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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)
It's becoming increasingly evident to me that Spirit is very territorial and that he's likely not going to outgrow this behavior with maturity. I'm not going to put a label on this behavior such as good or bad or dangerous .... this is his personality -- I have to learn it, understand it and manage it.

He doesn't give me any indication that he will bite, but he's only 6 months old, verdict is out on that one I suppose. I can say he's given me no cause for concern in this area, at all, ever, so far.

I'm quite certain that Spirit is not the first or only territorial german shepherd. So for those of you that know this behavior, please share with me what I need to know in order to keep him safe. And do you think it's still possible that this behavior may change with maturity? If so, how might it change?
 

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You need to give some specific examples of what you are talking about, because I've never had my 6 month old GSD's show anything I'd describe as 'territorial'.


However, 6 months old is EXACTLY when my pups start testing their boundaries and becoming a bit of a handful. The perfect puppy I had a month earlier will now not always listen to me but instead be more independent AND MAKING BAD DECISIONS.

This is when it's key for me to step up my game and not allow them to take the reins in the training game. So, for me, to accept at 6 months that my puppy is territorial would be (for me) failing to figure out what is going on, do I want it, and get RID OF IT if it's not my decision.

The reason most of us start up formal dog classes around 6 months is so we can head off my puppy telling me the way it's going to be around the house, and instead give me the skills to be the leader to say maybe uh.......... not so much you pretty puppy. In my house, it's my rules. Not in a harsh way, but in a clear way.

If by territorial, you mean your dog sees someone coming in the yard, will alert bark to tell you and then quiet when you say it's ok, then that's one thing.... but if you are getting a more aggressive and uncontrolled response, then that's something else.

BTW, I'm moving this into the puppy section where it belongs so maybe you'll get some more responses.

:paw:
 

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We consider it a good thing. One of our (three) German Shepherds is a nervous dog. He does not like Strangers. He goes ballistic if anyone approaches the car when he (and especially when our daughter) is in it. He's never bitten but he does NOT like being touched. It's OK if he sniffs you, but try and touch him and he'd reverse and bark like mad.

Cutely, even when he's in Nuclear mode (wild eyes, snarling and Clicking his teeth with rage), he does not mind me stroking his head or cuddling him. I trust him with my life. He's protecting his Family, not going crazy.

BUT. We consider that he's thrown his hat in, chosen his Family, and anyone else can ... go away. We have a 1.5 year old baby, and she can do anything to him at all. Weird person at the front door? Beware!

I'd regard this behavior as praise for yourself...

Zen
 

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a dog doesn't choose his family and they shoudn't be allowed to choose
their behaviour.

We consider it a good thing. One of our (three) German Shepherds is a nervous dog. He does not like Strangers. He goes ballistic if anyone approaches the car when he (and especially when our daughter) is in it. He's never bitten but he does NOT like being touched. It's OK if he sniffs you, but try and touch him and he'd reverse and bark like mad.

Cutely, even when he's in Nuclear mode (wild eyes, snarling and Clicking his teeth with rage), he does not mind me stroking his head or cuddling him. I trust him with my life. He's protecting his Family, not going crazy.

BUT. We consider that he's thrown his hat in,

>>>>chosen his Family, <<<<

and anyone else can ... go away. We have a 1.5 year old baby, and she can do anything to him at all. Weird person at the front door? Beware!

I'd regard this behavior as praise for yourself...

Zen
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Spirit doesn't tell me how it's going to be, I am the boss here. There may be times when he doesn't quite know that yet, but he will follow my rules on his own or I will make him. That simple.

Maggie, can you give examples of what you would consider to be more aggressive and uncontrolled? As compared to running towards the boundary barking? His hackles are up, but that's not unusual for him, I see them up a lot, it just means he's excited by something. He's not growling, he's not baring his teeth, his head isn't lowered ... he stands tall and barks big, but doesn't cross the boundary. Sometimes when I let him outside, he runs into the yard barking like this just to announce himself.

I'm quite certain this is territorial, I'm not going to second guess myself on this.

We have an invisible fence, he's doing amazingly well with it but we've done a lot of training with it also. He did break the boundary a few days ago in pursuit of a red squirrel. He never breaks the boundary for people or other dogs though. I sometimes wonder if not having a real fence can make territorial behaviors like Spirit's more likely?


