Welcome to Southwest Florida German Shepherd Inc. Thursday, December 14 2017 @ 05:10 pm UTC

Doggy Behavioral Issues

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ADAPTED FROM AN ARTICLE BY WAYNE HUNTHAUSEN DVM AND GARY LANDSBERG DVM. WITH INSIGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FROM ERIK HOFFER OF SOUTHWEST FLORIDA GERMAN SHEPHERD RESCUE

Most puppies are friendly and playful, but as your dog matures they may become increasingly hard to control. Many puppies, be they poorly bred by backyard breeders or those purchased at pet stores, can be predisposed to aggression and other negative traits as latent issues that come out as the animal matures.  The behavior is undetectable as a cute puppy and needs to be taken into account by anyone getting any puppy.  Don't become a victim of your own stupidity, get an animal from a person that knows the animal or knows what they bred the animal for.  Cute does not make a good et, temperament does! Although genetic factors do play a role in behavioral development, breeding can be an over-riding issue in many cases.  How you handle, train and socialize your puppy can in some cases free you from these issues, but one cannot ever tell what lies in the head of this cute ball of fur you are bring home.

Dogs are pack animals who automatically develop a hierarchy among siblings, first and other dogs and then you… in their pack mentality.  Single dog households need to begin socialization immediately so as to avoid issues that training can easily overcome. Failure to do so can exacerbate a latent behavioral issue and make for a more difficult training cycle later on.  In a pair of individuals one will always assume the alpha, more demonstrative role, while the other becomes a pack member and typically remains submissive. The dominant individual, alpha leader, will typically control the food, sleeping areas and will always horn in on being petted by his owners.  If you are not the alpha to your dog, he will in turn be the alpha to you and your family and he will soon become your personal nightmare.  By contrast, the subordinate typically gives way in most situations and backs down at conflicts.  If you are not the demonstrative one and the decision maker, Fido will do that for you, which is why the shelters are full.   Issues can occur when the subordinate feels he can move up in the pack and begins to test the waters for upward mobility in the household pack.  If people (owners and family members) are not alpha to your dog(s) then the issue of pack mentality can easily over-ride family and your dog will not accept your control or the commands of a family member. When this happens it is a recipe for disaster.  Dogs prone to aggression in most any form may take a toy from a child, have a fight over resources, begin resource guarding including food and toys and challenge the authority of other family members.  Training takes a second seat when this transition begins.  A dog whose testing the waters is usually in the home for some time and will do something such as get on the bed or furniture (where he was not invited) and refuse to vacate when told.  A dog will posture, warn and growl or show outward signs of aggression before biting. These signs need to be recognized, detected and dealt with quickly so as to avoid an unwanted confrontation which could result in a bite.  If you are not in total control, you know who is.

In your home, it is important to understand and deal with unwanted behavioral issues when they happen. Timing is everything in dg training.  Failure to train your puppy as to what is acceptable and what is not is an imperative, especially with German Shepherds. Identifying inappropriate behaviors and training them out of your dog is critical especially if your puppy is predisposed to these issues.  Food aggression usually is a beginning and subsequently resource guarding follows shortly behind.  Training does begin to establish the control of the alpha, but with highly active and reactive dogs, training and reinforcing acceptable behaviors is the job of all family members.  A dog displaying dominance need to know their boundaries while more submissive dogs tend to respect the rules quicker and more willingly than the more alpha dog.  Other forms of aggression can emanate from fear.  This can manifest itself in a dog backing up, tail tucking, moon eyes where you see the animal is stressed by seeing a white halo around is eye balls and hiding.  Some puppies may be predisposed to fear. These behaviors seem to manifest themselves in your dog being aloof or being a loner when faced with any confrontation or new situation. A dogs failure to bond or to seek out human or canine contact also are forms of this fear condition.  Forcing your puppy into as many situations as possible with as many dogs as possible (and even cats) can gradually get him to accept new things and remove this fearfulness from his outward personality.  If you do not address these issues when your puppy is young, through socialization training and situational diversity, you may find he tucks his tail and refuses to participate in life.  When a dogs does begin to show fear he may be prone to bite if backed into a corner, or if he feels trapped.  Be aware of that condition and try not to place your dog in a fight or flight situation until he outgrows or is trained out of this behavioral issue.

Because no one knows what's in your puppy's head, his predisposition to aggression or his submissiveness, it pays to research the temperament of the breeders sire and bitch (not referring to my ex-wide)  and meet them in a social setting before purchasing a puppy. Researching the breed can never guaranty the outcome of a new puppy in your home.  When selecting an older dog, spend the appropriate amount of time with it before making a commitment.  Interview the owners or rescuers and ask the questions that will help focus you in on the dogs behavioral traits.  See if he seeks you out when meeting you. See if he is willing to play, share toys, be handled and touched, can obey simple commands or willingly accepts authority.  If a person rescuing the dog has not lived with the dog, walk away.  If the owner will not share the vets name and phone number, walk away. If the owner cannot tell you where the dog came from and allow you to interact with him, with your entire family… walk away.  Older dogs have already formed their personality and regardless of the level of training, probably will remain as there are.  Behaviors can be manipulated, personality …not so much.

