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  #1  
Old 05/16/11, 10:18 PM
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: The Beautiful Ozarks
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Timid German Shepherd - Help Please

We just adopted a 11 month old male GSD, papered, registered, purebred, yadd-yadda.

We've been looking at the pound for over a year for a shepherd mutt but have not been able to find anything that would fit in with our farm. We have a 2 year old daughter, goats, chickens, horses & cats.

Anyways, the family we got him from him had small children and cats and the dog was fine with them, something we definately needed in a dog. The father "used" to train GSD's but no longer had time for this one and admitted to not doing a lick of training on him (obvious).

We took him home after DH & I made separate visits to the house and see the dog. He was pretty timid around us, but I figured it was because we were strangers.

He is very much in "love" with me; follows me everywhere. He also has an annoying habit of having to be RIGHT next to me whenever I sit down. He does wander a bit if I'm in the yard, but also comes up to me and keeps forcefully nuzzling my hand while I'm walking, sometimes mouthing my hand. It's next to impossible to get my daughter or the other dog next to me when I'm outside as he pushes everyone out of the way to get next to me.

He's also very skittish any time you raise your hand (as if you might hit him?) and cowers by you and piddles almost every time he greets you or when you scold him, and cowers.

I know that there is the possibility that he was abused at his house, but I can't say for sure. We've had to scold him several times when he chased after the goats, but he's slowly catching on. Now that I just ripped on him for being a not-so-perfect dog, I will have to say he's been very nice otherwise and stays on the porch almost the entire time even though we don't have a fenced in yard.

Do you think this type of behavior is going to continue or can we do something to discourage the "clingy, whining, peeing" things?

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Old 05/16/11, 11:58 PM
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Yes, it sounds like he has been abused. The first sign of abuse in any dog is raising a hand or anything else at them and seeing if they cower (without anything verbal). A dog doesn't naturally cower to anything raised at them unless something has been raised at them in the past in anger. "Discourage"? There is no way to do that. The best thing is to reassure him. Work slowly with him, every time you think he is going to pee, get real positive, happy and up with him so he gets his mind off of being submissive. Do not "force" him to come around, just give him time. He is at a very hard time, his age, mentally, is the equivalent of a 13 yr old child, so think in those terms. He has lost his first family, is in a whole new situation and is, of course, been treated a lot differently so he has to adapt to many different things. Getting him into an obedience class with the rest of the family will help him get a bond with everyone. Obedience lessons give the dog a base to work from to learn about the family and what his position is in the family. Hope this helps, I am a Canine Behavior Specialist, been in the field for 35+ yrs, just to let you know who I am.

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  #3  
Old 05/17/11, 12:06 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Nevada
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Hi CarolynnRenee, I hope Lakota's response is helpful. She very knowledgeable on canine behavior, so I sent her a link to your question. Usually she just hears about all the posts from me, however she agreed to come out of the shadows for a moment to help.

BTW - if you think of more questions just let me know!

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"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
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Last edited by NorCalChicks; 05/17/11 at 12:11 AM.
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  #4  
Old 05/17/11, 01:31 AM
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: MD
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I adopted an almost identical dog a little over a year ago. He makes me laugh daily, but still is skittish when hubby is around. Even though John has never abused him, or treated him badly, he walks wide circles around him. He just started taking treats from John almost a year to the day that we had gotten him. Adores me, however, and is very good at protecting me. The family who had him lied about so many things, that we now believe nothing they'd told us originally. Ours still submissively urinates occasionally, but this doesn't happen very often. Our dog had not be leashed, collared or crated prior to our having him, so he has come a very long way in a years time. Good luck!

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Old 05/17/11, 09:25 AM
 
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Thanks all! I'm was sitting down with him and praising him petting him, but I like Lakota's suggestion of moving around while praise so he dosn't think about peeing.

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Old 05/17/11, 09:36 AM
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Dogs that cower at a raised hand are not ALWAYS abused. Shep and Rocky do that and neither of them have ever EVER been hit or abused. It has actually embarrassed me in the past when they act like an abused dog when they are not. Far from it! Once when Shep was a teenager he slipped out of his collar and ran towards another dog in a parking lot. I went after him, yelling and terrified he would get hit by a car, when I got to him I grabbed him and he cowered and started crying out like I was going to kill him. I'm sure the people that witnessed him thought he was a poor abused dog and I was a raging maniac.

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  #7  
Old 05/17/11, 10:00 AM
 
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Some dogs are just naturally submissive and fearful. It is a personality trait. It's not necessarily bad, but you do have to watch them around people, and make sure you teach your children to never corner them, and to back away if the dog is exhibiting signs of severe stress or fear. Fear nippers are born not made.

