The Power of a Quiet Presence.

I witnessed the convergence of two very profound truths before this post was written. They came together quite organically, leaving me with little doubt as to their validity. I’d like to share it as a part of my “Communicative Approach” to training dogs, which I hope you are reading with an open mind.
You see, all of us fall into the habit of yelling at dogs. Whether you work in a boarding kennel, as I have, or with your own dogs at home. Whether you train in agility and rally, obedience, IPO, or dock diving, or any other type of training involving dogs. We humans are a noisy bunch, tightly wound and often stressed by life, as it comes by us at 400 mph every day. Oh, we try to relax and be calm, but we fail as often as not. And like it or not, it affects our training, and the relationship we have with our dogs. And if you work with dogs in large or semi-large group situation, it probably happens to you a lot.
The fact of the matter is this: When we allow ourselves to become frustrated, excited, and loud, the emotion and energy transfer immediately to the dog or dogs. They interpret our energy as excitement and the need to get their energy to another level somewhere above what we are putting out. Sometimes way North of where we want them to be.
Everyone understands the tenant of “The Golden Rule”, “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.” Now let’s look at this from the dogs point-of-view. Suppose you have a problem with unwanted barking behavior, and want to eliminate it. Your solution is to yell loudly at the dog every time it begins to bark. “QUIT THAT %#$$@*&^%&&$ BARKING or I’ll &^*(%^$ you until the ^&&%#$ and the handle breaks off *(&$$% and the base cracks in half %#^^&*!!!!

Do you really believe that the dog understands your words?
Do You really believe that the dog understands your intent and tone?
All the dog hears is, “ARRFF ARF ARRFF ARF ARFFF ARF ARRRFFF ARF ARRFF ARF ARFARFARF AARRRRFFF!!!!!!” Which the dog then interprets as, “HEY!! I’m trying to be louder than you, and joining you in the Bark Fest!!! It’s time to be loud, obnoxious, and boisterous with my human!!! Here’s my best shot!!” Epic Failure to Understand Your Dog.

I have observed this phenomena first hand. I’ve been guilty of it myself. But I’ve also tried and succeeded at the polar opposite. At my place of employment, we regularly placed 15 to 40 dogs in an open grassy enclosure for what’s called “Day Camp”. The dogs are allowed to interact, play, and socialize. I know that many of you in the Day Care industry are horrified by the very notion, but believe me, it works quite successfully. When the entire Dog Day Care industry accepts and utilizes the concept, the dogs will thank you. Yes it does require that your day care workers be more than high school children without canine experience, but that’s only a good thing.
Every large group of dogs will be made up of different breeds, temperaments, and behavior types. Even when groups are selected carefully for compatibility, there will be situations. Period. How it’s dealt with will be the largest factor in peaceable (and bloodless) resolution. Running across the field yielding a club, yelling like Attila the Hun, will only make it worse, and raise the excitement level. Once the emotional energy is released (from the human), the dogs will pick it up, and take it to a greater level. Not only will you fail to stop the altercation, you may very well make it worse.
As I often do, while reading various and sundry pieces of literary works, (anything from MAD Magazine to Atlas Shrugged and beyond), I come across truly profound passages that defend or even deny suppositions that I arrive at. This post was inspired by a passage in the Holy Bible, (Don’t Leave, It won’t hurt you!) and is found in the book of 1st Peter chapter 3, verse 4.
The good apostle, who had a bit of a reputation as being a bit impulsive in life, (cutting off the ear of a Roman Soldier with a sword as example) talked in that verse of a “Quiet and Mild Spirit” that was part of a “secret” that is kept within a persons’ heart. Something that normal persons can possess and display. He even said it “pleased God” to see this spirit displayed by the individual. Whether you value the message or not, I have seen the value and power of reacting and displaying a quiet and mild presence among groups of dogs, and over single dogs. Truth be told, the same mental attitude tends to work on humans as well. If you want to continue an argument with someone, by all means raise your voice, stick out your chest, or threaten violence. If you want to calm down an encounter, remain quiet but without cringing. Violence begets violence, and calm produces calm. Don’t believe me?
As I did my job every day, I see this on a constant basis. I often find myself in an enclosed space with 15 to 25 unleashed dogs playing and interacting. Sounds like a recipe for chaos doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. Unless…
The ability to keep some measure of control over such a group starts with the person or persons overseeing the collective. Can you manage to control your emotions and output of stress? Can you avoid yelling, shouting and the hyper-kinetics of your own stress? Is anger a common emotion that you harbor? Will two dogs wrestling in play cause you to boil over? If not, then don’t expect the dogs to remain calm either. You’re the catalyst. Stay out of the pack until you can master your own feelings.
Okay, I hear people say that, “I can’t help myself, I care about the dogs, and I’m passionate about taking care of them. I don’t want them to get hurt, so I express myself loudly.” Mule Muffins.
Let me explain it this way: Anger, displayed by yelling or chasing dogs with intent, is like a thunderstorm. Unpredictable, dangerous, and out of control. Passion is a waterfall. Ever-flowing, steady, and predictable, yet powerful. Too many people can’t tell the difference. The dogs pay the price.
I know that I’ve written about this subject before, but my research and application has only reinforced my belief in it. Try caring for your dog or dogs without speaking sometime soon. Use body language, try using your eyes, try developing a calm demeanor. Try to picture the behavior you desire from your dog in your thoughts, and do so without negative thoughts.
A “Presence” of leadership is something palpable and powerful, but never threatening. Not only will it help control frenetic, frenzied activity, it also makes shy, nervous dogs, respond to you. For instance, in my work, we sometimes encounter dogs that are quite reluctant about coming out of a kennel. They may be frightened of the environment, they may be shying from the loud barking in the kennel area. Taking the time to enter the dogs enclosure slowly, and sitting quietly and patiently will quite often bring the dog to your side. Don’t react too quickly, as the dog needs time to trust this new presence. It might take several minutes, even multiple sessions. But the quiet presence will eventually produce results.
Another example of this is my work with blind dogs. When first encountered, some dogs lacking sight react to strange presences by being defensive, even nipping or worse. Allowing your presence to be felt thru scent, and a calm voice, will allow you to work with such a dog. As trust grows, your calm protective presence will allow you to walk such a gentle soul. The dog becomes confident that it is in no danger with you, and that your presence is trustworthy.
There is great power and strength in a quiet and mild spirit. With dogs, and with people.

