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Multiple personalities?
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jmw
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PostPosted: 04/18/03, 6:11 pm    Post subject: Multiple personalities? Reply with quote

Help! I have a 2 year old GWP female that I may have to give up. She is an intelligent, loving companion and an excellent hunter who has done well in NAVHDA natural ability testing (prize II). We got her from a very reputable breeder at age 7 weeks, and none of her litter mates are having any difficulties.

The problem? She is so protective of our family that she does not like anyone she does not know, and will nip, bark and growl at them if they try to pet her. If she can sniff them first, or if they give her a treat, she is fine with them from that day forward. When on a walk if she sees another dog or person coming near us, the head goes down and the ears go back as if she is stalking them. She has been well-socialized with daily walks, supervised play with other dogs in the neighborhood and AKC obedience training.

She demonstrates a different behavior when we take her to the vet as she becomes very submissive to the point of shaking. She also does this when we get out the clippers to trim her claws.

4 personalities in all, 3 of them I can live with. I am worried that she may bite someone if we cannot alter this behavior. Any and all comments would be appreciated. We have invested a lot of time and effort training this dog, and do not want to give her up unless absolutely necessary.

Thanks,

jmw
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cheerio
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PostPosted: 04/19/03, 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems to me that your girl suffers from anxiety. The fact that she can go from submissive to agressive points to fear aggression. This type of behavior is treatable. Some trainers do give special classes for shy dogs. A very good book is "Help for your Shy Dog" by Deborah Wood, who not only explains the behavior very well, but also guides you through recovery. I have trained many dogs exhibiting the same type of behavior as you are describing, and the only one that did not recover was a Doberman who had been grossly mistreated and responded to his fear by aggression to strangers. All others went on to be a loyal family pet, some of them obtained many titles in obedience, agility and other popular canine sports. The first thing I would do is to put your dog on what is called "Rescue Remedy" from Dr. Bach readily available at any health store and many pharmacy. It is not a drug and is very safe. You can either give her 2 drops in 3cc of water every day or you may chose to put the 2 drops in her drinking water, as long as she drinks it all in one day. The difference will be immediate. Obedience training with a calm, good trainer is a must. The dog must learn to find confidence in you and for that, she must view you as the Alpha. Never reprimand her nor console her when she shows fear or misplaced aggretion, it only reinforces her lack of confidence. The best thing is to ignore her and distract her towards something she feels confortable with. For exemple, if while taking a walk she shows any sign of aggression towards people coming from the other direction, change direction and talk to her happily showing her a car passing by, or a ball on the path... Never force her towards the object of her aggression. Remember that her reaction comes from fear, and that she could bite of cornered. Good luck.
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jmw
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PostPosted: 04/26/03, 4:39 pm    Post subject: Rescue Remedy Reply with quote

Cheerio,

Thanks for the advice. I ordered the book but will pass on the Rescue Remedy. I went to a health food store and found out it is 27% alcohol (54 proof!). I guess a shot of schnapps in her water would have a similar effect.

Just wondering why so many views on my original post and only one reply? Looks like that is the norm for this board. Anyone else out there have any helpful advice?
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Anne
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PostPosted: 06/13/03, 11:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I too have worked through fear aggression issues with a GWP. It has been very successful so I would not start thinking about surrendering your girl yet.

I agree with Cheerio 100% that your girl has to see you as the one in charge, if she is afraid and does not see you as the one in charge who will take care of everything she will try to handle it herself and may follow through on a bite.

Remember that in the pack there is a very strict hierarchy and no equals. If your dog does not perceive you to be a leader even the most reluctant dog will step up and take over because they think the role is not being filled. However, don't worry, you don't need to use harsh corrections or physical domination to make your leadership clear.

I've seen many dogs in obedience, Flyball, and agility where the owners assume that they are so well trained they must see their person as the alpha. This is not necessarily the case. These same dogs will run out of the house in front of their owners. If they see the owners eating popcorn on the couch they walk over for some popcorn or to get petted and the owner indulges them without asking for much if anything in return. In fact outside of structured training not much at all is asked of the dogs. (And I don't know your situation but I think we're all guilty of this sometimes, I know I am)

Also like Cheerio said, never reprimand her or correct her for her aggression toward strangers. She will associate the correction with the stranger rather than her behavior. At that point keeping strangers away becomes very important.

I have a few suggestions that I've had a great deal of success with. They involve classical conditioning to give your dog a positive association with strangers and general obedience & dominance reduction. (Not that this is your situation; remember I don't know, this is just what I have seen in my experience).

