We have a 4 month old German Shepard puppy that we've had for
about 4-weeks now. He's great with us, however he seems to have
a huge fear of strangers. If people come to our house he won't
turn his back to
them and if they get up off the couch he barks at them. He acts
extremely afraid. Also when we take him for walks he doesn't
like to pass people on the sidewalk. He puts the breaks on and
again shows a
great fear towards strangers. The worst was when he growled,
while on the leash, at one of the neighborhood children who was
about 4 feet back from the dog. I had to pull him away.
Again, I think
he's afraid. We are a young couple and in the next few years
would like to have children. We don't want our dog to be
afraid or aggressive towards children. We really don't have any
small children in our family to socialize him with and a now I'm
apprehensive to let the kids be near him. Do you have any
suggestions on how we can begin to socialize this dog with other
people, and especially children?
The behavior your pup is showing is indeed rooted in fear, and
is more than likely the result of a lack of social exposure
during early puppyhood. There are other factors that contribute
to the development of a sound social temperament, but one of the
most impactful is early and proper socialization.
Science has shown that there are several developmental stages
that a pup goes through within the first 12 weeks of life that
significantly impact social behavior (attraction or fear) in
adulthood. For the
purposes of your situation, I will focus on the period between
the 6th and 12th weeks of age. Within this 6 week period, the
optimal time to transition pups and expose them to new
experiences is from 6- 8 weeks, when they are most adaptable to
social bonding within the "human" world at large - including
strange humans of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages (kids
too!), as well as other dogs and pups, environments, etc. During
this time, the pups willingness to confidently approach
strangers, investigate novel environments (including new
objects) peaks, and is the reason that this is widely accepted
as the ideal time to socialize them in a broad ranging way,
outside of the environment they have been in up to this point.
From your email, it looks as though you brought your puppy home
at about 12 weeks of age. Many people (unfortunately including
some breeders) are unaware of the importance of proper
socialization during this period of development and a problem is
not realized until the pup is in a situation with something or
someone it is experiencing for the first time, where the effects
of a lack of proper socialization become evident.
None of this means that you can't help your dog become more
sociallyconfident, but it is critically important that you get
into a good positive reinforcement puppy socialization class as
soon as possible.
You must make sure that you are in the hands of someone
knowledgeable that can give you suggestions for socializing him
when you're not in class as well. Training will be very
important beyond a puppy class
too, but again, make sure that you are working with a qualified
person that will guide you in using behaviorally sound, positive
reinforcement training techniques.
If you are in the Metro Detroit area please contact us directly
at www.woofology.com or call 248-244-1372 for more information
on class schedules.
If not, contact us for a referral to a qualified professional in
your area. There are more articles at www.woofology.com on
finding a good positive reinforcement trainer, and an article
Positive Reinforcement" that you may find helpful.
Wishing You the Best,
Lisa Patrona, Dip. CBST, CPDT-KA, ACDBC, AABP-CDT
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