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We recently adopted a 7 month old GSD from a rescue. She is slowly coming out of her shell but is exhibiting some behaviors that concern us. My husband has had dogs all his life, although never a rescue dog, so he's just as at a loss as I am (this is my first dog!)

Hoping to get in on some of the wisdom and experience in this forum to help make her a happy girl.

1. She shows no interest in play, whether with toys or with us, when we're around. However, when we wake up in the morning we'll come downstairs to find her toys all over the place. I've also watched her on our burglar cam - she plays with her toys plenty when we're not around.
2. She's recently taken to howling at the same time every morning. It was startling the first time as she doesn't make any noise at all throughout the day. We've tried letting her out, giving her food, giving her attention, and she doesn't seem to need anything from us. We've started ignoring it as best as we can so she doesn't associate making noise with getting a reward, but nothing's changed.
3. If we try to walk up to her, or even if we're just going in her direction to get to the kitchen etc., she runs in the other direction and/or cowers in a corner.
4. We struggle to bring her inside after she's gone potty, run around, etc. in our fenced yard. Sometimes she will respond to "come" with a tap of the thigh, other times she will completely ignore us. A couple of times we've had to clip the leash to her and bring her in that way, or when she puts the brakes on, my husband has had to pick her up. This was an issue the other night when my husband heard a wild animal cry and wanted to bring her in, but she refused to budge and had to be carried.
5. She spends most of her day sat in the same spot on the floor. Now and then she will get up, check if we're in the room, and sit back down. If we go upstairs we can hear her walking around. It's like she waits for us to leave before she can move.
6. When she's not in one spot, she's pacing and doing the same actions repetitively. Window 1, walk around table, walk into living room, window 2, walk around coffee table, back to window 1 and repeat repeat repeat. This happens outside on the deck, too.

She's eating well and her bathroom habits aren't a cause for concern. She had a clean bill of health from the vet before coming to us. We think that some of her issues might be resolved with more exercise/play/walks etc. to tire her out and give her proper stimulation, but all of those things are proving impossible when she's terrified of the leash and isn't as happy when we're near her. Part of this process is going to be taking things slowly and letting her get used to her home and to us, but I feel like there's more we could be doing to help her adjust. She needs a good brush and a wash and maybe even her nails clipped but it doesn't feel right to try any of that with how she's acting right now.
 

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It almost sounds like she has no idea what to do with you! Do you know her background? Was she isolated? Was she punished for being a puppy and scared to move when people are around? How long have you had her? Where did you get her? A rescue or a shelter?
 

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Try to relax and let her get acclimated.It will take as long as it takes.She doesn't trust you yet and there's no bond with either of you yet.I would put a long line on her so you can reel her in gently when you need to.When she howls there might possibly be a noise that sets her off that is just background noise to you,but it's just the right frequency to make her sing along:)
Gsds tend to bond very closely with their owners and really have a strong desire to please.If you can remain patient and accepting it will happen.
 

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She sounds interesting! I'm with Jax08, we need more info! But for now, I'd just let her be, as in, completely ignore her except to feed and potty. Let her come to you when she's ready....
 
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I agree, we need more info. Do you have any background on her? And pictures, we like pictures.:smile2:

For the moment I would become a walking treat dispenser. Don't talk to her just keep pockets full of yummies and as you go about your day randomly drop treats. Don't toss them at her, that might freak her out even more.
For the toy issue, tap into your inner two year old. YOU play with the toys! Don't look at her or talk to her, just randomly sit on the floor and roll a ball around or play with a stuffy.
I have found that dogs with this type of behavior will respond to a "dance like nobody's watching" attitude. I once laid in the shade for several hours, randomly dropping/tossing bits of liver and reading a book until the dog came over and sniffed my toes. I just dropped more liver and kept ignoring him and suddenly he was sitting next to me. It helps the process if you can force them to stay in the same room with you. I also like having them in my room while I am sleeping. We are non threatening when we sleep, it offers them the opportunity to study us safely.
 