I should say up front nothing in my "bag of tricks" is my own original idea. Most are from Ian Dunbar a world famous trainer and vet. Others I have picked up along the way from various trainers and behavior consultants.

1. Bar is open/Bar is closed.
Take her favorite treats, toys, or whatever she loves and station yourself where you know people will be walking by. When people come unload the treats/toys and have a big party (do this regardless of her behavior, we're just making the connection that strangers = food, toys, and other good things). When the stranger walks away ignore her for at least 2 minutes. She will soon make the association that the strangers turn you on and make good things happen. You'll feel so great the first time she sees a stranger and looks at you for a treat rather than lunging at the stranger.

2. Treats on walks
Take treats and a clicker on walks. When you pass strangers feed her really high value treats. This tells her when these big scary people walk by I get really good stuff, I hope we see more of them. It will also keep her from lunging and possibly following through on a bite.

3. Nothing For Free
This is to reinforce your role as the leader. Anytime she wants to play, get fed, get a treat, go for a walk, anything the dog values they should do some kind of obedience command for. (i.e., sit and stay for 1 minute to get supper). This reinforces that you are the leader and in control of everything she does.

4. General Obedience
Integrating obedience into your life will also reinforce your role as a leader. You may want to do a long down (30 minutes or so) each day. This is very relaxing for you and the dog and a good reminder of who's in charge. If your dog won't stay down at first you may have to put a leash on and step on it. She'll get it pretty quickly though.

5. Stimulus blocking
If your dog is looking at a toy or something else she cannot look at the other dog or person she is about to lung at. Stimulus blocking is a common tactic in working through dog/dog aggression. The first thing you want to do is get her obsessed with a toy. If she already is, you’re set.

When you go for walks when strangers or other dogs are coming, break out the toy she will turn and look at the toy. She can't growl or lung at the people if she's looking at the toy. (this is also good classical conditioning, strangers = the best toy in the world).

To get her hooked on a toy if she isn't already:
Take a toy. I recommend a Kong on a rope. Put the toy on top of the fridge and a few times a day for a week get the toy down and play with it yourself. Run around in wild excitement, wave the toy around, and tell the world how happy you are to have that toy. If there is other people in the house have them try to take the toy away from you and get very excited over it. DO NOT LET THE DOG HAVE THE TOY. Your dog is going to want the toy very badly, but do not give in, this toy is so special it is only for you. Then after a week of setting the stage take the toy down and play with her with it for just a few minutes of really fun play. Then it goes back up on the fridge. If you keep working like this she will be come very obsessed and fixated on the toy.


6. Integrate Play and Training
If your dog has a reliable sit anytime, any place this will greatly reduce your risk of an incident with another dog or a person. She cannot lunge when she's sitting. I recommend having several play sessions a day but the play (weather with other dogs, you, your kids, whatever) should be interrupted every 15-45 seconds. Ask for a sit or down or whatever and when she does it she is rewarded with play continuing. This changes play from a distraction to training (and something more fun that Mom and Dad) to a part of training. She will see them as totally integrated which will give you much better control in a high distraction environment. (And strangers and dogs are a big time distraction).

This might win the prize for the longest post ever. Take what is helpful from it and keep us posted on how it is going.
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jmw
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PostPosted: 06/13/03, 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anne,

Thanks so much for your post. You really have made my day! You are "right on the money". I think we have been guilty of not asking for something in return from her when she does get a treat or a privilege.

Unfortunately, our dog (2 years old) nipped a neighbor boy in the rear end when he rode up our driveway on his bicycle unexpectedly last Saturday. Just a scratch (fortunately), but the fact that it happened while she was tied up and I was right next to her on the driveway when it occurred was very disturbing. She has been at the breeder's kennel since Sunday, and my wife and kids are heartbroken. She has been a model citizen while at the breeder's and demonstrated no aggressive behavior when we took her there or since that time. The only time she has demonstrated any aggressive tendencies has been when she feels she is protecting us at home, on a walk or on the in-laws farm. Once she gets to know someone, she is fine with them from that point forward, even if she does not see them again for several months.

Our options are to 1) have the breeder try to place her somewhere else, perhaps in a hunting kennel Sad 2) put her down Crying or Very sad (neither I nor the breeder feel this is necessary at this time) and 3) bring her back home Very Happy and fence the yard and severely restrict her human contact or 4) bring her home and fence the yard and attempt to "desensitize" her as you have outlined Very Happy . I have read several of Dr. Patricia McConnell's books and they have similar recommendations. In fact we tried to schedule a consultation with her outfit dogsbestfriendtraining.com as we only live a couple of hours away, but they are booked until the end of July.

