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I adopted a 10 month old black GSD five days ago. I expect a little shyness, because he was brought across state lines by one person, and then I picked him up from that guy and brought him home. He had a stressful weekend.

My other GSD (3yo female) has never had problems with fearfulness, so I don't know how much is normal and how much is a bad sign, so I was hoping for some opinions from you guys on the matter!

Whenever one of us gets up, he gets up, too, and makes sure he's across the room from us. I have to catch him every time I have to take him outside (I think he'd hold it forever just to keep from having to get in close contact with one of us!). On one occasion, I was in kind of a hurry, and when I tried to grab him as he ran away he SCREAMED like I had stabbed him with a hot poker or something. The only way I can usually get him to come to me is to just sit down in the middle of the floor, and then he only really gets brave if Dagger, my female, comes over to me first.

He also has a bit of a limp, which I'm planning to get checked out. When I take him for walks, he freezes up and tries to run away if we come across a stranger. HEAVEN FORBID they try to pet him. He doesn't make a peep unless he's scared. He never barks when someone pulls up. If you step too close to him, just crossing the room, he ducks down and runs away.

The breeder told me the whole litter was this skittish. He never addressed the limp when I emailed him about it. I have spent a lot of time around this breeder's dogs, and the male and female he bred for this litter are NOT skittish at all. They're both friendly, well-adjusted dogs, so I'm not sure I believe the WHOLE LITTER turned out this fearful. Is that a thing that can happen? Are whole litters sometimes this fearful? It's been five days now, and it's still a lesson in patience getting a leash on him to take him outside or get him to come close enough so I can brush or pet him. :(

When he DOES come close, he's really sweet and gentle :wub:, so I feel like there's hope that I can turn this behavior around. I've just never dealt with this before. I mean, if we re-situate in our seats, he's on his feet thinking we're getting up. Is this normal? This doesn't seem normal. My other dog was never like this, not even on the first day I brought her home as a pup.

I think maybe the breeder had too many dogs and worked too many hours, so Soul (the one I adopted) spent a lot of time alone in an outdoor kennel :mad:, so maybe he just hasn't been socialized enough during his formative puppy months? He also claimed he had training exercises I could do to help get rid of this behavior "WHEN HE GETS OLDER", and all I could think was, "if you knew he was this bad, why weren't you working with him from day one when this was still developing?!?!" :mad: This doesn't seem like something I should WAIT about. Like, he's already almost a year old. Shouldn't I be correcting this behavior now, exposing him to the world, taking him for walks and showing him how NICE all those scary looking strangers can be?

I'd really like some opinions on this. Is the breeder full of crap this time around? Can whole litters turn out this fearful when neither parent has ever shown signs of fearfulness before? Am I overreacting and this is just normal behavior for an older pup in a new place, and I've just never been exposed to a fearful pup like this? :help: I don't know. I just want Soul to be a happy, well-adjusted dog, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. I've been trying to earn his trust, sitting in the floor and letting him come to me, moving slowly so I won't scare him, talking quietly and encouragingly when he does something good. Is this all I can do, or should I be doing something else/more?
 

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I think he was sold twice. Someone else before you had him and returned to the breeder. Or ... Do you know the guy who brought him well? Be bold, call them and ask the breeder and the guy hard questions! It seems he was beaten really badly. You need a psychiatrist and you can find one here, on this site. One thing is good - that you have older female. Her presence will divert his attention from his painful recollections of the recent past, even if he is scared of her. Just don't make her jealous of your attention, especially when feeding, he has to be left alone at the moment anyway, I mean - don't grab him when you go for a walk, wait, when he comes to you himself. Long walks I wouldn't recommend before his behaviour has changed a little. Avoid making bodily movements he is so scared of. The whole issue is not very nice at all, he, it looks like it, has learned about humans something ugly. Sure, he would start loving you one moment, but he might turn pretty agressive towards other people besides you and your mate, as fear differs from agression only in amount of adrenaline. All in all, you have to consult a specialist about it, and, the sooner - the better.
 

