German Shepherd Rebellion/Aggression

Posted by Kim
Jan 30, 2008
Nakoda is a 2 1/2 year old neutered German Shepherd. We have had him since he was 5 weeks old. We have 3 children and they love him. Nakoda has always been a little stubborn, but we have worked hard as a family and the kids can give him a command and he will listen, most of the time. He has to sit before he can go outside, he has to go into the "room" when we have to leave or if someone is coming over. Nakoda never really liked the leash and would nip when we tried to put it on him. Nakoda also listens when he wants to, which is usually an inconvenient time cause we are in a hurry. Nakoda never did well at the vet, his last visit was a nightmare. We brought him in to have his yearly rabies and his nails trimmed, which he refuses to let me do, or he nips at me. We were at the vet for 2 hours trying to get a muzzle on him so the vet and techs could get near him. They had to sedate him with 3 sedatives and he still was nipping me, my husband, and anyone who would get near him, especially with the muzzle. I told my husband we could not leave until this muzzle was put on him and his nails trimmed or he would know that he won. So the vet finally tackled him and he was muzzled. He surrendered. But lately, the past couple of weeks he has been growling at me and the kids when we tell him to go in the room, which is our master bedroom, so it's not all that bad for his room. The other day my 15 year old daughter went coon hunting with her father and thank goodness she had thick carhart bibs on because Nakoda viciously attacked her leg when she walked in the door because he smelled the other dogs and I don't think he recognized her. She is now a little fearful of him. I tried putting the leash on him the other day to take him for a walk and he tried nipping me. We do have the petsafe fence system with the shocker collar, which I did not know that is lowers his immune system until I just read your article. We live in the country on 10 acres and he has plenty of room to run, so we thought that would be better and safer. Unfortunately, Nakoda was never really socialized with other dogs either. He does well with our house cat because he grew up with her, but we don't have any other dogs. We used to take him for walks at the park to get him around other dogs and people. We found out at 7 months old, when we had him neutered, that he has bad hip dysplasia, but he tolerates it very well. It's hard to get him in and out of the truck cause if you try to lift his back end he also tries to nip. I am very concerned at his behavior lately and am afraid he might really hurt someone. Our youngest is almost 7 and she is right level with his face to hers . My husband is constantly telling him to lay down and it takes a few times of saying it until he lays down. My husband likes to raise his voice by the second and third time. I am trying to get him on the same page as me as I have watched the dog whisperer on tv and have tried a few techniques. I just need everyone to work together. Please advise as his nails are long again and I cant even muzzle him to trim them nor do I want to take him to the vet again and go thru all that hassle.
Posted by Todd
Jan 31, 2008
HI there Kim and thank you for your question.

This is a very serious problem and i am glad you are dealing with this in a mature way.
Here is what i recommend. This is a problem that will take a huge deal of time to deal with and may require medication to help the situation.

The first advice i would give you is to ensure you and your family members have read and understand the techniques in the bonus book "Secrets to becoming the Alpha Dog". These are great techniques for maintaining or establishing your position at the head of the household. No matter what the problem is all dogs need to know where the stand in the house for both yours and their peace and comfort.

Here are some ways to reinforce your position-

1) If you come across your dog while he is sleeping or lying on the floor then you can reinforce your position as alpha dog by making him move so that you can pass by.

2) Make sure that you always go through doorways first. A good method to reinforce your position as alpha dog is to walk your dog around the house on the leash, making your dog wait while you walk through doorways first.

3) At mealtimes make sure that your dogs eat after all of the humans have.

4) Do not feed your dogs tidbits or let it pester you at the table. Save the morsels and tidbits for training sessions instead.

5) Do not greet your dogs straightaway when you arrive home. Make it wait until you are ready and then call it to you.

6) Whenever your dogs want attention or anything wait till they are sitting and being well behaved.

7) When you give a command make sure that you are in a position to enforce the action that you require from your dog, especially in the initial stages of Alpha Dog training. Also, use the Alarm-No-Command technique as described in the Alpha Dog bonus book to reprimand your dog if it does not obey your command.

Generally I do not recommend people give their dogs bones as this encourages the aggression, because in the wild the alpha dog would be the only one to have the privilege of chewing the bones. The reason your dog growls at you when you approach it with a bone is because it believes that it has the right to the bone and is trying to discipline you for challenging your dog for its dominant role.

Alpha training is very important. I think you and your husband need to work hard on this but would avoid getting your children to have anything to do with this.

I would recommend banning Nakoda from any items that could be used as a dominant item, eg beds, couches and chairs. Most dog aggression problems occur around these areas.

The next important thing you must do is to work hard on his obedience. Good obedience is the best way to diffuse a threatening situation and get the best from your dog.
Work with Nakoda for 10-15 minutes twice a day on her obedience. Begin with sit, stay and come. It will take time but with patience he should be able to respond whenever you give him a command.

Now this will help to no end with the problem. Is Nakoda entire? If he is this may explain some of the aggression and i would recommend you getting him castrated once he is a bit better at being handled.

Nakoda may need medication to help reduce his aggression so i would talk to your vet about the options for this.

Now this problem may also require a professional trainer who can come into your home and will be better at helping the problem more quickly.

Whenever Nakoda acts poorly by being aggressive you must reprimand him straight away. The best way to do this is to use a loud GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR or AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH as well as throwing a large blanket or spray him with the hose. He has to know what he is doing is wrong.
I also think it is a great idea to make him sleep outside in a kennel. This will help make him realise his position.

As well as reprimanding him it is also very important to praise and give him attention for the right things he does.
The mix of reprimanding and reinforcing is the best way to fix the problem faster.

Nakoda is very very aggressive. Things will take time and be very slow to make progress. But don't give up for his, yours and other peoples safety.

He should be banned from walks etc till he is better.

I would very much recommend having a personal trainer come in to help you and thinking about medication.
The problems with the muzzle etc will take time to get to a point where you can deal with them. But until then we need to get hold of his general aggression.

This will be a long process and ill try to always give you quick advice when you have a hard part. Good luck and keep in contact so i can help.

Kind Regards

Todd Field
Posted by Steph-ampWyatt
Feb 16, 2008
Hi Kim,
I was just wondering how everything was going with Nakoda? I too have a stubborn GS w/ agression problems.
Stephanie & Wyatt