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Old 06-01-2014, 10:37 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default 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.
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Old 06-01-2014, 11:35 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Waaaayyyyyy to early to judge. Work on her health first and let her feel safety with and without you at home. The world can wait for her to heal up. Give her 1-3 months before asking any of these questions. She is not well and she has gone through SO many changes emotionally. Let her be, calm and quiet, and boost her confidence with kindness. BTW -- some dogs never ever ever play with anything. I have hd 2 of 5 never touch a toy. Sorry to sound all touchy-feely, but get her well, let her adjust, and then start exposing to the world and your activities and requirements when she feels better. Forcing too much too fast will do you NO good at all.
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Old 06-01-2014, 11:35 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm not sure I am following all of this, but I think I get that you have only had her two days. Slow WAY down in your expectations and demands. She is just trying to figure out where she is at. Just reward her lavishly for anything she does that is good and ignore the rest. Give her a chance to settle in before you start any training. Training is stress, don't stress her until she is more settled and trusts you and her environment. She is timid because she does not trust. Think of it this way, you would not trust in a new environment on day two either. I am always amazed at how much more we demand of a dog than we do of another human.

Breath and slow down and don't over stress her.
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Old 06-02-2014, 12:01 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by DutchKarin View Post
I'm not sure I am following all of this, but I think I get that you have only had her two days. Slow WAY down in your expectations and demands. She is just trying to figure out where she is at. Just reward her lavishly for anything she does that is good and ignore the rest. Give her a chance to settle in before you start any training. Training is stress, don't stress her until she is more settled and trusts you and her environment. She is timid because she does not trust. Think of it this way, you would not trust in a new environment on day two either. I am always amazed at how much more we demand of a dog than we do of another human.

Breath and slow down and don't over stress her.
Yes, by training I mean "reward her lavishly when she does something good" and I had to tell her "no" when she attempted to explore the contents of my kitchen trash can and when she tried to get in my bed.

Other than the short and slow walks to let her stretch her legs and smell the outdoors near her new home (she does get a bit perky when we go out) I mostly encourage her to rest right next to me while I work in the apartment. I tried putting on some calm and very low volume classical pieces, just on a hunch, and she responded well to that. When she became nervous as I took her to the vet, I played the music from my phone and she relaxed right away!

I am certainly not trying to stress her, and I have not been pushing her, but I have had to move along with getting her used to being apart from me for a few hours at a time. I do live in an apartment and separation anxiety could prove to be very problematic if it involves barking, I don't think I would be able to stand it if I had to muzzle her or something. So far so good on that front though, I simply watch her from a hidden position while I step outside for a few minutes and then come in and reward her when I see her being calm, sleeping, or just not waiting by the door (which she does patiently for a while after I leave.) A couple of test runs to the store and my neighbor reported no noise.


I am glad to hear that her shyness towards other dogs and fearfulness of sudden or unexpected stimuli is not indicative of a problem because it is too early to tell. She does not act as if fearfulness, if it is inherent to her nature, would ever translate to aggression except in the most extreme cases, but I do worry about her comfort and quality of life if she is not confident or is constantly frightened.
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Old 06-02-2014, 12:30 AM   #5 (permalink)
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It took our rescue nearly 2 months to relax and show his personality. Up to then, he was perfectly well behaved, so "controlled". He did not play with any toys, didn't play with us but stuck to us like glue. He did not have the traumas that your girl had, so I can only imagine how she feels. I came to this forum as a new GSD owner and got the same very excellent advice. Essentially, leave her be to figure things out on her own. I did make the mistake of starting group obedience classes too soon, and I think I caused quite a bit more reactivity than he would have had otherwise. He just wasn't secure enough for that. It took him about two months, and when he started trusting us, he started "testing" us...nothing awful, just got a little devilish. They remind me very much of 3-4 year old kids.
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Old 06-02-2014, 12:53 AM   #6 (permalink)
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My dog was super attached to me the first few days I brought him home, too. To the point where it was bad; he was not interested in anything at all either besides following me. But, he rapidly improved, still is attached to me, but in a manner that is not bad for him. He was also very timid, and he really isn't any more. I don't think it's a rare thing for shepherds to be like this, regardless of their past, especially coming in to a new home. Give her time.
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Old 06-02-2014, 01:24 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I've never had a dog that was HW positive, but don't they require lots of rest? Before you go any further, make sure that the exercise she is getting isn't to much. These dogs will do anything to make us happy, even if they are not feeling well.
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Old 06-02-2014, 07:35 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I've never had a dog that was HW positive, but don't they require lots of rest? Before you go any further, make sure that the exercise she is getting isn't to much. These dogs will do anything to make us happy, even if they are not feeling well.
Yes, exactly - no matter how they are being treated ("fast" which is recommended, or slow kill) - leash potties and back in, no activity in the house (or out). No walks.