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I have never used a the two week shut down that you can find on this forum, but I think in this case, it might be a good idea. Once you get him comfortable with you, then you can work on the rest. Sounds like he has had a rough life and lacks trusting people. That is what your job is going to be, teaching him to trust you. Once he is in that mode, obedience classes with other stable dogs would probably be best. This is not a dog that can do a million different things right away.
 

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I wish I had the answers for you, sorry I don't. It sounds like you'll have a lot of work ahead of you.
I just wanted to wish you good luck.
Good luck.
 

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I think he was sold twice. Someone else before you had him and returned to the breeder. Or ... Do you know the guy who brought him well? Be bold, call them and ask the breeder and the guy hard questions! It seems he was beaten really badly. You need a psychiatrist and you can find one here, on this site. One thing is good - that you have older female. Her presence will divert his attention from his painful recollections of the recent past, even if he is scared of her. Just don't make her jealous of your attention, especially when feeding, he has to be left alone at the moment anyway, I mean - don't grab him when you go for a walk, wait, when he comes to you himself. Long walks I wouldn't recommend before his behaviour has changed a little. Avoid making bodily movements he is so scared of. The whole issue is not very nice at all, he, it looks like it, has learned about humans something ugly. Sure, he would start loving you one moment, but he might turn pretty agressive towards other people besides you and your mate, as fear differs from agression only in amount of adrenaline. All in all, you have to consult a specialist about it, and, the sooner - the better.
I don't agree with the beaten badly scenario(though the rest of the post is great!). The dog clearly doesn't have sound nerves.
I agree, the two week shutdown is important and I'd keep a line on him so you don't have to grab him by his collar but direct him with a line instead. I'd also have him on a martingale collar so he can't ever slip it. Especially outside!

Ignore him for the most part, don't make eye contact but do toss him high value treats often. Don't demand anything from him right now, feed, potty and let him get use to his new surroundings.
I hope this breeder didn't charge you for him/and hope the breeder makes better decisions when putting dogs together to make puppies if this whole litter is unstable.......
 

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I don't agree with the beaten badly scenario(though the rest of the post is great!). The dog clearly doesn't have sound nerves.
I agree, the two week shutdown is important and I'd keep a line on him so you don't have to grab him by his collar but direct him with a line instead. I'd also have him on a martingale collar so he can't ever slip it. Especially outside!

Ignore him for the most part, don't make eye contact but do toss him high value treats often. Don't demand anything from him right now, feed, potty and let him get use to his new surroundings.
I hope this breeder didn't charge you for him/and hope the breeder makes better decisions when putting dogs together to make puppies if this whole litter is unstable.......
Do this ^^^.
A dog can be skittish and fearful without having been mistreated.
Take it slow and earn his trust gradually.
Let him observe your interactions with your other dog.
It is possible that he will adopt one person and follow them everywhere and not trust anyone else for a while.
It's a process and he will take a while to become a 'normal' part of your household.
 

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Thanks everybody for the replies!

I don't know the guy who brought Soul from the breeder for me, but he's the breeder's dad. I think he's familiar enough with the dogs not to do anything like this.

And it's not that the breeder has never bred the same dogs for this kind of litter anyway. He's used this male and female before, and none of the puppies from previous litters acted like this. That's why I don't understand how suddenly a whole litter from these two dogs could be this fearful.

I've never heard of the 2-week shutdown, so I'll take a look at that, thanks!

The breeder didn't tell me whether he had been with someone else before I took him, so I don't know. I asked him about the limp that he's got, and he never answered my question about it. All he told me when I adopted him was that Soul might take a little while to warm up to the man in the house. He didn't say anything about running away when we stand up or any of the other behaviors.

Could this come from just spending a lot of his puppy months in an outdoor kennel alone? Like, he just wasn't socialized and developed a fear of everything?
 

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"The whole litter was skittish"........I doubt the whole litter was badly beaten....I think you are looking at genetic weak nerves( I know you are because I have seen this script so many times as you describe him), takes things slow and first build a bond and trust....it will require the patience of a saint.....good luck!
In answer to whether a skittish litter can come from two sound parents....yes, parents pass the genetics of what they are made of, so the parents though sound, may come from litters with other skittish pups in them, or the parents could have been raised on the property and appear sound on the property and may not be as sound if they were outside their comfort zone.
Either way, take your time with this boy and good luck!
 

