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Canine Behavior/5mos puppy GSD barking

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I've had the female GSD for 2 weeks now, and she constantly barks at family members, or any one that comes to my house.  After 5 minutes she calms down greets them and play, next minute she barks at them again ..  She doesn't want to go for walks or be with anyone and is constantly checking to see where I am, even while eating. If my son (24 ys. old)tries walking her, she pushes back to the house so she will not loose sight of me. She even nipped his hand.  

I tried socializing her with a doggie sitter that had 2 small dogs and she was even afraid of smaller dogs, hiding behind my legs, tucking tail in. After I left the doggie care place, she seemed as she adjusted. When I picked her up again, she went back to barking, at the door, until she realized it was me.
I wonder if there is any hope to correct this, I want a dog that will not be a biting threat. I hope she can be friendly.  I have plans to take her with a professional trainer, I know she still a puppy, but her behavior is concerning - hardly enjoyable to have a puppy that is not friendly  Thanks!

Answer
Thank you for your question. GSD are notorious for being "spooky." You didn't indicate how old she is, so I don't know if she's entering what would be a normal "fear stage." Puppies are usually pretty open to meeting and exploring new things between the ages of 3 weeks to about 16 or 17 weeks of age. Then they start to worry a bit about new things that they haven't ever met before. They are concerned that if they haven't met it by now, then it must be rare enough that I should be worried of it until I am certain it's not a threat. And this can hold over and generalize to things like every time the door barks, it might be an intruder, or every bicycle that rides past on the sidewalk (if she never met a bicycle in motion during that socialization window) might be a monster until it proves it's not out to kill her....

Whatever her age, I encourage you to start working with a trainer immediately. As long as she's current for her age for vaccinations, and if she's under 16 weeks of age, the rule is NO STRANGE GRASS AND NO STRANGE DIRT to protect her health.

But, I would consult with a local force-free/fear-free trainer before signing up for a group class. If she's really very spooky, then being in a class environment may actually undermine your efforts to help her feel safer. She may need to work privately with you and a trainer to set up situations at a distance so she can learn to feel comfortable. Or, if a group class can happen, it may require that you and she sit behind a barrier so that you and she can see the teacher and work, but she can't see the other dogs - since she was fearful of other dogs.

I encourage you to have lots and lots of patience with her. Reassure her that everything is OK. Do not scold fear barking or growling as this is her only means to tell you how uncomfortable she is. If we take away her ability to communicate her discomfort, then we are setting her up for the "out of the blue" bite. This is because scolding the fear-motivated bark/growl will teach her that it's not safe to tell you she's frightened. But it will not make her feel less frightened. This sets her up to have people, dogs and other things invade her personal space even more because she is not telling them to back away. Then, if her personal space is invaded too much, she will feel she has no other choice than to shout "get away!!!" A dog shouting is the snap or bite. So, while you're working through this with her, it's important to note if it's attention-seeking barking or fear-barking. If it's the latter, reassure her that you will let no harm come to her. Distract her with toys or love or treats or leaving the area so that she can calm down and recover from the upset.

I encourage you to look at three of books that may help you along this path.

The first is called On Talking Terms with Dogs - Calming Signals , by Turid Rugaas. I recommend this book to every single client of mine. It will help you learn to see the subtle signs of fear, stress and anxiety that often appear before the more obvious displays of barking, growling, showing teeth and biting. If you can recognize those early signs of stress, then you can intervene to help her feel safe before she feels the need to tell verbally how uncomfortable she is.
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-key

Patricia McConnell's book, The Cautious Canine - How to Help Dogs Conquer their Fears is a great book that walks through the process of counter conditioning. You work through one fear at a time, but the process can be used for anything that frightens her. The details may be different depending on the issue, but this book walks you through how to break the process down so you can help change her emotional response from "Oh no..." to "Oh yes!"
http://www.amazon.com/Cautious-Canine-How-Conquer-Their-Fears/dp/1891767003?ie=U

Finally, Grisha Stewart's book Behavior Adjustment Training 2.0: New Practical Techniques for Fear, Frustration and Aggression
http://www.amazon.com/Behavior-Adjustment-Training-2-0-Frustration-ebook/dp/B01B

I hope this proves helpful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of any further assistance. Good luck! Patience. . .

Jody, CPDT-KA, APDT
Worcester, MA Behavior Specialist
Masters candidate - Animals and Public Policy (Animal Behavior)
Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
http://NutzAboutMutz.com

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, CPDT- KA, APDT

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IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 5 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com/ If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.

Experience

I have been professionally modifying behavior and training obedience for 7 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I have just changed the name of my business. It is no longer Good Dog! Dog Training. The new name is Nutz About Mutz!. If you see previous questions with the Good Dog! website information, that is my response.

Organizations
I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications
http://NutzAboutMutz.com ; http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

Education/Credentials
I have a graduate education in animal behavior and learning. (While I completed my coursework and did the requisite research, I did not defend a dissertation. I am qualified, but not certified and so technically not a doctor. This is commonly referred to as Ph.D.-ABD which means All But Dissertation.) My educational focus was with non-human primates, but my personal interest is with domestic dogs and their relationships with humans and other animals. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences.

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