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Hey all, you're all such fountains of wisdom and I've learned so much on this forum, so I figured this was the best place come for some insight. Here's the background:

We've had Xena since she was 2 months old, and she'll be turning 4 in November. I'm her "person," the one she follows around, sleeps with, etc. She's gone through 2 professional rounds of training, most recently earlier this year, to work on some issues: barking in the car (she mostly does this when she's really excited), charging the fence, and acting aggressively toward strangers/other dogs while we're out walking. She's come leaps and bounds since this last round of training, which I credit largely to switching over to a prong.

A couple months ago, I had to take it easy because of a medical issue and hired a dog walker to make sure Xena got her daily dose of exercise. It was only supposed to be for a week, but things went so well that Katie's been going out with her ever since. I'm not a runner but Katie is, so she comes by a few times/week to take her running. I don't *need* the dog walker, per se, but I like that Xena gets some variety in her exercise routine, not just walking with me.

So here's my question: Why does she act so differently when she's out with me vs. Katie? I've warned Katie about the issues I've had (mentioned above), but according to her, Xena's never misbehaved. She's never barked in the car. She doesn't pay attention to other dogs. She's never lunged at or threatened anyone. There are a lot of golf carts rolling around right now since it's tourist season, and I told Katie tonight to hold tight if they see one, because Xena goes bat**** whenever she hears/sees one. But when they came back to the house, Katie said two of the carts passed during their walk and Xena didn't react at all. Katie said she thinks Xena acts so differently with me because she sees it as her job to protect me, while Katie's just someone who drops by a few times a week and not really a member of the pack. Agree? Disagree? Other theories? My understanding is they're usually running/jogging, and Xena's very businesslike, like focus on whatever she's doing and tune everything else out. So my thought is that she's so focused on running that she doesn't pay attention to the other dogs/pedestrians/etc. (Although, Katie said when the golf carts passed them this evening, they were walking.)
 

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This is a very common phenomenon. It's why in group classes good trainers will sometimes take the leash of worst dog in the class, and even use that one as the demo dog, and instantly the dog's bad behavior vanishes when the leash changes hand. Same dog, different handler. It's why dog training classes are about training people more than dogs!

My guess is Katie has confident handling skills that your dog naturally follows. Katie's in charge, so the dog doesn't have to be.

If you think your dog feels like it needs to "protect you" on walks by reacting to everything strange, that really means the dog feels like it needs to be in charge because you're not. Your goal should be for your dog to believe "my person's got this, so I can relax and enjoy the walk." It's a kind of confident, benevolent leadership that dogs just naturally follow, without force or struggle. Great training classes nurture this and build it in people -- is there any chance you might be able to sign up for a good class soon?
 

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Another reason for the change in behavior could be the exercise she is getting. Walking on leash is exercise for you, not a German Shepherd. Running or jogging is exercise for the dog too. Many bad behaviors are caused by a lack of exercise.
 

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Thanks for your insight. I was afraid she was trying to take charge because she didn't think I was capable, i.e. I'm not a strong leader. The thing is, she doesn't do it all the time. We can walk past 100 people and she'll be fine, but one person will set her off for one reason or another. One of the requirements from our breeder was that she go to puppy school, so we enrolled her in a basic obedience class at PetSmart when she was 3-4 months old. She didn't start getting protective until she was a little over a year old, so I signed her up for one-on-one sessions with a trainer (former dog handler/trainer in the Marines). She went through a second round of training earlier this year with a group here whose founders are military dog handlers/trainers. I'm just afraid she'd be too much of a distraction in a group setting, not only keeping me on edge, but disrupting the other dogs' learning as well. Again, she doesn't react all the time, just once in a while. With dogs, she definitely notices them, and keeps her eye on them. But she's never done anything like tear the leash out of my hand to get at them or anything like that. Do you think group classes would help?
 

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I hear that, heat and humidity is not my thing either. We tend to take summers off and wait for fall to come.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Do you have suggestions on how to keep her exercised and happy during the summer months? From about October to April, we're always out and about (walking, exploring new places, play dates, etc.). But it's such a struggle this time of year. It kills me to see her just lying there, bored out of her mind, but it's either too hot to go out or it's thunder and lightning, like right now. And that just makes it unbearably muggy for 1-2 days afterward. I seriously hate Florida, lol!
 

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Does she have a lot of prey drive or any? If she does you can play fetch with her and you you can use a flirt pole to exercise her too! It is a fun exercise that will tire out your dog immensely without doing too much!
 