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Thanks, all. She was originally one of six pups taken from a backyard breeder by animal services. We believe she went into a shelter from there since that's where a lot of her original vet paperwork is from, and from there, went to a rescue where she lived with a foster family who had a lot of dogs. We think that might be part of the problem, she loved the other dogs but with us she's the only one.

The ignoring her while being in the same room as her trick seems to be what's worked best so far, but hasn't helped us get to the interaction part that we think she'll benefit from. I'll try some of those tricks you all suggested!

Forgot to mention that be absolutely want to get her some obedience training, but now doesn't seem like the right time.

Puppy tax:
Checking out her surroundings.
Discovered her one morning when she'd gathered all of her "things" and put them in a pile next to her.
 

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Her eyes really tell the story, don't they? :(


Do you know how to use canine calming signals? If not, I think there are a few books on them over at Dogwise.com. These are things like exaggerated yawning.


I try to use them when I have new foster dogs who don't trust people. They don't speak human, so I have to work hard to speak dog -- using body language they know how to read. I approach from the side (my ribs to the dog), down low, and let them come to me to finish the approach -- or not, if they prefer. I play bow (hands on the ground, butt in the air, shaking it from side to side). I also do a lot of quiet sitting in the same room, just peacefully breathing the same air.


The two-week shut down (discussed at length in the archives) helps me a lot with these type of dogs too. They need time to just observe and absorb how the home works.
 

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Part of the problem with putting pups in foster with lots of dogs is that if you aren't careful they get lost in the shuffle.
That picture is heart breaking, she just looks defeated.
Without seeing her, your information paints a picture of a young dog who was taken from her home and parents, put in a shelter, then moved to a foster and finally to you. So in perspective she has been moved through at least 4 different places in 20 weeks or so. That's a lot even for a dead stable dog, for a young girl with questionable genetics that's devastating. Shelter environments can do in even balanced dogs all on their own.
Based on what you have said, I would keep her on your property where you control the atmosphere and keep all the pressure off her. Let her set the pace, resist the urge to push or prod at her for a response and let her know she is safe and here to stay. She will absolutely miss the other dogs. They represent safety for her, a pack that she understood. You need to show her that she is safe with you and that will take time. The good news is that she is young and they tend to come around quicker.
 

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Poor girl.

I hope everything works out for her and you all! Sorry, I don't have anything to add (never been in this situation). But I'm very interested in the outcome and what you do to help her feel comfortable. It is great to know she is in a loving home though! With all the responses so far, you'll learn you will get a lot of great advice here! I am sure you're not the only one that is going through a situation like this.

Is she good, or getting better at making eye contact with you and your husband? If so, I would say that is a great start and step in the right direction.
 

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Thanks, everyone. I'll look into those canine calming signals, they look like they'll be exactly what we need to figure out how she's feeling.

Actually, she's getting a lot better with making eye contact. When we first got her if we looked at her and she noticed, she'd hide or run away. She's slowly been watching what we do (from a distance) more often and doesn't mind so much when we look at her. She doesn't LOVE it and will often stop what she's doing to watch us, but she won't hide or run away as often. She ate a piece of chicken out of my husband's hand last night which is a huge milestone as she's usually more skittish around him. She also got a nice new collar that fits properly this afternoon, so I think she's feeling pretty good. Hoping this continues!

Wanted to provide a photo from this morning where she looks much happier. She loves being out in the yard, chasing butterflies and protecting her domain from mean old chipmunks and bunnies. Please excuse the state of the spot she's in, we had some bushes torn out there so the ground isn't in great shape- I swear she has plenty of green grass to run around on :)
 

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Next time she makes eye contact, try yawning. See what she does. Even better: lower your chin, look at her sideways and yawn.
Curious. What will this tell the pup?? With my cats and eye contact I'll blink real slow. They love it. I think it means blowing kisses and/or "hey, I'm not threatening" lol!


