9 week German Shepherd Pup Fearful of Everything
We picked up our German Shepherd pup, Sadie, when she was 8.5 weeks from an AKC-registered-merit breeder last week. She cried in the car all the way home.
When we got home, she was very loving and sweet. 24 hours later, we took her on a short-car ride to the vet (10 mins) where she whined and cried. Sadie entered the vet hospital with curiosity and walked around on her leash, heading towards the exam room before we were called, and allowed the secretary to pet her. When we got into the exam room, she was fearful of the weighing table, then refused to be picked up and squealed, whined, squirmed, then hid under the chair from the vet and us (she had let us hold her previously).
We have had her now for 4-5 days and she is very smart. She has learned to sit, come, lay down, wait for her food, and ask for water. During the first few days, she has learned to go to the bathroom outside (for the most part) in our backyard. We even ran around with her on our patio which she seemed very energetic about.
However, when she hears a car, she bolts the other way or trembles/ shakes. She will not even try and go into the front yard. Today, we tried to let her roam our driveway and she tried to bolt in to the house. Now, she is scared of everything she hears and refuses to go outside to the bathroom. I had the hand held vac in the other room and she ran underneath a chair. I tried and coax her with the "Come" command and her favorite treat. When we got her outside, she bolted back into the house tugging and pulling on her leash with all her might. My husband firmly said NO and tugged her towards the grass. However, she continued to pull and run into the house. So we let her take a nap and when she woke up we tried to take her out again.
This time, I tried to influence her to go out in a firm "Come" command and she barked at me vehemently, tugged on her leash, and tried to bite my toes.
She has currently been on medication for both roundworms and coccydia, would this cause her to act differently?
Also, we read that the 8-10 weeks is a fear imprint stage, but we have not exposed her to anything traumatic, and the German Shepherd Breed is not supposed to show any fear. We are concerned she will have fear aggression as it appears she is getting more scared each day. German Shepherds are a tough breed if they display fear aggression. If she cannot go outside to the bathroom without retaliating, we are concerned. Any help on what is going on?
Congratulations on your puppy, she looks lovely and has a very intelligent and alert expression :)
As for the worries you have and Sadie's behavior, I personally feel that perhaps you're over-reacting a little in jumping ahead to having a 'fear biter'. A lot of what you're seeing is fairly normal in a puppy who has been through a lot in a very short space of time and who may be a bit more sensitive than some other pups... but this is not a fault as such and simply means that you will need to allow her more time to adjust to new things and new experiences than a bolder puppy would require.
Try to see it from her point of view for a minute and give her lots of credit for what she HAS achieved.
She left her momma and littermates for the first time, took a car ride to a totally new place with people she'd never met... the next day she went to the vet's office (which is pretty scary for many dogs and puppies anyway due to strange smells, other animals, equipment, more new people, being poked, prodded etc. etc.)... she's trying hard to learn the new 'rules' and has mastered a lot, including her housebreaking, in such a short time... and she constantly being expected to experience (and adjust to immediately) new experiences/sounds... she's in overload and that's the real problem I think! This is a lot to handle in one week... plus she is experiencing the normal fear period at this age, and although you might not think the things she's being exposed to are traumatic, she obviously does.
Coccidia is a condition that flares up in puppies who are either sick, or under stress, and their immune systems are weakened because of that. Clearly Sadie is very stressed, and she's showing you that in the only way she knows how.. by trying to escape from what scares her, and when she can't do that she's barking, growling and even nipping to tell you that she can't handle it. From what you've said I doubt very much that she's a potential fear-biter, but she clearly needs a slower acclimatization to new things and environments to prevent her becoming fear-overloaded.
Luckily she's very young (an 8 - 10 week old puppy is the equivalent of a human infant), and you've only owned her for a short while, so there's plenty of time to help her unlearn the anxiety she's feeling. I'd strongly recommend trying to allow her to feel comfortable and confident in one area before moving onto the next. Try not to expect too much of her and definitely do not punish her for being fearful or force her to do things that scare her. That will cause problems which are much bigger than the ones she has now. Take everything slowly, one step at a time and use lots of praise, rewards and tasty treats for even the smallest signs of progress on her part.
German Shepherds are extremely intelligent dogs and with that intelligence can come a certain amount of sensitivity, it's the same for all breeds (and people come to that). They're also very eager to please, and extremely responsive to, their owners. If Sadie's pedigree contains working GSD's then she's likely to be active, focused and high-energy and she needs lots of love and attention, firm but loving discipline to discourage nipping etc. and set 'house rules', plenty of exercise and a calm home atmosphere with a predictable daily routine. This will all help her to feel more secure in her new world, once she feels safer she will become more confident.
It sounds as though she's a well-bred puppy from a reputable breeder, and also as though this may be your first GSD pup. I'd suggest calling the breeder that you purchased her from and ask for advice or suggestions to help Sadie settle down and overcome her anxiety. Good breeders KNOW their own dogs and their breed as a whole and are in a perfect position to help new owners. They will already know quite a bit about Sadie's personality and I really think this would be helpful to you.
I know that it's easy to expect a lot from a new puppy and to worry, even panic, when things don't go as expected... but I think all you need here is to slow down a little bit and things will become much easier.
There are lots of pages on this website that will help you with behavior, training, health concerns and other issues you may have as time goes on. I hope this helps and that life gets less stressful for you all. Best of luck with that beautiful pup