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Tremendous prey drive. Which is great most of the time but ... you know, squirrels, golf carts, skateboarders, etc.

Yeah, she's really into frisbees, balls, wheels, anything I throw, really. Sometimes I'll just stand there with a bunch of big sticks and throw them around the yard and she zooms back and forth, which is a great way to tire her out. I work from home, and whatever time isn't dedicated to work is dedicated to her. I'm pretty sure I'm doing everything I can to make sure she's happy but always feel like I can do more. Part of that is just guilt ... We had three other GSDs when I was growing up, and knowing what I know now, I didn't spend anywhere near as much time with them as I should have.
 

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All I can suggest is early morning walks. Food or toy hunt games in the house. Do some trick learning in the house. One more nice walk after the evening thunderstorm.


Interesting idea that she might be protecting the two of you. The other day I took my dogs for a long walk and the humidity was starting to rise. Kids were out playing and I crossed the street to avoid them. A few kids crossed over as well and started coming towards us. I stopped them a block away and said, "My dogs are hot and tired and don't really want to say hello right now." I smiled and waved and said, "bye bye". The kids were good and walked away. I looked down at my dogs and they were both looking up at me smiling. I can just imagine them thinking, "thanks..."
 

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Do you have (or live near) a pool where you could take her swimming? It's fun for most dogs and gives them great exercise. Or, look around and see if there are any dock diving classes to join. Cool water in hot weather is just heaven.

Aly
 

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Thanks for your insight. I was afraid she was trying to take charge because she didn't think I was capable, i.e. I'm not a strong leader. The thing is, she doesn't do it all the time. We can walk past 100 people and she'll be fine, but one person will set her off for one reason or another.
You mentioned tightening up on the leash under certain circumstances and I'm guessing there are times when you do it without realizing. Rest assured your dog knows, and I think she is in protection mode when she feels the leash tighten. You need to refocus her on you, which conveys, "Hey, I got it. Chill."


Petsmart classes are more about socialization than true obedience. Group classes with a reputable trainer (check with area dog clubs or the local animal shelter for recommendations) is a must. Your dog and you need to train with lots of distractions! You two will form an even stronger bond, and she'll know that you are the leader capable of handling any situation.
Besides, group lessons are fun! And you'll learn so much more being able to watch the other students and their dogs.

:smile2:
 

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This is a very common phenomenon. It's why in group classes good trainers will sometimes take the leash of worst dog in the class, and even use that one as the demo dog, and instantly the dog's bad behavior vanishes when the leash changes hand. Same dog, different handler. It's why dog training classes are about training people more than dogs!

My guess is Katie has confident handling skills that your dog naturally follows. Katie's in charge, so the dog doesn't have to be.

If you think your dog feels like it needs to "protect you" on walks by reacting to everything strange, that really means the dog feels like it needs to be in charge because you're not. Your goal should be for your dog to believe "my person's got this, so I can relax and enjoy the walk." It's a kind of confident, benevolent leadership that dogs just naturally follow, without force or struggle. Great training classes nurture this and build it in people -- is there any chance you might be able to sign up for a good class soon?
THIS!
Funny, I had a group class this morning and this real nice lady was having problems getting her two year old from gripping the leash while heeling. She repeatedly told dog to quit and dog was taking it like a game. I asked for the leash and she heeled beautifully, stopped with perfect automatic sit, stayed for me while I went to end of 15 ft leash, and returned her to owner. All I did was provide leadership and no nonsense. The owner is much to lenient with this dog, though the dog is actually very biddable. It sounds like you need to provide leadership as Magwart suggested.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
You mentioned tightening up on the leash under certain circumstances and I'm guessing there are times when you do it without realizing. Rest assured your dog knows, and I think she is in protection mode when she feels the leash tighten. You need to refocus her on you, which conveys, "Hey, I got it. Chill."


Petsmart classes are more about socialization than true obedience. Group classes with a reputable trainer (check with area dog clubs or the local animal shelter for recommendations) is a must. Your dog and you need to train with lots of distractions! You two will form an even stronger bond, and she'll know that you are the leader capable of handling any situation.
Besides, group lessons are fun! And you'll learn so much more being able to watch the other students and their dogs.

:smile2:

Well, we did PetSmart when she was a puppy and just for the reason you described, socialization. The other two were one-on-one. The first guy came to our house, but the second trainer did training not only at the house (to work on charging the fence), but met me at all the places we usually go, where there are always lots of distractions. She's much, much, much better after that last round of training.

