Hello , raw feeding and behaviour advice please

Hello, this site has been recommended to me by my trainer (number 3) as an excellent resource for food related issues.
I have a beautiful GSD bitch who is now around 14 months old and a bit of a nightmare to put it bluntly. We got her from a kennels that breed dogs for IPO and her pedigree is littered with champions(we went there as we wanted to stay away from show breeders due to our last rescue gsd having severe hip problems amongst other things not to get a mad attack dog, we told the breeder that she would be purely a pet and we had no interest in having an attack dog, our trainers opinion is that breeders have no business whatsoever selling dogs with those genetics to people who state clearly they want a family pet which I can now agree with entirely), what we thought of at first as exuberance and over excited puppyish behaviour is becoming a bit of a nightmare now as the " she will grow out of it" school of thought has been well and truly exhausted. We have had shepherds before so are familiar with the breed but one thing my trainer suggested might be the problem could be the raw diet(he isn’t an anti raw food advocate just exploring all the options) . His suggestion was that in the wild a dog would eat probably once a week when it made a kill whereas we are giving that amount or protein daily and this may or may not be a contributing factor to her behaviour, I was wondering if anyone else has experienced changes in behaviour going from kibble to raw or vice-versa? Since we had her she has been extremely stressed when we are out with her and gives the appearance of being an out of control mad thing constantly pulling and lunging and anxious which our last trainer told us was “lead anxiety” . All attempts to take her to puppy classes and socialise her have been thwarted by her hooligan like behaviour and the previous two training schools really didn’t know what to do so we ended up being segregated which totally defeated the object of taking her there in the first place, indoors she is a loving loyal dog who will happily do tricks for rewards and can be very attentive yet outdoors she is a wild thing, she has calmed down a little recently but other dog owners see her behaviour and are petrified of allowing their dog near her so socialisation is something we haven’t been able to achieve anywhere near as much as we should, when off the lead she will play nicely with other dogs and is very well mannered around them. Ive just popped down to my local Costco and brought a big bag of autarky as she has this for treats and it doesn’t upset her digestion so i’m going to use that to transition from raw to kibble to see what happens. When she is outside we are just getting her to accept treats as a distraction(sometimes) whereas previously we could have stuck an entire roast chicken in her face and she would have ignored it and looked straight through it.

Any experience welcome, we have tried all the usual routes such as feeding her before we see a distraction coming and getting her attention onto us in other ways but what we thought of as anxiety our new trainer has described as fear, she has just had her second season and it was only when in season she was able to toilet outside, something she has been to stressed to do before
Thanks for reading,

Hello and welcome to the forum. The link between high protein diet and behaviour issues is controversial and it’s probably better not to get into a discussion about that. Dietary change is worth trying but it will take a while to see if it helps. A good quality food with protein between circa 26% to 30% might be appropriate for your dog and you can easily search for something using the Dog Food Directory. I tend to use filters no red ingredients, clearly labelled/natural, rating 3.9 to 5 stars. The fat and protein sliders are adjusted as required. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that cold pressed products have positive effects on behaviour so maybe have a look at the range.

I have no experience with GSDs but from similar issues I have with one of my dogs, I would say that you need a behaviourist, not a trainer. However, that is just my thoughts on the matter, others may have different opinions.

Recently I have seen someone who is interested in helping dogs to de-stress and it has been very helpful. It has made me shift my thinking and management of my dog. I don’t take her for walks anymore. She goes out for short sniffing sessions on our nearby field and that is usually only once a day. Sometimes we have duvet days and don’t go out at all. Easing her stress and over stimulation is key, and going out secondary. I’ve concluded that we sometimes need to make compromises. Not all dogs are straightforward, some need special care and attention.

Some behaviourists are saying that we need to rethink our attitudes towards the ritual daily walks. This is particularly relevant for dogs who struggle with the outside world.

Hi Dottie, thanks for the reply,
I do realise that the raw food is a huge hot potato of controversy but was just after peoples personal experiences rather than research or the usual "salmonella, campylobacter, buy our kibble . The first place we visited was your run of the mill puppy class held in a church hall in the evenings and the second was an IMBD or whatever accredited trainer, to be fair to them he was a very nice guy but quite young and not too experienced which is where it all fell down, he had read the books and done the courses but when confronted with an animal that didn’t fit the criteria didn’t know what to do, the guy I visited recently is an ex police dog trainer with decades of experience under his belt and immediately understood the issues and was full of suggestions that we could try. I have another friend who has done several IMDT courses and is more a dog walker than a trainer and when he asked what the difference is between a behaviourist and a trainer to one of the top IMDT guy who’s name I will withhold the answer given was “about £50 an hour or more if you can get it”! I am very confident in the new guy and i’m honestly not sure if he would categorise himself as a trainer or behaviourist but the dog was instantly comfortable around him and he has changed my perception of my dog from naughty adolescent problem child to confused and uncertain that needs help and nurturing rather than training without using the words or trying to. I can see her issues clearly now which is a giant leap in the right direction and it appears I need to completley change my approach with her. I should mention we are doing 1-1 sessions with him and not a stressful school environment which has been the previous line of attack, its very interesting regarding the walking not being a daily routine activity and not something I have ever heard of, I would appreciate any links you have to that research? Not something I have ever considered as its usually the “your dog must be exercised” school of thought I am familiar with. What breed is your dog? was it a rescue or have you had them since they were a puppy?

