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GSD Owners,

I really need some advice, and I'm hoping people on this forum, given how much they love GSD, can give me some objective advice on what is best for my dog, not for me. I rescued a 3-year-old german shepherd about 8 months ago. He's a fantastic dog, and I've worked with him a lot to train him very well. He's mellow, sensitive, and truly "man's best friend." I had never realized how attached he would get to his owner though (me), and since I got him, I've been wondering whether my lifestyle is what is truly best for him. So, please, I would like your objective opinion on whether the following lifestyle is what is best for Kaiser.

I live alone on a 5 acre lot, relatively secluded, and about 30 minutes drive (25 miles) from my job. I work 5 days per week, usually about 7 to 9 hours per day. I walk Kaiser daily, wrestle with him, etc., but otherwise, and other than me, he usually gets little to no company (other than a few dogs across the fence he plays with sometimes). He does get a 5 acre lot though to browse around, and I give him plenty of real-meat bones, etc., to make his life interesting. I'm a relatively quiet person, and don't get a lot of company over, nor do I like going to dog get-togethers, etc., so really, I am all Kaiser really has for entertainment.

My question is this: Am I providing him with the life he deserves? I love having him at home when I'm there, and having a dog to sit by the fire with at night, but when I'm gone during the day, I just feel guilty about leaving him alone. Yes, he gets a lot of love from me when I'm home, and he looks rather content. Even when I leave in the morning, and tell him "stay home," he knows exactly what that means, and is usually just fine with me leaving. He gets the full house to roam, but usually just sleeps on the couch. When I get home, he usually doesn't even get up to greet me, and is just relaxing on the couch. No separation anxiety at all. But honestly, is this going to be his whole life, sleeping on a couch?

I really do love Kaiser, and I want the best for him, and if that means placing him in a home where he'd receive more daily attention, maybe more exercise, etc., then I'll do it, and I'll do it with a tear and a smile because I know it's what is best for him. The problem is that I don't know what's best for him at this point, and the risk of him going to a bad home scares the **** out of me.

What I would like advice on is whether the above description sounds like a good life for a dog. If not, then I'm being selfish in keeping him, and overly protective of the possibility of giving him up to a family that could spend more time with him. My concern is that he goes to a family that doesn't love him as much as me, and that he has a hard time adapting. He's very "into me" and has been so since day 1, so it's a concern of mine. And if I did give him up to what I thought was a good home, but it didn't work out, I'd be powerless to do anything about it, and would forever feel I let him down.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Dan.
 

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Dogs need interaction with their pack... so yeah, I'd say his life seems about ideal. Dog parks are a human creation. Dogs don't really want to meet tons of strange dogs. Very few dogs get to be with their owners all day every day. Very few.
 

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I think with all your love you give him he will be fine. As long as you give him plenty of exercise and attention when your home. 7 to 9 hours a day gone isnt that bad really I dont think. As long as he is comfortable which sounds like he is on the couch lol. Sounds like you two are meant for each other dont let him go. The fact you dont have any separation anxiety when you come home tells me all is good. This is just my opion and im by not means an expert. I say enjoy him.
 

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It depends on the dog. Some dogs would not be happy with this lifestyle, but it sounds like Kaiser is doing great. Dogs have a way of letting you know if they're not happy.
It seems to me that you would BOTH be miserable without each other, so why change a good thing.
 

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Hi Dan,

I am by no means an expert, but from what you have posted, it sounds like Kaiser is very happy with his life. Kaiser sounds like he is very attached to you and loves having you as his human. If Kaiser was destroying the house while you were away, or exhibiting other behaviors that made it seem like he was unhappy, then maybe you could worry, but it sounds like he is very content. You said you don't have lots of visitors and don't like going to dog "get-togethers." Have you ever considered that Kaiser is happy about that? Maybe Kaiser would hate being dragged somewhere and forced to socialize with dogs he doesn't know and really doesn't want to get to know. It sounds to me like you got a dog that compliments you and your lifestyle perfectly and that Kaiser got the same in his human. Be happy and enjoy him!
 

