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Long post, hope it’s not too tedious ?. Thanks in advance to anyone who wades through it:

As I’ve mentioned in other threads, Beau is a 3-yr-old intact male GSD, mostly if not all working lines in his pedigree. (He’s half West German lines, I don’t know enough to tell what all those lines are. Other half is DDR and Czech.) I have a problem with his occasional leash reactivity and I’m feeling frustrated by the behavior. It started when he was around 2.5 or so, and with work it’s gotten better, but not gone. Hoping another perspective will help. Any and all input is welcome.

He is not aggressive with every dog we see on leash, not even close. Mostly he ignores, or gives at most a passing glance to other dogs we see on our walks. Some he whines at, as if he wants to meet them, not many. We don’t do that and it passes quickly. Any dog who barks or acts aggressively towards him, though, even from behind a fence or wall, he will respond to with lunging and serious noise. All future encounters with those dogs will then inspire proactive lunging and noise from Beau, whether they start things next time or not. There are 3 or 4 such encounters likely on our usual walking routes.

I can get him to stop with a very loud stern No, Leave It! (sometimes repeated), most of the time. It actually quells the other dog more quickly than it does Beau. I can sometimes (but not always) prevent it by telling him to Leave It right before he gets near the dog, and rewarding him with a ball (this for dogs behind walls/fences) while walking. If we are walking by a likely target who’s also on leash, even across the street, Sit and Leave It and chance of reward will sometimes prevent Beau’s bad behavior, sometimes not. So far Watch Me has only worked once, he has a hard time watching me when a threat-dog is close by. Sit and Leave It works less often if the other dog is off leash and Beau is leashed.

I think it’s a mix of defensiveness and resource guarding at the source of the behavior, sometimes one or the other, sometimes both. The first time I carried a ball with us, his reactivity increased greatly - any dog who even looked at us was a problem that day. Next day he was back to base line, ignoring most dogs, ball notwithstanding. I think I am the resource even without the ball, though - he goes nuts at one pair of young GSDs that belong to our neighbor, that he ignored for months until one day I showed some interest in them, and one of them barked in an inviting way (he’s maybe a year old, sweet and friendly). Beau has acted like he hates him ever since. Mostly, though, he’s behaved this way with dogs who warned/threatened him first from behind a wall or fence, or approached him when he was leashed and they were not (at a public park where leash laws are ignored). Off leash he seems to have no problem with strange dogs, he greets them in a friendly way and that’s it, unless they try to mount him. Even then, aggressive displays are his last resort in those cases, not his first, and only for very persistent dogs.

My hope is that eventually he can be trained to stop resource guarding (if that’s what it is sometimes) and to ignore even the threatening dogs if they are contained. Is that possible, or a pipe dream? If possible, how do we get there? If not, what should I be aiming for instead?
 

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Long post, hope it’s not too tedious ?. Thanks in advance to anyone who wades through it:

As I’ve mentioned in other threads, Beau is a 3-yr-old intact male GSD, mostly if not all working lines in his pedigree. (He’s half West German lines, I don’t know enough to tell what all those lines are. Other half is DDR and Czech.) I have a problem with his occasional leash reactivity and I’m feeling frustrated by the behavior. It started when he was around 2.5 or so, and with work it’s gotten better, but not gone. Hoping another perspective will help. Any and all input is welcome.

He is not aggressive with every dog we see on leash, not even close. Mostly he ignores, or gives at most a passing glance to other dogs we see on our walks. Some he whines at, as if he wants to meet them, not many. We don’t do that and it passes quickly. Any dog who barks or acts aggressively towards him, though, even from behind a fence or wall, he will respond to with lunging and serious noise. All future encounters with those dogs will then inspire proactive lunging and noise from Beau, whether they start things next time or not. There are 3 or 4 such encounters likely on our usual walking routes.

I can get him to stop with a very loud stern No, Leave It! (sometimes repeated), most of the time. It actually quells the other dog more quickly than it does Beau. I can sometimes (but not always) prevent it by telling him to Leave It right before he gets near the dog, and rewarding him with a ball (this for dogs behind walls/fences) while walking. If we are walking by a likely target who’s also on leash, even across the street, Sit and Leave It and chance of reward will sometimes prevent Beau’s bad behavior, sometimes not. So far Watch Me has only worked once, he has a hard time watching me when a threat-dog is close by. Sit and Leave It works less often if the other dog is off leash and Beau is leashed.

