first dog ever-behavior questions-3 or 4 y/o female rescue
I recently adopted a three or four year old female purebred GSD. This is my first time owning a dog, though I have had experiences (which were extremely positive, hence my love for the breed) with an American White Shepherd that my parents rescued years ago. I have named her Anabel. She is quite possibly the sweetest, most loving dog I have ever seen. I have had her for only two days now, and she is very attached to me already and does not leave my side when I am with her (which worries me).
I will provide some background information first to give substance to my questions.
She had a litter of puppies before she was taken into foster care. The puppies were taken from her at 7 months. While in foster care, she was exposed to other dogs, large and small, and apparently she allowed other puppies to nurse from her for an unknown period of time. She was tested for heartworms and the results were positive (as expected for a rescue.)
When I got her, she was (and still is, this is two days later) a skeleton. I did not want to work her at all, having heartworms and after nursing many puppies for greater than 7 weeks, but I do live in a small apartment and I do not want her to be bored, so I took her on five or six short but slow paced walks that first day and did some very basic obedience training and immediately began acclimating her to being away from me (she will need to be comfortable by herself for up to three hours at a time, or more in extreme circumstances.) She seemed uncertain of being inside, and acted as if she did not know how to take a treat from my hand. I suspect she was left outside in a fenced in yard or chained to a post and had very little if any obedience training. She has learned incredibly quickly, however, and is comfortable with "down," "stay," "get in the car," "get in the house," ect. She is very smart.
She showed all the signs of Eclampsia during these walks, minus the seizures. She acted drunk, stumbling frequently, walking diagonally and bumping into me or veering off the path, and her legs were "stiff" (though she does not show signs of hip dysplasia.) Her breathing was heavy and rapid. She seemed nervous and anxious. On a few occasions, I thought I witnessed muscle tremors.
She refused to eat the dry food that I got her (fortunately it was a small amount) but she gladly consumed the boiled chicken that I made for her when I was desperate to get something into her stomach (don't worry, skin and bones removed, no spices at all).
On day two, her balance improved and she had more strength. She became much more comfortable with me and is already very attached. I was worried about her breathing and took her to the vet. She is not in any critical condition, but some bleeding from her vulva prompted the vet to recommended spaying her before beginning heart-worm treatment.
I do have questions regarding her temperament, however. She is as sweet as can be, and all she wants is love, constantly coming to me and putting her head between my legs or in my lap.
She is a bit of a coward, though, and retreats to me with any sudden loud noise. I mentioned that my parents have a white american shepherd, who is also extremely sweet, but she is a bit of an alpha-dog. She is never aggressive, not towards people or other dogs and cats, but she will bark or growl at other dogs inside my parents home if they go in the same room as her food or one of her toys and barks if you give attention to another animal because she gets jealous. Anabel is frightened by this and will retreat to me, always turning her head away from the white shepherd. She also ran to me when my parent's chickens became startled when she walked past, when a herd of cows began to run near my garden, when my father dropped something on the counter, when I said "boo" to my parents cat to get it running and see if Anabel would chase it at all as a test (the "boo" scared Anabel more than the cat).
Anabel also shows no interest in toys or playing at all. She appears to have almost no prey drive, no protective drive, no drive at all. She is very weak and I am nursing her back to health with special food and keeping her moving (though trying to keep her heart rate down) but she shows almost no interest in anything except being loved on and petted. It is hard to train her because while she loves a treat and the praise, a quiet but firm "no" sends her to her bed to sulk and kills her energy.
She is well socialized and loves people. I have never heard her bark. She gets along with all other animals that I have seen. She turned her head away from my parent's cat, afraid of it, but after bringing the cat to her she wagged her tail and enjoyed meeting it. As I said before, she was more frightened when I tried to get the cat to run to test her prey drive (Anabel was leashed) than the cat was. I have never seen her bark or growl, only wag her tail and approach or turn her head away and keep her distance. She seems familiar and well socialized, just timid.
I know that it is extremely early to know much if anything at all about her, and it is way too early to ask anything at all of her especially in her condition, so I only do very little of the training and keep the walks very light and easy. I thought it best to gently introduce her to the activities we will do together as soon as possible, however, to stop bad habits from forming while she is recovering from her illnesses and all the treatments she will soon have.
I love her how she is, but I would like her to be more confident most of all. I expect her drive and desire to play and learn to come with her health returning, I see a little more today than I did yesterday, but I worry about how timid she is. Is it common for rescue's to be timid and frightened of so many things while they adjust to their new lives? Do they ever become more confident on their own with time, or with patience and training? I'm not looking for a watchdog or guard dog or anything, only a loving companion for life, but I would like her to be comfortable and happy around my parent's pets and in new environments.
Last edited by jwllorens; 06-01-2014 at 10:47 PM.