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Loki the Traitor (German Shepherd)

– Posted in: Dog Behavior Miscellaneous Articles, German Shepherd, Miscellaneous
Dear John,
We own a 3 year old  male neutered German Shepherd, named Loki. We adopted him at 11 weeks old.
During the course of his life, my brother from Toronto and his two dogs visit on occasion.  All the dogs and people get along very well, In the past few months, my brother has been visiting more often and within the next few months, will be moving in with us. During these visits,  Loki spends all his time with my brother, both outdoors, following him everywhere he goes and inside, including sleeping in the same room despite that Loki has his bed in our bedroom and has always slept in our room.  My brother is big and has an assertive personality. When I let the dogs out of the dog run, all the dogs run past hubby and I and Loki almost “pees his pants” when he greets my brother.  I’ve nicknamed Loki “Traitor” because it seems he is so devoted to my brother.
My research on German Shepherds indicates they are one of the most loyal dogs to have for the family but this does not seem to apply to Loki. I’m a little concerned that while my brother stays here until things get better,  I will “lose” Loki to my brother. Am I being silly?
– Patricia
Dear Patricia,
In Norse mythology, Loki also known as the trickster/traitor is the son of giants (your large brother) that turned against his brethren. Maybe you should change his name to another Norse god; Heimdall is known for amongst other things; loyalty.
There are two main reasons that this may be; imprinting or Loki’s perception of your current relationship vs your mistaken perception.
Loki’s imprinting period was almost over by the time you got him and he may very well have been handled and cared for by someone with characteristics shared by your brother. The SPCA once seized a Rottweiler after its owner had been relocated to a place with bars for curtains. The dog had been left tied in the yard and behaved like a serial killer on crack so the neighbors had been using the proverbial 10′ pole to push food and water to it. They ended up housing him in a horse stall in an empty barn. I was asked to have a look, so embracing my “run faster, live longer” life philosophy I peered into the stall and his attention switched from the others there to me and a switch went off in his brain but it was a good switch. He calmed down and wagged his entire bum.  There was just something about me that resonated and I’m betting it was a similarity between me and the doofus that had got himself tossed in jail. Maybe his previous owner also had the facial features of Brad Pitt and the body of an Olympian. There’s no way of knowing what, but it was something.
More often than not though it’s a leadership thing. Dogs like German Shepherds thrive on strong leadership and if they have to choose between a buddy and a leader it’s the leader they’ll choose. I’m guessing that you are a great caregiver but aren’t sending out the leader signals. Find a balanced trainer to show you how to teach Loki to heel off the lead, stay for 10 minutes or more, drop quickly in a down even at a full run. If you can achieve that I doubt this will be an issue.
John Wade

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