Our 5-year-old German Shepherd was adopted from the humane society when he was about 9 months old. He was abused before we adopted him, but he has adjusted extremely well.
Recently, when our 15-year-old daughter was taking him for a walk, a cable guy aggressively walked toward them. My dog gave a warning “snap” and tore the man’s jeans, not touching the skin. I took it that he was warning this stranger to keep walking and leave them alone.
In the meantime, the weather has changed to cold and rainy, and it seems to have affected my dog’s mood. He isn’t interested in walks; he almost needs to be talked into it, and then he’s very pokey.
Can weather affect an animal the way it can a human? In the time we’ve had our dog, he’s never been quite this moody. He doesn’t want to cuddle the way he normally does and prefers to be left alone, always going to another room instead of being with the family.
Should I be concerned, or is this a case of “this too shall pass?”
– Kristen, Littleton, Colo.
Hi, Kristen. Thanks for your question.
My first thought is that your German Shepherd may have sore joints. Your description of his behavior could be an indicator he’s in pain. I strongly suggest you schedule an appointment with his vet so X-rays can be taken and his joints evaluated, and also have a full workup to see what could be causing any pain.
If he checks out fine healthwise, it would be a good idea to have a trainer come to your home to evaluate the behavior and take a detailed history. If he’s depressed, it’s much more likely because of some type of change in his usual routine (someone moving out or in, another animal companion passing away, etc.).
As far as the “warning bite,” yes, he sure could have done a lot more damage than a tear in clothing. He was self-regulating his bite, which is a very good thing! And if he’s cranky because he’s in pain, that could certainly have been a factor (although it does sound like he had darn good reason to get protective).
If you do end up having his behavior evaluated by a trainer/behaviorist, please let them know the details of the incident. Your dog will have a bite history on record if he bites again and it’s reported, so it’s important to learn how to control him using positive reinforcement and fun.
You’ll need to learn how to get your dog’s attention as someone approaches so you have control. You can have him sit and wait, or get some distance from the passerby if necessary. When people who are walking toward you are still far away, you can start engaging him with eye contact exercises, getting his focus on you.
Your dog’s bite reminds me of another German Shepherd bite scenario. I went to a client’s home to meet and evaluate a GSD with a long history of aggression with biting. After I rang the doorbell, the dog parent came to the door, grabbed the dog’s collar (the dog was barking at me furiously, showing me her gorgeous white teeth), opened the door – then let go of the collar.
The dog kept barking, stood right in front of me “yelling” at me, then circled around and bit me on the fanny. The bite was with just a top and bottom tooth. No torn pants, no bruise – and I bruise very easily. It was the longest half-second of my life, but is a great example of a dog trying her hardest to scare me and protect her family and, thankfully, doing no damage. It was actually a very encouraging sign from her, knowing her history. I look back at that incident fondly. The family took heed and worked with her diligently, and she lived a happy, bite-free life.
Please let me know how things go for you and your dog.
PHOTO: Magnus Bråth