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Training Advice?

November 15th, 2006, 10:03 AM
Hey guys!
My boyfriend and I live in Toronto with an 11mnth old German Shepherd, Sable. Unfortunately we have never sent her to obedience training classes and as such, we are suffering the consequences. She listens well in side the apartment, however as soon as she steps out the door, she refuses to listen to us whatesoever. The situation has become very hard and embarrassing for us, especially if she sees another dog.

We want to take her to obedience classes but when she sees other dogs, she starts barking excessively, tugging and whinning - ALL THE WORKS, which makes it very hard to control her and frightens them. Other dogs won't play with her as she likes to bite their ears and back legs very hard while many people in the apartment are afraid of her due to her size and mistake her playful character as fierceness.

What would you guys recommend us to do? She's a lovely dog and we don't want to resort to yelling at her just to get her to calm down. :confused:

November 15th, 2006, 10:26 AM
Definately take her to obedience classes - it doesnt matter the age - we took Joey when he was six and he did really well - even with the other dogs off leash. I would first explain your situation to the dog trainer and find one that you think would work for you.

Good luck :fingerscr

November 15th, 2006, 11:24 AM
I agree with OB classes. In the mean time, I would socialize her as much as possible. You need to find out how far away from her triggers (whatever is causing her to react) she can be WITHOUT reacting... What you need is her attention, without it all the shouting in the world will not phase her. Do you have a "watch me" command?

What do you walk her on? What commands does she know? What motivates her?

GSD's are very drivey, working dogs. They need a lot of exercise and stimulation - if they don't get it, these frustration behaviours will start with or without socialization/training.

November 15th, 2006, 11:33 AM
There are many things you can do until you get into a class. One would be to sign up for some private lessons first. Make sure that your skills and relationship are up to par before taking her to a larger class.

We talk a lot about preparing your dog for college and right now being near other dogs is college level for her.

So start doing drills and skills in the house before you go out. This helps her to connect to you, gets you paying better attention and starts to release calming chemicals into her brain. The second you step outside she has a release of adrenalin that takes over and its hard for her to stop herself. But if you work her first for 10 minutes and then go just outside your front door and work her there for 10 minutes and gradually get her further into the real world you should have greater success. Work from success not towards failure. Every time she barks, lunges and acts like a twit she is practicing acting like a twit and getting really good at it.

Also see if your trainer has some older, emotionally healthy dogs that she could learn some social skills from. They should be able to teach her to start respecting others boundaries.

November 15th, 2006, 11:39 AM
I checked your profile - was going to send you a PM. I live in East York. I would suggest you start off with some private lessons if finances permit. Then you can move on to perhaps a group session. I would strongly advise a combination of Treat and Non Treat Training otherwise, depending on your dog's temperament, you will end up with a dog who will only Sit, Stay, Down, etc. when a treat is forthcoming. Been there, done that. We recently had a few private lessons with a Non Treat Based trainer - not as horrific as it sounds because I am not one who would use the check chain in the way a trainer does - just not in me. But it helped - and I moved up very quickly (one week) to a Martingale - and a fancy one at that. We just use the Martingale around the neighbourhood. If we take him somewhere he wears his harness and I have the Mart with me. We also take him once a week to his Groomer's where he socializes with other dogs - she also takes a few dogs in for day care. This is really the only time he gets to interact with other people. We don't have family so no one coming in and out - and Eskies in general tend to be one family dogs with perhaps one or two other people who qualify for Eskie hugs. We met a young woman who works with the groomer who does home boarding - fortunately she is an Eskie hug qualified and he loves her and gets along extremely well with her dog - particularly her Husky. On the street, he is a barker at other dogs - and has been attacked -so no surprise there. I am about to have time take a couple of additional private lessons - this time with his first trainer who is now with a different company - he loves her as well - so it will be 1/2 Treat, 1/2 No Treat and will concentrate on the never-ending problem of LEAVE IT! and the jumping and barking. The No Treat trainer is excellent and he knows his stuff and now will go "Down" without a cookie - but I want to soft pedal a bit this time as Eskies take things personally. I could give you some names, but didn't want to post them on the board.

