Illness and Behavior

Saturday, March 14, 2009

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“Hi Sam,
 I enjoyed your last blog on aggression.
 We have German Shepherd who's 2 1/2 years old. Recently, she is showing signs of timidness/shyness (ears pinned back, head down, and tail down) when some people come to visit our home. When she does approach the person, she pees. When she was a pup and certain relatives (ones that loved dogs) came over to visit she would also pee. I was told this should pass because she was just excited. What can I do to increase her confidence? What can I do so that she can overcome this behaviour?

I also wanted to ask you, how much exercise should she get each day? She has been diagnosed with Panosteitis (inflammation of the long bones). This has made it difficult to walk her on a regular basis. Would you have any suggestions on toys or games that she can play so that she has something to do?”

- Shepherd Owner


Thanks for your interest on the aggression blog. Sorry to hear about the issues your dog is having. What you have is shyness and submissive urination. Many people who love dogs tend to gravitate to them and, as stated in my aggression blog, this puts them in some superiority complex (a sign of dog worship.) Unfortunately, your dog is of soft nature and the softer ones according to the laws of canine nature are the least to be acknowledged and so - based on their psyche of omega-type personality - an approach is overwhelming. See my Genetics vs. Nurture article and Submissive Urination.

German Shepherd

With this issue, you don’t want her at the door entrance, and do not have her in the room when people enter. Have her in a separate room for the time being. Give your dog time to sense the presence of the visitors, your goal is for her to view it as a relaxed and happy setting before bringing her out.

When you bring her out, have her on a lead (regular collar) and just have her sit in the living room and absorb the people there. Those people should ignore her and not look at her. Just carry on the business of a happy conversation and she will see that she is part of it as opposed to being the center of attention. Follow this with food; people throwing the food on the ground and you take her up to get the food (hotdogs work great). This will not work if the dog is heavy and not lean. Read my blog on overweight dogs (Fat Dog) to give you a guideline of weight. Once you’re done, take her out and put her back in her crate. Her out time will increase with visitors as she progresses. Read Dirty Water and House Pet Expectation Syndrome.

As for your bone issues... Based on my experience breeding German Shepherds for the last 30 yrs I find it rare that long bone disease exists in a 2.5 yr old dog. Weight, nutrition and activity at a young age - as well as physical breeding and genetics - play a big role. Without seeing the dog, German Shepherds who have not been selectively bred through genetic scanning and littermate data results suffer from many genetic defects, one being elbow displysia. I am not sure if this is also the case however an elbow x-ray could clarify that for you. The other possibility is muscle trouble due to thyroid imbalances if is she spayed.

Until we decide on her physical issue, to over-exert her and not manage her weight would cause more of a disastrous effect. So as for exercise, I would first fully diagnose the dog, and until that is done I can’t recommend anything for play or exercise unless it’s a light, short walk on grass or maybe water therapy. You’ll need to take this one step at a time at this point.

- Sam

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