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We adopted a female GSD about three months ago. Heidi was picked up as a stray by the local German Shepherd rescue organization, and we fell in love with her when we saw her at an adoption fair. They think she's around 1-1/2 years old (although some people we've run into think she could be closer to 1).

We are pretty sure that Heidi was abused in the past. When we first got her, she was very concerned and whipped around to look at us with a worried look whenever we petted her on the sides and back (which she is MUCH better about now). She prefers women to men, and is very fearful of certain men (ones with loud voices and, oddly, white haired men). Other than that, she is very friendly towards people in general (including children) and doesn't mind when people come up to her and pet her, and has been really good with strangers that come to visit and when we go to family gatherings with lots of people around. So, we're very lucky in that aspect.

The problem is that Heidi doesn't get along with dogs. When we first got her, she was fine, but little by little she's gotten more aggressive towards other dogs. We've taken her to a class where treats are used to distract the dog, and that seemed to work pretty well, but I worry about times I don't have treats with me and I really would like her to actually get along with other dogs. We also have in her private socialization sessions, but it's really hit and miss as to whether she'll get along with a particular dog (the following examples are all off-leash encounters).

If a dog is older, very confident, and/or much larger than her, she'll back off. If the dog doesn't pay much attention to her, she'll usually lose interest. But if a dog (especially a younger dog) reacts to her strongly by barking/growling/lunging at her, she'll really overreact and it's not a pretty sight (baring of teeth, barking, growling), but she's never bitten a dog. Her doggie social skills are not too good as she'll get into the other dog's face too quickly, which I've read is very rude behavior. She's also very, very prey driven and sometimes I worry that she looks at small dogs in this way (especially if they're running).

We go walking a couple of times a week with another rescue GSD who lives in the neighborhood. He is a really calm, sweet dog who gets along with every dog he comes across. She was pretty growly with him at first, but now they walk together just fine. Sometimes we take them off leash in the back yard after our walks but she seems a bit afraid of him (he is a huge dog). He tries to initiate play with her but she hides behind me or goes in the corner. The first time we let them off leash, they chased each other and she got overly excited and ran into him head-on, got a little hurt and scared... and she's been standoffish ever since.

Sometimes while walking in the neighborhood we'll run into other dogs and I'll make her sit about six feet away and she'll be OK. In fact, she acts like she would like to go and meet the other dog (with her tail wagging and looking interested). But then she'll get in their face too quickly and if they'll growl or bark at her, and she'll overreact.

So, I have a couple of questions. First, has anyone ever had a dog like this that DID become socialized with other dogs? And, what can I do when I have her on leash and we run into other dogs to make the meetings go more smoothly? Lastly, does anyone have any recommendations on ways to get her more exposed to other dogs so that she learns better social skills? The private socialization lessons are very expensive and we can't afford to keep that up on a regular basis.

Also, yesterday, I started taking her to a weekly obedience class made up of german shepherds and she did pretty well. She was anxious and whining, and got a little reactive towards the dogs when they got too close, but seemed to enjoy the training and was OK at about 6-8 feet away from the other dogs.

We live in a neighborhood where there are a lot of people walking dogs, and we also like to go hiking with her on local trails, which she absolutely loves. But it's so stressful when we see another dog coming towards us on the trail or sidewalk. Sometimes she's OK, sometimes she goes off on the other dog (or the other dog goes off on her), and sometimes (with the little dogs), she looks likes she wants to chase them. I just want to be able to walk in peace with her and my husband and not be constantly in fear of what she's going to do next!!

Thanks for any advice!

Karin
 

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hey karin, My 3 year old female Mya has a simialr problem. She too is picky about what dogs she interacts with. Firstly, GSD's aren't your average happy go lucky dogs, theyre not labs and they do not feel the need to meet and or like every person or dog they come into contact with. Its their nature to be a bit more reserved.

With that out of the way, Good for you on taking steps to bring to to a socialization class, as well as obedience. You saw a potential problem and immediately tried to fix it.

What I've found seems to work best is to find other dogs that you know are calm, laid back type dogs. Maybe like the boy you walk with and do your socialization with them knowing their behavior isnt going to cause a ruckus. I introduced Mya to a male gsd who belongs to a family friend. I went first to meet him and he was so such a chilled out dog. hes also 8 years old. When introducing 2 dogs, make sure to do it on neutral territory and make sure both dogs are leashed. Let them get the inital sniff sniff out of the way and watch for initial signs of aggression (ears forward, scruff up, that stare in the eyes they give, or a stiffness in body) these are all signs that your dog isnt going to react politley. correct the behavior with a touch to your dog, this just breaks them out of that stiffness and stare, then redirect by making her sit and look at you, then TREATS!

Work with calm dogs first to get her used to just being in the presense of them and being calm. Then you could start to use different types of dogs shes having issues with. (small dogs, higher energy dogs etc.)


Mya has improved majorly and is tolerant of most other dogs, she can be around them and still doing her own thing ignoring them. we added our pup bear to the situation last august, and she still has a few moments where she'll show him whos boss, but otherwise they walk together on my left side and they are rubbing each other as they walk. He is also quite moose-like in size to her, and he is very playful. He will try to bow down or bark at her to get her to play, and ive noticed she will bow and bark back but seems scared when he approaches to wrestle. This will take lots of time and effort on your part, but the rehabilitation is well worth it once you've gotten it right! Good Luck and remember to be patient, and persistant!
 

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Thanks so much for your reply to my message, Ailyn. It's very encouraging to hear that your dog got better in the area of getting along with other dogs. You're absolutely right about GSDs being more discriminating of who they prefer (and don't prefer!) Our dog is very sweet and we know she loves us, but she's not overly demonstrative about it.