He will quiet when I tell him to stop, but if the environment doesn't change, he will revert back to the behavior. So I either distract him with a game or bring him inside. I don't let him continue the behavior but he sees things before I do so it's difficult to be 100% proactive and prevent it from occuring at all.

I do want to teach him that it's okay for our neighbors on all sides to be in their yards and to be coming and going, much the same as we are. Just because they are close and there is no physical boundary between us doesn't mean they are a threat.

Maggie, since you moved this to the puppy forum (awww, he's still a puppy :wub:, I forget that sometimes), is it possible that he will eventually learn this through consistent correction?
 

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a dog doesn't choose his family and they shoudn't be allowed to choose their behaviour.
Have to say I'm 100% in agreement with doggiedad with this one. SPECIALLY with a 6 month old puppy.

I know, for sure and 100% that my 6 month old pups have ZERO ability to tell a mass murderer from my sister who lives in another state, if either were walking up the driveway.

So since the chance of my sister walking up the drive is greater, and I do NOT want my puppy to think it's up to them to kill her cause she's in our territory, I choose to TRAIN my pups to cue to and look to me.

So if my pup barks, I see who it is, and I tell her it's ok, then it is. Period. My pup can't continue with the MASS MURDERER attack when I just told her it was ok.

I'm the leader in my house. And I have TAUGHT my dogs that. If I let my puppies just react and do what their first instinct to do is, they's still be peeing in the house and eating the furniture. I taught them how to live in a house. I teach them how to greet/react with strangers. They learn from me and I give them guidance in a reliable way.

Sure they may alert bark to inform me of something. But then it's up to me with what follows. My house (not my dogs). My yard (not my dogs). And MY choice who I allow into it (not my dogs).

:rolleyes:
 

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We consider it a good thing. One of our (three) German Shepherds is a nervous dog. He does not like Strangers. He goes ballistic if anyone approaches the car when he (and especially when our daughter) is in it. He's never bitten but he does NOT like being touched. It's OK if he sniffs you, but try and touch him and he'd reverse and bark like mad.

Cutely, even when he's in Nuclear mode (wild eyes, snarling and Clicking his teeth with rage), he does not mind me stroking his head or cuddling him. I trust him with my life. He's protecting his Family, not going crazy.

BUT. We consider that he's thrown his hat in, chosen his Family, and anyone else can ... go away. We have a 1.5 year old baby, and she can do anything to him at all. Weird person at the front door? Beware!

I'd regard this behavior as praise for yourself...

Zen
I don't even know where to begin with all of the misconceptions in this post. First, the behavior that you are describing is at best resource guarding and at worst rooted in fear. Either way, it's a ticking time bomb. From the description, though, I'd say fear. He is acting like this to scare off anyone he doesn't know - get them before they get me.

You stroking his head and cuddling him when he acts like this? You are reinforcing the behavior and it WILL probably escalate in the future. Your actions tell him "I know - those big scarey people! But I can't make them go away either so you'd better be very VERY afraid"

What you have on your hands isn't an "awww how sweet he wants to keep his family safe" dog. What you have is an accident waiting to happen. And, though you might not think so, this dog could easily turn on one of the family.
Also, think of this - your daughter is not even 2? Do you think that eventually she will have friends? Now imagine your dog in a houseful of little girls that he doesn't know.
 

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I should have explained my dog is older than the dog on the OT. Beyond that, do you think we never have family over? Nieces and nephews? Sorry, but not every protective dog is aggressive (As I explained, we currently have three GSDs). One would go WITH a murderer who killed us all, but then tickled his tummy.

Out of them, as we live in a rural area, I'd choose the one who sounds like an organic nuclear bomb :)

Sorry for any confusion, but I do not believe in some of your opinions. Maybe it's an EU / US thing. Again, I apoligise :)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I understand what Zen is saying. Clearly, Spirit did not choose to be my dog, but he has chosen me as his "in" group, through bonding and time and affection and fun, and everything else that goes into developing a relationship with your canine partner. I think it's fascinating that Spirit does not show any territorial behaviors with my family and friends, even those that I don't see regularly, I never even had to teach him about these people who are in my life. He knows who is "in" and who is "out."

