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Discussion Starter #1
This is my first post here.

I will list all of the information I know and let you guys determine what is relevant.

I have a 4.5 month old GSD.

I got him from the breeder at 12 weeks old.
We have two other dogs and a cat here as well as four people living in the house.
He gets along with everyone here and all of the pets.
We have a large fenced in yard with a dog door so he can come and go as he wants. He generally goes wherever I go and sleeps on my bed at night.

I did the canine personality assessment and determined that he was high in fight drive and pack drive.

I have been regularly taking him to Petsmart and the DogPark to get him socialized. Though he is not interested in coming to strangers when they call him and want to pet him, he has never been aggressive. At petsmart and the dog park he will allow strangers to pet him if I stand next to them and have him sit. I have never had any problems with him at either of these locations.

He has started barking when my brother brings friends over but keeps his distance and "chills out" when I say its ok.

Yesterday I took him hiking and he would growl at people who came close to me. I walked him "on leash" with me between him and the strangers. Strangely he did not growl at woman or elderly people we passed.

At one point while we were hiking two young men came ahead of us passing in the opposite direction of us. My dog started growling so I made him sit, when the guy tried to walk passed my dog tried to nip at him. I grabbed him by the collar pulled him away and said no. The second guy passed with no problems. The rest of the day, he would growl if people got too close but I would make him sit and let the people pass.

Now this morning I am cooking and my dog is laying down a few feet away. As my brothers girlfriend passed through the kitchen he growled and tried to nip at her as well. (Prior to the last two days he has NEVER behaved this way.)
I had him sit with her a few feet away from him. He was growling a little. I gave her some of his favorite treats and he would come eat them out of her hand then go back and sit down. Once the treats were gone he started growling at her again.

That being said. The breed standard states:"The dog must be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet overtures without itself making them." this is what I want him to be.

I want to be able to take him out to parks and other pet friendly places and for him to behave well (which he has prior to the last few days.)

We have alot of people that come over to the house regularly and I don't want this to get to the point where they are afraid to come over.

I'm looking for advice to end this "nipping" as soon as possible. And I would like to know where the line should be as far as what is acceptable with his barking at strangers.

Our other two dogs are very people friendly and have never nipped or bit at anyone.
 

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I would take him to the vet and have a full work up done. The growling at strangers could be a fear period since he is still a pup but the biting and now acting aggressively towards people he knows is not normal and I would be concerned at the sudden onset.

If you find out that everything's ok medically then I would start intensive positive reinforcement training and get a really good trainer to help you. This is not normal behavior for such a young pup!
 

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Has he had any bad experiences at the dog park or really anywhere but my guess is the problem originates at the DP.

My thinking is something has happened where he has been overwhelmed and no longer has confidence in you as the leader to protect him. He sees that this is now up to him and that makes him nervous.

I must say I am not ever a fan of dog parks but I especially think puppies can get bullied there. Tons of dog aggression seems to start at the dog parks.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
He got attacked once at the dog park. He did not get hurt. Most of the people at our dog park have very outgoing and obedient dogs. I have witnessed only two dog fights there in three months(both were stopped immediately) and neither resulted in a dog drawing blood.

It has been over a month since that happened and the nipping didn't start until yesterday.

He is not fearful of other dogs at all. I have never seen him tuck his tail or cower regardless of how big or aggressive the other dog is.

I do daily training with him:
He knows:
sit
shake
lay down
wait
stay
come
quiet
"be nice" this is the calm down command I give when I see the fur raised on his back.

He always obeys my commands instantly. Even when he feels threatened and I call him to come and sit next to me he will do so immediately.

The other thing I was thinking about is the two times when he nipped was in confined space. One was in the doorway of the kitchen and the other one was on a tight path of trail next to a creek. Both of these people were strangers to him.
 

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I'm not sure I would be thinking the dog park was the problem. As many of you know my puppy was virtually attacked after responding correctly to the "COME" command by a very misguided friend of mine who thought it was her place to teach my pup not to jump. This incident was enough to leave her yelping on the ground unable to get up for at least ten seconds. I was terrified. Now granted this occured at 14 weeks, so not likely during a fear period (thank GOD) BUT I have to say that she seems to have let it roll off her back. She is not fearful of anything, even still.
Having said that if it were my dog I would get assistance from a person very experienced in this sort of thing. I think you may have a nerve problem here, and a potential liability if it is not addressed.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
We tried again to let them meet in the living room a few minutes ago. He walked right up to her, sniffed her then let her pet him. No problems at all this time.
 

