Dog Forum banner

1 - 6 of 6 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
3 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
We recently had new neighbors move in next to us, and they have a huge Saint Bernard and a Husky. Immediately they started barking at our dogs. Our Lab only barked for about 2 days, and now she just sniffs the wall, though she will bark sometimes. But our German Shepherd, on the other hand, will not. Shut. Up.

Immediately when we let him outside he darts to the wall and starts barking his lungs out. He doesn't listen to us when we yell at him or try to distract him from charging. He'll bark all day and literally tries to climb up the wall. On rare occasions when he isn't barking he pees on the wall to mark it.

I've tried giving treats when he's quiet, distracting & tiring him out with toys, yelling at him, barricading that wall, everything. The only thing we haven't tried is taking him for walks everyday which I know is a biggie. It's gotten so bad that we've had to have them sleep in the garage until we buy crates because he barks all night.

The Shepherd eats outside and the Lab eats inside (he's a slow eater and the lab is a very fast eater) and now he won't even eat his food. He'll eat about half of it and then go bark at the wall, even if the other dogs aren't outside.

It's driving us insane and I'm sure everyone else in the neighborhood too.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
669 Posts
Do you not walk this dog at all? What kind of exercise do these dogs get (mental and physical)? Do you do any training with them? Do they just spend most of the day outside in the yard, are they out there unsupervised/unentertained a lot?

To me this sounds like a mix of a bored, under-exercised, under-stimulated and territorial dog.

It is not surprising that the Lab is fine while the German Shepherd is having trouble. First of all, GSDs do tend to be somewhat territorial, and often if they aren't well socialized with strange dogs when young they can have issues with other dogs (and sometimes do even if they are socialized). They're also generally a more "on" kind of a dog than a Lab- a lower energy/drive Lab is probably sufficiently exercised by an hour or two of play, some room to explore and roam in the yard, and maybe a walk a day; a game of fetch does a lot to tire out a lab, because it plays into the thing that they've been bred for and spend all day wanting to do (retrieving and "working"/cooperating with their people). A GSD is a dog developed to guard (and therefore can have issues with strange dogs/people in its territory) as well as to herd (a long, long time ago and not so much anymore, but they do still retain the tendency of other herding breeds to need to have something to puzzle out/do during the day to feel really relaxed, and if not provided with an outlet for their brains will find their own, usually unpleasant one), and as such they tend to require a little bit more to feel fulfilled/calm.

I would recommend a few points of action...
1) Start exercising/walking them; I'd recommend at the very least one 45min walk a day, preferably at least 2 half hour walks.
2) Manage the behavior. Stop letting the Shepherd out in the yard and leaving him to his own devices; he doesn't sound like he's going to stop this behavior any time soon, and the more he practices it the more ingrained and harder to train out it will become. Personally I would suggest getting a 15-30' long line (NOT a retractable leash, just a normal long line- they sell them at Petco and Petsmart, usually) and using it to take him out in the yard for now. Right now, the yard is a very stressful place for him to be because he's fixating on the "intruders". The temporary solution is to stop letting him use it the way he's been using it. At first, only use the yard for a quick trip to the bathroom and maybe to play fetch. Keep the long line or a leash on him so you can keep him from getting too close to the fence. This is going to mean you have to find other ways to exercise him- walk him, find a field to let him romp around in while on the long-line, etc. I would avoid dog parks (given his intense barrier frustration he doesn't sound like he'd be a great candidate for them, and they're really not the best place for an under-stimulated/exercised dog anyways) and avoid letting him off-leash unless his recall is really reliable (as in, you could call him off another approaching dog or person and know he would come right away).
3) Desensitize him to the "intruders" through counter-conditioning and by consistently rewarding calm, non-reactive behavior. Take him out in the yard on the long-line, and find the distance that he needs to be in order to be able to focus on you/take food/not fixate or bark. This might be right at the doorstop to the outdoors, this might even be behind a closed door.
3.5) Work on practicing walking towards the fence and then walking away- teach him that he gets rewarded for walking away from the fence and make that a more desirable behavior than walking towards it. This is not something I would try just yet, though, wait until he's a little calmer/able to be outside without losing his mind/not so fixated on the fence and the dogs behind it. The "Look At That" game would be a good step to take before actually practicing moving towards the fence and moving away, since it would be a good way to practice not fixating on something.
4) Perhaps find some way to do some mental exercises with him- GSDs tend to need mental as well as physical stimulation. Practicing some easy behaviors like sit, down, come, paw or nose targets, etc, and training new behaviors is a great way to do this. Two 5 minute sessions through the day would be perfect, and are short enough to be easy to slip in. Alternatively, if he's having trouble focusing on his food enough to eat it, you might try using some of his kibble as rewards (you make kibble more exciting to use as a reward if he won't just take plain kibble as a train by putting it in a baggie with some smelly treats or chicken and water).
5) Consider finding a trainer to help with the situation if you have the money. I would suggest someone

