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10 wk old GSD showing signs of dominance, biting and food obsession
MemberMarch 27, 2021 at 11:25 AM
Hello! We just signed up here after going through everything on the YouTube channel. We’ve got Dixie, a 10.5 week old GSD. We’re pretty sure she’s working line and not show line (we got her from a hobby breeder so we don’t know for 100% certainty), and she’s very high strung and displaying signs of dominance aggression when she doesn’t get her way. She actually took very well to her crate and we’re following the advice to keep her in there when we’re not engaging with her, and to put her away immediately when she starts acting out of control and refusing to listen or obey, which has begun to happen at the end of every exercise or training session. We’re having some issues with biting — actual, aggressive biting, not just mouthing and nipping — when we try to correct her. None of it appears to be fear-based; she just doesn’t like being told what to do, which is very concerning.
Another issue we’re having is that she’s overly fixated on food and treats. She screams and whines and carries on while my husband prepares her meals, and when training, if she thinks she’s done the thing to earn the treat but I correct or try to reset her (she’s very prone to anticipating commands and offering behaviors), she’ll lunge and grab at my hand or jump up and try to take it. She’s extremely bright and picked up on the basic commands right away, but over the last week she’s become less focused on learning and more fixated on getting the treat at all costs — which is usually what leads to the aggressive behavior that lands her back in the crate. She usually starts out well each session but quickly becomes impatient, loses focus and starts either grabbing for treats or attacking our hands and feet, refusing to listen or take no for an answer. Playtime also usually ends with her becoming out of control.
I should also mention that we’re not having any issues with resource guarding, despite her food obsession. Are these things she’s likely to outgrow with maturity, or should they be cause for concern?
We were also having a big problem with her trying to herd us both and attacking our shoes and ankles on walks, as well as trying to eat every leaf, twig, rock or acorn she found on the ground, but we recently got a Martingale collar and started working on “leave it” following the YouTube instruction. She’s already picking that up and our walks have improved immensely, so thank you for that, and thanks for any help and advice you can offer on these current problems.
MemberMarch 30, 2021 at 11:48 AM
Hi @MattandJean – Sounds like you have a handful; good news is there are lots of experienced people on RC to offer food for thought as you develop and work on a strategy. From the things mentioned in your post, clearly the biting and nipping, and demanding treats are hurdles. Looking at the similarities in the two, it seems the dog is making demands and delivering its version of consequences when the humans are not doing what the dog wants. Really good news is that by working on this now, as you are, you will get to enjoy great years ahead. A couple things may be helpful. To successfully work with your dog/puppy, you need to work them in the stage they are in.
Tackling the easiest first, it seems your puppy is VERY food motivated and therefore acknowledging that, you use treats/food to lure and shape. In early training when food worked, I found the “moist/soft” varieties effective for several reasons, easier on developing teeth, small and quick to ingest, and because they are moist my dog wasn’t inhaling/coughing on the dust as he did from hard, crunchy treats. (I believe there are some options in RC’s “shop”)
ANY, EVERY, and ALL demands for treats from the puppy should be ignored. Opportunistic, your puppy is likely to continue behaviors that get it what it wants. You may already be seeing how bright your puppy is when you are using treats because the puppy focuses on the treats any may even nudge the pouch to let you know it’s time for another one – do not give in. If you periodically “give in” you are incidentally reinforcing the protest.
Biting/Nipping at you. It is logical to conclude, just say no. Without a firm foundation and understanding of no – you likely see the behavior continue, or worse, escalate. As you may still be working on developing the effective no, try delivering it more firmly and loudly than you normally do. If you can, deliver that firm, louder and direct “no” as instructional – without emotion. If you have developed other obedience commands/skills you can consider following up with what you want the dog to do instead. The most important piece initially will be stop the behavior. Using pitch and stress with the “no” may add the emphasis needed until you have time to develop the firm foundation with/for “no”. There are many strategies you could try – the best one will be the one that makes sense to you that you can delver and follow up on without exception.
Not all dogs are cuddlers. In fact, my GSD is not. By hugging, you may be invading the dogs space and it becomes anxious. As you mention petting inside seems to get the puppy in action – what you may be seeing when you are petting and showing affection – which results in the puppy wanting to play may actually be your puppy going in motion to relieve stress. In lieu of hugs and doting over the puppy, your puppy may prefer structure. While you may “feel” like you are not showing affection, in fact, you are. Providing structure helps dogs be happy dogs and assures them they are part of your pack. They simply need to know what you want them to do. (Yes, easier said than done!)
Hope something here helps or triggers an idea for you as you make adjustments to help your puppy know what it takes to be a member of your family/pack.
MemberMarch 31, 2021 at 11:06 AM
Thank you, Bill. There’s a lot of good stuff here. Matt was already good at directing her into another behavior after telling her no, but I would get so frustrated just trying to pry her teeth out of me that I would forget. I’m working on staying calm and redirecting her when she starts attacking my hands or clothes or trying to take treats. I think I need as much training as Dixie does. We’re both a work in progress.
As for hugs and cuddles, she has times when she’s very cuddly, and she loves a good belly rub. We try to let her be the one to initiate the lovins, though, because we never know whether we’re going to get Sweet Dixie or Bite All the Things Dixie. We’re learning to read her moods and keep it to a quick pat on the head when she’s feeling bitey. But just in the last couple of days she’s been a lot more loving toward us both, which has been nice.
OrganizerMarch 30, 2021 at 1:53 PM
I shortened your question and submitted it for Robert AMA video. The video will probably go up later today so keep an eye out.
In the future, for serious issues like this – I recommend using Robert’s member AMA form first as you really want to be sure you hear what Robert has to say about these specific issues.
You can ask 1 question per video and he posts 2 videos per week on Tuesdays and Fridays. AMA form is located at the bottom of the Member Dashboard page – https://robertcabral.com/member-dashboard/
You can also browse and search other AMA videos with keywords to see if other members have asked a similar question or maybe you’ll find something that you’ve thought about asking.
Thanks and welcome!
MemberMarch 31, 2021 at 10:53 AM
Thank you so much, Alin. Robert’s input was actually very reassuring. This is our first large breed, and also the first time we’ve had a puppy this young, so we had no frame of reference for what’s normal. We were picturing her growling and snapping at us this way when she weighs sixty pounds or more, which is a scary prospect indeed. But it’s highly encouraging to hear that this is normal puppy behavior and she’ll outgrow it with time and structure.
After going through the New Member course and starting on the Puppy course, it’s clear that our biggest mistake was giving her too much time outside the crate and allowing her to become overstimulated. Since I posted my question, we’ve been keeping play and training sessions short and putting her away on a happy note. She’s already become calmer and more pleasant to be around. I’m also happy to report that she’s really picking up the Leave It command, and she didn’t attack my feet even once on this morning’s walk, which was a first. We’ve already gotten so much out of our membership and we’ve barely even made a dent in the content. Thanks so much to you and Robert for all you do.
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