Geïnspireerd door onze campagne, heeft nog een van onze Engelse volgers haar verhaal ingestuurd. Hoewel zij geen adoptant van ons is, delen wij graag haar verhaal! Zeker omdat haar verhaal ontzettend eerlijk is. Zij liep tegen een aantal eigenschappen van de Griekse Herder (mix) op en samen kwamen zij er zoveel beter uit. Haar verhaal leest als een boek (en is dat ook bijna…)
For the Strays – Paws of Greece voert campagne om de misstanden, de vooroordelen zogezegd, over Griekse Herder mixen te ontkrachten.
Hoewel wij altijd ‘voorlichten’ over het sterke en zelfstandige karakter van de Griekse Herder mix, is het echt een fantastische huisgenoot. We zullen af en toe een adoptant van een Griekse Herder mix aan het woord laten en in deel V is dat van een onbekende schrijfster:
My partner and I lost our beloved Boxer breed dog early in 2021 after she lost her fight with cancer. We were devastated. We are semi-retired with a very big garden in a very rural location. It is quiet here and we are surrounded by wildlife, trees and fields and our set up is custom made for a dog. So we actively looked for someone different. Different breed, different colouring, and a rescue – someone who’d had a bad start with whom we could share our home.
When we adopted Bear in August 2021, an 8 month, castrated Greek Shepherd mix, (mixed with what, we have no idea) we knew nothing of his breed, their traits, needs, abilities and/or suitability to fit into a home environment.
We wanted a largish breed, preferably fluffy, who liked other dogs and was laid back. Bear had been found wandering in a local village and was picked up quickly by the rescue for fear of poisoning/being shot by the locals. The rescue neutered him in line with their breeding-control policies and he was given all the relevant vaccinations etc. He already weighed 35Kgs and was tall and substantial in build, although he was thin. He was very docile, compliant and seemed to take everything in his stride. He was friendly and laid-back and walked well on the lead; We could not believe our luck in finding such a perfect dog.
As Bear reached the age of 12 months, almost overnight he changed due to adolescence and the hormone changes coursing through him. Gone was the compliant easy-going dog we had come to love. He became challenging, nipping biting, ripping clothes and would dive-bomb my partner. He refused to listen to him and completely ignored any requests etc. He wouldn’t get in the car, and when he didn’t want to do something, he would sit or lay down and started crocodile death-rolling on the floor. He’d refuse to move, the mouthing was constant and with his huge jaws and paws, he could cause considerable pain. He was 57kgs now and very very defiant, strong and powerful.
Escaping our garden became the main focus of his existence and his prey drive went through the roof, killing anything he could catch regardless of the 3 meals a day he was now being fed. It was also dangerous because we are surrounded by farmer’s fields, if he got in with the sheep, the farmer could legally shoot him. Water also seemed to be a trigger for him – stream, river, puddle, the sea. he would become very excitable and jump around and pull on the lead, jumping up and nipping clothes. This was a problem for us, we were in our late 50’s and neither of us are over 5’6”. It was dangerous as he is so big and we were very worried.
But, we had fallen love with him and wanted to give him every chance to come good, even though we were struggling as because of his size and power it was important that we could control him when he tipped over the edge of excitement. We made a pact with ourselves and worked with our vet and behaviourists to find a way to deal with his behaviour. We learned that by showing we had confidence – that we were able to handle any situation, Bear learned that ‘we’d got this’ and he could relax more. We were told to buy a catch lead rather than a slip lead, and a soft muzzle which we did, and were advised not to put the muzzle on him, but to show it to him when he started to jump/nip etc. If he continued, to put it on him. We then held his collar loosely until he had calmed down. This was a game changer. He didn’t like the muzzle and so quickly realised that whilst adolescence is a normal behaviour for a dog of his age, it was not acceptable and that his actions had consequences. At no time were we violent or aggressive with him. Gentle correction was the way forward, and force is NOT the way to get the best out of this breed. We learned to stop the mouthing by offering a chew toy instead of our hands. This swapping works and now Bear happily takes the swap and his mouthing is non-existent. He does like to hold our hands in his mouth when he’s sleepy but it is very gentle and he never uses his teeth now.
We learned that Greek Shepherds love to be outside. In their natural setting, they are bred in pairs as livestock guardians to sheep/goats in the mountains. Human interaction is limited and sporadic and they often have to fend for themselves. They are constantly alert watching for any danger to their ‘flock’ (which to him, we had become). Their independent thinking makes them the perfect breed to survive in these conditions but the downside is they can come across as what is described as ‘stubborn’.
Once we had learned this, we decided to find ways to indulge his inner, innate traits and needs. Bear is always happiest relaxing on a high point in the garden where he can see all around him to assess any danger or risk, but his continual need to escape the garden and roam, made this difficult to manage. (And dangerous for him, being surrounded by fields of sheep and the very real risk of him being shot by a farmer etc). We decided to embrace this and invested in a long, plastic covered metal long line (30 metres) which we fastened to a tree. This gave Bear the freedom to be in the garden, doing whatever he wanted, but it kept him safe. He was able to indulge his love of outdoors and we could relax because we knew he was secure.
After several weeks of being on the long line at intervals during the day (we always checked on him ever 10-15 mins), we found he no longer prowled the fencing looking for weak spots. He became much more content and we were able to pack the long line away as it was no longer needed. Nowadays he is happy to lay in the garden until dark, often popping in to check we are still okay and at home, and then he comes in himself at bedtime.
