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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Took my fear aggressive dog for a walk this morning. She barks pretty regularly now at people and dogs who get too close when she's on leash (and sometimes when she's off leash). We were walking home and she had to pass pretty close to a guy and his two leashed boxers, and of course she barked and lunged at them, and as soon as we were past she nipped the back of my leg.

It didn't really hurt, just a pinch, but yeah....definitely not good. I admit I smacked her after that, I was so mad. And I guess that's just displaced aggression, she probably didn't mean the bite me but felt like she needed to bite something. But after that, I guess she could tell I was pretty pissed off, and then she kept snapping at my hands the whole way home and after we got home. Out of....insecurity? Frustration? Excitement? I have no idea.

Had to take her to the vet right after that to get her spay sutures taken out. I told the vets what she'd done and they muzzled her to remove the sutures, which was fine, she didn't show any aggression at all toward them even before they put the muzzle on.

I'm in a pretty bad place right now. I'm still mad at her and feel like I can't trust her anymore. She's lying on her bed right now, she whined a bit when we got home but I can't even look at her, so she just lay down and is sleeping now (she's had a stressful day I guess). I'm ordering a basket muzzle and prong collar from chewy and I'm preparing to accept that that's just how we're going to have to go for walks now. I have no doubt that she will bite the next person who gets too close, at least while we're on walks. Or she'll bite me again.

I know it's not good that I'm still mad at her, that I can't bring myself to forgive her right now. She's still pretty new to me and I know I need to give her more time, but....I just can't help it. I can't trust her. It sucks because she's sooooo affectionate at home, she's such a good dog and so loving, but I'm so frustrated and I don't know what to do to help her.

I admit I'm even considering whether or not to rehome her to someone who can handle her better. I'm sure that feeling will pass...maybe. Again I'm just not in a good place.

I don't know what I did to her to make her this way. She didn't do this stuff when I first got her. She was scared of stuff, sure, but she didn't bark or lunge at them until about 2 weeks after I got her--she'd just look at them and then look at me, and I'd ignore, and she'd ignore. Now...I feel like I must've done something to encourage this.
 

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How long have you had her? Are you working with a trainer? Did she break skin?

Aside from needing to know that..you mentioned off lead. I would not have her off lead at all unless secure in/on your own property.
 

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For now, get a good pillow to scream your anger out in. She is just a dog with some issues that need to be addressed. Why did you have to get too close to the boxers. There was no other way to wait until they passed or no room to turn around in? Get a good trainer to the house.
Lashing out to her is re-directed aggression on your part as well ironically but understandable. Let things calm down to get on one page with her again. Maybe she is still in pain from surgery. GSDs are very sensitive emotionally so her day is just as bad.
 

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I'm so sorry. It has to be incredibly difficult when your trust is betrayed like that.

I am going to side with the others' advice from your previous thread and say slow down. I know she needs exercise but you should probably stop walking her unless it is an empty trail or something similar. Spend time at home with her, building your bond and building her feeling of security. It really hasn't been that long since you've had her and she's been through a lot.

This sounds like fear a based reaction to me, either situational or temperament, we don't know yet. Give yourself and her low stress, low exposure time to find out which it is. If she seems stressed, remove her from the situation. Be very protective of her state of mind for at least a week.

Those are my thoughts. Others will have great advice too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
For now, get a good pillow to scream your anger out in. She is just a dog with some issues that need to be addressed. Why did you have to get too close to the boxers. There was no other way to wait until they passed or no room to turn around in? Get a good trainer to the house.
Lashing out to her is re-directed aggression on your part as well ironically but understandable. Let things calm down to get on one page with her again. Maybe she is still in pain from surgery. GSDs are very sensitive emotionally so her day is just as bad.
It was a narrow part of the trail. I could have moved her off trail and waited for them to pass, but she still probably would have barked and lunged at them. It was a guy and two dogs she has met multiple times on the trail--in fact she played with them yesterday--so I'm guessing part of this was excitement, wanting to play with the dogs and me not letting her. (She did bark at the guy yesterday.)

How long have you had her? Are you working with a trainer? Did she break skin?

