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A Happy Rescue Story


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After putting down my 60kg 16mo Rotti pup due to behavioural issues and chronic PICA, I was done with owning another dog. 
Apart from being extremely frustrating raising this pup [that had me questioning my dog training abilities] it was rather devastating having to make the decision to have him euthanised. 

Two years ago I was looking at a GSD [German Shepherd] rescue website when one dog caught my eye. 
Not that the description suggested that this dog [let's call him Chewie to protect the innocent - me - lol] was out of the ordinary but I had a feeling that he might be a bit 'different' to most of the other dogs looking for a home. 

So out of idle curiosity I made an inquiry. Over the next few weeks I received many phone calls and emails. I'd caught a virus [no not the Rona] which laid me low.
My health is not good. Keeping in mind my experience with the Rotti pup, I really didn't think that with my health being as it is, that I was not in a position to take on a large GSD. 

Since Chewie was kennelled nearby, once the worst of the virus was over, I agreed to view him with the intention to plead ill-health as an excuse to not adopt, just to end the barrage of calls and emails. 
As we walked to the kennel I was told that he bit the last person who viewed him, sending them for stitches at A&E. . . . . 'what the hell am I in for?' I thought. 

As it turned out, Chewie had bitten three people who viewed him for adoption. 
He had no training, no socialisation and due to total neglect he did not like to be touched or handled. 
Due to astounding abuse Chewie was highly reactive. 
His full history was only revealed to me much later but I could see that Chewie was in desperate need.

Chewie had been in rescues care for 6 months. He required someone with experience who lived alone. 
He was so alone and isolated, even from other dogs, I could not walk away so I agreed to foster him to train and socialise to prepare him for a forever home. 

Unlike many rescues with a history of extreme abuse, Chewie was one confident, self reliant boy who took no crap from no one. 

At the time rescue said "Chewie will not ever seek much, if any, affection". I saw nothing to indicate otherwise. 
Nonetheless, each morning and before bed I'd give him a pat. As soon as I touched him he'd go stiff and shudder. [Which showed me that he had not ever received any affection whatsoever]
He'd tolerate this for 20-30 seconds before moving away. 

When we first went into public, he tried to attack every passersby; men, women and children. He looked psychotic. 
Chewie loves other friendly dogs and gets so excited, it took all my strength to hang onto his harness.
For the first few weeks we could only go a couple of hundred yards on a walk before I had to turn around but slowly he learned to ignore strangers [well not ignore entirely; he'd give every passerby the stink eye as we passed but at least he had stopped lunging for throats and groins] 

Then he learned to ignore pushbikes, skateboards, scooters etc [As I saw a cyclist coming towards us, I'd start warning "It's okay" which seemed to be the key after a while as experience taught him that I was correct that each individual was not a threat] 

Chewie had not ever been in a house before. He was highly suspicious of things like the fridge and freezer motors. He attacked the vacuum cleaner and lawn mower [before it was even started] Chewie was ultra-alert, doing a patrol of my home every 15 minutes.

As it turned out, under the extreme aggression was a rather nice nature. 
It's not that he hated people but rather, he simply did not trust humans. 

None of my mates were keen to be introduced [because he appeared psychotic] 
Fortunately, a guy we met on our walks would come out to say hello at least once a week. Gordon was the right guy in the right place. He followed my instructions to a T [Keep back a safe distance. Remain very still. Do not look him in the eye. No sudden movements] 
Chewie would just ignore Gordon. It took over four months but one day his body language changed completely. It was obvious as to his intentions so I asked Gordon if he was okay as Chewie looked like he intended to greet him. Getting down on one knee, I then gave Chewie slack on the lead. 
As he went to Gordon I had chills. Chewie was a bit overwhelmed by the encounter [trusting another human], jumping and play biting Gordon, who could not have handled the encounter better. 

That was a huge breakthrough for Chewie who has since made friends with several others [As a male dog it's not surprising that he likes the ladies] 
Chewie had been terrorised by kids in the past and would react at kids at play - running and squealing would trigger him big time. 
So I've been extremely reluctant to introduce him to kids, even if the risk is low, where children are involved even the slightest risk is too high. 