November 15th, 2006, 02:25 PM
The thing is I've never owned a dog before this. So i'm quite clueless as to how to manage the situation when things get out of hand. What i do is just take her away so she doesn't see the other dogs, or that there's something that blocks her view from them. My boyfriend had dogs all his life, but now he's rarely at home to properly train her. So most of the time, he doesn't know what she's capable of doing.

Inside the apartment with or without treats, she listens very well. But as soon as we step out the door... she doesn't care. She hears us but she doesn't listen and it gets worse as soon as she SEES a dog, regardless of the distance.

November 15th, 2006, 02:41 PM
what kind of collar are you using ... you might want to try a head harness to help keep her attention when outdoors so you can train her when you are outside and teach her appropriate behaviours something like this

November 15th, 2006, 02:56 PM
I use a chest harnest because it is easier for me to handle her - especially when there is a dog around. Everything we've tried has failed... because seeing the dog gives her a spontaneous energy and somehow she has managed to snap all her previous leashes by trying to run to them.

November 15th, 2006, 03:30 PM
Find an obedience school that has experience with GSDs! Do NILIF training! A prong collar will do wonders for you while you're out on your walks.

The following link will provide you with tons of info on behaviour & training issues but definitely sign up for a training class!! :pawprint:

November 15th, 2006, 05:15 PM
Remember that anything that is missing in her training, or her relationship with you is going to be magnified during her teenage months - NOW. So if you have not done any training to this point you really do need some professional help to get the ball rolling.

Having her on the leash attached to you in the apartment will help to start getting you two communicating. You are the leader/teacher and she is the follower/student. Where ever you go she follows, and add in lots of instructions on top of that. I am sure she has been in 'recess' most of her life and its time to teach her patience, manners and impulse inhibition. She needs to learn that its not about what she wants to do 24/7 - its about what you want her to do. So by engaging her brain you are helping her with these issues.

Try not to rely on treats. We find that dogs who are heavily treat trained are working for the treats not for you. So when she is tempted by a major distraction she is unlikely to come to you for a cookie. Better that your training be based on relationsihp - love, trust and respect. Right now she thinks of you as a buddy, and it should be that she thinks of you as an awesome parent.

