THANK YOU for trying to help get this poor dog out of this awful situation. She sounds like she's a lovely dog who deserved so much better than she got. I'm very grateful to adopters like you--you're a good egg for being committed to making it work for this dog.
I've seen MANY abused GSDs with sound base temperaments bounce back, shake off their past, and become deeply devoted, loving, loyal and grateful. The key is that she's not lashing out--she's just backing away when afraid. You can work with that kind of avoidance. It has to be done on her timeline though -- some of them take a while, some come back quickly. It's going to be up to her to decide how fast she can go.
My suggestion is first is to change her name when she's yours. Never have your husband utter the name she associates with her abuser. That name will be banned in your home forever.
Second, you'll be the primary handler since you're home all the time, but let your husband be the source of "good stuff." Buy some very high value (soft meaty) treats that will only be given by him -- ideally, her favorite treats in the whole wide world! He will keep some in his pocket. If he walks by her crate or bed, he will drop one, without looking at her or saying anything. He's going to basically be a random treat dispenser. If she comes to him looking for one, she'll get one, just for coming to him. If she curiously sniffs him, she'll get one. He'll do lots of baby talk and "good girl" with her too--if he has a deep voice, have him work to keep it down with her and focus on being calm, quiet, and gentle (no hollaring at the TV during a ball game with her nearby--luckily, the SEC football season hasn't started yet!).
Basically, the goal is for her to see him as something wonderful and nice. We've used this method in rescue to rehabilitate a lot of dogs with fear of men. It takes time but it does work -- especially when the men are patient and gentle.
Third, this is a dog I would train exclusively positively for the foreseeable future. In fact, clicker training is often exactly the right thing for these dogs because it's new to them -- they have no bad associations with it, so they come into it fresh.
The problem is she's been mishandled with abusive corrections. So for now, corrections will just go away. When the usual people come out and scream about positive training not working, realize most of them haven't rehabilitated an abused dog -- they've handled hard, tough dogs. A soft, abused dog is a whole other thing. The reward-based training builds trust, and trust is Job One with a dog like this.
Once she trusts, all things are possible, but you have to build that trust brick by brick like a fortress for the future. She may eventually be able to transition to other kinds of training, but start by keeping it positive. This advice comes to me from an excellent balanced trainer--these are the only dogs he doesn't allow to be put in prong collars, and when the rest of the class starts correcting, he works differently with these dogs. He gets that these dogs need to be trained differently to build their confidence and trust.
You'll be amazed at what it can accomplish: there was a moment with one of my dogs in the training class, about 3 weeks in, when the lightbulb when off and he realized he knew the right thing to do, and he knew how to make good stuff keep happening. His cringing posture changed and his stance squared up at that moment. His head came up and his inner-GSD came out in his eyes. I saw confidence for the first time. His world had become predictable because of the OB training. It was a beautiful, magical moment to witness. That happened through treat-based training with a food-motivated dog.
Lastly, give some thought to a two-week shutdown and crate-training. In your home, she would benefit from having a crate as her safe space. When she retreats there, she gets left alone.
I also recommend doing a search here on the forum for "two week shutdown." There have been tons of posts and debates about it, but I've seen it work wonders on dogs coming out of really bad situations like this. It gives the dog a calm way to reset their brains to a new environment.
Last edited by Magwart; 06-13-2016 at 12:02 PM.