Then just last week, after two years in my care, he appeared keen to greet a 7yo girl and her mother after we'd been chatting for a few minutes. 
Chewie made me proud. The young girl as it turns out, is very good with animals and followed my instructions. 
That was a huge breakthrough for him. 

I've been good with animals since I was a kid myself. It's weird but looking back I can see that Chewie decided to give me the benefit of the doubt after I viewed him that first time.
He's not ever shown me any aggression. He's been very easy to train, although he still does display an independent streak when in public at times so we still have a way to go yet. 
Chewie now enjoys and seeks affection. Not that GSDs are the type of dog that wants to be mollycoddled.  
He tested me for 4-5 months [selective hearing] Since I will not usually repeat a command - you heard me the first time, lol - I got rather good at stare outs while remaining as still as a statue. 
Then one day he became 99.9% obedient at home. It's like he suddenly decided I was worthy of alpha status. 
He trusts me AND my hands. 

After a lifetime of being fed a kibble diet [with appalling tartar growth on his teeth as a result, he loves his raw meaty bone and offal diet [and a raw salmon head once a week - his favourite] He gets so excited at dinner time. 

Chewie has a really nice nature, is a fine companion and excellent security. 
Did I say 'foster'? Yeah right, he's here to stay. 

My only fear now is I've had a few health scares where I was facing a hospital stay. I dreaded the thought of kennelling him even for one night. 
Just last week one of his 'friends' who we became acquainted on our walks [To get Chewie accustomed to people, I'd stop and chat to passersby and neighbours] offered to look after him if I'm ever hospitalised. 
She's agreed to do training with Chewie [she was the 3rd person he befriended so she saw how reactive he can be] to prepare him for that eventuation. . 
Chewie loves her and gives her kisses when they meet. 

 His rehabilitation has been remarkable considering his history of extreme abuse and neglect. 
He's a fine companion and excellent security. 

Thanks for reading Chewies story. He's an extreme case which shows that even the most reactive rescues can be rehabilitated. 
I'll always have to err on the side of caution. Abuse leaves scars. But he's totally worth the effort. 
It's my hope that more people would consider a rescue. 

Here's a few pics. 
First one is from the rescue group.
The 2nd one is a year old after a bath. 
The 3rd pic is Chewie at 'sit' and 'stay' waiting for the command to have at his first lambs head. He's not sure what it is but he knows he's going to eat it. 
I've not ever known a dog to consume an entire animal head in one sitting. It took him 4 hours to consume, not even a tooth remained.


z-wooki rescue pic a.jpg

z-wooki at the car wash in the back of the ute.jpg

z-wooki with sheeps head.jpeg

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AHH....you DID find a companion :love:  What a story .  *'scuse me, I have something in my eyes* 
Chewie looks a lovely boy- and has obviously chosen his person well. 
So much work , patience and persistence - and an understanding of the dog in front of you  has enabled both of you to have a good relationship - and to ENJOY being alive :)
ps: LOVE that he's getting those yummy things to eat :)


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Not sure where to post this so here will do. 

Bear the dog behaviourist. 

When I first brought Chewie home he was extremely reactive and I felt that I needed advice from an 'expert'.
So I was delighted when I was invited to attend a training day, with Bear the dog behaviourist, for highly reactive GSD rescues, thinking that I'd actually learn valuable techniques from a dog behaviourist who I had heard was a "miracle worker". 

Since Chewie was regarded as "the most challenging" dog out of a dozen dogs, the behaviourist would be handling him first. 
Thank goodness that I left Chewie in the shade in the back of the ute, which is probably why Bear, the behaviourist, selected a dog that was sitting in the group. 

First up Bear waffled on about irrelevant stuff about wild dogs. That wasted a good 30 minutes [because Chewie was considered the 'most challenging' dog, I was offered the day gratis - the other poor schmucks paid over $100 for the 'privilege'] 

He then selected a dog that was dog reactive. 
If the dog was dog reactive then should not another dog have been used as a distraction?
Instead, Bear the 'miracle worker' used the dogs owner as the distraction. 

