Bonding For Life

Dogs who have been uprooted from their happy homes or who have not had the best start in life, are more likely to bond very completely and deeply with their new people. Those who have lost their families, go through a terrible mourning process; however, once attached to a new loving family, they seem to want to please as much as possible to make sure they are never homeless again. Dogs who are just learning about the good life and good people seem to bond even deeper. They know what life on the streets, life on the end of a chain, (or worse) is all about, and they revel and blossom in a nurturing, loving environment. Most rescues make exceptionally affectionate and attentive pets and extremely loyal companions.

Unfortunately, many folks think that dogs who end up in rescues are all genetically and behaviorally inferior. But, it is not uncommon for rescues to take in very expensive, well-bred dogs who have simply outlived their “usefulness” or novelty with impulsive owners who considered their dog a possession rather than a friend or family member; or who did not really consider the time, effort and expense needed to be a dog owner.  Not all breeders will accept “returns”, so choices for giving up dogs can be limited to animal welfare organizations, such as rescues, or the owners trying to place their own dogs. Good rescues will evaluate the dog before accepting him/her (medically and behaviorally), rehabilitate if necessary, and adopt the animal out only when he/she is ready, and to a home that matches and is realistic about the commitment necessary to provide the dog with the best home possible.

Choosing a rescue dog over a purchased pup will not solve the pet overpopulation problem (only responsible pet owners and breeders can do that), but it does give many of them a chance they otherwise would not have. But, beyond doing a “good deed”, adopting a rescue dog can be the best decision and addition to the family you ever made.

Rescue a dog and get a devoted friend for life!

Written by Mary Clark at Labrador Retriever Rescue Inc. Permission has been granted freely to reprint and distribute this document as long as LRR, Inc at is credited.

Bonding with the Adult Rescue Dog

© By Charlotte Mielziner (Mo-Kan Border Collie Rescue)
Professional Member, APDT
Certified in Canine Behavior, Purdue University
Certified Private Trainer, ABTA
Rally Judge, AKC and MBDC

Carolyn was frustrated. The lovely 6 year old Border Collie she fell in love with and brought to her home was not the affectionate, loyal companion she had expected. In all fairness, he was housebroken, gentle with the cat and walked nicely on lead, but it was something else. He would come forward for a treat, take it and back away. In the evenings, he would lay behind a rocker in the corner and stare at her. He only approached her when he wanted her to throw a tennis ball. He frankly seemed better friends with the cat than her. Why didn’t he seem to like Carolyn?

The species from which dogs descended, the wolf closes its socialization window around the age of four to six months and rarely allows anyone else in their circle of friends for the rest of its life. Luckily, the dog remains pliable enough in its emotional makeup to bond at any age, but it can take longer once they are an adult. How long? It depends on many different factors. The age of the dog, its prior experiences, temperament, the new caretaker’s ability to provide leadership and consistent interaction. We cannot predict how and when a dog will finally bond with their new owner. Sometimes, they give their hearts with the first bowl of kibble, or it may take a month or more. Be patient, there are things you can do to assist this process.

1. Be the stable thing in your dog's environment.

Be the person he can count on being there. Take him everywhere you can. Walk in the park today, stroll down a nature trail tomorrow and errands the next day. You must be the predictable thing he can count on. You will become a pack of two, dedicated to each other in all life’s adventures.

2. Take an obedience class.

Even when your dog seems like he pays good attention and obeys basic commands, an obedience class is the single best method to help new owners learn to communicate and bond with their dog. It is also the safest venue to begin socializing your dog with other dogs. In just a few weeks, dogs go from lunging, barking whirlwinds of energy to calmer, focused partners with their handlers. An obedience trained dog is welcome in more places and has greater freedom in the home. But, be careful who you go to. Work only with dedicated, professional positive motivation trainers.

3. Use a house lead to keep in contact with your dog and he with you.

Many rescue dogs may spend a lot of time by themselves, in a crate or under a chair. It is as if they don’t feel welcome yet. A house lead is a six to ten foot lead that attaches to a buckle collar, not a training or prong collar, you always hold the other end. Keep the dog on lead as many hours as possible so he goes with you wherever you go in the house. If he is napping and you want a drink of water, he goes with you. A house lead is also a wonderful tool for making sure the dog stays out of trouble until he learns the house rules.

