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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all - apologies for the long post!

Simon. 10 months old. Intact. Had elbow dysplasia surgery done Aug 16. Wonderful, reputable breeder (who actually paid for half the surgery because he was bred to have clear elbows and hips!). We adopted him at 4 months old. He was the last of the litter and according to the breeder, didn't have the same drive as the other pups. He is all black and stunning. Simon is a love bug at home. A joy to train, loves our Lab (maybe too much) and is easy going with our three daughters (10-18).

Recently, he has become almost impossible to manage in the presence of strangers. He will be calm and sleeping and literally 0.10th of a second later, barking like his world is about to end if a stranger is in his presence, or he sees one off in the distance. As a pup, we had him everywhere; pet store, hiking trails, Erie Canal walks full of people, kids and pets, busy roads, teenagers in and out all the time, you name it. He was always a little fearful of cars and didn't particularly like strangers in the house, but tolerated. We live on a short private road with 4 homes. They all have dogs. He was used to their yapping and minded his own business.

Fast forward to this week: ferocious barking at people in our home, ferocious barking at our neighbors and their dogs while walking up and down the road, ferocious barking at runners or walkers on the main road, pinning ears back at the cars driving by. Our trainer came last night (we originally had him for our Lab as she gave leash pulling a new meaning) but he has been helping to train us (haha) to work with Simon since Simon was with us. He was shocked at the change of behavior. In fact, Simon was so "manic" there was no way we could work with him last night. He was literally beside himself. Strong correction from my husband and the trainer, nothing. Completely out of himself and control. Our trainer has worked extensively with GSDs in the past. He said he's never seen one like Simon and clearly, something more was happening. He thought perhaps a strong genetic component, pain still from his surgery and/or extreme anxiety. I am paraphrasing of course. I called our vet this morning, whom we really like, and he will call back Monday as out of the office today. Trainer suggested doing some basic lab work/disease checking to make sure nothing else is happening. When I say, he was unworkable last night - it was awful. He would've ripped a prong collar through his neck!

We have spent considerable time watching videos, implementing what we've learned and had Simon in a relatively great place. This is heartbreaking. What are we missing? Any ideas of what may have triggered this? Anyone else experience a sudden change like this? Another thing to note - he is intact (and we'd like to keep him that way!) but he often has an erection. More times than not. Now, I am female, my children are female, and my Lab is female so this may be normal. Clearly, I am grasping here. We are not long time experienced dog owners. We researched GSDs long before we got Simon and entered in with eyes wide open. We are able and willing to do what we need to do to keep him safe. But, feeling a little vulnerable and sad for him this morning.

Advice welcome - hope is welcomed too!

Dog Dog breed Carnivore Grey Wood
 

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I second the above. Hope that he is able to settle. All I can say is that when my last dog was sick, she had changes in behaviour and showed remorse after snapping…but you could tell she was acting out because something wasn’t right physically. The whole hospital experience may play a part…mentally and physically he may not be feeling himself. What a gorgeous boy..
 

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I agree with the medical work-up.

I don't know anything about elbow surgery/recovery, has Simon been crate-resting since his surgery? Assuming he can't run/play, have you done any nosework or anything else to give him mental/physical stimulation?

For a young dog with some genetic fear issues, 5 weeks of inactivity can definitely cause a regression in behavior/exacerbate fear and anxiety issues.

Best of luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you all!
San - yes, he was on 4 weeks of crate rest, and is now in the "out for 2 20 minute walks daily" phase. We are doing our absolute best to keep him stimulated and entertained. My husband and I are both home all day so that helps. He needs to run and play ball. Those are his favorite things to do. I suspect that's some of this too, as I've no doubt it isn't one thing. :(
 

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Thank you all!
San - yes, he was on 4 weeks of crate rest, and is now in the "out for 2 20 minute walks daily" phase. We are doing our absolute best to keep him stimulated and entertained. My husband and I are both home all day so that helps. He needs to run and play ball. Those are his favorite things to do. I suspect that's some of this too, as I've no doubt it isn't one thing. :(
I’d definitely say that the long crate rest contributed. It can be very stressful for them, especially in this period of development.
 

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Thank you all!
San - yes, he was on 4 weeks of crate rest, and is now in the "out for 2 20 minute walks daily" phase. We are doing our absolute best to keep him stimulated and entertained. My husband and I are both home all day so that helps. He needs to run and play ball. Those are his favorite things to do. I suspect that's some of this too, as I've no doubt it isn't one thing. :(
Hubby and I are professional dog trainers. We work with a lot of German shepherds and Malinois.

It is not uncommon for us to see a dog's behavioral problems re-surface whenever they are forced to go through a period of inactivity (dog is injured and needs crate-rest, owner suffers a physical injury and is unable to exercise dog, or simply because of a long hot summer and the dog hasn't gotten enough outdoor run/play time).

