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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
My wife, and I just adopted a 6 year old German Shepherd from the Humane Society. I grew up with big dogs, but this is my first GS and the first big dog I've had in about 15 years.

A little bit about the dog to help with my questions, before I continue on: He's 77 lbs, a little under weight. High hips, and larger than a lot of GSs I've seen. He's got a fairly low drive. He is interested in playing with tennis balls, but he definitely doesn't go crazy. Fairly laid back, likes to lay around a lot. Was already fully house trained. Doesn't try to grab food off the table, knows the difference between toys and everything else. Very friendly and relaxed. Instantly decided my wife was his new mom. Gets along great with our Schnauzer/Scottish Terrier (also 6 years old, 20 lbs). Wants to be friend's with our cat. But she is unsure of him, and keeps her distance. He respects her caution, and keeps his space but cries. He doesn't mind if you get close to him, but he seems pretty unsure if you try to hold his paw or restrain his head in any way. He won't be aggressive, but he will just move around and try to get out of the situation.

He already knows commands such as sit, lay down, and paw. But he ignores these commands about 90% of the time unless you have a treat or ball in your hand. He will play fetch, but when he brings the ball back he will go past you, and randomly drop the ball a few seconds later behind you. Of he is in the other room, and I call he will come, but once he gets to me it is hard to get his attention. He wags his tail though and will come near, and but still doesn't like to fully listen.

I've only trained dogs when they were young, and it seems fairly different when dealing with an older dog. What's the best way to establish a relationship with him? I've only had him about 3 days. Any articles or videos would work. I rather ask people who have the breed then search through the internet, and find the wrong information. I've also heard people argue with establishing a master relationship first with some strictness then easing up, and others say to start friendly as a family member first. I rather do what's right from the beginning.

Thanks for you help in advance!
 

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Thank you for rescuing :) Your GSD seems lovely, but he is uncertain and feeling his way. That is why he is not attentive. It is like being a refugee in a foreign country where one doesn't understand the language or culture and is afraid one will be deported for doing something wrong. So, my advice would be to take it slow for the first month. Let him feel his way and observe you. Try to stick to a regular routine involving play time (use 2 balls for fetch), very short training rewarded with treats, long walks on leash, and down time (the sitting on your dog where you sit and his is on the down/stay by your side for about 5 minutes at first and work up to 20 minutes). Practice calming signals - avoid direct eye contact - let him come up to you, walk by you, and observe you. The book Calming Signals or video by Turid Rugaas is helpful. A google search will bring up the video.
 

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I'm not going to be much help but I can tell you that most GSD's aren't particularly fond of having someone hold their paws or their heads- at least mine doesn't like it and I've had him for 9 years +.

You have only had him 3 days. It will take time, and you need to give him time to adapt to his new environment and family. This could take weeks or months. Don't rush it.

There are plenty of experienced folks on there that have rescued or work at rescues. They will surely give you more help then I am able to. Give them a day or two to read and respond.

Lynn & Traveler
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Try to stick to a regular routine involving play time (use 2 balls for fetch), very short training rewarded with treats, long walks on leash, and down time (the sitting on your dog where you sit and his is on the down/stay by your side for about 5 minutes at first and work up to 20 minutes). Practice calming signals - avoid direct eye contact - let him come up to you, walk by you, and observe you. The book Calming Signals or video by Turid Rugaas is helpful. A google search will bring up the video.
Thanks for the advice. You mentioned two balls for fetch. Would this be to show him the other one, when he bring the first one back to get his attention?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I'm not going to be much help but I can tell you that most GSD's aren't particularly fond of having someone hold their paws or their heads- at least mine doesn't like it and I've had him for 9 years +.

You have only had him 3 days. It will take time, and you need to give him time to adapt to his new environment and family. This could take weeks or months. Don't rush it.

There are plenty of experienced folks on there that have rescued or work at rescues. They will surely give you more help then I am able to. Give them a day or two to read and respond.

Lynn & Traveler
I know it will take some time. My other dog was also a rescue, but he was only 2 when we got him. I was just pointing out observations of his current behavior to give people an idea of where he is at in order to be as detailed as possible. I figured his situation for approaching and dealing with him would be different than if he were much younger. Thank you for the advice though.
 

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He sounds like a really nice dog! I think it will just take some time. Our dog would not warm up to my husband when she was little, so he would get on the floor near her and give her a treat or two. He only had to do this a couple times and then there seemed to be more of a bond. Go for walks, car rides, just sit nearby. And even though he is 6yrs old, you can still go to training. Our dog is 6yrs old and we take her to an advanced training class now and then just for some mental stimulation. She likes it and likes being around the other dogs in a group class.