ATB Paul

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Hi Paul
The only experience I have had with a German shepherd is I puppy walked one for guide dogs. He was a lovely dog, but a nightmare puppy. What I have realised with German shepherds is that they can be very stressed dogs, the one I trained was all mouth and not much action. If we were on a walk and he went up to another dog and it squealed then he would keep annoying it, if however it barked at him he would run away with his tail between his legs.
Not sure in changing the diet, but only time will tell. Sounds like you have someone who can help keep up the good work. :slight_smile:

Thanks Rebecca, she’s not scared or stressed to the point that she would run and is well behaved around other dogs off the lead its more she is confused and does not know how to relax, kind of a sensory overload thing, she is so stressed she wont even relax enough to toilet when were out. Needs managing in case it turns into aggression but she is acting completley the opposite of nervous

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I mentioned a behaviourist rather than a trainer because I believe that a dog cannot learn if it is stressed so we need to work on calming him or her first. This type of behaviour is quite challenging. I have come to accept my dog’s issues and currently things are improving for us but it is slow progress. I had the same feeling about dog walking as you. It wasn’t until I had this one with special needs that I began to question it. I feel that it’s the quality of the exercise, not the quantity, taking into account the dog’s needs. A dog can get a lot of enjoyment and mental exercise out of using it’s olfactory senses.

You asked about my dog’s history - she is carefully bred, good pedigree with nothing in the past that accounts for this issue. She is well behaved and good with other dogs as long as they are not too boisterous. Here are some of those links you asked for:

Chronicles of a Dog Trainer
Exercise. Can a Dog Have Too Much?
Let’s Talk: Enjoyable Walks with a “Reactive Dog”
Reactive Dogs and Exercise
Stress levels in Dogs
Making Sense of Scents
Does not walking your dog make you a bad dog owner?

Hello and welcome to the forum. I can’t add much to what Dottie has said. All the work on walking and reactive dogs makes complete sense to me having lived with one and learned what works and what doesn’t. You can read a bit about my experiences on this thread
I feed a raw complete diet and don’t feel that diet made any difference in my case. If anything things improved when I started it but that may have been just timing. She is an ex dogs trust dog and they had no information about her past so we were in the dark.
Again I haven’t had any experience with GSD’s but your issues do sound similar. I found that all the traditional training routes didn’t work for us because of all her anxieties. We are at the stage now, where she copes with most things much better than she used to but we are mindful not to overload her and put her in situations which may set her back. I don’t think we will get her over her issue with other dogs completely but at the moment she has been introduced carefully to SIL’s two dogs and regularly walks with them. She looks forward to her walks and seems to have gained confidence if we are approached by off lead dogs. The other dogs actually seem to look out for her and prevent other dogs from going close by putting themselves in front of her which is interesting to watch. We have also found a field we can rent for £5 where she can be off lead, no other dogs, to do as she pleases. This also gives her an opportunity to feel relaxed outside.
It can be overwhelming at times but as Dottie says, the key is accepting your dogs differences and working with them even if what you are doing is the opposite to what everybody is telling you. Things improved immensely when I started to do that. It sounds like you have put lots of time and effort into helping your dog.
I will often give her a day or two without a walk if she has had a stressful one. In fact I pretty much only take her if she goes happily. She mostly is happy to go out but sometimes she just wants to go for a sniff walk so we do.

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Sorry to hear you’re encountering so many issues with your dog and I applaud you for working so hard with her, it’s not easy and so many people give up on their dogs-having worked in Rescue so many from 8/9 months-2 years are surrendered, particularly large breeds who take longer to mature.
I notice that you said she’s just had her second season; would spaying her be something you would consider? Sometimes this does help in calming a dog’s behaviour.

In terms of diet I do think it can make a significant difference to behaviour in some dogs; when our first dog, a male Mastiff cross, was a youngster he was on Arden Grange but he didn’t enjoy it so we switched him to Autarky. Almost straight away his behaviour became completely hyper, it was like someone had flicked a switch!
We then moved him to Burns which calmed him considerably though in later years I fed him wet food (Forthglade) and this suited him and his digestive system.

Good luck with everything.


Just to add that, I used to spend a lot of time trying to guess why she was so reactive e.g. genes, trauma. I came to the conclusion that it didn’t really matter. Better just to focus on the behaviour.

She reacts badly to the music of a T V show. I know it is because it used to be sponsored by a hair product and the men with beards set her off. If we didn’t know why, it wouldn’t make a difference. Whatever the reason the solution is the same. Just don’t have the programme on.

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