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We might rescue a GSD this weekend - what do I need to know?

(22 Posts)
mommybunny Fri 09-Mar-18 11:31:21

We lost our 8 year old GSD (who we had from a pup) last month and DH has been heartbroken ever since and desperate to have another dog. The GSD was the first dog I had ever owned, though he was the 5th (most of them GSDs) DH had had since he was a boy. All of his previous dogs had been raised from pups, so DH doesn't have any rescue experience himself.

We have a DS13 and a DD11 and both of them are happy/keen to have another dog, so we thought we could give a relatively young GSD rescue a good home, rather than a puppy. Money isn't the issue - we'll probably end up donating a substantial portion, if not all, of the cost of a new puppy to the charity - we are actually trying to reduce the number of unwanted puppies born. Our home/garden are totally set up for it and we live on the edge of woods and fields with lots of exercise opportunities.

When we got our late GSD, DH totally took on his care and "training", but I must say I wasn't completely happy with the way he did it. Our DS was 4 when the dog arrived, and as the dog grew he quickly overtook DS in size and strength and asserted his male dominance over our DS in a way that DH found amusing and didn't sufficiently check - for example, whenever DS approached our bedroom and we were in it the dog would bark and charge towards him, though never bit him. We would try to stop the dog doing it but the habit had become so ingrained we couldn't break it. The dog never tried to dominate our DD and they were best mates. For this reason I am insisting on a bitch now.

We are going to look at rescue dogs this weekend and, as an inexperienced but keen rescuer, is there anything else I should bear in mind about taking this on in terms of training, reassuring, etc? Because of my inexperience with dogs the first time round, I was happy to delegate everything to DH but I want to be, and have my DCs be, much more involved this time round.

Chippyway Fri 09-Mar-18 16:33:27

Do not think that by getting a bitch you’ll have less issues with regards to “dominance”

My gsd is a bitch. She is VERY protective of me. Female gsd’s are known to be more protective of one person where as males are known to be more protective of the house/surroundings or ‘the whole family’ also the dominance theory is very outdated.

I would just encourage EVERYBODY to get involved with the training/walks/feeding/play time

However the dog will more than likely still pick it’s favorite person. And unfortunately with breeds such as GSD’s which are known for being protective etc you’re quite likely to have similar ‘issues’ and I believe half the time we humans create problems trying to make the dog feel its ‘beneath’ us in the rank. As I said, dominance theory is quite outdated

mommybunny Fri 09-Mar-18 16:59:34

Thanks chippyway, can you explain what you mean when you say dominance theory is outdated? I was really hoping we wouldn't have a situation like we had with our late lamented GSD whereby when DH was around no one else could take him out. Whenever I'd try or I'd have DS try he'd nip at us so I just gave up. My DH talks rhapsodically about his days as a boy taking his family's GSD for walks, and seems to think our DS13 should be able to do so as well, but our DS simply isn't strong enough for the size the dog was (about 45kg). I'm a little worried about taking on a dog/bitch that is too old to be trained to be part of a family!

villainousbroodmare Fri 09-Mar-18 17:43:56

The main thing I would be looking for in any dog, especially a family dog, is temperament. I would stay away from any dog exhibiting anxious traits. Google body language to see the subtle signs. There is so much that can go wrong with a GSD (hips etc) that personally I would rather source from a very good breeder but in a "rescue" situation you are unlikely to be informed.

Greyhorses Fri 09-Mar-18 17:45:42

I much prefer training with positive methods. If everyone is involved and you get help from a professional no reason that smaller issues can not be overcome.

I will say however that I don’t feel GSD are a breed that can be bullied into things, most of the protective behaviour is actually nervous or fear based and they do need careful handling. A rescue dog of this breed would need an owner competent in dealing with a large nervous breed dog with issues I think, I work in rescue and we only rehome GSD to very selected people for this reason. They have such potential to go wrong and are very easily messed up in general.

