How did you come to adopt a dog from Sweet Shepherd Rescue Australia?
My partner Charlotte and I adopted Xena (formerly Gigi) in early April 2018 after months of researching different rescues and breeds. After ten days in the pound and three weeks in foster care with Sarah, Xena’s journey with us began.
What were the first few weeks like?
The first three to four weeks were the hardest. Xena was anxious and didn’t know who to trust or listen to. We spoke to Sweet Shepherd and asked to extend our two-week trial for a further two, just to make sure we were ready to commit to Xena.
Having fallen fast in love with Xena, we decided we couldn’t let her down!
Rescue dogs have often already developed certain behaviours, sometimes these can be a challenge. How did you deal with this?
One of the first things we did was enrol her at the German Shepherd Association of Victoria. I can’t recommend this organisation enough. For roughly $100 a year for membership, we could attend weekly classes for only three dollars.
How did Xena react to training?
When we took our initial class Xena was terrified, lunging fiercely and barking at other dogs. Specialising in German Shepherds, the trainers there reassured us that Xena was a perfectly normal young dog who had just never had boundaries or structure.
What recommendations did the trainers have to help you and Xena?
They recommended a Halti to stop Xena’s pulling and lunging. The transformation within minutes was amazing. Xena went from barking ferociously at every canine interaction, to being subdued and focused. Making training a positive experience was also crucial, and we always kept treats handy.
What’s something you feel proud that Xena has achieved in her time with you?
Xena has already advanced to level two at German Shepherd training, the head trainer says she’s in the top ten rescue dogs he has ever seen!
What have you discovered over your journey so far that Xena has loved?
After she overcame her initial fear of other dogs, we would take Xena to dog parks where she would run around wildly, having the time of her life!
What are the differences of rescuing a dog rather than buying a puppy?
Adopting a rescue dog is quite a different experience to buying a puppy, but they still need the same long-term commitment to training. Rescues often have an unknown history. It’s impossible to know what the dog has been through before they come home with you, and this requires tolerance and empathy. Neither of us had ever trained a dog before, yet gradually we began to see results; not only did Xena’s behaviour improve immensely, but we also started to bond very strongly with her. We began to trust Xena, and she us.
How do you feel about the journey so far?
We’ve had Xena for six months now, and though she is still a work in progress, seeing her go from scared and reactive to happily playing by the Merri creek with her other dog mates has been a real pleasure. Rescuing a dog requires commitment and a realistic understanding of the initial work required – the same as with any puppy. Putting the hard yards in and seeing Xena develop into an increasingly relaxed and confident dog has made it absolutely worth it.
Without Sweet Shepherd Rescue, Gigi, now Xena’s story may have been very different. This is why we do what we do, seeing our rescues go into forever homes and hearing just how well they’ve developed into beautiful family members makes it all worth it. Thank you James and Charlotte for adopting from us and sharing your story!