Fear Aggression in Very Specific Situations Only

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sourced from: https://www.reddit.com/r/Dogtraining/comments/j20m53/fear_aggression_in_very_specific_situations_only/

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Hi! We have an 11 month old GSD that we got from her breeder at 7 months. She is a wonderful, sweet, happy puppy. We also have a 7 year old GSD that has never had any issues, and they get along great. We brought her home essentially during a fear period, but we did not recognize that at first. She was leash reactive in the sense she would bark at people who approached us on leash, but after working with a trainer she is definitely past that and we can happily pass people or I can converse with people without issue. She actually did best meeting strangers if we approached them from behind on a walk – this is how I’ve introduced a few friends.

We also frequent the dog park, where she is happiest. At the dog park, she approaches all people (and children) there with confidence, receives pets, and is overall ideal. She plays nicely with other dogs, and is truly unbothered by all human beings in that setting.

The issue we’re having is specific smaller, indoor, enclosed spaces with strangers. When I say specific, I mean weirdly specific. Every Friday, I take her on a long forest preserve walk, we practice her sit/stay/down for about 10 minutes, and then I take her to a more crowded downtown area with a dog friendly pet store. We walk the crowded streets with zero issue, she approaches strangers and overall holds herself well. Then, we go inside the store and I micromanage her behavior a bit – asking her to sit alongside me while I “shop” and she gladly receives treats from strangers in the store and overall is happy and confident there.

On the other hand, we took her to a friend’s hair salon (very small, two stations, only my friend and no other patrons or staff) and she immediately raised her hackles, and shows signs she is uncomfortable. She would take cheese and treats from our friend, but she did not seem to calm down much. After removing her from the room and calming for a few minutes, we reintroduced and her reaction was better at first. Then, our friend made a sudden movement (throwing away a paper towel) and our dog nipped at her. So, we brought her to the car and put her in her crate instead as that’s a safe space for her. She did not have much exercise or training practice the day we took her, so I do think that was one issue. I also think this might stem from me attempting to bring her to work with me when we first got her – it was too stressful for her and she ended up nipping at my dad. Obviously I have not taken her back to work with me.

While we are working with a trainer, she has improved so much. At first, she was skeptical of the trainer herself but with work and time on our part, she absolutely loves the trainer and anyone she brings with her to our sessions. Our trainer keeps telling us she has made so much progress in 3 months and not to worry.

But, I do worry! Because her demeanor is so wonderful in all other situations, is it possible for us to get past this and work through it and end up with a “normal” dog? She is so good in every other respect, it’s frustrating for me to watch her struggle in very very specific situations. Like I said, at home, at the dog park, on walks in public, she is perfect. She also does very well at the vet (small enclosed space with strangers?) , but since we can’t go inside with her due to Covid regulations, I think us not being there may be helpful. It’s ultimately when she is inside a small space with a stranger with us. Our trainer has suggested manufacturing these situations and following a very specific routine each time, micro-managing her behavior, and bringing her mat for her to have a safe spot. Starting with small short visits without interaction from the other person, and working up to more interaction / acknowledgment.

I am also beginning muzzle training with her, so we can have a sense of security when practicing or in these specific situations. We have only had her 3 months and after speaking with everyone who has worked with her previously, this is a new issue. Because it’s a new issue and we began working on it right away, is there hope she won’t struggle with this as an adult? Please talk me off the ledge 😭

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