HiOur 6 month old German shepherd male puppy is showing aggressive behavior toward our 2 sons. They are 19 and 21. He will bark at the sound of our older son moving around in his room in the basement of our home. While barking he will also back away as if he is afraid. We have tried yanking on his choke chain and correcting him as advised by his breeder, but he still carries on with the barking. He will let our son get close to him and pet him, and while he has never bitten him, we are concerned.

He is doing somewhat better with our younger son, since he is around him more. The strange thing is that he doesn't show any sign of this behavior around any other males. We have taken him around other family members and their dogs, and to the pet store with no problems. He is fine with other men that come to the house and he is fine with my wife and our 17 year old daughter. He was raised for the first 6 months by a single 60ish woman, who decided he was too much for her.

He is a good dog otherwise, seems to be pretty intelligent and eager to learn. We don't know how to correct this behavior and are open to suggestions. Thanks
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Hi Our 6 month old German shepherd male puppy is showing aggressive behavior toward our 2 sons. They are 19 ... room in the basement of our home. While barking he will also back away as if he is afraid. snip

I wouldn't call this, if this is all he is doing, aggressive behavior. Your German shepherd is behaving like a young German shepherd. The way to work on this is to bring the dog downstairs when he starts the barking, so he can see what it is. Your son should say something like "silly dog, it's only me" and toss him a bit of cheese as soon as the dog stops barking at him. A few times of doing this and your pup should get the idea that it's OK for somebody to be moving around downstairs. Jerking on the dog's choke collar won't help in this situation. jdoee
Hi Our 6 month old German shepherd male puppy is showing aggressive behavior toward our 2 sons. They are 19 ... be pretty intelligent and eager to learn. We don't know how to correct thisbehavior and are open to suggestions. Thanks

would it be possible to get the sons into an obedience class (with the dog, of course)? it might provide a good bonding experience for them.

-kelly
If my sons walk into the room and sit down, the dog will bark and lunge at them and even bit them. The treats don't work. He tries to bit them while they are trying to give him a treat.
If I put the dog on a lead and hand the lead to my son, the dog will calm down. But, 30 minutes later if my son comes back in the room it starts all over again.
It sounds like your dog may be having a fear aggression response to your sons. If this is the case, it is not at all surprising that corrections are not helping and they may be making the situation worse.

Without seeing your dog in person there isn't a whole lot of advice anyone can give you. I would look for a good behaviorist or trainer who is experienced in dealing with fear aggression using non-coercive or "behavioral" methods. Here are some tips for finding a behaviorist:

http://www.webtrail.com/petbehavior/guide.html
There is a list of certified behaviorists here:
http://www.animalbehavior.org/Applied/CAAB directory.html

And here:
http://www.veterinarybehaviorists.org/Diplomates.htm

If what's going on is what I think it is, you'll most likely have the best success using an approach that combines desensitization and counterconditioning. Patricia McConnell has an excellent pamphlet out with a behavior modification program meant to achieve this and I have used similar methods with my fear aggressive dog with great success. The pamphlet is called "The Cautious Canine" and is available for something like $5 from Sitstay.com and Dogwise.com.In the meantime, before you get help and decide on a course of action, it may be best to keep your dog separated from your sons as much as possible. Don't force any interaction (don't ask the pup to sit for pets or treats or do anything with your sons) because it sounds like most of the interactions are negative (from the pup's perspective) and every bad interaction only makes the problem harder to deal with in the future (because practice makes perfect).

When your pup starts interacting with your sons again, make sure every interaction is brief and positive and not more intense than the dog can handle (for example, if the dog is OK sitting ten feet away from your son, but starts growling at five feet, you want these interactions to remain at ten feet or farther until improvement warrants otherwise) and never progress faster than the dog's own pace.
Since your pup only has a problem with your two sons, this should be relatively simple to fix but I would keep an eye out for negative reactions to other people. Don't get tense or otherwise communicate discomfort to your dog, but just keep it in mind. You might also ask your sons if there is anything they might have done in the past, even totally unintentionally, that might have scared the pup badly enough to cause this reaction. It might help you get a better handle on what you're dealing with.
My fear aggressive dog used to be terrified of my brother (because he's a guy) and my mother (because she doesn't like dogs, and they can tell) and so he would have to be shut up in my old room every time I came home to visit, otherwise he would be very stressed and would bark, growl, and lunge at them. I went through the desensitization and counterconditioning exercises with him and them and now Solo can be loose and underfoot like any normal family dog when I am visiting home.

In fact, I now think my mother is on his Most Favorite People list since she's fed him enough leftover turkey the past couple of days to kill an ox. She's gone from being Scary Dog-Hating Lady to Wonderful Turkey Lady. And she even thinks Solo is OK now that he isn't growling at her.

Good luck.

Melanie Lee Chang > Form ever follows function. Departments of Anthropology and Biology >
University of Pennsylvania > Louis Sullivan (Email Removed) >
Hi Our 6 month old German shepherd male puppy is showing aggressive behavior toward our 2 sons. They are 19 ... be pretty intelligent and eager to learn. We don't know how to correct thisbehavior and are open to suggestions. Thanks

Please STOP yanking on the choke chain. Obviously its not working, and its just probably stressing the dog out worse.
And call a trainer to come to your house ASAP to work with you and the boys.
Without seeing your dog in person there isn't a whole lot of advice anyone can give you.I know *I* wouldn't touch this with a 10 foot pole.

I would look for a good behaviorist or trainer who
is experienced in dealing with fear aggression using non-coercive or "behavioral" methods. Here are some tips for finding a behaviorist: There is a list of certified behaviorists here: http://www.animalbehavior.org/Applied/CAAB directory.html

What do you know? There's one close to me now!
My fear aggressive dog used to be terrified of my brother (because he's a guy) and my mother (because she ... Dog-Hating Lady to Wonderful Turkey Lady. And she even thinks Solo is OK now that he isn't growling at her.

Thanks for the Solo and Mom update.
I hadn't heard about the situatin in ages and often wondered if your Mom warmed up to Solo and vise-versa.
Terri
Ditto to the above. Also it does sound as though the this dog possibly came from not so good of breeding, ie sounds like a GSD with "bad nerves" to me more than aggression. And of course if that is the case it would be best to seek a behavorist or a very qualified trainer that is not inclined to use compulsion training as the first set of tools, if at all.
Personally without seeing the dog and the body language of this dog it is rather hard for anyone to say what is going on. The best advice is to find an expert who can come to your house and see what is going on.
Gwen
I hadn't heard about the situatin in ages and often wondered if your Mom warmed up to Solo and vise-versa.
The funny thing is that she likes him much better now that she's gotten to know Fly. She thinks Fly is prettier (because she doesn't like Solo's yellow eyes), but Solo has natural good manners that Fly, with her endless enthusiasm, lacks. He also has a sort of sweet and snuggly way about him when he trusts a person that Fly doesn't have because she came with the extra booster rocket kit and is always on the go. In my mom's book, now that she's gotten to know both dogs, Solo is much classier than Fly and therefore the better dog. It bothers her that Fly is excited all the time.

It's a far cry from "Well, now that you have that other dog and it's normal, you can get rid of Solo, right?"

Melanie Lee Chang > Form ever follows function. Departments of Anthropology and Biology >
University of Pennsylvania > Louis Sullivan (Email Removed) >
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