NOTE: You may come across suggestions to use force/correction based methods to resolve this (not on this forum, because it is force-free, but elsewhere). Personally, I would suggest against this because it sounds like this problem behaviors is coming from a place of frustration, and you can run the risk of redirected aggression (aggression directed at you and/or your other dog instead of the object of his reactivity, the "intruder" dogs) and/or escalation (the frustrated reactivity becoming aggression) when applying corrections to an already frustrated dog. This is mainly in regard to more intense things like corrective collars (prongs and e-collars) and more physical corrections like alpha rolls (which should never be applied to a dog), or hand jabs/kick corrections popular in dominance theory as well as- to a slightly lesser extent- slip collars/leashes and leash corrections. That's not to say that corrections definitely will cause redirected aggression and/or escalation, just to say that they can. Also, it sounds like there is a lot you could try before resorting to more physical methods, especially given the fact that this dog is likely acting like this out of frustration and boredom and excess energy. You might be able to achieve the results you want (not looking at the fence, not barking) through corrections, but IMO correction based training in this situation isn't going to do a whole lot to make the dog calmer and change the way he feels about the strange dogs on the other side of the fence (whether it be frustrated or anxious).

Link explaining Counter-conditioning:
Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning: Overcoming Your Dog?s Issues

The "Look At That Game":
Look At That! Making the Trigger the Target | Karen Pryor Clicker Training
https://clickerleash.wordpress.com/2009/08/23/look-at-that-a-counterintuitive-approach-to-dealing-with-reactive-dogs/
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Do you not walk this dog at all? What kind of exercise do these dogs get (mental and physical)? Do you do any training with them? Do they just spend most of the day outside in the yard, are they out there unsupervised/unentertained a lot?

To me this sounds like a mix of a bored, under-exercised, under-stimulated and territorial dog.

It is not surprising that the Lab is fine while the German Shepherd is having trouble. First of all, GSDs do tend to be somewhat territorial, and often if they aren't well socialized with strange dogs when young they can have issues with other dogs (and sometimes do even if they are socialized). They're also generally a more "on" kind of a dog than a Lab- a lower energy/drive Lab is probably sufficiently exercised by an hour or two of play, some room to explore and roam in the yard, and maybe a walk a day; a game of fetch does a lot to tire out a lab, because it plays into the thing that they've been bred for and spend all day wanting to do (retrieving and "working"/cooperating with their people). A GSD is a dog developed to guard (and therefore can have issues with strange dogs/people in its territory) as well as to herd (a long, long time ago and not so much anymore, but they do still retain the tendency of other herding breeds to need to have something to puzzle out/do during the day to feel really relaxed, and if not provided with an outlet for their brains will find their own, usually unpleasant one), and as such they tend to require a little bit more to feel fulfilled/calm.