The book that Mary Beth recommended is great, I really enjoyed it. The book is a short but informative read.
 

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We adopted, Buzz, a 5 yo, 90 lb. Australian Shepherd about 10 years ago. (He has since passed) We also volunteered in rescue and fostered several dogs. My experience is that it can take a good couple of weeks for a dog to get comfortable in a new home. After that you may begin to see some new behaviors - barking, taking food off the counter etc... I am not saying that your new addition isn't a sweetie, but it is very likely that you are not seeing his true personality yet. Our Buzz was very nervous when he entered our house. I kept him on a leash tethered to me for the first few days so that I could keep a close eye on him. His nervousness made me scared that he might do something aggressive out of fear even though he never growled or even barked at anyone. He was scared and a scared dog does scary things. I found that taking him to obedience school, just basic obedience, was a really great way to bond with him. I found that once he understood what we wanted he totally relaxed and completely bonded with the entire family. He became the most "bomb proof" dog I have ever owned. Little kids could jump on him unexpectedly and he would be totally okay with it (unfortunately I found this out the hard way with a neighborhood kid that Buzz had never met). So my recommendation would be to start some gentle, positive, training so that your dog can start to speak the same language as you and know what you want so that he can have an opportunity to relax.
 

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Thanks for the advice. You mentioned two balls for fetch. Would this be to show him the other one, when he bring the first one back to get his attention?
It's a 2-ball game. How I do it, is to take both balls. I throw one ball, and of course, my dog goes after it - picks it up - and then thinks to himself: "I'll keep it". He usually is watching me but keeping his ball firmly in his month until I take out the second ball. And I play with that ball, I toss it up in the air, catch it - totally ignoring my dog. Well, that is too much, he wants that ball but he has to drop his ball to get mine - so he approaches - all the while, I'm having fun with my ball - so he comes closer - when he gets about a foot away - I throw my ball - he drops his ball and goes after it. I pick up his ball and the game continues. As the dog learns, I only need one ball. To end the game when he gives me the ball which I put away for next time, I always give him a treat in exchange.
 

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Teach him a "watch me" command. Sure you can find that on line... very common with clicker training folks. So he is rewarded for looking in your eyes. This is tough for some rescues who may have never been taught it. Go slow. And yeah, some is just time and not over-stimulating him too early with a bunch of experiences.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
It's a 2-ball game. How I do it, is to take both balls. I throw one ball, and of course, my dog goes after it - picks it up - and then thinks to himself: "I'll keep it". He usually is watching me but keeping his ball firmly in his month until I take out the second ball. And I play with that ball, I toss it up in the air, catch it - totally ignoring my dog. Well, that is too much, he wants that ball but he has to drop his ball to get mine - so he approaches - all the while, I'm having fun with my ball - so he comes closer - when he gets about a foot away - I throw my ball - he drops his ball and goes after it. I pick up his ball and the game continues. As the dog learns, I only need one ball. To end the game when he gives me the ball which I put away for next time, I always give him a treat in exchange.
I tried something similar before I read your post. I would throw one ball, and as soon as he brought it back I would show the other. Instead of walking past, ignoring me, and randomly dropping the ball. He instead would drop the 1st ball in front of me, and sit waiting for the 2nd. The main difference in the way I was doing it was that I wasn't playing with the one I had, but I will try that.
 

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I got my first GSD as a puppy. I got a second one when he was already 3 years old. I think my biggest mistake was thinking he was suppose to be just like my other gsd and I was always comparing everything he did or didn't do to my other dog. What really helped me with him was to do different things to find what he really enjoys and once you find it use that to strengthen bond and trust. For example with him, I would try different things like getting him with other dogs, trying to play fetch, teaching him commands but what he REALLY loves is going on long walks. There's no other activity that compares to the exitement he gets when he knows were going for a long walk.

So just find what he enjoys and make it your guys "thing."

With my female it's fetch.
With my male it's long walks.
If i do these things with either of them they will be extra attached immediately after. It's pretty cool actually.
 

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I tried something similar before I read your post. I would throw one ball, and as soon as he brought it back I would show the other. Instead of walking past, ignoring me, and randomly dropping the ball. He instead would drop the 1st ball in front of me, and sit waiting for the 2nd. The main difference in the way I was doing it was that I wasn't playing with the one I had, but I will try that.
That's great! You've made a real break through here! Since he drops the 1st ball at your feet and sits waiting for the 2nd., that's the way I would do it. It shows that he has had some obedience work in the past and was just waiting for you to use 2 balls.
 

