Promoting responsible German Shepherd Dog ownership
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I just adopted a 3 year old GSD less than a week ago. He is everything my family and I were looking for, hes very sweet when meeting new people, lovesss to play with his ball, and very confident. He has settled in very nicely so far with us. We have made sure he is getting plenty of exercise and love/attention. We did notice very soon after picking him up that he has extremely dry skin, i have changed his diet and added flaxseed to it and also alot of brushing. We took him to the vet 2 days after getting him and he was very sweet with the vet at first. Giving him kisses and asking for pets, the vet then went to look at his ears and our pup lunged at his face and was barking at him. He immediately moved to leaning against my husbands leg and almost looking scared. We figured he was stressed out and really didnt like the vet pulling/looking in his ears. Then 2 more days later a friend of ours stopped by the house to meet him, he again walked up to her and was leaning against her asking for pets, giving her kisses and then without warning lunging for her face and barking and then retreated to leaning against my husbands leg. Both times he was on a leash with a prong collar. Why is he doing this? What could be the cause? I have never experienced something like this and it has made me nervous to love on him and im very nervous when our 9 year old son pets him now. Can someone help?
He’s fear biting. You made mistakes in handling. Someone from the forum who has done a lot of rescue will answer you in detail.
You and DW have experience with this.
Show asked me to respond. Where did you get him? Was he a shelter dog or was he adopted from a rescue group? Was it a German Shepherd rescue? Did they give you any background on him? Was he evaluated for temperament? What prior experience do you have with German Shepherds? What line is he? They can be working line, West German Showline or American/Canadian Showlines. There are also what we call pet lines that are a mix of lines and don’t look standard.
I see a few red flags in your post. German Shepherds supposed to be confident but that must be tested in various situations. They are not supposed to be friendly with strangers, but aloof until they get to know them. Even then they may not be friendly with everyone.
Your dog needs a two week shutdown, although it may be too late for that now. A rescue group should have told you that. No visits anywhere except to a vet. No visitors, no kisses, no playing around his face. No vets that grab a dog and work on them without a good introductory period. He should have been muzzled for the vet with a secure fitting basket muzzle.
I suggest you find a fear free vet. Then you will need to take him in there a few times a week to get used to the office. If they have a scale you can use, practice getting on and off the scale. They can throw treats from a distance but no petting or hugging or touching. I would wait until the shutdown is over.
Start a two week shutdown. It may take longer. https://www.saveagermanshepherd.org/info/file?file=29607.pdf
If your son is viewed as part of his pack he may never go after him, but no face kisses, no unsupervised time with the dog until you are much more in tune with him.
Get a balanced private trainer who has extensive German Shepherd experience. If you tell us approximately where you are located or message one of us, we can help you locate a trainer close to you. You must get the dog evaluated by a professional.
He may have leash frustration but it sounds like a fear biting situation. Although he didn’t make contact a lunge is considered a bite in dog language. He’s one step away from breaking skin.
If you want a dog that acts like a Labrador or a Golden Retriever, maybe you should return him and get a different breed. I don’t mean that in a critical way but German Shepherds aren’t supposed to be sweet and cuddly although with good handling they can become that way. I rescued and fostered and concluded after much experience that rarely does anyone give away a well trained German Shepherd with a good temperament. The ones you find in shelters or rescues have all been given up for reasons. It may be because they are nervy. It may be due to poor handling as a puppy or lack of time spent. I ended up keeping a dog no one wanted and he became a fear biter a month after I got him due to a well meaning friend grabbing his nose and shaking him to say hi. One mistake gave us a life long problem. He had to be managed for the rest of his life. If that is the case with your dog, you won’t be able to trust him with other children.
What kind of trainer would you recommend?
Thank you so much for all of the information! I have had a german shepherd before. We got him from a Tennessee rehoming page on facebook. He lived on a farm around a bunch of other animals and was great with them but didnt get along with the goats (they bucked after him) we went to the farm to meet him and he was great when we met him. Played ball with him for about an hour. Since having him home we go out multiple times a day to play ball and go for walks. He is a very great dog in every sense and ignores people and other dogs on our walks. Hes very toy driven and I think where I messed up was allowing other people to touch all over him. The previous owner says they never had an issue like that but I think he stayed outside in a kennel if he wasnt roaming free on the farm. He is now a well exercised pet and thats very new for him. We are in knoxville Tennessee and I would greatly appreciate any recommendations of trainers in this area! I want him to have the best life possible and I want to be able to fully trust him. Thank you again I really appreciate it!
So he committed the crime of not getting along with farm animals. That is usually an automatic expulsion. It doesn’t sound as dire as it did for you, but it must be addressed so he never again feels pressure to lunge or attack. Work on the shut down. Keep exercising him. You want to build his confidence in all situations and his engagement with you. Work on his obedience. He must learn to trust you so he looks to you when scared and doesn’t try to defend himself.
I’m searching for trainers. You might want to start with the dog club in Knoxville. Bear can explain more about how a dog club works. If it’s close enough, you can just show up to an event or meeting without your dog and talk to people. There should be some trainers there or someone who can recommend a trainer. Find the Lake Valley Working Dog Club/IPO Club. The recommendation I found is 9 years old. I’m still looking for more.
If this is not close enough call them for referrals.
The only trainer I can think of in that general area is Larry Krohn. The first thing I’d check is to make sure he isn’t in any pain or discomfort. I’d visually check his ears before touching them. Beyond that there’s some different possibilities but it’s hard to say without seeing. Just take your time with him. Keep in mind, you still don’t know this dog and he still doesn’t know you. So be reasonably careful about the situations you put him in.