Welcome to Southwest Florida German Shepherd Rescue Inc., Anonymous Friday, June 21 2024 @ 04:22 pm UTC


  • Friday, July 21 2023 @ 09:45 pm UTC
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I get calls almost everyday asking me for advice about their untrained, aggressive, unpredictable and out of control GSD’s. These dogs were not born this way, they learned to become the way they are by their environment, lack of attention, lack of training and at times by abusive humans. Some people who get GSD’s simply shouldn’t. They have not done the research, they don’t have the time for them, they don’t understand herding and engaged dog breeds and they definitely do not have the inclination to give up their ’valuable’ time to provide structure, alpha, parameters, love and training. Many times parents say yes to their kids requests for a dog when truthfully they know the kid is irresponsible, will leave for school and leave them with the dog, don’t have the time or resources to put into the dog and they don’t have the space for a large dog. Sometimes older adults still feel they are (like me) 19 and can do anything, when in fact they have ¼ of the energy to deal with a young GSD, can’t deal with the exercise they dog needs and will probably have the dog out live them, without out setting provisions and resources for the dogs care when they are gone. People whose work consistently moves them around and they tend to rent rather than buy, because of this lifestyle, get GSD’s and soon find out that renting with one is a problem in some areas and then relinquish the dog. There are people with certain ethnicities whose obscure culture allows them to think neutering is cruel, living inside is dirty, dumping a dog when it’s no longer convenient and simply getting new ones after they dump the old ones is OK. There are people who are way too fastidious to deal with dog hair (as in German Shedder) that still get them and bring them to shelters because they are too lazy to vacuum.
Basically there are hundreds of tales of woo that I deal with on a daily basis and I want to review of few of there here.
First and foremost, “my dog is aggressive and can’t be trusted around my family”. My first question is did you train him? How was he when he first arrived? Was he a puppy or did you get him from a rescue or shelter? What did you know about him from the source where he was purchased? Have you done any socialization with him? Is he or she fixed? Secondarily, how many people live in the home? Do you have small children or fragile seniors? Does the dog live inside or outside? Is he crate trained? Is the home chaotic or calm? Does the dog have a place to get exercise or go to relax? Who walks him? How much play time or attention time does he get on a daily basis? How long is he left alone?
Facts help in creating an appropriate answer because every dog is different, every home and circumstance is different, and people tend not to give you all of the pertinent facts.
The nature of a dogs behavior is a sum of what he has learned, what he has been forced to adapt to, his current home life, what he has not learned, who he respects, what parameters were set for his behavior and mental growth. A dog who has had these aggressive behaviors for years has now self rewarded, to such a degree that the aggression he exhibits is his normal. If the dog has not been corrected or if the stimulus for the aggression isn’t going away, changing him is improbable.
Many people who have these issues and want to change the dog but don’t know how, tend to reach out to trainers. Some trainers are competent and yet unable to address these daunting issues simply because they don’t have the experience or skill. Some say they can change the dog with a board and train and others say they can come to your home and change the behavior all for a hefty fee. Looking at it from experience, board away training can help the dog for a time when he is emersed away from the home and taught by a strong alpha leader/trainer. The fallacy is that when Fluffy returns home and the environment remains the same as it was, the people (and leadership) are unchanged and the dog now only recognizes the alpha trainer as being in charge, the dog will immediately revert. Lot’s of money and time wasted. Other trainers say that they can come to your home and teach you to correct your dog’s behavior. This can work but it has to be understood that you, the owner, must handle the leash and that training and correction must be learned by the owner under the guidance of a qualified trainer totally familiar with the breed. This training must include at least 50% of off site work so that the dog recognizes (once the owner is competent with training and correction) that he must respond regardless of the venue to the owners wishes and commands. Truthfully this isn’t training at all but behavior modification which is quite a bit different. Now instead of the dog learning a new trick or appropriate reaction to a command, he must understand why he is being corrected. A dog corrected for what he knows is OK in his mind gives the animal a mixed signal which he cannot interpret and therefore is ineffective. Dogs can’t be rationalized with, like a human. They need to understand by correction, what is and isn’t allowed, and what is the expected behavior to a command. Modification of a previously self rewarded behavior takes considerably longer than learning it correctly at first. This sort of training can take months if at all. The prospect of success is dependent on the age of the dog, changes in his environment and the effectiveness of the trainer and owner. It is a process, and the likelihood of success is probably 50% at best.