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That's great! You've made a real break through here! Since he drops the 1st ball at your feet and sits waiting for the 2nd., that's the way I would do it. It shows that he has had some obedience work in the past and was just waiting for you to use 2 balls.
Oh I am learning so much by reading your conversations. Thank you AJ555 and Mary Beth... :D
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Just an update. It's been a week and a half since we adopted him. I bought a used XL dog cage that we kept him in when we were gone until we can see how he is. At first we put him in it all the time when we were gone. Then if I was gone only an hour I would keep him out, but put him in when I go to work (I work afternoons, wife works days, about 4 hours when no one is home). After the first week we completely stopped putting him in it, once he became adjusted and learned the house rules. He is extremely well behaved when no one is around.

He kept trying to crawl under the bed at night for a safe place to sleep. Our 20lbs Schnauzer fit fine, but a 77lbs GS did not. He would literally have to lay completely flat to push himself under the bed, and get out. Not too mention he had no room to move. I took his cage, and covered it with a blanket. Put his blanket and bed in and left the door open. He sleeps in there at night, and seems really relaxed now.

The only thing the Humane Society told us was that he came from NC, and his previous owners turned them in because they couldn't have him where they were moving. I honestly don't know how they could give him up after 6 years (if they were the original owners). I've only had him less than 2 weeks, and I couldn't give him up. He is a very affectionate dog. He had been in the shelter for 5 months. They moved him from NC to FL, then he had to go through medical, behavior, ect. So even though he was in 5 months, he had only been listed about 4 days before we got him.

They called me, and said he had been very stressed the whole time in the shelter. He has finally stopped being stressed. He was pretty underweight, but is starting to eat normally. Whoever had him, obviously never leashed walked him. He had no clue what to do. Swerving left/right, fast/slow, all over the place. People probably thought my dog was drunk. After the 2nd walk he started to learn pretty quick. He was also pretty out of shape. Would easily tire after a short walk. When playing fetch, he would hop up and down while running like he was running over small bumps when he was on flat ground. He was very slow, and seemed to have trouble. He's started to run straight, and much faster now.

Doing better by the day, and I'm so glad to have him.
 

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Just an update. It's been a week and a half since we adopted him. I bought a used XL dog cage that we kept him in when we were gone until we can see how he is. At first we put him in it all the time when we were gone. Then if I was gone only an hour I would keep him out, but put him in when I go to work (I work afternoons, wife works days, about 4 hours when no one is home). After the first week we completely stopped putting him in it, once he became adjusted and learned the house rules. He is extremely well behaved when no one is around.

He kept trying to crawl under the bed at night for a safe place to sleep. Our 20lbs Schnauzer fit fine, but a 77lbs GS did not. He would literally have to lay completely flat to push himself under the bed, and get out. Not too mention he had no room to move. I took his cage, and covered it with a blanket. Put his blanket and bed in and left the door open. He sleeps in there at night, and seems really relaxed now.

The only thing the Humane Society told us was that he came from NC, and his previous owners turned them in because they couldn't have him where they were moving. I honestly don't know how they could give him up after 6 years (if they were the original owners). I've only had him less than 2 weeks, and I couldn't give him up. He is a very affectionate dog. He had been in the shelter for 5 months. They moved him from NC to FL, then he had to go through medical, behavior, ect. So even though he was in 5 months, he had only been listed about 4 days before we got him.

They called me, and said he had been very stressed the whole time in the shelter. He has finally stopped being stressed. He was pretty underweight, but is starting to eat normally. Whoever had him, obviously never leashed walked him. He had no clue what to do. Swerving left/right, fast/slow, all over the place. People probably thought my dog was drunk. After the 2nd walk he started to learn pretty quick. He was also pretty out of shape. Would easily tire after a short walk. When playing fetch, he would hop up and down while running like he was running over small bumps when he was on flat ground. He was very slow, and seemed to have trouble. He's started to run straight, and much faster now.

Doing better by the day, and I'm so glad to have him.
I am so happy to hear your story. It brings back so many memories as we had a similiar experience with our adult adoptee. Once he relaxed he was the most bonded dog we had ever owned. Every single day he was with us his face seemed to say "thank you, i love you." Enjoy your wonderful dog. He is going to enjoy every minute he is with you.
 
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