Archive for the ‘Agility’ Category

Do you know what happens to books that I wish I’d written?  I cut off their spines and punch holes in them.

That’s right…it makes ring-binding them possible.  And that has become my new shortcut to knowing which books I use as constant reference material or just find enjoyable to read.  Once ring bound, books can be kept open while studying them, or  left open flat for ease of reading.  I use them a lot, and I want their words easily accessible.

“Think Like Your Dog, and Enjoy The Rewards” by the Daughter/Father team of Dianna Young and her co-author Robert Mottram is truly one of those books.  And I know you’ll find it just as valuable.

Chapter 1 is entitled, “A Fundamental Truth.” and it’s a truth that way too many in the dog world would call a myth.  To quote:  “In every Dog/Handler Team, without exception, There is a Leader, and there is a follower.”  In the current atmosphere of “ignore bad behavior…” training methods, this is practically heresy, BUT SOMEBODY NEEDS TO SAY IT, TEACH IT, AND EXPLAIN IT.  “Think Like Your Dog” does just so simply, and with conviction.  The explanation of “Rank” and “Leadership” are among the best I’ve seen in writing, and are sure to raise eyebrows within those that need to read this book the most.  If you don’t believe that dogs crave a social hierarchy, then you’ll miss the very best parts out of “politically-correct” bigotry.  My advice is to read this book, and use your power of reason.  That is the true strength of this book.  It uses Reason too explain the truth, and that is all to uncommon.

Dianna and Robert  had a clear aim with their book.  They never mention or criticize other methods of training, or particular Trainers.  They don’t need too, as they are trying to assist dog owners, rather than professionals.  Although any professional has as much to gain from the book as any first-time pet owner.  The tone of the book is warm, inviting, and yet pointed.  The authors are obviously talented, capable trainers, but their strength comes from an ability to teach others with empathy, and foresight into how dogs react.  You never are made to feel that you are being spoken “down to” from a pedestal, and that to is rare.

Chapter 4 is a treatise on Canine Temperament.  Too many dogs are given the description of “unsound” by the failed methods of some, and many of those dogs are euthanized.  “Think Like A Dog” establishes ways to change behaviors that cause these tragedies, and throws the “neo-positive” failures a loop in their doctrine.  What Dianna and Robert write here will save lives of troubled dogs.  Or even better, it will start your family pet, or prospective working dog, onto the best practiced way to raise, train, and live with your dog.

A very balanced discussion of training methods is taken up in the book as well.  No sides are taken in the training method maelstrom, so no one need fear that they are reading in a hostile atmosphere.  In fact, the reader is invited to choose whatever works for them, after due consideration of the differing choices.  The foundational statement of the book is found throughout, often worded differently.  This quote from page 96 embodies that ideology.  “The idea is to structure a relationship of trust and mutual respect between handler and dog, teach the handler how to assume the leadership position in that relationship, and then demonstrate to the dog what the handler-Its Leader-desires from it.”   

Without further guilding this lily, I’ll invite you to add this book to your library.  Have it bound so that you can use it.  There’s a lot more here that will offer a new line of thinking on some old topics like equipment, Obedience, and performance.

One final suggestion:   Chapter 20 is entitled “Going Forward.”    Read it carefully and thoughtfully.  Read it again and highlight key phrases that touch you.  Keep it open there and refer to it often.  It is the catalyst that will make you Use the previous 19 chapters with purpose, intent, and joy for you and your dog…



If you work with, or just walk a large, black, German Shepherd around in public places, you will eventually be asked, “Does your dog bite?”  I guess that’s to be expected.  Owners of Pit Bulls, Malinois, and several other breeds suffer just the same line of questioning.  Time was, I would assure the questioner that my dog was definitely not a Biter, and yes, they could pet him.  Well, hindsight is 20/20, and I may have done my dogs a disservice.  Education has lead me to another path, and my answer to that question is far different today.  Not because Hans nailed some poor unfortunate, thank goodness, but because I’m more tuned into the true nature of the dog.  And you may not like what I’m about to expound on here, but facts are facts, and it will serve us all if we take responsibility for the predator on the “other end of the leash”.

The next time I speak to a group about dogs, or dog bites, or whatever, the response will go exactly this way, especially if it’s a group of children:

“Mr. Vaughan, does your dog bite?”

