Originally, for the sake of getting your attention, I had entitled this post, “How to Train a Woman”. This was repealed for two reasons: 1) I’m referring to a German Shepherd here, and not a human. and 2) I have absolutely no idea how to train a woman of the human persuasion. Clicker Training? E-collar? The questions persist. If I had insisted on keeping that title, my wonderful lady readers would even now be pointing and laughing at me in derision, and then proceed to change their methods. On the other hand, my male readers might well be thinking, “Maybe he’s on to something…I’ll try it.” They then would be open to the same ridicule as I, and I’d be responsible for much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Not to mention abject failure of the entire plan. Not going there…
No, my subject has to do with my recent observations on training a female German Shepherd, and the trials and triumphs therein. For the record, I know approximately the same amount about training both. But I’m gaining ground and developing a plan for the dog.
Our now 8 month old female German Shepherd, is what I would term a “Green Trained” canine. Her obedience is well along, she’s good with children and older people, and she’s trustworthy to be taken anywhere without fear of problems She has proven to be a bit too energetic for therapy type work at this stage, but that’s what convinced us that she’s much better suited for Search work, and other more physical pursuits. But getting her here has been the real fun…You see, I’ve trained, or assisted in training, 6 different dogs to Search work, or competitive scent work. Some have been cross-trained in Protection, Substance-detection, or Apprehension. One of them is so smart, he could be trained to do my taxes. But there’s the snag. ALL of them have been testosterone spewing, meat-eating male dogs. Simple-minded, straightforward creatures of drive and determination. Mentally pliable, emotionally shapeable, and emminently trainable. I feel like I could train them to do anything with just a whistle and a few dog treats.
Then came my sweet Holly…
This beautiful Black & Tan female, with a lovely “V” of golden hair above her tawny eyes, is the daughter of two wonderful Omorrow German Shepherds, “Luger to the Nines” and “Blitzkreigs Sophie”. Her pedigree and parentage promised a sweet, layed back girl, with the heart of a candy-striper. Born to be a Therapy Service dog. And that was our original purpose for her…But don’t misunderstand me. I’m not implying she’s a failure. Rather, she’s an astounding success in ways we didn’t imagine.
My 2 and a half year old Omorrow, “Hans”, was so very different. He lives to be by my side, learn everything I offer, and made so much, so easy. House breaking? He was born house broken. Retrieving? He retrieved a ball at 6 weeks old in his whelping pen. His drive and willingness were amazing…And Holly is not much different. With a few added attractions…Holly thinks…About everything. Usually, she starts her process with, “What’s in this for me?” Closely followed by, “Is there a way I can do this that involves less effort for me?”, and the always popular, “When do we eat?”
Holly is an extremely social young lady. She wants to meet and greet any dog or human that comes into the cone of scent that she possesses. Thats a big cone, as she has an exceptional nose. Normally, I would train this as a problem of “Distraction”. All young dogs go thru a period of “Hyper-Go-Lucky” behavior, easily distracted and extremely curious. They need to be taught focus, and effective re-direction to the task at hand. Holly is different in this regard. She never forgets what we were doing, and she’ll be right back after she checks out whatever it is that was more important to her. The world is on “Holly-Time”. We can be playing a retrieval game and the rythm will be good. Suddenly, a small child can appear on the distant horizon and she’ll stop in her tracks and identify her subject. When the child comes within a safe distance, she’ll drop the ball in place, and approach the child for an introduction. After the due affection has been administered by the child, she’ll return to her toy and return it to me with a perfect presentation. She knows that such perfection will prevent serious discipline. I suppose some would resort to a “long-distance” type of discipline, such as an e-collar. That would stifle her demeanor, and her socialbility is an important skill set. I can see in her manner that she’s just practicing her social skills. If I send her on a “Go Out” command, and shout out her “Down” command, she’ll hit the ground like a train fell on her. She has more friends in our nieghborhood than we do…Everybody knows her name, and I’m just “Holly’s Dad”. That social skill is very important to her future.
Another “Holly’s Law” that we live under, involves Hans. Most of the time, we train the dogs individually. But there’s value in team-time, and so we incorporate “Group Retrieve” into our daily regimen. Holly’s version of this game involves keeping the ball away from Han’s. Whether it involves a full out run around in circles strategy, or simply to lay on the ball, the idea is the same. Hans must not possess the ball. The great big lummox will just look at me as though to ask, “What do I do, Dad?” As soon as Hans demonstrates that he gives up, she’ll carry the ball to him, and drop it in front of him. “Holly’s Law” prevails.
Hans has long ago earned his privilege of being a bed-dog. Every night he stretches out on our bed before he finally crates himself for sleep. “Holly’s Law” has circumvented the sanctity of this peaceful respite. Holly feels that whatever spot Hans chooses for himself, must by default, be the prime spot. As the baby girl diva in residence, this means that the spot belongs to her. Jumping up and down on Hansie’s head is the preferred method she uses to move him. Hans, to his credit, treats her with a gentle regard and moves. Never a moment of anger, growling, or proving his Alpha stature. She will then lie there with her cutest expression of “I’m the baby…Gotta Love me!” on her black muzzle. I admit, it’s an irresistible force of nature.
And that’s where I find myself this very morning. Subject to the whim and desire of a little girl in a dog suit. She trains well, and works hard. She’s obedient and scary smart. But she also plays me like a bass drum…Do I regret putting a female into our program? Not one bit…She’s added a new dimension to the work, and I hope another level of skill.
I’m hopelessly in love with this crazy little German Shepherd…and that’s enough for me.