I think it’s a mix of defensiveness and resource guarding at the source of the behavior, sometimes one or the other, sometimes both. The first time I carried a ball with us, his reactivity increased greatly - any dog who even looked at us was a problem that day. Next day he was back to base line, ignoring most dogs, ball notwithstanding. I think I am the resource even without the ball, though - he goes nuts at one pair of young GSDs that belong to our neighbor, that he ignored for months until one day I showed some interest in them, and one of them barked in an inviting way (he’s maybe a year old, sweet and friendly). Beau has acted like he hates him ever since. Mostly, though, he’s behaved this way with dogs who warned/threatened him first from behind a wall or fence, or approached him when he was leashed and they were not (at a public park where leash laws are ignored). Off leash he seems to have no problem with strange dogs, he greets them in a friendly way and that’s it, unless they try to mount him. Even then, aggressive displays are his last resort in those cases, not his first, and only for very persistent dogs.

My hope is that eventually he can be trained to stop resource guarding (if that’s what it is sometimes) and to ignore even the threatening dogs if they are contained. Is that possible, or a pipe dream? If possible, how do we get there? If not, what should I be aiming for instead?
To the part I’ve bolded... sounds more like insecurity and leash/barrier frustration. Reactivity issues can be difficult to fix if you don’t know what you are doing. I’d contact a trainer who is familiar with working dogs/GSDs and see what they have to say. If you post your location, maybe someone can recommend a good trainer to you.
 

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Oops, just saw your location IS posted, lol. Hopefully someone out your way has a good recommendation!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks, @GypsyGhost, I do think the whining episodes are just frustration at not getting to greet the particular dog being whined at. Those are mild and pretty infrequent, doesn’t take much to keep him walking instead. Most dogs we pass right by, no problem.

I might be wrong about the motives, but the reactivity that concerns me is probably not just barrier frustration. He’s not just stopping and barking but making strong, lunging, unmistakeably aggressive displays. The proactive displays are probably just posturing, as both he and the other dog will go quiet abruptly if my No, Leave It is loud and very firm. The initial reactive ones feel like he would go after the other dog if he were free and the other dog loose, and he is harder to quiet down then. Both displays scare passers by, so if it’s possible I want to train him not to do it. For the record, he’s never actually bitten or been bitten.

Advice or Tucson trainer recommendations are welcome!
 

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Are you strong enough to correct him? I mean REALLY correct him. If he's actively the aggressor then it seems to me that he needs to be told NO in absolute terms. And given his pedigree, I don't imagine he's going to take a correction from anyone but you.
 

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@Jax08, thanks, maybe I just need to be more consistently at the extreme end of firm when I correct him for this, thinking about it in that light I’m not sure I’m always correcting him the same way. Yes, I’m physically strong enough. I’ll see if that’s all it is.

He’ll accept corrections he deems fair from someone else, but not if he thinks they’re unfair. E.g. He’ll take a light leash pop on a prong collar from a new trainer to correct his Heel, and he will correct; but he will rear up on someone and put his feet on them, making complaining noises, over a hard yank for same. Hasn’t bitten anyone yet.
 

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Sorry to hear you and Beau are having this issue. My boy started lunging on leash when he was 7 months old, 65lb. Now he is 80lb at the least and still sometimes react.

What I've done so far is practice the 'look' command and have him sit and focus on me. And number 2 is I pull his chain collar to the side so he loses focus BEFORE he can react.
 

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Worked with a trainer too but didn't really help. So if you proceed with a trainer I suggest get a legitimate one that could really help you and be on the same page as you are. Because if you don't agree with your trainer and the trainer's technique doesn't work on your dog... It's really a waste.
 

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@McGloomy, then you know what it’s like! Been to a few trainers already, the next one I’ll try breeds GSDs and trains protection dogs. Sometimes distracting or correcting early helps, sometimes not. I’m going to try stronger corrections. He’s very handler sensitive, I’ll also be observing more closely to see if my mood or handling is making him more reactive.

Thanks for the suggestions, and good luck with your guy, too!
 

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Beau's Mum, yes I do understand. And I now understand the importance of finding a good trainer for YOU and THE DOG. The next time I'm getting a trainer, before we meet or before I pay them, I would ask them 'What is your opinion on this? On that? What do you think of this and that?' You don't want to have a trainer to work with you just so you realise you're not on the same page.

Just sharing with you, the example of issue my former trainer and I worked on was his jumping and nipping when I have guests coming to my apartment. The trainer opted to have my dog on a leash everytime someone comes and say no and wait for him to calm down whenever he jumps, only then he can be pet. Because mine wants attention so bad.

