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Elmo is my first GSD. In my opinion, he has an excellent temperament and is well mannered. Even though I would love to take credit and say we are the best parents, he was a very good puppy when we brought him home. He has been incredibly easy to train.

We met his parents and they were both very friendly and playful, yet mellow. Elmo is exactly like that. I spent a lot of time socializing him when he was little. There was no real training on my part, but rather just taking him to environments where he would be exposed to adults, children and other dogs. The breeder we got him from had a few small children so I think he learned to be gentle around kids.

Do you think a well balanced dog is based on genetics, socialization, upbringing, training or something else? Do genetics and the first 8-12 weeks at the breeder set the stage for the future?

I know there are lots of folks out here who have rescued dogs so they may be familiar with correcting behavioral issues. Do you think most dogs have what it takes to be friendly, non-aggressive and confident? Can training/rehabilitation get them there?

The reason I ask is that we want to get more GSDs in the future. When we have a single family house with a yard, I'd like to get senior dogs and get another puppy. This is years down the road. I'm wondering what the chances are of things being as easy as they have been with Elmo.
 

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I can't wait to see the replies to this too.

I am in a similar situation where I have felt that things with Lily (9 months old) have gone fairly smoothly to this point but some of the stories on the board really make me question if it is always like this. I hope to add another pup to our family in the next year to two when Lily is older. I want to make sure I can devote as much time with the initial socialization with a new pup as I did with Lily.

Looking forward to other responses
 

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I feel it is possible to correct behavioral issues. GSD's are so smart. I have a rescue. Age really unknown. I think he was around 6 months when I got him.
He has been here for 5 months and he changes every day. He has come so far. (He has health issues too. Still working on that).
It is like starting over. Like he was 8 wks. He needed to be taught to go upstairs, through doorways, walk on different types of floors, manners, etc. I am still socializaing him. Sometime he barks around other dogs.
It is more work, or maybe not ,you would have to do the same with a pup.
Very rewarding. I feel Shadow was abused so it has been wonderful watching him, just become a dog. He has a wonderful personality.
No aggression that is a different deal. I do not know how I would deal with that. I have young children, not wise at my house.

I have a special place in my heart for JRT's too. I see you have one. Love them!! Pictures??
 

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I think most GSD can be rehabilitated. It does take some time though. We got sarge when he was about 2. He had been abused his whole life. Physically and mentally. He had absolutely no training what so ever. My wife picked him up while I was at work. When I walked into the house he laid down, rolled over and peed.

He was very fearful of everyone and everything. I ignored him for the first couple of days until he got more comfortable with me being around. The more you try and press the issue in this situation the further backwards your going.

After about 3 days I began to sit on the floor, leaning back on the couch to watch TV. I had some really good treats and offered him one. He wanted to but was still to afraid. Night 4 of this he did the crawl thing and took a treat. I gave it to him and just get back to watching TV. Then he came back for another. You get the idea.

The next night as he took the treat I was able to gently scratch him under the chin. Never put your hand over the top of a dogs head when first meeting him. After a few more weeks he would actually look forward to me coming home. I would set my stuff down and get on the floor for some pets and playing.

After he got comfortable with us I started the leash training and so fourth.

Sarge is now 4 years old and goes with me everyplace I go. I rarely use a leash. Hes well behaved with other dogs and people. Hes a member of our family and I would trade him for a million dollars.

It takes time and a boat load of patience but I think most dogs, if done right can work through their issues.

Here's sarge and I doin some training a while back.

http://www.sgttech.us/butch/sargetraining.wmv
 

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Originally Posted By: bsinghVADo you think a well balanced dog is based on genetics, socialization, upbringing, training or something else? Do genetics and the first 8-12 weeks at the breeder set the stage for the future?
Yes to all. IMO, a "good" GSD is intelligent & quick learning, independant, strong willed, protective, loving as well as aloof.

Heidi is the 4th GSD in my lifetime and the first female as well as the first German bred dog. The other 3 were American bred males. All of my males were easily trained, soft tempered yet intelligent and protective. Heidi is as hard tempered as they come, but intelligent and wants to please. So, I think genetics play a big part.

However, the dogs upbringing/training, amount of socialization as well as daily activities play a big part in their adult life and how they interact with the family, other people and other animals.

Not only is the first 8 weeks with their littermates crucial to their behavior, but socialization and training over the next year (or so) makes a huge difference in how they interact with others.

I also believe that those poor souls who are abused in their early life CAN be rehabilitated and live healthy, happy lives with the right person and the right environments.

Bless you for wanting to adopt a senior dog when the time is right.
 

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This is pretty much the old nature vs nurture debate. Which plays the most significant part in the dog's personality and behaviors? The answer is both, though with animals genetics play a larger role than in the case of humans, where environmental influences are more significant.

Nerves, temperament, drive levels, etc... are primarily genetic. While environment does play a role, it cannot change the dog's genetics. Nothing you do can make a low drive dog into a high drive dog, or vice versa, or make a timid dog into a confident dog, or a soft dog into a hard dog, and vice versa. They are that way due to genetics.

The vast majority of skittish, fearful, crazy dogs out there are not that way because they were "abused", though that always seems to be the assumption people make. In other words, the best home life, raising and training in the world cannot make a weak nerved dog into a sound nerved dog. It can minimize the effects of the dog's genetic weakness by giving him better coping skills, and thus make him more manageable and predictable, but it cannot "fix" him. He will never be a completely soundly temperamented dog. He will always be a fearful dog, he will just learn better ways of coping with that fear.

Likewise, if such a dog grows up in a horrible environment, suffers from abuse and lack of training and socialization, that combination of poor genetics plus poor environment will have a lasting effects, and even if that dog then makes it to a perfect home someday he's never going to be normal and get over it, and even the best efforts at rehibilitation will be only marginally successful, because it's not just what was done to him, but also just the way he is.

Conversely, a dog with genetically sound nerves plus good environment, will of course turn out to be a fantastic dog in every sense of the word. That same dog if in a bad environment can suffer from horrible abuse, lack of socialization and training, but once removed from that environment and placed in a good one he can overcome his upbringing with relatively little long term baggage. Any negative behavioral patterns steming from environment will be much easier to change and rehibilitation will be highly successful with relatively little effort because the new, good environment will allow his strong genetics to shine through.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Kristen - I've thought the same thing about Elmo. I was beginning to wonder if we just got lucky.

Daisy - I like your approach of looking at it like starting over with a puppy. They say that dogs live in the here and now. I've got pictures of Molly on her dogster page. There is a link in my signature.
They are great together. She keeps him on his toes and he just adores her.

Butch - That's a great video. Sarge looks like so eager to please. It's great that you knew to leave Sarge alone in the beginning to let him become comfortable in his new home.

Barbara - I believe those first two months are very important also. They learn to interact with other people and dogs. I feel like socialization after that was just reinforcing what he already learned. Training was so easy because Elmo is so interested and focused. It's like when a kid goes to kindergarten; they love it! He has that same interested look on his face.

Chris - What you are saying seems to make a lot of sense. That may be why some rescue dogs who have been through horrible things end up being such wonderful dogs once they are in the right environment and also why some puppies are more difficult to train.
 
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