“Thank you for that excellent question!  Let me answer it this way.  How many of you have a dog at home?”  The audiences always have  more dogs than not.  “My answer is this:  Yes… undeniably, unequivocally, absolutely, and honestly, my dog bites.  And whats more, so does the dog you have at home that licks your face when you get home, and sleeps on your bed.  All dogs can and will bite!”

There will be gasps from the front row, and from school administrators worried about liability of such a beast loose in their school.  First, because Hans will probably be sitting nearby, off-leash, with that German Shepherd look on his face.  Secondly, because very few people believe that their Cocker Spaniel has any notion of biting anyone or anything.

The response I’ll give has a two-fold purpose.  First, I don’t want any child, or any adult to suffer a dog bite.  They are singularly unpleasant, and tend toward scarring and infection.  Please be careful when you approach any strange dog that you don’t know.

Secondarily, but far more interesting and perhaps more controversial, Your Dog Bites Because It’s a Predatory animal, and it enjoys Biting.  It’s the end result of his Predatory Drive.  Chase a ball, bite it.  Chase a rabbit, bite it.  Find a bowl full of kibble, bite it.  Wave little hands in front of a puppies face?  Probably gonna bite it.  And therein lies the problem.

The question before you as your dogs leader is this? ” How do I allow my dog the natural outlet of biting, without the biting being inappropriate at best, and tragic at worst?”

We struggled with this when we first had our German Shepherd, Hans.  He is a working dog and has the instinct to chase and bite.  The interesting thing was this:  Hans never bit me.  Not once.  However, my poor wife carried some bruises and bite marks that would horrify a coroner.  The bites were never delivered in aggression, but always happened when she would attempt her version of play.  Run away from him with the ball,  throw the ball and chase him when he wouldn’t give up the ball.  When he did bite, she would grab the dogs snout and say, “NO!” gently but firmly.  Hans saw that as a challenge.  Our 6 month old German Shepherd got a reputation with my wife.  “Why doesn’t he bite you???” she would cry.

Well, we figured it out eventually and Carol has since become a very fine trainer, but she learned the hard way.  It had to do with how I played with, and responded to his instinctual behavior.  Our play involved allowing him to fulfill the ultimate release of his instinctive behavior to hunt, that is to bite something.  When he was under a year of age, I used a five foot long, flexible fiberglas rod with a string attached to it.  The business end has a chamois cloth tied to it.  We would flip that chamois around around like it was crazed, and Hans’ job was to catch it.  The game finished when Hans was told to release the prize.  When he did, the game could resume, drop the chamois produced another round of catch it.  He picked up the game and the “Out” command very quickly.  This game also built his prey drive into something that could be readily utilized into his training.  As he grew older, I used a 24-inch , two-handed ,leather tug toy.  The idea was to grab the tug, bite it hard, and take it away from me.  I always allowed Hans to win this game after a bit of wrestling, and he became confident, and he knew when and what he was allowed to bite.  As an aside, this game also taught me how not to get bitten during this exercise.  I learned his approach, the look in his eyes, and his timing.  We developed his “out” command during this play consistently.  He will drop anything he has in his teeth upon command, and I do mean anything.  We practice this “out” even with raw turkey drumsticks.  Did the play create an aggressive dog?  Absolutely not.  And we’ve found a way to do what comes naturally to a predatory canine.  Teaching not to bite by teaching when and what to bite.


After his first year of life, we moved into bite sleeves and decoy work.  He loves these exercises, and he has tremendous recall off an attack, because we allow him to do what comes naturally in the first place.

Many will give the advice, “When a puppy bites, grab his snout and prevent him.  In my observation, you are retarding his instinct by doing this, and he’ll become frustrated quickly, leading to continuing problems.  You are better off to do what his litter-mates did when they bit each other to hard, give out a blood-curdling “Yip!!” that says, :That’s too hard!! Stop!!!”  The dog will often step back from you, shocked.  This is how you speak dog…Dogs teach each other the limits of biting, very early.

The key to outliving your puppies “biting/nipping” habit, is to teach him that biting is only for certain toys, and certain times.  The way to control it is natural…Find an activity that allows him to use his teeth for the purpose that God gave them to him.  As always, the secret to most dog training, is too spend the time necessary to work with, and understand your dog.  Find help when you have questions.  It will allow your dog to be his best!


