German Shepherds are amazing dogs, and typically biddable (making them easy to train) and smart (making them quick to learn). However, this doesn’t mean your dog fits the mold, or even if she does, that you’ll always have a smooth relationship.
Most folks who get a German Shepherd either know of or used to have a dog that was absolutely perfect — never made a mess in the house, didn’t shed, never jumped up, never barked inappropriately, never lunged at people or other dogs, never chewed the furniture, always laid quietly in another room during dinner, always paid its taxes on time, never forgot to bring home the milk, etc.
Not all of us are as blessed. Sometimes, a dog comes into our lives who has perfected a different art: making our existence miserable!
Here are a few signs to indicate that your dog’s behavior may require professional intervention:
Your dog is actively threatening to harm or has harmed a person. As much as dogs will be dogs, this is the land of people — and sometimes litigious ones. Besides not wanting anyone to be hurt, it’s important to get a handle on your dog’s aggressive behavior, because sometimes an aggressive display (barking, lunging, jumping at a person’s face, etc.) can be misinterpreted. In fact, any “biting incident” involving a dog, even a dog with no prior history of aggression, and even if the bite did not break the skin can be grounds for euthanasia in this country, as the case of Rolo demonstrates.
Your dog has threatened or harmed livestock, cats or other dogs. Again, besides the potential for euthanasia (or worse, if a neighbor or livestock owner has vengeance in mind), these kinds of dog problems aren’t simple to fix. Unless there’s a sibling rivalry issue between two dogs, this type of behavior is likely rooted in predation. Lots of well-meaning folks follow the advice of friends, “trainers,” or relatives, and punish the dog in an attempt to “correct” predatory actions. But predatory behavior is unlikely to be wholly suppressed with positive punishment, no matter how creative. And painful and/or threatening treatment (including yelling and leash-popping) of a dog who dislikes other dogs can exponentially worsen the problem.
You’re feeling helpless about, hopeless about or afraid of your dog’s behavior. If you’re dog is soiling his crate every day, or tearing up the house, or refusing to budge from the couch or bed when asked, ask yourself whether it might be time to call for professional help. Although animal behavior consultation can be expensive, it is a far smaller price to pay than chancing the dog’s life — which is likely to be the outcome when you decide not only can you not handle the behavior, but life would be easier without the dog. A well-known fact is that dogs are relinquished to shelters for behavior problems more than any other reason. Don’t let your dog be one of them.
For help finding a professional dog trainer or animal behavior consultant near you, visit the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants at iaabc.org, or the Association of Pet Dog Trainers at apdt.com.