Teaching and bonding with a 6 year old dog - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 11:48 AM Thread Starter
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Teaching and bonding with a 6 year old dog

My wife, and I just adopted a 6 year old German Shepherd from the Humane Society. I grew up with big dogs, but this is my first GS and the first big dog I've had in about 15 years.

A little bit about the dog to help with my questions, before I continue on: He's 77 lbs, a little under weight. High hips, and larger than a lot of GSs I've seen. He's got a fairly low drive. He is interested in playing with tennis balls, but he definitely doesn't go crazy. Fairly laid back, likes to lay around a lot. Was already fully house trained. Doesn't try to grab food off the table, knows the difference between toys and everything else. Very friendly and relaxed. Instantly decided my wife was his new mom. Gets along great with our Schnauzer/Scottish Terrier (also 6 years old, 20 lbs). Wants to be friend's with our cat. But she is unsure of him, and keeps her distance. He respects her caution, and keeps his space but cries. He doesn't mind if you get close to him, but he seems pretty unsure if you try to hold his paw or restrain his head in any way. He won't be aggressive, but he will just move around and try to get out of the situation.

He already knows commands such as sit, lay down, and paw. But he ignores these commands about 90% of the time unless you have a treat or ball in your hand. He will play fetch, but when he brings the ball back he will go past you, and randomly drop the ball a few seconds later behind you. Of he is in the other room, and I call he will come, but once he gets to me it is hard to get his attention. He wags his tail though and will come near, and but still doesn't like to fully listen.

I've only trained dogs when they were young, and it seems fairly different when dealing with an older dog. What's the best way to establish a relationship with him? I've only had him about 3 days. Any articles or videos would work. I rather ask people who have the breed then search through the internet, and find the wrong information. I've also heard people argue with establishing a master relationship first with some strictness then easing up, and others say to start friendly as a family member first. I rather do what's right from the beginning.

Thanks for you help in advance!

Last edited by AJ555; 06-01-2016 at 11:50 AM.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 12:41 PM
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Thank you for rescuing Your GSD seems lovely, but he is uncertain and feeling his way. That is why he is not attentive. It is like being a refugee in a foreign country where one doesn't understand the language or culture and is afraid one will be deported for doing something wrong. So, my advice would be to take it slow for the first month. Let him feel his way and observe you. Try to stick to a regular routine involving play time (use 2 balls for fetch), very short training rewarded with treats, long walks on leash, and down time (the sitting on your dog where you sit and his is on the down/stay by your side for about 5 minutes at first and work up to 20 minutes). Practice calming signals - avoid direct eye contact - let him come up to you, walk by you, and observe you. The book Calming Signals or video by Turid Rugaas is helpful. A google search will bring up the video.


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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 12:47 PM
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I'm not going to be much help but I can tell you that most GSD's aren't particularly fond of having someone hold their paws or their heads- at least mine doesn't like it and I've had him for 9 years +.

You have only had him 3 days. It will take time, and you need to give him time to adapt to his new environment and family. This could take weeks or months. Don't rush it.

There are plenty of experienced folks on there that have rescued or work at rescues. They will surely give you more help then I am able to. Give them a day or two to read and respond.

Lynn & Traveler
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 12:57 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Mary Beth View Post
Try to stick to a regular routine involving play time (use 2 balls for fetch), very short training rewarded with treats, long walks on leash, and down time (the sitting on your dog where you sit and his is on the down/stay by your side for about 5 minutes at first and work up to 20 minutes). Practice calming signals - avoid direct eye contact - let him come up to you, walk by you, and observe you. The book Calming Signals or video by Turid Rugaas is helpful. A google search will bring up the video.
Thanks for the advice. You mentioned two balls for fetch. Would this be to show him the other one, when he bring the first one back to get his attention?
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 01:01 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Traveler's Mom View Post
I'm not going to be much help but I can tell you that most GSD's aren't particularly fond of having someone hold their paws or their heads- at least mine doesn't like it and I've had him for 9 years +.

You have only had him 3 days. It will take time, and you need to give him time to adapt to his new environment and family. This could take weeks or months. Don't rush it.

There are plenty of experienced folks on there that have rescued or work at rescues. They will surely give you more help then I am able to. Give them a day or two to read and respond.

