Where to Get Help
Socializing puppies and adults with people and other dogs can be a breeze with many shepherds. It can also be frustrating with shepherds that are exceptionally fearful or extremely dominant or controlling. If you own a puppy or rescued adult that falls into either extreme category, it is critical that you give your shepherd the help he needs to overcome his problems.
Before you choose someone to work with, make sure you are comfortable with the individual's training techniques and methods. Many trainers still believe that the only way to handle an aggressive dog — that is, a dog exhibiting fear-based or control-based aggression — is to manhandle the dog. This is especially true when trainers are dealing with a large guarding-type breed, such as the shepherd. However, this type of handling will only exacerbate the problem.
First, call the breeder or breed rescue from whom you purchased or adopted your shepherd. Explain exactly what kinds of problems you are having and how you've been attempting to handle the situations. If this person can't help you, he will refer you to someone who can. There might be a good trainer or veterinarian behaviorist in the area who works with fearful or dominant dogs. You might also be referred to a certified animal behaviorist or a veterinary technician who has a special interest in animal behavior.
Working with a difficult shepherd is not a project for a novice dog owner or a first-time shepherd owner to tackle alone. Don't be embarrassed or reluctant to seek help. The sooner you get this problem taken care of, the easier your life will be.
Take the time to find a trainer who is successful, has excellent references, and uses positive, reward-based training. Make sure she is comfortable working with German shepherds and that you are comfortable with her training style. After all, she will be training you to train your shepherd.