There is no doubt that he has a fierce exterior. However, for the most part, your German Shepherd is calm, gentle and loving inside. Unfortunately, though, he does have moments where he lives up to his German Shepherd characteristics when he’s overly protective. You’ve caught him barking and even trying to bite other pets and strangers. You’re fed up with worrying when new people come over to the house.
Training your Shepherd not to be aggressive will alleviate that concern. It will also reduce the chances of him causing harm to someone else. The result of which is that he may need to be put down. His aggression could also get him into a fight with another pet, which could lead to pricey vet bills. Training him not to be aggressive will also mean you can stop fitting him in a muzzle whenever you leave the house.
Training a German Shepherd not to be aggressive can be challenging. The first thing to do is identify what is causing the aggression in the first place. You can then go about tackling the underlying problem. Training will need to consist of socialization with other pets and people. You will also need to use obedience commands to increase your control. Some deterrence measures may also be required to prevent his aggression developing further.
If he’s a puppy he should be a fast learner and receptive to training. This means you could see results in just a couple of weeks. However, if he’s older and this habit has developed over many years, then you may need a number of months and the help of your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.
Before you get to work, you will need to get a few bits together. A water spray bottle and deterrence collar will be needed for one method. You will also need treats and toys for incentives and rewards.
Set aside 15 minutes each day for training over the next few weeks, and be ready with a confident and positive attitude. The more consistently you train, the sooner you will see results.
Would a beep vibrate and shock collar help me with hank? He’s a great dog. I just don’t know what my other options are. I’ve tried everything.
Hello Alyssa, I would need more information about Hank, his temperament, his aggression, and exactly what you have tried so far to say for sure, but I can say that I have seen those types of collars work very well for treating certain dogs with certain forms of aggression when combined with the proper training techniques and used by someone who knows how to properly train with it. When used wrongly or if a poor quality collar is used, then they can also make the problem significantly worse. For that reason I recommend that anyone looking to use one find a local professional in their area, with extensive experience in dealing with aggression and with the use of remote training collars. These collars are typically best used as interrupters and as low level stimulus' to improve a dog's obedience and self-control enough to create windows where positive reinforcement can also be used to deal with the dog's emotional state at the root of the problem. For some dogs aggression is fear based and a collar could cause more damage when used wrongly or it could provide enough interruption in the poor behavior for the dog to receive communication about what he should be doing instead, and that would give him enough opportunities doing the correct behavior to change his views about whatever he is aggressive toward. Aggression can also be due to a respect issue or be a learned behavior, meaning that the dog acts aggressive simply because he has learned that it gets him what he wants. Aggression can also be a genetic trait. To assess everything involved you will either need the help of a trainer or will need to learn the information that trainers spend time learning about: canine behavior, body language, training methods, and the proper use of training tools such as electric collars. That can take a lot of time and work, but I do know of committed owners who have successfully done it and have been able to help their dogs due to their own hard work and knowledge. If you do choose to use such collars, then do not simply punish your dog when he acts aggressively, he needs to be told not to do something, corrected, shown what to do instead, and then rewarded for correct behavior. There are a lot of other things that go into that, such as fitting the collar properly, finding which level your dog responds to without going too high, knowing your dog's body language, avoid dangerous situations, communicating clearly, and being able to tell what is working and not working and adapting, rather than simply increasing the collar level. A collar alone without proper training and positive reinforcement for the right behavior can make aggression worse. As confusing as all of that is, I actually recommend such collars over the use of Citronella collars though because citronella collars can punish a dog for an extended period of time when the dog continues to smell it, but other types of vibration, stimulation, and tone collars are instant and do not continue the punishment for long. Collars that use only air do not punish a dog for an extended period of time though, so those are less unpleasant for a dog. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Brady is a great dog at home and does well with our three boys but when I took him to the park the other day he barked at every person that walked toward us. While at the park he also snapped at my niece and bit her (he did not leave a mark or break skin - he didn't hur her just scared us all). He was fine with my niece when she was at my house but not at the park. How can I get him socialized without fearing that he is going to hurt someone?
Hello Kristina, I would recommend getting Brady used to wearing a basket muzzle. A basket muzzle will allow Brady to open his mouth while he is wearing the muzzle and it will allow you to pass small treats to him through the muzzle's holes. You can also use a straw dipped in Peanut Butter or soft cheese to reward him, by poking the dipped straw through the muzzle's holes to let him lick the food off of it. While he is wearing the muzzle you can take him to places safely and reward him with treats for behaving calmly, for looking at people without reacting, and for focusing on you. You can also work on his obedience exercises while he is there to keep his focus on you, to increase his respect and trust toward you, and to keep him from becoming overly aroused and reactive. If the idea of putting a muzzle on him in public is daunting, then I would recommend trying to find a group that regularly goes on walks or trains their dogs together, that would be more supportive of him wearing a muzzle. Some of these groups can be located through websites like Meetup.com or local dog clubs or rescue organizations. Getting together with these groups with Brady while he is wearing the muzzle regularly and working on his reactions and fear while there, should help his overall socialization. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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I got Johann Neutered 2 weeks ago and thier policy was to leave him over night for observation. Since I have picked him up he has been barking aggressively at others on a walk, and in his obedience class. The first 3 sessions in his obedience class he was very timid, so when others went up to him they did not make eye contact but laid food near him so they would not scare him. Then this last class he barked aggressively and tried to lunge towards them. Is this caused by aniety or me not socializing him enough. Also, how do i socialize him now to not make him scared/anxious towards others. When on our walks he will see a person and his hair will stick straight up.
