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Hi, I’m a new member here and I have a serious problem and I need urgent advice. I have a 7 year old non-spayed female German Shepherd who I’ve raised since she was 7 weeks old and has killed 2 small dogs. As ironic as it sounds, she was raised with a Maltese and a Yorkshire Terrier. They were grumpy but they never physically bullied her as a puppy. One thing I noticed was that she always barked at other puppies and adult dogs since she was a puppy for no absolute reason. We thought she just needed more socialization and we tried our best by taking her to puppy training classes with other dogs, completed obedience training and the dog beach. However, to this day she never snapped out of the habit of getting triggered by other dogs. The first incident was with our older Maltese (14 years old) that she was raised with ever since she was a puppy. One day as I was walking down the stairs, she all of a sudden charged at our Maltese and bit her neck and popped her jugular. She always had this thing where she had to be in control of them and got triggered every time they moved. We’ve tried to train her out of that problem but it’s impossible. We were devastated and extremely close giving up on her. Then, we thought of how we built so many memories with her so we tried to look on the bright side and decided to think of it as a freak accident (since GSD jaws are naturally very strong). However, we recently got a sheltie puppy who was just a little boy (11-12 weeks we were only capable of having him for a week). He was a happy and healthy boy that had good puppy manners. He was aware of what triggered her and knew when to calm down. I don’t know what triggered her this time, but while he was playing with a toy she all of a sudden and silently snapped at him as she did to our Maltese and bit down on his neck. His wound was exactly where our Maltese got it. He passed away yesterday as soon as it happened. A day before this incident with our sheltie puppy, she acted like she wanted to play with him and gave him her toys but when he went close to them she gave him that “come any closer I’m gonna bite” look. She’s unpredictable. Honestly, now that I think about it, I felt like she was creating a trap just so she can kill him off. Trying to lure him with her toys so she has an excuse to kill him. I’m extremely disappointed in her and I can’t help but feel disgusted. He was just a defenseless puppy. She acts nervous and fearful of other dogs outside but she kills off the dogs that are weak and defenseless or sweet to her. Does she do this because she wants to be in control and the center of attention? In addition to that, I noticed that every time my family tries to call for each other, she barks like crazy. We tried to stop her from barking too much but she never listened and always talked back. Is she secretly the alpha female and is having a power trick right now? Is this normal behavior for a GSD? Is this how they normally react to newcomers?
 

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I am deeply sorry you've gone through this - losing a dog to another is especially traumatic and distressing.

Honestly, she sounds like an extremely high prey drive dog who experiences what's called predatory drift around small dogs. This is when the dog's hunting instincts are triggered so strongly by another (usually significantly smaller) animal that they act impulsively and without thinking, even if the other animal is one they have a good relationship with. Unfortunately, and as you've experienced, when the size difference is very large, it only takes one instant of impulsive predatory behavior from the bigger dog to maim or kill.

While this is on the spectrum of normal, if intense, dog behavior, dogs who experience predatory drift should never be considered safe around smaller dogs and other pets. The good news is that it wasn't premeditated or related to dominance at all (dominance theory involving one dog being an 'alpha' and/or dogs fighting for status in the household has been thoroughly debunked, and is not true to how dogs actually think and behave). If you want to work with her, I strongly suggest looking for a certified behaviorist who's up to date on modern, scientific understanding of dog behavior. She sounds like she has some deep-routed anxiety issues that could be addressed by a professional, which may help her get more impulse control and be less high-strung and unpredictable, but I would still never trust her to interact with small dogs given her history.
 

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I am sorry you had this happen.

German Shepherds (especially working lines) are bred to have high prey drive. When a small dog (or other small animal) acts erratically or has a toy that makes noise, some of these dogs prey drive kicks in and they grab the small animal resulting in injury of death.

You may have a really good German Shepherd, but you cannot have small animals, including small dogs, with this dog.

You probably also need to get this dog into some sort of "job" or sport so you can learn how to USE this drive to train the dog. Job could be agility, IGP, ring sports, PSA etc.
 

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@3GSD4IPO, that’s not true at all, and it fully depends on the dog. My older GSD has lived with my Maltese under the same roof, not in a crate, for almost 9 years, and they get along very well. We have a 4 month old GSD puppy now, and my older GSD won’t even allow the puppy to play rough with the Maltese and gets in between if I’m not quick enough.
 

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@Lodeto 3GSD and I may disagree on many things, but I'm backing her up on this one. She never said you can't have any GSD with small dogs/animals, she said that the original poster cannot trust this specific GSD, which has already killed two small dogs, with small dogs/animals. She even said that some, not all, GSDs have prey drive that kicks in around small dogs/animals in certain situations.

While of course it's true that every dog, even within the same breed, is going to be different in terms of their prey drive, tendency towards predatory drift, and behavior around small dogs and other small household pets, 3GSD was definitely speaking to the OP's specific situation, about a dog who already has a history of killing small dogs it's living with.
 

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^^^ What DaySleepers and 3GSD said. I have friends who have Dobermans and cats peacefully coexisting. I adopted a young Doberman from my city shelter, and turned him over to a rescue two weeks later because he was trying to get to my cats and bird with unfriendly intentions. These are the same cats and bird that safely live with a GSD and APBT.
 

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You have all my sympathy, NanonymousDog. Such a terrible thing.

You must know, though, that no one else can answer your question as to what to do with your dog. I know people who have reacted with everything from resigning themselves to keeping such a dog for its lifetime with the restrictions that means, to rehoming (which from your description of the dog's general behavior doesn't sound reasonable) to euthanasia.

I'm with others here - extreme prey drive is a feature in some breeds more than others, but within those breeds it's stronger in some individuals than others. But no matter how you define it or explain it, I'd never trust a dog with this one's history again, and no amount of training would change that.
 
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