November 15th, 2006, 05:19 PM
We rescued a 10 month old cross (we think he's wolfhound/shetland pony) and decided to train no matter what he already knew, we started the clicker route and that made our progression much faster, once he was about 75% there (about 1 month and 3 actual sessions later) we found a good trainer for group sessions. His biggest issues were pulling, barking at other dogs and not paying attention outside. The group session has him accepting other dogs, the pulling was easily sorted with a training collar ($6.99) that sits way high up his neck just under his ears, and propper heel comand. My wife is around 55kg easily walks with him now without pulling and without the training collar. With the training collar on he snaps to heel position, without it he knows he has 6ft before he has to get some slack on the collar. Luckily my first trainer was superb at kicking (or should that be clicking) my butt into shape, we first put the retractable lead away for a later time when he can walk properly, next the nylon leash was donated to humane society as she soon made me realise that if he ran and the leash slid through my fingers it would burn and I would probably let go of the lead. So a 6ft cotton one is a good first step. The group class has a 4 month old cockapoo that is in love with my monster and follows him everywhere, before he would just bark at anydog but now when he see's another dog he sits waiting for a commant to 'greet', untill then his bum stays put. Even stubborn dogs get bored of tring to pull to get where they want and getting no-where, thats why we have feet to step on the leash to stop them getting up when they need to stay put. So my simple advice is probably this, have a few private lessons to address YOUR concerns and work on them, then go to a group class and relearn EVERYTHING with the distraction of 6-8 other people trying to do the same. His attention will improve greatly and you will find he will start to listen to your voice, once you have that you have control as he already knows what the commands are. Also play dates are great as he will learn that there are pecking orders and he has to comply, however in Toronto that can be harder because many are wary of larger dogs, I meet up with a BMD and something like a coon hound (I could be wrong there), and it's important to know what the other dogs are like, Riley doesn't have a mean bone in his body and I swear he gets humped by the female dogs as well as the male ones. He is much better at the whole barking thing but it does happen and we do the same as you, remove him from that situation and take him somewhere that you can gain control by doing simple commands and then walking off nicely in another direction. Now most of the locals know Riley they all let there dogs come and play for a few minutes and you will find once he is allowed to meet and greet other dogs the whole fasination of what he wants to do is calmed a bit. Just so you know this is my first dog and I am in no doubt that there is more than 1 way to effectively communicate with you dog and some ways are much better than others. Treat based can be what ever the dog thinks is a treat, just your excited voice is a treat so be aware of how some people describe things, Riley is not food motivated so he gets to play tug after a few repetitions of doing something we want. If I want to drill something into him with minimal effort I use the clicker (for example we are woking on 'here' targetting so for the first few sessions I used the clicker to establish my two fingers and his nose must meet for a click, then added the command 'here') I have moved away from that to a 'sit' 'stay' and then when 20 ft away 'here' without needing to use the clicker, when I want to change the command to 'come' I will work at close distance and have the come as a flat hand (something he already knows but is not so good at) and the target will stay at 'here' so I can use that to place him where I want him and 'come' is sitting directly in front staring straight at me. There is a lot to learn and I should be happy where we are now but I want to continue the bond as well as the training so I am just pushing my luck with some things, but nothing happens over night, you have to put the hours in to see the minutes get better and slowly they will.
My only other tips are these.
Set up for sucess, dont give a comand that you are unsure if it will be done, if you sitting in a chair and Sable is looking straight at you, you could be confident he would sit on command, add watch me's for a few seconds and build on the small steps you already have.
Only give a command twice, any more and your just teaching your dog to ignore you, again it's following the basic rule of setting up for success.
Have a GOOD leash, no more than 6ft, pleasure walks can only take place when BOTH of you are enjoying it, if not then it's back to 'heel', pee, poop and home.
Be consistant, Dog psychology is based on Skinner and the relms of positive repetative behaviour are what it's all about. The only way to do that is to repeat the good and make sure you can repeat it in all conditions, for that to happen you have to be exposed to all conditions (only for breif periods though).
Use you trainer, they will identify what you need to work on and THEY are responsable for your program, they will want you and Sable to graduate and have another well trained sociable responsable dog (and in turn, owner) graduate from their school, do NOT let it become the responsibiity of your neighbour, aunt's friend or a well wisher to adapt the training program you have, they will mean well but they have not seen the interaction and behaviour and will certainly not be responsable if it all goes wrong. I have been told by people to hold Riley on his back and hold his neck tight untill his paws go limp, I have been advised to shout commands because if I get panicked I will shout at Riley, Put him in his create when he's being bad. So far I have thanked them for their advice and at Present I have not strangled my dog, I talk to him calmly as I know he has much better hearing then I can ever dream of, and his crate is for when we go out, as it's safe in there and he also gets his treats in there like fresh bones and the bits of raw meat from food preperation (in fact when I'm prepairing dinner now he goes and sits in his crate waiting).
So thats my advice from a 3 month owner of a first dog, feel free to ignore everything as it's your dog and your training program, also I would love to set up a few play dates for bigger dogs, I come to the city every now and then and could meet up in a park somewhere, I ususlly meet a friend in the west end (Vic Park and 401 area) as I now live near Collingwood and there's not much for group dog stuff here and Riley loves to travel.

Angies Man
November 20th, 2006, 12:18 PM
Never had a dog before?

You need to learn how to control your dog--what is now a nuisance can become a very dangerous dog. Her playful nature with people CAN turn into unacceptable fierce behavior.

Since you live in a rather large metropolitan are, I'd look for a trainer that specializes in German Shepards, take her in for a meeting and let them work with her--THEN, after they've got her under control, you need to get in one of their group classes. Private classes aren't (imho) as good for socializing a hardheaded dog--it's training in optimum conditions and in real life, optimum conditions are the rare exception. You want her to be able to respond correctly in stressful, chaotic conditions.

And, I think you can expect that this is going to be an ongoing project for you and your dog. Schutzhund competition is generally an obedience, tracking and protection sport for German Shepards--they don't generally choose compliant, easy to train dogs--because they need the channeled aggressiveness to compete effectively--so these are dogs that if you give them an inch, they will take over. It kind of sounds as if you've got a good candidate. She's going to need almost athletic-like training for most of her life--just to keep her sharp and controlled. The Shutzhund people I know all use electronic (shock) collars on an intermittant basis--for off leash control.

