The problems they want to resolve are for Shadow to stop nipping them and to stop barking at other dogs. Both issues are really just symptoms.
The nipping is a symptom of over-excitement.
The beautiful German Shepherd is nearly seven months old and still really just a puppy. She is already big.
She jumped up at me and mouthed. The excitement of my arrival triggered more behaviour. When the man sat down she flew all over him, climbing onto the back of the sofa rather like a cat!
As a younger puppy, the lady and the two boys took Shadow to excellent training classes for several weeks. She knows all the basics.
Understanding the request or cue (I don’t like the word ‘command’) and actually doing it are two different things though. That’s where motivating her comes in.
Shadow’s a typical teenager.
In the picture she has been asked to lie down – something she knows well. I suggested not repeating the word ‘Down’ but just waiting. The lady points at the floor.
Just see Shadow ignoring her!
The lady outlasted her and after about a minute the dog did lie down. She then rewarded her with something tiny and special.
The lady then tried again, and sufficiently motivated this time, Shadow lay down straight away.
This isn’t bribery or luring because the payment wasn’t produced until after she had done as asked.
As the day wears on Shadow becomes more hyper.
She has two walks a day and plenty of exercise but even that can backfire. Walks should be just that – walks. Walking and sniffing and doing dog things, not an hour or so of ball play after which she arrives home more excited than when she left.
It’s then that she may charge all over the sofas and anyone that happens to be sitting on them – nipping or mouthing the younger boy by in particular – he’s twelve.
He may simply be watching TV and ignoring her. She stares at him. If he continues not to react, she will start yipping. Then she will suddenly pounce on him and start nipping him.
She now has the attentions she craves.
He often behaves like an excited puppy with her, so understandably that’s how she regards him.
If they don’t want to be jumped up at, mouthed and nipped, the family needs to sacrifice some of the things they like doing and help teach her some self-control. They need to tone down they ways they interact with her and exercise her brain a bit more.
Shadow is another dog generating its own attention and we will deal with it in a similar way to the last dog I visited, Benji.
Barking at other dogs is a symptom also.
In Shadow’s case it’s a symptom of fear, following a very unfortunate incident at exactly the wrong time in her life. It will have coincided with a fear period when, like a human baby may suddenly start to cry when picked up by a stranger, the puppy can become fearful of things.
When Shadow was a young puppy, a much larger dog broke through the fence and chased her round her garden. This happened twice.
She was terrified. The garden was no longer a safe place for her.
She now increasingly barks at dogs she hears from her garden and there are dogs living all round them. She barks at other dogs on walks – particularly on days when she’s already stirred up.
To add to the problem, the next door neighbour got a new puppy recently.
Shadow rushes out of the house barking now. If he’s out, she runs up and down the fence barking at him.
She is in danger of having the same effect on the poor puppy as the invading dog had on her.
They will only let her out on lead now – the one and only good use for a flexilead. As soon as she barks they will thank her and call her in – maybe encouraging her with the lead. They will reward her as she steps through the door.
All the surrounding dogs can actually be used to Shadow’s advantage.
They can work on her fear of other dogs at home. This should help how she feels about other dogs out on walks.
They can have ‘dogs mean food’ sessions in the garden.
When she’s in a calm mood, they can pop her lead on and go out into the garden with her for a few minutes. Every time a dog barks they can sprinkle food on the ground. Fortunately Shadow is very food orientated. She also loves a ball so they could throw that sometimes too.
Even if she alerts and they themselves hear nothing, her much better ears may have heard a distant dog – so they should drop food.
When next door’s puppy is out in the garden they will work hard, with food and fun, so that she will eventually come to welcome his presence. It would be nice to think the puppy’s owner could be doing the same thing the other side of the fence.
If Shadow barks, she will be brought straight in. She will learn that if she’s out there and quiet good things happen. If she does bark at the puppy, she will come straight in and the fun stops.
Shadow has grown up quickly into a big dog. They were able to accept nipping, mouthing, jumping up and barking at other dogs from their puppy. These things are becoming a problem for them now that she’s an adult-size German Shepherd.
Some feedback seven weeks later:
We are doing short daily training with Shadow both inside and outside, going well.
She is barking less out in the garden.
She doesn’t pull towards other people or bikes when out walking as much so going in the right direction.
We are playing with her when she is good so please with this.
Walking to heel so much better and barking less to dogs outside.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Shadow and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)