I have the opportunity to observe a large variety of people with their dogs every day. At work, at play, or just hanging out. In fact, much of the development of the communicative approach to dog-training was born of these sessions, by simply watching both human and dog interact. No matter which method of training you choose to discipline your dog in, you must, must, must, be able to communicate effectively. Not just trainer to dog, but also in the reverse, dog to trainer. I suppose that it should have been an early lesson in the Communicative Approach, but these things often arise only in retrospect, or hindsight. And so it is with Self-Control. And by that, I mean your Self-Control as a trainer, handler, or human being. But what is Self-Control? Let me start at ground zero for the definition as it is intended in this context.

Do you find yourself yelling at your dog?? Do you yell at the dog(s) you work with? Do you believe that yelling at dogs is in anyway helpful? If so, you lack self-control.
Observing kennel workers on a regular basis, I see more reliance on the high volume human voice than any other method. Closely followed by such silliness as spray bottles, and “time out”, which means banishment to a kennel or a crate. All three of those methods show that “self-control” has degraded into eliminating what annoys the human involved. The dog learns nothing except that the human doesn’t understand the first thing about dogs or their training. Will yelling at a dog (or a pack of dogs) quiet them for any meaningful length of time? No, simply put. In fact, it probably has the opposite effect. If you try to prevent unwanted barking by yelling at the dog, the dog thinks that you are taking part in the barking, and will amp it up accordingly. If you are trying to eliminate an unwanted behavior in your dog, will yelling stop the behavior? No, and it likely will raise the dogs anxiety level. Not only does the dog not understand your words, your volume confuses his ability to read your body language.
The only humans that really need to yell, are military drill sergeants. But they have a different goal, and a very different individual in front of their steely gaze. That may be why some dog trainers confuse yelling with a useful tool. It works with people that are being conditioned to obey commands in the stress of combat. For the most part, your dog is just not under the same demand. Nor is the dog as intelligent as a human, that can understand the “why” of such conditioning. All a dog knows is the energy or emotion that your yelling produces.
Some of the most self-controlled dog trainers that I’ve watched, have been the Decoys in top level bite work. They understand how to raise a dogs level of excitement to a given point, and just as efficiently lower it back to what I’ll call, “Petting the dog is now possible” level. They use their own body language and energy to slow the dog, often without using the voice at all. Yet they use their voice to raise the dogs level to the attack level.
Another great place to observe self-control with dog training is agility. The best competitors never yell at their dog, mistakes are corrected by hand signals usually, but also with contact of an instructive nature. Not striking, but guiding. Yes, I know that yelling can be heard at any of these events at some point, but not everybody is thinking properly.
Want to observe “lack of self-control” in its native habitat? Try a dog park on a Saturday. Lots of dogs, lots of distractions, lots of dog owners struggling to keep their dog under control. You can always observe somebody chasing a dog across the field yelling at the top of their lungs to “Get back here you stupid dog!!!!”
Communication that truly helps is always given in a calm manner. Yes, the intensity level, not the volume, can be properly raised by the human, should the lesson require it.
I use as an example the “down-stay”. Which is actually a misnomer. The dog should be taught that “down” means “stay until otherwise told.” The release from down is always another command, whether verbal or visual. But that energy level comes from the trainers physical demeanor. Anger, which almost always begets yelling, has no place on the training field or while working with your dog. Your dog reads anger in only a negative sense, never as a response to the knowledge of how important a lesson may be. Dogs don’t process things through that prism. They sense your emotion as raw, intimidating, fearful. Not protective, which may very well be your intended purpose. The dog cannot delineate between anger and a high priority