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Just leave the leash on the pup, so that you don't have to chase him. Even shy dogs (and I have dealt with many) don't normally scream when someone approaches them quickly (I had one scream when I nudged her rear into the crate). My impression, based on your description, is that someone has abused the poor pup in the past.

Giving him his own safe area, such as a crate, will help him settle in. It is a good idea to hand feed, put his kibble in your pockets and give him something every time he approaches you or you approach him. You may add a yummy treat to it.

Shy dogs often make nice, gentle pets once they have adjusted to the new environment.

This pup would definitely benefit from the two-week shutdown.
 

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Does the breeder still have the whole litter? At 10 months?

You have given this guy way too much freedom for him still being in an adjustment period and being overwhelmed. He should not ever be loose in your house until he has become friendly towards you. Every time you have to chase him down, grab him, etc you are teaching him that are you scary and untrustworthy. He needs to be in a crate when not supervised, tied to or near you for periods of the day (such as when you are watching TV) but mostly ignored. The things people think are friendly and comforting are scary to dogs, it's much more reassuring for you to be quiet and hands off towards him until he warms up to you. Hand feed him or feed him near you, walk him around your yard multiple times a day. Talk to him in a quiet voice but don't pet him if he doesn't want to be petted and definitely no hugs or cuddles or such things. Try to be more aware of if your actions are frightening him and work to change the environment so that you don't have to continue to do so. It might take him a bit but I'm sure he will warm up to you if you don't push him.

Definitely use a slip lead or a collar he can't back out of when he is going outside. Dogs like this are a big "flight risk" and if he got away from you outdoors, you might not be able to get him back.

Once he starts to warm up to you, start working on some very basic things with him. I'd start with conditioning him to enjoy having his collar reached for. Reach for his collar (don't even touch it at first just reach towards him) and then give a super good treat. Once he seems to welcome the reach, repeat with lightly touching his neck. Then his collar. Then holding his collar. Work on teaching him to put his head into a slip lead or collar for treat too...this video shows how:

How To Teach Your Dog To Enjoy Wearing A Collar - YouTube

I would take everything from there very slowly. A lot of people's thoughts tend to go towards taking dogs like Soul to dog parks, doggy daycare or group classes right away but those can just make the problems worse. Instead, work on behaviors at home following a good, solid positive training plan (I like Sue Ailsby's Levels: http://sue-eh.ca/page24/page26/page10/). Get him really solid on the level one behaviors in the house then move out to the yard. When he's good in the yard, move to the sidewalk. progress slowly to more and more distracting "scary" environments with the Level One stuff. If he starts to really struggle, go back to where you were successful for a couple weeks and try again. Introduce new behaviors only in your home and progress in the same way to different places. Don't allow strangers to try to meet and greet with Soul at this point. He should first and foremost get confident working with you and not have to worry that strangers may try to touch him. You can gradually introduce strangers by having him work closer and closer to them as his confidence increases.

Dogs like Soul can become great dogs but need understanding and the right sort of environment. Your relationship with him has to be the most important thing, so avoid training methods or actions that would be damaging to that relationship.
http://sue-eh.ca/page24/page26/page10/
 

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Thanks for the replies everybody!

No, the breeder doesn't have the whole litter. Soul was the last one. I think he's been having trouble finding homes for them? He hasn't had a new litter in a while. I think Soul's litter was the last one in the past year.

It's been another week, and he's gotten much better. I haven't taken him out anywhere since you guys suggested I let him get comfortable at home. He has no problems walking up to me now, coming to me when I grab the leash, etc. He's still a little shy when we're walking across the room, like he doesn't want to get in our way, but he doesn't tuck tail and hide like he did last week.

I didn't get to see any of the other litter, so I don't know if they were all like this, and when he bred the two dogs together in the past, they never had a litter this skittish. It could be luck of the draw, I guess? I don't know, and I guess it doesn't really matter at this point.

I've got family coming over this weekend (my parents and their little female miniature Pinscher), so we'll see how he handles that, and then probably next week I'll start working on taking him for walks and getting him acclimated to seeing new sights. A walk to the mailbox sounds like a good first attempt (we have a really long driveway).
 
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