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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
You saw the title. My near-5-months-old German Shepherd mix never stops whining. It is the most annoying thing on earth and me and my family have tried every trick in the book and read every online article and we cannot get her to stop. I know dogs whine as a way of apologizing, alerting, and voicing their concerns. Thing is, we know it isn't her alerting us of something as when she wants to do so she barks, growls, and her ridge stands up. It isn't apologizing as both before and far far after we sternly tell her to be quiet-- not yelling, just being assertive-- she continues to whine.

It goes on for hours and the only thing I've found that makes her stop is her getting tired of it and going to sleep. Something else that sometimes stops it is someone walks up to her-- in which she gets distracted for the duration that they're there and starts whining again after they leave. Distractions are the best thing we can come up with, but all of us are very busy people and we obviously can't be playing with her or walking with her for 18 hours a day. The second any of us settle down or stop giving full attention to her, she whines and whines and whines for hours on end. It doesn't stop when we begin to give her attention after that either. She whines when she's being pet, when she's eating or drinking, even when she's allowed free reign over the entire house.

She's also an extremely stubborn puppy. She no longer listens to us when we say 'sit' or 'down,' and what should be a 30 minute walk turns into an hour and 45 minute one as she disobeys 'heel' every time and pulls in the opposite direction of where we are trying to go. I don't think she's trying to annoy us, but I do think she knows it drives us crazy. My family is on its last nerve and they have given thought to the idea of giving her away. I know that bonds with puppies become easier to forge later on, but for my family ( and we hate to say it ) this newfound disobedience and constant whining is a dealbreaker. Do dogs grow out of whining without training? If not, is it even possible to properly train them out of this?
 

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My first impulse is to think that your dog is either overly excited or overly anxious. It also sounds like the family context doesn't offer much in the way of a predictable rhythm, which can be hard on a puppy because it makes everything that happens unpredictable, which could lead to her living in a semi-permanent state of being hyper-alert. Think of a dog like an autistic 2 year old. The more structure you offer, the better.

As for being "disobedient" and the approach you have taken to "correcting" that with stern commands: this is probably the worst possible thing you can be doing in terms of training right now. I would strongly advise you to enroll in a course to learn basic training techniques. Doing so will allow your dog to burn off some of her excess energy, it will help the dog to become socialized with other dogs, which will pay dividends going forward and it will give you proper skills for training the dog that you would appear to be lacking. At this point getting some professional advice isn't a luxury. You need to do this or you're going to end up frustrated to the point that you will probably want to relocate the dog to another family. It sounds like you're already really frustrated. It can be dealt with but you need help with it and you need to take action or it won't get any better.

To be sure that she isn't whining because she's in pain then I would advise a trip to the vet for a check up. The vet might also be able to recommend a trainer for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
My first impulse is to think that your dog is either overly excited or overly anxious. It also sounds like the family context doesn't offer much in the way of a predictable rhythm, which can be hard on a puppy because it makes everything that happens unpredictable, which could lead to her living in a semi-permanent state of being hyper-alert. Think of a dog like an autistic 2 year old. The more structure you offer, the better.

As for being "disobedient" and the approach you have taken to "correcting" that with stern commands: this is probably the worst possible thing you can be doing in terms of training right now. I would strongly advise you to enroll in a course to learn basic training techniques. Doing so will allow your dog to burn off some of her excess energy, it will help the dog to become socialized with other dogs, which will pay dividends going forward and it will give you proper skills for training the dog that you would appear to be lacking. At this point getting some professional advice isn't a luxury. You need to do this or you're going to end up frustrated to the point that you will probably want to relocate the dog to another family. It sounds like you're already really frustrated. It can be dealt with but you need help with it and you need to take action or it won't get any better.

To be sure that she isn't whining because she's in pain then I would advise a trip to the vet for a check up. The vet might also be able to recommend a trainer for you.
This all makes very good sense and I'll be sure to tell my family about it. But with the pandemic, our training center was closed and she no longer gets to be socialized with other dogs. Additionally, we don't want to run the risk of someone infected petting her when we take her out for walks, which means no human socialization for her either. We similarly cannot take her to the vet as all clinics in our area are reserved for emergencies only.