I have 3 GSD at the moment, all very different. Our last one we got from a very respected breeder as I didn’t want to take on someone else’s mess again sad

mommybunny Fri 09-Mar-18 19:15:29

I have absolutely no doubt my DH can deal with any issue a GSD might throw up, even one from a stressful situation - he appreciates them for what they are, and understands their qualities as well as anyone possibly could. He would never get upset if a dog under his control bit him - he would understand completely that it was some action of his that he shouldn't have done that would cause the dog to do it. He used to play with our dog in the garden and every so often would come back with some teeth marks on his arm which he would immediately shrug off. My DH is also physically very strong and can keep pretty much any dog on a lead under control.

My concern is that his tolerance sometimes tips into indulgence, and because he can shrug off mouthing and nipping and general aggression he doesn't always understand why others can't. Any dog we get will be "his" baby, so to the extent a dog chooses a favourite it will be him all the way, even more so because I'm about to start working again full time away from home (DH runs a business completely from home, so will always be around for the dog). I was just trying to look for ways to mitigate the complete dependence on DH, so the dog understands that any time any of us give a command or take an action for the dog's care the dog needs to respect it.

Am I barking up the wrong tree?

villainousbroodmare Fri 09-Mar-18 22:07:35

I'd say that you could easily get an exact repeat of your last scenario then.

honeyroar Fri 09-Mar-18 22:52:31

Then you've got to prevent that from happening. Make sure that it's you that takes the dog out, you that takes the dog to training classes, you that gives the dog it's feed. Your husband has to also help with this, not take over and not laugh off ant behaviour.

BatFinked Fri 09-Mar-18 23:20:21

Sounds like husband issues more than dog issues to me ..

Greyhorses Sat 10-Mar-18 07:45:59

I’ve had 5 GSD in total and none of them have ever shown aggression issues at home or mouthed me or anyone in the family. I am
also 5ft tall and weigh less than one of them so it’s nothing about physical strength. To me what your saying shows that your DH really hasn’t a clue if I’m honest, sorry!

toomanyweeds Sat 10-Mar-18 08:43:24

I'm in no way an expert on the training side of things but will share my thoughts on rescue dogs if that's ok. Firstly are the dogs in kennels or foster? Foster is better obviously but either way make sure to ask lots and lots of questions both about background and how they are now, and use your judgement as to whether the person asking is exaggerating/downplaying issues etc. And of course be aware that how they are with you when you first meet them may or may not be an accurate reflection of their general temperament.

I would really encourage you to think more widely about breeds, different breeds or gsd x - not because there is anything wrong with gsds but because rescue dogs are so individual that sticking just to one set breed kind of misses the point imo.

I'd also suggest thinking more widely about ages - adult dogs can be much easier in my experience. Not all rescue dogs come with huge problems, I've fostered many who were basically nice, well adjusted dogs with no more problems than any dog raised from a puppy by a responsible family might have. If they come from a decent rescue or preferably foster then at least you know what any issues are and if you can cope with them, whereas with a puppy/young dog their personalities and behaviours are still developing (obviously if they have really ingrained issues they can be much harder!).

We recently fostered a 3 year old gsd X mastiff who was amazing. She came from a "family background" I think, but they had bred from her, then sold the pups at 6 weeks old and called up the rescue to take her. She very quickly transferred her loyalty to us, not in an overprotective way, just that she was reserved with strangers and always hugely happy to see us. My DP is at home full time so she was closer to him but always jumped up to give me cuddles when I came home from work (not good training I know, but she'd never jump at strangers and it was lovely to get hugs so I left her to it blush). Her only real issue was separation anxiety and dealing with the pack splitting up - if the three of us went shopping and one went into a shop leaving dog + other person outside she'd cry until we were all back together! - sorry I have gone off on one about the dog but I cried so much when she left for her forever home and still miss her sad

I know I said I wouldn't advise about training but one thought is that whatever dog you get, the whole family could go to dog training classes. That way dog get used to obeying all of you, plus the trainer might train your dh out of the unhelpful behaviours he has wink

toomanyweeds Sat 10-Mar-18 08:46:12

Sorry for massively long post - one thing I forgot to add re ages - please don't think that an older dog won't "bond" with you. Imo dogs transfer their loyalty and affection pretty quickly once they are living with a new family.