Lynn & Traveler
I know it will take some time. My other dog was also a rescue, but he was only 2 when we got him. I was just pointing out observations of his current behavior to give people an idea of where he is at in order to be as detailed as possible. I figured his situation for approaching and dealing with him would be different than if he were much younger. Thank you for the advice though.
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 02:03 PM
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He sounds like a really nice dog! I think it will just take some time. Our dog would not warm up to my husband when she was little, so he would get on the floor near her and give her a treat or two. He only had to do this a couple times and then there seemed to be more of a bond. Go for walks, car rides, just sit nearby. And even though he is 6yrs old, you can still go to training. Our dog is 6yrs old and we take her to an advanced training class now and then just for some mental stimulation. She likes it and likes being around the other dogs in a group class.

The book that Mary Beth recommended is great, I really enjoyed it. The book is a short but informative read.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 02:41 PM
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We adopted, Buzz, a 5 yo, 90 lb. Australian Shepherd about 10 years ago. (He has since passed) We also volunteered in rescue and fostered several dogs. My experience is that it can take a good couple of weeks for a dog to get comfortable in a new home. After that you may begin to see some new behaviors - barking, taking food off the counter etc... I am not saying that your new addition isn't a sweetie, but it is very likely that you are not seeing his true personality yet. Our Buzz was very nervous when he entered our house. I kept him on a leash tethered to me for the first few days so that I could keep a close eye on him. His nervousness made me scared that he might do something aggressive out of fear even though he never growled or even barked at anyone. He was scared and a scared dog does scary things. I found that taking him to obedience school, just basic obedience, was a really great way to bond with him. I found that once he understood what we wanted he totally relaxed and completely bonded with the entire family. He became the most "bomb proof" dog I have ever owned. Little kids could jump on him unexpectedly and he would be totally okay with it (unfortunately I found this out the hard way with a neighborhood kid that Buzz had never met). So my recommendation would be to start some gentle, positive, training so that your dog can start to speak the same language as you and know what you want so that he can have an opportunity to relax.
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 04:59 PM
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Thanks for the advice. You mentioned two balls for fetch. Would this be to show him the other one, when he bring the first one back to get his attention?
It's a 2-ball game. How I do it, is to take both balls. I throw one ball, and of course, my dog goes after it - picks it up - and then thinks to himself: "I'll keep it". He usually is watching me but keeping his ball firmly in his month until I take out the second ball. And I play with that ball, I toss it up in the air, catch it - totally ignoring my dog. Well, that is too much, he wants that ball but he has to drop his ball to get mine - so he approaches - all the while, I'm having fun with my ball - so he comes closer - when he gets about a foot away - I throw my ball - he drops his ball and goes after it. I pick up his ball and the game continues. As the dog learns, I only need one ball. To end the game when he gives me the ball which I put away for next time, I always give him a treat in exchange.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 06:25 PM
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Teach him a "watch me" command. Sure you can find that on line... very common with clicker training folks. So he is rewarded for looking in your eyes. This is tough for some rescues who may have never been taught it. Go slow. And yeah, some is just time and not over-stimulating him too early with a bunch of experiences.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-02-2016, 01:20 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Mary Beth View Post
It's a 2-ball game. How I do it, is to take both balls. I throw one ball, and of course, my dog goes after it - picks it up - and then thinks to himself: "I'll keep it". He usually is watching me but keeping his ball firmly in his month until I take out the second ball. And I play with that ball, I toss it up in the air, catch it - totally ignoring my dog. Well, that is too much, he wants that ball but he has to drop his ball to get mine - so he approaches - all the while, I'm having fun with my ball - so he comes closer - when he gets about a foot away - I throw my ball - he drops his ball and goes after it. I pick up his ball and the game continues. As the dog learns, I only need one ball. To end the game when he gives me the ball which I put away for next time, I always give him a treat in exchange.
I tried something similar before I read your post. I would throw one ball, and as soon as he brought it back I would show the other. Instead of walking past, ignoring me, and randomly dropping the ball. He instead would drop the 1st ball in front of me, and sit waiting for the 2nd. The main difference in the way I was doing it was that I wasn't playing with the one I had, but I will try that.
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