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Old 17.09.2011, 14:33
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Re: Need help witha 2 1/2 yr old German Shepherd

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Naha... you described a harness.

A Halti goes over the muzzle and attaches behind the head. Basically it's the same mechanics as a halter on a horse.

There are 2 types of Halti's head or harness. The harness is what I meant when I refered to Halti as they tend to be the most common especially in smaller dogs, where the power of the dog is less of a factor, but don't work as well when the dog is powerfull:

http://www.petstuffgalore.co.uk/dog-...rness-sml.html

the head collar type (by whatever name) is a better tool for larger breeds.
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Old 17.09.2011, 14:48
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Re: Need help witha 2 1/2 yr old German Shepherd

Working with a trainer or behaviorist - or both - is critical, a professional can see things you might not be able to which might help diagnose the underlying problem, come up with a plan for behavior modification. But also as mentioned, behavioral rehab is a long process. In the short term, while you are starting rehab, management is key.

A dog learns from every experience - good and bad. What that means is that every time your dog reacts, she learns that this behavior is effective. For instance, when my dog saw an unknown dog, which to her is a threat, her instinct was to go into defensive mode, to bark or lunge to scare the 'threat' away. She did that, and the 'threat' did indeed scamper away - victory! Next time she saw a 'threat' she then thought: "Last time I barked and lunged the other dog ran away - I'd best do that again". And so the behavior became ingrained.

As mentioned in my earlier post, I'm hesitant to make suggestions without knowing your dog. But here are some things I did with my reactive Hooligan:

To stop the cycle we needed to make sure that she did not have opportunities to 'practice' barking and lunging - and the easiest way to do that was to avoid situations where she was likely to encounter 'threats'. This is a short term situation, controlling her environment bought me time to work on the underlying behavior.

These limits likely won't be needed forever witrh your dog, but for now it is best to avoid conflict triggers until your dog has developed the skills and emotional stability to handle them.

While working with my reactive dog, I first limited my outings to times and places where I was unlikely to meet other dogs. That meant getting up at 4 AM for morning walkies, or driving to isolated places. So be it. This gave me time and opportunity to build trust between us - very important, as your dog needs to learn that she can trust you to keep her safe.

But when we did run into another dog, I needed to diffuse the situation, needed to head off potential conflict long BEFORE my dog's adrenaline started pumping. That meant reading my dog's body language at all times - as long as she showed relaxed posture and face and ears, great - but at the first sign of tension - early signs like narrrowed eyes, tightened lips, I would arc wide around the other dog so that my dog was out of her reactive zone, or turn the other way. Waiting until she had here ears back, tail up was too late - by then the adrenaline was taking over and she was not in a position to listen to me. Learning to read your dog's body language is a bit tricky at first, but you soon start to see the signs. Two good books are Turid Rugaas' 'Calming Signals' (a small book, very accessible information, one every dog owner should have) and Brenda Aloff's 'Canine Body Language: A Photographic Study'.

I used operant conditioning to change Hooligan's perception of her trigger situations: making sure to intervene before her adrenaline kicked in, I would take her a safe distance away and offer her a super high value treat, something only ever brought out in these situations (ostrich sticks). As the 'threat' went by, she got her treat. Eventually the sight of (many) unknown dogs came to mean 'Treat time' rather than Danger - fight for your life!' The idea was to completely change the association and thus eliminate the fear - and the need for reactive behavior. And eventually we could reduce the reactivity zone, so that finally she is able to pass by (most) unknown dogs on a normal walking path. But this is a looooooooong process - one best guided by your trainer/behaviorist.

In the meantime, I controlled ALL interaction with other dogs. The very worst thing would be to run into one of the idiotic 'He Just Wants To Play!' brigade - an encounter with a dog who did not respect Hooligan's 'no-fly zone' would have set our work back to square one. So Hooligan's socialization with other dogs took place at the Hundeschule. Here our trainer was watching, she knew which of the other dogs would be a good match for Hooligan, which would not be a good fit. At that point in her rehab I avoided contact with other dogs when out and about.

