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  #1  
Old 21-10-09, 05:37 PM
dukesmum
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Is it fear aggression?

Hi.

I know exactly how you're feeling, unfortunately. We're having a similar problem.

Our GSD Duke is now nearly 11 months old and has been lunging & barking at strangers for about 4 months now. At first we thought he was attention seeking. He was friendly with people when he was younger. Everybody wanted to stop & pet the cute puppy but as he got bigger, people weren't so interested in him. We don't have many friends or visitors to the house but when someone does come he lunges & barks at them, they give him treats and he can be okay for a short while, then if they move or get up from a chair he starts barking at them again.

He loves dogs & doesn't mind people with dogs petting him but when on a free run eg. the park, we put him on the lead if we see a lone person because we can't control him if he runs to bark & lunge at them.

For about 8 weeks I have been walking him down the main shopping streets. At first he would bark at a random person passing us but now he mainly barks when someone approaches us head on & stops to chat. Occasionally he has hidden behind my legs between the barking & lunging bouts. It seems he is nervous & frightened especially when they look him in the eye.

He seemed to be improving slightly and then one day last week a man started to walk beside us after chatting with him (Duke had been barking at him already) & he tried to lunge & bark quite aggressively. We stopped in our tracks, I reprimanded him & made him sit then he did a great big lunge & grabbed the cuff of the man's jumper. I was mortified & apologised profusely. He was a bit shocked but understanding and then we parted company. I was so dismayed by Duke's behaviour that I went straight home by the quietest street I could find. My confidence was really badly knocked.

A couple of days later I was telling a guide dog trainer what had happened. She suggested taking him to less busy streets as he's still quite young & walking with my arm & lead relaxed and to stay as calm as possible. It's very difficult to walk with a slack lead when you think he might lunge at someone & bite them if scared enough. However, I'm trying my best.

We had him at obedience training from age 14 weeks to 8 and a half months old. We still keep up the training at home (most days) but he is quite an obedient dog for being a teenager - he will test us now & again though! People in the street often think he's a guide dog in training. They wouldn't think that if he lunged & barked at them!

I feel guilty that it may have been me that caused him to be frightened of people. He's never bothered about loud noises or traffic. In fact, the only thing he bothered about when he was younger was his own reflection! We used a half-check collar for training & lead walks when he was old enough but he got so strong that I was so scared that he would try to chase a cat and pull the lead from my hands that I now use a Gentle Leader all the time. It does help a bit with my confidence as it's easier to control him if he wants to chase something.

Someone said to me a couple of months ago that the lunging & barking is fear aggression & I worried myself sick and thought we might not be able to keep him. Eventually I was able to put it into perspective & thought if we have to stay away from people to avoid his fear escalating to a bite, we will so that we can keep him. Obviously, we love him regardless of his problem. My partner thinks that he'll grow out of it as he matures but I want to do as much as I can now to stop him getting worse or possibly improve his behaviour.

Another problem we're having is that he gets so excited & vocal when we go anywhere in the car. We tried telling him to be quiet but after months of that there's no change. At the moment we're trying to ignore him so that we're not reinforcing the behaviour by giving him negative attention. Is there any chance he'll grow out of the whining & barking? Can anyone suggest something else that might work?

Any advice for these problems would be much appreciated.

Bye for now, Loraine.
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Old 22-10-09, 08:27 PM
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Hi Lorraine

I have put your post into it's own thread (removed from 'problems with Barney' thread) so that people can read it and answer you personally.

xx
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Last edited by zaclucy; 22-10-09 at 08:35 PM.
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Old 22-10-09, 08:34 PM
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As you know, we have seen a behaviourist for Barney, and therefore, I can only tell you what has been said to us. It may be that your Duke could have different problems, and what I am saying to you may be wrong.

