How To Train A Protective Dog?

Discussion in 'Training Challenges' started by J3ll3n, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. J3ll3n New Member

    We are looking at a German Shepard who has some issues being overly protective around strangers. What is a good way to deal with such an issue?
    MaryK likes this.

  2. southerngirl Honored Member

    What does he do around strangers? Is he growling, barking? Is his tail up, down, inbetween? Knowing this will allow us to understand why the GS is not liking strangers so we can help you.
    MaryK and Dogster like this.
  3. Adrianna & Calvin Experienced Member

    Hi there, and welcome.

    If this is a Shepherd that you are looking into adopting, you have to consider if you have the time, resources, ability, and desire to work with a dog who has known reactivity/aggression issues. Do you want this dog in your home with your young children? As Dogster said, it depends on what you mean by 'overly protective.' I don't want a dog who is 'protective' at all, since it's for me (not him) to decide if a situation is dangerous. A dog who reacts to a creepy guy running at you and shouting will do the same when an old friend of your rushes up to you in a parking lot to give you a hug hello.

    German Shepherds tend to be on the 'spooky' side and you want one who is not, not, not, given that training will be new to you and you have children in the home. You are looking for a dog who LOVES kids -- not tolerates them, not "is okay" with them, LOVES them. You want a dog who sees a group of people and beelines towards the kids with happy wags.

    I would work with a reputable GSD rescue and explain what you need. I'd also consider other breeds and GSD mixes, and perhaps even working with a behaviorist in order to choose the right fit for your family. Best of luck, and keep us posted!
  4. MaryK Honored Member

    I agree with all the above, except, sorry A & C, that German Shepherds are 'spooky'. I've had them since I was five, all rescue dogs, and it's only now that I've got a Blue Heeler and a Shepherd X. They are, imo, the easiest dogs to train but DO need someone who understands their characteristics and general nature. If you're not up to their level, they will 'play' with you and tease you. You have to earn their respect (as you would with a Stallion, they remind me of Stallions in that way)! They also need to be worked daily, then when they are past the puppy stage, will be quite happy to 'couch potato' afterwards.

    They are marvelous with kids, but like ALL dogs, should never be left alone (it's more what the kids can do to the dog than the other way around).

    One of my rescues was very reactive and word of warning here, it took two years before he over came his problems. He had been shockingly abused, tied up, not fed or watered and finally he broke free and ended up for two weeks on the streets. He was literally at deaths door when I rescued him. Having spent two years of his life in sheer misery, he was over reactive with just about everything, mostly dogs though, but ended up making videos, being in a demonstration squad and winning first place etc. in Obedience Trials. But it was two years of really hard, solid, training, several hours a day and a heap of patience, praise and treats (pre clicker days but I NEVER used old school training methods, always treats and praise).

    I was able to take him everywhere dogs where allowed, and LOL a couple of times where, strictly speaking dogs were not allowed, but he won hearts everywhere he really showed what love and forgiveness is all about. He loved life, and everyone and everything on this planet, but it was hard work to get him to that stage.

    I do agree, if you've never owned a German Shepherd before, work with a reputable German Shepherd Rescue Group as A & C has already suggested.

    Sheps are very special dogs but not for everyone!

    And as Southerngirl has asked, please give full details of his over protective/reactions.
  5. jackienmutts Honored Member

    And now my 2 cents. I also agree with everything Mary said above - and everything A & C said, except, that part about GSs being spooky. I've had GSs for 30 yrs and that's just not true - if it were, they'couldn't be used for Seeing Eye, K9/Police work, Protection dogs, etc. They're the most widely used dog in the world. Yes - they've been bred to guard, and they take it very seriously. If you're looking at a dog who already has "issues" and you have no experience, you may want to look at another. Any reputable GS rescue (and if you need one, I can help you and find you the perfect dog if you're in the US) will will be able to give you assistance.