I have been a fairly tenacious advocate of training early, training often, and training with intent.  My dogs began training the day they came home at about 8 weeks of age.  We began with the basics, Sit, Go Potty, No Bites…you get the drift.  Shortly thereafter, I began Scent work training.  Within 6 months, we also mastered most of the CGC tests, even though the test couldn’t be taken at that age.  Everywhere we went was a test of behavior, obedience, or socialization.  Many of the books that I read strongly encouraged that “Time for training must start early, you have very little time, hurry, hurry, hurry!!!”   One of the most desperate sounding was Ian Dunbar, who seems to believe that dogs stop learning at 9 months old.  Fortunately I have learned that the mind-set and methods of Dunbar and his followers is  incomplete, and based on questionable conclusions.  Dogs can learn everyday of their life, and they do.  There’s a better way, and “Science” backs this conclusion.

I wish now that I had focused more time and attention on interactive “Play” between us during the first year.   I was fortunate in this:  My style of training was (and is) more centered on “fun” than most others.  I love watching the dogs just being dogs, chasing toys, chasing each other, playing tug-of-war with various items, digging for hidden rewards, and wrestling with me on the ground.  There is one central reason that PLAY is so important to the development of your puppy.  This ingredient will affect your relationship as a team for the life of your dog.  What is this ingredient?

           You Must Be The Most Interesting Thing In Your Dogs Life.  

Are you naturally drawn to an employer that piles work on you every minute of everyday?  Your dog, especially puppies up to about a year old, are hard-wired to Play.  It’s a combination of Exercise (or Stress Relief, a topic upcoming here) Discipline (Time to “release”  the toy) and Affection(rolling around on the floor letting the dog search you for a toy, or playing Tug are Rewards!!)  Your dog will celebrate every time you walk into the room because YOU=Playtime!!!!   This developing focus on you will create a dog/human team that are completely in tune with each other.  There will never be a problem with a distracted dog, because YOU, (Not food treats, and certainly not Clicking) will be the center of his world.

I’ve written about what follows in “German Shepherd Adventures” a couple of years ago, and it raised eyebrows in some.  That’s okay by me, because I’ve seen the results of my practice.  I’ll repeat what I wrote then for the benefit of those who may have missed it. The most important game you can develop properly with your dog is a good old-fashioned game of “Tugging”.  I know, I know…Many of you are of the belief that this creates an aggressive dog, .  You believe that you are developing a dog that is capable of dangerous reactions. You may believe you are creating a “reactionary” dog… You are, in fact, doing just the opposite.  Notice this quote from  Jean Donaldson, a positive training maven, writes that tug games “are not about dominance and they do not increase aggression. These are myths.”  (Quote from this source-(

You are in fact, creating an “Outlet” for your dogs “prey” instinct, while using the natural, inborn inclinations of your dogs “Hunting” instincts to relieve , (Here it comes…) stress. To quote Kevin Behan in “Natural Dog Training”, –Many parents may be nervous about this whole notion of prey instinct. We are not creating the prey instinct: it is already there. We are channeling it into an appropriate activity. This way it is not as likely to go where it does not belong, such as after a child’s hand. Otherwise, you are leaving it up to the dog to decide what he wants to do with his prey instinct.

Okay, I’m springing something new on you.  The idea that your dog has stress, and is better off with an effective way to release it.  That’s going to be the subject of another post.  Energy and Stress, and your dogs “Natural” state of being a “Predator”, are going to be major subjects in the near future here.

As part of the Communicative Approach, Tugging games build a bond between Handler and Canine.  During these games, your dog’s focus is %115 on YOU!  Remember, a tug toy, rag, or sleeve is a lifeless object UNTIL you pick it up!  Then you become the life of the party!!!  The practice will soon eliminate distractions, and improve recalls, and obedience.  I have always played serious tugging games with my protection dog “Hans”.  Without really knowing “Why”, or “How”, I’ve raised an obedient, focused dog.  Looking back, I realize that we bonded over this type of play.

