When Max (my current dog and best friend) and I found Shiloh (at the shelter), he’d been an outdoor dog, not housebroken and not trained (who does that to a dog). He’s mostly skin and bones (for now), so he’s basically a “big puppy”, with all the puppy needs.
When you adopt a rescue dog that was a stray or mistreated, you never know what you’re getting – except an animal that deserves better. The reason you adopt these animals isn’t because you expect a dog. It’s because you expect to put in the time and love to make them YOUR dog.
Riverside Rescue (my local shelter) offers a “two week trial period” that allows you to return your dog if things “don’t work out”. My firm belief is that, if you don’t have the will to work with your dog for more than two weeks, you don’t deserve to own a dog. What follows is a recap of the first five days after I adopted Shiloh into his “forever” home.
Well, it took about 10 minutes in the truck before Shiloh calmed down enough for me to be able to drive him home. Then it took about three hours before he finally calmed down enough to lay down and go to sleep. During that time, he intimidated Max, chewed up my work glove, and peed in two places in the house. I had to go out to the shed and get the crate for him . I haven’t had to housebreak a dog in over 10 years, so this should be a real experience. While Max and I agreed that a brother would be great, after about a half-hour Max was asking me if it was time for Shiloh to go home. He wasn’t impressed with my “This IS his home” answer.
Well, the night seemed to go okay. Shiloh was a little upset with having to be in the crate, and whined a little, but finally did go to sleep. Whenever he gets excited, he likes to bite. It’s close to a playful nip (for a German Shepherd) but it scares the hell out of Max. When giving him treats, he’s snagged my hand a few times. He reminds me of the shark from Jaws. I’ll have to work on this. Everything else went okay. One thing I did notice is, when he is on the leash and Max is on the run, they get along fine. But when he is on the run and Max is on the leash, he is very aggressive. I think this is because he had to protect himself when he was chained out in his previous life. One other thing I noticed , he keeps scratching at his ears. I did a quick swipe with a Kleenex, and noticed that they are quite dirty. I’ll have to work on cleaning them tomorrow. Only one accident today.
Brushed him out again – he doesn’t seem to mind grooming. Then I took the big chance and cleaned his ears, which involves squirting cleaner in, squishing it around by rubbing the back of his ears, letting him “shake the excess out”, then softly wiping the inside to remove any dirt. I say this was a big chance because it can be a bit traumatic for the dog, and I wasn’t sure I’d built up enough trust yet. But he was just awesome, letting me do both ears relatively quickly. And this DID stop the scratching. He’s been much better with the crate, even going in on his own. Another big test came today as my good friend Shiv came to visit. I wasn’t sure how Shiloh would interact with people, but he was pretty good. He does have a bit of the “Connecticut Crotch Hound” in him, which had Shiv pushing his nose away on more than one occasion, but overall he was quite mellow – he still nips when he’s excited though. That’s on my “to do” list. No accidents today.
I wish we’d met a month earlier. Since Shiloh isn’t housebroken, and Max goes out first, I have to take Shiloh for a walk in the morning, while Max is on the run. I don’t mind the “walk” part, it just that it’s cooled off up here and a brisk morning walk hasn’t been part of my program in quite a while. Today we began a more intense training routine. We worked on “no bites”, to curb the nipping when he’s excited, as well as “gentle” when he takes treats or gets excited. He’s understanding the “sit” command more and “no snoop” for when he runs his nose along the counter, over the dog food bags, or into my plate. He does understand “No”, and it scares me how quickly he he gets low, with his face to the floor when I use it. I can’t imagine what life must have been like for him before. He spends time in his open crate, going in on his own. Day two of “no accidents” – this is looking promising.
Max killed a field mouse this morning. Not intentionally, but mice don’t hold up to playing well. When it stopped moving he left it there and continued on with his business. When I let Max in from the run, Shiloh, even thought he’d just been out, was animated about going out again, so I put him on the run. As I watched, Shiloh made a beeline for the general area of the dead mouse, then gobbled him up. As I ran at him, yelling “No”, he began to chew faster. I got to him, pinched his lower lips over his teeth so that he’d stop chewing, extricated the slimy varmint and disposed of it. I guess when you’ve been used to fending for yourself, a good mouse doesn’t go to waste. We’re continuing training with very positive results. Shiloh sits for treats, takes them far more gently than the “Jaws” approach he came with, calms down easier (even Max noticed this) and has been well behaved. Today was the first time I left him alone (in his crate) as Max and I needed to go to the store (and Max needed some “Dad and Lad” alone time). He was great, not whiny or overly excited when we returned. The trust level is growing. The great thing about a German Shepherd is that even the dumb ones are smart. We did have a small accident today, but at least it was just on the carpet this time. He’s a great dog, and I’m lucky to have found him.