Would appreciate any and all comments from other knowledgeable readers.

Thanks,

John
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Anne
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PostPosted: 06/13/03, 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh no! I saw the date of your post and worried about that exact thing. As far as your options it seems pretty clear what you're leaning towards. Rehabilitating any canine behavior is a lot of work but I have seen very heartwarming success stories in working through fear aggression. Keep me posted on what you decide. (I have an insatiable hope that every dog will be rehabilitated but I do promise to read with out any judgment, you will make the right decision for everyone involved)

Too bad Patricia McConnell’s is booked out so far. She is AWESOME. I am hoping to go to her seminar in Illinois in September but I'm not sure if I can. If you go to www.apdt.com they should be able to refer you to a reputable behavior consultant as well.

Ian Dunbar is another good author on canine behavior, and one of my training heroes.

I'll keep checking this site, or you can email me at annechendrickson@yahoo.com. I'm not a behavior consultant but sometimes it helps to have a "support network" as you go.
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Illona
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PostPosted: 06/22/03, 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

John,

I'm sorry I've only just visited this thread. I think maybe why you haven't received much feedback from this group on this subject is because it definitely is a tricky one, and not one that a lot of GWP owners would necessarily have to deal with. Any GWP I've met loves people, or at the very worst are aloof toward them; they simply aren't a guardian breed.

It looks like you're in good hands with Anne here. She's given lots of great advice here. Let me add my vote and good thoughts and energy to the one you seem to be leaning toward -- rehab for this girl.

She is only 2, and you can go a long way with her. She has already proven to you that she is worth it. I say get her signed up to see Patricia McConnell anyway. You might have already found a more available behaviorist in the meantime, but at least you'll have your late-July appt with Patricia in your back pocket. You need help with this one. There are answers. The group of people who frequent this board is absolutely awesome, but they're not necessarily the answer to this one. You need professionals.

I can say that Rescue Remedy did nothing for my last rescue boy -- a wheaten/beardie cross...at best guess. He was fear aggressive. Never took a nip or made a snarl, but he would growl out of fear, and sometimes jump up on people. What it took for him was a steady hand - lots and LOTS of obedience classes for the socialization aspect, and lots of 'street' work around people and crowds. I had to show him that *I* was in control, that *I* was the leader no matter what. He was always a handful at the door when people came over, and it would take him a few mins to warm up to someone, then he was a big love. But the intro was always a pain in the a** and very frustrating. It never got a lot better however I through more and more obedience and experiences I gained more and more control over him.

With my GWP rescue girl now, she is so courageous. At 1 1/2 yrs old, she's only had a half dozen instances of fear. Most recently, I took her out for her last outing of the night, it was really windy, and some kid's tent was flying around in the shadows of the neighbor's yard. The other incident had to do with her first sighting of horses on a trail. In both instances, I placed my hand over her snout, only briefly blocking her eyesight, and firmly moved her behind me, using my body to "protect" her. This, of course, never worked with my boy, but with this girl it works unbelievably! In both cases she immediately stopped her fear-growling and let me take control. *I* was the leader and the protector, a role -- as a GWP -- she was willing to relinquish. The hand on the snout thing is very alpha-dog; you're coming across a the boss; and by you putting her behind you, you're saying with your body language (which we know is stronger than our verbal language) that you're in charge and will take things from here.

But this is only one small step, even though it was a hugely successful one for us. I'm sure you'll hear similar advice and a ton of other techniques when you get to see a professional. I think the main focus here is to show her YOU are in charge, and you do this by giving her nothing for free, making her work for everything (including pats) AND by showing her that you're more than capable of playing the role of protector.

You say you have children. Do you have them put your girl through her paces as well? This is very important, in my opinion. If our six year old wants to give Matea a treat she has to put Matea through her obedience commands. Nothing is for free....although we don't have any behavior issues and do give her lots of free loving. Everything else, she works for. You need your girl to realize that your entire family comes before her on the ladder in your household; that every child is above her. She has to comply to the commands of everyone, and in return everyone will protect her. It simply is not her role. Plus, she'll derive confidence out of the fact that she knows her place in her family.

Please keep us posted on how you're making out. I'm sending all my positive thoughts your way.

Illona - and wildgirl Matea
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AmmoMike
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PostPosted: 06/23/03, 7:42 am    Post subject: Multiple personalities? Reply with quote

jmw, Very seldem will you see an answer from me. Im new to all this kinda stuff. As stated before though this board is great for info, I have got alot from it, in support and also much information.