Now, for my heretofore failure, and its recent resolution:  Our young female GSD, “Holly”, now 18 months old, was slated specifically for Therapy work, and as an experimental “Cancer Detection Canine”, (A newly developing study.) from 8 weeks of age.  My wife would train her, and I’d promise to not teach the pup to tug, chase me, or anything else resembling “aggression”.  Holly did fine for about the first year, earning CGC status, passing TDI training, and doing well.  But she never quite earned our trust in “Off-Leash” activities, such as fetch.  She suffered a lack of “Focus” being easily distracted at times.  Outside, her “recall” was questionable, but inside was fine.  She seemed “bored” while working my wife opined…CarolAnn actually became very distressed over this lack of enthusiasm, and Holly’s lackadaisical response to obedience while unleashed.  She actually “borrowed” a friends Vizla, to make her Care Facility rounds for two weeks while we investigated this occurrence.  Well, of course, Holly became despondent and a little destructive at home.  Some how we were not fulfilling her needs, while we were protecting her status as a Therapy Dog.  All bad things.  Hans had never been thru anything like this in his training, and we were searching frantically for answers.  Thinking that “Physical Activity” was the missing ingredient, we enrolled CarolAnn and Holly in Agility training.  In good portion, it helped.  Holly does well, has no fear, and loves to burn off steam.  But her “focus” on her handler was still an issue.  It was during this period that picked up on “Natural Dog Training” by Kevin Behan, and the work of both Lee Charles Kelley and Neil Sattin (found here:

What I read and digested was very similar to the way I had raised and trained Hans.  Different terms were being used to describe what I was developing on my own somewhat lacking method, but the same spirit was there.  We decided that I would recreate with Holly, what I had done with Hans.  “Pushing”, a training technique that “Natural Dog Training” emphasizes is one such example.  I called it “Keep Away” with a high-value item.  (There’s a lot more to explain “Pushing”.  Check the link above, Please)

I also introduced Holly and CarolAnn to Tugging Games.  My wife at first resisted mightily, being wisely aware that Holly had grown some impressive dentition.  I began to play tug with Holly everyday for a week, which is more time than needed.  Within that time, her behavior turned 180 degrees about!!  Her recall reminded me of a Sparrow missile inbound…I pushed her training to things she had been taught NOT to do, such as giving Dad a Big stand up hug as she saw Hans do everyday with me.  Holly was shortly going after an Arm-sleeve with a gusto that belied her hitherto somewhat (Bored! Unfulfilled!) gentle nature.  But the fuzzy little phoenix was rising from her own frustrated ashes…Everything changed about her behavior.  I chalk it up to fulfilling her natural instincts.  Period.

So go out and play with your dog.  Learn to play Tug safely, and properly.  Again I will provide some links below for this purpose.  The result will be Focus Focus and more Focus from your dog, and the end of many behavioral problems!!!!

My beautiful, Natural Trainee, Holly...

My beautiful, Natural Trainee, Holly…

© Robert W. Vaughan and German Shepherd Adventures {2010 to Current} Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert W. Vaughan and German Shepherd Adventures  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Understanding how your dog was, and is being trained is vital.  Let me repeat that.  Understanding how your dog was, and is being trained is vital.   I’m being diplomatic here, because many of my friends, readers, and accomplices are doing exactly what I’m going to ask you not to do.  And, yes, they do it successfully, because if you go to the length of sending your dog away for training, you are probably getting someone very skilled.  Your dog (or puppy) will come home trained.  But what have you missed?  And, more importantly, how will you continue the dogs training?

In the Search & Rescue disciplines, handlers train with the dog they will handle.  In my experience, handling someone else’s partner is like picking up a brand new pistol and trying to shoot a perfect score on the range using the first 13 shots ever put thru the weapon.  It’s just not possible.  You don’t know the weapon, or it’s idiosynchrosis yet.   Only by personally using the gun will it finally give you the results you want.

Suppose two different Olympic Ice-skaters, trained individually for twenty years, suddenly decide they will compete together.  They decide to meet the Tuesday before the Olympics and work together for a couple of hours.  Will they come home with a Gold medal?  Silver?  Bronze?  No way.  They haven’t practiced together.  They have no clue how the other skates, reacts, or moves.  Individually, they are flawless, even poetic.  But becoming One on the ice, is earned only with time and discipline…

If you send your dog away to the finest Clicker-trainer for training, you will soon learn that your Timing is very different.  If you choose a more natural training approach, you will find that what you believe to be natural, may not reflect the Trainers approach.  If you choose Relationship based training, (as I hope you do)  you will find that the trainer you spent $500.00 with has a great relationship with your dog, but you have nothing.  And that’s the shortcoming of not being involved with your dogs training.

