Welcome to Southwest Florida German Shepherd Rescue Inc., Anonymous Sunday, December 10 2023 @ 08:10 am UTC


  • Monday, May 06 2019 @ 08:26 pm UTC
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By Erik Hoffer President Southwest Florida German Shepherd Rescue
One thing is for certain, many dogs who come through rescue are prone to this behavior. Not all have it and yet you should plan for it from the first day the dog enters your home.
The behavior manifests itself in a variety of ways. Destructive behavior, whining, obsessive barking, digging, scratching and even some more violent behaviors care common. These behaviors present when you or other family members are not with them. There are lots of potential remedies but understanding the cause and how it manifests itself in each individual is the best way to understand the behavior, the reasons behind it and the potential remedies that may mitigate it.
First it is important to note that many breeders are incompetent. Backyard breeding of GSD’s is so common that it is hard to find dogs that came from true qualified breeding companies. Backyard breeders are usually in over their head from the get go. They breed to any dog regardless of temperament, health concerns, genetic issues or basically anything else that would be important. They are of the opinion that since my dog is handsome and the female is also, that the pups will be perfect and available to sell for as much as $3000 each. Looks (cosmetics) should never be the focus of breeding. Temperament and health should be the main criteria for breeding two dogs. Breeding is a science, and those who see it solely as a business fall into the trap of ‘now what do we do’ after the 8-12 pups are born? Many fail to understand the need for social structure, human handling, environmental conditions, food, whelping etc. They have no idea if the mom will even let the handlers interact with her pups. Since they didn’t know the temperament or background of the female, handling becomes a big issue. If the female does not allow interaction, the pups lose that need for touch and human contact. If the pups are predisposed to fear, which you can’t really know, or if they become somewhat antisocial because of the lack of handling and socialization at this age then you have all the components for these deviant behaviors to form as the dog grows. Even where the whelping pen is placed, in an isolated area or in the home around people is a condition that can cause developmental problems.
Next a dog can be perfect, loving, easily bonded and social and then be owned by a person who does not care about the dog, chooses not to interact or ignores the animals need for affection and suddenly you have a dog that becomes stressed and frustrated. Many times these dogs are so in need of touch and human interaction that they become extremely stressed and act out until they get what they need. German Shepherds are people dogs. Some dogs are relegated to the back yard and get little to no interaction and then are dumped. We get these dogs in a depressed state. When they get into a home they are so fixated on their new human’s that they can’t be without them. The drive becomes overwhelming and the stress created by the humans leaving (even for a few minutes) is met with total frustration which is what most people see as separation anxiety. The dog isn’t being mean, nor are his destructive behaviors out of anger but rather these behaviors are the dog’s way of trying to get to you in any way they can. If this means eating through a wall, breaking up a crate, eating your couch, curtains or whatever is in the room, then so be it. This anxiety based stress is a difficult process to reverse.
Behavior modification is basically relearning a new behavior to replace the old one. Separation anxiety is just that, if you are gone, they are upset, so if you are there 24/7 the problem is non-existent. Since no one can reasonably do that, you need to teach the dog that you will be back if you leave and he is not being left again permanently. That task is totally dog dependent. It involves your being consistent in training, but that the dog can understand this type of training and respond to it. Some dogs just can cope, sorry to say; but most can. It may seem a daunting task at first, but the condition can be made workable if not totally fixed.
The best way to start this program is with a crate. You have to have a secure confinement area that the dog finds as a happy place. Make sure this is a substantial crate and not one you can bend with two fingers. Make sure the dog is desensitized to going into the crate. We call it house. You can do this by placing treats in it, feeding him in it, allowing him to go in with is favorite toys of blanket with the door open or making it a happy place for him. If he becomes comfortable with the crate while you are in the room or in the house, then you can start the program. The first order of business is to put a chew toy in the crate with a treat inside to occupy his time (Nylabones are also good). Tell him to go into his house (even if you have to bribe him) and calmly close and lock the door. Use what ever means you can you insure the door is not easily opened by him, as most GSD’s have the strength to pop the door open by bending the door enough to release the locks. Once you are sure the door is secure, calming and without fanfare, leave the house for 30 seconds. Do this maybe 10-15 times the first day. Do it again the second and subsequent days as you increase the time from 30 seconds to as much as 5 minutes. This can take you a week or two of work, but the conditioning will pay big dividends.
Once you have established a 5 minute window where the dog needs to relax, chew his toy, stare at the window or door awaiting your return or whatever he may do that is not nutsy-crazy, then you can begin to increase the time to as much as an hour. I would leave the time you are gone, based on the dog’s reaction, to a maximum of 3 hrs. Getting the dog to this point can be a challenge as there is no way to effectively predict how a dog will react to a behavior modification. What I have found from doing this over 50 times is that dogs do finally adapt and once that realization takes place it lasts a lifetime.
Another useful technique is accomplished with another dog in the household. By having the well adjusted dog keep the new dog calm by his presence, outside the crate, you can get this technique done in half the time. Dogs are pack oriented and tend to look to their housemates for security. If the calm dog can facilitate filling the void you create by leaving, then he will soon accept your comings and goings more readily.
Certain dogs are so insecure that the thought of being separated is a major stressor. German Shepherds are people dogs and often choose their person above all else. They see you as better than food, treats, balls, toys or any other family members. It is important to not exacerbate that condition by coddling them and allowing them to create that unnatural bond. Dogs who do this can become very protective and destructive when you are gone, unruly and unresponsive to others in your absence or just so stressed to find you that they will go through a window to try and get to you. This is also a form of separation anxiety that grows with time and can be helped by your not feeding tis behavior. The techniques described above are useful but you also need to establish you are alpha to the dog and that others in the home are also alpha figures. Allow you spouse, your kids, your parents etc (anyone living with the dog) to do some training with him so he is responsive to them in your absence. This needs to be done from the first signs of ‘super-bond’ which will become very obvious to everyone in the home. It is easily seen when nothing else matters to your pet but you.
Dogs who were abandoned do not always show this level of separation anxiety, it is not an absolute condition. Some dogs are very well adjusted and can cope with change. Dogs, especially GSD’s, are very pragmatic and cope with change well. If they were dumped and re-homed; nurturing, love, physical affection, a quality environment and good food will fill all of their needs.
Separation anxiety is easy to spot but should be trained out before these behaviors are the norm. When a rescue comes into your home, try these techniques before the dog gets stressed.
Erik Hoffer