Aside from needing to know that..you mentioned off lead. I would not have her off lead at all unless secure in/on your own property.
She did not break skin. It was through my jeans.
I've had her for less than 2 months. I worked with a trainer for two sessions about 2 weeks after I got her because I was worried about her beginning to show signs of fear aggression. The trainer was a positive-only trainer and told me to try to redirect her with treats, which works pretty well for dogs barking at her behind fences (she barks and lunges at them too) but so far hasn't really done much for dogs/people we meet on walks. I contacted a different trainer and I was thinking of trying to get her into some group obedience classes, but they won't start until December.

As for being off-leash; she has good recall and I let her off leash only when I can see that there aren't people around (these are city parks along the river, and this time of year they aren't used much). As soon as I see someone coming I call her back to me and put the leash back on her. I kinda depend on her being able to run around, to tire her out. So far off leash she has barked at people but more often just runs away.
 

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The dog is new to you. There has not been enough time to build a trusting foundation. She is probably still in some pain. You have her leashed which limits her options to act. You did not protect her from a stranger and two Boxers when she was feeling compromised. She redirected to you and then she kept trying to communicate with you by mouthing. I think she doesn't trust you to keep her safe.
 
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An experienced trainer familiar with GSDs and a few private lessons would be ideal.There are some excellent books and videos that can give you insight and help.Karen Pryor LAT(look at that) and Patricia McConnell are both very good.It is frustrating and depressing when these issues happen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The dog is new to you. There has not been enough time to build a trusting foundation. She is probably still in some pain. You have her leashed which limits her options to act. You did not protect her from a stranger and two Boxers when she was feeling compromised. She redirected to you and then she kept trying to communicate with you by mouthing. I think she doesn't trust you to keep her safe.
So what should I have done? Not walked her at all?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
An experienced trainer familiar with GSDs and a few private lessons would be ideal.There are some excellent books and videos that can give you insight and help.Karen Pryor LAT(look at that) and Patricia McConnell are both very good.It is frustrating and depressing when these issues happen.
Yeah that's what the original trainer recommended. We've been working on it.

It's just hard, when people like the one who blamed me for not making her feel safe make those accusations, and I'm like....well should I just not walk her at all then? Walk at midnight when we won't run into anyone else? I feel like walking is and will be part of our routine for as long as we're together, and I'm trying to make things as normal as possible, not put her under too much pressure...but even that isn't right, I guess.
 

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So what should I have done? Not walked her at all?
I am not sure how you got that out of my post. If anything, I am one of the biggest advocates on this forum for exercising a dog and allowing for ample off leash opportunity.

Like others have already said, slow down, let this dog grieve for her past home and loved ones, let her get used to you and your routine, do fun things that she enjoys doing / build a bond, keep her safe from things that stress her out especially after being in heat and then being spayed, what a hormonal mess right now!

You are thinking about getting rid of her, harboring a grudge, she senses this, she has nobody but you right now. You want to muzzle her and add to her anxiety instead of keeping her away from things she fears until you can get her reactivity under control. You want to prong her for being afraid, that won't take her fear away and will add to her mistrust of you.

Be your dog's best friend, advocate for her, keep her under her threshold. These things take time. Slow down.
 

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Hi again, fear aggression really needs to be dealt with at an early age. Get engaged with a trainer as soon as possible. Again, slow down, it is easy to keep at it looking for instant gratification or confirmation that she is fine or fixed. I have to stop myself all the time from putting my dog into the same negative situation to see if he has improved. It become more about the owner than the dog. Just chill. Another thing that caught my attention was getting home and her lying on your bed and you upset with her - get that dog in the crate!
 

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I feel like walking is and will be part of our routine for as long as we're together, and I'm trying to make things as normal as possible, not put her under too much pressure...but even that isn't right, I guess.
I understand that frustration. But listen to your instincts too. Would you feel comfortable repeating the same walk tomorrow and not getting bit? Remember that she will feel any anxiety down the leash and may react to that as well as her own fear.

