non aggressive(?) gsd barks and nips child.

Posted by keva
Dec 16, 2008
I have a not quite 2 year old german shepherd bitch. she has been well socialised although not with small children so I make sure she is on a lead when walking her and seeing children.
Today however she went from the garage to the road and barked agressively at a small boy walking up the road with his mother and pushchair. she nipped at his bottom and made contact.
Kennels have made the observation that she is timid for a shepherd and I would have said she was not aggressive. she has on occasions barked at some people for no apparent reason.
I am not totally confident of my alpha status as if she doesn't want to respond to a command she won't. guess who is boss?
This is totally unacceptable behaviour. would appreciate any assistence.
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Dec 14, 2009
Hi there

From the sounds of things, it looks like you haven't completely established yourself as the alpha dog in the pack. This is really important as once you have demonstrated to her that you are in charge, she will look to you for guidance on how to react to different situations and you will be able to build your relationship on this foundation.

There are a few reasons why she may be barking at other people. She may see herself as the alpha dog in the pack, therefore needing to protect what she sees as her territory. If she seems to have quite a timid predisposition, it is also possible that she is doing this out of fear of unfamiliar things, which in this case would be young children. Children tend to act quite differently when compared to adults, with much more sudden, loud and vigorous movements, which may be interpreted as threatening to a dog that has not had a lot of experience with them. Either way, you still need to make it clear to her that it is you that is the alpha dog and so she does not have to worry about dealing with the situation. You can reinforce this by following the tips in the 'Alpha-Dog Manual'.

Once your dog sees you as the head, she will follow your lead and react to situations in a similar fashion to you. Start exposing her to situations where there are children around, such as playgrounds, but make sure she is on the leash, especially initially if you are uncertain of how she will behave. It is possible that you may be tensing up around the children when she is with you due to her past history. She can pick up on this easily, so you must make a conscious effort to relax and ensure the messages you are transmitting to her are all positive ones that puts her at ease. You will have to be very patient during this process, so be prepared to spend lots of time at these places! She will probably be quite unsettled at first but make sure you ignore her completely if she barks. Don't 'reassure' her or tell her 'it's ok' if she starts getting anxious, as this will just reinforce her fearful behaviour. Praise and reward her lavishly only if she remains calm with the children and doesn't bark or become agitated.

Once she is completely comfortable being in areas where there are lots of children, then you can slowing introduce her to some of them, although it may be advisable to start with older children who are more likely to be calmer around her. The important thing to remember is that as you have established alpha dog status, she will be looking to you at all times for guidance on how to react to situations, so make sure you are really relaxed and comfortable with what is going on. By gradually increasing her exposure to children, she will become accustomed to them and realize that they are not something to be feared.

Hope this helps and all the best with the training! I look forward to hearing how it goes