Barney is nervous of strangers, and does the whole 'turtle neck' when people are in close proximity, or if he doesn't like the look of them, he will bark at them to make them go away. We have been advised to have people come near us, but not to look or speak to Barney, and to drop treats for him. If we are playing a game with a toy, let them throw the toy for him, again without speaking or looking at him. Eventually, when he is comfortable, then allow them to offer him a treat, or the toy from the hand. This will take lots of time and patience. We are not dealing directly with this issue at the moment, we are doing more lead walking on the streets, and passing people at the moment, and will gradually move up to this. We have more than one issue to deal with, so am not taking on too many things at one time.

Hope this helps, but it may be advisable for you to find a good behaviourist now, while he is young, and before his habits become too ingrained.

xx
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Old 23-10-09, 11:25 AM
dukesmum
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Thanks for starting a new thread Janet. I'm totally new to posting on forums, usually only read them but you are all very friendly & non-judgemental. Also, being the owners of GSD's you are in a good position to offer advice, whether it works for every dog or not.

The method we are using at the moment is much the same as you with Barney. We're now lead walking on quieter streets so that he's not overwhelmed by lots of strangers at once. Keeping the lead loose & keeping as relaxed as possible when passing people & keeping myself between him & strangers. We don't want to push him before he's ready so we're not stopping to talk to people yet. I've been reading a lot about fear aggression towards people & it seems that we may have been flooding him by taking him onto busy streets & made it worse. We did this because the trainer of his obedience classes recommended that we did it. When I told her of the problem with strangers, she told me to give him a good tug on his half-check collar, hold him with both hands on either side of the collar & reprimand him with my face right up to his face and look him in the eye until he relaxes. The trainer did this with him in the class & he pee'd himself. It's the 1st time ever since he started going outside to toilet at 9 weeks that he's soiled inside! I think he's either too frightened or sensitive to use this method & don't want to end up making him scared of me as well. I tried this myself in the street a few times (very embarrassingly), the reaction to this was a wagging tail. I thought he wasn't taking me seriously but I've been told that it was probably because he was nervous he was wagging his tail. There have been a few strangers that he's gone up to straight away & been friendly and some that he's not bothered about at all, just sat or lay down and was quite relaxed. This may have been because they ignored him until he got curious & went to them. At least we know he can make friends with strangers if he wants.

What makes it harder is that he won't let anyone else take the lead if I'm present, even my partner. He is more relaxed with Duke but works continental shifts full-time so the majority of the walks are done by me. I've tried passing the lead to him on walks but after a short time Duke struggles until I take the lead back. We'll try to work on this a bit more as it would make a great difference to mine & Duke's confidence if we could all walk together with my partner holding the lead.

We know it'll take hard work and a long time to build his confidence again but it'll be worth it. I'm going to look into the behaviourist idea & see if there's anybody in our area that can help us.

Thanks again for your help & advice Janet and good luck with Barney.

Loraine.
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Old 23-10-09, 12:53 PM
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Sorry to hear you are having problems, I would agree that professional help is the best step for you to take.

Good luck and keep us posted..xx
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Old 23-10-09, 04:30 PM
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Not sure if you will have read any of my posts but I have a VERY similar problem with Cruz.
He is terrible with strangers. Nothing brought it on and like you we used to take him down the street and everyone would stop and stroke him but as he got older, this all changed and now, people cant even make eye contact with him and he is barking and lunging at them and they must think he is a total looney!
Very territorial and cant get parcels or anything delivered as he would EAT people who just walk into my garden, its really frightening TBH....
I often feel a HUGE liability as he has bitten a carpet layer in my house before so therefore I now NEVER allow him to get near people unless I have good control.

We have seeked LOADS of advise, consulted trainers/behaviourists and we are still doing ongoing training. We are still trying every day to take him out on the street and using the leave it command the minute his body language changes and it seems to work sometimes and not others...
He lunges at Traffic sometimes too (loud engines or motorbikes)

It seems this is common as have spoken to and read loads on Shepherds who display this behaviour. Its mindboggling really.

I am sure all this hard work we are puttin in will pay off, or it will be the death of me LOL I am going Grey FAST.
Worth it tho as he is my big baby.