I'm not haranging you, or judging you. I really am on your side--so please don't be offended if I suggest that this may NOT be a suitable first dog. I'd hate to see you and your family ruined for dogs if this one doesn't work out--and there are dogs out there that are SO easy to live with.

Something to consider.

November 20th, 2006, 02:27 PM
so please don't be offended if I suggest that this may NOT be a suitable first dog. But it is their first dog. So while hindsight might be 20/20, nobody (I know) has a time machine here.

Sure it might be hard, but with the help of the right trainer and a lot of effort, any dog can be a great dog.

November 20th, 2006, 05:11 PM
hang in there and get some professional advice..... it can only help! t not only helps you teach your dog, but they teach you how to train your dog and interact with them..... best of luck!

November 20th, 2006, 05:53 PM
I would definately get a trainer.

I was raised with this breed and have raised 3 in 23 years.And they are an eager breed to learn.

Schutzhund competition is generally an obedience, tracking and protection sport for German Shepards--they don't generally choose compliant, easy to train dogs--because they need the channeled aggressiveness to compete effectively-- It kind of sounds as if you've got a good candidate. She's going to need almost athletic-like training for most of her life--just to keep her sharp and controlled. The Shutzhund people I know all use electronic (shock) collars on an intermittant basis--for off leash control.

I really have to comment about this.

First off,this is the furthest from the truth.

My current GSD is SchH III titled.He is a retired Police Dog.SchH is a sport.They must pass the BH(Obedience)and temperment testing.And SchH starts at 18 months of age.They cannot be aggressive as they will be around other dogs.And even Police Dogs must NOT be aggressive or they will not make it on the force.And they do NOT use shock collars ever.Your dog must already be trained for off leash,hence the BH.Sable is not a good candidate for SchH.Please don't give false info on this.

She's going to need almost athletic-like training for most of her life?Why?She gets the proper training and she will be fine.

My breeder not only showed her GSD's,they were also SchH titled.So I know quite a bit about this sport.

You say that she is great when she is in the apt,but changes once she is outside.How much socializing did she get when she was a pup?What commands does she know?

You REALLY need to work with her.So definately talk to a trainer.

November 21st, 2006, 10:41 AM
Hi Folks,
Well this is a little update. We've begun taking Sable to obedience classes. We've "researched" several pet training centres and most of them recommend that Sable (our beloved princess GSD) attend a one-on-one class. So far we have a big improvement - the trainer has told us to get a prong collar for her. Now she doesn't lunge or bark whenever she sees a dog. Doesn't whine as much either - 2 classes and it's going well.
However i am a bit concerned... Over the weekend we took her to an off-leash park by the University of Toronto in Scarborough. There are some big empty fields there... so my boyfriend decided to play fetch with her. All was good.. and she was retrieving fairly well up until she saw a dog running in from the corner of the same field. That's when she decided to gun it and chase it... she also attempted to bite him. Luckily she missed and no one got hurt.
Sable hasn't had proper socialising opportunties with other dogs. My boyfriend had gotten her from a Yorkdale petstore when she was 4 mnths old. Unfortunately he was too busy with work that he never trained her properly, up until recently when i convinced him that she needs proper training. Back then he lived in a small town within Sudbury where everyone had a dog, most fenced in the backyard.
My boyfriend also had another dog - 7 yr old GSD & Collie Mix. For some odd reason, he had thought to himself that when he got Sable, she'd learn quickly from playing and observing the behaviour of the other dog - Mandy. However that didn't work... instead, she constantly bit the back legs and ears. We've tried to teach her not to, but it overpowers her as soon as she sees Mandy. She wants to play.. but likes to play rough - biting ears and legs of other dogs. And this was her behaviour every day, everytime she sees mandy... up until my boyfriend moved to Toronto to live with me, bringing Sable with him.
Apart from Mandy and Kuna (another GSD & Husky mix), Sable hasn't had opportunities to meet other dogs. Lately i've noticed that with SOME dogs, not all, but some... she becomes defensive and her fur stands. She hasn't growled yet, just barks a bit deeper than usual.