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You say he is very "into you" then what does he give you as an indication he is not happy? Tearing things up/doing things for attention? It seems as if he is content with his life. If a dog is not happy they are gonna let you know it. I live on 5 acres in the middle of nowhere, my dogs don't go to dog parks, or go on social outings and they are all happy. I kick or throw the ball when I can and take them for walks even though they have 5 acres to run. I say if you love him, he loves you then why upset his world by rehoming him.
 

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Something is not clear, when you are not home, your dog is inside on your sofa, relaxing, or out roaming around your five acre lot?

Dogs sleep way more than people do. Maybe not 20 hours like a cat does, but certainly much of the time he spends at home without you is probably spent snoozing on the couch.

He is not chewing your couch or barking and crying for hours on end? Bored and lonely dogs generally develop nuisance behaviors like barking and chewing. It does not sound like this is a problem. Sometimes they will dig holes in themselves, and even bite their tails until they are deformed. This does not seem to be happening.

Not all GSDs were created equal. Some have high drives and high energy, and others are laid back and low key. It sounds like you have a dog that matches your lifestyle. I think a high energy, high drive dog would probably have trouble with the amount of interaction with the world, people, training, etc. I think that dog would be bored and might develop some issues. A dog that has serious dependency problems would also develop some issues.

It sounds like your dog is ok being on his own, and is fine with the interaction and walks you are able to give him.

His life is probably much better than a lot of alternatives. Someone else might keep him crated all day long, all night, and see him as often as you do. Someone else might force him to run and play with other dogs -- not all dogs are keen on this. Someone else might decide he does not have the personality they are looking for and dump him for being too laid back, too low energy.

If you apprecieate your dog, and your dog appreciates you, if your house is more of a home because of the dog waiting for you there, if you enjoy your walks with your dog, I think you should keep on keeping on.

You might consider taking the dog once a week to some classes to teach him something that both of you could have fun with, but if that is not your thing, your dog can certainly live without it.

GSDs do a great job of molding themselves into our lifestyle.
 

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I agree with the above,,it sounds like Kaiser is quite content with his life and is very used to the routine..I'm sure if he wasnt content you'd know it.

Your not being selfish by keeping him he sounds quite happy with the way things are:)
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Kaiser

Kaiser's personality is very laid back and the key word for him is MELLOW. When I first got him, he was needy of my attention all the time, but now he's truly adapted to the ranch I'm on, and is content to sit on the couch (monitor the outdoors by looking through the window), and is an excellent guard.

Here's something of note: when I first got him, he used to sleep on my bed or in my room the whole night. Now, he stays with me for about 1 hour (usually snout buried in my chest), then retreats to his couch and spends the night there. Whether I get up at 7am or 10am on a Saturday, he stays on the couch until I'm up. When I get up and go to the living room, there he is, content and resting. It's only after I give him his morning hug is he ready to go outside. This tells me that even when I'm home, he likes his couch and doesn't need to be next to me all the time. So, when I'm away from home, it's probably not THAT big of a deal to him anyway. And if I were home, he'd be doing the same thing anyhow.

When I'm home, he does get to roam the ranch, all 5 acres completely fenced. He's quite independent, and sometimes when I look out the window he's usually sniffing here and there, roaming through the grass or snow, etc., this tells me too that he's more or less happy and content, and doesn't need more stimulation. Sometimes I'm concerned that he'd go better with a family around him, but from what most of you have responded so far, that's not necessarily true.

