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Heya there.

I've been lurking for a while, and I guess I want to introduce myself. I'm from Georgia, and my fiance and I recently got a white GSD puppy by the name of Jack.

We're new GSD owners and new to puppies, but not new to adult dogs. I have to say it's been a whirlwind of learning experiences!

He's already a 3 month old landshark, though he's landsharking much less (and a little more softly when he does) since we've been correcting him and teaching him "leave it". There were lots of ripped holes in pants in the process, though!

He's been doing really great with obedience training for his age (he is wickedly smart, even with his mushy puppy brain) and environmental & people socialization. Not so good with dogs.

[TLDR below]

He's a champ when it comes to environmental stimuli, quickly recovering from things that frighten him (plane flying low overhead and a loud bell ringing on a playground) or otherwise acting completely unphased (vacuum, train passing by only 30 feet from us, thunderstorms). He loves the woods and romping around in creeks. We've let him off leash on some very deserted trails early in the morning (putting him back on leash at the sight of another dog coming our way--it's only fair) and he's enjoyed that. He's learning to walk loose leash, and he's doing better every day about not pulling. In a month or two, I know DF will start wanting to teach him to heel.

He lacks a little confidence in terms of people, but it's easy to show which people are "okay" to meet and generally permits petting (especially by calm children). In fact, the last person we met he actually sat to the side and waited for me to call him over to the neighbor, then happily ran up and greeted her (we'd met her before). Most other people he completely ignores or it's simple enough to distract him into a sit and down/walk away so he calms.

He needs a little more work with guests in the house (we just don't have that many who come over--we're kinda loners ourselves). But he doesn't act afraid, just excited and annoying (we put him in his pen when he gets to be too much).

He's already started alerting us to people too close to the house, which is good and bad. Bad because it's usually just a neighbor pruning their flowers. Good because, well, doggy alarm system. However, I noticed that as long as I come over and take a look, he settles down or can be calmed with a sit and down. I think it'll just take some repetition and exposure before he learns who is "normal" and who isn't.

Unfortunately, he lacks a lot of confidence when it comes to other dogs. He's very scared of the neighborhood dogs. 90% of them are reactive on the leash, stare, and pull towards him (they are ALL truly awfully mannered), so I fully understand WHY he's scared. We've only met one dog who understood what was happening to Jack and actually gave off every calming signal she could think of to give him the chance to say "hello". And he did once he plucked up a little courage--immediately he wanted to play once he got a good, safe, sniff.

Otherwise, he hides behind us any time a dog is looking at and approaching him (even a tiny puppy that licked his nose), and has recently started barking with his hackles up. I don't know if that's an increase in confidence that he feels like he has enough oomph to tell those dogs off, or if that's his fear worsening--either way not good.

At least there's some hope. Whenever we hike or we're at the farmer's market and dogs are just passing by (even in close proximity as sometimes happens with tight crowds and trails), he doesn't notice or care about them. It's the second a dog faces and approaches him that he gets scared. I'm trying to determine the distance at which he starts to react to staring, and it seems like 10-15 feet is the boundary line. (We've seen many other German Shepherds that appear to be the same way in terms of personal space. Just about every adult shepherd owner we've met has politely told us their dog doesn't like other dogs coming up to them. Is that the reality we face?)

We're taking him to a puppy playtime session at PetCo this weekend, and I intend to make sure the trainer in charge knows of his fear. I hope that will help him learn that dogs approaching him does not mean bad things will happen--that it can mean play time or nothing at all. I don't even care if he plays with the other puppies (that'd be nice). I just want him to not react negatively.

I'm also going to try to convince my fiance that we should probably hold off on going up to other dogs and just letting Jack sit there and look first, or walk on by. But it's tough. I don't want to come off as a know-it-all and undermine his own experiences and knowledge. As much as I love him, he often lacks patience and simply wants our dog to greet others happily. I'm not entirely convinced this is in the cards for Jack--maybe he's a loner like us and just doesn't like hanging out with unknown entities.


Anyway, he's a work in progress. I'm trying to not let the pressure of "you have to socialize NOW" get to me. That only makes things worse, I think. I've come to really hate the internet in terms of training resources. No one has any set structure and half of them say the other half are horrifically wrong. Thus far, we've been taking the balanced approach (mainly because that's how we were taught as children by our parents). Teach him what to do and praise, correct him when he does something we've told him again and again not to do.
 

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