Explanations aside, you're very correct when you say there is little structure in our ways of teaching her. As of now, we are scheduling a private session with a trainer that is focused at their house. I must say that she has gotten progressively more disobedient with the absence of her training courses due to Covid. I'll pass this info onto my family, thanks for your help.
 

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The socialisation window has closed (it is up to the age of 16 weeks) so that shouldn't be a concern. Rather than getting her to be engaged with other dogs, in your position I would work on getting her focus on you rather than on other dogs, it is more natural for dogs and easier for owners to have a dog that is dog neutral.

I'd suggest working on three things. First, a good ”settle”. Some dogs don't know they have an 'off' switch.


Second, loose leash behaviour. Dogs (and other creatures) have an instinctive response to pull away from anything that restrains them, it's called oppositional reflex if you want to read the science. So we teach them an alternative behaviour; if they feel the leash tightening they stop pulling.


Third, I'd suggest some impulse control.


You can work on all of these things without a trainer or a class, so you can get started before things go back to normal.

With any training, don't forget to reward - that may be why she has stopped doing what you ask. You could use food from her normal allowance if you prefer, some people find it easier to adopt the idea that she is earning her food or treats than being rewarded for everything.
 

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The socialisation window has closed (it is up to the age of 16 weeks) so that shouldn't be a concern.
While there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the initial socialization window closes at about this time, there is no evidence that I am aware of to suggest that it is "written in stone" at 16 weeks and that no improvement is possible after that.

Granted, it's all easier when you're not "fishing behind the net" as the Dutch would say, but discouraging doing what you can isn't the strategy I would have chosen here.

As for the videos: it's clear that there is a LOT of good material available online and in books. That said, a lot of what you find online makes sense after you get it. I have a couple of significant objections to many videos I find online. Namely:

1) The timeline is often severely compressed. It's hard to teach people to be patient and work through their own newbie mistakes (main issue here) when the people in the videos SEEM to be getting excellent results after 8 minutes. The leash pressure video from the dog "gremlin" is a good example of this. I can guarantee you that this dog did not get to that level of obedience from scratch in 8 minutes. In fact the trainer even mentions in the video that there was some "basic" relaxation training that preceded that but gives no indication of how much time she put into that and none of this is shown.

The problem with recommending a video like that to a rank beginner is that they can get the expectation that their dog can be trained to learn <X> in 8 minutes. Any experienced dog owner or trainer knows that it takes a LOT more than what the viewer is being shown. People with knowledge and experience can see the "steps" and don't care about the time line but beginners need to understand the total amount of effort involved and videos routinely "lie" about that. There are few to none that are honest about the timeline.

2) The failures, bloopers and sometimes long periods of time where your patience can really be taxed are taken out. Initial training of a skill can take many repetitions depending on the skill and the dog before you get in "sync" with the dog and/or find the right approach for that particular dog and it starts to come together. Again, picking on that same video there is a good chance that "gremlin" was being trained for this video a week before it was shot. This video was shot to make the trainer look good, not to explain in detail to a novice what they need to ACTUALLY DO to get this result. It is far more instructive for people who already understand what she is doing.

3) Using any kind of positive reward system, and especially a clicker, without getting the timing right is just ... just ... what's the word I'm looking for... just ... pointless. You might as well just be doing completely random rewards with no clear cut cause-and-effect communication with the dog. This is the one thing that they will learn from a proper trainer (and/or one or two of the better books) that is "invisible" to the casual viewer on most videos. Few videos that I am aware of address this point at a level that novices need. That said, the trainer of "gremlin" deserves a compliment for this particular video because she does actually address the timing issue to some degree. Again, however, you "see it" once you already have the skill.

So while I would strongly advise watching as many videos as possible and reading as many books as possible (as I know you would, Joanne), it needs to come with the caveat that you need a certain level of competence before you can really "get it". The famous Dutch football coach Cruijff was quoted in the context of learning how to analyse the game of football, "je gaat het pas zien als je het doorhebt". Translated, it means, "you see it only once you understand it."

