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Hello,

This is my first post, so I hope I am posting in the right place.

I will be picking up my first 3 year old GSD from the Rescue place in 2 weeks and I am very excited! She is my first GSD and I would appreciate any suggestions on where to begin. Of course, I will be doing obedience classes as soon as I can get her registered, but in addition to that, how do I approach training on a daily basis?

I have trained puppies in the past, and I am guessing that a lot of the techniques will be the same, however, I expect some challenges as she is older and set in her ways! She has not been fully socialized, walked on leash, or exposed to life in a city. She now weighs over 95lbs, and according to the vet, I will have to bring her weight down.

I have read many of the threads on this forum and I understand the fact that I need to establish who is boss. One area that I am concerned about is that I need to ensure that she gets enough exercise, but at the same time, train her not to pull on the leash. If I continue stopping to teach her not to pull and that I am the boss, then she will not get as much exercise!! How lenient/strict should I be?

Any suggestions would be very much appreciated! Also, if anyone could recommend a good collar and type of leash to use, that would be great!

Thanks so much for your help and I look forward to reading and sharing more!:)
 

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I've had several dogs of my own and a number of fosters over the years, and I think the best advice I have for you would be to give her a schedule right away. Dogs do great with routine, and starting off with a solid routine in terms of feeding times, crate times, walks, etc. will help make the transition so much easier because she'll know what "comes next" quickly and become comfortable with the routine.

Do make sure to ask what the rescue is feeding and slowly transition from that to a different food (if you plan to do so), rather than just switching her from one day onto the next. I've had a number of fosters that had very sensitive tummies and giving them the runs isn't really the first thing you'd want to do. :D

When I pick up a dog for transport or to foster, I like to ask that they not be fed that morning, just in case they don't do well with car rides or will get sick. It's not fun starting off a ride to their new home having them barf all over themselves in the crate inside the vehicle. (Or poop, for that matter - walk before loading up for the ride home.)

When I bring one home, I usually unload outside and walk them around the house or in the yard for about ten or twenty minutes before going inside to give a chance to go potty and smell the neighborhood. At that point, I usually don't correct for pulling or anything, I just let them sniff and look.

Once inside the house, I keep the leash on and walk them to where I keep the food/water as well as the crates, and then keep them in the same room with me as I go through my normal routine. This helps me keep an eye on the dog and the dog getting used to the new place. I don't like to let them loose to explore right away, partly because I've always had cats when I did foster.

I usually started crating the first night after bringing a new dog home, whether they've previously been crate trained or not. As you're getting yours from a rescue, she may well be crate trained - do ask about it. Also ask what type of crate they are using. Some dogs are not comfortable in a wire crate and prefer the enclosed plastic airline crates instead. Some can't be trusted with any kind of bedding inside the crate. (I usually have nothing in the crate for a new dog at first.)

Training her will be essentially the same as training a puppy - it's a common misconception that you can't teach an old dog new tricks or that they are "set in their ways". As your new dog will be coming into a new house with new rules and all that, just start her off as if you were starting off a new pup - get her used to her new name (if you will be changing it), work on basics such as come and sit and go from there. I don't usually introduce a clicker for training right away with a new dog, I wait a few days for the dog to get settled in before I start to "really" train.

As far as exercise goes - your dog doesn't get any more exercise dragging you down the road by the lead than she would with you walking briskly next to her ... unless she's jogging down the road while dragging you. :D

I like using a long line with a new dog ... you can buy them or make your own from rope. I've bought some nice "climbing" rope that was rated to 2,500 pounds strength for about $5 for 50ft. That's really all you need. And a clip to attach it to the collar or harness (I kinda like using a harness with a long line). That way, you can let her "run" in a large, unfenced area (like a local park or soccer field) while maintaining a physical connection.

Another option would be to find an area that is securely fenced. If you don't have a fenced yard, that can be difficult. I've had some good luck with tennis courts in parks as nobody seems to use those anyway and the fences are tall enough to prevent climbing or jumping them.