Bear has always been less comfortable to be inside although this is changing. If he was/is inside, he would (and still does) position himself against the outer most door (usually our outer porch door) where he sleeps, until we move into the garden or another room, and then he gets up and re-adjusts his position to again be the barrier between any threat and us. We don’t think this will ever change as it is in his genes. However, he is not deliberately destructive although he does have a thing for cloth – towels, blankets, curtains and if given the chance will grab them and run into the garden with them!
Bear has a high prey drive. As an independent breed, they often have to find their own dinner and whilst Bear is well-fed with us, the desire to hunt remains with him. He will sniff around and dig an area which he finds interesting, often laying with his nose in the hole he has made until he catches the rat/rabbit/vole etc., or something else becomes more interesting. Again, this is not something we think he will ever outgrow, but we are more ready for it now, and in hedgehog season etc., we put the outside lights on about 30 mins before Bear goes out into the garden and we make lots of noise when opening the door to let him out. This seems to do the trick. This is something to bear in mind because if you love a beautifully manicured garden, as you may get upset once your Greek Shepherd makes adjustments to your lawn!
In Greece, many dogs, not just Shepherds dig large trenches for them to lay in and rest when the weather is hot. Bear also does this often, rarely in the same place.
When trying to learn about the breed I found many research items online made to help prospective owners learn about the breed and manage their expectations as to what their new dog may be like. Having said that, the information is often negative and the general opinion seems to be that: Greek Shepherds do not make good pets. They do not get along well with anyone other than its owner it is essential to socialize it and give at least basic obedience training from a very young age. That way it will likely still be aloof but will not perceive threats where there are none. Socialization means introducing it to different places, people, sounds, animals and situations so it knows how to react appropriately. It is difficult to train because of its strong dominant nature and tendency to be willful and stubborn. It needs experienced owners who are firm, consistent, patient and skilled. It will test your leadership and you need to know how to deal with. Do not be harsh or physical with it though, gentle and positive training techniques are best, you just need to stick to the rules you set.
As a result, some Greek rescues are reluctant to adopt out dogs with Greek Shepherd as part of their make-up. However, we wanted to share with you that every dog is different. Contrary to the research, Bear loves everybody. He is not in any way aloof, on high alert or wary of strangers. He loves meeting other dogs, cats, children and people. He has also been introduced to geese, horses, chickens, sheep and cows with no problems. With us, he loves cuddles and often comes up for a belly-rub on the sofa. This has increased over the time we’ve had him and he is also now very vocal if he wants something. He will bark at the treat tin if he thinks he deserves one, and shout at you if he thinks it’s walk time! We have not found much resistance with training Bear. He is very food driven and this is advantageous when teaching recall, sit, down, leave etc. He will never be a performing pony, (and we don’t want him to be) but if he is interested, he is easy to teach new things to. We go to local secure fields often to allow him to free-run and they have some agility equipment for the dogs to play on. Bear was very quick to pick up jumping on haybales, and obstacles and he loves splashing in water!!!
His recall is very good, but we are still hesitant to let him off in a public area, as if he is distracted, he may become selectively ‘deaf’. We are hoping this will improve in time but are still being cautious for the moment.
Bear didn’t know anything about toys when he arrived. He couldn’t get the concept of chasing and retrieving a ball, but he did know he enjoyed chewing up his soft toys and loves a good rope toy. He now loves to run after the ball but as yet still no bringing it back!
Bear is a plodder not a sprinter. He does love a good run but 30 mins of running free and sniffing is enough for him. He is much more marathon built and will walk happily for miles over Dartmoor or similar and loves the terrain there.
One of the things which first attracted us to Bear (and still is) were his looks. He is beautiful. He has a very dense double coat which helps to keep him warm, dry and cool through the seasons. He is long-haired and very fluffy. This is gorgeous, but he does need regular grooming so that his coat doesn’t get matted. There are always things caught in his fur! Leaves, twigs, burs. Luckily, he loves being groomed and happily obliges by laying upside down on the sofa or in the garden whilst we brush him. LOTS of loose hair is removed, so as with most dogs, you need to be keen on getting out the vacuum and mopping up his muddy footprints.
Bear wasn’t a fan of the car when he first arrived, but after our neighbours’ dogs jumped into the back of our car one afternoon, Bear hopped in after them and has never looked back. He loves car-rides as it usually means a lovely spot for a run about. Our message is that absolutely Greek Shepherds CAN be family dogs. Not necessary every family, not necessarily every home, not necessarily every Greek Shepherd. They need space, and seem to thrive on our peaceful surroundings. Whilst Bear is very content to go to the pub for Sunday lunch with us, we are not sure if all Greek Shepherds would thrive in a busy, noisy small home and wonder if they would cope being left regularly. We are very fortunate to live in a very rural location with lots of space and we work from home.
However, with time, love and patience most things are possible. These dogs are wonderful. Bear has soon slotted in to our routine, and seems happy and content with us. He loves being out and about as much as loafing in the garden or on the sofa. His personality comes out, a little more every day. He is a delight and SO funny. Whilst Bear is now very affectionate and engaging, it took a while for him to relax and in the beginning, he was distant and aloof. Now he bounds on the sofa for a cuddle most evenings and shouts at us if he wants a belly rub!!
What we are trying to say is that if you are thinking of welcoming a rescue into your home, PLEASE CONSIDER a Greek Shepherd if you think they could be a good fit for you and you for them. If you are prepared to manage your expectations and acknowledge that these are primarily outside livestock guarding dogs, who don’t have the normal domesticity in their genes. Whilst their affection is a slow-burn, your patience, love and commitment will certainly be rewarded. They will learn they are safe and are loved and will embrace their new lives with you to give you wonderful companionship and loyalty.