Angel is a three-year-old German Shepherd Dog (GSD). She was brought to the Dade Animal Resource Team (DART) to be spayed by her new foster family in January of 2012. At that time, a routine test showed her to be heartworm positive, low positive. Her history was incomplete but it was believed that she was an exclusively outdoor dog. She was brought to Me And My Dogs to learn the skills necessary for her to survive her heartworm treatment and recovery; staying in a crate, walking on a leash and resting calmly in a 10 X 10 outdoor kennel.
Angel was scheduled to have her treatment after five days of boarding and training then return to her current foster for the 30 day recovery where she would be outdoors in a kennel while DART looked for a permanent home for her. When she arrived I brought her into the small house next to my training field.After three hours of crate training it became apparent that Angel was not willing to be in a crate and could not calm down when left alone. That night, I slept in the field house with her.
Her behaviors were a puzzle because we were told that she was an exclusively outdoor dog but she clearly did not like to be alone. I felt this was unusual for dog that lived outside. We began to suspect she had separation anxiety (SA), but separation from what, as far as we knew she never lived indoors with a person who loved her. When the directors of DART questioned the Angel's foster family a second time they learned that she did live indoors with a friend's Grandfather who recently died. When he passed away, Angel moved to different family members until she ended up there.
The directors of DART and I were in agreement, Angel indeed had separation anxiety and would not tolerate be crated during her heartworm treatment and would not survive being confined in a 10 X 10 kennel during
recovery. Her treatment was cancelled and she came into full custody of DART. I immediately brought her into my home and began a new training plan.
Angel was never left alone. Fortunately, she was okay when left with another dog so she was either with me or one of my dogs, all the time. Very quickly she gained confidence and willingly went in and out of her crate. She never barked or fussed while in her crate and was pleasant and appropriate around the resident dogs. Angel learned to walk and potty on a loose leash. In just one week she was prepared to go to the vet for her heartworm treatment.
For the next 30 days she had to be kept calm and quiet. It was time for the next phase of her training, gaining independence. Stay is an important skill for SA dogs to learn so they can be alone for brief periods of time. Angel would not stay. Angel was also afraid of wind, rain and the dark and would not go outside by herself in those conditions. By the end of her 30 day recovery time, she achieved an out of sight stay for just over a minute and was able to leave the porch on her own to potty in the rain.
Although her attention seeking behaviors such as pawing and whining improved, I felt they were still a problem.I was growing increasingly frustrated when I learned that these behaviors are not uncommon among German Shepherd Dogs. It was then I understood why DART was working with German Shepherd rescue groups to find her a home.
I usually write stories about me and my dogs or stories about you and your dogs. This story is about Angel, she didn't have anyone...until the Schlemmer family of Atlanta. They are German Shepherd people. They wanted a companion for their GSD and when the rescue group showed them her pictures, they immediately fell in love the Angel. Pam and her husband had several telephone conversations with DART and with me about Angel and her history. They explained they rescued German Shepherds in the past and were prepared to deal with her issues. They actually were okay with the shadowing, the pawing and the whining. To them these were signs of affection and are very happy to return her love.
Angel is doing well in her new home. Pam recently reported that Angel does not paw or whine anymore,
and Pam doesn't mind having Angel as her shadow.
For more information on DART visit www.DARTSavesLives.org.