I have a pup at home right now and we are introducing him to walks in a super low stress environment. I don't know your situation and location but you might try our technique. My neighborhood always has kids out playing and neighbors fiddling in their garden. That is high stress and distracting for him. Its also a situation that is hard to control for me. So I take my little dude to one of those super big fancy house neighborhoods where everyone seems to stay in their homes. There isn't much traffic so we can put him on a long lead and explore at his pace. It was a beautiful day yesterday and we didn't run across any walking dogs and only saw one person fiddling in their garage and they ignored him. If he sees something a little scary, he can stop and stare and that weird thing that caught his attention doesn't come towards him like those boxers did. It's super low stress and low exposure. So my little dude feels like we've got this and I know how to keep him at a good level for his comfort. Our bond builds while exercising together.

Something like that might be better than walking on trails that you know other dogs share. I would take a few steps back in the socialization department.
 

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The dog is new to you. There has not been enough time to build a trusting foundation. She is probably still in some pain. You have her leashed which limits her options to act. You did not protect her from a stranger and two Boxers when she was feeling compromised. She redirected to you and then she kept trying to communicate with you by mouthing. I think she doesn't trust you to keep her safe.
So what should I have done? Not walked her at all?
Yep! Until you and her have a good grasp on what to expect from each other, I personally would nix the walks for now. There are great things you can do for her in your home and yard that will not only get her mentally stimulated and satisfied, but also exercise her at lower levels (she is still recovering). Do scent work indoors. Me and my 4 LOVE it. Take some empty water bottles, poke holes in it, and put something smelly in it (sardines are a fav around here) and hide the throughout the house. Let her watch you do it from her crate the first couple times. When she finds one, super praise and give her the sardine as a treat. Do this with each she finds. You can slowly phase out giving her the treat ever time she finds it. Or you could order a scent kit online. Since we do it just for fun, water bottles and stinky fish work just fine for us. Get some puzzle feeders for her meals. She has to use brain power to figure out how to get the kibble out. They have ones for treats as well to keep her brain working. You can play hide and seek. Hide in a room with a muffled voice, and call out to her. Praise and reward with a treat or favorite toy when she responds.

You can hide treats and kibble in the yard and have her find it there also. Dogs live for this kind of stuff! Play with rugs and balls and anything else that gets her attention in the yard. My rescue had never seen a toy, never played with one, and didn’t care to, so we would play chase in the backyard and run laps around each other until we had a great bond and were able to then up the training to start training outdoors, with and without distractions. Tennis courts were you can lock the gate, outside and far back from a dog park or child park, while you run her through her commands. A dog does not have to be walked to get mental and physical stimulation that satisfies them.

The most common thing I see amount your threads is that you have high expectations, and I understand that, and she will get there eventually, but not if you keep putting her in high stress situations before trust and a bond has formed.

Like I’ve said in the past, when I got my GSD at 4yrs of age, she was a nightmare. A nip on my pants leg? Ha. She literally shredded both of my arms with her mouth and paws. She was highly fear aggressive, and she would redirect to me when she was uncomfortable. It took time, a lot of time, to get her settled in, build trust, and find ways to stimulate her without having the stress and anxiety of taking her out to public places. We can now, but this was a year of one on one training before I was confident enough that I could walk her past any dog or person without a reaction from her.

You need to focus more on what is best for her at this point, and not what is best for you, or you’ll never be able to bring her around to a lovely dog that has bonded and trusts in you completely.
 

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Fear aggression is one of the most frustrating and difficult things dog owners need to deal with.
In my experience, it can’t be trained out, only managed.
This is who this dog is, and very well might be the reason the previous owners gave her up.
No reason to be mad at her. Dogs don't “do things to us.” They just do things, and the things they do are always what is good for them. She saw dogs, felt threatened, and went into defensive mode. And, yeah, because she was all wound up, she redirected on you, because your leg happened to be handy.
It’s time to ask yourself tough questions. Are you prepared to manage a fear aggressive dog, for many years to come?
If so, it’s time to do a lot of research on how to do it. This forum has a lot of info on this, and what it takes to own a dog like this.
 

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The best advice I can give for the immediate is do not use a prong collar for this. It will amp her up MORE not less. A prong is going to lead to more redirection. Use a "dominant dog" or slip-lead, if you need control. Even use a cheap-o plastic slip lead you can find in any vet office- I like the plastic round kind because they release easily.

For the time being- take her to seldom used trails. If she has a reliable recall, let her off leash where you can see people coming, then call her in, leash her, and go far enough off trail so she stays "below threshold" (doesn't react). Teach a sit-stay.

