Today marks one month since we brought home our not-so-little fur baby, George. Sorry to all the mums out there for my next comment, because I know dogs aren’t the same as babies. But oh my god do I understand it when parents say the love they have for their baby hits them like ton of bricks! I can’t even describe how much I love George; I catch myself staring at him all the time and I could just hug him all day long! He’s got the cutest puppy-dog eyes ever and he just melts my heart whenever he gives me that look! He’s my absolute favourite and I can’t wait to get home to him every evening – I even considered looking for a work from home job just so I wouldn’t have to leave him haha!
Saying that, it’s not all been sunshine and rainbows throughout this little journey and adopting a rescue dog has been A LOT harder than I thought it would be. Most people told me that the sacrifices I’d have to make to accommodate a dog into our lives would be the hardest thing, but funnily enough that’s not been very hard at all, not yet anyway. The main issues/hardest parts have been mainly down to his background.
George was a cruelty case, he was found at a puppy farm and was in such bad shape when they rescued him that he had to stay in the RSPCA kennels for a long time before he was ready for adoption – this meant that he’s never actually lived in a home or had a family before. He’s basically a giant puppy, as he didn’t get to have the normal “puppy-hood” that most do, and so he has no manners and no understanding of a home environment. We’re having to treat him as if he’s an 8 week old puppy even though he’s a fully-grown 2 and a half year old dog. It’s a learning curve to say the least!
As is common with rescue dogs, for the first week or so whilst he was settling in he was on his best behaviour. Bar not having any manners when walking on the lead and being a bit of boisterous playing he was as good as gold – we didn’t even have to train him not to do his business in the house which was one of our biggest worries, he got it from day 1. We knew rescuing a dog could come with some training issues and so we signed up to Bark Busters home training plan which came highly recommended on many dog-related blogs. We thought we’d get them involved early on as they would be able to spot any developing issues; making them easier to resolve. We had our first appointment with our local trainer, Aaron, a week after getting George and he taught us about pack mentality and many other doggy dos and don’ts – including that I needed to give him a bit of tough love rather than showering him with attention all the time (apparently it makes them think that they’re in charge…ooops!). He also taught us some attention tasks to teach George better manners when out walking and how to tell him to stop mouthing. This all seemed to go really well and we thought we’d be in for an easy ride. However, once he started to feel at home, that’s when the fun really began.
A few days after the session (about 10 days in to us having him) he started demonstrating some possessive and defensive traits over me and over the house. Now this is quite common in German Shepherds as they’re very nervous and protective by nature – this is why they’re often used as guard dogs – however it needs to be reigned in otherwise they can become a nuisance. First he started barking a lot as passing people/vehicles, which is a nightmare when you live on a new build development with houses still being built and people viewing show homes etc! Then he also started being really funny about new people coming in to the house to the point where he was getting scared and howling!
We had another session with Aaron around 10 days ago which was aimed at working on George’s ability to follow instructions and do as we tell him – it’s all about authority. He has to trust us to make the right decisions so that he can take a back seat and not have to have the responsibility of taking care of us all. Currently, until we can train this out of him, we’re having to introduce him to new people out on the street whilst on a “walk” and then come back to the house together so he doesn’t feel like people are entering his domain and he has to defend it – he’s allowing them in this way. Aaron explained he likely feels one of two ways: 1) this person is coming to hurt or steal his new home/family or 2) this person is coming to take him away from his new home/family – yeah I nearly cried at that too…bless him!
My parents and little brother were up this weekend, we introduced them out on the street, he was super playful and boisterous (still a work in progress) but he allowed them in to the house and has been fine with them all weekend. They all left on Sunday but my dad came back up again today, as we’re off to France tomorrow on a football trip, and George didn’t even blink an eye when he came back from his walk and dad was in the kitchen so I think he’s used to him now. Only time will tell if it lasts – we’ll have to see on his next visit which won’t be until the start of April.
My main advice before adopting a rescue dog is to find out as much as you can about their past and then speak to a trainer or someone with experience to see what you could be letting yourself in for and to make sure you’re prepared for the work you’ll need to put in. George had never lived in a home so the RSPCA didn’t know of this defensive side of him but the trainer knew exactly the issues we were going to face, and why. So whilst I wouldn’t change it for the world because I LOVE having George, I do wish I had been more prepared for the issues that can come with dogs with less than ideal backgrounds. If you’re looking for a really easy experience with adopting a dog then I would definitely recommend rescuing one that isn’t a cruelty case so that you know more about it and know it has experienced family life before.
We’ve only had 2 sessions with Aaron from Bark Busters so far but when we’ve had a few more (it’s a year guarantee programme) then I could do a review/advice post if it’s something anyone be interested in? I’ll also keep you posted on how things progress with George’s training and how he settles down over time.
Have you adopted a rescue dog and experienced this? Any advice we should consider? Or are you looking to adopt a dog with a similar background and have questions for me? Just get in touch 🙂