command, because the concept is beyond his cognition. Yelling at a human child to “Stay Out of The Road!” might work because the child can be taught to think of the inherent danger of such actions. Not so your dog. Truth be told, yelling at your child or any other human being is generally counterproductive as well. Learning to calmly discipline and instruct will make all of us better at life’s varying situations. There will always be that one boss, parent, trainer, or other human that feels that a loud voice is the most effective tool. They are usually the most avoided and lonely people. We simply don’t enjoy being pushed around by aggressiveness, and we usually respond badly to such treatment. Put yourself in an empathetic mode with your dog, and develop self-control, or risk living in a state of constant non-compliance with dogs.
Occasionally, you will see a human lose their cool at a competition, practice, or training session. They might call the dog names, throw a leash, or kick an object because of some perceived failure of the dog, or the stark realization that the failure was purely on themselves. This is not as common at competitions, but it does happen in practices with others at a class, and it definitely happens in the privacy of their own sessions. Maybe you’ve had a rough day at work, on the crowded roads, or with a friend or family member. It happens to all of us. Sometimes life just happens that way. Pop culture psycho-babble would advise “letting off steam”, maybe even busting things up and relieving the stress of anger. Fortunately, we’ve moved beyond that sort of craziness.
Our emotions flow thru our dogs, and once you’ve lit that spark, it’s going to burn. The Book of Proverbs, 14:30 in the revised standard version Bible says it clearly: “A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot.”
Way too many people think of anger as passion. Overflowing enthusiasm. But it’s not. Anger is just frustration that blocks even flow of energy and emotion. It has a place, but not in dog training. If you find yourself angry, put your dog up in a calm place, walk away, and find tranquility. Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s a better way.
Take notice that I haven’t discussed anything about hitting or kicking a dog. I shouldn’t have to really. You know better. And if you don’t know better, leave dogs alone and start a tree farm in North Dakota. I’m talking about violently taking your anger out on a dog, not physical corrections that involve correcting a dog. A small tap on the ribs is not out of line, though some might believe it is so. Punching with the fist, kicking hard enough to move the dog, or pinching an ear are what I’m referring too. If you are a Cesar Millan hater, don’t bother me with your complaints, because that’s way below the level of what humans are capable of doing. I’ve yet to see the man harm a dog out of anger, in spite of what you might want to convince others that he’s doing. I may not entirely agree with him, but I recognize that he’s been attacked more because of political correctness than his methodology.
By choice, I write predominantly about Working Dogs, not Aunt Mable’s fluffy, white, cockapoo, though the point still applies. Large, driven dogs correct one another with far worse physical correction than we should, so small physical contact is not described as losing one’s self-control.
I have observed what I’m discussing here first hand. Outsiders will observe bite work for instance, and believe that the training is vicious, or out-of-control. They see a wild, angry beast, attacking an equally angry human being. They always miss the subtle scritch between the ears that the handler will give to the dog when commanded out to a sit position. The dog is not out-of -control at all. The same applies to the Handler. The phrase “controlled chaos” is often used in K9 circles, and a well-respected family of trainers even use that as a name for their business enterprise. Their dogs live in their home with their daughters very successfully. My conclusion is that the family has mastered calmness of heart and self-control with their dogs. And those dogs are at the top of their game. That style probably permeates their home, including raising their children.
I’ve talked to my own dogs about self-control. I’ve asked them, “How do I train you in the best way?”
They’ve shown me by their behavior, which mind-set produces success in training, and working. The answer is always the same. “Keep your Cool Dad. I understand you, and if you listen calmly, I’m communicating with you in return…listen closely!”