Reward for good passes! Treat, tug, "good girl!".

Teach an "auto recall"- when your dog sees someone, always, always call her in, have her sit in a heel position, watch your face, and stay. Always. Soon she'll start doing this without you telling her- this will be her safe space, her safe position. Practice this with a long line or leash on busier trails. Remember to start by taking her far enough off trail so she doesn't react.

Teach her the sit and watch me commands away from any busy-ness- start with no distractions, and work your way up.

Teach her what yes and no means.

Find a so-called "balanced trainer" who you trust. Work with him or her. This isn't the time for all positive treat and click stuff. You are thinking about giving her up- you need something that will work and allow you to be successful.

As for being mad at her- here's a good quote on dogs "The dog never makes a mistake. He is just a dog and he does what he does because he is a dog and thinks like a dog. It is you that makes the mistake because you haven't trained him to do what you want him to do when you want him to do it."

Something to always keep in mind when working with any dog in any venue.

To add, if you are truly afraid of her now, it will be best to rehome her responsibly.
 

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Banzai555:
Everyone is trying to be helpful. Hitting a dog is never productive, especially since you indicate that it didn't really hurt. Staying angry, beyond a momentary reaction, is not productive. Your dog can sense that & it will make things worse. I've never stayed mad or held a grudge with an animal before. I've had plenty of wounds & bruises to nurse, because of my dog's hyperactive play, but I look at myself to improve the way I do things.

Guess if I just had my female organs cut out, I'd be a bit grouchy and sensitive.

My dog is 15 months now. I've learned to make it a habit to put my dog in a sit/stay & let other dogs/owners pass in close quarters (whether we have met before or not). While on leash & walking in a park, I've had my dog be friendly with one dog we passed and then react negatively, when we encountered the same dog in another part of the park. Something was different the 2nd time.

I've found that it serves me well to be proactive & look at every walk & every trip to the dog park as a possible problem. I can't assume that because things went well with a certain dog or person on one day, that things will be the same on another day. Sometimes, a reaction happens because of some past experience your dog had, that you might not we aware of.

There was a situation at the dog park yesterday. Another GSD owner brought his dog into the enclosure & ended up having to take his GSD immediately out. He said that his dog had recently had an encounter with another GSD & now has an issue with his dog being aggressive with any GSD he meets. Thankfully, he was closely monitoring his dog & took him out as soon as he started to negatively react to my dog.

I think there is value in focusing on prevention.
 

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I strongly suspect that this dog had issues long before she came to you. The angel dog that you had those first two weeks was a natural response to being displaced, alone and afraid. She had no one but you so she hung on to you with everything she had.
The bite, and I use that term loosely, sounds more like a hurry up nip. Pretty common in herding dogs, used to hustle us along. Shadow nips at my butt if I am being slow, I can easily see your dog thinking that she really wanted out of that situation NOW! Of course she needs you to move quicker to accomplish that.
A narrow spot on the trail, two large dogs and a man, she's not quite herself and you are hesitating. Look at that from her point of view. Not condoning the action, just giving you a different perspective.
As I have suggested before, you need to slow down. I think you have a great dog (under all the horse poop, there is a pony), I think you are a good choice to own her. Type A, control freak. She will need structure and routine, a drive to help her succeed and a soft hand. But for heavens sake, let her catch her freakin breath!
 

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I had a fear aggressive rescued dog, so I didn’t know his past history. Once we were walking down our own street and a woman came up to say hello. I immediately got him out of her reach, behind a bush and she moved toward us and waved her hand in his face so he could sniff it. While I was warning her off, he barked and his tooth cut her hand. It was all her fault but I still paid the hospital bills and I didn’t argue or complain. After that, I only took him places where there was plenty of room to avoid strangers. It was often inconvenient and a few times we debated whether we wanted to keep him, but he was very gentle and mellow at home, so we did. We had to manage him the rest of his life.

Your dog hasn’t bitten anyone yet, so he doesn’t have a bite history. If you don’t think you are up for this, rehome him now. There is no reason someone should have to keep a dog they are not comfortable with or equipped to deal with. If you had him from a puppy, I would say keep him and work with him, but in my experience, fear based aggression reinforces itself. An owner needs to know how to stop it or it will escalate and get worse. It never goes away on its own.
 

