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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-04-2010, 07:48 PM Thread Starter
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Smile A catch-all inquiry from a new shepherd owner

First of all, just want to apologize if I've stuck this in the wrong place- just found this forum today. Also, I know only a little bit about the breed so please bear with me.

Secondly, I'm hoping I can get some input/advice from anyone willing to take a moment. Let me give you a bit of background about my dog: Just recently adopted a 1 year 1 month old German Shepherd (named Cara, "beloved" in Italian) from the local shelter. She appears to be pure shepherd, but obviously we have no way of telling that. She was a stray, brought in OTC to the shelter. At the shelter they observed some depression, a bit of self-trauma (they were unclear on what prompted that note in her medical records) as well as picking fights with other kennel dogs. Despite this, they made it clear she isn't aggressive and is very open/tolerant/friendly. Apparently she just ignores some people, but we clicked right away. She's been home for 2 days and we haven't encountered any major behavioral issues. No pulling on leash, jumping, biting, barking, etc. She doesn't like my cat, but they seem to tolerate each other and I largely keep them separate (after doing a cautious introduction).

-My first concern is her weight. She came into the shelter very soon after having a litter (isn't she young for that?). Despite this, she was very thin and actually lost weight while she was there. She is currently 26.8 kg (59 lbs) according to them, and her ribs/spine/hips are fairly prominent from any position. It worries me and actually makes me feel a bit cautious about patting her too soundly. They advised she should gain about 10 pounds- I've read online that the 'breed standard' low weight is about 75 pounds. I'm not sure how true this is, but I am definitely eager for her to gain some weight and look more healthy.

-I am also eager to transition her to a home made food rather than processed kibble. The shelter strongly advised we purchase the same brand they feed her and I'm planning on making a very slow transition. I would love some help in recommending recipes, information about the ratio of rice to meat I should be using, and special shepherd allergy foods I should know about, and if possible the benefits of an entirely raw food versus cooked meat. Also, I'm of the impression that vegetables/fruits aren't necessary per se. I would like to include them for tastiness and variety though. I'm thinking that I would also like to include a fish oil and glucosamine chondroitin supplements for proactive prevention.

-I am aware that she is a working breed. Currently she goes on a walk in the morning that is about 1.5 miles up and down giant hills in my suburban neighborhood and a brisk jog on the same route in the evening. Is this sufficient exercise? She is completely disinterested in toys/balls and does not seem to have any inclination to fetch. This seemed to me contrary to the breed's general behavior, but may be a result of past treatment/the shelter. If two other people play ball she watches but is not invested. It would be nice to play fetch with her eventually but I obviously can't/won't force it.

-The rest of the day she either follows her people around inside/outside or spends lying down someplace cool either inside or outside. She has an obvious preference for the outdoors but also enjoys the luxury of inside. I am a bit worried about all this lying down (I'm paranoid about dysplasia because 5 years ago I had 2 GSD/St. Bernard puppies that got both elbow and hip dysplasia so horribly that they had to be put down by about 1 year old). Should I be paying attention to how much time she spends sleeping? I think this could also be attributed to recovering from the stress of the shelter (where I was told they can rarely sleep well for long periods of time) as well as the fact that it's been mid-seventies, low-eighties weather the past couple days.

-This is just idle curiosity. Does anyone have an idea of when I could expect her currently distended teats to return to normal/barely noticeable? Will they? (Had puppies before admitted to shelter on 5/20.)

Thank you so much for any and all help. Sorry that I rambled on so long, I am just terribly excited and in love with my new family member.
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-04-2010, 08:46 PM
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It can take a few months sometimes for a dog's real personality to start blooming after whatever their life was PLUS having puppies PLUS the shelter experience. Unless there is a medical issue, it's a good thing she's kind of staying in the background and trying to figure out her new life.

I'd be really encouraging her and what she's enjoying. If you have any great clicker training classes, they would be ideal. All positive and fun but bonding for both of you.

Dogs have to learn to play with humans, so if she wasn't taught prior, it's a skill that isn't necessarily natural but can be learned!




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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-04-2010, 09:43 PM Thread Starter
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It can take a few months sometimes for a dog's real personality to start blooming after whatever their life was PLUS having puppies PLUS the shelter experience. Unless there is a medical issue, it's a good thing she's kind of staying in the background and trying to figure out her new life.

I'd be really encouraging her and what she's enjoying. If you have any great clicker training classes, they would be ideal. All positive and fun but bonding for both of you.

Dogs have to learn to play with humans, so if she wasn't taught prior, it's a skill that isn't necessarily natural but can be learned!
I hadn't really thought of the compounded experience like that, thanks for the perspective. There are glimpses of her personality every once and a while right now and it's thrilling. Also, we're starting basic obedience classes on the 25th, soonest possible. I've always been interesting in clicker training so that's in the future.