4. Touch your dog and speak to him as often as possible.

The need for touch is just now being recognized for its comfort and as a method of unspoken reassurance. Stroke him as you put a bowl of kibble down, as you put on the lead, and before you give him a treat. Bathe or brush him yourself, talking all the while about what a great dog he is. Make physical contact from you a pleasant thing by finding his favorite itchy spots and giving them a good scratch. You may even sit on the floor with him for a while each evening and give him a nice massage.

5. Play with your dog.

This does not mean sitting in a lounge chair and throwing a tennis ball for two minutes while you watch TV. Get up and move, give the dog your full attention. You may try having several tennis balls and as the dog goes for one, turn and run a few steps and throw another. Playing means getting a really good game of tug going, smiling, laughing and moving around with it. Truly have a good time playing.

Carolyn wisely chose to put all five of these tips into play. Some adopters can tell the moment their dog realizes he is truly in his forever home. She does not know when her dog finally bonded with her, but he did. She does remember the first time she said his name and he wagged his tail, “I knew we were on the right track!” He looks to her for reassurance, leadership and just plain fun. She thinks in this case, it was a process that took place over time. She says, “We sort of bonded with each other.” Trust grew and a real friendship between the human and the dog evolved as they shared adventures.

Today, Carolyn proudly states she regularly takes her border collie to a local nursing home as a therapy dog. Each morning, he watches closely as she gets ready for the day and waits for her gentle kiss on his nose. He dozes in the evenings with his head on her foot, so that when his special human should move he can be there, living life forever with his best friend.

Training Tips

German shepherds are undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and intelligent animals you could ever own. They are fiercely loyal, and, if trained properly, will become an inseparable member of your family.  However, if left to their own devices, German Shepherds become bored, agitated, snappy and — in some cases — a threat to society. They are a strong animal, and they need and expect, strong, kind leadership from their masters.

A Healthy Relationship Is The Foundation Of All Training

A dog who is fearful of his owner, translates that fear into self-defense and disobedience. Your pet needs to learn that he can trust and love you.  So many people feel like they need to be overly aggressive with their pet in order to teach obedience.  Obedience is important, but that comes more from consistency than from how harshly you discipline your pet.  What is unfortunate, is that most dog owners refuse to learn how to be a good owner. They over-react to their dog’s behavioral issues and blame their pets for problems that actually stem from the poor owner-pet relationship.  For these reasons, it is so very important that you invest in some training. Not just to learn how to teach your dog how to behave, but also to teach YOU how to better communicate with your pet.  Sure, that might cost you some time and money, but the enrichment that comes out of your life is well worth it!

Basics Of Positive Training

Positive training is powerfully successful. It works with all types of dogs, even those considered “stubborn” or “challenging.” It works great with fearful and shy dogs. It also works with big dogs, little dogs, puppies, seniors, bouncy dogs, and couch potatoes – this is because it follows the fundamental laws of learning. You can train any species using positive training. Many wild animal trainers use positive training to get large, potentially dangerous animals to perform behaviors. If they can train elephants to willingly offer their feet for care, or if they can train tigers to sit patiently for blood draws, then you can train your dog without using force or intimidation.

There are lots of benefits to using positive training!

  • You don’t have to rely on physical strength to train your dog. It doesn’t require you to muscle your dog into position or push or pull him to do what you want.
  • It opens up training to a much broader range of people with different physical capabilities and enables them to train bigger dogs. It also means that your kids can help train your dog (with supervision).
  • With positive training, sessions are very short. A few minutes are all you need for one session. Short sessions work best for dogs, especially young puppies with short attention spans! It’s also great for anyone with a busy schedule. You can always squeeze in a few minutes, and if you do that a few times a day, you’ll see great progress.
  •  It gets fast results. Your dog will look forward to your training sessions and be more engaged with you, so you’ll be able to teach him faster.  You’ll get your dog to want to work for you, rather than be afraid to disobey you. This forges a strong relationship.
  • It’s fun! Training your dog doesn’t have to be a chore. By using positive methods, you and your dog will both enjoy the learning experience.

The whole process of training can be successful if you adopt a caring and generous attitude towards you dog. Understand the breed, and work around the personality. Be firm and help your dog along, even if it means physically carrying him to the potty spot. When you get your dog home – you’ll see, he or she will be trained in no time!

