How can I get my German Shepherd to stop being so rough?

by Penny
(Illinois, U.S.)

Odin and Mike share food

Odin and Mike share food

My German Shepherd has recently turned 2 years old, but he has always been rough while playing. It's just that it has really gotten so rough that I limit my play with him and our cat WON'T play with him.

I know he's gotten larger and more intense, but for a while this didn't seem to matter. One place he's still his old self is around his meal times. He was never too excited about most food and even the cat enjoys his food more than he does.

When I play with him his prey drive is so intense that sometimes he collides with furniture or me and sometimes he jumps up and i have been scratched down the side of my mouth, neck and arms. I always have bruises especially on my legs.

There are games I used to like to play with him that I no longer can just to save myself from more injuries. He's never broken my skin even when his teeth get me, it just hurts for a while particularly when he hits bone.

I recently played with him out in my back yard and that went much better, but I don't have a fence and so I need to keep him on a long lead attached to a tree or big shrub. The lead sometimes gets in the way and I have to keep from getting tripped up in it.

He also NEVER gets tired. He brings his favorite toy to me the first thing when I wake up in the morning, and at night he's constantly putting it on the bed with me even though I'm trying to watch TV or USE THE BATHROOM.

He can open the door with brute strength if the door isn't locked. I try to give him some vigorous play time then go for a walk to try to tire him out. To no avail.

It's been a a very cold and snowy winter, but we still got out to play outside, we both like the snow. I wouldn't dream of allowing him around little children although he's interested in them and has never hurt anyone else.

He has had a time or two when kids have gotten close to him and he's only interested in kissing them or nudging them. The cat avoids him at home even when he brings a toy to the cat, but the cat doesn't play dog games and whenever he's out of the bathroom Odin has to be restrained.

He's caught the cat more than a few times and pins him or tries to pick him up by an ear or his tail. I'm sure he knows the cat isn't a toy, but I don't want to find out for sure. I've seen what he does to his toys. The cat is 1 year old and agile, but the dog very fast and keeps catching him.

I thought the cat would be better able to get away if he got scared. I'm sure we will be putting the cat up for adoption soon. The dog is very territorial, and actually guards the cat at night. The cat sleeps inside the lower bathroom (with the door closed securely) and Odin goes down and sits outside of the bathroom for a while every night. While I"m not sure if he wants to hurt the cat, I don't want to allow it to happen. Any suggestions?

Total German Shepherd:

Your boy needs 2 things for sure - dog training and exercise. And plenty of it. Please do yourself a favor and sign up for a dog training class to help get him under control and talk to your trainer about the kitty situation especially.

You don't want the dog to hurt the cat, I know, but he needs to learn to respect the kitty and to be calmer around it too. And training can help with this too - but it won't happen over night.

Lastly, exercise. Both physical and mental. Your boy is screaming for it. He has loads of pent up energy and that's exactly why he's so wild. He's just trying to deal as best as he can but he's still not a full grown boy yet so many of these behaviors you've described are actually pretty normal - just juvenile.

Think of it this way - you've got an older teenager on your hands and he's just bored out of his mind. And with no way of dealing with it and nothing to do he's just cutting up. Typically dogs will calm down with age but that's a ways off for you at this point.

If you have access to any kind of fenced in areas to play with him in - like a fenced in tennis court maybe - take him there, maybe with a dog friendly friend who can deal with your boys antics and then just wear him out. And plan on plenty of time too - maybe an hour or even better so bring lots of tennis balls, water and other favorite toys to play with.

And this will need to be a regular occurrence too - he needs exercise and will not calm down until he gets enough of it. Do you have a doggie daycare in your area? How about some responsible teenage neighbors who are dog friendly that he could play with? Is there a dog friendly pool or lake in your area - swimming is terrific exercise - assuming your boy can swim.

Do you know a long distance jogger he can run with? Mix it up - do dog training activities - play games, go swimming, try other games, fetch, frisbee, jogging, hiking - whatever you both like best. Just make sure that you have plenty of water and don't feed him an hour or so before AND after your long play sessions.

You'll know when you're getting him tired - long after you will be tired I'm sure, but once you find the magic length of time for him that will make it easier on you to replicate the process over and over. But most importantly of all, once you get to the point where your dogs exercise requirements are being met, you will notice a big change in his behavior. He will be calmer, happier and easier to deal with too. And your cat will like that too. So please be patient and good luck!

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