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Hi all,

I wondered if I could canvas you folks for some advice.

My father-in-law has recently come to live with my wife and I due to ill-health, along with his 21 month old GSD, Jet.

Jet is normally a nice, if slightly nervous girl. She's had a bit of a hectic life thus far; she started out as a puppy living in a converted truck in the Midlands (England) with my father-in-law, my brother in law and another GSD (Chicken, who I'd guess is 3 and a half now).

I know nothing about dogs really, I've never owned one but Jet seems quite well socialized and she listens to most commands that she understands (come, sit, lie down etc). As my father-in-law was ill it fell to my brother-in-law to do most of her walking with Chicken (who she adores). However my brother-in-law moved away and I'm sure after that point Jet didn't get the right amount of exercise simply because my father-in-law didn't have the strength but he did take her out whenever he could and was constantly talking to her and playing with her. Chicken and brother-in-law were also frequent visitors.

My problem is, since moving down to Bristol, Jet has not taken to me at all. I'm aware that a GSD is often a one-person dog but she seems to get on with my wife a lot better than me. She'll growl and bark at me when I return home from work, cower when I go past and often move away when I go to stroke her.

My wife's father is in hospital this week so unfortunately she's spending most of the day alone at this point (we get her out for 15 mins in the morning, wife comes home at lunch for another 15 and then a big walk in the evening). About the only time she'll tolerate me is for about 10 minutes when I come in from work (I'm the first home) where she'll (somewhat reluctantly) come and cuddle up to me if I sit on the floor (I assume she's just glad to see anyone) but after my wife gets home it's straight back to normal, yesterday I stepped outside to the garage for 2 minutes and came back to the most almighty growling and barking, this is a dog that was allowing me to stroke her 10 minutes before!

I'm really just after advice about what I can do to improve our relationship. At the moment I'm scared to take her for walks on my own in case the runs off which leaves my wife to do it on her own. I often slip her treats (cheese, ham etc), try to brush her (she often walks off and goes to lay in another part of the room) and talk to her in a gentle voice as much as I can but after just shy of a month it doesn't seem to be getting any better.

Any advice greatly appreciated and please tell me if there's any questions I can answer to help pin down the problem. Am I expecting too much after three weeks? I really desperately want to do right by this animal because ultimately it's going to fall to us to take care of her.

Many thanks,
Tom
 

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I think that you should stop stressing over it. She may be picking up on your tension and that may be intimidating to her. Don't push her on this, just take your time. Be friendly, give her a cheerful "HEY GIRL" when you come in and otherwise let her be. Have a treat ready for when she approaches you (note the SHE approaches YOU part).

Go on walks with her and your wife, interact with praise and allow her time to adjust her comfort level. Just chill, stand back and let her see what an awesome guy you are.

If she is scared, she needs to deal with it on her terms, within reason. It sounds like she has had a lot of changes and some inconsistency (life happens, not blaming anyone). Be patient and kind. I think she will come around.
 

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I strongly believe, that bonding happens over new experiences lived together.

Take her for a walk into forest, go swimming, see wild animals, encounter agressive dog, climb a mountain together. Whatever. One such an experience is stronger than 1 year of living in the same house.
 

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^^^agree with Genalis_Mom. Jet sounds like she just needs a little more time to get the lay of the land in her new home.
Something you could try is invite Jet along with you around the house. If you are going to the garage/yard/shed ask Jet if she wants to come along. Do take her for walks. Even short ones close to home to show her you are one of her partners and want to spend time with her.

I would correct her from growling or barking at you for no good reason. Like entering your own home. I've had it happen from time to time when my dog didn't realize it was me or my husband she was barking at. We usually just correct with a "hey it's me...knock that off" or a "who are you barking at". Seems once she hears our voice she realizes her error. You also might try announcing yourself when you come home. As you open the door call Jet so she knows you have come home to see her or just say "I'm home" so Jet hears your voice and recognizes it's you and not a stranger. If she comes for the (nice) greeting be happy and light but not overly exuberant. Just a hi girl and a quick pet if she will allow and go about your business. In time she will learn your routines and hopefully she will stop the bad behaviors.

Continue with training by everyone in the home. Consistency with expectations is the key.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks everyone for the advice.

We had quite a good day yesterday. Wife's dad came back from the hospital yesterday so I got to spend about an hour with her by myself brushing her and talking to her. She went absolutely mad when he came back in the house as I'm sure you can imagine!

One thing I'd never considered before is that my wife is currently 9 weeks pregnant. She and my father-in-law swear blind GSDs can tell this straight away and are protective. I know they're smart creatures but I would've thought the woman would have to be at least showing for them to realise that. It would however explain the growling when I try to enter the house and her sometimes physically getting between us.
 

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Thanks everyone for the advice.

We had quite a good day yesterday. Wife's dad came back from the hospital yesterday so I got to spend about an hour with her by myself brushing her and talking to her. She went absolutely mad when he came back in the house as I'm sure you can imagine!

One thing I'd never considered before is that my wife is currently 9 weeks pregnant. She and my father-in-law swear blind GSDs can tell this straight away and are protective. I know they're smart creatures but I would've thought the woman would have to be at least showing for them to realise that. It would however explain the growling when I try to enter the house and her sometimes physically getting between us.
I am not going to address the growling itself, but just comment that a dog's ability to smell far surpasses our own. There are fascinating stories of dogs detecting cancer in their owners far before it is detected by medical equipment and there are dogs trained to alert their person right BEFORE a seizure happens and or diabetics experiencing blood sugar lows. My previous shepherd alerted me to blood sugar lows although he had never been trained for that as far as I know. So, it is entirely possible that your dog senses something different about your wife.
 
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