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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

Recently my friend has been struggling to cope with her GSD, Milo. He’s only 7 months old yet he already has lots of behavioural problems that I’m aiming to work through. I’m studying an animal course and have lots of experience with dogs but Milo is challenging due to his size and high energy. Most of his problems revolve around walking.

Firstly, he cannot be with small dogs. He is not aggressive with dogs but he essentially squishes them. Even if the dog responds with a yelp or lunges at him, he will not stand off. He seems to lack social cues that most dogs have developed at his age but I know he is still young and has learning to do. My friend is afraid to walk him in busy areas due to this. I’m not sure how to tackle this because he won’t break his focus from a small dog for a treat or to play.

Secondly, he is very strong and pulls relentlessly so he has to wear a halti, which rubs on his face. She has switched the halti for a padded one, which still rubs on his nose. I’ve been trying to correct this through clicker training. I’ve been using the command ‘Heel’ within the house and clicking and treating him if he comes to my side. But as soon as he is outside his focus from people is lost and he only wants to pull to other dogs. Should I change my tactic?

Also, Milo plays very rough with people. He will mouth and bite people and eventually hurts them. He jumps up and scratches. Mine and my friends arms and hands have been covered in bruises and scratches from him constantly doing it. I have tried to stand and turn away from him but even then, he will not stop. The only way he will stop if he is removed from the room.

Milo is walked for about an hour daily, off leash.

Thank you.

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If you do searches for each individual issue you'll find a bunch of threads on the topics, but just as a general response based on experience - these are all normal puppy problems. GSDs are mouthy, obsessive, and exuberant, and a young dog doesn't have the self-control to rein in these characteristics the way an older dog can. You will see some improvement with training but until his brain is finished developing, you have to temper your expectations. This is why shelters are full of dogs age 6mo to 2 years. It will clear up with time as long as the dog is handled in a consistent and firm but positive manner. In the meantime, his behavior simply needs to be "managed." Don't get me wrong, current training is important, but it won't fully kick in until the dog's frontal lobe does.

He also almost certainly needs to be getting more exercise than he is. Not in terms of duration, necessarily, but in terms of intensity and intellectual engagement. Jogging doesn't wear a healthy young dog out much. Maybe try something like scent work or trick training, which uses the mind, and/or exercise like swimming, which exercises the whole body. Should take the edge off that frantic energy.

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I agree, these are pretty normal puppy problems, especially for a GSD. Training is important, but giving him time to mature is, too!

First, no, pups absolutely do not have good social skills at 7 months old! They have no idea how big they are, too boot. They are basically teenagers, obnoxious and quite stupid. Find playmates for him that are his size or bigger, but are appropriate making corrections. Always separate him for a time out if he's getting too obnoxious or it seems the other dog is no longer enjoying the interaction.

Try the "Be a Tree" method. Basically, when puppy pulls, you put on the brakes. Wait until he releases pressure, then say "Good!" or whatever your word is and continue walking. You probably won't get more than two steps, ha. Rinse and repeat. Start in low-distraction environments and increase difficulty. I did not enforce a heel during walks, but I found that rewarding with a tasty treat for choosing to walk beside me or for simply stopping to check in with me helped encourage focus on me.

Getting mugged by your pup is another case of your pup not realizing how big he is, and having poor impulse control. When Milo gets too rough or bites, start by shoving a toy in his mouth and encouraging him to use that instead of your flesh. If he continues to go for your body, withdraw attention. Step over a baby gate, close a door, whatever, just remove your attention for 10 minutes or so. After ten minutes, try again. Rinse and repeat. It will take a long time. You will begin to notice that when he does bite, it's getting lighter. He will get too rough less. Eventually, you will have a dog that knows how to play with humans appropriately, but you can expect that mouthiness for another 6 months. GSDs are mouthy land sharks, so their training in this area will take a bit longer.

Welcome to the teenage stage of puppyhood! It is by far the hardest time, in my opinion, but your friend is getting closer to their well-behaved companion!

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The dog's behavior is normal.

The training lacks clarity and consistency. Why is Milo playing with smaller dogs? Does she have smaller dogs? If not, Milo does not need to play with other dogs. Milo needs to start the basics of handler focus and basic obedience. If Milo is focused on his handler he will not pull and he will not play with other dogs.

Lose the Halti and do not use a harness. Put a flat martingale collar on the dog or a fursaver collar NOT attached to the "live ring" so it does not choke.. dead ring is any link on the collar but the choking ring. The danger with a fursaver on a young dog is they can slip it. I prefer to start with a martingale.

Get a clicker or use YES to mark and reward every time the dog looks are the handler or does the right thing. I would not feed this dog out of a bowl unless you are feeding Raw. Even then, I would make the dog work for every meal. Look at Karen Pryor's site and see what she offers. I train with her stuff but I am not an exclusive free shaper (tho I have used free shaping for many things). Another good site to go to is Dave Kroyer. He works Malinois and German Shepherds and knows the breeds. Remember.. dog behavior is hard wired mostly. That is how a breed is developed.. and why genetics are so important. German Shepherds were bred to herd (differently than Border Collies) and to fight off predators and humans that might hurt the shepherd or the animals being herded.

The handler must be the most important thing in this dogs life.. and to do that all the dog wants must come from the handler. Toys, food, walks, being let out of a crate, going through doors and so forth. The handler must Clear and Consistent. Sit means sit until the dog is released or given another command. Of course at 7 months sit is not sustainable.. while the dog is big, he is not mentally mature. He is still a puppy. He will BE a puppy until he is about 3 years old.

When walking, remember that pulling is oppositional reflex. Dog pull, we pull back.. and it escalates. So the thing is to be cognizant. Get a 3 foot leash and, starting inside, walk the dog. BEFORE he gets to the end of the leash, TURN and go in a completely different direction (you will initiate the pull) and the instant HE slacks the leash to follow MARK it with a click or YES and feed. Rinse and repeat. Same outside. Couple this with focus and eliminate play with other dogs and you will be on your way.

IF the handler owns other dogs that are small, she need to physically separate the dogs. A puppy needs to bond with his handler and not with other dogs. If, at some point, she wants to run a pack.. that is a thing for the future. Maybe when this GS dog is two. Even then she cannot just go off and leave the young large dog with little ones. She needs to set boundaries and be there. All the large dog has to do is take a swipe at a small dog with a foot and the small dog will be injured permanently.. or killed.

There is nothing wrong with this dog. He needs clarity and training and to bond with his owner. It is really that simple.
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