When we're walking along and see another dog, for example, or someone with a baby in a stroller or little kids, I won't risk it. I just cross the street, or sometimes the other person crosses first. Otherwise, when I see someone coming, I get her to heel, which she does perfectly, and keep her close (i.e. the leash isn't slack). That's how the trainer did it, and Xena's always been perfect when I do that. But now that I think about it, that, in itself, is tightening the leash. She's obviously doesn't see it as a sign of my being nervous or afraid because if she did, she'd lunge. The dangerous situations are when I stop to pick up poo or fill her water bowl and someone happens to come up when my back is turned. I deal with that now by looking both ways to make sure no one's coming, or finding a fence or some other secluded spot where I know someone can't sneak up on us, which I think it how Xena sees it.

As for redirecting her focus, how, exactly, do you do that when she zeroes in something and I may as well not exist? I always have the remote collar on her when we're in the front yard. But when she sees a golf cart, she zeroes in on it and nothing, not even the collar, can distract her. I've also taught her "place." So if I see a pedestrian or whatever before she does, I tell her "place" and she'll go. But if she sees is before me, forget it. She just disappears into her zone.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Do you have (or live near) a pool where you could take her swimming? It's fun for most dogs and gives them great exercise. Or, look around and see if there are any dock diving classes to join. Cool water in hot weather is just heaven.

Aly
We actually live at the beach. She loves wading and chasing after sticks and frisbees, digging in the sand, etc. But she won't go any deeper than about her undercarriage. Which may go back to an incident when she was a puppy. My mom was walking her at the docks one night and she started chasing after a heron or something. Wasn't watching where she was going and suddenly down she goes like Wile E. Coyote. I don't know if that has anything to do with it, but I wouldn't be surprised :)
 

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THIS!
Funny, I had a group class this morning and this real nice lady was having problems getting her two year old from gripping the leash while heeling. She repeatedly told dog to quit and dog was taking it like a game. I asked for the leash and she heeled beautifully, stopped with perfect automatic sit, stayed for me while I went to end of 15 ft leash, and returned her to owner. All I did was provide leadership and no nonsense. The owner is much to lenient with this dog, though the dog is actually very biddable. It sounds like you need to provide leadership as Magwart suggested.
But she does all those things for me too! Which is why I thought I was a good leader. Which, in turn, is why it's so puzzling when she gets so protective.

These are some of the commands I use on a daily basis, and she's very, very good about following them. Can you think of any others I should add?

Stop - stop whatever you're doing
Stay - stay wherever she is
Release - she can move again
Drop - drop whatever she's holding
No - don't do that
Place - go to wherever I'm pointing
Up - get up (on couch, chair, bed, etc.)
Down - get off (couch, etc.)
Off - gets her back on four feet
Go - go to wherever I'm pointing
Put away - put toy in basket
Get it - pick something up
Leave it - don't you dare pick that up

There are probably other ones I use that I can't think of now, these are just the basic commands that come to mind.
 

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IMHO @Magwart explained the situation perfectly in her first response! And I'm not picking on you here when I say that! But it seems clear that Katie wasn't worried or anticipating a problem, so none happened. You on the other hand you do, because you have seen your dog's flare ups, and you have "reason" to be apprehensive. So the response your seeing is not protective, it's a direct reaction to the tension flowing downleash from you. The key is, you have to learn to let that go! Easier said than done, I know!

The time to break the spell of fixation is just before it occurs. Once your dog is zeroed in, it's too late. So a quick, well timed correction to break the spell, then give her a command to continue on is likely going to be the answer. Working with your trainer while out walking once or twice would be really beneficial for getting this down. They can watch and give you tips on the unconscious mannerisms or actions you're doing so you can avoid them! Good Luck, I think you've got this!
 

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Also, when out for a walk, watch your breathing. I recently realized that even though I thought my body was calm my breathing changed a little. Now, I try to count my breathing or look around and count trees or windows or something, to relax my breathing and body when I see someone coming along. It is not a magic solution but it does seem to help in those situations where you see someone coming at a distance and you want to give your dogs the impression that it is no big deal to you.
 

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Oh yes, they pick up on our breathing! I was having trouble with Eska breaking her down just as I was about to give the recall command. I finally realized she was using the big breath I took just before the command as her cue, instead of waiting for the actual word!

I stopped taking that big breath - problem solved!!

Have you ever worked on focus exercises with her? It's the first thing I was taught to do with my dog when training them for a loose-leash heel. It is the key to getting your dog's immediate attention when it's being distracted by another dog, a squirrel, etc. :

 
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