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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

I'm wondering how long it took some of you to bond with your rescue dog...? My husband and I adopted a 5 year old GSD 12 days ago. I realize 12 days is not long at all. I just want to make sure it's not weird that I don't feel bonded to him yet, and I really don't think he is bonded to me yet.

He is very partial to males, and loves my husband. I don't know if I would say he is "bonded" to my husband yet either. But it's certainly obvious he prefers my husband's company and attention over mine. I'm not so much worried about his preference for my husband...I know some dogs are just like this, and there are things we can do to make sure he bonds with me too. It does bother me that he respects my husband's authority more than mine. He resource guards with me more than with my husband (though he does it with my husband too). And sometimes if my husband is petting him and I join in he will sort of snap at my hand as if he wants my husband's attention all to himself.

Anyway, overall I just don't feel bonded and crazy about him yet the way so many dog owners are with their dogs. How long did it take you to become smitten with your rescue? And how long did it take your rescue to return the feeling?

These past 12 days have been more challenging and frustrating than blissful. Just hoping the "bliss" of being a dog owner comes soon.
 

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You have to put the time in to building a bond. How long did it take you to bond with and fall in love with your husband? Did you meet him and know immediately that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with him and never spend another night without him? Or did it build gradually and then one day you looked over and realized, "Oh wow. . . . I want him to be the father of my children."


I feel horrible for admitting this, but when I first adopted Cash, I liked him but didn't really feel "bonded" to him. With Rocky it felt like we could see each other's soul and communicate without words. With Cash, not so much. It actually took close to 6 months before I could honestly say I loved them equally, but we still didn't have that close communion and trust I had with Rocky. That true, deep bond didn't really kick in until I'd had him a year. Then when he passed it felt like I lost a huge chunk of my heart. Six months later it still hurts to breathe sometimes, I miss him so much.

Some things I discovered that really helped the bond were taking a class together, even if you already know how to train and he already knows basic obedience. Take an agility class or a really class or something else fun. Going through the experience together will help you learn to trust each other and listen to each other. Also sleeping in the same room helps a lot with building that bond.

Good luck. Don't give up! It takes longer than people think, but nothing worth having comes cheap and easy.
 

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Good question by the way. I think a lot of adopters go through the same thing you're going through. When you get a puppy you have that puppy cuteness to kind of carry you through until you've built that mutual love and respect. With an adult, you just have this grown dog in your house and you don't really know what to do with each other. It's like you're roommates. You're left wondering if you made a mistake and if you'll ever have that blissful love that other people talk about. You will :)
 

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Good question by the way. I think a lot of adopters go through the same thing you're going through. When you get a puppy you have that puppy cuteness to kind of carry you through until you've built that mutual love and respect. With an adult, you just have this grown dog in your house and you don't really know what to do with each other. It's like you're roommates. You're left wondering if you made a mistake and if you'll ever have that blissful love that other people talk about. You will :)
Exactly! I don't quite trust that he's not going to take my hand off yet. And I don't really know how to handle him. I know with time things will get better. I'm just impatient. But I really want to hear people's stories of how it happened with their rescue dogs...it's comforting to hear. Thanks for sharing yours!
 

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I really really really think you and he should take an obedience class together. You can't be afraid of your dog like that. You can't bond with him if you're scared of him. A good class will help you learn to be assertive with him and help him learn to respect you. Love and trust and all those warm fuzzies will come in time, but he needs to treat you with respect now.
 

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I'm wondering how long it took some of you to bond with your rescue dog...?
Six Months.

That is when our relationship really shifted into a relationship. I suspect that Keeta had been a tied dog prior to being found as a stray by Animal Control and then being adopted by me. She was about a year old, and friendly in general, good with cats.

