The Gerberian Shepsky is an incredibly intelligent dog that has a knack for independent thinking. When combined with his high exercise requirements, the Shepsky can easily get himself into trouble. Fortunately, the German Shepherd parent often imparts the Shepsky with a high degree of trainability. Listed below is a guide towards common behavioral problems among Gerberian Shepskies, and what can be done to correct to these issues.
Digging is an inherent trait for all dogs, believed to be the product of their “den making” instinct. Dogs dig for a multitude of reasons, including cooling off, boredom, to bury prized possessions, and also as a means to escape an enclosure. Given the thick double coat of the Shepsky, you should first rule out that your dog is not simply trying to cool itself. Often, in the summer months, a dog will dig a hole in which to lounge, as the dirt below the ground’s surface is cooler than the air. If digging primarily occurs during heat-waves, provide your dog with a kiddie pool filled with cool water, or keep him indoors.
Digging for reasons other than air conditioning can be handled in a number of ways. First, never leave your dog unattended in the yard. This is a good rule to follow, regardless if your dog is a digger, but also can discourage digging if he is doing so as a means to gain your attention. Second, recognize that the number one cause of digging is boredom. Is your dog receiving enough exercise and mental stimulation?
A Gerberian Shepsky requires a minimum of 1 -2 hours of structured exercise per day, as well as a “job” to do. Oftentimes, owners find that incorporating 15 – 20 minutes of obedience practice daily can fulfill this inherent need for work. If cooling off and boredom can be ruled out, try to determine the cause. Is your dog digging near the fence? He may be trying to escape, which is a common Shepsky trait (see below). Is he burying a toy or attempting to follow the scent of a field mouse or mole? Unfortunately, these behaviors are hardwired into your dog and can be difficult, if not impossible, to break. If hunting prey, try to find the source of the rodent and (humanely) remove the animal(s) from your property.
If your dog is digging in order to bury a bone or toy, the best way to combat this problem is to provide an area in the yard where your dog is allowed to dig, such as a sandbox. Issue a stern “no” when your dog digs inappropriately, but then redirect him to the appropriate area, and provide praise when he figures out right from wrong. If digging is absolutely not an option for your yard, redirecting your dog to a favorite toy every time he begins to dig can help, provided that your dog is not a burier.
Chewing, like digging, is another inherent trait that dogs are naturally born with. Chewing helps dogs, especially puppies, understand the world around them and is also an instinctual way to strengthen jaws and clean teeth. Also like digging, inappropriate chewing is often caused by boredom, as well as anxiety. German Shepherds and Siberian Huskies can both become extremely anxious if not properly exercised.
If chewing primarily happens when owners are out of the house, separation anxiety is likely to blame. Providing a time-consuming activity while you are away (such as a frozen, peanut butter-filled Kong) can distract your dog from stress. If chewing occurs while you are home, teach your dog what is, and is not, appropriate to chew on by instead redirecting him to safe chew toys such as Nylabones, antlers, or bully sticks. If redirection cannot keep your dog away from table legs, invest in an aversion product such as bitter apple spray.
The Gerberian Shepsky can be a vocal dog when left to his own devices. While barking is a common way for dogs to warn of impending danger (whether perceived or real), greet other dogs or humans, and express happiness, excessive barking can quickly become annoying. Again, rule out boredom or anxiety, which can often lead dogs to bark or howl, especially when left alone outside.
A great way to curb inappropriate barking, and one that is easy for the highly intelligent Shepsky to learn, is to teach your dog “speak” and “quiet” commands. Beginning with “quiet,” reward your dog upon finishing a barking fit by saying the command and immediately administering a treat. Once this skill is mastered, teach “speak” by enthusiastically issuing the command the next time he barks. The obedient nature of the Shepsky will allow him to quickly pick up on these commands, and listen when you ask him to be quiet.
One of the most dangerous traits of the Gerberian Shepsky is his drive for adventure. Siberian Huskies are known for their proclivity to dig under, jump over, climb over, or chew through enclosures, simply to see what is on the other side. If your Shepsky has inherited the Houdini-like characteristics of his Husky parent, then care must be taken to ensure the yard is completely escape-proof.
As with the rest of the items on this list, relieving boredom by providing daily physical and mental stimulation exercises can alleviate your Shepsky’s adventure-seeking tendencies. Supplying appropriate chew toys and digging areas can also help your independent-thinking dog to make better decisions, and choose appropriate outlets for his curiosity.
Your Gerberian Shepsky will likely have an incredibly high prey-drive, which is the innate desire to chase anything that is running in the opposite direction, whether human, animal, or object. You can work with your dog to teach him to listen to you and stop him from chasing after he has begun, but you will not be able to remove the desire to chase. To begin teaching recall while your dog is distracted, take your dog into the yard with a leash and high level rewards, such as pieces of meat. With your dog leashed, wait until he sees a rabbit, squirrel, or other critter. Get his attention, using the leash if necessary, and immediately reward your dog with a treat as soon as he looks to you and not at his “prey.” Continue practicing this skill until a leash is no longer needed.