Fighting the Good Fight?

Posted: May 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

Source: Fighting the Good Fight?

Keepin’ things Toothy!!

Posted: May 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

Canine Dentistry and You- Keep the Bite in those Pearly-Whites!

Your puppy grows much faster than you will ever believe is possible. His ears are standing up, mostly. His clumsy legs have begun carrying him around your yard like Sonic the Hedgehog on speed. And then one day, you see a small dribble of blood on his face, and you’ll panic a little bit. With just a little investigation, you realize that your baby has lost a tooth. Your puppy is developing into a fully-armed carnivore, with a mouth-full of razor sharp dental appendages. Or at least, he will be. Soon. You’ve experienced the nasty little needles that are his baby teeth, on your fingers, your ankles, your clothing, and if he’s especially precocious, other handy targets on your person. They can inflict great pain, and even injury worthy of medical attention. Puppies with the right genetics are going to show great skill in chomping down, and satisfying the urge to bite things, so prepare yourself. Whatever you plan on doing with your dog as an adult, will decide how you deal with your junior grade werewolf, and his toothy antics.
At 6 to 10 weeks, the puppy will have twenty eight temporary teeth. Since puppies don’t yet have molars, his teeth are comprised of canines (the pointy ones), incisors,(his grabbers), and the pre-molars(crushers).
His first incisors will begin to abandon ship at about 3 months of age, with the rest of his needles finding their exit between 4 and 7 months. By 8 months, the adult teeth will be fully installed and ready for action. While puppies love nothing more than tugging on toys, rags, or other equipment, it’s best to hold off on any serious tug-work until all of his adult teeth are in. Many trainers, myself included, do no such training from 4 months to almost a year of age. Don’t worry, your puppy won’t forget how to bite and tug if that is your goal. Give him time to develop, and he’ll be back with a vengeance when it’s time.
The early weeks are a great time to acclimate your puppy to having you or your Vet put your fingers or dental tools in his maw. Done successfully, your Vet will thank you profusely in the future. Not only for the health benefits of good tooth brushing, but also for the Vet that likes all four of his fingers where they are supposed to be located. Thumbs are also valuable in their opposed position. Help preserve them.
Gently rubbing the puppies gums and emerging teeth will feel wonderful to him, but be gentle, and keep your fingers clean. Practicing this will help you keep track of anything abnormal in mouth, such as misguided teeth, or lumps and bumps in the mouth. When the process is finished, the puppy will have 42 strong, healthy, teeth and a proper attitude towards human assisted maintenance for the rest of his life. You’ve done everything right for his little teeth so far, so what’s next?

