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Mac and Tasha are almost 3 years old. They have never been very good with strangers or houseguests. We have to be prepared when/if someone comes in our home by putting them up in our bedroom or putting them outside. They bark a lot... A LOT.... at the new people. They can be loud and scary and rambunctious, and understandably this turns people off. I also don't want any accidents to happen, like a bite or knocking someone down.

My dad is not doing very well, health-wise. My mom left him for another man and kicked him out of the house. He's living in a run-down apartment and is barely able to take care of himself. My sister and I took the 24 hour round-trip to Tennessee to go (basically) extract him and bring him to Texas with us. I agreed, knowing that if he stayed with us, it will be very hard to manage with our two dogs. My dad and his health, at the moment, were more important.

My dad arrived at our house last night. We had the dogs behind a gate and, of course, they barked like crazy at him when he walked in. My dad is generally easy-going, so it didn't bother him. We let him get his stuff set up in the room and kept the dogs behind the gate on the other side of the house. We kept them behind the gate for a long time while my dad walked around and talked with us a little bit. My boy, Mac, calms down after a while. Tasha has much more trouble with this, and still will give a quick, loud warning bark every now and then.

When they calmed down, we let them out to sniff him and hang out. They did pretty well with this. My dad even threw their ball with them and played with them.

Then.....my dad stood up with his walker. They barked like crazy, lunged at him and/or walker (not sure which, all happening so fast), tried to bite the walker, almost made him trip and fall. We grabbed them and put them back behind the gate. I was mortified and terrified.

This morning, a similar thing happened, except every time he was ready to use his walker, we put them behind the gate. So they barked still, yes, but didn't lunge and cause harm.

You can imagine my frustration. I cried and cried last night, thinking there's no way we can make this work. I'm thinking, we can't possibly monitor every time my dad gets up or comes out of his room with his walker to put the dogs behind a gate. And we can't ask my dad to tell us his every movement, either.

As I'm typing this, my dad is in his bedroom, and the dogs are out and about with their collar and leashes on so we can get a good hold of them. But I'm dreading the moment he comes out of his room.

I suppose some of this is venting and getting it out, and some of it is asking for advice. How do I help my dogs become acclimated to my dad and his walker without risking injury to Dad? Are we on the right track with isolating them until we can control the behavior? How is the behavior controlled?

So, I am having a very stressful Saturday and feel like crying all the time. It doesn't help that my dad's health has declined so much in a short amount of time (he's not even 60 yet). I'm just worried. I'm thinking our house is not the best place for him...? HELP!
 

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well, you have a bigger issue as far as their behavior around new people, but focusing on one step at a time, if you think the walker is the trigger, i would start by socializing the dogs to the walker - both separately and together. sniff it, lick it, nudge it, whatever they want or need to do to feel comfortable. then, i would have you, and any other regular member of the household, use the walker to desensitize them to its movements and sounds... knock it over a time or two if they’re doing well, let it bump things etc and go from there. eventually i’d progress to having them on drag lines and distracting them as you transition to having your dad use the walker again in their presence. think: put their dinner down and have him go a short distance and back while they’re preoccupied.... have him toss a ball and while they’re going towards the ball, he stands up with the walker by the time they return, etc.

of course these are just some ideas... i don’t know your dogs, what type of handling is effective with them, can’t speak on your dad, the house set up or anything.... just trying to throw some things out there to get your mind thinking in a different way.

if your male is the calmer, more willing dog - i’d start with him.

edit: what type of training / tools have they been exposed to?
 

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Excellent ideas, Fodder!

When I first got a cat, my dog tried to kill it. I didn't give up: I socialized, corrected, and within a few months they were playing together and sharing a bed!

KEEP AT IT - this is a very new situation, but these are smart dogs, and they CAN learn that the walker is not something to get upset about!

I know it's hard right now, but I REALLY think you can do this!
 

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Thanks, @Fodder great suggestions! I will try those. We've already been trying to use the walker ourselves while they've been playing ball. They don't react when we use it. Right now, it seems to be only him. I will try what you mentioned. Thank you! And yes, I do understand the issue runs deeper, but I like that you helped me and focused on the immediate issue. Thank you

Thanks for the encouragement @Sunsilver That means a lot! It's been a very difficult time for us. I hope we can get through this.
 

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@Fodder as far as training, we've done all our training ourselves. No professional dog trainer or obedience school or anything like that. We used clickers and treats. No e-collars or anything like that. We try to use a lot of consistency. But the biggest thing we've failed at is socializing them to people. They have a hard time with it. I wish we would have done better
 

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German Shepherds are genetically a protective breed. Raising, training, and socialization will not change DNA. It can only enhance or diminish what the dogs were born with. There is no need to beat yourself up over something that is a breed characteristic that you can't change.

I think step one is for you to realize that this is not going to happen overnight. This is a process that is going to take weeks. Fodder gave you good advice. In the meantime, slow down, don't look for miracles and count your successes in baby steps as you cross those milestones.

Personally, I am not sure why you have suddenly added e collars to your repertoire but punishing them without putting in the time and training may backfire on you and create a lot of problems.
 

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Would it be possible to work the dogs with your dad? Have your dad sitting and the dogs on a leash or drag line. Put the dog/s in a sit or down stay and have your dad toss high value treats to them while they are down or sitting quietly. Teach them good things come from the new human in the house. All with your supervision of course.
 

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my mom wasn't in a walker when she moved in with us. My dogs didn't get overly rowdy either. BUT it did take awhile to get her on the same page as everyone else. It had been a very long time since she had dogs in her life. Keep teaching what you do want the dogs to do. Get dad on board with teaching the dogs the right behaviors. You Got This!
 

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Are you walking the dogs?

Are they crate trained?

If not, and they are interested in food, look up training a place command on youtube, start teaching it with food. Reward the heck out of place. Then you can use that to keep the dogs calmer when they see dad, reward them for staying there. Use a back tie so that if they break off the place they can't get to your frail dad but hopefully they learn to settle on the place and you can reward them for all tolerant behavior.

Does dad have a wheel chair? I thought if there was another adult who could push dad's chair and you could involve him in dog walks that might help the dogs to calm down around him.
 

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@MineAreWorkingline I haven't used an e-collar. I think I was mentioning that it is something I specifically have NOT tried and didn't really want to use. I am sad that the process will take weeks :-( Thanks for the reminder to count successes in baby steps. I am really bad at that and think things should happen quickly

@Springbrz I think that's a great suggestion. I have had him play ball with them, and they have been dropping it for him while he's been sitting on the couch. Mac, my boy, is pretty good with him, whether he's walking or sitting. Tasha, my girl, is fine with him when he's sitting and playing with her, but if he makes a new sound or new movement and gets up, she goes ballistic. I need to work more with her individually with him and the walker.

@car2ner I'm glad your mom got used to them! My dad seems to be pretty easy-going with them. I actually think this is more me and my fears of them not behaving well around him. Thank you for the encouragement!

@Thecowboysgirl I do walk the dogs. They were crated as puppies but now are not in a crate (we actually don't even have one big enough). I use the gate or our bedroom to block them off from people. I actually have been trying to teach "place" off and on. So I will step up my game with that. Dad does not have a wheelchair, but I love the idea of maybe getting one for him so he can be involved in walks!

I'm trying to remember, it's only day 2 of this. They did not bark as much at him when he walked out of his room. Mac actually didn't bark at all. It's Tasha that starts it, and Mac will often follow. If I can help Tasha, it would be fine. I'm trying to be patient. Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement!
 
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