The German Shepherd Dog is perfect as family companion animal: easy to train, loyal, reliable, integrative, empathetic, gentle, balanced and tolerant. The GSD also is very well suited as companion dog for an individual, whether male or female. - Still, in many households something seems not to go right, and so dog owners send us questions and HELP! requests relating to the GSD as family companion. Here are a few.
My Question: My husband has had his GSD for almost 4 years now since she was a puppy. My concern is she has anxiety when people leave her, especially my husband and I. She doesn't like other dogs, except my mother in law's dog. And now that we live with my parents, she has claimed my bedroom as her own, especially when my mom walks past the room. How do I get her to not be so territorial?
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Solution: This clearly is a Pack conflict. Despite what you can read in some places, domesticated dogs are hugely Pack-oriented. And when I capitalize Pack, I am referring to the human Pack members from the dog's viewpoint.
The Pack conflict starts with you thinking of the dog being your husband's dog (you wrote that). Dogs feel what you're thinking there - because your behavior too reflects that very thought (likely for you unconsciously). So first you need to learn to think "You are now my dog, as much as my husband's dog. You are OUR dog. And so I expect you to behave towards me with the same respect you display towards him." This change in thinking will drastically change your posture and behavior, even though you may not notice. And then your dog (mark my wording) will adapt to that change in your energy state and respect you too.
Secondly, the same applies to your mum, as you all currently share one house. For good reason I always require: "Every family member must be established as accepted Pack leader for the dog" (this comprises the smallest children too, and particularly them). Your dog is not just being territorial there, your dog is experiencing a Pack conflict which causes stress for the dog. Your behavior as well as your mum's behavior need to clearly demonstrate that you respect the dog but likewise expect to be respected by the dog.
Thirdly, aim to involve your husband to re-program your dog. For example, when you two leave the dog behind (where you say you know the dog shows anxiety then) agree with your husband that he just leaves without good-bye to the dog, while you "say" good-bye to the dog. And upon return, again you greet the dog much more, while your husband almost ignores the dog initially (for a week or two at least).
Note that accepted Pack leadership is diametrically opposed to the forced-upon Pack leadership that certain dog TV celebrities have made so popular. Accordingly, our notion of accepted Pack leadership does not upset animal rights activists and dog lovers. In fact, as dog lover you must seek to be accepted by your dog. Then, and only then, the dog will behave well in your absence too.
Further, this is a necessity with a strong, large animal in the house, an animal that has Pack hierarchy ingrained in its genes. The day you start letting a dog be the boss of ANY family member, is the day you start taking the risk of an incident about to happen. That incident then often has consequences that animal rights activists rightfully complain about: eg the dog ending up in a shelter (and then in a high kill kennel).
So, please act now, for the benefit of all family members. Also, systematically socialize your dog with other dogs, such that she plays with other dogs. This is very important for the mental well-being of domesticated dogs that otherwise are too much focused on human Pack members only.
The socialization, and how to establish all the family as accepted Pack leader, and everything else you can find in my books. Maybe the Adult Dog Training In A Nutshell is all you need for now. That's a quick read, really.
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