November 21st, 2006, 12:42 PM
Happy to hear that things are going better. Re the off-leash park - I never, ever let my Eskimo off leash - very prey driven. But once a week he goes to his Groomer's who also offers daycare - so basically goes for socialization. While there he is taken for a walk in the Ravine (off-leash) by a professional dog walker (who also home boards - he loves her) - and is no problem at all. Environment is controlled and he knows how to behave when away from home. We live right across from a park - Topham in East York - this is most definitely NOT an off-leash park - but many people with large, aggressive dogs do not believe that rules apply to them. We don't enter that park, but have to pass it to get out the door - and more than once I have had to pick up my little prancing 22 lb. BARKER as we passed or he would have been "lunch". My guy appears to be aggressive when confronted with other dogs - barking like a mad man but that is him being an Eskie - has yet to show his gums - but I am very careful not to give him a chance to attack. When he had his private lessons in May, the trainer used a check chain - but my husband kept putting it on backwards - and frankly my "checking" was very mild - but still it made a difference. Within a week, I "graduated" myself to a Martingale - much less threathening. We use it to walk around the neighbourhood. When we take him to socialization, he wears his harness. I am afraid that while his person is being "socialized" by the other dogs, the Martingale might get caught - his neck fur is so thick, would be easy to do and not realize. And his person does get seriously "socialized". The funny thing is, that he only allows it once he is behind the gate at the groomers. If dogs try it on the desk side he tells them to buzz off. Once agaiin, the controlled environment.

November 21st, 2006, 01:05 PM
I would really encourage that you try the EZ Walker by Gentle Leader - I am not a fan of any devices but the EZ is not harsh on the dog and it helps to control their forward movement. It can actually work like a charm. Keeping in mind that it only works when you have it on because devices typically don't teach good manners they simply restrict the bad ones. They control but don't engage the brain to make better choices.

Prongs can be intense (though many people even prefer them over choke chains) - but as you can see using the prong in class (got results) didn't change anything in the real world when you didn't have it on. Yes, you & your dog will need a more reasonable amount of time ot learn, but be sure you are teaching not just controling.

November 21st, 2006, 01:08 PM
I have used the EZ walker by Gentle Leader and would like to say that it worked wonderfully for me.
Hunter can be a very well behaved dog on his walks, especially on the way home:rolleyes: , but I like knowing that no matter what I have full control over him. The EZ walker was the only thing that I have used that I have felt fully comfortable walking him with.:shrug:

Rob n Cody
November 21st, 2006, 01:45 PM
It took me a long time to get Cody used to being off leash - she is also very prey-driven. She doesn't really attack, but it can seem scary to the other dogs (and their prople!)
It also seems like you are relying a lot on your boyfriend's experience with dogs, and doubting yourself and your abilities to deal with this.
It is so important that dogs have consistency in training with ALL members of their "pack". He should respond to you the same way he responds to your partner. Make sure you are as involved in the training in and out of class as possible so the hierarchy in the family is clear from the outset.
I am in Toronto as well, and would happy to help in any way I can.
Good luck!

November 21st, 2006, 02:18 PM
Well i do most of the training now, especially since I am home a lot more often than my boyfriend, as such Sable listens more attentively with me than with my boyfriend. She becomes too excited to listen and begins doing every trick we've taught her. Nevertheless, we both do train her. The only reason why i had relied more on the experiences of my boyfriend is because he grew up with dogs whereas Sable is my first dog. Luckily, i am learning fast :thumbs up

November 21st, 2006, 03:23 PM
In some ways it's better as you have no preconceived ideas about what is right and wrong, it's easier to be open to all sugestions this way. re. the off leash, it's simple, don't do it again untill you are 100% sure he will come back. It's really good to see you done some homework and found a good trainer, it WILL make all the difference. Once you have behaviour down at home it's time to move outside and you have to start all over again, then in group class you go back to step 1, it's frustrating but even for us, 3 months later we have a dog we love living with, the dog we brough home would have been tiresome by now. This week WE have been going for walks, as opposed to walking with us and then tring top chase every blade of grass that moves. Birds can fly around and he no longer is interested in them, and best of all a squirrel came with in 3 ft, he stopped tugged, looked around and knew he wasn't going anywhere and sat down. So just keep doing what your doing and you will see improvement slow down but there will be improvement. IMHO if you have been taught to use the prong and it's working, then it's good for you. Some time in the future you may well defend your use of it while you boast of how you have a dog who walks with a flat collar and does not stray more than 6 inches from the heel position (don't we just wish), but all this will come in time. Keep it up and fill us in regularly on your progress, good or bad.