But yeah, at first, I felt like I had this stranger at my house. I would look at her and think "WHAT was I thinking??" I was still missing and grieving my old dog that had gone to the Bridge over 9 months prior, and wasn't sure if I was ready for another one yet. It bugged me at first that Keeta was so new, and that there was no bond there. It seemed so effortless with my old dog, but our bond had been 14 years in the making, so I knew to give Keeta time. I needed the time more than I think she did.

For her, the concept of being part of a household and being connected to people seemed like a new one - like it bewildered her that I would have expectations and tried to direct and control her behaviour. Not having been properly socialized ( I suspect she was kept tied and isolated), she was fearful and suspicious of everything, and acted like I had no right to be the boss. Our relationship was confrontational and a constant battle of wills, despite my best efforts to build something between us.

But six months was the golden time frame. It seemed to me that after six months, she decided that the big bad world was not all that bad. That is was a safe, fun and predictable place. It seemed to me that one day I saw her take in a BIG breath, let it out slowly, and her whole demeanor changed from a scared and unsure dog, to a confident and happy one.

After six months of struggling with our walks and being overwhelmed by her crazy energy, I gave in and gave up my preconception that dog classes are boring and useless, and took her to training. I had to try and do SOMETHING, and I needed help.

It was amazing! I learned how to work WITH her, (as opposed to against her), and it was like someone reached into her brain and flipped a switch, and I had a different dog! I always felt that she was a genius, and it was frustrating that I could not tap into that genius intellect of hers to get her to mind me, but positive, reward-based, fun obedience and training did the trick. From a dog that had no interaction for almost the whole first year of her life, to a dog that barked and growled at me and went nuts around other dogs, we did great in class and changed our relationship completely for the better. The benefits of classes and activities go well beyond teaching a dog to sit or stay.

As for your rescue snapping at you - that is resource guarding - as in he has claimed your husband as his and is guarding him. Keeta would snap at puppies if I paid attention to them or petted them. This was after I had her for a year now! And she was jealous of me giving attention to other dogs and snapping at them to drive them away. I'd work on your rescue's resource guarding right away, and let him know that is not acceptable. What I did with Keeta (with the permission of the puppy owners), is have lots of treats on me. I started with just approaching the puppy and fussing over Keeta and giving her treats, and then I would give the pup a pet, give Keeta a treat, give the pup a pet, praise and give her a treat, and so on. Any attempts to snap was corrected with a "NO" and mild leash correction. It only took a couple of such sessions to get her to stop.
 

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It took us a good four months. I got Phoenix at 16 months from Brightstar. They had rescued him at 10months old. He'd been tied out as a pup and left there. The rescue gave him lots of love and healed his physical wounds, but he was a hyper pup that did not know boundries. He did not like to be petted or sit still for five seconds. I was exhausted every night when I went to bed trying to tire him out.

He tested me on a daily basis until I took him for an evaluation with a well known trainer in my area. She helped me better understand some of what made him tick. However, it wasn't until I took him to her obedience training class that our bonding actually started occuring. The first class was extremely difficult for me b/c I expected him to "get it" right away. He wanted to play with the dogs in the class more than he wanted to "listen" to me. That was probably the most frustrating 6 weeks of my life.

It was amazing! I learned how to work WITH her, (as opposed to against her), and it was like someone reached into her brain and flipped a switch, and I had a different dog! I always felt that she was a genius, and it was frustrating that I could not tap into that genius intellect of hers to get her to mind me, but positive, reward-based, fun obedience and training did the trick. From a dog that had no interaction for almost the whole first year of her life, to a dog that barked and growled at me and went nuts around other dogs, we did great in class and changed our relationship completely for the better. The benefits of classes and activities go well beyond teaching a dog to sit or stay.
I think it was after our second training class that we finally "clicked". My trainer uses the Volhard Method and prior to the second training class she had me fill out the personality profile. Wow, it was an eye opener and that's when I learned what motivated him. I think when I stopped working against him and started working WITH him, Phoenix and I formed our bond. Like Lucia, it was when we worked TOGETHER, we found that bond.