Learning with your dog takes time, effort, and discipline.  There are no shortcuts to success.  Learning together creates a trust and a connectivity with your dog that transcends ANY amount of outside influence.  Many have experienced having a dog trained separately from them, that simply will not respond in kind.  Think again of the ice skaters…

Sit down, lay out a plan for training that fulfills your Goals as a TeamDon’t plan it in a single linear path without possible detours.  Your dog, or you, may not be best suited for your original plan, so be ready to allow your goals to evolve.  For instance, you may have goals of titling a ScHIII schutzhund dog.  But training, and the advice of a good Trainer, may reveal that your dog just isn’t suited.  BUT, that dog may prove to be a Scent Following maniac…Pursue whatever the dog does best!!!  Make something of the situation!!!  Hands on Training, together, side by side with your dog, is something you will never regret…



All material contained in “The German Shepherd Adventures” blog site is copyrighted and the sole private property of Robert W. Vaughan.  Any un-authorized reprinting or theft of intellectual property is subject to legal action.  Unless otherwise credited, all photographs are included in this declaration. 

As trainers,we  humans spend way to much time trying to make dogs listen to human instructions.  In human speech.  With complicated human intentions behind every word.  You’ll hear almost every dog-owner in existence do the “machine gun” impression when a dog doesn’t comply immediately. “Sit Spot…Sit!  No, Sit! Sit Sit  Sit!!!! Dumb Dog!  Sit!!!!”  (Hey! Finally a place where “Sit” doesn’t happen!!! But I digress)

Even some of us that train or handle dogs professionally will get caught up in the repeated command trap.  Like many english-speaking people, who believe that the whole planet speaks english just like us, many of us figure that our dog speaks english as well.  He’s just being contrary because…(Insert excuse here)

Now it is true that some dogs become familiar with some of our words.  Tests and experiments have proven that some dogs can identify objects by name, learn directional commands, as well as other simple instructions.  Some researchers postulate that certain dogs may possess the ability to understand over one hundred human words in various languages.  However, if you make up non-sense words for various actions, they will also learn and respond.  So it’s not our Language that they understand.  Rather, it is our Intent in the command.  That’s quite different.

On the other paw (hand, whichever), humans are capable of learning multiple languages and forms of communication with excellent retention.  This simple mathematics has taught me something quite profound.  Why am I struggling to teach my dog something he’s not really interested in?  He has zero need for human speech.  And we, as humans are eminently more capable of learning Dog-Speak.  Provided we apply ourselves and put in the effort.  The other problem we face as humans, is that we don’t listen very well.  In multiple ways…The biggest secret behind learning a foreign language is “Hearing it, and Listening to it.”  Becoming immersed in a language is necessary for learning it well.  An amazing re-wiring of the human brain synapsis takes place when you Listen to your chosen language being spoken, even without focusing on it.  The question then, is this:  Why don’t more people attempt to “speak” dog??

I think I’ve figured this conundrum out.  Humans tend to believe that because we are the top of the food chain, we need to bring everything to our level.  Everything else is below us.  Intellectually, we are above the dog.  Dogs are not humans in furry suits.  They will never rise above us in intelligence.  But does that mean they have nothing to “Say”?   The situation reminds me of how members of the Deaf Culture here in the United States were regarded not all that many years ago.  They were labeled as “retarded”, “misfit”, and much worse.  The reason being, is because people couldn’t communicate with them using spoken language.  And at the beginning, Sign or Gestural communication was frowned upon.  Or even derided by the medical community…While a triumphant story, Helen Keller’s life and situation were not a hallmark in good human nature.  The use of ASL was a mark that made people avoid the Deaf.  But as ASL became more accepted, first by the Deaf Community, medical people, and hearing family members, those users of ASL began to prosper.  Those of us that have learned and use ASL have found it to be a colorful and capable language.  I believe that “dog-speak”  is very similar today.  If we took the time to recognize the nuance and ability of it, we will open new doors to the human-canine connection.

Of course, the language of the dog is highly visual in nature.  Our powers of observation will be tested.  Our powers of observation will need to adapt and improve to grasp the language of the dog. Not only do most humans not listen well, many don’t observe well visually.  Ask any police officer that has 3 or 4 eyewitnesses to a traffic accident.  Count on 6 different viewpoints…

Your path to “Listening” to your dog, will necessarily include some reference material. (See the end of this post for links)  There are a few books out there that will help you with “What” to look for, and “When to Expect” certain body language, but the majority of the learning will be unique to YOU and YOUR DOG.  each individual dog will have his own “dialect”, which will be shared by others in his pack.

