Agressive German Shepard

Posted by Dukie-Walker
Jul 7, 2008
:confused:I walk and care for four dogs, one of which is a seven year old rescue German Shepherd female with "fear of other dogs aggression problems" rooted in very low inter-doggie social skills as evidenced by her minimal interaction with the other three dogs at home and her general submissiveness when at-home.

My basic problem is that once an outside dog is sighted while on "walkies", the German Shepherd focuses completely on the supposed intruder, even if the outside dog is 50 yards away, and while loudly barking and aggressively lunging is oblivious to all commands, most pulls of the leash, and physical touch. She immediately "red lines" and remains in such an aggitated state for several minutes after the other dog disappears.

I can very much control the shepard and limit these displays through the use of sharp short tugs on the leash - if the other outside dog remains at a distance, as the tugs appear to disrupt her concentration. But, if a another dog comes very close, say appears suddenly on a mountain trail, she must be physically restrained by hand, something very difficult if one has three other dogs also in hand.

Speaking of the other dogs, this problem is exacrebated by the fact that the four dogs are almost always walked together either two dogs at a time or all four dogs at a time. This reduces the walker's ability to concentrate on controlling and training the shepard as there is always another dog to care about.

I have suggestion from a professional dog trainer that the shepard should be turned on her back while holding her throat (a great similification here) when she becomes aggressive, something I am willing to do, but as some of the shepherd's "walkies" are on mountain trails with three other dogs, it also something that is not very appropriate as to location.

Does anyone have any other suggestions?

This is my first posting on this board, and probably not my last as I have three other dogs to write about, so please forgive any error on my part.
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Jan 29, 2010
Hi there,

It is true that most of the aggression problems seen in dogs stems from inadequate socialization as a puppy. In addition, dogs will often become more aggressive on the leash because by being restrained one of their natural responses, as in flight, has been diminished, leaving them with no option but to fight. They are also very sensitive to your body language and messages conveyed through the leash, therefore it is important that you act very calm and don’t get excited. You will need to reinforce to her that you are the alpha dog, as she needs to come to realize that you, as the leader of the pack, will protect her should dangerous circumstances arise, so there is no need for her to protect herself.

Keeping them up to date with daily training sessions is also really good, as this will keep them sharp and responsive to your commands. You may want to incorporate ‘random walking’ into your training sessions, which forces your dog to think and try to anticipates your moves. This is another great way of re-asserting your dominance, as it enforces your leadership over her by determining their exact movements. You can do this by taking your dog to an open space with few distractions, putting her on a short leash, and then walking off, constantly changing the direction that you are heading. To make things really interesting you could even change the speed that you are going. This forces your dog to look to you for directions and to trust you fully in directing her movements, instead of her feeling like she always has to look out for herself. Keep in mind that this is mentally very taxing on your dog so keep the sessions short and sweet. You will find it much easier to concentrate on one dog at a time, so you may have leave the others at home during these training sessions.

It is very important that you are rewarding her when she is behaving herself, including when she is exhibiting confident behavior. You must never reassure her or tell her ‘it’s alright’ when she is showing the fearful behavior, as this will simply serve to reinforce it. Instead you should ignore her whenever she is doing this, only paying attention to her when she is confident. Taking her to many different places for training and exposing her to a variety of situations will also help, because she will become desensitized to novel things and so less likely to become scared when in new environments.

Distracting her when the other dogs go past is another good way of stopping her lunging at them. You should give her a command, such as ‘sit-stay’, and make her hold this until the other dogs have passed. If she remains sitting calmly, you must praise her and give her a reward. You may also find that teaching her the ‘watch’ command is useful, because she will be focused on you, instead of becoming agitated and watching the other dogs. If she do continue to lunge and bark at them, you will need to turn around and head for home. She will soon come to associate misbehaving with a shortened walk, which will hopefully become a deterrent for future bad behavior.

If you continue to find that she are pulling you over, it may be a good idea to try a ‘halti’ or ‘gentle leader’ on her. This doesn’t hurt her or restrict her breathing, but allows you to control her direction of movement because she won’t be able to fight you. It may take her a little while to get used to the ‘haltis’, but if you persist with them you will see a difference in a very short time.

I hope this has helped and all the best with the training!