The same thing is true of dog training videos on the internet, in my experience.
 

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@dogslife , in terms of socialisation I wasn't intending to imply the OP shouldn't do what she can, but rather to say that socialisation with other dogs isn't a silver bullet so the fact that can't happen in the current circumstances isn't necessarily a dealbreaker. In fact, if people are travelling out less, I'd argue that this is the ideal time to spend that time at home working with the dog.

Equally, the videos were intended to help with doing things before a professional trainer can be engaged. I personally find them very helpful, but as with all learning we have different learning preferences so I guess we all need to choose what works best from what we have available to us.

Regarding the timing for clicker training, I recommend practicing without the dog present by watching a tv programme and whenever one of the characters or presenters says a particular word (for example, ahem, ”virus”), click. That helps fine tune the timing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks to both of you for helping me out, I appreciate it. We've scheduled a lesson with a trainer that specializes in German Shepherd training, so this should help all of us understand what to expect, as everyone we've talked to say German Shepherds can be particularly tricky and stubborn to train. So the issue with timing ambiguity should be resolved once we understand how the trainer will work with her.
 

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Good luck with your trainer. I don't agree German Shepherds are stubborn though, even their name - shepherd - is an indicator that they are handler focussed; they need to be to follow directions in herding. And you see them regularly in competitive agility, obedience and police work.

They are quite sensitive though, so please, please make sure your trainer subscribes to current and up-to-date training theories. If they speak about pack leadership, being alpha, or dominance, run a mile. Look for someone who uses force free methods and your dog will respond far better.
 

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I’m not sure who you’re talking to, but German shepherds are definitely not stubborn dogs. If someone says their shepherd is stubborn, my first thought is that they don’t know how to train and communicate with the dog properly.

German shepherds are vocal dogs. My boy grumbles, whines, barks, howls, you name it. All the time. While you may be able to train your dog to not whine as much, I don’t think you’ll be able to fully eradicate it. It may just be who she is.
 

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You saw the title. My near-5-months-old German Shepherd mix never stops whining. It is the most annoying thing on earth and me and my family have tried every trick in the book and read every online article and we cannot get her to stop. I know dogs whine as a way of apologizing, alerting, and voicing their concerns. Thing is, we know it isn't her alerting us of something as when she wants to do so she barks, growls, and her ridge stands up. It isn't apologizing as both before and far far after we sternly tell her to be quiet-- not yelling, just being assertive-- she continues to whine.

It goes on for hours and the only thing I've found that makes her stop is her getting tired of it and going to sleep. Something else that sometimes stops it is someone walks up to her-- in which she gets distracted for the duration that they're there and starts whining again after they leave. Distractions are the best thing we can come up with, but all of us are very busy people and we obviously can't be playing with her or walking with her for 18 hours a day. The second any of us settle down or stop giving full attention to her, she whines and whines and whines for hours on end. It doesn't stop when we begin to give her attention after that either. She whines when she's being pet, when she's eating or drinking, even when she's allowed free reign over the entire house.

She's also an extremely stubborn puppy. She no longer listens to us when we say 'sit' or 'down,' and what should be a 30 minute walk turns into an hour and 45 minute one as she disobeys 'heel' every time and pulls in the opposite direction of where we are trying to go. I don't think she's trying to annoy us, but I do think she knows it drives us crazy. My family is on its last nerve and they have given thought to the idea of giving her away. I know that bonds with puppies become easier to forge later on, but for my family ( and we hate to say it ) this newfound disobedience and constant whining is a dealbreaker. Do dogs grow out of whining without training? If not, is it even possible to properly train them out of this?
My GS mixed was very anxious for the first few years after we adopted him, but he got better with time. He was also howling (we think he may be part beagle) so that was a bit difficult to deal with. I do believe that your pup's behavior will change with time. It takes time and a lot of persistence and patience....good luck!
 
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