I just hope we can get her to the point where we can go on a walk without having a hyper hound at the end of the leash as we're going on our walks and hikes!
 

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Hey, Karin! I'd encourage you to keep working with her... it sounds like you're doing well. (And, to remember to BREATHE when you encounter those "scary" doggies)! Many GSD bitches seem to get snarky around other dogs... and a lot of times they're picking up cues from you. I really created a sibling rivalry problem at my house before I realized this. But it sounds like you've got a good support network!

She'll probably never be the type of dog that "loves" other dogs -- and that's perfectly fine. Most adult dogs do not need to play with anyone besides their owner, anyhow (not to say adult dogs can't wrestle and have fun, too, but many just aren't interested). Kind of like kids and playgrounds -- as adults, we tend to find other ways to spend time with friends!

The good news is that she's mostly "talk" -- I think that gives you lots of room, so long as you strategize how to work with her before heading out on a walk or hike.

A book that you might find helpful is Ali Brown's "Scaredy Dog," available at Dogwise.
 

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Hello - I have a similar situation with Kayden. She is 4 years old female and likes certain dogs, but not others. Kayden started out as just "growling" but it progressed to actually fighting with the other dogs and to make matters worse - its always the small energetic dogs that get under her skin. She gets along great with big, low key dogs....

where justin and myself are currently at with it is accepting who she is. We still take her on hikes and train runs and bike rides, so she is active - but she will never enjoy the typical "dog parks" and we know that. She does soo much better meeting other dogs when she is off leash and when she has room to breath and smell the other dog.
I wish I had advice, however - I more or less "feel your pain". Its hard, we had all pure breed labs before Kayden who loves everyone and everything (good or bad) However, we love Kayden for who she is and all the good she does have:)
Good luck.
 

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Having some experience with 2 dear, sweet and reactive dogs ( one not with us anymore), I would like to recommend 2 books I'm currently reading. These both, are teaching me a lot and also reminding me...there are many dogs and their people, in the same situation.

"Control Unleashed" by Leslie McDevitt, MLA,CDBC,CPDT

"Focus, Not Fear" by Ali Brown

Also a classic "Scaredy Dog! Understanding and Rehabilitating Your Reactive Dog" By Ali Brown

All can be found on Dogwise. com
 

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Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell has some good exercises too. Have you taken any classes specifically for the reactivity? There's a class at the Marin Humane Society in Novato for 'Difficult Dogs' that we took with Cassidy back in 2001, and it was great. All the dogs in the class were reactive to some level. She was fine off leash, but really bad on leash, and she was somewhere in the middle of the pack, with a couple of dogs not as bad as her, and a few that were much worse. There was no work on obedience skills, it was strictly counter-conditioning and desensitization to other dogs. There's also a 'Growly Dog' class at the San Francisco SPCA, and you may be able to find one even closer to you in the South Bay.

What was surprising to us was that it was so much less stressful than regular obedience classes where we had the disruptive 'bad dog', and it was also great to learn skills to deal with her reactivity and to see progress with the dogs from week to week.
 

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Hi Caron Barber,

I met a woman who has a dog training center in Portland, Maine. I met Elsa in Portland, Oregon, of all places!!! We were attending a pet dog trainers conference.

My Wonderful Dog
54 Cove Street
Portland ME 04101
http://www.wonderfuldogs.org
(207) 780-9792


You might want to check it out. Elsa impressed me with her strong interest in learning all about how dogs learn!! In my journey through my Cassidy's reactivity, I learned a lot...a fresh set of eyes on the issues and being able to find a "coach" for you and your pup, are invaluable!!
 

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I have one more book recommendation: On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas

While the excellent books the others have mentioned above will help you manage your pup, this book will help you understand WHY your pup reacts to some dogs and not to others.

Rugaas talks about dog body language -- how your dog communicates stress, how dogs communicate with each other, how a well socialized dog can actually diffuse a situation by the way he holds himself. If two dogs are approaching your dog, it can help you anticipate which of the two dogs is more likely to provoke a reaction from your dog.

It's an inexpensive jewel of a book with lots of pictures. You might want to take a look. (There's also a DVD. I've not seen it.)
 

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3K9Mom's recommendation of On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas is one I agree with BUT, not the book, instead I'd get the DVD/video.

The book is good but the video really shows what she's trying to get us to see. And she got a bunch of dogs together to show it clearly, and how we can help and interact. Many of the dogs are GSD's so it's even more help cause I know I could clearly correlate my dogs with what I was learning.
 

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There have been lots of suggestions, and it sounds like you're on the right track!

Our girl is a little reactive as well, but it is to a point that we can live with. She still does not like a strange dog getting right into her face (fine with dogs she knows), but we can walk right next to another well behaved dog without any problems.

I just had to learn to accept that she would never be a dog park/group dog outting type of pup. I've taken her on trips to the coast, camping, and of course walks all the time. We just don't get too close to other dogs (we can pass another well behaved dog on the sidewalk at this point). She is suprisingly tolerant of puppies and such, but dogs who approach her domininantly are/were "told" to back off. Once they did she was fine, but she's a big girl with a deep voice and that scared people, so now we just avoid even putting ourselves into that situation.

I don't stress about our walks anymore. If someone has a dog that they aren't controlling, we either swing wide if possible, or I ask them to control their dog because mine does not like strangers giving her kisses anymore than they would like me to kiss them (I skip the last unless they are giving me dirty looks like I'm intruding by asking them to control their dog).
 

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LOL Shep! Im going to have to try your line next time someone tried to mingle with us when we are on a walk!
 
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