If she's already been treated, she's exhausted. If she's not been treated, all exercise must cease until treatment ends.

Is there a foster person you got her from - what did you discuss with them?
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Old 06-02-2014, 09:50 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Yes, exactly - no matter how they are being treated ("fast" which is recommended, or slow kill) - leash potties and back in, no activity in the house (or out). No walks.

If she's already been treated, she's exhausted. If she's not been treated, all exercise must cease until treatment ends.

Is there a foster person you got her from - what did you discuss with them?
The foster knew very little about her other than that she did well with the many other animals in foster care, large and small, and that she was beginning to stick to her like glue. She had her for only a few days, and was preparing to send her off to a shepherd rescue because she was concerned that she did not know anything about caring for them.

Her walks were less than a block, and I keep her from jogging or getting excited at all to the best of my ability. Mostly, I allow her to explore a little near the apartment for some fresh air, to allow her to familiarize herself with the location, and to stretch her legs. I wouldn't call it exercise. If the vet chooses to put her on heartworm preventatives, the vet seemed to indicate that easy walks would be OK for the first year while the worms die, but no exercise. If she gets the shot, I know to keep the poor girl practically immobilized for a few months.

I have been giving her one or two Tums a day to get some calcium in her and she is doing much much better. Her breathing has stabilized and seems perfectly normal, and now she will sleep for hours without popping her head up on full alert and panting like she used to. She hasn't stumbled all day, though her balance is still a little off. She got a little excited when I took her out to relieve herself today and a stray cat took off through the bushes. It startled her, but she perked up and acted as if she wanted to play and her tail got to wagging more than I have seen before, so I brought her in and gave her some love.

Today she has mostly been sleeping which makes me happy. She was having a hard time resting before, breathing funny and waking up after only a few minutes, and wandering around the apartment as if she was anxious. She deserves several days of rest. She requested to go out only three times today and mostly wanted to sleep, so she must feel a little better and more relaxed. She did wander the apartment once today, but for the first time she acted as if she was exploring, stopping to investigate everything, rather than walking a circuit anxiously. Her appetite has improved today as well, and she finished all of her food. I saw no blood in her urine yesterday afternoon or today, so the antibiotics must be helping.



She is still skittish though. When I returned home and walked my bicycle in, she was excited to see me at first but would not approach, watching the bicycle and hunkering down with hair standing on end. The other day, a bird made a low pass over us while I took her out to relieve herself, which startled her. She is still very cautious around everything. I am starting to see her be a little more curious though, and approach things on her own. This was my major concern, that her timidness and jumpiness might be indicative of her personality rather than a symptom of her poor condition. After only a few short days, her confidence has improved as much as her health which seems to confirm what you have all said.

She has already improved so much, mentally and physically. I am excited to see where she will be a year from now when she is fully recovered from all she has been through. She must be a tough girl to have improved so much and so quickly. And she is full of love!

Last edited by jwllorens; 06-02-2014 at 09:56 PM.
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Old 06-02-2014, 11:41 PM   #10 (permalink)
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If she's HW+, the fact that there was some abnormal breathing worries me. Does she cough at all? What exactly was she doing when she was "breathing funny" (as you put it)?

Did your vet listen for a heart murmur already? If the dog is symptomatic, she may need those worms out of her sooner rather than later....
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