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Old 05/17/11, 11:11 AM
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Obedience/socialization classes will help a lot. Some dogs are naturally more submissive and fearful than others; fear of a sudden movement, such as a raised hand, does not necessarily mean abuse.

Since this is a fearful, submissive dog that's suddenly had a total change of environment, he's going to be skittish for a little while until he settles in. Right now he's a velcro dog because he's very needy; he should calm down with time, and learn that he doesn't need to be so clingy. But even though he's really good about staying on the porch now, that doesn't mean he always will be, so watch him closely and I'd highly recommend fencing in at least a portion of your yard.

To discourage submissive urination, do not greet him right away after you have been gone. Ignore him for a few minutes until he calms down, then give him a gentle touch, without eye contact. When he's nice and calm, you can praise and tell him what a good boy he is.

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Old 05/17/11, 01:30 PM
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I agree with mekasmom, I never did a thing to Scooter (RIP) to make him timid, yet he was. I had to handle him very carefully around strangers since he would give a warning growl when they inevitably tried to pet and fuss over the walking teddy bear (chow chow). I agree as well with WF about not making any kind of a fuss when you first come in; let him learn that comings and goings are no big deal. He needs to learn now that going away doesn't mean "forever." You could even do things like leave for a few minutes, and come right back in, gradually increasing the time spent outside the door. And I ALSO agree with LoneWolfDakota, he needs time and will work it out on his own. The obedience classes as recommended by a few posters is an awesome idea...the dog will feel better knowing what is expected from him and that he can trust YOU as pack leader.

Sadly, some so called "aggressive dogs" like GSD, chows, dobies etc get an even worse rap when they are timid...instead of acknowledging that he has a timid personality, he is labeled "mean" due to his breed. Scooter, for all his bluff and warning growls, NEVER EVER laid a tooth on anyone. His biggest thing was to look for an escape route out of his situation; this is why you should be super careful regarding cornering him.

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  #10  
Old 05/17/11, 02:00 PM
 
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You don't say how many days you've had this dog, but it takes at least two weeks for a dog to settle in an show his true self. I've seen seemingly submissive dogs become dominant, for instance. I don't disagree with distracting from the peeing or training, just saying you may not be seeing the whole picture yet.

I would keep this dog off of furniture and beds (if you are allowing this) for a good three months. This will actually boost his feelings of security. Start using NILIF on him. Have him sit at doors before opening them, sit before putting down food, run him a couple of minutes through any obedience things he knows when outside. Doing the "right thing" for you will help to make him feel more secure.

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  #11  
Old 05/17/11, 02:46 PM
 
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We got him last Wednesday, so less than a week ago. He was an outside dog in his previous home and we're keeping it that way here (which is especially nice because of his peeing problem). He has a large chain link kennel to stay in if we're not home, but when we're home he's got run of the farm although he only walks off the porch when I'm outside with him. He lays right in front of the front door until one of us goes outside.

And to show my obedience training ignorance, what is "NILIF"?

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  #12  
Old 05/17/11, 08:39 PM
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Please be very patient with him, give him more time to settle in. Most of what you are describing is common in herding/shepherd dogs. If you have never had this type of dog before, it will make life MUCH easier for everyone if you find an obedience class to take him to. He will learn, and you will learn how to work with him. Everything you described can be improved, but only if you put in the time to teach him how you want him to behave. If you have never trained a dog before, the process will be much easier if you work with a trainer. Try to see things from the dog's view, he has been uprooted from everything known to him, and plopped into a new family. He has picked out his special person (you), who he desperately wants to please and make love him, and his ways of trying to bond with you are being rejected, and he doesn't understand why you aren't as happy with him as he is with you. I know those behaviors can be annoying, and they can be improved with training, but please know he is only trying to please you and show his affection for you. Shepherd dogs are clingy by nature, they are very people-oriented. He is not likely to want to roam around the farm, he has been bred over many generations to work for and protect his humans. It is very typical that he would prefer to stay on the porch rather than run around, he wants to be close to the people in his life, in case you "need" him to help you! They are very intelligent and loving, but he is a strong, adolescent dog in need of guidance. He is at an age where he is learning everything, for better or worse. This is a perfect time to teach him what you expect from him. Since he sounds rather submissive, he is probably very sensitive, so try to be happy and encouraging when you are working with him. Dogs can sense you mood, and if you are angry with him, he will know it and that will make things harder.
I hope you can find a trainer to work with for awhile, just so you can all get on the "same page". He sounds like potentially a very good dog, I wish you best of luck with him.

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  #13  
Old 05/18/11, 02:30 AM
 
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NILIF stands for Nothing In Life Is Free. Its a training method in which a dog is taught that he must do something you want to get something he wants. It is a great way to set pack order which most dogs prefer knowing exactly where in the family pack they stand. Makes them less stressful, more confident.

