MemberAugust 26, 2017 at 5:26 pm008
Wow, Michael! Thank you so much for the thoughtful and detailed response! A few thoughts came to mind as I went through each point.
On the canine behavior front, I’ve had GSDs for years, some more “balanced” than others, plus I volunteer in GSD rescue. But Zeke is my first white one and any time we “engineer” for color vs. other traits, it never seems to work out well. I have friends with white GSDs who just nod in sympathy when I share some of his traits.
PS, when I went through your self-help series, I almost fell off my chair laughing when you and Earl said, “It’s a freaking German Shepherd!” Oh, boy. Do I understand that. But I’ve counseled so many adopters to not get a GSD if they don’t want a protective, person-centric dog … who may vocalize plenty, LOL. Their “you are my person” intensity is one of the traits I love about them, I just need to help Zekers to dial it back just a *tad* for his own mental calm.
Next, on health and perception: These thoughts prompted me to think back through everything Zeke experienced as we resolved his health issues, and I had a bit of a lightbulb moment. He had some severe digestive upset between the food intolerance and the parasite infections. The kid was in PAIN until we got that resolved, and it showed. That plus the ear infection was a rough patch. It occurred to me that he did experience pretty severe vomiting right after treatment for the parasites–and one episode was at night in his crate. Until then, he’d been sleeping through the night just fine, something we had achieved about a year ago.
Given his rather sensitive nature, this idea made me consider that he may have regressed a little because he had that unpleasant experience in his crate. Prior to that, he’d been successfully taught to adore his crate–it’s the only place he gets his very favorite toy and very favorite treat. Since he did so well for more than a year, I think you’ve hit on something that may be a factor in his current reluctance. That’s something I can work on right away–reinforcing his prior state of mind that crate = happy place where only the best stuff is available.
He is 100% housetrained, so no issues there. We also run a pretty structured house (necessary for sanity with two non-cupcake dogs plus the random foster dog). They each must go to place while we get their meals together and they are required to sit and wait until released to eat. They get 2x-3x structured walks daily plus individual play time and training practice. They have been taught to sit and wait at any threshold (gate, door, etc.) until I release them–and lots more. We ask them to do a “job” of some kind to get what they want–outside, a treat, a meal, etc.
As I reflect on the anxiety part of your reply, I also had another “a-ha” thought. When Zeke first regressed, he’d wake up at 2am and start vocalizing. Two weeks into this and he’s not waking up until 4am. He may be self-resolving as he realizes he feels better and the crate is still a good place to be, but your idea of purposefully getting up earlier to prevent his reaction vs. react to his reaction is a good one. One thing I’ve learned since we’ve had him in our family is that pre-empting behaviors goes a whole lot further than correcting them. Example: His former owner taught him to go bark at the back door to go outside for bathroom breaks. I don’t like the demanding thing, especially on a clingy or protective dog, so once I knew his timing for needing to go, I pre-empted it and took him out for a walk before he could ask. That act alone resulted in improved calmness to his state of mind. So I think your idea there is probably spot-on.
As for our female, she can be bossy to him but she defers to us. We’ve had Zeke and other foster dogs in their kennels in our room with all of us before. While she manages fine, her own demeanor is more relaxed when she doesn’t have to “room” with other dogs. Zeke is the first dog she actually accepted without trying to stealth snark at him, so I should probably say they both do better when she has time away from him–because he’s not going anywhere like the last six foster dogs. They need to live well together for a long time. Until this recent issue, they did well in their respective night time spots, so I’ll try for restoring that harmony first, and if that is not possible, we can revisit.
Thank you again for your helpful and thought-provoking response. Extremely useful and very much appreciated. I’ll look forward to sharing updates on our progress.