focus and handler engagement.
But at the end of the day the most important thing is to build a mutual trust between us where I can trust him to be 100% under control in any situation and he can trust me to be a good leader.
He gets along very well with the dogs that he grew up with. During the day when we are not home he spends his time with our neutered male Tervuren and they are best friends.
I am sure that he will eventually accept and be best friends with my wife's malinois puppy as they have the same energy levels and temperaments. By slowly introducing them on walks I will "trick" him into liking her.
 

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You have had 4 German Shepherds with out of control aggression, so it’s probably more likely you or your wife are allowing or encouraging that behavior than the breed itself. GSDs are supppsed to have some HA but dog aggression is not standard. Your trainer made a huge mistake, which should tell you that you need a different trainer. It’s very easy to blame another dog, mixed lines or a prong collar. It’s not the tools or the environment but how you react to your dog when it happens and afterwards. I’m curious to see what Slamdunc advises. If it was my dog, I would look for a much higher level trainer with GSD experience, or even consider rehoming one of the dogs if you can even find a home for him. Would his breeder take him back?
I second this. My GSD has some strong human aggression but only on our property. Little to no dog aggression. That behavior is learned. I think to some degree, minor aggression towards a new puppy is to be expected, but nothing life threatening, maybe guarding but not much else. When I brought home my GSD my Rottie mix was very protective and guarded everything. Now they're best friends. I don't have much advice here as I haven't personally dealt with dog aggression, mostly just herding other dogs. The only solution I see here is paying big bucks for a better trainer or rehoming the new puppy.
 

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I second this. My GSD has some strong human aggression but only on our property. Little to no dog aggression. That behavior is learned. I think to some degree, minor aggression towards a new puppy is to be expected, but nothing life threatening, maybe guarding but not much else. When I brought home my GSD my Rottie mix was very protective and guarded everything. Now they're best friends. I don't have much advice here as I haven't personally dealt with dog aggression, mostly just herding other dogs. The only solution I see here is paying big bucks for a better trainer or rehoming the new puppy.
To the part I bolded... not necessarily. Genetics plays a huge role in this as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Just an update on my male GSD and our Malinois puppy. I am extremely happy to say that they are now firm friends. After many training sessions I scraped my courage together on friday to let them both interact off-lead in an enclosed area on our property. They took to each other like a house on fire. It took a lot of patience and a lot of hard work but he has now accepted her as a pack member. I would not leave them alone unsupervised at this stage yet as she is only 5 months old but we are extremely happy that they accepted each other. My GSD plays quite rough but then again so does she. It is not always easy living with working line GSDs and Malinois but it is an extremely rewarding journey and never a dull moment.

Thanks for everybody on this Forum's advice. It is highly appreciated.
 
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