German Shepherd Fear Aggression - HELP!!

Posted by Claudia65
Apr 24, 2008
I[B][I][U][COLOR="Blue"] posted this message a couple of days ago and no responded! Please help!![/COLOR][/U][/I][/B]

I have a 7 month old German Shepherd spayed female who is agressive and fearful of other dogs at the dog park. When my puppy was 4 months old, I took her to Basic Obedience Classes at a pet store. My puppy showed signs of fear aggression and I pulled her out of the class. Upon the recommendation of my neighbor, I took my puppy to a local dog club which is run by volunteers who have many years of dog handling and training experience. I worked one on one with a trainer who has 4 GSDs of her own for two sessions and she taught me how to be the Alpha Dog and to teach my dog to trust me. Since then, we have sucessfully completed our 7 week Basic Class and we just started our Advanced Basic. My puppy is doing well in this controlled environment. My problem is that I am still trying to take her to the dog park a couple of times of week and there she continues to show signs of fear aggression and aggression. At the dog park, her hair raises up on her back and she whines when other dogs come around her. She will never stray too far away from me. If she feels threatened by a dog, she will lunge out to bite them or sometimes she finds another dog that she will stalk and then chase it and sometimes bites the dog. I feel that everyone at the park is becoming weary of my dog and rightly so! My neighbor recommends that I continue to take her back to the park but keep her on her leash and prong collar so that I can correct her if she shows any sign of aggression. Someone else recommended that I continue to take her to the park but that I should muzzle her so she cannot bite another dog. I have two smaller dogs at home and she gets along with them. I guess my problem is that I did not socialize my puppy early enough with bigger dogs. She does pretty well with one on one encounters with some of my neighbors' dogs. I guess she is overwhelmed by the amount of dogs at the dog park. It sometimes seems that she is trying to be protective of me too. Does anyone have any suggestions and recommendations on how I should go about trying to socialize my dog?
Posted by hurricane-jett
Apr 24, 2008
Hi Claudia65,
I really know where you are coming from! My 16 mo. old GSD had problems in puppy play group when there were tooo many puppies. He kept trying to escape. Now he does really well one on one or with 2 mastiff's that I take him to play with. We go occasionally to the beach when I know exactly how many and which dogs will be there. The group is small-the 2 mastiff's + a rottie + a neuf + 40 lb "mutt". They are pretty much a small group of "big" dogs in a big area. In your case, I'd try to go to the dog park when there are just one or two dogs there. If that's not possible...ask a couple of regulars if they can stay later after all the mass of dogs goes home, and you come late. See if your girl does ok in the same dog park with just a couple of playmates. If the regulars are getting "unhappy" with your girl, maybe they will help to work out the problem. We take Rally classes now at a dog club and the other owners are VERY forgiving when they realize you know you need help and will take suggestions!( even the owner of a Weimariner who told the teacher she thought mine needed a muzzle!)
Unfortunately, as I have been told...You may really need a behaviorist to work it out! We amature owner/trainers can help with what worked for us, but sometimes it's just beyond our knowledge! That's what I had to do!
Posted by taniajennifer
Apr 26, 2008
Hi Claudia: just some moral support here. there is hope.

when i got my dog, LIBBY, from a rescue shelter she was 3 years old and so dog aggressive she would even attack herself in a mirror - not once but over and over again!! i felt like a failure and was despairing of ever walking her in peace.

but take heart. it is fixable. our libby can now play with almost every dog she meets without a problem. it took alot of patience, perseverence, consistency and calmness but eventually we got it figured out. like hurricane, one of the things i did was set up play dates for libby with people who were understanding and willing to allow their dogs to be 'models' for libby.\
if you want me to explain exactly what else i tried, what worked and what didnt, let me know and i'll give you the deets. but im warning you, it's a long story.

and keep in mind not every approach works for every dog but keep trying different things because you will eventually find the right combination therapy for your sweetie. but at the end of the day, i think it all begins by establishing clear alpha boundaries.

so study the alpha handbook and put as much as you can into practice. i keep finding new things in there that make my and libby's relationship better and better.

good luck and remember, even though it feels like it will never get better but it will. hang in there!
Posted by Claudia65
Apr 27, 2008
Thanks for your words of encouragement! I would love to hear the details. I am trying to glean as much information and recommendations that I can.
Posted by faithfuldog
Apr 28, 2008
I am dealing with fear aggression with my dog towards people and dogs. I would like to hear the details of your story so maybe I can learn from it. I can't let her greet on leash because she will be aggressive. Normally off leash she will work it out but I can't always trust it and then I don't have control of her.

Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Apr 28, 2008
Hi Claudia65 and faithfuldog!

Here is a copy of my posting in the past that explains how we worked on Noah's fear aggression towards big dogs.


Noah still has leash aggression and we are still working on it. He is much better now off leash since he learned how to ignore or just come back to me when he sees big dogs at the dog park. However, I don't want to recommend you take your dog to a dog park because it is like flooding your fearful dog with other dogs. I think it will work better if you let your dog meet a trustworthy dog, one at a time.

Noah is now having no problems with my foster dogs (so far I brought 5 different dogs home - all 35 to 55 lbs) and he has even learned to let his ball go when the foster dog tries to take if from his mouth. If it was until 8 months ago, he would have had bit the dog. It took almost one year for him and he is not perfect but it DOES get better if you are consistent and keep working on it just like taniajannifer said. There is no quick fix so please be patient.

Good luck

Hi taniajennifer! I am so glad to hear that Libby got over the fear! You did a great job!!
Posted by Todd
Apr 28, 2008
Hi there and thanks for the post.

Sorry for the delay but the other ideas put out there are great.

A few short things. I wouldn't recommend dragging her to the dog park as this will not help. I use the green room to explain this.
Imagine you are scared of spiders and so they decide to put you in a room. The room is green and has a basketball and rubbish bin in it. Then the room floods with spiders.

You freak out and get really scared. At the end of it you are still scared of spiders....but also green rooms, rubbish bins and basketballs. This is the problem with flooding.

So instead continue with the ignoring the fearful behaviour and reinforcing the confident behaviour as you have been doing. But the idea is to start slowly reintroducing things.

You may have missed things as a pup but you can follow the same way now.
Start with simple things like in your backyard with a dog at a far distance. Fear gets ignored ie no eye contact, no petting, and no praising. And when she is confident praise her quietly to build up her confidence

Once she is happy in this situation keep on extending things to other situations. Do one thing at a time to avoid flooding her and always give her a way out if things get too much.

Medication may be helpful to help her get over that first period. I prefer Clomicalm but talk to your vet about what they think will be the best thing to help take the edge off.

Be patient, avoid flooding her and give her time. It may be a good idea to let someone else socialise her a bit first as she may not be as fearful without you for a while Just give it a go if it doesn't work don't carry on with that.

Let me know how things go and keep up the ideas out there guys it is always helpful.

Posted by Claudia65
May 2, 2008
Thanks Todd and everyone for your input! We will definitely take things one step at a time!