Before the session started Bear told me that he did not use a choker collar [with a cocky expression like he had some special secret technique]
Now I do, not to choke a dog - the idea of a choker is that the dog will learn to respond to the sound of the chain running through the metal ring that's a warning after it's choked itself once or twice. 
No choker had me intrigued. As it turns out he uses a long leather lead, hooked up in a fashion that works exactly like a choker. 
Difference is that a metal choker collar will easily release when the dog stops straining on it. A leather 'choker' will not. 

Bear had this poor dog head towards his owner [the dogs safe place] then issued the recall command. Without even giving the dog the chance to respond, he pulls hard on the lead, snapping the dogs neck making it yelp. 
As far as I'm concerned, that's animal abuse. 

Now I'm no expert but training must be enjoyable for the dog. Using harsh techniques that makes the dog yelp is not the way to train a dog.
Using the owner as the distraction, it's betraying the trust the dog has in his owner.
That's even worse because they're rescues, many of whom have been abused. Gaining a rescues trust is the #1 priority. 
No wonder the poor dog looked confused & frightened. 

There were a few dog trainers there to observe the 'expert' in action. What surprised me just as much as Bears inappropriate techniques, was that not a single person there saw what I was seeing but rather, they were 'oooing' and 'aahhhing' as if Bear had just done something remarkable. 

Then when he moved on to two other dogs, he used dominating standover tactics - on rescues with a history of abuse no less. 

Chewie is not where he is today, a relaxed and content dog, because I dominated him. 
He's come a long way because I earned both his trust and his respect. 

After a few hours I'd seen more than enough. The rescue lady was most keen to have Bear work on Chewie when I was saying my good-byes.
No way, no how, not going to happen. 
Then Bear appears as I was leaving. When I told him that Chewie would bite him [using those appalling techniques] Bear said "oh I've been bit heaps of times" - hardly surprising considering - as if that was not a big deal. [And when I say bite I'm really saying 'Chewie will savage you' without a doubt] 
Wtf??? We are talking about a highly reactive dog due to a history of terrible abuse, and you want to use an abusive technique on him earning yourself a mauling? 
Not on my watch you're not. 

When Bear could not change my mind, he angrily stormed off without a word. 

So people, that was my experience with the 'miracle worker' Bear the dog behaviourist. His ego is more important than a dogs well being. 
I'd not allow Bear to handle any dog so be warned. 

Dominating standover tactics and harsh technique may well work on some dogs but it's abusive and lazy.
It's no way to treat any dog much less a rescue. 

Chewie proved that what I was doing was correct. 
It takes time, patience and firm consistent direction to gain an abused dogs trust and respect. 
What sort of individual would prefer their dog to fear them rather than trust and respect? Not I, that's for certain. 


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34 minutes ago, persephone said:

AHH....you DID find a companion :love:  What a story .  *'scuse me, I have something in my eyes* 
Chewie looks a lovely boy- and has obviously chosen his person well. 
So much work , patience and persistence - and an understanding of the dog in front of you  has enabled both of you to have a good relationship - and to ENJOY being alive :)
ps: LOVE that he's getting those yummy things to eat :)


Thank you. 
Chewie had not ever eaten a bone in his life. How do I know for certain?
When I gave him his first chunk of beef brisket. he didn't know what to do with it, laying on the grass licking it for 15 minutes before he tested his teeth on it. 

When he saw what was for dinner over the first few months, he could not contain his excitement. 
He'd zoom around the backyard before racing back to my feet. 
Now he leaps and dances like a loony at dinner time . . . but he does settle himself by going to 'sit' and 'stay' automatically [because that's the quickest way for him to have at it, lol] 

I'm an independent person who enjoys his own company, so I'm surprised that Chewie has filled a few small gaps that I wasn't aware existed. 
It's nice to have such a fine companion. 

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One thing that really surprised me about Chewie is that he's frightened of storms and fireworks.
He's a very confident boy who jumps towards sudden noises or loud bangs. 

His fear of storms actually helped with bonding though. 
He'd been here for several days when the first storm rolled through.
Chewie came under the table beside me as I sat at my laptop, shaking and distress panting. 