If lack of activity is determined to be the primary cause, the good thing is, once his activity level picks up (along with training), his behaviors and mental state will improve.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hubby and I are professional dog trainers. We work with a lot of German shepherds and Malinois.

It is not uncommon for us to see a dog's behavioral problems re-surface whenever they are forced to go through a period of inactivity (dog is injured and needs crate-rest, owner suffers a physical injury and is unable to exercise dog, or simply because of a long hot summer and the dog hasn't gotten enough outdoor run/play time).

If lack of activity is determined to be the primary cause, the good thing is, once his activity level picks up (along with training), his behaviors and mental state will improve.
Thank you! There is hope! He AND hubby are doing nosework as I type!
 

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Not much I can add in terms of advice. Maybe contact your breeder and discuss. He is at an age where certain drives may only be developing.

Surgury was pretty recent too. My girl was a bit of a nerve bag after she had a major surgery. She regained her confidence in time.

You guys sound like amazing owners and Simon has already been through so much, I hope you can find some answers.
 

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Fraserglens Ellie of Carmspack 16/12/2021
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I can’t speak to the training/fear part of it, but I have a 9 month old who just currently had elbow surgery and is on crate rest who used to chase balls and swim like no tomorrow, I am at 4 weeks and am doing short walks as well.. there was a small window when she came off meds and I hadn’t figured how to get through to her and she was a handful, you need to find what makes your dog tick, I started tracking.. you can do it in your own yard, and gets there mind really going, or even just hiding treats around the house and having them find it, pairing my walks with raw bones, or even frozen stuffed kongs, has given her an outlet. My house is filled with bull sticks and long chews for when she gets that craaaazy look in her eyes (dumb and dumber). Also not everyone agrees but I find routines help, when they know when it is acceptable time to expel energy or release and be a dog and excited about something.. the downside is they don’t forget there routine so if you can’t deliver.. now what. (Long chew). Good luck I’m sure if you put the time in with the right help you’ll get through it !
 

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My girl's car reactivity peaks a LOT more if she doesn't get several sessions of intense activity or brain work a day. When she has the reserve drained more she's almost perfect, as soon as we miss a session or two it's back to going after them. She had an injury when she was younger and her attitude after that crate rest was terrible till we got her worked up to normal activity.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Update:
Spent considerable time on the phone with our vet. He recommended Cornell and their Board Certified Vet Behavioral Specialist. I completed paperwork for Simon, and we will see what next steps are. Our vet did say Simon has been escalating since the first visit....and that he's too young to be this difficult. :( My husband and I are trying to identify where we went so wrong, or if we did nothing wrong. Clearly we need help. I am just sad. We love love love this dog and he loves us.
 

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How is it going? I have one as well who became more or less reactive around 8months old. Not super social since puppy but not scared either, did quite well. Nowadays he does react some some strangers and people passing, dogs. Clear hips and elbows. In my case I think it is pretty much genetics.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
It's going! He will see a specialist from Cornell come December. Our trainer truly believes it's something organic and our vet admitted it was a little out of his expertise - so, to the experts we shall go! He's amazing at home. AMAZING. Just incredibly reaction to new things, whether humans or animals whereas he never was in the past. I will keep you updated! Thanks for asking.
 

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In the meantime, threshold? What I'm thinking is to ID what that is and work under it, gradually decreasing that.

I reflect on one of my pups who would go nuts at passing cars in particular. We went to walking after dark when there was less traffic of all sorts. When a car approached, we heeled to someone's driveway and did a focused sit for a reward. Over and over again. In a few months (maybe just weeks - this was some time ago) she didn't even bat an eye at fire engines passing us.

I'd encourage you to take a look at "when, where, what?" and change a few of those - like the time of day you are out, at where you encounter people (or other triggers) etc.
 

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IMO, what you needed was a competent balanced trainer who has successful experience dealing with working dogs. The trainer you have now doesn't make the grade.

Force free animal behaviorist at Cornell, with PhD beside their name, means nothing. I know who Katherine is and she's a complete joke compared to a competent working dog trainer.

Your issues are simple for a real trainer/behaviorist.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thank you! I have been working steadily with him and am happy to report we successfully did a walk and while he glared at the cars, he was comfortable to keep going. He saw people, no reaction. One dog decided to go nuts at him (was contained) and Simon growled and proceeded to try and jump into my arms. I'll take it! Slow and steady to rebuild his confidence after the trauma of his elbow surgery. I am feeling confident. My middle daughter had a friend over. They were walking down the stairs and Simon poked his head around the corner and saw the stranger. He just looked at her (he couldn't get to her). I went down and told him good boy and he did a down as the stranger walked out. That's HUGE!!
 
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