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Hi all. My family and I are at wit's end with this girl we bought from our regular breeder a few months back. She's a bit over 11 months old now and we got her rather late at 8 months--there were a few bailout prospective owners who never went through with the sale resulting in her staying with the breeder longer than normal, so it wasn't a known temperament issue. Both of her parents are very well-adjusted and never went through this kind of stage. Sable DDR/working class line we purchased to be a family companion and possibly join my older shepherd on visits to patients in homes and hospitals for 'cheering up.'

She's bonded well with our 6 year old shepherd from the same breeder and plays with her all day, as with our terrier and pit. She's even good with the cats! But try to walk up to her for a pet and she absolutely runs. She won't come to us when called, refuses to get closer than three feet even for a treat (with or without the other dogs present), and has to be cajoled into the house at night with us out of the way of her direct path to her kennel (which she refuses to leave). Occasionally, she'll come up to us while out in the yard from behind, but we still aren't able to interact with her (she runs away when we turn to look at her, burrowing under our deck). Her behavior indoors sans-cage is to run laps through the house to avoid us.

It's maddening, honestly. My father, step-mother, and I are the only three people in our home--all adults, she has other well-socialized dogs to interact with, and two acres to run on. At first we took our breeder's advice: it's the adjustment period; it's new hormones; it's nerves. We all wanted to see it as that initially as well and hoped she'd grow out of it with patience, but it only seems to be getting worse. We've been able to help our rescues (pit from a fighting ring and terrier from hoarding), but our girl with no history of problems is the one we can't seem to help.

I'm not looking for a miracle, but she needs to bond with us. It's gotten to the point that we needed to place a GPS tracking collar on her because her Houdini-esque tendencies involved digging her way out of our fenced yard and disappearing for a few days on one occasion.

Thanks in advance for your input everyone!
 

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I'm no expert but I think your dog was severely mistreated at some point in her life. I would wonder where she had been and what happened during her first eight months.

If her fear was genetic it would have shown up early on and your breeder should have seen it.

Something is missing about her first eight months of life.

I think you could work with her but I doubt she will be what you were hoping for. Wish you the best with her.
 

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Yes, I agree with Andy, and I don't think the breeder has told you the full story especially as to why the other sales fell through. Turid Rugass, the Norwegian trainer has worked a lot with abused and rescued gsds and other dogs. Her book: On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals could give you some insight into your dog's behavior and ways you can help her.
 

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See, that's the weird thing about it. She was raised exclusively by her breeder up until I purchased her. I'd point at something the breeder had done, but my breeder has kept shepherds for decades and is one of the most reputable breeders in the northwest. Her sister was outgoing and excited, as was the other pup kenneled with her (kept for breeding). I was warned that her mother was a bit goofy for the first year in very much the same way, but my girl has turned out 10x worse than her mother. I'm wondering if her age when we got her could have anything to do with her unwillingness to bond?

Honestly, I'd be thrilled with her eventually being comfortable with coming up to family members when called and spending the evening in our living room dozing. At the moment, I've given up 'subtle' methods in a last ditch effort to get her over being afraid of us. Earlier, I leashed her to my belt and she's coming with me everywhere. My older shepherd is spending lots of time with the two of us, as she's far more outgoing towards people when her 'buddy' is with us. It seems to be helping ever so slightly, so fingers crossed for time and patience helping.

Again, any training tips and thoughts are immensely appreciated!
 

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Yes, I agree with Andy, and I don't think the breeder has told you the full story especially as to why the other sales fell through. Turid Rugass, the Norwegian trainer has worked a lot with abused and rescued gsds and other dogs. Her book: On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals could give you some insight into your dog's behavior and ways you can help her.
I'll definitely give that a read. Thanks! I think I'm going to move towards working with her similar to my prior rescues and see what happens. Something's definitely fishy with her--this just isn't normal shepherd temperament.
 

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I absolutely don't believe that a dog has had to suffer abuse in order to exhibit this kind of behavior. A dog that has not been adequately socialized will act in this exact same way.

If this dog only knew the universe of her breeder's home, and nothing else, everything is suspect in her eyes. A genetic weakness could make it harder for her to recover some stability. What independent, third party opinion supports the idea that the parent dogs are very well adjusted? Have you ever observed their behavior away from the breeder's home? How much experience do the breeders really have? Do their breeding dogs get out in the world and compete in some venue (obedience, agility, herding, conformation, schutzhund, etc.)?

I would start by encouraging her to bond with the people in your home, and discourage a primary bond with the other dogs in your home. Limit her access to the other dogs, at least for a few months. I would also find an experienced behaviorist that can help you shape her behavior. You might not ever have a confident dog, but you should be able to get her to the point where she isn't actively avoiding human contact.
Sheilah
 

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What kind of positive engagement exercises have you done with this dog? By that, I mean, dedicated time spent with the dog designed to help the dog understand that being with you, and responding to your direction, is fun and desirable.