That said, I also understand that I have a responsibility to teach Spirit appropriate ways of responding to those who are on the "out" side. That's why I posted :)

Thanks everyone for your feedback, appreciate your time and your thoughts.
 

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He will quiet when I tell him to stop, but if the environment doesn't change, he will revert back to the behavior. So I either distract him with a game or bring him inside. I don't let him continue the behavior but he sees things before I do so it's difficult to be 100% proactive and prevent it from occuring at all.

I do want to teach him that it's okay for our neighbors on all sides to be in their yards and to be coming and going, much the same as we are. Just because they are close and there is no physical boundary between us doesn't mean they are a threat.
If the territorialism you are seeing is what you described, barking at neighbors.

6 months old is the NATURAL time all our dogs start to this, but it's also the time where we need to step in to teach them what's actually needed.

It sounds like you are trying to manage this by distraction and taking the dog inside BUT...

I think you are defeating your training by both the electric fence (and once your pup starts running out, you need to back up the training or this will happen more frequently) and the fact you are (I think?) leaving him in the yard alone because you have the electric fence.

One of the key components of training is timing. And if you are in the house, and the dog is able to bark for awhile before you get to him, he is teaching himself the fun and joy of crazed barking (until owner comes out). Your ability to TEACH him immediately that the friendly neighbor is normal and ok has been lost for that training session.

Best the dog only gets one or 2 barks out, you see it's ok, tell him to quiet and he does. THAT is the way he learns that he's barking to TELL you information. Rather than barking to keep the bad people (uh, friendly neighbors?) away. It's a completely different bark with different information and we need to TEACH the pup that.

If we aren't there to teach and guide, they will learn something else. And it will quickly be to charge thru the electric fence (because they learn they can) and scare the neighbors (because they think it's their 'job').

How are the dog classes going? How many times a week are you able to socialize your pup outside the home so he can really continue to learn what 'normal' looks like in the real world with YOU leading him through it?

I love electric fences!!! But they are NOT a real physical barrier and once the fence is breeched you need to backtrack in training or you've paid alot of money for something that won't work at all in the next 6 months. So for puppies who are continuously challenging all the boundaries in their life, we need to set them up to succeed and become the best neighbors and part of society.

:crazy:
 

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We consider it a good thing. One of our (three) German Shepherds is a nervous dog. He does not like Strangers. He goes ballistic if anyone approaches the car when he (and especially when our daughter) is in it. He's never bitten but he does NOT like being touched. It's OK if he sniffs you, but try and touch him and he'd reverse and bark like mad.

Cutely, even when he's in Nuclear mode (wild eyes, snarling and Clicking his teeth with rage), he does not mind me stroking his head or cuddling him. I trust him with my life. He's protecting his Family, not going crazy.

BUT. We consider that he's thrown his hat in, chosen his Family, and anyone else can ... go away. We have a 1.5 year old baby, and she can do anything to him at all. Weird person at the front door? Beware!

I'd regard this behavior as praise for yourself...

Zen
You think this is good??? I'm no expert but I don't think that this is how they should act or how one would want them to act? Do you really think its how they are or its fear based? I'm guessing its fear, considering you already said the one is a nervous dog. My dog doesn't make a peep in the car, she just sits there very alert watching everything....this is how I want her to be. No one has ever attempted to approach the car. Its almost creepy to see a dog of that size just staring you down, no barking needed.
 

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Also, I just read this reply to the mother of my daughter - she almost wet herself laughing, so thank you :)

I don't even know where to begin with all of the misconceptions in this post. First, the behavior that you are describing is at best resource guarding and at worst rooted in fear. Either way, it's a ticking time bomb. From the description, though, I'd say fear. He is acting like this to scare off anyone he doesn't know - get them before they get me.

You stroking his head and cuddling him when he acts like this? You are reinforcing the behavior and it WILL probably escalate in the future. Your actions tell him "I know - those big scarey people! But I can't make them go away either so you'd better be very VERY afraid"

What you have on your hands isn't an "awww how sweet he wants to keep his family safe" dog. What you have is an accident waiting to happen. And, though you might not think so, this dog could easily turn on one of the family.
Also, think of this - your daughter is not even 2? Do you think that eventually she will have friends? Now imagine your dog in a houseful of little girls that he doesn't know.
 