I guess my concern is that I'm keeping a such a magnificent dog without allowing him to fulfill his complete potential. But that concern may be unfounded. What that potential is, I don't know, which is why I'm seeking advice on what the "typical" GSD life is all about. When I first met Kaiser, he came to me immediately, lied on his back at my feet, and we've been two of a kind ever since. This is why I say he's "into me," because he has a keen sense of my energy, and how to respond to it. In the evening, while he's on the couch, I'll stand and look at him, and he'll know it's "bedtime" and retreat to the bedroom. I don't even have to say a word. Or, I can tell him to march 30 feet to the "pen" in the yard, and he goes. That's why I believe we're good together, and if I did give him up, it would break my heart if he ended up with a human he didn't "click" with or someone who didn't understand him. At the same time though, I want to make sure I'm not just being self-absorbed about it, and feeling like I have a "dog quality" he detects. I want to be realistic about it. He's also the most forgiving being I could ever even dream of, and he's super-protective of me.

I appreciate all the comments, and truly value all of your inputs on this. It really means a lot to get the opinions of GSD owners who love their dogs just as much. I can't put the issue to bed until I make peace with it, but your feedback and thoughts have been very helpful.

By the way, there have been no signs of separation anxiety when I'm gone, other than the other day he took something from out of the trash (but I think he was just being a bit snoopy, I don't think it was a "complaint.") Even when I left this morning to come to work, he had his head on the edge of the couch, almost "enjoying" the routine of seeing me go (kind of like, "It's that time of day, I get it, this is where you go, see you later friend."). And when I say "stay home," he shuts off all other mental considerations (even as I'm putting on my jacket, getting the keys, etc.), and doesn't get up to watch me go. So, I have no indications of overt behavior that he's lonely, or doesn't like his life. I guess I just want to make sure in his mind he's happy and content. And if I'm at work wondering if he's content, it makes me miserable, so it may just be something I need to get over.

Thanks,
Dan.
 

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You could get yourself and Kaiser involved in a GSD club(schutzhund, herding or agility) if you feel there is something 'missing'. You could take him tracking on all your land, I bet you'd both love it! I have three dogs and two of them are pretty much homebodies due to their temperament. I think they need a social outlet now and then, but they do have the other dogs to occupy each other when the family isn't around. Sometimes adding to your pack is good, other times not, but it is another option if you feel a void.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
When I'm not home, Kaiser's in my house on the couch. I'll say "stay home" before I leave, and he knows to get up on the couch and watch me prepare to leave. He gets up for water sometimes, but otherwise, I think he stays on the couch, because when I get home, he's usually at the same spot when I left. I leave the TV on for him, and when I get home, we bond once more, and I sometimes give him a bone to go outside with, and later in the night we'll go for our 30 minute walk (which he loves). I've thought about getting a dog-door too, so he could have full access to the 5 acres AND the house while I'm gone, but my chief concern is whether he's lonely while I'm gone. I guess I have this fantasy of seeing him herding sheep or something, or living it up with a person who could spend all day with him, and it's that that makes me wonder whether I'm providing him with the best of lives. I hate the thought of keeping a dog "prisoner" for my amusement when I get home. I'm probably over-analyzing it, but I really do care for him, and would let go of him if I knew (for certain) he was getting a better life. I can't keep him "for me," it's not in me to do that.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thank you for your thoughts and comments. I hadn't considered that maybe Kaiser likes the "lone-wolf" life as much as me, and when I have taken him to a dog park, he actually is pretty content to just do his thing and doesn't pay that much attention to the other dogs. I guess my concern is that I don't know what dog's ideal life "should be," so this is why I started questioning his. When he's out investigating the yard, he looks truly independent and happy, so I have no reason to think he'd be happier with other dogs around him.
 

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Hey Dan,

Kaiser sounds like he has the ideal life for the type of GSD he is....in fact, where can I sign up?
 

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I also think it sounds like he is fairly happy with his life, but if you wanted to give him more companionship, have you thought about rescuing another dog to be his friend? You could find an equally laid back GSD and then he would have some company. :)

I always feel better leaving my dogs knowing they are together and have each other when I am out. And I can see that sometimes they have played as the toys have been taken out of the toy bin! :laugh:
 

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It sounds like your schedule is similar to mine. I leave my dogs home about 9 hours a day. When I only had one dog, Doerak, he would spend the day sleeping waiting for me to get home. When I was finally home, he would spend his time watching me for signs that it was time to work or play. Doerak was a kennel dog before I got him, basically, he was livestock. It took a long time for him to understand all the affection and comforts that I had to give him.