By setting up parameters, adhering to rules and creating an environment for your pet to mold into is by far the best way to have a successful adoption.  Socialization training with classes with at least 5 dogs (up to 10) makes the most sense because your puppy will learn that no matter what is going on, when daddy calls, he comes. By training your dog without other distractions, especially by others (such as using pro trainers) in your home, you typically come out with a dog that is not social, will not adhere to your commands outside the home or when other things are going on and will tend to make his own decisions.  German Shepherds do tend to be black or white. They decide on everything yet you must make sure they decide on nothing unless you say it is OK. You decide who comes in to your home. You decide when it is time to eat and sleep and where. You decide on play and you always win. If you fail to recognize that your dog is always deciding on everything, you will surely miss an opportunity to get control of your dog when it counts.  If he thinks the mailman is prey or bicycles are chase toys, your probably going to be looking for anther home for your pet or loosing your home to a liability claim.  By taking control of his training and assuming the alpha role, you are helping your pet to a more secure and stable life and avoiding issues that can be traumatic and potentially dangerous for no reason.

Seeking a qualified training school is just the beginning of the road for establishing a new puppy as a great pet and family member.  Setting rules negates problems, consistency reinforces positive and acceptable behaviors and learning skills makes for an engaged and attentive dog.  Timing your training treats, corrections and praise makes for a more solid basis of training and faster learning.  Your dog should get used to accepting all forms of handling and instruction without resisting or showing any fear or agitation. You must remember that being submissive to direction is not going to interfere with his protective instincts or his responsiveness in a time of stress. It does mean that he will be controllable when appropriate and polite when in a social setting. You want the dog to know his place and not be fearful of new things or situations.  Puppies should also be handled. We suggest tummy tickle time as a means by which you can touch your puppy all over and allow others to do he same. We play doggy dentist where we pull his teeth and flap his ears as well in order to let him know that nothing bad will happen if being touched by us or by anyone else.  Don’t be shy to pick your puppy up and have him jump on things because you will need him to follow you in your car, on your boat or when walking or running for exercise or in the case of emergency, to respond quickly and willingly.  Don't be surprised that some older dogs are not use to this form of hands on attention. Make sure it is done once the animal is use to you and your touch. Practice love and hands on touching with all family members whether the pet is use to this form of attention and handling or not. It will improve his confidence and make him easier to get to know.

Make sure you have a command for come, give, for drop it, for leave it and for off (when referring to his getting on a counter or couch where he is not supposed to be).. You will find these commands essential with both an older dog or puppy and you should practice these skills early and often.   As a review the 'come' command refers to your dogs ability to respond to you, regardless of what else is going on or who is in the room or park and come to you when called. To come to you immediately and to ignore other dogs and people is a daunting task for many dogs. They are interested in what's going on, engaged with others in play, being petted by strangers, playing ball or doing whatever so they are otherwise predisposed to ignore your calls to come.  This command can save their life in the street. It can and is your only effective tool to retrieve your dog when off lead.  Your ability to command his respect and his obedience is a key element in training and one that should be a focus from the time you get the dog to forever.  Putting him on a longer lead and saying his name "Fluffy come" and treating him, works every time.  The more you do it the more he wants to come to you. Eventually your treat is a pet rather than food, but at first, nothing works a dogs senses like liver.  The 'give' command can and should be able to free a steak or corned beef sandwich from your pets mouth before he consumes it. It should be effective in having him drop a ball, a bottle of pills or whatever he takes in his mouth, when you see it and before he destroys it or eats it. This can save his life and will be truly effective in having your dog respect your alpha position.  Your dog should willingly give you anything he has without hesitation or trepidation every time, no matter what.

 

The 'drop it' command differs from give in that give implies handing it to you when you reach for it in his mouth, while drop implies the immediate and unconditional release of an item in his mouth no matter where he is in relation to where you are. He needs to drop it where he is and no matter where you are on command. This applies to his eating something on the street, stealing a toy or a bottle of medicine. It needs to be unconditional and quick because here again this can save his life.  The 'leave it' command refers to his not taking something he sees or wants to consume, or take, before he gets it in his mouth. It refers to saving you the stink of having your dog eat poop and then want to give you, or grandma, a big wet kiss. It refers to his ability to leave a treat on the ground until you give him permission to take it. This can also be a great tool in training as the discipline learned by him in not touching something also reinforces his respect for you and your authority.  Finally 'off'. This command is helpful for those dogs who just cannot help being mountain goats and wanting to get on top of everything including the kids, the car dash board or the couch or counters.  Off is important as it can save your pet from getting burned on the stove or from taking something off the counter he should not have. It is an effective remedy for counter surfing since you cannot always be there when he does it, but after seeing him, your command can be the means by which he is going to get down where yanking him by the collar is ineffective unless you are right there.

Fundamental training typically takes 12 weeks in young dogs and 6 months in older dogs who have not gone through these tasks previously.  You can teach a GSD to do any of these things in a few hours, but with constant reinforcement which means 5-15 minutes daily, the final absolute product typically takes this amount of time to perfect. If you stay consistent you can guaranty that you will have a well behaved stabile dog in no time.

 Good luck with your doggy selection!