Ignores Them. Won’t Come When Called. Unmotivated.
Not only does 9-month-old German Shepherd Max look beautiful, he has a wonderful personality. Like many teenagers he’s full of himself and this is a lot better than being the opposite –fearful. He’s confident and friendly.
Max ignores them!
Max also is a law unto himself! He manipulates them to do what he wants when he wants, but it doesn’t always apply the other way around – when they want him to do something for them. If asked to come to them he usually ignores them. He just looks at them!
This is because, instead of teaching and motivating him to do things they ask like come to them, look at them, jump off the sofa etc., they grab him – but kindly. If they want him away from the front door, they don’t ask him to come away but pull him back by his collar. When the man gets up from the sofa, Max immediately jumps into his seat. Instead of gently calling him off he is pulled off. (My Cocker Spaniel Pickle does this but I call him off and reward him with a piece of kibble. Why not?).
Very fortunately Max isn’t not the kind of dog that takes exception to someone grabbing his collar. He never gets cross.
Recall starts at home.
Max is very playful and wants to rush at every other dog he sees in order to play. This can cause problems.
He completely ignores the couple when they try to call him away from other dogs.
This is part of the wider issue – that he ignores them generally when they ask something of him.
Because recall starts at home, there is basic work to be done. If they say his name he should immediately look at them – but he has to have a reason to do so. If they call him, he should immediately come over – but again, he has to have a good reason to do so. This is about reward and motivation. From what I saw, motivating him will be their first challenge.
From now onwards I suggest they call him for anything that he wants. They can put his food down in different places, calling him to them. When they put his harness on they can call him over. They can initiate more attention and games, calling him – and resist always obeying him. They need only call the once and if he doesn’t come, he doesn’t get. It sounds harsh, but I believe Max will thrive on it.
He is fed just once a day, in the evening. I feel all his energy intake is at the wrong end of the day and should be spread over at least a couple of meals. They add meat and chicken to his meals. Now they should save this for rewarding and ‘payment’. He ignores them because he’s not sufficiently motivated. There is nothing at the moment that he doesn’t already get in terms of either the best food or attention.
As a clever GSD, Max needs to work his brain. Despite the time his lovely owners give him in terms of walking, playing and cuddles, he’s still a working dog without a job! A lot of the time he has pent-up energy and stress with no way to vent it but to dig holes in the garden, destroy things and be annoying.
We need to look at ways to enrich his life with more brain/sniffing/hunting type of activities. He can also work for some of his food. Certain activities will help him to calm himself.
Diet can also make a difference – at present he’s fed Bakers. I’m always pleased when people tell me they feed their dog on Bakers because immediately there could be a simple way of improving behaviour.
Change the diet!
Self-control will come from some basic training. Max is a dog that would enjoy and excel at formal training exercises or classes, where there aren’t too many other dogs to distract him.
At home they can start with getting him to look them in the eyes as soon as they say his name. They can condition him to come to them as soon as he hears a whistle. Teaching him to ‘stay’ will encourage self control and listening to them. I will go back and show them some clicker training. Clicker done correctly really works a dog’s brain.
With more of his mental energy satisfied he should be easier and calmer on walks. When he starts to pay more attention to them generally and come when asked at home, they can then apply this to when he sees other dogs. Meanwhile, while he still ignores them they should work at recall with Max on a long line should there be dogs about.
The large German Shepherd should no longer be able to bound up to other dogs without the say-so of the person who is walking him. Apart from anything else, it could be unfair to the other dog if that dog is reactive or scared.
I feel they really need to work hard for the next few months, before Max gets much older.
In a nutshell they should work hard at changing their fantastic boy into a willing dog, motivated to please.