Telling him "it's ok" he lay down at my feet waiting for the storm to pass.  
Since then he no longer shakes or pants though he does stick to me like glue. 

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After reading both of your latest posts (Zagan's and Chewie's), if you are in or near Sydney and ever need to board Chewie somewhere that understands GSDs, and are proficient in handling ones that aren't overly accommodating of new people... try Austral Boarding...




They run security dogs as well as the boarding kennels, and the owner's son is amazing with the "scarier" temperamented big dogs. There is never use of force or dominance... the dogs just seem to love him straight away.


Keep up the good work with Chewie... he sounds like a lovely dog under the bluster.




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8 hours ago, tdierikx said:

After reading both of your latest posts (Zagan's and Chewie's), if you are in or near Sydney and ever need to board Chewie somewhere that understands GSDs, and are proficient in handling ones that aren't overly accommodating of new people... try Austral Boarding...




They run security dogs as well as the boarding kennels, and the owner's son is amazing with the "scarier" temperamented big dogs. There is never use of force or dominance... the dogs just seem to love him straight away.


Keep up the good work with Chewie... he sounds like a lovely dog under the bluster.




Thank you, I'll keep them in mind. 

Hopefully our friend will be able to handle him. Although Chewie likes her a lot, I'm not sure if she knows how to gain his respect. 
He'll test her for sure in a cheeky non-aggressive way. 
We'll see. She's keen to start training so hopefully. 

Then I'll have him stay a night with her every so often so he has a home away from home. 

It was a huge relief when she offered to look after him should the need arise and she understands the importance of learning how to handle strong natured dogs which is reassuring. 
She's seen how reactive he can be so she also understands that Chewie could be dangerous in the wrong situation. 

The fact is that Chewie is totally predictable. It's only when peoples body language is all wrong or step too close for comfort that triggers him. 

On the bright side, the last couple of times Chewie's reacted, it was more of a 'bugger off get away from me' attitude rather than his earlier homicidal attempts. 


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One interesting thing that's slowly being revealed, is that Chewie's willingness to be social is motivated by curiosity.
GSDs, generally speaking, are often a bit aloof with strangers. 
They take their time to suss a person out but once they've accepted you you have a friend for life. 

Over the last few months, Chewie seems more willing to be friendly to strangers if they keep out of his comfort zone, standing still, Chewie sizes them up [without being obvious] and after several minutes he'll go up to them.  

Chewie is extremely inquisitive and needs to check out every little thing that I bring into our home, groceries, shopping, delivered parcels, anything new. 
I'm no fan of dogs who beg when I'm eating so I never encourage it. He's super interested in whatever I'm eating. 
Taking his curiosity into consideration, I realised that he was interested in knowing what I was eating [as opposed to begging] So when I had a mouthful of food I breathed on his snout then told him to get on his bed. 
That satisfied his curiosity as he went to his bed without fuss. 

So it appears that he's now going to people to check them out of curiosity as he's more interested in sniffing them than receiving a pat. 
It takes several more positive interactions before he accepts someone and shows he's receptive for a pat. 


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1 hour ago, persephone said:

:) Chewie is a fortunate boy in that he selected someone who is aware of how important it is to let a dog BE a dog :love: - to communicate in a style which suits his needs....

All dogs, like people, are individuals.
Understanding what makes them tick goes a long way in bringing out their best. 
With Chewie it was imperative that I understand him as best I could to give ourselves the best chance of bringing out the positive aspects of his nature and personality. 

Which is only fair. Chewie does the same for me and is surprisingly sensitive/aware of my idiosyncrasies. 
For example; I need time to fully wake in the mornings and can be a bit grumpy until I am. 
Chewie leaves me be until I've had my first mug of tea before he approaches me for a 'good morning' pat. 
It's especially surprising since I'm the first human with whom he's ever bonded. 
That in itself shows how willing they are to please someone they respect.

I've not only learnt quite a bit about strong confident dogs from Chewie, he's also reaffirmed my attitude to handling and training dogs in general. 
Apart from one minor incident - that was my fault but fortunately no harm was done - that aside, I would not change a single thing regarding his rehabilitation. 
It's not often that I get to say that, lol. 

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