Glad she's doing better! Since she likes butterflies, you should get some bubbles! Mei loves them! It's like tossing tons of balls for her to chase lol.
 

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I am not sure what to do about specific behaviors but just wanted to say, hang in there...it is so gradual and can take a long time... :)

Our rescue used to go away and lay in dark corners, growled at me when I tried to get him into the crate, flinch a lot (anything that swings, like an arm, a foot, a leash). Eventually he "moved himself" to lay right by our sofa each night, and he hardly ever flinches any more. He is a smiley affectionate guy these days. The process of relaxing and becoming more confident is so gradual and slow that it may be hard to notice...but when you compare NOW to THEN, the change is amazing and rewarding.

All of my pets have been rescues and I love the idea of turning an animal's life around.
 

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Curious. What will this tell the pup??

It's a way of conveying "I am not a threat to you" in a way they understand. They're masters at reading very subtle body language, and sometimes they'll throw back a silent response (a quick nose lick, suddenly sniffing the ground, etc.) -- the reply basically means "I understand, and I'm not a threat to you either, but I'm still nervous, so let's go slowly."

Direct eye contact straight-on is primate behavior that unnerves new dogs -- in the dog world, dogs that approach straight on staring at another dog are being rude, assertive, and sometimes very threatening. It's usually not friendly, if they're strangers to one another. Polite, non-threatening greetings by dogs usually come from the side without staring straight-on -- I thus use side glances when approaching a shy dog, so they know I'm not trying to approach aggressively.

Yawning is a canine calming signal -- they understand it when we do it too! Another one that's common is sniffing the ground, pretending to be interested in something while watching out of the corner of their eye -- I try to approximate that by sitting on the ground and playing with pebbles while watching them side-ways. They seem to understand this one from humans too.
 

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Just don't rush it, she'll come around in her own time! Ignore her, make her come to you to be noticed. Not that yawning and playing with pebbles while only giving her sideways glances doesn't work, it's just that they're all geared toward speeding up the inevitable. She's with you now, so just give her time. She'll come around quicker if you ignore her, and she'll be more comfortable when she does because it will be her decision! A previous rescue of mine took 3 months to break out of her shell...but when she did, it was sooo amazing!

I don't mean to undervalue or disagree with other's opinions here, just sharing my experience, for what it's worth. It just takes time! Good Luck, and sorry if I'm confusing things!
 

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This video shows quite a few calming signals, as my dogs try to get past my cat, who's being a total brat!

Notice how the dogs don't look at the cat directly, and curve their body away from it. The sniffing is a calming signal, as is the stretch/bow (almost a play bow). The older dog taking a drink is a way of avoiding the situation (displacement activity, the behaviourists call it). The tail held low, and wagging is a sign of submission.

Sorry, not a lot there a human can use, but it's a good illustration of dog body language! What really makes me laugh is the cat just strolling off into the kitchen after the dogs get past!

http://www.germanshepherds.com/forum/general-behavior/703658-body-language.html
 

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This video shows quite a few calming signals, as my dogs try to get past my cat, who's being a total brat!

Notice how the dogs don't look at the cat directly, and curve their body away from it. The sniffing is a calming signal, as is the stretch/bow (almost a play bow). The older dog taking a drink is a way of avoiding the situation (displacement activity, the behaviourists call it). The tail held low, and wagging is a sign of submission.

Sorry, not a lot there a human can use, but it's a good illustration of dog body language! What really makes me laugh is the cat just strolling off into the kitchen after the dogs get past!

https://www.germanshepherds.com/forum/general-behavior/703658-body-language.html

lots going on with that body language but wow, your black pup is sure giving you that , "hey do something with this creature" look.
 

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Car2ner, don't be fooled! The black dog (Eska) gives as good as she gets! This morning, she flatted the cat on his back in the bathroom. He responded by doing the lion kill-prey bite to her neck...

It's the best entertainment I get around here some days...:grin2:
 
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