How To Motivate And Reward

The positive reinforcement method is based on modern learning principles, which emphasizes motivation. This means that you will always try to create a situation where your dog will naturally seek to do what you want.  You will motivate, praise and reward your GSD when he does what you want. Your dog will by repetition, quickly learn what he needs to do to please you, and thereby be rewarded. It is recommend that you never using punishment during the learning process, since punishment will often inhibit learning and stress your dog out.  ​With reward based training you can start to train him or her when he is settled in the home. The dog will quickly learn the joy of cooperation and become a well-adjusted part of the family.

Types Of Rewards:

Voice: Happy, lively and motivating praise by voice is positively reinforcing. Use the voice along with treats, playing or touch. Always follow up with praise when the dog does anything you ask it and / or if you see the dog doing something positive.

Treats: It’s a good idea to use treats when you teach the dog something new. The treat reinforces your praise and gets the dog to repeat the behavior. Train your GSD when he is hungry – not right after he has just eaten or is tired. The treats should be very small and easy to chew. You should be able to give your dog 20-25 treats without him becoming satiated.

Playing and Petting: Once your dog understands the exercise, or if the dog is not interested in food, you can reward the dog in other ways. Playing and petting can also be used as a positive reinforcement. Pay attention to the way you reward the dog; does it stress or calm the dog? For example: Playing with a tennis ball, football, Frisbee or socializing with other dogs is stressful and can be used if you want speed and intensity to the exercise you rehearse. Petting is something almost all German Shepherds are fond of, and if you need a calm and relaxed dog to the specific training session this is the optimal way of rewarding him.

Timing Is VERY Important!

When you praise your dog for something, you must offer the praise while he is exhibiting the desired behavior. If the praise is given at a later time, the dog will not connect the praise with the behavior. It is therefore extremely important to have a treat or ball ready in your pocket so you can reward the dog immediately when it does what you want. You should combine the treat with praise and say “Good!” while you give the dog the treat. It teaches him that the word “Good” means “correct behavior – the rewards are on the way!” When this effect is achieved, it does not matter as much that it takes a few more seconds before he receives the reward. Practice praising your dog immediately when he is doing anything you want.

Keep It Short, And ALWAYS End Successfully

It is not the quantity but the quality that counts! Train in short intervals and have frequent breaks. You can train several times a day, preferably 5 – 10 minutes each time (shorter with small puppies). Always finish while the training is proceeding nicely and the dog still seems interested and always end with success.

The Don'ts Of German Shepherd Training

A lesson isn’t complete until you know what not to do. Everything that has been said so far focuses on the affirmatives, because only a positive person and a positive attitude can train a dog successfully.  That being said, you are still human.  The tendency to feel frustration and get upset when your German Shepherd is not responding quickly to the training, is common; however, it is important for you to understand that exhibiting those negative emotions can be detrimental to your dog’s training. Here are some examples of things you should never do during a training session:

  • Do not EVER hit your German Shepherd or abuse him or her physically in any way, even if there is a housebreaking accident.
  • Do not scream and yell at your German Shepherd.  Your dog will always respond much better to kindness and patience than to anger and frustration.  Screaming teaches them to fear you.
  • Do not EVER rub your dog’s nose in the mess to teach him a lesson. The dog has no idea that he has done something wrong and he himself can’t stand the messy stuff and just wants to get rid of it. By rubbing it in, he registers only the harshness of the punishment with you.
  • Do not isolate your dog because he has made a mess inside. Dogs are family oriented and keeping them apart aggravates and disturbs them. The insecurity that is caused by the isolation would only lead to more accidents.
  • Do not change their diet during the housetraining sessions, unless there is a health issue that necessitates a change. A change in the diet might affect a change in the dog’s bladder and bowel movements.
  • Do not leave the food bowl lying around for the dog to have at any time of his or her choosing. Feed the dog according to a timetable and take away the food after 20 minutes.
  • During housetraining, do not allow the dog to roam around the house, wherever he likes. Do not leave the dog unattended – he would most likely sniff out corners and do his job there without your knowledge.
  • Do not change the housebreaking routine all of a sudden. Stick to the program and try as much as possible for the first few months to maintain the regular pattern.
  • Do not expect too much too soon. Be realistic and fair with your dog. Two days is not enough for your dog to get the message. A week’s time of consistent practice would set the pace but you will still have to follow it up by maintaining the skills that have been learned.