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Also, I just read this reply to the mother of my daughter - she almost wet herself laughing, so thank you :)
I don't think this is something to laugh about. The majority of people on here will agree that your dog has an issue with fear. And fear is not to be confused with being protective. Completely two different things.
 

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Out of them, as we live in a rural area, I'd choose the one who sounds like an organic nuclear bomb :)
It is a complete difference of opinion for some of us. I would never, and I mean NEVER, own a dog I considered an 'organic nuclear bomb'.

But this is for my life in my world which I want my dogs to be a part of. I teach them to look to me and get guidance from me. I want to KNOW I can invite anyone over and they will be fine. I want to KNOW I can have my dogs be a real part of my life/family/vacations and not be worried all the time.

When I go on vacations, my dogs can stay with friends/family and I don't worry about them there. When I go to the vet, my dogs are fine. When I go out in public, my dogs are fine. I can have my dogs off leash in the woods and I know they will come back and be fine.

And, god forbid something happened to me (and BTW, accidents and unforeseen tragedy happen all the time) whether it be a car accident with me hurt and the dogs in the car, or if I lose my home and can't keep pets, or get injured and no longer can take care of my dogs, or whatever... MY DOGS will easily be handled by anyone around and not be shot at the scene, my house so I can be gotten to. Or killed at a shelter/vets because no one can handle them but me.

My ego isn't so big that I have to be the only one in my dogs life they behave around. And my life is such that I know bad things can happen and I want to know that even if I'm not able to take care of them, my dogs will easily be a loving member in someone's family.

My dogs, my choice for my life.

I don't even know where to begin with all of the misconceptions in this post. First, the behavior that you are describing is at best resource guarding and at worst rooted in fear. Either way, it's a ticking time bomb. From the description, though, I'd say fear. He is acting like this to scare off anyone he doesn't know - get them before they get me.
BTW, think you are WAY underestimating the truth in the part I put in bold. Because (and this is why I put this in the puppy section) I agree that for a puppy this IS what you are seeing. Many of us when we first get a GSD and expect a guard dog, just think when we see growling/barking/excitement then it's from a real guarding and protection place. It LOOKS like what we see adult protection/guard dogs do, right? Go to the bad guy and bark/growl????

But for a 6 month old and other dogs that aren't confident and knowledgeable (cause they have not learned to be confident and have good judgement) the barking/growling/going towards is from LACK of confidence and fearbased because it keeps the bad/scary AWAY where they can deal with it. It's the fight or flight thing from something new. And if they don't choose to run away, they choose to scare the other thing away. And everytime it works it confirms the fear for the pup and that because mom/dad are leaving them to it and NOT coming to give leadership and guidance that the world IS full of scary scary things that need to be kept away.
 

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It is a complete difference of opinion for some of us. I would never, and I mean NEVER, own a dog I considered an 'organic nuclear bomb'.

But this is for my life in my world which I want my dogs to be a part of. I teach them to look to me and get guidance from me. I want to KNOW I can invite anyone over and they will be fine. I want to KNOW I can have my dogs be a real part of my life/family/vacations and not be worried all the time.

When I go on vacations, my dogs can stay with friends/family and I don't worry about them there. When I go to the vet, my dogs are fine. When I go out in public, my dogs are fine. I can have my dogs off leash in the woods and I know they will come back and be fine.

And, god forbid something happened to me (and BTW, accidents and unforeseen tragedy happen all the time) whether it be a car accident with me hurt and the dogs in the car, or if I lose my home and can't keep pets, or get injured and no longer can take care of my dogs, or whatever... MY DOGS will easily be handled by anyone around and not be shot at the scene, my house so I can be gotten to. Or killed at a shelter/vets because no one can handle them but me.

My ego isn't so big that I have to be the only one in my dogs life they behave around. And my life is such that I know bad things can happen and I want to know that even if I'm not able to take care of them, my dogs will easily be a loving member in someone's family.

My dogs, my choice for my life.
VERY well written:thumbup:
 

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Discussion Starter #18
If the territorialism you are seeing is what you described, barking at neighbors.