Caring for the teeth is not complicated but it takes effort. You can save yourself a truck-load of cold, hard cash payable to your Vet by making the effort though, so unless your funds are inexhaustible, take note.
Periodontal Disease comes in two basic forms: Gingivitis and Periodontitis. Gingivitis can be simply described as masses of nasty crud allowed to form on and between the teeth. It then moves into the surrounding gum, under the tooth, and forms pockets inside. The gum becomes soft, bloody, and the teeth will eventually fall out. It hurts the dog. It smells completely awful. And having an infection that close to the dogs brain, is just inexcusable for the caring dog owner. Don’t let it develop. Brush his teeth at least weekly, and provide nylabones for chewing. Your Vet can also provide dental care, and this may be a wise treatment. But it’s expensive, and can be avoided by your hard and diligent effort.
Periodontitis is gingivitis extended beyond all common sense, veering sharply into neglect. The teeth begin breakdown, become loose, bleed, and cause the dog pain. He may begin to refuse food, drool excessively, all accompanied by a nasty, nasal discharge. Whatever the treatment may be for these conditions, if you have allowed them to develop, you have been neglectful. Sorry to drop the bomb, but your Vet may be too professional to tell the truth. He or she can fix some of the damage, but none of it need ever have gotten this far. Cavities, Abscesses, and tooth loss are normally caused by neglect. So, what can I do to fulfill my dogs dental health?
Diet is very important. Having raw, uncooked, bones to consume is a big help. Chicken or turkey is best, but beef is also acceptable. A top quality kibble will also keep the teeth free of debris and solidify the gums. Yes, I know that kibbles have other problems, but that’s another discussion. Fresh water is always vital to your dogs teeth.
Learning to brush your dogs teeth is an easy skill to master. There are products that will aid the treatments,(canine toothpaste, brushes, finger brushes etc.) Don’t use human toothpaste as the dog will swallow it. Greenies and nylabones are helpful as well, scraping debris off the teeth.
That’s a simple plan to help you keep your pet dogs teeth clean and healthy. But what about dogs that work with their teeth? Schutzhund(IPO), law enforcement, and other disciplines have additional concerns. Number 1 in my book is tennis balls. Everybody seems to use them at one time or another, myself included. But be warned, the material in a tennis ball is abrasive to the enamel on the dogs teeth, and prolonged chewing on them will damage the teeth. Canine teeth erode into plateau tops, flat instead of pointed. Other teeth suffer as well, but those impressive fangs will show it first. Substitute rubber balls that have nubs on them for texture. They last longer, and don’t abrade. And never leave play balls with an unattended dog for entertainment.
For more aggressive activities such as bite work, consider the material that tugs, sleeves, and suits are made with. Jute, a heavy burlap fabric, has been used for many years. Unfortunately, it too tends toward the abrasive. Modern linen materials, and contemporary synthetic materials are available, and are much better for the dog. Bite suits are predominantly made from these materials, and are therefore much safer. Covers for bite sleeves are becoming much more common, and are worth the investment.
The way helpers work your dog during bite work can also affect your dogs dentition. Encouraging and teaching good, full grips will lessen the torque on canines fangs, during a fight. Lifting dogs off the ground by their teeth should be done with care as well. Teeth can be broken, repaired or replaced certainly. But it’s not cheap, and shouldn’t become necessary. There are lots of stories on the internet about dogs with replacement teeth made of titanium, or kryptonite, or some other exotic metal. This happens because of severe injury. NO reputable Veterinarian would pull healthy, undamaged teeth to replace them with metal copies, so that a dog can look like some moronic, gold-toothed, gangsta rap-singer. A certain element of society may think this is cool. Well, it’s NOT. It’s also a fantasy born of wannabeism.
Your dogs teeth are important to him. His health can be measured by his dental condition. You, as his owner, master, and advocate can do everything that will keep him healthy. Just pay attention, and do it.

New Release coming soon!!

Posted: May 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

My good friend and  trainer Angie Ballman-Winters of Angie 4 Dogs is on the brink of releasing a second DVD and I want to let all of my readers know about!  German Shepherd Adventures will be writing a review of the DVD as soon as possible and we can’t wait!  Angie is a terrific trainer, and a great teacher that has a winning way with all dogs!  Look forward to it soon!!!


Not long ago I wrote a post discussing the seeming lack of Mentors in the sport called Schutzhund.  (And for future reference, I will not use the politically correct term now in use, “IPO”.  The term lessens the history and intent of what schutzhund meant.  Since I, and others beside me, seek to make the sport answer honestly to its’ heritage, I will use the term “Schutzhund”)  As is our wont, the editorial board of GSA, sat down to commiserate over foamy topped steins of der Materlands finest, and eventually, over what we recently  published.  It seems that there may be more soil to till on this subject, and notes were hastily scribbled on napkins and pizza boxes by all in attendance.  So it was all hands on deck, and hie thee off to the research library in the Research Wing of German Shepherd Adventures.  I’m still sitting here. The information that I’m seeking doesn’t seem to exist in written form.  There’s a positive dirth of source material…almost nothing of worth has been laid to the written page about the Schutzhund “culture” that I imagined to have existed in early 20th century Germany.  My hope was to find something from those formative and heady years that we in 2016 had lost.  Something retrievable, and in turn, beneficial to our sport.  So many have opined that the schutzhund of vom Stephanitz and his cohorts is fading into history, being eroded by society, political correctness, or a generation more drawn to sedentary, electronic, diversions.  I wondered if the past could provide us with solutions, encouragement, or at least, direction.