    Many years ago I took in a 15 mo old female who had not been socialized at all. I knew her whole history, she had been kept in a backyard in a 6x6 kennel, and possibly abused by a man. She quickly made the decision no one was coming near me, esp strange men, and even ones she had met. It took me a bit to realize why neighbors crossed the street or gave us such a wide berth while walking until someone told me - she was quietly baring teeth, then suddenly lunged out and bit someone one day. Then again. And again. Thankfully no damage done (meaning, skin broken - only clothes ripped). I was scared to death of my own dog - not for me, but terrifed to take her out. I found an incredible trainer, and altho it took quite a while, we started at the beginning with her, socialized her, started obedience training with her, and over time, she became an incredible dog - stable, trustworthy, etc. After probably the age of 3-4 (hard to remember now) I never worried about her again - she loved men, women, kids, other dogs, etc. and I could take her absolutly anywhere. Yet - she has been the most protective (and wisely so) dog I've ever been around. Her sense of who she could trust and who she couldn't was amazing. Was she "spooky"? Absolutely not. She needed to understand that she didn't need to guard and protect and be "on" (to an extreme) all the time. Once she relaxed, gained socializationa and confidence, got out in the world, learned the ways of the world, etc, she gained that understanding and it all fell into place for her.

    Without knowing anything about this dog, or your level of training abilities, family, kids, etc, it would be hard to guide you. If you have a busy household, I'd perhaps dissuade you only for this dog. I think when they're learning who and when they should protect and guard, and when they can relax and enjoy, they need some "down time" and in a busy household where lots of people are always coming/going, it may be confusing to the dog for a while. If you house is quiet, and you're set on this dog, then I'd try to first find a trainer you're comfortable with - and there again, is something to consider. You don't want anyone aversive, no yanking, jerking, old school choke, prong, or shock collars (and with GS, the first thing many trainers want to do is put a prong collar on them - as "they can handle it") - as that can make things way worse.

    Lots to think about, I know. But you're thinking about them at a good time - before you make the decision, rather than after - then saying "oh nooooo, now what?". Good for you.
    MaryK and Dogster like this.
  6. MaryK Honored Member

    Jackie is right about the many uses of German Shepherds. A while ago, several years from memory, the Canadian Police tried to use Malamutes as Police Dogs, due to the fact they could handle the deep snow, extreme weather conditions, best of any breed. However they had to stop, as Malamutes (and please note I adore the breed) could not be 'called off' when in a trained attack mode, whereas German Shepherds can be. That's why they're also used so much in film work, they do NOT pack as do other breeds like for instance Malamutes.

    She is also right in everything else she's said. And I too am glad you're thinking first, best way to be, rather than the 'ooohhh no what on earth have we done' scenario.
  7. Adrianna & Calvin Experienced Member

    Now, now, I didn't say that all GSDs were spooky :) or even that any were 'spooky.' Dogs bred to guard are bred to be vigilant, easily aroused, and to respond with physical/vocal intimidation. In breeding for these traits, it is inevitable that some overvigilant, overprotective (spooky) dogs will come into being; you'll meet some GSDs who, like I said, tend toward the spooky side. That's different than saying the breed is aggressive, untrainable, nuts, etc. Personally I've worked with both police/SAR GSDs, and pet GSs from reputable breeders, and found some hypervigilant dogs among them, and a few of the pet dogs had serious fear issues such as Mary and Jackie describe.

    My point to the OP was that choosing an individual of a guarding/herding breed should be done with the help of someone familiar with the breed, the available dogs for adoption, and the family's needs. To the OP: please, please take Jackie up on her offer. She's knowledgeable, involved in the GS community, and can be a great resource for you.
    Mutt likes this.
  8. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Sorry A&C - maybe I misunderstood your meaning of the word "spooky" - I hope if they do decide this may not be the right dog, they'll reach out, I can hook them up with a fabulous rescue, a coordinator who will work with them, knows the dogs inside and out, many are fostered (with experienced GS foster families), and they can find the right one. This rescue is wonderful and will in fact, as much as they want dogs adopted, steer certain dogs away from different circumstances, as they know some need individuals experienced with GSs/guarding breeds, etc. They also know the dogs who will be fabulous in homes with kids, some need little/no training experience (cuz they're soft and easy - yes, there are soft easy sheppies out there), etc.

    J3ll3n, I truly meant it, if this isn't the dog, please let me know - I'd love to help.
    Dogster, MaryK and southerngirl like this.

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