6 months old is the NATURAL time all our dogs start to this, but it's also the time where we need to step in to teach them what's actually needed.

It sounds like you are trying to manage this by distraction and taking the dog inside BUT...

I think you are defeating your training by both the electric fence (and once your pup starts running out, you need to back up the training or this will happen more frequently) and the fact you are (I think?) leaving him in the yard alone because you have the electric fence.

One of the key components of training is timing. And if you are in the house, and the dog is able to bark for awhile before you get to him, he is teaching himself the fun and joy of crazed barking (until owner comes out). Your ability to TEACH him immediately that the friendly neighbor is normal and ok has been lost for that training session.

Best the dog only gets one or 2 barks out, you see it's ok, tell him to quiet and he does. THAT is the way he learns that he's barking to TELL you information. Rather than barking to keep the bad people (uh, friendly neighbors?) away. It's a completely different bark with different information and we need to TEACH the pup that.

If we aren't there to teach and guide, they will learn something else. And it will quickly be to charge thru the electric fence (because they learn they can) and scare the neighbors (because they think it's their 'job').

How are the dog classes going? How many times a week are you able to socialize your pup outside the home so he can really continue to learn what 'normal' looks like in the real world with YOU leading him through it?

I love electric fences!!! But they are NOT a real physical barrier and once the fence is breeched you need to backtrack in training or you've paid alot of money for something that won't work at all in the next 6 months. So for puppies who are continuously challenging all the boundaries in their life, we need to set them up to succeed and become the best neighbors and part of society.

:crazy:
First of all, thank you!!

Absolutely not, Spirit is _never_ outside without me and without an activity we are engaging in. I would never dream of leaving him alone outside just because we have an IF. We continually work on reinforcing the boundaries playing ball. I purposely throw or kick the ball outside the boundary to test him. I walk outside the boundary and test him that way too. Every day, and with different areas of the boundary. It's not like we spent a month training and it's over. I understand the concept of continual reinforcement when it comes to IF's.

By saying the behavior will continue if the environment doesn't change, I mean if we're outside and the neighbors are out at the same time, I can distract him but I have to _keep_ distracting him. If he loses interest in what we're doing and barking becomes more high value than what I'm offering him, I find something new to engage him in or I bring him inside.

I take Spirit out in public with me several times a week. I take him with me when I go to the convenience store just to test his behavior in the car. He's quiet and he waits. He does not show any territorial behavior away from home. I take him to stores like Tractor Supply and to get a frozen yogurt :) He's very good and he makes me proud. We sit outside the convenience store and watch people come and go, plenty of opportunity for meet and greets there. He's not overly fond of strangers but he's not at all difficult to manage No barking in public.

We will begin formal training in November. I wanted to start this month but I have to be out of town on business 2 weeks in a row (not the entire 2 weeks!) and too much would be lost so we're waiting until November.

I do not have a ticking time bomb :) So if I consistently teach him to not bark at our neighbors, he will eventually learn? This is good news, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.

I want to say again just to be sure that everyone reading this understands -- neither of my dogs spend even a minute outside without my supervision. I know where my dogs are and what they are doing all the time.
 

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Sorry for any confusion, but I do not believe in some of your opinions. Maybe it's an EU / US thing. Again, I apoligise :)
I suggest you check out the standards of the breed. Then you would understand why the behavior you are describing isn't an EU/US thing but a behavior to be concerned about.
 

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Maybe it's an EU / US thing. Again, I apoligise :)
I don't think it's an EU vs. US thing. We are also fortunate enough to have yahoos in our country that praise a fear aggressive dog for reacting out of insecurity and poor management :)

I think if you saw a truly secure dog that was actually capable of "protecting" you, your opinion would change. I had the fortune of training with this dog yesterday. On the field, he is like a bullet to the sleeve, bone crushing bites, incredible speed and power, controlled aggression, formidable presence....an amazing dog. But 2 mins after his turn at bite work, he settled next to our picnic tables, played with his ball and let children goof with him. That clearheadedness speaks volumes - as does your story about your reactive dog. So to me, this isn't an "EU vs US" thing, it's an ignorance thing ;)
 
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