The other thing about exercise is that physical exercise is good (and needed), but don't underestimate mental exercise in form of training and brain-games. It's more work for a dog to have to sniff out a toy or treat in your house than it is to just aimlessly run around the yard. Make sure to work her dog brain, not just her muscles. :)

As far as collars go, my general goal is to eventually use only a flat collar. But when you're starting off a new dog and you don't quite know how much she will pull or whether she will back out of a collar, a martingale is usually a good first "go to" collar when bringing them home.

I like the Lupine martingales, the all-fabric kind --> Sunburst Combo Collar | Lupine as they can act as both a flat collar AND a martingale, so they're a good all-round collar. Plus you can't beat their guarantee. :D

If you need help controlling her pulling while you work on training, my top two choices for training devices are the front-clip harness and the prong collar. I would use either of those any day before I would ever use a head halter, choke, e-collar, etc.

Most GSDs are very intelligent and, more importantly, WANT to please. They are a breed that wants to be with their handler and wants to work for their handler ... which is a good thing. :D
 

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Thank you very much for so much information! I really appreciate you taking the time to provide so much advice. :D

I have been researching this for so long (getting a GSD from a rescue), but there is nothing like getting advice from people who have been through this. I can't wait to bring her in my life and get started. I love your long rope idea and I am glad to hear that you have had success, although being lenient the first few days. :)

I will definitely be using a crate, and I will using the same food for the first few weeks before transitioning over! The rescue will be crating her for the week before I pick her up to start getting her used to it. I wasn't sure I could change her name without too much confusion, but it is nice to know that it is a possibility.

I love your suggestions on collars as well, I am going to be shopping around for a few days to find all of the items I need!

Once again, thank you very much for the reply!:) You were a HUGE help!!:D

Julie
 

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I have read many of the threads on this forum and I understand the fact that I need to establish who is boss.
We all need to be careful when establishing leadership in the home, and realize that most circumstances mean a partnership relationship with the dog learning to look to us for information and guidance IF NEEDED.

Biggest thing is to work on bonding and relationship building initially. Using toys, treats, mealtimes (don't free feed) and exercise/walks. Great dog classes build on that.

ENGAGMENT is key...



 

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One area that I am concerned about is that I need to ensure that she gets enough exercise, but at the same time, train her not to pull on the leash. If I continue stopping to teach her not to pull and that I am the boss, then she will not get as much exercise!!
Hi, and congratulations on the new dog!

Work on the leash training the first day. Keep at it until she gets it. It will take a long time the first day. But after that it will be much easier. And I think a mature dog will be easier.

I use the "be a tree" method. Yes, you might be a tree for a long time in the beginning, but if you ever let it slide, they won't understand. You don't want to change the rules of the game, because it is a game to them. If you don't want her to pull, then make that the rule from the beginning. I'll bet you'll have it taken care of the first day, with just some reminders the following days.

Combined with being a tree, I also do some changing direction, but NOT dragging the dog. I will give the dog a clue that I'm going someplace else, like "this way", and then do a 180. If they forge past me, I repeat. I might be taking two steps and then reversing several times in a row.

This has always worked for me and also with my neighbors' dogs, when I take them for a walk. My one neighbor cannot take her dog for a walk without a prong collar. I come over with a martingale collar (so I don't lose her on accident) and the dog walks great for me. And the dog is always happy when she sees me.

Good luck! and enjoy your new dog!
 

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can't beat the advise you have already been given !

the umbilical cord method inside the house helps the dog connect with you , be on leash, not pull , provide reasons for positive reinforcement and be close enough to time rewards to the instant any time the dog moves with you , sits when you stand still (kitchen sink?) lay down when you sit down etc. By being attached to you the dog can't get himself into trouble .

best of luck
Carmen
Carmspack Working German Shepherd Dogs
 

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Thank you for all of your advice! I have a lot to run with now! The videos were great and the suggestions on walking were very helpful! I will also try the umbilical method when I am inside the house! Thanks so much, you have all been so helpful! I can't wait to bring her home!
 