I was in search of descriptions of crisp, autumn gatherings of families in a common pursuit.   Legendary German Shepherd’s dogs, proving themselves worthy of procreation.  Venerable Bavarian toughguys, training and handling the dogs with skill and single-mindedness.  Younger men, doing all they could to earn their place in the local verein, demonstrating to their elders and betters that they could carry on the traditions and standards being set into place for schutzhund.  The Frau’s and Frauleins gathered together, gossiping, watching over younger ones, and keeping the men from taking in one too many steins of Bier.  There would have been food aplenty, laughter, and probably no small amount of scheming between the dogmen.  The Vereins (or Associations) of all sorts are important in Germany, whether they be for shooting,(Schutzenverein) singing (Sangerverein), or the local Volunteer Fire Fighters (freiwillige Feuerwehr).  Statistics show the German people to be “joiners”, seeking the comradery   (kameradschaft) of their peers in many pastimes.  One source states that 1 in 3 residents belong to some local club.  Those clubs provide activity, socialization, and good food, as well as identity.  My research lead me thru every book on the German Shepherd, and der schutzhund that I have collected over a decade of serious acquisition.  And there are many of them.  Packed with pedigree’s, breeding strategies, and personal backbiting on the part of the schutzhund “powers that were”, there was NO mention of club activities.  Zero.  Zip. Nil.  Clubs and personal allegiances were given some attention, but no idyllic descriptions of summer days at the training field.

And maybe that’s part of schutzhunds problem.  The “culture” never existed, or was taken for granted by those too busy to stay attached to it.  Maybe the culture was poisoned by the addition of people with very different goals and schemes.  Ego and competitive spirits with singular intent tainted something grand, and inclusive.  When money, greed, and exclusivity become the norm, a large portion of the community will be excluded, dismissed, and disenfranchised.

When one observes the current situation of our “national” organizations that administrate our sport, (try the Facebook postings on any of them) there seems to be one fracas after another, many of a personal nature.  People end up calling for the leaders to abdicate for the good of the sport.  Leaders strike back at individuals for negative or subversive posts of personal opinions, and even taking away privileges of their voluntary services.  We just cannot get along in a spirit of cooperation and innovation, and we are chasing away those who could conceivably preserve schutzhund for future generations.  We MUST create a “Culture” around schutzhund that invites new people, encourages more experienced ones to share knowledge, and build a wider interest base.  If we don’t, we can kiss it all goodbye.

Now let me give credit where it is due.  I have been investigating and learning from a unique group of individuals that have produced my feelings of late.  I was first exposed to this line of thought by Meagan Karnes of The Collared-Scholar blog

Karnes is also involved with an organization known as The Sealed Mindset Leaders.  Lots of thought-provoking reading there, and programs for learning Leadership.  There, I noted a quote that really struck intellectual  “oil”.  I’m going to quote it here.

“…the Suffocating of Innovation that occurs in a ‘Control Centric’ environment.  In such settings, ‘Power’ resides with a “Manager”, and the manager does everything he can to protect that power.  As a result, mistakes are frowned upon and punished, fingers are pointed and blame is placed.  As a result, Innovation is suppressed.” –  Sealed Mindset

The organizations controlling and ostensibly guiding schutzhund are headed up by venerable names and imposing dog-world politicians.   It seems an obvious truth that some of them are very concerned about Keeping their positions of power and influence.  Negative comments or perceived slights of opinion are quickly suppressed.  Some of those in disagreement are put out of commission as fast as possible.

On the other hand, there are those of the rank and file members that think nothing of bashing those in positions of responsibility.  Maybe even slandering them.  Those individuals are often desirous of having control themselves.   Wanting to Control is poison to the whole community we seek to preserve.

Schutzhund has been, and  is currently mired in a “Control-centric” environment.    (But let me say up front, that there ARE clubs AND Leaders of those clubs that are already working beyond this crippling mindset.  More about them later…)  Not  to place too fine a point on the blame, but much of the problem seems to focus on the European source of the original discipline.  Men that should have the thinking of their forebears, have allowed, or encouraged a more passive thinking to take over.  The insistence on making earning titles easier for dogs unable to perform up to original standards, has watered down (or even completely flooded) the original intent.  One well-known contemporary observer and editorial author, Jim Engle, has used the word, “Pussification” to describe what has happened in the mother land of schutzhund.  Here’s Mr. Engle’s website at Angels Lair.   My goal here is not to rewrite what others have so well reported on as far as “who’s who” in the debate, or to blame.  My intent with this subject is to encourage a re-building of “Culture”.

Please keep three operative words in mind:  Recovering, Restoring, and Re-building.

The record of how Schutzhund culture existed is nearly lost in history, at least editorially.  Pedigrees and breeding records are the remainders of that time, and while valuable, do not give a full story of how a local club operated.  People were not the important part of the recorded history.  Call it an historical oversight, call it a Germanic culture norm.  It doesn’t matter.  Written records of the personalities and pleasures of der Hundeverein were simply not commonly written.  Maybe the people then couldn’t imagine that the culture would eventually fade away, a way of life forgotten.  Politics would always hold sway.   Politics held great influence in the early days of Germany, when schutzhund was born.  And now, politics continues to hold influence an unbalanced and militant role in our society, during what may well be the demise of schutzhund.  A potent mix indeed.