Hope you will keep us informed and we can all share advise and tips as there is a lot of us on here with the same kind of problems.
Its comforting.

Sarah
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Old 23-10-09, 04:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cruz's mama View Post
Not sure if you will have read any of my posts but I have a VERY similar problem with Cruz.
He is terrible with strangers. Nothing brought it on and like you we used to take him down the street and everyone would stop and stroke him but as he got older, this all changed and now, people cant even make eye contact with him and he is barking and lunging at them and they must think he is a total looney!
Very territorial and cant get parcels or anything delivered as he would EAT people who just walk into my garden, its really frightening TBH....
I often feel a HUGE liability as he has bitten a carpet layer in my house before so therefore I now NEVER allow him to get near people unless I have good control.

We have seeked LOADS of advise, consulted trainers/behaviourists and we are still doing ongoing training. We are still trying every day to take him out on the street and using the leave it command the minute his body language changes and it seems to work sometimes and not others...
He lunges at Traffic sometimes too (loud engines or motorbikes)

It seems this is common as have spoken to and read loads on Shepherds who display this behaviour. Its mindboggling really.

I am sure all this hard work we are puttin in will pay off, or it will be the death of me LOL I am going Grey FAST.
Worth it tho as he is my big baby.

Hope you will keep us informed and we can all share advise and tips as there is a lot of us on here with the same kind of problems.
Its comforting.

Sarah
Hi Sarah

I was advised by my behaviourist to ignore all of Barney's bad behaviour totally. If you speak to him, you are joining in, and inadvertantly encouraging his behaviour. Try and stay relaxed, think of something completely different, and just carry on as if nothing has happened. Then reward him when he is calm.

My Barney is coming on in leaps and bounds at the moment, and I am over the moon with him. We still have a very, very long way to go, but the improvement in him in a week has been amazing.

xx
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Old 23-10-09, 07:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dukesmum View Post
the trainer of his obedience classes recommended that we did it. When I told her of the problem with strangers, she told me to give him a good tug on his half-check collar, hold him with both hands on either side of the collar & reprimand him with my face right up to his face and look him in the eye until he relaxes. The trainer did this with him in the class & he pee'd himself. It's the 1st time ever since he started going outside to toilet at 9 weeks that he's soiled inside! I think he's either too frightened or sensitive to use this method & don't want to end up making him scared of me as well.
OMG!! No wonder the poor chap has problems! I'd probably wet myself if some mad woman half choked me then stared me out!!

We have issues with Sheba too, she is so nervous, I try not to expose her to too many scary things as she's so delicate. She is only just walking on the street in the dark, and occassionally lunges at cars passing with the lights on.

IMHO, be patient, but don't push him too hard cos it can make things worse sometimes. Celebrate all the good things he can do, and dont react to the more negative things until he is less nervous and so able to understand when you're trying to train/teach him
Good luck
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Old 24-10-09, 12:07 AM
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We went out tonight and I find in the first 10 mins of the walk cruz is just a nightmare, lunging at cars, dogs, people anything really - pulling on lead etc etc, once his energy levels drop the behaviour gets better.
Tonight we were very strict - halti on and he did not get to walk a step in front of us and by the end of the walk, he was walking to heel and looking up to say (mam dad look at me) lol but then we saw some guys outside a bar and he lost the plot so its one step forward, 2 steps back.
least we all have the same problems tho and can try to help each other xxx
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Old 24-10-09, 09:58 PM
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Hi
I have been taking Sheeba to training and we do a lot of "watch me" how we do this is have a treat in your hand say watch me and put the treat upto your nose when the dog gives you eye contact you give them the treat.This really didn't take long for Sheeba to understand what i wanted her to do.How this helps us when we are out walking is if something noisey eg motorbike,lorry tractor etc is coming up the lane i say to Sheeba"watch me" and this takes her mind of what is coming as she is looking at me and not concentrating on the vehicle.Hope this helps .Jo x
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