Now, what to do when all else fails? The issue presented is an out of control, aggressive dog, who is unpredictable, dangerous around certain things or people and unable to be controlled or corrected. The answer is one that some will not want to hear, but the truth is you can’t save every animal. You can’t correct things that have been caused by you or others to this dog. Some dogs who have these traits need to be humanely euthanized. The two ways to look at it are these. First allow the animal to remain in your home knowing that he may bite someone entering the home, he may go after a dog outside where a person or a child may get bitten, he may destroy your home to get access to a dog or person outside causing destruction to both the house and himself, notwithstanding if he attacks the target dog or person. The dog may cause you to be held legally liable for his actions, possibly causing you to loose your home or pay a hefty fine or the medical bills of the dog or person bitten. Then after that the animal will be possibly be put down regardless. The second option is to take this dog you love and recognize that you were somehow a contributor to these issues and do the right thing by humanely euthanizing him before it comes to the former issue. Loving a dog doesn’t mean tolerating bad behavior. It does mean that you want the dog to live a good life and if that isn’t possible, allow him or pass in your arms making both of your lives better.
The next thing is, “I want to relinquish my dog because”… I don’t like the hair, my kid is allergic, the dog is stupid because I have had shepherd before and this one isn’t smart, I don’t want to fund his illness, I don’t have time to play with him or train him, I can’t afford his food and medical expenses, my association will not let me have a GSD, I am moving and I can’t take him, my son gave him to me when he went off to college, he is getting older and becoming a burden and of course he is destructive and digs holes in my flowerbeds or has accidents in the house. Now of course there are reasons like a person passes away and never set up a fund for his care nor created a fund with a caretaker to establish a designated person to take his dog in that event. We do run into both sides of that situation. First my dad passed and I know how much he loved his dog that we, the family, want to make sure he finds a good home, hence we are contacting you…. or my dad died and we want this animal out of the house, come and get him or we will dump him on thew street or call animal control to get him out of the house.
To be frank, I get each and every one of these calls and situations almost every week. I am constantly dealing with family members and owners who call me to pour their hearts out in the hopes I will take the dog and relieve this ‘burden’ on their shoulders. It’s like being a therapist and not getting paid for it. I do try to be understanding and to offer whatever I can to help whoever is on the other end of the phone to come away with some assemblance of an answer. I try and be truthful as well as practical. I try and be compassionate as well as realistic and at times no matter the answer not everyone is satisfied. The main issue is, “you are a rescue’ what do you mean that you won’t take my aggressive dog. That is your damn job, if you can’t take him, I will just shoot the dog and be done with it; or the kinder folks just say, Ok it will put it on the street. I have taken some serious abuse, but I have also helped quite a few people in trying to help establish a course of action that will assist them in whatever the issue seems to be.
The bottom line in many cases is easy. Don’t get a dog if you can’t keep it for its life. Dogs are not disposable. Dogs have a cost in time and resources. If you can’t afford one don’t get it. Spend a few minutes researching the breed you want before getting one and then complaining about the dog’s issues. Spend the time needed to train the dog, just like you would your kid. Don’t ignore their needs and help them comply to your circumstances, so there is peace in the home. Make sure all family members want to have the dog. Establish time in your schedule to spend with the dog by making him a family member. Don’t get a dog and keep him outside, as he isn’t a family member then but a fixture outside. Try chaining your kid o0r your mother out there for a few days and see what they says about that…. It’s the same for the dog, but he can’t speak. Spay your pet so as not to create more pets hence more problems. Think about what a pet brings to your life, and if that is a burden, excessive costs, more work, inconvenience etc., don’t get a pet, and avoid these issues completely…. Which is my best advice outside of training and neutering!