I don't know what Kaiser's life was like before you rescued him, but it sounds like he is really liking it now. And you said you've trained with him. If he's not asking you for something, then I wouldn't worry. Like somebody says, dogs sleep a lot. And I think 5 acres can supply a lot of stimulation.

I wouldn't bother with a second dog. My guy, Doerak, was unhappy when I brought in my Malinois puppy. I think he was depressed for several months because he was really happy with the way things were.

Now I have 3 dogs. When I come home from work, all 3 want to play/work with me. Sometimes I think there's not enough of me to go around.
 

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Your situation sounds similar to mine. I'm very private, a loner, live in the boonies on five acres - I am away from home up to 10 hrs a day with work and the drive back and forth. I rarely have visitors, do not have a TV, or a cell phone, and just rarely listen to music or radio, as these things are all intrusions into my 'quiet' time. My dogs are very happy and well adjusted. My rescue is an independent one, like your Kaiser - when I got another dog, it was for me, because I wanted another dog, not for her. And though they get along very well, and when outside love to play and wrestle and chase each other, in the house she is still just as independent, and like Kaiser, her spot of choice is on the sofa, looking out the window.

GSD's can come in a wide range of personalities and energy levels. Some GSDs would require more involvement and exercise than Kaiser does, and some are perfectly happy with the kind of life-style you offer.

If he was unhappy and needed more, you would know. As others have said, destructive and problem behaviours would emerge as a symptom of him being bored. But it does not sound like that is the case at all. Sounds to me like you ARE giving him a high-quality life, and his needs are all being met. So enjoy your relationship with Kaiser, he does have a great life with you!
 

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You could get yourself and Kaiser involved in a GSD club(schutzhund, herding or agility) if you feel there is something 'missing'. You could take him tracking on all your land, I bet you'd both love it! I have three dogs and two of them are pretty much homebodies due to their temperament. I think they need a social outlet now and then, but they do have the other dogs to occupy each other when the family isn't around. Sometimes adding to your pack is good, other times not, but it is another option if you feel a void.
I think what Jane said about laying tracks on your land is a super idea...something he will LOVE and you will enjoy him doing.
 

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Thank you for your comments . . . I know what you mean about the second dog idea. I had a friend once who bought a little puppy "for" her shepherd/lab mix, and though my friend and I enjoyed the puppy, I never really thought the bigger dog was too keen on the idea, and sometimes was just plain annoyed. I've seen Kaiser with other dogs, and it's hit and miss, so if the right companion came along, it could work. But, then Kaiser may feel he's competing for my attention, which doesn't necessarily bring about positive feelings. Last night I got home at around 6pm, and Kaiser didn't get off the couch until about 7:30pm, he was perfectly content in just watching me made dinner and go about my business (after I hugged him when I got home of course). Maybe he's finding his own life distinct from mine, and it felt very much like we were roomates last night. I actually had to invite him on the other sofa to join me for some cuddling before bed, so maybe he's not as "needy" of me as I think he is. This morning we were up at 5am doing laps for 15 minutes, so I'm guessing he's sleeping right now on the couch while I'm at work, and probably quite content.
 

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Your life sounds very similar to mine. I have a 5 year old female GSD that I adopted last July. Since then she has adjusted very well to my routine.

I work 9 hour days, 5 days a week. I try to come home for lunch because I miss my dog Sadie, but you know what? She rarely gets up off the bed to greet me. She is enjoying her sleeptime too much to be interrupted.

I wouldn't worry too much about "living up to Kaiser's potential". The realitly of life intrudes on us all. We have to work, go to appointments, etc. The dog can't be with me 24/7, as much as I would want that.

You give Kaiser a good home, fresh water and food, you play with him. He loves you for what you do for him. Don't beat yourself up over feeling guilty, ok? We all feel that way at times.
 
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