I would recommend a few points of action...
1) Start exercising/walking them; I'd recommend at the very least one 45min walk a day, preferably at least 2 half hour walks.
2) Manage the behavior. Stop letting the Shepherd out in the yard and leaving him to his own devices; he doesn't sound like he's going to stop this behavior any time soon, and the more he practices it the more ingrained and harder to train out it will become. Personally I would suggest getting a 15-30' long line (NOT a retractable leash, just a normal long line- they sell them at Petco and Petsmart, usually) and using it to take him out in the yard for now. Right now, the yard is a very stressful place for him to be because he's fixating on the "intruders". The temporary solution is to stop letting him use it the way he's been using it. At first, only use the yard for a quick trip to the bathroom and maybe to play fetch. Keep the long line or a leash on him so you can keep him from getting too close to the fence. This is going to mean you have to find other ways to exercise him- walk him, find a field to let him romp around in while on the long-line, etc. I would avoid dog parks (given his intense barrier frustration he doesn't sound like he'd be a great candidate for them, and they're really not the best place for an under-stimulated/exercised dog anyways) and avoid letting him off-leash unless his recall is really reliable (as in, you could call him off another approaching dog or person and know he would come right away).
3) Desensitize him to the "intruders" through counter-conditioning and by consistently rewarding calm, non-reactive behavior. Take him out in the yard on the long-line, and find the distance that he needs to be in order to be able to focus on you/take food/not fixate or bark. This might be right at the doorstop to the outdoors, this might even be behind a closed door.
3.5) Work on practicing walking towards the fence and then walking away- teach him that he gets rewarded for walking away from the fence and make that a more desirable behavior than walking towards it. This is not something I would try just yet, though, wait until he's a little calmer/able to be outside without losing his mind/not so fixated on the fence and the dogs behind it. The "Look At That" game would be a good step to take before actually practicing moving towards the fence and moving away, since it would be a good way to practice not fixating on something.
4) Perhaps find some way to do some mental exercises with him- GSDs tend to need mental as well as physical stimulation. Practicing some easy behaviors like sit, down, come, paw or nose targets, etc, and training new behaviors is a great way to do this. Two 5 minute sessions through the day would be perfect, and are short enough to be easy to slip in. Alternatively, if he's having trouble focusing on his food enough to eat it, you might try using some of his kibble as rewards (you make kibble more exciting to use as a reward if he won't just take plain kibble as a train by putting it in a baggie with some smelly treats or chicken and water).
5) Consider finding a trainer to help with the situation if you have the money. I would suggest someone

NOTE: You may come across suggestions to use force/correction based methods to resolve this (not on this forum, because it is force-free, but elsewhere). Personally, I would suggest against this because it sounds like this problem behaviors is coming from a place of frustration, and you can run the risk of redirected aggression (aggression directed at you and/or your other dog instead of the object of his reactivity, the "intruder" dogs) and/or escalation (the frustrated reactivity becoming aggression) when applying corrections to an already frustrated dog. This is mainly in regard to more intense things like corrective collars (prongs and e-collars) and more physical corrections like alpha rolls (which should never be applied to a dog), or hand jabs/kick corrections popular in dominance theory as well as- to a slightly lesser extent- slip collars/leashes and leash corrections. That's not to say that corrections definitely will cause redirected aggression and/or escalation, just to say that they can. Also, it sounds like there is a lot you could try before resorting to more physical methods, especially given the fact that this dog is likely acting like this out of frustration and boredom and excess energy. You might be able to achieve the results you want (not looking at the fence, not barking) through corrections, but IMO correction based training in this situation isn't going to do a whole lot to make the dog calmer and change the way he feels about the strange dogs on the other side of the fence (whether it be frustrated or anxious).

Link explaining Counter-conditioning:
Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning: Overcoming Your Dog?s Issues

The "Look At That Game":
Look At That! Making the Trigger the Target | Karen Pryor Clicker Training
https://clickerleash.wordpress.com/2009/08/23/look-at-that-a-counterintuitive-approach-to-dealing-with-reactive-dogs/
Thank you! That's all excellent advice. One question though - where would we put them when we're gone? Just in crates once we buy some?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
669 Posts
I use crates for dogs who are either not completely reliable with house training or that are too destructive to be left loose in the house. When they have to be created for house training, the crate is just large enough for them to stand up, stretch out, and circle comfortably so that they can't go to the bathroom in one corner and sleep in the other. When its because they are destructive, I'll usually go a size or two higher than I otherwise would. If I feel fairly confident they won't go to the bathroom in the house or destroy anything then I'll leave them loose. Some people leave the dogs gated into a specific room that is dog-proofed while they're gone. I also don't like to leave my dogs crated for more than 5 or 6 hours at a time, so if I know 'll be gone for longer I tend to just leave them loose.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
@Moonstream

Hi! We've been walking them everyday - which is helping a bit - and I've been training him to walk away from the wall, and doing tricks and exercises with him (guilty: I forget to do it everyday). He doesn't bark when I'm outside with him now, but immediately when you go back in he starts barking again.

He's inside all the time, except when he has to go outside to go to the bathroom, and he does beyond excellent on walks (as does the lab).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
669 Posts
That's good progress! It is still possible that he won't be able to be left unattended outside, but that he's made so much progress so fast is a really good sign!
 
1 - 6 of 6 Posts
Top