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I think it is a fear period, and you really have to do things right to get him through it without him getting(staying) aggressive.
Just keep up with the NILIF and let him know you are the one in control of his protection, not the other way around. Positive correction and stay with the socializing, do not isolate him during this time. If he seems to be overwhelmed with situations just remove him from them and keep it always positive. Remember, he is still a baby, even if he thinks he is a big boy! Redirect his focus if he seems to be getting ramped up. There are several good books available and there is a lot of info right here on this subject. If you don't have him in formal training classes, I would do that, but make sure the trainer is good(some really don't know the GSD personality, and will go overboard with the corrections). Vet check certainly can't hurt, either:))
 

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I agree with Onyx ... sounds like he's going through a fear period.

Hector, with the age of your pup, it's EXTREMELY important that he does not have bad experiences at the dog park or Petsmart or with any of the visitors to your home. Dog parks are notorious for instilling fear into pups because the big dogs can easily overwhelm them. Even if your dog didn't get hurt, he undoubtedly was quite frightened when the other dog fought with him. This isn't good.

It's also possible that a bad experience can cause bad behavior -- redirected aggression, especially -- several days/weeks after the experience. Plus, youngsters have several "fear periods" that they go through as they grow up. At close to 5 months, I think your pup is probably there. My guess ... the combination of these two things are what you're dealing with now.

Show your dog that you will protect him. That will permit him to relax and feel more confident and secure.

Keep things upbeat and positive. Have the girlfriend feed your pup little bits of hot dog, especially if she's coming into a room. (If he begins to show some fear of her, try calling him and give him a treat, even if all he does is look at you.) Reward the good, ignore the bad and you'll get through this.

BTW -- I don't put much stock into those personality assessment tools. Their validity for predicting adult behavior and temperament is very poor.
 

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Is this type of behavior change typical of a fear period?
 

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I think it is, from experience with Onyx. She showed signs at about this age, but we also began training then. I didn't do things right, I let the trainer do a correction when it should have been me. There were other things like the socializing I didn't do enough early on, so now I am trying to get her fear aggression managed. This is why the trainer you use can make all the difference early on. I talked to a k9 cop handler today, and his methods are so outdated, that I wouldn't think of using them on my dogs. But many believe in the old school ways, unfortunately
 

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something to consider is that you may be doing too much too fast with your pup. When we got kali we did it all.. dog parks, bringing to petco, walks in busy towns. on some weekends we were going morning til late afternoon. Although we did not experience the same problems you have, she does have problems with other dogs now. Our goal was to socialize her, but in our zeal, we forgot that it was important for her to be comfortable with it as well, and we sort of overdid it. I would suggest you don't force your dog into interactions. bring him places, but don't allow people to touch him.. (explain that he is in training) perhaps just talk to you and toss treats to him. that way he gets rewarded but will not feel threatened. eventually he will relax with people and you will be able to move forward. letting him sniff and take treats, be pet etc. I know it seems like a step back, but it is worth it to take the time now when he is small, to avoid having to deal with it when he is older.
 

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Originally Posted By: LucinaIs this type of behavior change typical of a fear period?
I think this is sounding like fear reaction. Given this pup's age and history (never behaved like this previously and a dog park attack), I think that's most probable.

Whether Hector ends up with a fear-aggressive dog, or a social, confident companion will depend a lot on how he handles this situation.
 

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I thnk it cannot be anything other than fear---this is an 18-week old pup.

Hector--you clearly are a smart guy and a very responsible owner. You'll get through this.

There will be numerous times in the first 2-3 years of your dog's life where he'll do something and you'll think, "Where in the heck did that come from?" Whether it's fear, testing you, acting out, or the young dog just being a butt-head...it all happens. The key is how YOU respond.

Susan summed it up best---reward good behavior and ignore the rest.

To that I'd add, you have to always be in physical control of the dog (meaning on a leash). Since you're not 100% sure of his reactions (yet) you have to be prepared for him to react. But DON'T stop taking him out in the world because you think he'll misbehave. He will. But he's not going to learn anything by not making mistakes. Just don't push him past his comfort zones too quickly.

Set him up to succeed. Give him clear signals of the behavior that you want (constant praise when he's doing it right) and consistent correction when he steps over the line.

NILIF (Nothing in life is free) is a great thing if used in a positive way. It's not a training method as much as a lifestyle---it has to do with giving the dog clear leadership signals and requiring him to "earn" his way in life by doing things that please you. A simple example is to ask the dog to sit and wait before feeding. It's not boot camp. It can be really fun for a dog (everything is a game!) if you make it so.
 

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I love this board. I can really learn a lot here.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I appreciate the advice.
I started doing more training and continued taking him to the dog park. I have had no more growling or nipping in over a week.
The girl he nipped last weekend came over again last night. I made him sit as she came in the door, then I let him go sniff her. She pet him, and everything went well.
Tomorrow I will go back to the hiking trails and see how he does there.

What I have been doing that seems to work is when I can tell he is ready to go aggressive, i just touch his shoulder and do the "tsst", then he will relax and look at me like "ok, I'll let you handle this situation then."
 
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