This didn't work.

So I opted to try things my way. Have him wait everytime I open the aparrment door for someone, and have him stay there, correct him if he moves. Now when he's 'let go' of the stay, he will run and run for TWO minutes (YES I timed it everytime during training), but whenever he comes close to my guest, he will be corrected.

After that 2 minutes, he will calm down off of the burst of energy. And after that... He can be pet and he will stay calm.

How did I get him not to nip? I upped his exercise. That's all.

My dog on a leash at home is just not gonna work for US. Maybe it works with some other dogs and their owner, but not us.

I believe in both positive and negative reinforcement (negative doesn't mean bad, just means taking out resources) and the trainer ONLY EXCLUSIVELY believes in positive reinforcement. With all due respect to the trainer, that's not a bad way to train a dog, just ineffective for mine.

The 'look' command was actually one of the only things I learnt effectively from this trainer, so there's that. But at the cost of what I paid... Just wasn't worth it. So I see this as merely an experience I suppose.

Next time I'm getting a trainer, I'd make sure at least I agree with their perspective and assessment.

Thank you for wishing us good luck, back at you too!
 

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Well, I have a reactive dog (still not sure whether it's fear or aggression). She was that way when I adopted her --- sort of a Cujo on steroids. Ugh. It took a year of solid, consistent (absolutely no variation) training. First, I ordered a prong. Waiting for the prong to arrive, I taught her 'Watch Me,' with a clicker and lots of treats. Then we went for walkies. As a stranger approached, we'd step to the side (giving the stranger the sidewalk) and sit, where I'd tell her to 'Watch Me' as the stranger passed by. I'd give a solid correction, of the sort Jax08 describes, if she even hinted that she was going to bark/lunge at the stranger. Then tell her to 'Watch Me' and reward when she did. Rinse and repeat.

We also went to a nearby field where groups play soccer and stood around watching quietly. Or, we'd stand near the ER entrance of a local hospital where there was a lot of foot traffic. Same rules. She had to sit quietly, without protest or threatening everybody, and watch me. Over time, we'd sit closer and closer to the field or ER entrance as her behavior improved. Once she was solid in those locations, we started going other places (Home Depot, local nursery, vet office, etc.). Same rules; rinse and repeat.

For us, it took time and utter consistency on my part. It took a year before I was convinced that we'd turned things around. I believe that the impulse is still there, so I don't put her in situations that are likely to elicit the wrong response (e.g., dog parks). But, I can and do take her all sorts of places knowing that we've got a default option (Sit and Watch Me), backed up with the prong as needed.

Aly
 

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Wow, @Aly sounds like you did some amazing work with her, I’m impressed. Beau’s issue is with dogs who threaten/challenge him on leash. Will have to practice Watch Me near (but not too near) where the challengers live. I do use a prong collar for some walks, just for this reason. Thanks for the info!
 

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Corrections just have to get their attention, the second that happens and they break that hyper-focus on the other dog, you can get through to them again with verbal commands. IMHO I don't think that your corrections need to be extreme for this.

I personally LOVE places where dogs behind a fence act aggressively toward my dog as we walk by. It's tough initially, but once you can break through and actually communicate with your dog under that kind of distraction, you're golden! So while lots of people might avoid those places, I actually make sure we walk by several of them every time we walk! It's great training...if you can do that AND remain calm, your dog will start paying more and more attention to you with the background dogs doing their best! Since you said Beau consistently shows aggression toward dogs like this, that's where I focus his training. Once you gain control in this scenario, breaking him out of his occasional reactivity in other situations should be easy!
 

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...I personally LOVE places where dogs behind a fence act aggressively toward my dog as we walk by. It's tough initially, but once you can break through and actually communicate with your dog under that kind of distraction, you're golden! So while lots of people might avoid those places, I actually make sure we walk by several of them every time we walk! It's great training...if you can do that AND remain calm, your dog will start paying more and more attention to you with the background dogs doing their best! Since you said Beau consistently shows aggression toward dogs like this, that's where I focus his training. Once you gain control in this scenario, breaking him out of his occasional reactivity in other situations should be easy!
Thank you for this perspective. I want to go by these dogs and work with him there, but hesitate some days because I think it’ll bother the homeowners, the other dogs, neighbors and passers by, yadda, yadda, yadda. I’ll remember your comment next time it worries me.

Thanks everyone for all the helpful advice! I now have some new ideas to try out, will let you all know how it goes. I am so grateful for all the help!
 