Hello Amanda, Without a medical evaluation I cannot say for sure. A couple of things could be going on. He could be in pain from something that happened during the surgery or simply from a lengthy recovery. He might have some sort of chemical imbalance going on that needs to be addressed. He might be acting aggressive out of fear due to the emotional trauma of the stay and surgery recovery, or it might be simple coincidence that his aggression appeared around the same time as the surgery. Puppies go through several fear stages throughout their first eighteen months of life, and it's possible that he just happened to hit one and is responding aggressively out of fear. If it is a fear period, then he needs TONS of positive socialization, where he is given treats for calm behavior, for looking at things he is afraid of and not reacting aggressively, for looking at you when he is near something that he is afraid of, and for generally being in the same area as a source of fear and not reacting negatively. He also needs to have a lot of people feed him treats while he is calm like you did in that class. If he is likely to bite someone, then desensitize him to wearing a basket muzzle, and then feed him treats and peanut butter on a straw through the muzzle holes. I would definitely suggest hiring either an Animal Behaviorist or a Veterinary Behaviorist in your case. Johann needs to be evaluated both medically and temperamentally by a trained professional. Someone with both medical training and training in animal behavior, such as a Veterinary Behaviorist should be able to help with both, and to suggest whether or not medical testing might be needed and what type of training protocol should be followed. An important thing to also consider, is whether or not he was showing smaller signs of aggression before the neutering. If he was acting aggressive or fearful before the surgery, but it was simply not as bad as it is now, then the issue is probably trauma and a lack of socialization. He may have been suspicious of people before the surgery, and his stay simply convinced him that his suspicions were correct, and so now he acts defensively toward people because he believes that he has to keep them away from himself to be safe. A qualified Behaviorist should be able to help you with that also though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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My new wife and I have recently bought a purebred German Shepard pup from what we believed to be a reliable breeder. She had elbow and hip certification and DM testing done. Also said her main focus when breeding was on temperament. So we chose to bring home an 8 week old male which we love dearly. I own my own construction business so I took him everywhere with me. The breeder had puppy socials to help get the young dogs used to being around other dogs so once to twice a month we took him to those. He was well behaved as a puppy for the most part not chewing on things, growling at people, etc. One issue we did have was peeing, when my wife got home and greeted him he would pee or when new people would come over he would pee. Since then we have altered how we greet him and have guests greet him - we ignore him until he is calm which has helped nearly overcome the urination issue; it happens much less. Around six mounts he started to show signs of aggression such as barking at people and at times being protective of his toys. This all started right before we took him to his breeder for a 2 week board and train. They then asked to keep him for an extra week to help build his confidence up ( my fear being that they didn't have time to work with him the first 2 weeks but do not know for sure). When we got him back, the first night one of my friends came over to the house and when he walked in Dax barked aggressively lunged and bit him (not breaking the skin). We had already had him signed up for basic obedience lessons so we believed that this would be good for the socialization. When we went to the class he lunged and barked aggressively at the other dogs on occasion but as the class went on he got significantly better. After the class we had another act of aggression (lunging, barking, and biting not breaking the skin) towards a person - this time a worker that walked past him. Long story short, we called the breeder he had spent 3 weeks with and she wanted anther week with him; we took her up on the offer of helping, but this time I honestly believe they just boarded him with no extra attention. He was worse when we brought him home having more out bursts. For example, he was sitting next to me on the beach and a young kid came up probable 15' away, Dax charged the kid pushing him to the ground barking and growling (he did not hurt the kid) but looked very scary. He is not fixed, we were told to wait till he was at least 12 mounts. Please help, I am dedicated and will do what it takes to solve this problem.
Hello Brandon, First, I would recommend no longer boarding him with his breeder. Either intentionally or simply because of the environment there, staying there seems to be increasing his defensiveness and possibly fear aggression. I would recommend looking into Jeff Gelhman from SolidK9Training's free educational resources. He has a YouTube channel and a couple of other places where he speaks regularly online such as on Periscope. The help you need is beyond what I can tell you here but his resources provide in depth information about high drive working breeds and aggression issues. It is important for you to hear as well as see what to do, which makes videos easier resources. I would also recommend desensitizing him to wearing a muzzle so that you can safely modify his behavior and socialize him around people without risking any type of injury. The fact that he has not drawn blood during several attacks is actually a good sign. That means that your work socializing him around other puppies while he was a young puppy hopefully helped him develop good bite inhibition, which makes his case easier to work on. The behavior behind the aggression is just as much of an issue however, and does need to be addressed, but it will be less dangerous to address it than if he had drawn blood. To desensitize him to the muzzle spend a couple of weeks, or longer if needed, showing him the muzzle while you feed him lots of treats. Let him sniff it and feed him a treat. Let him touch it and feed him a treat. As he begins to like the muzzle because of the treats, then gradually move it onto his face more and more and feed him a treat every time that you do so, until you can finally place it on him completely and feed him treats through the hole while he wears it for gradually longer and longer periods of time. You can also dip a straw in peanut butter and poke that through the muzzle for him to lick off as a reward. Use a basket muzzle for this or another muzzle that also allows him to still open up his mouth inside the muzzle while wearing it. If you feel at all uncertain about how to work with him on the aggression after looking into training, then I would highly recommend hiring an experienced trainer in your area to work one on one with you either at their facility, at your home, or ideally some of each. Look for someone who has several co-trainers that can socialize him and work hands on with him to get him use to people up close, as well as someone who has extensive experience dealing with aggression, high drive breeds, and protective and defensive instincts. Also look for someone who utilizes both positive reinforcement as well as fair corrections, rather than just one of those things. Also work on teaching very reliable obedience so that you can more easily manage the aggression when situations do arise. That will also have the added benefit of increasing his respect toward you, which is very important during tense situations when he feels the need to control situations. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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