My 3 1/2 year old WGSD needs socialization....is it too late? - Page 1

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by 2DogMama on 16 December 2018 - 18:12

I was expecting our 2nd child when we got our Thor. I took him to a basic obedience training (which he passed) while I was VERY pregnant. I want to get him more socialization and training but am unsure where to begin. He is very good with the kids and his Blue Heeler German Shepherd little brother but when it comes to strangers, he is very loud and seemingly wants to be agressive. He only like my husband's parents and sister outside of us. Our mail carrier won't even deliver packages anymore if they won't fit in the box. Any advise would be very appreciated. He is a sweet dog and I hate that people are scared of him.
Hundmutter

by Hundmutter on 16 December 2018 - 19:12

Well, you signed up for the possibility that some people would be scared of your dog when you aquired a GSD. Its really not unusual for some people to distrust this breed even when it is a dog that is extremely well socialised, even soft-natured, and completely obedient to the owner. Most of us who own GSDs had to accept that fact a long time ago. There is a history of media histrionics around the breed - partly caused by ill-informed breeding - that we are all still trying to live down.

However, that said, you are asking for TWO things: a more well socialised dog; and a LESS 'reactive' dog. The reactivity is not at all unusual either, it occurs extremely often in younger adult Shepherds, particularly those who have been raised by owners who were inexperienced with the breed before they bought it. Not all GSDs who lunge and yell at other animals, and/or people, and/or cars, whatever, would actually follow through on that, but its a large dog with big teeth so you do not want to take foolish risks.

You say he passed a Basic Obedience class, but have you kept that work up, since then ? Or have you expected the training to just go on lasting indefinitely without being reinforced ? It is near impossible to advise you through this thred because no sensible trainer would give you advice based on a dog they have not witnessed, or an owner whose relationship with the dog they have not seen for themselves. But no, it is not impossible to socialize an older dog; and no it isn't impossible to cure a dog of reactivity. But it does take commitment and hard work on the part of the owner, and your best bet is to get outside help from a Trainer, preferably somebody with good experience of this breed (rather than the general run of 'pet dog' trainers).

People can probably recommend suitable Trainers if you give a rough idea of where you live.
Sunsilver

by Sunsilver on 16 December 2018 - 20:12

Let me give you an idea of how trainable these dogs are!

My first GSD was a 5 year old rescue who had never been walked on a leash (farm dog). I took her to obedience class, and after 5 sessions, went in an obedience Fun Match. It included a figure of 8 off leash, 3 minute long down and off leash recall.

She scored 175/200 points!

Find yourself a good trainer that is familiar with working with GSDs and go for it. Consistency is very important, so make sure you involve the whole family. Okay, kiddywinks may be a bit young yet, but OTOH, I've seen the 3 year old child of an experienced GSD person handle their 85 lb. male like he'd been doing it all his life!

Western Rider (admin)

by Western Rider on 16 December 2018 - 20:12

Why not just start over, go back and take the same basic obedience class again.

Should he act up the trainers there can help you.  Do the class 2-3 times if needed.

Repetition is good for both of you.


Q Man

by Q Man on 16 December 2018 - 22:12

IF you decide to take a Basic Obedience Class over again and you want to take a Group Class it would be best to check with the Instructor and let them know what you need and what your dog does...
If your dog is aggressive then most Instructors/Trainers that you find in Group Classes aren't capable of handling this type of dog...Both for the safety of the other dogs and owner/handlers...
I don't know where you're located but places like a PetSmart won't be able to help you...Please find an Instructor/Trainer that is experienced and can handle and help with your dog...

~Bob~

by 2DogMama on 16 December 2018 - 23:12

Thank you so much for the tips!! We have tried to maintain what he learned in the class. But I've noticed that as he gets older he listens less and less. I've had GSD breeds as well as GSD mix breeds so I'm no stranger to the need for a firm, steady hand.
One other thing I'm wondering if would play a role....he has severe separation anxiety. As in he has broken several traditional wire crates and we had to buy a jail type crate. It had gotten so bad that he follows me EVERYWHERE so close that I feel his nose on the back of my legs when I walk. Could that be going hand in hand with his stubbornness to listening? I've never had one with anxiety like this. He was also the runt which we think may be playing a role.
Hundmutter

by Hundmutter on 17 December 2018 - 22:12

The rescued GSD that I adopted in mid-August is a bit like that; very clingy, creates hell when I go out and leave him, can be a bit 'selectively deaf'; I have not used the crate much, I may have to increase crate training as he isn't a great car traveller, either. But he is six years old, and I am well aware I am going to have to undo some things he has learned during those six years that I don't want from him, and he is improving.

For the SA I have reduced his barking and howling quite a lot already, which my neighbours are grateful about !, and am lucky in that he isn't destructive with it - he just rearranges the furniture a bit and drools on my curtains. To tackle it, I have been doing the following, which you may find helps for your dog:

1 Leave him a symbol, which you place whenever you are about to leave, and pick up again as soon as you return to the house, Some people hang up some ornament on a hook, in my case I put out on his bed one of the biggest, wobbly Kong toys (it is huge and very obvious) - this is kept filled with biscuits but Dexter does not actually eat while I am gone, as I've discovered because I walk back in and the biscuit or chewy I left him hasn't been touched either, and he then eats it once I am back settled indoors. Obviously if he is in a crate, the object needs to be placed in with him, if a chew toy, or hung where he can easily see it if you use something else as a symbol.

2 Work on accustomising the dog to your absences - build up from just going into another room and closing the door so he can't follow you, to going out into your garden or street, outside the front door, where he cannot get out but can sense you are still physically around. Do these for very short periods of time at first, and stretch them gradually. Do not go back in the door when he is barking, wait for a gap (which you then reward by coming back).

1 & 2 together gradually reassure the dog and convince him you have not disappeared for ever.

3rd strand is more controversial with some people, but it works for me: you should make as little fuss as possible when you leave the house (for however long, and to do anything) - just put on your shoes, pick up your coat & keys, and GO. Do NOT make a fuss about saying Goodbye to the dog; do not tell him "you won't be long"; likewise on return, don't make anything of greeting the dog until you and he have settled down again, THEN call him in and say Hello.

If using a crate you need to adapt this a little, as he isn't going to come to you as soon as you return. Don't let him out of the crate until you have been indoors for a while, taken off your coat, whatever - being allowed out of the crate is a reward in itself, so you want to be doing that when he is more settled and quiet, not when he is still yellling to say he knows you are back ! Good luck.

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