We're the new and very proud owners of a beautiful 2yo jet-black German Shepherd female that we've named Pepper. Her past is a bit of a mystery but she was rescued a few months ago and we believe she had very little human contact before then. She spent a few weeks at a pound, then she was adopted by an elderly lady for a couple of months, then moved to a kennel for a few weeks awaiting a more suitable home. Hopefully we are that more suitable home!
She is very gentle and is not afraid of people, but she will generally avoid contact where possible. She has an enormous amount of energy and is very playful, and I suspect that her 'aloofness' is a combination of wanting to be chased and also some natural flight response. She seems suspicious of treats, and I suspect her temporary owner may have tricked her with food. She also had some basic training at the kennel, which (having met the trainer) would probably have involved lots of corrections and shouting, as well as treats in a less-than-fun atmosphere.
We've only had her for a couple of days, so she is still settling in and hasn't really bonded with us yet of course, but she's been amazingly good for the most part and she does show some affection towards us. My approach is to be very casual with her, go about my normal business, say hello when she comes close, but not to spend fruitless hours trying to train her or call her over until she is a bit more settled and responsive to us.
I play with her (basically by pretending to be another dog) occasionally, which she loves, and we walk her on-lead a couple of times a day which she also enjoys. In fact, she is generally very well behaved on lead and will take treats, pats etc. At home she follows us round the house a bit (we talk to her a lot) and plays happily by herself in the garden when she feels like it (the back door is usually open so she can come and go as she pleases), but if we try to get near her she'll bolt. To get her on the lead for walks is tricky - she 'visits' my partner (in a wheelchair) often enough that she can clip the lead on, but I have to corner her in the garden somewhere, and she's learning all my tricks fast so I'll be in trouble soon.
I guess my question is, what's the best way to handle her initially? Is this casual approach likely to produce results once she feels more settled and has formed a stronger bond with us - and if not, what should we try (given that at this stage she doesn't respond strongly enough to food, toys or affection for us to use them as incentives)?