Good Luck on your girl!
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PostPosted: 06/24/03, 5:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jmw, I think Illona is right that many of us that read your post just don't have any usefull answers for your situation. Guess I've been pretty lucky as well, as 99% of my dogs have always been very good with people. Maybe it's because from the time they are little baby puppies they are taken everywhere with me... dog shows, trials, tests, the store, camping..... they are just very used to being with and around strangers.

If I see any sign of shyness or silly aggression from them when they are little they just get more socialization and a stern warning from MOM that that is just not acceptable behaviour. I don't condone bad behaviour from then right from the git go... and while they maybe don't care for certain folks or situations, they know they can't act like killer dogs, or MOM will be right there to correct this obnoxious behaviour.

It sounds like everyone has given you good advice and if you are willing to spend the time, and follow that advice, you may just end up with a good companion. Best of luck, it's worth the try!

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jmw
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PostPosted: 07/01/03, 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just an update on our girl. She has been at the breeder's kennel for the past 3 weeks with no episodes of aggression whatsoever towards other dogs or strangers in a variety of situations. In retrospect, I would agree that we have inadvertently let her be the "protector" of the house and family when we should not have let her get away with it. I think that as this is our first GWP, I did not appreciate how intelligent they are and how they will test you.

She is coming home soon and we're putting up a fence. There will be a new set of "rules" when she comes home. One comment the breeder made was that he thought that maybe the "pressure was off" her when she was with other dogs and did not feel the burden to be the sole protector. Any thoughts as to the possibility that having another dog as a companion might help this behavior?

Thanks for all the posts. I have learned almost as much from you all as from the books and videos I have read/viewed Smile .

jmw
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Illona
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PostPosted: 07/01/03, 6:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

JMW,

I don't, for one second, see how a second dog is going to make matters better. In fact, I imagine it can only make things worse for you, as there may be other issues to deal with like in-house fighting, power struggles, as well as the fact that you'd now have TWICE the issues to deal with.

I think what the breeder means about the other dogs is that there are at least several other dogs at the kennel, and your girl is nowhere near being the top dog, therefore gives up the role of protection. I can't imagine how this could possibly be mimicked through adding a second dog.

My advice would be to get a firm handle on this girl first, before you entertain thoughts of getting another dog. Chances are far more likely the other dog will only learn its cues from her, and then you've got TWO problem dogs.

I hope your breeder is giving you lots of advice.

Good luck.
Illona
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PostPosted: 07/02/03, 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do take the advise Illona gave you! A second dog has never been the answer for a problem behavior on the first dog. Either the second dog is more dominant and you may have to deal with fights and stitches; or the second dog is more submissive and it only encorage your dog. Furthermore, until a first dog is trained, there is no time for training a second. And we all know how communicable are bad behaviours!...
Give your girl what she needs, be firm and loving, do the work, take obedience classes and when you will be happy with her behaviour, then, consider a second dog if you feel like it. At this point I would agree, a second dog is likely to be beneficial. Until then, I wish you all the best and remind you that we are here, always happy to exchange thoughts, experience and ideas...
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PostPosted: 07/07/03, 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi JMW!
Thanks for posting! I had been thinking about you and your pup (what's her name?). I was out of the office last week so I just got the update now.

I do agree with the other posts. It is never advisable to get a second dog when you are working through behavior problems with the first one. A second dog will most likely pick up on the first dogs habits rather than teach her better ones.

Also, working through fear aggression and having a new dog are both tremendous amounts of work. Taking it on all at once wouldn't be fair to you or your dogs. I wouldn't rule out the idea once you have a handle on this situation though.

You could still use the fact that she takes her cues from other dogs as an aid in her rehabilitation. If she is reliable in dog parks that might be a good place to start "staging" some encounters with strangers. She may feel threatened at first but when she sees the other dogs are not worried about the people she will begin to work through her fear as well.

Keep us posted on how its going. We'll keep trying to think of ideas and problem solve with you as you go.

Just curious, how much contact did she have with strangers and children while she was at the breeder when she was born (weeks 1-7)?
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PostPosted: 07/09/03, 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Will be going to pick her up from the breeder tomorrow. Say a prayer for us! Her name is Nixie (named for a mythical German water sprite) and she has given the breeder no problems in the month she has been there.

From weeks 1-7 she would have had a lot of contact with people coming and going at the breeder's as well as with other dogs. Don't think there was much contact with children during that time however.

Will keep you posted.
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PostPosted: 07/10/03, 8:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It sounds like you are ready. I'll be eagerly checking the posting board to hear how its going.
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