As far as preferences, I think dogs can have them. Phoenix now tends to defer to my BF. I do all the training, but I can tell he prefers my BF more than me at times.
 

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I started reading this thread thinking I could give some input as we have three rescues, but everyone laid it out so well. The only thing I would add is, if he resource guards more with you, then prehaps you should be the exclusive food giver for awhile. He will come to "depend" on you for that and should help that issue go away.

Good Luck and as always, thanks for rescuing!!
 

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Like Castlemaid, when I first adopted Blitz I thought I had made a terrible mistake, he would sit in the kitchen next to the door like he really just didn't want to be there. He was uninterested in food (training was really difficult), wouldn't even touch a kong filled with peanut butter. Toys were just another object.

After six months is when his true personality started to come through (some good, some not so good). Training was becoming much easier, he started to respond to treats and praise. He also started to play with toys...

I've had him for a year now and now I can say that we've bonded, we're stepping up the training now and working on his behavioral issues and he truly enjoys it.
 

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It was amazing! I learned how to work WITH her, (as opposed to against her), and it was like someone reached into her brain and flipped a switch, and I had a different dog! I always felt that she was a genius, and it was frustrating that I could not tap into that genius intellect of hers to get her to mind me, but positive, reward-based, fun obedience and training did the trick. From a dog that had no interaction for almost the whole first year of her life, to a dog that barked and growled at me and went nuts around other dogs, we did great in class and changed our relationship completely for the better. The benefits of classes and activities go well beyond teaching a dog to sit or stay.
I REALLY want to get him in a class. I keep telling my husband this, but we just never sit down to actually do it. But this weekend I'm going to MAKE it happen. Honestly, since we don't really know where to start, for now I think we'll just start with a PetSmart class and then graduate up from there. Anyway, I think like some of you said I am working against Duke and not WITH him. Overall, he is a really good dog -- really the only problems we have with him are his resource guarding, keeping his nose off the countertops/trashcans, and he pays NO attention to us when we take him outside. He knows commands and almost always follows them indoors, but when he's in the backyard or on his walk it's like we're speaking a foreign language to him. He doesn't even look at us when we walk him. A dog who is SUPER treat motivated in the house doesn't even seem to notice a treat right in front of his nose outdoors. Crazy.

Anyway, I realize he's a good dog with relatively few problems thus far. I'm just eager to get him in a class and start feeling like he really wants to please me and listen to me and love me. 6 months seems like an eternity but I know it will fly by!
 

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It took Months with Nadia! She had issues to work on and I was pulling my hair out each step of the way. I asked myself daily 'what did I get myself into here?'

As we worked on each issue, she grew on me, little by little. Now...I could not imagine life without her!!
 

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If he has not been closely bonded to people before you guys adopting him (was he an outside dog?), the whole concept of looking at you, of paying attention to you is going to be foreign to him. So don't take it personally! I know when I started classes with Keeta, the first thing we did was focus exercises - where the dog is taught to look at the handler and focus on him/her. I had never heard/seen this before, and I thought to myself: "BRILLANT!!! Why didn't I think of this before?

And if he likes treats so much, why not use that to help his focus on your on walks? Fill your pockets or treat pouch with his favorite treats. When he looks at you, praise and treat! When he walks towards you (even if he is focused on something else), praise and treat! When he closes in to your pocket/hand/pouch for a treat, praise and treat! This will teach him to keep his focus in and around you. As coming to you, walking near you, looking at you, paying a bit more attention to you becomes more matter of fact and he does it reliably, you can start waiting him out for a bit more before he gets his treats: More eye contact, closer walking at your side (one pace - treat! Two paces, treat! Three paces, treat!!!), slowly and carefully build up. If he gets at least two walks a day, that is plenty of training sessions. At this stage, don't put any heavy expectations on him, any tiny little bit of improvement is a BIG improvement, and build on that.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Are you in Austin? DogBoys has AWESOME classes. That's where I started with Cash.
I am in San Antonio. Any referrals here?

