Advice for first time owner of a rescue - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-20-2019, 09:47 PM Thread Starter
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Advice for first time owner of a rescue

I normally don't succumb to impulse. Was at Animal control and picked up a 1.5-2yr old Sheppard after my son fell in love. It was very shy at first and then warmed up incredibly. The staff thought he might have been abused, but I never saw any aggressive behavior or growling.

I took him home, and the dog very quickly became incredibly attached within several hours. I had him crated for a period, and the dog was wimpering and really upset. Later, I had a female friend over, and dog jumped up and licked her face on day one. After that, I then let the dog roam free in the house without any problems. A real joy.. super playful and loving.

Now, I'm at day two. My mom came by in the morning and while the dog was in the office with me and it growled at my mom as she approached from the hallway. Later the dog then loosened up and was spending time with my parents after a short period. Then later as the scene was recreated with her approaching via the hall, growled at her again. Just an hour ago (still day 2), the neighbor boy came over in the backyard and got the same growling.

Heres the thing, I can't risk a dog go rogue and bite or terrorize someone - and I realize that I didn't pick the best candidate to start with. My question is this, at what point should I begin to worry (I'm assuming that was today?), and what are the best steps moving forward?

I love the interaction I've had with the dog, and its super affectionate. However, I can't keep an animal that may hurt someone.

Thanks for reading,
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-20-2019, 11:41 PM
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There are people here far more knowledgeable than I am about dealing with rescues but for what it's worth...

One day is way too early to give him complete freedom. Is he crate trained? Either way he needs to structure in his life and (as I am sure you realize) you have signed up to give it to him. Interaction with new people, new animals, new situations...all of it happens under your control. He should learn in no uncertain terms that if something happens or feels like it might happen that YOU will take care of it. You will keep him safe. You will keep your son safe. If he growls at your mom, you will tell him that is unacceptable. Not by hitting him or yelling at him or freaking out but via a humane correction. (What that entails fill many books but a quick tug on the leash sideways--not backwards--is one way.) The list goes on and on. If he tries to get food of the counter, you let him know we don't do that around here. If he tries to put something in his mouth he shouldn't you get him to drop it. If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. But (1) he's a GSD and (2) he has had no rules or different rules for 2 years. He needs them and he will be much happier with them.

If this all seems like too much I would recommend researching and reading about how to handle a working breed dog. If you can afford it and want hands on help find a trainer/behaviorist in your area. If you give your location here, I am sure people will message you with suggestions. Don't use a "positive only" trainer--they will fail, claim the dog is abused, and tell you he can't be saved. Don't find a draconian old-school trainer either. You want a balanced trainer with experience with working dogs like German Shepherds.

Your case does not sound severe. You can do this. But it is going to take work and dedication and learning what to do and what not to do. Your whole family will have to be on the same page. The reward at the end will be a great dog your son will love.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-21-2019, 08:13 AM
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Too much too soon. This dog may not have been abused, most likely confused. People give up on these dogs at around 1 1/2 or so because the dogs are harder to handle. The dog is young and strong but mentally immature. The owners don't give the dog clear calm direction, then get angry and frustrated and yell at the dog. I would suggest what folks around here call a Two Week Shut Down. Home becomes peaceful and calm. Lots of napping in the crate. Feeding in the crate with no one pestering him. Very few people coming in and out. No one visiting to see the new pet. This guy needs to learn the new normal, the new routine and how he fits into it. Growling may simply mean "stay away, I'm busy trying to figure this all out". After a couple of weeks then you can start adding some variety, join a good training class, visit a park for a short adventure (not a dog park, at least not yet).
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-21-2019, 09:03 AM
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"Heres the thing, I can't risk a dog go rogue and bite or terrorize someone - and I realize that I didn't pick the best candidate to start with."
To be honest, almost no dog goes rogue, there are always signs- just we miss them sometimes. And trust me, no one likes the idea of their dog biting someone! But its a risk with ANY dog, just some have a much higher threshold and for different things/situations. My dog for example EXTREMELY low threshold for strangers, due to fear.

I agree with what the other to are saying, with too much too soon.
Also, remember this. Dogs don't talk. They communicate via body language, growling, barking, howling, etc. Growling is just another communication tool they have to use with each other and us.

Honestly, he sounds like he had an insecure moment (new people, new home, he just came from a stressful shelter, who knows his history, he probably has a lot of pent up energy and with no mental stimulation, etc.) and with "too much too soon" its not really a big red flag to me that he growled. Just that there is a lot to do to set him up for success, but it's not HARD stuff to do!

I would also advice you to get a trainer with good reviews, who can help you set the dog up for success in your family. Giving you both structure, daily routine, and for you to learn how to read your dog.

Also, I do not know him personally so this is just me basing off what you had said about him and the situation. He sounds like he is going to be a great dog though with structure and training, and to make sure he feels secure- that you "have his back" and he doesn't have to worry about anything.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-21-2019, 11:05 AM
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I'm seconding the "shut down" ----- He's got a family, he's unsure about comings and goings right now. So - limited, very limited exposure to other people - as in "none" for a while if you can do that.

My very secure, raised-with-me dogs were something like 5 and 3 when a good friend visited for several days. The first morning she got a very loud, rousing wake up - as in "Whose this in this room? Are you supposed to be here?" it was a very hearty not-so-welcome good morning. Barking is to be understood especially in these early days - so is a growl when someone comes down the hallway to a room you and the dog are in.

The dog isn't ready to meet a lot of new people just yet. It can be overwhelming - which is what you are seeing/hearing.
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