Five years on, Hooligan is so much better - a casual observer might have no idea that she is a 'special' dog. Yet I still assess any unknown dog when out and about - if I see that Hooligan is starting to look stressed we arc around as we did in the early days. I only allow her to meet and greet other dogs when she is happy and relaxed. Which is usually dogs she already knows, who she has met earlier under controlled conditions.

There is no rule that your dog has to be best buddies with all other dogs, that she has to interact with all and sundry. Part of keeping her safe is choosing who she interacts with - and saying 'no' to any situation that could trigger reactivity.

---

As you are looking for a good behaviorist, do follow up on some of the suggestions given. Look at all the control halters recommended by PG, go to Fressnapf, Meiko, etc and try a few out, see which feels best to you. At Meiko the, and at (most) Fressnapfs the staff can help you with advice, fit, etc.

Using a control halter will help you in other ways: Your dog can read your tension, your concern - and reacts to it. It becomes a Teufelskreis: you are worried about your dog's reactivity and your ability to control her; she feels your tension, starts to worry - which sets off her reactivity. And so on. A control halter will likely give you extra confidence, so you may well find that you are not subconsciously communicating tension and stress to your dog.

Frame of mind is critical - you need to be in a relaxed easy mood in order to train effectively. And that is awfully hard when you are worried. So do as Mrs D suggests - if you feel that you are not fully in control, skip walks for that day. Instead, work together in the garden, try some brain-training games together. A good mental work out is as beneficial as a physical one - and far better than a walk where your dog gets to 'practice' her reactivity. It won't hurt your dog to miss a day of walkies IF you provide bonding, play, and brain training time instead.

----
You are absolutely correct to avoid trainers who use harsh methods. Fear, pain, adversives are the wrong way to go with a fearful dog - and reactivity is almost always fear based. Go with your instinct, look for a trainer who uses positive reinforcement. Positive is not permissive - simply a more effective method to teach your dog the life skills she needs.

---

Remember - safety first - for you, for your dog, for all around you. This means looking at everything you do, anywhere you go, with an eye towards safety at all times. It can see overwhelming at first, but soon one develops a routine, your 'safety mode' becomes automatic.


It all boils down to setting your dog up for success at this stage, initially managing the environment so that your dog is not put into a position where she can't cope - and gradually learning to cope with more and more of the big wide world.

Hope you find the right behaviorist to help you and your doglet.

---

(Our trainer - who has been a fantastic support and thanks to whom Hooligan has made so much progress - is in Wollerau SZ, and speaks only German - although she understand a bit of English. Do you have any German at all? If so, and if you were interested in meeting her to see if it is a good fit, I could come along and translate in my mistake-laden German. Unfortunately I couldn't bring Hooligan along, because one of the things we still have not fully conquered is her fear of GSDs.)

Last edited by meloncollie; 17.09.2011 at 15:08.
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Old 17.09.2011, 17:14
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Re: Need help witha 2 1/2 yr old German Shepherd

I hope this doesn't come off as hijacking your thread and going too off topic, but can you post pics of your dog? I adore dogs so much (mine sadly couldn't come to Switzerland with me) and it's nice to swoon over pictures of them!

P.S. Huge kudos for all your efforts to help your dog. I hope everything goes well.
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Old 17.09.2011, 21:03
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Re: Need help witha 2 1/2 yr old German Shepherd

Hey All

She hates the Halti í've tried it a couple of times back in Dubai and she just wouldn't have it.