It took Months with Nadia! She had issues to work on and I was pulling my hair out each step of the way. I asked myself daily 'what did I get myself into here?'

As we worked on each issue, she grew on me, little by little. Now...I could not imagine life without her!!
I'm so glad to hear everyone saying it took some time and they too were thinking, "What did I do?!" I haven't felt too much of the "What did I get myself into?!" but I have certainly been thinking, "Gosh why isn't this the pretty picture dog owners paint when they talk about owning their dogs?!" I must persevere. Patience is NOT one of my strengths. ;)
 

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If you can get a clicker, start training him with a clicker at home (sorry if you've already done this)- click and treat whenever he focuses on you when there is a distraction, first in a very low distraction setting (i.e., the kitchen, hold a piece of yummy something at arms length, he will stare at it longingly, the second he shifts his eyes to you, click and treat). It takes some dogs a long time to be able to focus that way outside of the house, but gradually try this in the front yard, just on your street, etc to get him to realize that eye contact with you - good things. We used this to start teaching our rescue "watch me" to help her cope with mildly stressful situations.

As for bonding, we've had an interesting process. In some ways, we bonded with her right away. She took to me more quickly than my husband (she was afraid of men and handshy), and I know he would say it was at least 3 months before he really felt like she was his dog, too. Other kinds of bonding took much longer- that mutual trust between dog and human took us at least 4-5 months to establish. That was when she actually started to enjoy being petted and started to wag her tail outside of the house.

You'll see, though....the bond you establish with your rescue will become so deep that it is scary!

Edit: And it happens, in our case despite major separation anxiety, reactivity to other dogs and kids, carsickness, etc :)
 

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We had a slightly different path with Wolf. Six weeks after adopting him, we got an evaluation from a trainer recommended by the rescue who suggested that we wait for classes until he was better bonded to us. My bond with Wolf grew from playing, particularly hide and seek and also peek a boo. It probably sounds silly, but he loved it then and still does 5 years later.
 

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Holly, we have a member in San Antonio that can recommend a good place for classes. I just sent her an email with a link to this thread - hopefully she'll see it soon.

Capturing eye contact and rewarding it is a great idea. I do it with new puppies, and I think it would help him be more into you. And having him more engaged with you might help you feel more bonded to him.

I wear my treat bag from the time I get home from work until bedtime. I have a clicker attached to the bag by a carabiner. Every time dog looks at you, click/treat. Hand it to him if he's nearby, toss it to him if he's not. He should start finding you much more interesting. ;) You can't teach him anything if you can't get his attention, so start working on that now. I add a "watch" command later, after the foundation work is well established. I like to be able to get my dogs' attention on cue, but I also want them to offer it up without having to ask for it all the time too, it should be a default behavior.
 

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Hi Holly,

I didn't have time to read all the posts but I can recommend a couple of trainers in the area, just depends what you are looking for.

I don't know how far you are from Seguin but Hepzibah at Thunderpaws offers different clicker training classes: Why Train?

If you want someone familiar with our breed I would recommend Alison Mayo with Top Paw Training, she doesn't offer group classes. Alison comes to your house for private lessons.
Top Paw Training Dog Training specializing in Obedience Boarding School

I hope this helps, good luck!

Michaela
 

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Thanks Michaela!
 

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It's been about 4 months since I rescued Onyx, a 7 year old GSD. She was immediately very attached to me and a little fearful around my husband. Just over the last month I've really seen her personality come out (she was shy and didn't know about beds or toys or even living in a house). I have really bonded with her (mainly because she is so sweet and is like velco to me) and she is becoming so much more comfortable around my husband. I just started working on some obedience with her because she requires a very gentle hand, and I wanted to give her some time to adjust, but she is very responsive to positive enforcement and I may look into getting her into a class as well.
I think all the ideas here are great and every situation is a little different so give it time and I'm sure you'll be "smitten" in no time :)
Melinda
 
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