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Canine Behavior/possible fear leash reactive pup


I have a 7 month old german shepherd who we have had since he was 7 weeks old. He is currently not neutered. I have been working with him on obedience since he was 3 months old. I noticed at that time that walks seemed fearful for him. He would cry and whine and try to jump up the back of my legs. I waited another month to try a walk again thinking he was too young and too scared. Since then, he has been barking and lunging with his hair standing up at other dogs and people when ever he spots one near by. Currently i am trying to give him treats with his attention on me while the dog or person walks by but if i don't get his attention right at the moment he notices the "trigger" and keep his attention, he starts barking and pulling. If another person gets close enough to pet him, he gets excited, stops barking, and wants attention. In the house, he is a great dog with my kids and 8 year old lab. He does have a small dominance issue while in his cage and either my kids or i try to take something from him. He is getting better with me on that, but not so much my kids. He doesn't bite but he will use his nose or low growl to nudge your hand away if he doesn't want something taken from him. I do believe his leash issue is out of fear and i would like to try and get a handle on it so we can enjoy our walks. I live on a military base and don't want the neighbors to think he is a bad/aggressive dog. Any suggestions on this issue would be great.

You have a 7 month old GSD who MUST BE NEUTERED IMMEDIATELY.

Your dog's training in "obedience" is not appropriate for some reason; if you are using coercion (choker collar, prong collar) rather than positive reinforcement, you are in grave error.  The GSD can (and I've seen many) have dog to dog aggression issues on leash: hackles raised can mean anything: fear/avoidance (learned on leash at the end of a choker collar or other punisher or in a very bad training class), social statement out of fear, etc.  At 7 months, if you have been working with him properly, you should not be seeing any of this.

DO NOT GIVE TREATS TO ANY DOG that is demonstrating active behavior that is disturbing or in any way exhibiting a serious problem.  Before offering food reward, you have to KNOW WHAT THE DOG IS THINKING and why he is reacting.  You don't know this, now.

When another person approaches while he is in this fight/flight mode, and then that person is allowed to pet him without the dog doing a thing TO EARN IT (such as following your cue to "sit", and doing it IMMEDIATELY), he is also being rewarded for his fight/flight reaction to other dogs.

In the house, he is far from a "great dog": a "small dominance issue while in his cage" and "either my kids or I try to take something from him" is not ACCEPTABLE.  A growl is a BITE WAITING TO HAPPEN.  The dog is out of control.  He "nudges your hand away if he doesn't want something taken from him" WILL escalate to snap, then bite/bruise, then bite/puncture.  Your dog is totally out of control.  This is not uncommon in the GSD which belongs in a very experienced dog home, btw.  A great breed, a very high prey drive, poorly socialized to other dogs, not responding to commands, and learning that his growling and "nose pushing" is working to get him what he wants, is the creation of a clear and present danger to your children first, to other dogs second, and to yourself.

you absolutely require a Certifed Applied Animal Behaviorist (NOT A DOG TRAINER).  Expensive, maybe; worth it, it will save this dog's life.  You can find one by calling the veterinary college in your geographical area or by seeing the following:

You need to BEGIN AGAIN with appropriate instructions; you need to take what I say to you quite seriously.  NO 7 month old dog should be demonstrating the behaviors you are describing.  Bad breeding?  Possibly.  Inadequate training, most likely.  He needs a specialist and he also needs a "growl class"; the CAAB will most likely know where to find one within a reasonable driving distance.

Am I overstating the seriousness of this situation?  NO I AM NOT.  This dog, by age 18 months, will be a menace in your home and outdoors.  He will pay with his life; you may pay by being sued.  I am not being dramatic here, I am telling you from experience.  I have seen the GSD go "bad" when it was not necessarily what should happen.  I don't want to see this one do the same.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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