I'm using a harness thing which my husband loves cause he can control her better. I guess im just weaker... much weaker

She's not dangerous at all she would never hurt a person, she just gets out of control when she sees other dogs and because people freeze when they see her she just gets over excited and i guess she can also sense my panic so i'm to blame too. Its a vicious cycle we're feeding off one another. i'm aware of it, thats why i need a professional that can work on BOTH sheeba and i, cause i'm sure i'm messing up too. I had adopted another abused dog before sheeba but he was completely different. I think German Shepherds are a bit tricky but amazing at the same time

And we have decided to avoid taking her out when other owners are with their dogs, or go to an area where we know there are no dogs. However i've been told by one trainer that this is a big mistake that we should subject Sheeba to meeting with other dogs. I see the what he means but i think this needs to be in phases i guess.
I will go and check out proper leads/ Harnesses at pet supplies shops.

Meloncollie my german is crap it just consists of 3 - 4 swear words thats why i'm looking for someone that can communicate with me in English. In addition, i've noticed that Sheeba is more comfortable with women as opposed to men could be her history.

Thank you all for great suggestions really appreciate it
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Old 17.09.2011, 21:17
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Re: Need help witha 2 1/2 yr old German Shepherd

That's my Sheeba
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Old 17.09.2011, 21:55
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She is a beauty!
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Old 18.09.2011, 15:01
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Re: Need help witha 2 1/2 yr old German Shepherd

She's so lovely! *wraps arms around Sheeba for a hug*
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Old 18.09.2011, 15:18
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Re: Need help witha 2 1/2 yr old German Shepherd

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i've noticed that Sheeba is more comfortable with women as opposed to men could be her history.
Very much could be that this is the case.

We had a puppy, Melanie, come back to us from a home she had been placed in. It turned out the man of the house had been kicking her, so much so that it ruined one of the growth plates in her forearm causing her to have a turned out foot. Melanie was such a sweet girl, one of my favorite puppies of all time, but there was no way that she could ever be placed back into a home with a man. Other than the ones in the house where she was born, she was just too terrified of them. We didn't think we would ever find a home for her because of it.

We ended up placing Melanie into a home with a single woman who was in grad school at the local university. Long story short, she took the Melanie to obedience classes, the dog overcame some timidity, the owner met a wonderful man who loved dogs, and the dog and the man became best friends, and they all lived happily ever after.

Sheeba can have a happy ending, too. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you all. Don't give up.
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Old 18.09.2011, 18:43
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Re: Need help witha 2 1/2 yr old German Shepherd

Sheba really is a gorgeous girl. I do so hope all works out well for you both.
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Old 19.09.2011, 00:49
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Re: Need help witha 2 1/2 yr old German Shepherd

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And we have decided to avoid taking her out when other owners are with their dogs, or go to an area where we know there are no dogs. However i've been told by one trainer that this is a big mistake that we should subject Sheeba to meeting with other dogs. I see the what he means but i think this needs to be in phases i guess.
WAA - go with your instinct here.

You want every interaction to be a positive at this stage - and that may mean avoiding potential conflicts for now, avoiding situations you cannot control.

Eventually, as Sheeba grows in confidence and skills, you will want to expose her to more on her outings. But to do so before she has gained that confidence and skill risks putting her in a situation she cannot handle, where she feels she has no alternative but to react. That is unfair to her - and to the other dogs.

Forcing a dog to confront adverse stimuli too soon, too fast, in too large munbers can result in flooding - the dog becomes so overwhelmed that he shuts down. And (contrary to popular mythology) a shut-down dog is not a calm dog, but a severly broken one.

Rather, at this stage I'd seek controlled opportunities for Sheeba to meet other dogs (and owners ) who are well socialized and trustworthy. This is why I spend so much time at the Hundeschule - that was the one place where I could count on 'safe' socialization.

Living with my dearly beloved screwed-up nutcase fruitbat mutts has taught me this: Listen to that little voice in the back of your head. If a training suggestion or method instinctively does not feel right, question further - never let yourself be talked into doing something that goes against your instincts. You are Sheeba's advocate, you know her best.

A trainer's qualifications and experience are only part of the picutre - you need someone whose philosophy meshes with yours, who has an instictive sympathy and rapport with Sheeba.

Paws crossed for you both.

(Sheeba is gorgeous - and she looks so happy with you. )
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