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Update:

I brought Zena home yesterday and things were going great for our first few walks. However, I have noticed that she is extremely fearful of other dogs (although she was around many at the rescue). She barks a lot when she sees another dog - so much it scares people), but then will whine and shy away from any dog that tries to approach her. In addition, when my neighbour came to my house today, Zena was so upset and she was barking so much it even scared me. When my neighbour tried to put his hand out for her to smell, she tried to bite it. She would not let him get past her. I told her to sit, then gave her a treat for sitting, and tried to calm her down. However, she once again got back up and started barking and almost lunging at him. I am now really worried and unsure about what to do. She listens great with me, but her anxiety around other dogs is hard to manage and the biting part scared me. Is this a bad sign? Can I help her? I already see the beauty inside of her and she has really taken to me, but I am so worried. Any advice would be appreciated.

Sorry if this post should go into the aggression forum, I just thought I would continue here.
 

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This sounds like fear aggression (with people) and dog reactivity (fear based) with the other dogs.

Do you have support from the rescue? I would ask for help from them--see if they have a behaviorist they work with who can help you work with her.
 

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Thanks for the post. The rescue is about 3 hours away, so I do not anticipate getting much support. The only support they can offer is allowing me to return her to them within two weeks. I am going to call them tomorrow to see if there are other options. I don't wan't to give up on her right away, but I am not sure how bad this can get. I was thinking of registering Zena in group training (well, I thought I would until I realized her fears), and I also know a behaviourist who lives close by me who I will try to get help from. I just thought someone on here might have some strategies in the mean time.

Thanks again for your post!
 

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I would start a new post with these specific issues if you want to get some help from the board.

There are some of us on here who have (or have had) fear aggressive and dog reactive dogs. It is a lot to handle for a first time dog owner and I would recommend contacting a behaviorist who uses positive reinforcement and counter conditioning. I've had 2 rescues who had fear aggression and this was the only thing that worked.

A very helpful book for me was "Click to Calm." Another that people love is "Control Unleashed." However, I would not do this on your own. A good behaviorist can help you figure out how you are contributing to the situation (if you are) and come up with a plan for how to deal with it.
 

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Thank you for your support and advice. I will try the book "Click to Calm" and will definitely be in touch with a behaviourist. Hopefully this is something I am able to handle! I will start another post as you suggested!

Thanks again!
 

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I would give her some time to settle in before you introduce her to dogs and people. She needs to know she's safe and cared for and that you'll protect her- that needs to happen before she can interact with others. I would try tethering her to you and feed her a bit of her meal out of your hand. When other people do come over have them ignore her, not make eye contact and not try to engage, but drop treats around for her to pick up so she thinks they're cool. It will be a few months before he true nature and personality will come out- right now she's in survival and defensive mode. Read about NILIF and start implementing that. Take things slow for now!
 

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Thank you for your advice! I do need to slow down and let her adapt to her new surroundings at her own pace. I can understand why she feels so threatened and is reacting like she has been. She needs to know that everything will be OK and that she can trust me! I will try the treat idea when people come over!

Thanks again!
 

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I think group classes could be a very good thing for her if you find the right kind of class.

When I first got my Abby, she was dog reactive and would bark / lunge at other dogs. Putting her in a group class was one of the best things I could have done because it taught her that it's okay to be around other dogs. Being that a class is a controlled environment, she learned that other dogs won't rush her (because they're leashed and paying attention to their handlers) and that she doesn't need to scare them off because they're not threatening.

Where we took classes, it was set up in a way that allowed dogs that were aggressive or fearful to be further back from the class so they could stay in their "comfort" zone at first and then coming closer as classes progressed over the weeks, or use screens to block the view so they could still be closer but wouldn't directly see the other dogs. They also worked on techniques to help dogs get and stay calm around other dogs.

But I admit that classes like that can be hard to find.
 

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Thanks for the advice - I am in the midst of talking to a couple of behaviourists and also looking for a group class. One behaviourist recommended I take her back to the rescue, but I am torn. The rescue is shocked with the behaviour I am describing - they think that she has just taken to me and is protecting me. I truly don't know what is causing her aggressive towards others and her fear of other dogs. Apparently she has never exhibited these kinds of behaviours before. She has been through enough already and I want to be her forever home. However, I do not want to worry that my dog will attack someone coming over to the house. This is definitely a tough decision to make.

Thanks for your advice!
 
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