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Hello everyone! About a month ago my sister and her husband adopted a 10 month old female golden retriever, Lily. I have been living with them for the past few months since graduating college, and have been helping in the process of training and taking care of this girl. Out of the three of us, none have ever owned a dog. My sister did very extensive research before adopting Lily, but I feel like there's a few things we were not prepared for.

As a background, we adopted Lily from a service dog training program in Virginia. The people from this program adopt litters that they believe will be good fits as service dogs, and eventually train them when they're old enough. But, Lily and her litter were "too shy" to even begin their training, which led to them being sold as regular pets. My sister didn't get a whole lot of information from these people about how Lily had been living, but we believe that it was an outdoor kennel situation with other dogs. But regardless we brought the little sweet, shy girl home and we have been giving her plenty of love and attention! She was first sleeping in her crate downstairs, but my sister felt like she was unhappy and decided to let her sleep in their room. It was also a difficult process for her to get used to being in a house (mostly just being scared/nervous of things such as wooden floors, windows, etc.) She has done surprisingly well with going potty on her walks and has only had 3 accidents inside.

So this brings me to the behaviors we've been seeing from her. For starters, she will only go on walks if there is at least two of us with her, and it doesn't matter what combination. If only one of us is walking her, she will only go to her pee spot around the corner and then completely stop and refuse to walk any further. We tried a little experiment one time where my sister and I walked with her a fair ways from the house, and I turned a corner and left the group when Lily wasn't paying attention. But, when she realized I was gone, she stopped and would only walk back towards home. We think this may be because she thinks were a "pack" and she doesn't want to leave anyone behind? There have also been incidents where she would stop and refuse to come inside or get off the couch.

Also, we have really been struggling to get her to eat. She has lost weight since we adopted her (we think its a combination of getting more exercise and her bad eating habits). My sister began by giving her a mixture of dry food and wet food, and now we are just giving her dry food. It is very hard to get her to come and eat, and sometimes she will just go the whole day without eating. At first, we thought it was because she was still adjusting and maybe felt a little depressed, but now we're not sure. She seems to just not be interested in food or treats in the way that other dogs are. My sister also, based on her research, thinks that we should still only give her food during morning and evening feeding times to help get her into a schedule and not let her free feed all day. But, now that my sister and her husband are both back at work, I have become the main caregiver during the day. I have tried leaving her food out and she still won't eat, and it's very concerning.

Any insight or advice would be greatly appreciated!
 

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I also think I should add - she doesn't know how to play. A couple of weeks into having her we took her to a play date with two golden tabs we know. Their owner played fetch with them and Lily looked like she wanted to join in but didn't know how or was too nervous. It was actually cute though - we think the labs could tell she didn't know what was going on so they took it easy around her. She eventually did get the ball though and when the other dogs approached her, she growled at them!! This was a little scary because we had barely heard so much as a bark or two out of her.

The only toys she seems to like when she's alone are Nylabones and a small stuffed bear we gave her. This had led me to believe that she was neglected growing up and didn't have a lot of human interaction :(
 

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On the walking issue; have you tried to lure here in to continue walking after the pee spot? Like throwing a toy or some treats? However be careful that she doesn’t start to “abuse” this and learns that she’ll get a treat or toy of she stops walking. That could turn out to be a problem.

However, sometimes it just takes to be confident and certain, walk straight passed the pee spot, no hesitation. But what’s important to keep in mind is to not push here too much.

Otherwise; could you take another route so she doesn’t get fixated on the pee spot?

Regarding the food I wouldn’t suggest to leave it out all day, it’s better to give controlled meals. I’ve heard about a lot of dogs that have started to be picky and have issues with the food when they’re around her age. Maybe that could be the reason? Just a period of her being picky.

If it isn’t dangerous for the dog to not eat all meals (I.e young puppy, sick dog, old dog), I would suggest to give her a meal, wait maybe 15 minutes, then take it away and continue the process at the next mealtime. A healthy dog won’t starve itself. However, what you should look into is to change her food. Some dogs don’t like particular food and it can take some time experimenting to find something that they like.

About her growling at the other dogs while having the ball; she simply is protecting the ball. This is called resource guarding which means that the dog guards something they view as a resource and a value (could be a ball, bone,food, human or an old sock). This is a natural behavior in dogs and most dogs are able to respect each others signals so it doesn’t become an issue. But it’s also a common problem and can lead to fighting for instance. If she‘s showing these signs the safest would be to not have anything she think is valuable enough for her to guard, when she’s around other dogs.

The only toys she seems to like when she's alone are Nylabones and a small stuffed bear we gave her. This had led me to believe that she was neglected growing up and didn't have a lot of human interaction :(
What makes you draw that conclusion? Why would her lack of interest in toys mean lack of human interaction?
 
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