The real secret to learning your dogs language will involve being with the dog as much as possible.  Putting him into varied situations that will cause him to “Say” something to you…But this is NOT as difficult nor esoteric as you may think.  Do you know when your dog wants to go outside to relieve himself?  How?  Does he say, “Hey Dad, how about a bathroom break here?” in flawless english?  Does he send you a text or e-mail?  Of course not.  He may whine, he might bop your elbow with his snout, he may ring a bell near the door, he may sit quietly near the door.  But you WILL know what he wants!!! We learn these signals very quickly so that we avoid smelly accidents…Our dogs communicate with us %100 of the time we are together.  Most humans get  % 30 of it…on a good day.  My dogs have taught me their language thru many, many, long hours of effort.  Not to mention many misunderstandings on my part.  Some of what he communicates to me is outside of what may be in print.  Since we do scent-detection work, Hans has learned to “tell” me exactly what it is that he’s detecting.  The real problem was getting me to understand him.  We occasionally do “drug-possession” sweeps on work-places or construction sites for insurance companies.  When we enter a site, Hans is very clear about his nose.  If someone has the scent of marijuana on them, his long black nose will do an up and down motion like he’s conducting Beethovens 9th symphony for the local Philharmonic.  The scent of Crack-Cocaine produces a head-shake resembling the way a wet dog sprays after swimming.  Methamphetamine causes him to do what resembles a play-bow…I didn’t teach him any of these behaviors.  It’s something that came about organically, and when I finally recognized it, it has never failed.  Most handlers in Tracking/Trailing work recognize many indications of the communicating talents of their dog.  He will tell you when he’s lost a scent, found a scent, made contact with a separate but related scent.  You just need to learn to be observant!!!!!

Using various books that are available on dog-language, be aware that they are only a general guide.  Your dog may have his own dialect, his own way.  You will learn what these are as you work together.  But open yourself to the dogs language, and free yourself of trying to teach him yours. 

As encouragement to develop this skill, let me ask you some questions.  Do you recognize when your dog needs to go relieve himself?  Do you know when your dog is hungry, thirsty, hot, cold?  Do you recognize when your dog isn’t feeling well?  Can you tell if he’s going to throw up?  Do you recognize the early signals that someone may be approaching your house?    Chances are VERY good that you do!!!  These are communication between you!!!  YOU CAN LEARN HIS LANGUAGE!!!  It just requires your efforts in learning another language!!

The links below are a few of the books I’ve read and consulted on the matter of “Dog-Speak”    While I do not always agree 100% with all the conclusions or methods, they WILL give you a jump start…I’ve given each a 1 to 5 rating beside it, telling you my thoughts…NOT all of them are pure, “This means this,” books, but they will all make you think!!!     a Solid 4 out of 5.  Abrantes is an Operant conditioning guy, and tends toward a bias in that direction.  But worth it!    solid 3 out of 5.  Lots of photo’s, with some missteps in interpretation.   Very thorough and well thought out.  A 4 out of 5.   Simple, with much less info due only to the book being short.

ANY BOOK WRITTEN BY     SUZANNE  CLOTHIER.        The woman is a genius and by far the very best in the field today!!  Google her, check her out at Amazon, Go to her website!!!!   DO IT NOW!!!!!


© Robert W. Vaughan and German Shepherd Adventures {2010 to Current} Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert W. Vaughan and German Shepherd Adventures  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For crazy Dog-People (like myself), this is the “Holy Grail” of situations.  When we first take in a new puppy, or adopt an older dog, we want to take the dog everywhere we go.  We search out businesses and establishments that have “Dog Friendly” policies.  My two German Shepherds know Lowes and Home Depot so well, that I could send them in to purchase  any number of items without worry.  Not only do they know where things are, but the employee’s know the dogs well enough to answer their questions, should they have one.