Twooter Sat 10-Mar-18 08:53:54

Is your dh going to be around with the dog all the time? Does he not work? Otherwise your dh’s strength and ‘knowledge’ is irrelevant.
Supposing your dc have friends round and they start play fighting? Are you ready for your dog to ‘protect ‘ your dc?
I can’t understand getting a potentially difficult dog when you have kids that age. Seriously, having dogs should be a pleasure not a worry, look around at the different breed options and let your dh wait for his rescue gsd until the kids have let home.

Twooter Sat 10-Mar-18 08:56:16

Sorry, missed the bit that your dh works from home, but you should still want a dog that you can all relax with.

parklives Sat 10-Mar-18 08:58:55

I'm sorry op but reading your post about how your dog dominated and threatened your 4 year old ds I don't think your dh is a capable owner and I don't think you should get another large dog.

Izzy24 Sat 10-Mar-18 09:07:12


What a lovely post!
She sounds a beautiful dog!

NotSureThisIsWhatIWant Sat 10-Mar-18 09:10:45

I have absolutely no doubt my DH can deal with any issue a GSD might throw up, even one from a stressful situation


After having the same breed of dog for almost 20 years, lots of experience in how to train difficult/rescue dogs etc, I was landed with this rescue dog (same breed) I have nowadays.

I can train a dog to walk on a lead in 3 minutes, to sit in 10 and toilet train successfully in a week. So both the RSPCA and I thought I was a good match for this overfriendly excitable jumping little dog.

Two years on... I still have the puppy that doesn’t grow or the dog who doesn’t learn. Nothing that worked with the other dogs works with this one. She just cannot focus on anything at all, mind you, she is adorable and very affectionate but good grief, it is a nightmare to deal with once you go past the door.

I’m a bit surprised they have allowed you to adopt a dog, just one month after the other one died. I know the RSPCA asks at least six months in between, which is good for you and the dog. I don’t think I would have been ready to get this bundle of activity when I was still missing my very old very well behaved dog that seemed by then almost capable of reading my mind smile

crazymumofthree Mon 12-Mar-18 22:02:42

We had a GSD, she was fine until I got pregnant then got quite protective of me, I think it is in their nature a little, she wasn't aggressive as such but would bark at strangers, the door etc. We now have a husky who is the complete opposite, she doesn't even bother to get out of bed to greet us or strangers and doesn't know how to bark!

Twooter Tue 13-Mar-18 07:32:31

What parklives said.

Nesssie Tue 13-Mar-18 11:39:40

Each dog is different and the rescue will suggest which one will fit into your family best. If you adopt from a reputable rescue (not gumtree for example) then the rescue should support you if any issues to arise.

Your DH will need to be a bit firmer to stop the potential behavioural problems, but my rescue is quite spoilt and is a pretty well behaved dog. you just have to make sure they have firm boundaries (I was initially guilty of trying to make up for his poor start but allowing him free run - big mistake!)

No dog should be leaving teeth marks from play, this can be trained out quite easily - during play, if the dog accidentally nips/bites/gets too excited, a firm 'No' or 'Stop' and then stop playing immediately. Once the dog is calm, resume play. Give the dog something else to bite onto, a tug toy for example.

Make sure the whole family is involved from the start, go to training classes to strengthen the bond, everyone walks, feeds, grooms the dog etc.

Good luck!

Nesssie Tue 13-Mar-18 11:42:18

Oh, and there's no time scale to get another dog. I always said that when my first rescue died I would never be able to have another dog, no one could replace her etc.

Two weeks after her passing I got another rescue. I just physically and mentally could not live without a dog. I saved him and he saved me.

SaffyMcDonut Tue 13-Mar-18 12:35:40

I would get your husband involved in some positive training as he sounds outdated, or get a different breed or different husband

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