Train for better socialization with humans - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-04-2017, 01:10 PM Thread Starter
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Train for better socialization with humans

Good afternoon everyone,

We are looking to bring home a rescue in about 5 days, 1 year old male with a sad backstory. He was purchased as a puppy and left in the basement of his owners house, no socialization, at all, from what I can gather, I do not know how long this had occurred. This man was incarcerated, and his "Friend" took the GSD home without telling his wife. They already had a dog and he spent most of his time in a cage, and was finally owner surrendered to the rescue, where we come in.

Guido (his name currently) is very cautious around new people, given the lack of socialization I am not surprised. Foster parent says it takes a few hours and he warms up to whomever it is and is a normal dog, but in the initial meeting, backing up and backing is common. For some reason, car rides seem to speed up the acquaintance process and he rather enjoys them. I have seen videos of him playing with the foster family, including rough play, and he appears to be a normal dog after the initial meeting.

The current foster family host "Hot Dog" parties to get him socialized to new people, but he will still need some work.

I have previously rescued a GSD in a similar situation, she wasn't fearful, but submissive to any human contact, even our own for the first month or so. We eventually were able to build her confidence and that behavior fell to the wayside, but I have never had to deal with a barking, fearful GSD before and would like guidance on the best way to work with him.

Any help would be appreciated, when he comes home I'll post up some pics!
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post #2 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-04-2017, 05:14 PM Thread Starter
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backing up and barking is common*
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post #3 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-04-2017, 06:15 PM
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I am currently working with a 1 1/2 year old male we have in our rescue and when I met him the first time he did the same thing: barking and backing up.
I went in his kennel, put his collars on and started walking (yes, I had backup watching us, just in case). This was a week and a half ago and I have worked with him an hour every day. When I walk up to his kennel now he jumps up the door but he is more excited to see me than anything else. I tell him to sit and then I put the collars on him.
I believe he just needed the confidence that it's all ok, that he's safe and I got it under control for both of us. Tonight we start our obedience group class. Last night there was puppy class and I took him in with the other dogs and he did great. He's eager to learn and every time I praise him for doing something good, he has this face that tells me he's proud of himself
Since he's in a foster home I'd say spend time with him there and with his family for a couple days, then take him on a walk by yourself. Have him get used to you and have him find that trust he's looking for.
As far as communicating with him goes, keep it simple and don't put too much excitement in it at first.
Good luck and be patient!!! It'll be worth it.
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post #4 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-04-2017, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by MrSmith View Post
Good afternoon everyone,

We are looking to bring home a rescue in about 5 days, 1 year old male with a sad backstory. He was purchased as a puppy and left in the basement of his owners house, no socialization, at all, from what I can gather, I do not know how long this had occurred. This man was incarcerated, and his "Friend" took the GSD home without telling his wife. They already had a dog and he spent most of his time in a cage, and was finally owner surrendered to the rescue, where we come in.

Guido (his name currently) is very cautious around new people, given the lack of socialization I am not surprised. Foster parent says it takes a few hours and he warms up to whomever it is and is a normal dog, but in the initial meeting, backing up and backing is common. For some reason, car rides seem to speed up the acquaintance process and he rather enjoys them. I have seen videos of him playing with the foster family, including rough play, and he appears to be a normal dog after the initial meeting.

The current foster family host "Hot Dog" parties to get him socialized to new people, but he will still need some work.

I have previously rescued a GSD in a similar situation, she wasn't fearful, but submissive to any human contact, even our own for the first month or so. We eventually were able to build her confidence and that behavior fell to the wayside, but I have never had to deal with a barking, fearful GSD before and would like guidance on the best way to work with him.

Any help would be appreciated, when he comes home I'll post up some pics!
I wouldn't force "socialization". Just do exposure after a two week shutdown in a new home. Don't need to force the dog to do anything.
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post #5 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-05-2017, 09:36 AM Thread Starter
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I wouldn't force "socialization". Just do exposure after a two week shutdown in a new home. Don't need to force the dog to do anything.
I have no plan on forcing socialization, especially when we first bring him home. Is two weeks enough? I was planning around 4 weeks, with all of the ins and outs of his recent past. We met him for the first time last night in the fosters home and were there for about an hour. Lots of barking, wouldn't come near us in the first 20 minutes. By the end of the session he was taking food from hands but retreating to the current foster parents. That's enough progress for me on the first visit, and better than we both expected.