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Ok I'm going to preface that I did not read all the responses. I have a female (6.5 yrs old)that is a poorly bred byb dog that we've had since a puppy. She has terrible nerves. She is fear aggressive, leash reactive, noise fearful, hasn't met another female dog she likes, hates cats. She is also the biggest love bug at home. Do I trust her with others ...NOPE! Do I love her to death...absolutely! Is she a good dog...mostly. She needs management.
We spent a lot of money when she was young on a trainer. One on one training. He was great and helped us a lot to understand our girl and her limitations. The most important words he ever spoke to us and repeated many times over and I agree with wholly.

"If your dog fails YOU failed your dog"

He said this from a training standpoint. Never, ever set you dog up to fail because you will be failing your dog.

I'm not judging you or saying this to be mean to you but you failed your dog. You said yourself you could have moved off the path. Why didn't you? You set her up to fail and she did...and now your angry with her....it was on you...sorry if that hurts your feelings. It's the truth.

Am I saying you can't walk your dog...NO... I am not. Watch your dog, look at her reactions, be attentive to what she is seeing and how she is showing you her discomfort/fear. You need to respond appropriately because she can't. Not yet anyway.

It took a long time. I still don't trust my dog in certain situations but I can and do let her run off leash in certain areas. I am in constant awareness of our surroundings. If I see another person and or dog within 50-60 yards I leash up my dog and head in the opposite direction if I can. If I can't change direction I still leash my dog and give any passers by a wide berth. I have many times been on walking trails where we stepped of into the woods to ensure both those passing and my dog are safe and behave appropriately. I never assume that just because one day an interaction with a strange or relatively strange dog went well that it will be a repeat performance the next time.
We have good days and bad days on walks. Some days nothing phases her and all is good. Other days I know walking out the door she is going to be an arse the whole walk because she just can't help herself. It's always up to me to make sure she behaves appropriately and is corrected if she doesn't.
So... have I made mistakes and let my dog fail? You bet I have! and still do some days when I'm off my game. I own it. I don't blame my dog I blame me. She can't help what she is genetically.
My point... your dog is always going to need to be managed and it's up to you to do so. It's really not that hard. See someone with another dog/s coming...move further away. Give them and your dog room. Learn your dogs language. Give her and you time to know each other before you (like those before) bail on her. Is she perfect...obviously not...but are you? Please step back, give the both of you time to learn about each other and don't force a perceived lifestyle on either of you. Give it time to find your own groove with each other and please look into a breed knowledgeable trainer to help you and your girl along the way.
 

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Just my 2 cents, for what it's worth. My Shelby is high content GSD. Got her as an 8 week old shelter pup. Shelby is a special cupcake. She likes her safe places, which are - her house, her yard, and her car. Shelby does not like to go for walks. She barks at people, constantly looks over her shoulder, and rushes to get back home. Fortunately, she is fearful, but not fear aggressive.

Shelby is 5 years old now. You have not had your dog very long. You do not know each other very well. Really up the obedience. Not only will you tire your dog mentally, you will help to build the bond. Teach your dog to look to you. Seriously, I worked on having Shelby make eye contact with me. Use hand signs more and talk less. Stay home with your dog. I'm not sure being out and about on narrow trails, especially while she is recovering from surgery is the best idea.

If/when you must walk, her attention should be on you. Avoid other people/dogs, as much as possible. Cross the street, walk the other way, whatever it takes. Do you have any yard at all? Shelby gets exercised in my yard. You don't even need that much space. Shelby loves her flirt pole. She also has an extra large solid ball. I throw the ball up the hill. Shelby runs up the hill, soccer rolls the ball with her paws and chases it down the hill. In both cases, her tongues is hanging out, when we stop playing. You won't get that on a walk. The third thing is the pulley system. My son made it for his own exercise - pulley, rope, bucket of sand. It soon became Shelby's toy. She treated it like a tug, but always pulled the bucket to the top. A tired dog is a good dog.

I cannot emphasize the bonding enough. You need to learn and respect your girls' thresholds. She needs to learn to trust you and know that you have her back. She may never be a go everywhere kind of dog. You might have to change your expectations.

Not sure if this link with work. I'll give it a try.
 
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