This type of socialization is extremely important to your dog in his development of proper behavior.  It’s equally important to building the relationship between you and your four-legged friend.  Creating a successful, well-behaved, well-trained, and willing dog is a product of much more than Training.  It involves much more than the pocket-full of dog treats or the clicker you keep in your pocket.  Does your dog respond to you because he wants too, or because you have conditioned (That word comes right out of an interment camp)  him with science?   Herein lies the power of Living With Your Dog, making him a part of everything your Pack does.  Dogs are not only Social beings, they are Sophisticated Social Creatures.  There’s  enough  available evidence in canine psychology to convince me that dogs know when they are being Lead by a Leader, or included in the activities of their social group, or Pack.  They also know when they are being short-changed by the leader they trust to watch over them.

What does this entail for the Communicative Approach?  I’m glad you asked.

Some of what I’ll write here will raise the hackles of some dog owners.  That’s okay…But I know what I’ve observed myself, and tested it out on many dogs of my acquaintance.  Let me approach this from specific disciplines.  First and perhaps foremost, you want a trusted, loyal and obedient dog.  How does Living with your dog help you achieve this state of grace?

Imagine that it’s 6:30 AM.  You awaken, slap the alarm clock into submission, and crawl out of bed.  Where has the dog been all night?  Out in the garage?  In the basement in his crate?  Tied out on the deck?  Or snuggled warmly in his crate beside your bed?  Or do you find it necessary to wake the dog so that you can free your legs from under him?  Some people feel, erroneously, that allowing a dog on the bed leads to dominant behavior.  Mule-muffins.  (I’m more than willing to discuss dominance behavior and it’s source, but this isn’t whats going on here).  My dogs have always been given the option to sleep in their private crate beside our bed.  As puppies, the door was closed.  This lasted until about 8 months of age, when the door was then left open, offering the dog a choice.  My Pack sleeps beside our bed every night, in their crates, by their own choice.  It is where they feel safe, secure, and available.  I’m tuned into them, and they are tuned into us.  They are living with us…and the bond between us is strengthened.  Occasionally, our dogs will jump up onto the bed in the night, for a reassuring ear-scritch.  That’s okay by us…Children enter parents rooms every night  asking for a drink of water, or a hug.  How could you turn away a request for simple reassurance?  Do you refuse this gesture of affection?    Or, if it’s really cold, 90 pounds of German Shepherd can warm the coldest bed pretty fast.  Again, a symbiotic relationship is built by a simple act…

When I’ve attended writers conclaves or seminars, I have found that many writers in every genre find themselves accompanied by their faithful dog whenever they sit down and attack their latest project.  In my chosen guise as a Dog-Writer, my fur-kids have listened to me tap away at the computer for long periods, often giving me their meaningful critique of my work…I Live With My Dogs.  They are a part of my whole day.  Maybe you are fortunate enough to work in Dog-Friendly office where well-behaved dogs are welcome…Do you take advantage of the opportunity?  Are you apprehensive about the dogs behavior?  Please then, consult with a trainer that can help you make this possible!  It enriches both your life, and your dogs!!!

Okay, I realize that life is BUSY.  Many of you work long days, or nights, and can’t be at home as much as though of us in the profession.  What can you do to “Live With Your Dog” and build your communication?  Above all else, Walk your dog at least once a day for at least 30 minutes.  Get Up Early, and make it happen!!  The exercise will do both of you a world of good!  When you get home, maybe take another walk, and include a game of fetch!  When you can be with your dog, or allow him to be with you…Do It.  Allow  your dog to sit quietly near when you eat as a family.  Now before somebody jumps on this last statement, I’m telling you to let the dogs be NEAR.  Not all up in your grill begging!!!  TRAINING should eliminate such unwanted behavior.  What I’m suggesting is giving the dog the comfort of being in sight of his Pack while you eat.  Feed the dog at the same time that you and yours eat!  There’s nothing more SOCIAL that the whole pack eating together.  Set Boundaries, and manners for the dog in this and you’ll be amazed at the lower stress level of your dog…He wants to be with you…Teach him how he can do that successfully.

For those of you that may be blessed enough to spend more time with your dog, You too can improve “Living With Your Dog”.