I am not being critical, I am just asking some clarifying questions so that you can get better advice from others that are more experienced than I am. I will say that I believe "Sit,Stay" made a lot of good suggestions.
 

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too much of this "She's bonded well with our 6 year old shepherd from the same breeder and plays with her all day, as with our terrier and pit. She's even good with the cats!"

sounds like she is choosing to be a wild-feral type , her comfort zone re-inforced by the ability to function well in a "pack" of canines.
 

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too much of this "She's bonded well with our 6 year old shepherd from the same breeder and plays with her all day, as with our terrier and pit. She's even good with the cats!"

sounds like she is choosing to be a wild-feral type , her comfort zone re-inforced by the ability to function well in a "pack" of canines.
Yes, excellent point! Now that you have explained more, it seems like she didn't have any or enough one on one time with just people at the breeders but always there were other dogs around- her littermate that was outgoing, and your pup being shy, it was just easier for her to avoid people. I suggest you work with her alone - take her for walks alone - since she is running away, she could also be bored with the same 2 acres and will enjoy getting out and seeing other places. Also, I agree with your idea to approach it like she were abused and use a positive approach like clicker training (there are great threads on that) .
 

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I agree with Carmen, to much dog to dog bonding and not enough dog to human bonding.

And I also agree with sit/stay that a dog doesn't have to suffer abuse to act like this.

I would separate her from your "pack" and work with her on leash one on one. I would not let her run wild outside, she'd be on a leash/long line with 'me'..
 

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I absolutely don't believe that a dog has had to suffer abuse in order to exhibit this kind of behavior. A dog that has not been adequately socialized will act in this exact same way.

If this dog only knew the universe of her breeder's home, and nothing else, everything is suspect in her eyes. A genetic weakness could make it harder for her to recover some stability. What independent, third party opinion supports the idea that the parent dogs are very well adjusted? Have you ever observed their behavior away from the breeder's home? How much experience do the breeders really have? Do their breeding dogs get out in the world and compete in some venue (obedience, agility, herding, conformation, schutzhund, etc.)?

I would start by encouraging her to bond with the people in your home, and discourage a primary bond with the other dogs in your home. Limit her access to the other dogs, at least for a few months. I would also find an experienced behaviorist that can help you shape her behavior. You might not ever have a confident dog, but you should be able to get her to the point where she isn't actively avoiding human contact.
Sheilah
Agree, most likely severely under socialized. Do no longer give her the option to flee by keeping her leashed. Fleeing is a reward since it rescues her and confirms that you are scary and to be avoided.
If she shows this behavior at this age I am not very hopeful to have her become a trustworthy pet. An under socialized GSD is a liability. It depends on your expectations and your willingness to manage her life long if you can keep her or not.
 

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There is an obvious trust issue and I would separate her from the others, and do nothing but walk and feed her. I would not pet her, I would not attempt to engage her right now in any other way. I would just put on a leash, and walk. And walk. And walk. I think she will come around when she realizes you're a fun and interesting part of her life. Baby steps, and she'll warm up to you. I would also make VERY sure that if she is permitted to interact with your other dogs, that you monitor it and make sure that she is not having a negative experience. Also remember that 3+ dogs = a pack. She sounds like she has become "doggy" - that is, she much prefers the other dogs to you. So you have to change that and teach her how great it is to spend time with you.
 

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Wolfy Dog has a good point. My husky was like yours, only not as bad and I didn't have other dogs -she never bonded with the cats :) In fact, that is why I ended up with 4 cats, they were company when the dog was not. She wanted to be outside all the time - inside, she only sought affection if she wanted something - and the way I did form a bond with her was the walking - she loved it and to go different places. I adopted her when she was 2 years - her previous owner was a college student who got a job in a big city and wasn't up to a dog in an apartment. He told me later that yes, she loved to be outside and basically could as he lived in a house with other guys out in the country. I did train her, though she was never reliable off leash. And as much as she could, she did give affection - it just wasn't in her nature to be faithful and devoted, and I often think a lot of it was her breed. And she was socialized - he had her from a pup on and go her when he was in college. So, what I mean, is that you may want to realize the possible limitations on what she can give. I think she will get better but maybe not like your other dogs. I am just suggesting that this is something for you to take into consideration and think carefully what you are taking on.
 

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I had a feral dog. She went from being terrified of me to the biggest sweetheart and snuggler I ever met. The key was obedient and routine.
She gained confidence and looked to me for direction when she was out of her comfort zone.
I started by throwing her food to her. She would get a piece, then run back with it to her crate. I kept at it and in a few weeks she would eat out of a bowl next to me.
I used to call her a squirrel bc if someone came in the room, she would scramble along the wall and run to the basement.

It can be done. It was often two steps forward, one step back. But she really did turn out to be such a wonderful dog. You never would have known just how terrified she was of people for the first few years.
 
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