Thank you.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-04-2010, 11:08 PM
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Regarding her weight, 75 lbs is an average. At that weight, my girl is turning into a chunk and she's very good at about 67. You would be able to lightly feel her backbone, and the last couple of ribs. None of her bones should be prominent.

Many of us feed a RAW diet. If you are interested, there is a section just for RAW diets on this board. I would strongly recommend a glucosamine, chondroitin supplement. I like the Springtimeinc.com Joint Health. Also, Vit C, a higher end fish oil and Vit E. Mine has HD and I've seen an amazing difference in how she moves and her level of play since starting the supplements. I give her higher doses but if yours is not having any problems you could give a normal dose.

Give her a couple of weeks to settle in. She may just be checking everything out. Her real personality won't really come out until she develops trust with you. Then she'll start pushing your buttons to see what she can get away with! LOL

Training with her will be great to help build a bond! I love clicker training. I can teach Jax something new in 5 minutes with a clicker. It's amazing how much better they respond.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-04-2010, 11:16 PM
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The 75 lb standard is not necessarily a 'standard'- one of our females maxed out at 65 and the other is 80. Like your dog, our females preferred being outdoors. We feed a lot of raw with some rabbit kibble from Nature's Variety. Check out BARF- the raw diet- and see if that will work out for her and you. My best advice is to let her find her way to you...and like the others have said, try some confidence building with the clicker training. Your love is the best medicine!!
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-04-2010, 11:38 PM
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It sounds like she needs time right now, and lots of encouraging words and praise. She has been though a lot-plus being at the shelter for that length of time will send a dog into depression. We rescued Bella off the freeway offramp and she was terrified of all people. It took a good three weeks for her to realize she was home and that it was a good thing. As for changing over to home cooked, the best bet is to get a cook book. There are many foods that are toxic to dogs that should be avoided, and the homemade food can be added with the kibble-she will love that. Thank you for giving this girl a second chance for a happy dog life.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-04-2010, 11:39 PM
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The weight- I wouldn't try and bulk her up any. I think with just consistent regular feeding you'll find that she'll get to her own right weight pretty quickly. My female runs around 65lbs, but she's full grown. At just over a year, they're not at their mature weight yet. My 15 month old male is just under 70lbs. So don't stress about getting her to a certain number, you could make her overweight. Just like people gaining 10lbs in 2 weeks is hard on the body. Look to see her picking up those lbs that she needs slowly over a month or two. If you feed her...she will grow

The food- What did the Shelter feed her? That would impact how long I'd leave her on it. Sometimes it's good to leave the diet alone while they're settling in. There is a certain amount of mental stress in adjusting to a new environment. Add dietary stress to that and sometimes the dogs get sick (You usually see this with puppies and diarrhea when they first get home).

-The Playing. There's actually a fairly big diversity in the German Shepherd and some of the toy/play drive will depends on the lines that the dog may be from. We had a WGSD from rescue that might, on a good day, fetch the ball 3 or 4 times before she was done. And then we'd watch the other WGSD at the park play fetch for hours...Who knows why she wasn't into fetch...but she just wasn't. She did however love a good game of tug.

She might just be lower energy. Some dogs are. And they do sleep a fair amount, especially since all the new environments are exhausting. I wouldn't worry about the joints unless you see any problems with her moving. You can always shoot some Xrays for your peace of mind.

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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-05-2010, 01:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StarryEyes View Post
She is currently 26.8 kg (59 lbs) according to them, and her ribs/spine/hips are fairly prominent from any position. It worries me and actually makes me feel a bit cautious about patting her too soundly. They advised she should gain about 10 pounds- I've read online that the 'breed standard' low weight is about 75 pounds. I'm not sure how true this is, but I am definitely eager for her to gain some weight and look more healthy.
Actually, no - for a female the top end of the breed standard is around 70-1/2 pounds. Her current weight of 59 pounds is almost exactly the mid-point for a female, but from your description she does sound thin, and her recent litter may be the cause of that. Rather than worrying about gaining a certain number of pounds or getting her up to a certain weight, I'd increase her calories a little so she gains weight gradually, up to where she looks healthier. Looking at her overall condition is a much better indicator of what SHE should weigh than numbers on a chart, which are at best, averages.

Halo is a little over a year and a half old, and she weighs 58/59 pounds, which is a perfect weight for her.

-Debbie-
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-05-2010, 07:53 PM
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I homecook for my dogs; I have for many years. They don't do well on raw. I feed mostly meat, veggies, and flaxseed, with some supplements. Many folks that homecook (like natalie) are very organized and have their meals on spreadsheets and carefully designed. Though mine is somewhat carefully designed, I don't have it out on a spreadsheet, only because I don't think we have the numbers for optimal amounts of ingredients. Some ratios are important, and also being sure that there are a few important nutrients.

