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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

About 2 years ago I rescued my dog Falcor from a bad situation. He was abused and never trained. He is now 4 years old. Getting better everyday with his training. When I got him he had many emotional issues and was uncontrollable. Today, he is a good animal for the most part and while he is not my 'heart' dog by any stretch, he will live his remaining years with me in peace. Yesterday he had a very bad episode. We took him with us disc golfing which is in a secluded forest. He usually does well going for walks in the forest with us. Quiet, looks around happily smelling everything. This time, he was a mess. He was whining, crying and at some points screaming. I know he did not hurt himself and it was not a medical reason for his behaviour. I know where I got him from he never got further than 30 feet on his chain on their acreage so he is not used to new things. I know he is not a dog I can bring many places, but he loves his walks in the forest. It almost seemed he was having a nervous breakdown. I could not figure out why and so I hope you can give me some ideas. There was nothing new in the equation, it was only myself, my SO and our mutual friend who Falcor loves. The only new thing was the disc golf, but he was not interested in them at all. Only walking along screaming as though I was beating him-which I have never done since when I got him he was afraid of everything, even things that did not move.
 

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Some dogs scream when they're excited. Did he seem scared or stressed, or was he just making a lot of noise?
 

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He seemed stressed when my SO would walk away to play the game, as though he thought SO would walk off. When we were walking from basket to basket following SO and friend he would scream and make a lot of noise. Friend asked to see what would happen if Falcor lead the group, and I tried it. He did stop screaming, but still whined. I didn't let him lead for more than one basket, and again we followed and he continued screaming. At one point it seemed like he wasnt even listening to me anymore, like he was in shock or something. But from what I was seeing I could not tell why. I read something about thresholds-is it possible he was so excited he went above his threshold and couldn't process the stimuli anymore? Sensory overload? I know he is a weak nerved dog (I brought him to a great obedience trainer here who also does something called shutshund, probably spelling it wrong who evaluated him for me) could that be why?
 

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He had me bring the dog to his obedience facility. He didn't do anything with the dog. We stood and talked about Falcor and his behaviour. I showed him some commands Falcor had learned in his time with me. In the time we were there he saw Falcor for who he is, I truely believe that. Falcor yawned a lot, licked his lips, barked at things and generally acted fearful. At one point after another dog had walked past us (across the room, the dog was being taken for a walk and had to cross us to leave) Falcor shook himself as though he was wet and the trainer said 'its alright, shake it off'. At the end he told me Falcor needed to loose 5 pounds, I needed to stop being on top of him and let him make his own choices (when the dog was crossing the room, i called falcor to the heel position, he was originally laying down about 4 ft from me) and that if I kept working with him his behaviour issues would stop. He invited me for personal training with him(one on one, Falcor and me with him), but unfortuantely the cost is too high. I DO intend to take falcor to him, however it will be in the spring. Falcor gets everything he needs...but the training has to wait.

ETA: This happened in the early summer
 

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I love GSD's and probably one day will have one. I think they are phenomenal dogs when bred well and trained correctly. A friend of mine has joked (and I'm sure she heard this somewhere else) that if Timmy had had a GSD instead of Lassie, that he never would have fallen in the well. ;-)

With that being said, lots of shepherds nowadays don't have great temperament and many are very nervous, as is Falcor. I'm sure that his upbringing didn't help, because shepherds do need extensive socialization as pups.

Here are some additional questions for you:
1) Have you had a full blood panel done on him, including a thyroid test?
2) Could it be that he needs his eyes checked? Many shepherds have PRA and sometimes a trick of light or shadow can startle a dog
3) Are there times when he does feel relaxed? Perhaps at home? Or is he always on edge no matter the circumstance?
 

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Thank you for your reply. I haven't had his blood checked. He's been to the vet for vaccines and routine checkups, but getting his blood checked was never mentioned to me. The vet looked at his eyes, but maybe not throughly. He wears a basket muzzle to the vet (he fears strange men) so it may have hindered the vet being able to get a proper look at him.

Falcor is most relaxed at home and the property. We brought him once to a friends house, and he paced the entire time we were there and he had no fun at all, even though there was 2 other dogs he could have played with. He just paced. When people come over, he has a mini melt down (there are two people where the mini meltdown consists of one bark and him running to them with his butt wiggling he is wagging so hard, other people who do not come over so often, you would think the world is ending. He barks and carries on until they give him a simple command and a treat) He is a hermit...would rather sit in the confines of the house with me and SO than go somewhere new or have anyone come over. But he has always loved going to that forest, and another one for hikes. It is the only thing we can do with him, as he doesn't seem to have fun anywhere else.

I will look into getting his thyroid and eyes checked. If he could be a 'normal' dog it would alleviate a lot of stress. As it is, he is My Falcor, and we try to keep his quality of life up even though he doesn't like to do normal doggy things. As it is, he enjoys his daily walks. He always gets 3 walks a day, some as long as an hour and a half, some shorter about 30 minutes. He loves going on our normal routes, and once in a while I bring him on a new street.
 

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I understand trying to fix things but sometimes I compare it to making a person scared of heights become a Mount Everest climbing guide. If a dog can live a comfortable life at home there is no set rule that says he has to be fixed.
 

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Agree that it's important to know the dog's limits and to work from there. Acceptance is key, too. Not all dogs greet every new person or thing with boundless joy. Knowing that is a third of the battle (many people never accept it and make the dog's life miserable forcing it to be near things it fears most; this usually ends badly for the owner but almost always for the dog, i.e. it ends up fear biting someone and is put down). Another third is training to desensitize him to the things he fears. The final third is learning to manage or avoid those things he'll never get used to.

A few resources that might help:

http://fearfuldogs.com/
http://fearfuldogs.wordpress.com/
The Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell and Help for Your Fearful Dog by Nicole Wilde (both books are easy to get on Amazon)

Q: Was your dog the loudest when the people in your group were separated or did that not seem to matter? Our dog used to get visibly anxious when we separated, e.g. at the beach. Sometimes she would plop her butt down and refuse to move until my husband and I had come together again. I think it was partly a fear thing (feeling uncomfortable at leaving one of us) and partly a herding instinct thing - she always seems to want us to be together. At home, she used to get nervous if we were on different floors of the house or if one of us went outside.

The disc golfing and motion related to it could also have scared him. Check out the reaction of the dog in the video on the blog link above - video is called Neophobia. All the classic fear signs are there - lip licking, turning away, standing backward in her stance, paw lift, tucked tail, flattened ears, etc. All because the owner placed an unfamiliar object in the room. Watch the tail come up into a curl the minute the dog is freed from the room to dash outside. The relief is palpable.

After working with her in a lot of situations, our dog is a ton better than she used to be. She still has her issues in some situations (vets, groomers, strangers in the house), but we know them and have come up with ways to manage most of them. As wvasko points out above, you'll need to decide how far you want to push the training and the dog.
 

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What's that saying, something about the ability to change/fix something and the wisdom to know the things that can't be changed/fixed. (something like that, excuse my ignorance)
 

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What's that saying, something about the ability to change/fix something and the wisdom to know the things that can't be changed/fixed. (something like that, excuse my ignorance)
God grant me the courage to change the things I can,
The serenity to accept the things I can't,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.

There ya go.
 
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