I cant add much to what has been said above, other then to agree that a dog that appears to cower does not necessarily mean a dog that has been abused. Case in point. Watch a few wolf documentaries, notice the body positions of the alphas and the wolves that are lower in pack order. The lower dogs appear to cower to the alpha, lowering tails, pinning ears back, licking at the alphas chin, belly crawling, rolling over to show their belly and under side of their neck. Dogs are essentually the same, a dog that appears to cower may be abused, but also may be exhibiting acceptance of his or her lower status in the pack. Although submissive urination is usually the response of a lower pack member to repremand by an alpha. With a GSD, you want to keep him believeing that he is a lower pack member to you, your hubby, and your children, and right now he is unsure of his pack position and is doing these things to show the person or persons that he believes are above him in the pack order his willingness to submit. In other words he wants to be real sure that you dont think he is challenging current pack order. The NILIF method of training will continue to establish that order.

Edited to add: Also, and I can not stress this enough with a GSD. Socilization, Socilization, Socilization!!! Take him places where there are people. Petsmart, Obedience class (I really stress this one as it socilizes to both people and other dogs), the park, any place where there are people. Start first with places where there are a few people (petsmart is a good place for this because the staff carry treates and are willing to get down and love on the dogs for positive socilization, but there doesnt tend to be a whole horde of people there). Take him for non traumatic vet visits. Take him to the vet for weight checks and general visits, like when you go pick up heartworm meds, or call in and ask if you can bring him by just to visit, most vets will accomidate and the staff will make a little time to love on and give treats in order to make the annual visits and emergency visits less traumatic. Work your way up to more crowded situations where people will stop and pet your dog. Carry treats with you and encourage people to pet and give treats to your dog. Sometimes you can even get away with bringing him to local dog shows, although you arent supposed to. As long as you act like an exhibitor, no one will question you... in other words act like you are supposed to be there, not like you are doing something you arent supposed to LOL. Other dog people are notorious for helping with socilization by paying attention to your dog petting him and giving him treats. With a GSD, look for other GSD people who arent harried with trying to get dogs in the ring and ask them to pet your dog, hand them a treat and ask them to give it to him. they will know and understand what you are doing. In fact many times you will be asked by another GSD person to do the same for them. Always aske a person who is helping to socilize to let you put him on a "sit stay" before approaching, thus re-establishing the training you are doing at home. A well socalized GSD will allow strangers you accept to approach you and him, touch him and you, but will still be protective and will react to someone who you are uncomfortable with or he feels is a threat, at which point he will look to you for instruction on handling the threatening person. A good GSD will quietly sit between you and a stranger as the stranger approaches and will take his que from you as to whether or not to allow the person to approach or to warn them away from approaching, however you MUST always be in control of the situation and be confident that if you tell him to stop, he will do so.

To help build his confidence play some tug games with him and let him win some, while still maintaining the alpha position. As for not letting the others come near you, teach him sit and stay, first on lead by having him sit next to you, then take you hand palm toward him flat in front of his nose and move it slightly toward him while saying "stay". then face him and walk backward to the end of the lead repeating the hand gesture and the vocal command, "stay". Have him sit there for a minute or 2 and then tell him to "come" and have him sit in front of you. Praise him lavishly, and occasionally maybe a treat. Once he can sit and stay for a longer period of time, say 3 to 5 mins, then have your daughter come up to you and hug or touch you, while you continue eye contact with the dog and repeat the command "stay". This wil show him that it is ok for others to approach you. have your daughter walk away and then you call him to you. Once he can tolerate this without attempting to break stay, then do the same only call him to you with your daughter or other pets still touching you. Make sure you make him sit in front of you just like in the beginning while the other person or animal is still touching you. Also have the other members of your family go through these same training methods. Eventualy you should be able to put your back to him and walk away (I use a 15' long lead for this) while he is in a "sit and stay" and he wont move until you release him.

I am dealing with a GSD puppy who at 4 mos is showing dominant behavior. Putting his feet on me, especially on my shoulders if he can reach them, barking, and mouthing, high head and tail carriage. We are working very hard at setting limits with him. I do a what I call an alpha lay, on him at least once a day, and have encouraged hubby to do the same. Basicaly I lay the top half ofmy body over his shoulders pinning him until he lowers his ears, and licks at my chin in a totally submissive manner. I do not push him to the submissive urination stage and will not unless he does something really bad at which I will roll him. He will still present his belly to me, usually for tummy rubs, but that is still a submissive posture. I am also working to direct his energy and control by command his actions. hes young and learning but he is actully doing quite well as long as I desguise his training in play.

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Last edited by Cynecagsd; 05/18/11 at 02:58 AM. Reason: Edited to add
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