There are some links here that might be helpful on regarding the homecooked diet:
Homecooking! - GermanShepherdHome.net

If you are paranoid about hip dysplasia, you can put her on a joint supplement. I would - you don't have to use high doses when using it more as a preventative. I have had pretty good luck with starting dogs on joint supps early.

The self-trauma could have been from stress and I suspect if that is the case, you won't see that happening long term. She may be more comfortable outside because she is used to that. That may change as she becomes more bonded to you.

I agree with the "figuring things out" stage. I take my boy to an underwater treadmill for rehab on his back, and the PT person there said that the GSDs always have to look around, are real nosy, and just want to be aware of everything that is going on. Your girl is just getting acclimated.

Congratulations on your new addition


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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-05-2010, 09:22 PM Thread Starter
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Jax08 Thanks for giving me an idea about the weight with those numbers. It is the prominent bones that make me feel like she's underweight. She's the model picture for the thin end of those weight diagrams, hah.

I will definitely head over to the RAW section; that sounds like a great place to look up specifics.

Luckily Cara is completely mobile with no visible stiffness/pain so I plan on dosing her preventatively.

I actually think she's begun pushing! Seems she might be a bit mouthy, no nipping so far, but she's put her open mouth over my hand a couple times.

Clickers sound really impressive. Looking forward to that level of training!


Stosh Wow that's quite a range. I'm thinking she'll be on the smaller end once she fills out properly but she also has big paws/ears and might have a bit more to grow.

BARF okay- will research, thanks!

Thankfully loving her is the easiest thing to do.


JudynRich She's spending most of her time with her people right now. Although I do worry a little about creating a co-dependency. Working on getting her used to being alone in her dog run for short periods of time too. But she's getting tons of love and praise, she's been amazing so far!

A freeway ramp? Awwwww poor Bella! Thank goodness for you. I love hearing recovery stories like that though.

I didn't even think there'd be an actual cook book for dog food, but of course there is. I'll have to hit up the local bookstores.

I just feel so lucky and grateful to have found such an amazing animal.


JKlatsky Weight- I'm definitely not doing anything special to bulk her up. Feeding her twice a day at the recommended amount with a very little bit of tablescrap in her bowl every once in a while. I'm noticing that everyone who's shared their dog weights with me are different so I'm definitely feeling less stressed about the "standard" information I read online.

Food- The shelter fed them Diamond Naturals. The information I read about it was not impressive, but I suppose it could be worse. She's had loose stool the past couple days, slowly firming up. And I plan to leave her on it for a couple weeks before very gradually mixing in her new home cooked diet. I don't want to cause her any undue stress!

Playing- Interesting! That's good to know. I've never encountered a dog that wasn't interesting in at least gnawing on balls so this is news to me. I think I might try food-based toys with her too because she loves snacks.

Sleep/Joints- She seems to go through waves. She's very high energy in the morning right after being crated and being crated but during the afternoon/evening she's quite chill. Probably a good thing. Fits right in around here. I am glad she's resting up too. I might just do xrays once I find a good vet and settle in. Thank you for being so thorough with your answers! Very helpful.

Cassidy's Mom Aha! I knew I couldn't trust random internet websites, haha. Thank you for the correction. I can't imagine her being in the mid-weight range! Maybe she's relatively tall.

I didn't know that dogs were thin after their litters. I've never had a dog with puppies so imagined it like a human mommy is heavier after a baby. But then again she could've had hers while a stray and not being fed.

So increasing her calories would mean feeding her a smidge more than the instructions on the bag?

Thankfully she doesn't seem to have any medical conditions related to her thinness, but I will be glad once she looks much less like a skeleton.

Do you mind if I ask how tall Halo is? Maybe I should attempt to measure Cara.


LisaT I will definitely need to find/purchase some recipes for homecooking as I was already operating under the assumption the food would be mostly rice with meat/veggies/supplements mixed in.

What would someone (or if Natalie comes around- what do you?) use a spreadsheet for? Rotation of different meals/recipes? Or would it be for the proportions of ingredients? Experimentation with what works best for the dog(s)?

Thank you for the links, I'll go look at that right now. I am glad to hear, though, that you've supplemented for joints early on and it went well! Will definitely be doing that, now.

I haven't seen any "self-trauma" while she's been here. She's licked her incision from being spayed a little (and it was sealed with surgical glue rather than being stitched), so I'm going to put a t-shirt on her and if that doesn't work try a cone. Not fun, but that's what the vet we just met today recommended.

Wow- an underwater treadmill? Sounds like your dog's a brave boy. I hope the PT has been going well for you.

I think you all are dead-on with the curiosity thing. She seems a little bit high strung, but I love her eagerness to meet the world. It's been fun to see what things she's familiar with and what things she's never seen before (a DVD player, heehee). Thank you! I'm so very happy.


Thank you all for your wonderful help!
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