I feel its safe to say he will become a social dog again with enough positive training, its pretty apparent he just wasn't given much attention, or positive attention from his previous owners, but I also don't think he was severely neglected/beaten in order to be fearful of humans. He was very interactive with the foster parents, licking faces etc. And even with the young adults the foster parents have that no longer live at home, he is normal when they pop in and out of the home.

We are moving forward with the adoption, the home visit is tonight.

Oddly enough, if anyone wants to dissect this behavior; car rides with strangers is an almost instant positive socialization experience for him. When the foster parents picked him up, they spent about 2 hours trying to get him to become acquainted with no meaningful progress. The person surrendering the dog (not the owner) had the same issue picking up Guido from the owners. But said if you get in the car with him and go on a drive he relaxes and will be okay. Sure enough the foster parents got in the driver seat, Guido was put in the back by the person handling the drop off, and by the time they got home, he was fine. There was no aggressive behavior in the car, no fearful barking.

We are going to try that approach on Monday on our next visit with him.

Thank you for the responses thus far. I can do all the reading I need to on anxious training, and so far has been very educational. It's nice to be able to hear first hand experience and discuss any questions with actual people though, so thank you again for anyone willing to chime in.
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post #6 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-05-2017, 09:49 AM
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We met him for the first time last night in the fosters home and were there for about an hour. Lots of barking, wouldn't come near us in the first 20 minutes. By the end of the session he was taking food from hands but retreating to the current foster parents. That's enough progress for me on the first visit, and better than we both expected.
Just for a little context on the word force MrSmith, what you guys did last night would fit the description. With a dog like him, I wouldn't bother trying to convince him strangers are ok by having them try to give him treats. I'd keep him out and around as many things and people as possible, but ask everyone to please ignore him. The less attention towards people outside of who he lives with, I think is better.

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post #7 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-05-2017, 10:00 AM
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[QUOTE=Steve Strom;8703002]
Quote:
We met him for the first time last night in the fosters home and were there for about an hour. Lots of barking, wouldn't come near us in the first 20 minutes. By the end of the session he was taking food from hands but retreating to the current foster parents. That's enough progress for me on the first visit, and better than we both expected.
Just for a little context on the word force MrSmith, what you guys did last night would fit the description. With a dog like him, I wouldn't bother trying to convince him strangers are ok by having them try to give him treats. I'd keep him out and around as many things and people as possible, but ask everyone to please ignore him. The less attention towards people outside of who he lives with, I think is better.[/QUOTE

This!!!


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post #8 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-05-2017, 10:15 AM
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What Steve said^^^Any staring,hands out toward him,etc. triggers anxiety.Keeping a comfortable distance from people and observing his surroundings will allow him to relax and acclimate IME.Looking forward to updates!
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post #9 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-05-2017, 10:19 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Steve Strom View Post
Just for a little context on the word force MrSmith, what you guys did last night would fit the description. With a dog like him, I wouldn't bother trying to convince him strangers are ok by having them try to give him treats. I'd keep him out and around as many things and people as possible, but ask everyone to please ignore him. The less attention towards people outside of who he lives with, I think is better.
Thank you for the response. We had a conversation last night with the foster parents about this as well if it was the right thing to do. To clarify on the point, when any stimulus that occurs that would normally trigger an anxious response from him, if he behaves normally we shouldn't reinforce it with praise? Or do you mean strictly, dont force interaction with treats on strangers like we did last night?

Thank you for the help and clarification.

For those interested, here is his pic.


Last edited by MrSmith; 10-05-2017 at 10:22 AM.
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post #10 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-05-2017, 10:39 AM
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Thank you for the response. We had a conversation last night with the foster parents about this as well if it was the right thing to do. To clarify on the point, when any stimulus that occurs that would normally trigger an anxious response from him, if he behaves normally we shouldn't reinforce it with praise? Or do you mean strictly, dont force interaction with treats on strangers like we did last night?

Thank you for the help and clarification.

For those interested, here is his pic.

Always praise when he behaves. If you want calm, praise him calmly. Don't force the interaction. You want to think about how he perceives things, and even if he takes the treat, he may not be thinking what you are about it all. German Shepherds are naturally very aware of everyone, and can be suspicious of them. I find it easier to work on a little indifference towards strangers, by just not focusing their attention on them like you may try with a different dog.
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