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@Aly your 'watch me' command is my 'look' command, great to hear that this method works on someone else's dog too ? Good luck to Beau's Mum and keep us updated!
 

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Thank you @Beau's Mom, I had good teachers. But, we're both still a work in progress. That said, a clear bonus is that the woman whose house we pass occasionally has stopped asking me if I'm training Rachel for the police department. LOL. Also, I knew that once I "got some commands on her" (as my grandfather used to say), I could work on expanding the boundaries of her good behavior as she would then have other options (Sit and Watch Me) than simply scaring the bejesus out of everybody. But the basic takeaway here is it takes time. I'm sure that pros could have accomplished this in much less time, but I wasn't in a hurry, and the approach is one I'm comfortable with. I also think that Rachel needed time to accept that I'd take care of her and that I was worth listening to. These are sentient beings, after all, and I simply wanted her to make better choices.

@McGloomy, that's terrific. Since I'm not doing formal sports (where I understand that the commands used are prescribed), I tend to be pretty casual about what words I actually use. It's what I call my 'Tulip Hypothesis.' That is, as long as the dog and I both understand what I mean when I say it, we can call the behavior a Tulip. Outside of a formal venue, the words are less important to me than the shared understanding. For example, I've often taught dogs that when I say "No coveting/Are you coveting?," they're to stop staring at someone's plate of food and go lay down. 'Place' would work just as well, but 'No coveting,' is more entertaining.

I use 'Look' to tell the dog to look at/focus on an object/person/dog in the near distance at first and later in the far distance. What I'm shooting for is a dog that will look in the direction that I'm pointing. For whatever reason, that's been harder for Rachel to 'get' than Watch Me was. We'll get there, but I clearly have to become more creative in how I shape the behavior. 50% of the time, she'll look at my face, which, given her impetuosity, is great as a default but not what I want.

It takes time....

Aly
 

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I think it's important to note that you don't correct the aggression. You correct for not following a command. It has to be very clear to him. Dog reacts. You say Sit or leave it. Dog ignores you. Correction. Sit. He did it. Reward.

You can't just correct a dog who has lost his mind for losing his mind. But when they absolutely know what a command that is the opposite of the behavior they are exhibiting means and they choose to ignore it, that you can clearly correct for.

I like to make my corrections in these situations count. I don't want a nagging correction thst I have to repeat on recovery walk.

For my one really reactive dog, whose reactions were fear based, I used a combination of Look and an ecollar. For my other who was just being a butthead puppy, I used a nylon choke.
 

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I use 'Look' to tell the dog to look at/focus on an object/person/dog in the near distance at first and later in the far distance. What I'm shooting for is a dog that will look in the direction that I'm pointing. For whatever reason, that's been harder for Rachel to 'get' than Watch Me was. We'll get there, but I clearly have to become more creative in how I shape the behavior. 50% of the time, she'll look at my face, which, given her impetuosity, is great as a default but not what I want.
That kind of sounds like the Look At That! game from Control Unleashed - is that what you're intending to do, or just a coincidence? I actually really like the game a lot, and trained it with Halo. We recently covered it in Cava's class (she's about 7-1/2 months old) which I was very happy about since I'd been meaning to start doing it with her anyway. She's not at all reactive towards other dogs and never barks but she really, really likes them so they are very distracting for her. Our regional park uses goat herds to clear the underbrush as fire maintenance, so last week we got to play LAT! with goats, lol.

If your girl is more interested in looking at you than any potential triggers, that's great. The point of the game is that eventually the dog no longer needs or wants to look at the trigger anymore.
 

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That's so funny @Cassidy's Mom. It was purely coincidence. I started teaching 'look' years and years ago with IWs. I figured since I had sighthounds [grin], I'd just see what they could do with the concept. It was so much fun with the first ("Look Clyde, there's a goose/pony/lake/ball!") that I just continued it with other dogs. Over time, it became a sort of general purpose orienting command. If we were playing hide and seek in the woods with a friend and the dog was having trouble (sighthounds being notoriously poor sniffers), I could say 'look,' pointing in the general direction and reorient it.

Yes, it (Watch me) does defuse the triggers considerably. I posted about an incident that demonstrated that a few months ago. The incident wasn't planned, far from it, it just happened. Still smiling with pride at how far she's come based on that incident. I'll look up the thread and link it in in a minute.

Here it is: https://www.germanshepherds.com/forum/stories/745769-so-proud-wild-child.html

It's such a small investment of time and effort (training, I mean) for what you get back, that it's really disappointing when people don't.

Aly
 
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