But lets talk about positive things that will help.

RECOVERING:  Whether it is recorded or not, there was a culture built around schutzhund.  Families gathered, worked dogs, discussed breeding, discussed their lives, played with the children, drank beer, grilled weiner-schnitzel, and formed a collective around something of common interest.  Wise, experienced members taught and teased.  Younger, eager members strove to learn and join the discipline.  Families supported their club in various ways.  Were they perfect?  No, but they managed.  Times were simpler, though the spectre of war was ever present.  But those people found a way to work their way through what life threw at them.  Their Dog Club provided at least something to distract them in difficult times.  Money was scarce, but their association wasn’t built on what members cash flow provided.  Status wasn’t the guiding force either, as everyone could take part, from Haus Frau to Reitmiester…  THIS is what will help us RECOVER the culture of schutzhund.

RESTORING:  This change of attitudes will require leadership.  Restoring schutzhund clubs to something worthy will not be simple, but it can be accomplished.  There are clubs and groups that have the right mix of experience and attitude.  Restore clubs, and we will restore “culture”.  These clubs must want to teach new people, young people, and be willing to create an atmosphere of welcoming.  An elitist attitude must be not be allowed.  Not everyone is going to have a puppy that will be able to reach the high echelons of competition, but if they can try hard, they should be allowed to try.  In such an environment, individuals can be taught the knowledge that will help them save both schutzhund, and the breeds that make it what it is.  Why did the German Shepherd deteriorate to the state it is in today?  Clubs weren’t around to teach what needed to be taught.  The German Shepherd suffers because a culture died.

REBUILDING:  It is clear that the politics of “schutzhund” has torn down what was once an honorable and strong house.  IPO is decidedly NOT schutzhund.  The powers- that- be within the current organizations no longer care to preserve what was.  It’s time to free ourselves of their influence and restore what was.  That will require separating from the organizations that seek only to “evolve” into something “modern”, something “progressive.”  Starting over, free of such influence, will bring back a culture that can encourage, include, and ultimately, save what schutzhund was, and can be.

You will notice that I have avoided specifics in mentioning organizations either International, or National.  I have also avoided mentioning individuals that are either working for, or against, schutzhund “culture”.  Each of us needs to do our research if we want to restore the discipline of schutzhund.  There are notable individuals out there, such as Ivan Balabanov, Jim Alloway, Brian Harvey, Deb Zappia, Meagan Kearnes, and Jim Engle, that are working in the right direction.  They may not always agree totally, but they are at least working at something.  If the rest of us want to save schutzhund, and indeed Dog-Training as an industry, we must find a way to support them.  Find a way…







I’m not sure where I first heard this expression, or if by some miracle, profundity struck me, and I just wrote them. But they got me thinking.
If you visit Facebook dog based pages, the hundreds of canine blogs in the webisphere, the countless chat rooms, or the hundreds of websites from breeders, handlers, competititors, self-appointed experts, behaviorists, academics, and other Know-it-all’s, you only learn one, single, truth. Human Beings love to fight about the most inane topics. It’s Feeding, Training, Methods, Breeding, Spaying/neutering, AKC Standards, veterinary treatment, behavior modification technique, psychological make-up of the dog, intelligence in dogs, cynopraxic methods, clickers, operant conditioning, choke chains, halties, harnesses, and the list grows and pulsates.
So in keeping with that set of variables, I had a conversation with my German Shepherds one Friday night.
Hans, my male German Shepherd, was the first to broach the subject of how to bring all of dogdom (Dogs AND Humans) to harmony and a state of unity. “Take every human that holds any certificate of completion, diploma, certification, or otherwise claims to be a professional “Dog-Trainer”, or Behaviorist, and put them all in 4 or 5 of the giant sports stadiums together.” He was just getting rolling.
“Put those people in the front rows so that they get the full impact of this gathering…Then, put everybody that claims to be a dog expert by experience alone, in the rows behind them. We ought to be pretty well into 85 or 90,000 attendance at this point. Those stadiums will be getting pretty full. Next, invite everybody else that owns a dog, and finish filling the stadiums with them.” Hans had thought this through.
“Then, we’ll invite a single dog, chosen at random from dogs everywhere, to the speakers podium in the center of each stadium. He or she doesn’t need to be highly trained, a special breed, a working dog, a show dog, or a homeless mutt. Know why? Because even the most humble dog knows more about what a dog needs and wants, than any “educated Dog Expert”. Intrigued by this plan, I simply leaned towards my big, black, dog.
Holly, our female, interrupted, “And make sure the concessions have GOOD hot dogs!”
“Thank you, Holly. Good Idea, I’ll make a note…” Hans is a detail oriented administrator. “But we digress…”
“The chosen dog, our spokesdog, will begin a speech that has been in development since man first invited the dog to the comfort of his campfire. It begins this way:

“Humans! Behaviorists! Trainers! Peddlers of psychobabble Canine studies! Clicker-twits! Koehler Creeps! Lend your ear to the dogs!!! Finally, we have transcended the divide between us! Finally we can communicate with YOU!!! Whether or not you listen and learn, is entirely on you, but I ask nonetheless! Leave behind this thing you call “Ego”! It alone has kept us apart for millennia! Never before have you asked the dog what we want! What we need! What we know!”
“You write books upon books about dogs, and our behavior, and yet never has a dog been given the opportunity to speak on our behalf, or even write his own book! That time has now come! In the interest of making sure that our message is unadulterated and clear, the dogs have taken control of your World Wide Web, which is filled with foolishness from every so-called trainer and his third cousin!” Hans was sounding apocalyptic by this time.
“The time has come to announce that from this point on, we of the canine persuasion, will be fitting all of you humans with Shock Collars! We will be Clicking in your faces every 2 minutes!” I interrupted the Black German Shepherd with a question.
“How are you dogs going to use a Clicker? None of you have thumbs!” I reasoned.
“Stop interrupting, I’m rolling. We’ll figure it out as we go…” Hans replied confidently.
“My apologies…” I offered.
“Your name will appear on our list of those with the lowest shock settings for your collar.” Hans looked sympathetically at me, but resigned to what was best for all mankind, and the dogs they had been training.
“In a few short months, most of you will have found a way to truly understand that the dog was given to you for your own good! That dogs were meant to be by your side! You will stop putting your ego ahead of truth, your “learned” opinion behind. From this point on, trainers and behaviorists that support their opinions from the hiding place of a “Phd”, will discover that these letters now stand for, “Piss here doggie”!
“Then will begin the greatest era of history for all canines! A time when humans will stop fighting over things they barely understand. Soon, balance will be restored to the way it was long ago, when dog and man lived in peace!” Hans had worked up a lather by now. He stopped and looked at me, furtively.
“What?” I asked.
“That’s as far as I’m going to go…There’s lots more that we have planned for you…but it’s best kept in reserve for now. You’re not ready…Not ready to return to the past when we worked together. There is much yet for you to forget, unlearn, and transform in your mind. Science holds no sway, and physical tools are of no value in the relationship between Man and Dog.”
“So There…” chimed in Holly.
“When Trained Properly, Humans Will Once Again Earn, from the Dog this time…the title of ‘Best Friends’…We have much to do. The proper way must be restored, and so it shall.”

I finished my Gin & Tonic, and went inside to contemplate what the dogs had said to me.


In the general interest of the Dog Training industry, one of our finest has gently laid the gauntlet down…Should this event take place, it could produce very fine fruitage. Will the Purely Positive movement accept the challenge? They have a history of ignoring such debate, so hopefully Ivan’s invite will stir one of them out of their place of hiding…We at GSA will keep our eyes on this one for sure. Here’s the invitation from Ivan himself on his Facebook page!

“Here is a very typical slogan from the Positive reinforcement movement :
“We need to promote Science based, humane practices, not outdated and cruel methods and equipment ”
Using the right wording goes long way, and it sure touches people’s hearts, after all who wants to hurt and abuse dogs?!
If there will be enough interest, I would like to invite one or two from the best of the best in the R+ movement : Dr Karen Overall, Ken Ramirez, Karen Pryor, Thad Lacinak, Ian Dunbar, Victoria Stilwell, Niki Tudge (not in any order) in a civil open discussion, debate (with an approved from both sides mediator).
We will stream it live. Together we will select the topics and also open for QA at the end.
It might as well be a paid event with all the proceeds going to dog charity organizations.
Let’s have a productive, educational conversation as we treat each other with respect.
I believe it can be done, and it should be done! Imagine if something great comes out of it?”

Here’s the link to Ivan’s page
I hope that if there is enough interest for it – we can make it happen!