It was a treat to visit such a calm and friendly German Shepherd. Most that I’ve been to recently have had problems with people coming into their homes, but not 20-month-old Storm. She was chilled – and actually a lot more interested in the doggy smells on my bag and on my trousers than in me!
Storm makes very few demands on her owners, and they make few on her. She is biddable and obedient.
Barking chases dogs away
But, unfortunately, she is becoming increasingly reactive to other dogs they meet on walks and she has now injured a small terrier.
I don’t myself see this as a problem solely to do with dogs on walks. I feel this is a symptom and not the cause.
At home she has free access to the front gate and a lot of dogs walk by. She takes up her station there and flies at the gate in a territorial fashion whenever a dog goes past. To Storm, barking always chases dogs away – they always go after all.
When her owners go out she may be left outside on guard duty. Her stress levels will be continually rising.
In the car she has her head out of the window and barks at any dog she sees. Barking chases dogs away after all, even if in the car they are the ones moving away.
Rehearsing the behaviour
Storm is simply given too much opportunity to practise the undesirable behaviour. Scolding her or saying NO doesn’t help at all. She may stop temporarily, but it teaches her nothing. It doesn’t teach her that, as her dog parents and guardians, protection duty is their responsibility and not hers.
She’s not always reactive to every dog she meets when out however. It seems that she can tolerate so much, and then she will ‘go’.
Understandably, they try to walk her away from other dogs. Avoiding dogs altogether will get them nowhere of course – particularly as the only interaction she does get is negative – the aggression from behind their gate along with unplanned encounters. She is usually either chastised or she is left to get on with it by herself.
Storm has a very close bond with her gentleman owner in particular. Dealt with sensitively, given time and patience, I’m sure he will bring her around. Opportunities for guard duty should be cut to the minimum, and when she barks she should be helped, not scolded.
Opportunity to be left to practise barking and chasing dogs away from the garden should be avoided.
Such a good dog
Because she is generally so good, they are too relaxed.
Out on walks she needs to be more under control with less freelancing. They now have techniques to work on that will gradually get Storm more used to other dogs whilst connecting with her owners, to be calm around them. This work has to start at a distance within her comfort threshold – before she begins to react. Once over that threshold, she will become deaf and incapable of learning.