I’d like to address those of you in Schutzhund, Protection Sports, Conformation Shows, Agility, Fly-ball or whatever sport I may be missing.  Understand, this doesn’t apply to everyone as a blanket indictment.  But I still see it with regularity.   Standard Operating Procedure at every event, and most practices, is, “One dog working at a time, and then back into the crate .”  Which is in the back of the Suburban in the parking lot.  I understand why this happens, as some of the dogs cannot be trusted to socialize with other dogs, let alone humans. Therein lies the problem…Are these dogs doomed to an uninvolved and unsocial life because of what they are trained to do???   I think this is difficult for some to accept.  “My SCHIII dog is highly trained to do his work, and keeping him away is part of keeping his Sharpness…Many Dog Shows are moving away from being “Bench Shows” where spectators can wander among the grooming tables, handlers, and owners.  Many of the dogs are simply not capable of being in the public, nor, for that matter, are the owners!  I believe this takes something important away from the dog, the owners, the visitors, the show, and the future of Showing dogs.  If the dogs were “Lived With”, this problem would vanish.

To the credit of the Agility Dog competitions , I have found that a huge majority of those involved are walking their dogs among the crowd between runs.  Yes, each dog is given those a rest period between runs, but most are well-socialized, friendly, and approachable.  That may be the big reason why Agility is growing in popularity.  People, AND dogs are living the experience together.

I want to make mention of a special family of Canine Professionals that exemplify the idea of really living with their dogs, and simultaneously producing champions in protection sports and schutzhund.  To start, check this link to “Controlled Chaos dog training”.

This is the online home of Kevin and Cheryl Goede.  Kevin is a Master Trainer from the famous Tom Rose School, and his wife and partner Cheryl is the force behind the “German Shepherd Dog Community” on Facebook, easily the largest such group there.  We had intended a more in depth interview here with them for this post, but time has been fleeting.  Look for that interview in the future.  My reason for bringing them into this, is that, along with their very pretty little daughters, they raise and train German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois.  If you take time to examine their web-site and Facebook you will see photo after photo of the whole family playing, training, and living closely with their dogs.  These same dogs are currently distinguishing themselves throughout the Protection Sports community.  They are fulfilling their dogs lives completely, and I recommend their methods with unbridled enthusiasm.  (By the way, I have NO vested financial interest in the Goedes at all, nor am a close personal friend.  I just recognize the genius in what they do)  They have also started a “Skype” based training method, for some canine training if you are not close to St. Louis, MO. that looks like it has serious potential.  Check the Goedes out and you will see demonstrated what I mean by “Living with”  your dog. 

These dogs are Family Members!!! (Photo from Facebook page of Cheryl Goede)

These dogs are Family Members!!! (Photo from Facebook page of Cheryl Goede)

© Robert W. Vaughan and German Shepherd Adventures {2010 to Current} Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert W. Vaughan and German Shepherd Adventures  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Once again I tread the minefield of turning our dogs into little human beings.  I promise you that I won’t, but there are good, demonstrable reasons to include “Love Your Dog”, into the process of the Communicative Approach.  Let me start with the axiom, “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Done To You.”

That’s right, the good, old-fashioned “Golden Rule”.  In case you are unaware, that was originally written in the Bible book of Matthew chapter 7 verse 12, about 2000 years ago.  It’s origin sometimes gets lost these days, but it’s good Life-Counsel no matter the source.  I just happen to believe it important to recall the words of Jesus Christ in this context.  No translation of the scripture says, “Do Unto Just Other Human Beings…”   Nope, they all say some derivative of “Others”, allowing for the conclusion that it applies to all living creatures.  Okay, Bible lesson finished…(That didn’t hurt a bit did it?)

All of the separate parts of the Communicative Approach, could technically fall under the umbrella of “Love Your Dog”, but there’s more detail to each and every one that I feel is important .  Therefore I’m using Love as a separate feature.  I know, as I develop this further that you’ll understand why.

First of all, what is your definition of “Love”?  Just think it over for a bit, as there are many ways to describe love.  For my purposes here, I will define Love as, “A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a friend…the benevolent affection of Man for his charges …A strong, warm, personal attachment.”    This is not romantic ,love, nor is it the love of Principal.  No, it just simply means that you are trying to treat your dog as you would like to be treated if you were a dog!

Okay, now imagine that YOU are your dog.  See the world thru his eyes, smell thru his nose, hear thru his ears…

From the day you brought your puppy or rescued dog home, he looked to you for nearly everything.  You were the source of food, water, play, care,  comfort, and (hopefully) leadership.  Loving your dog means giving these things freely and in proper amounts.  Making your dog know that you will always provide these things…Being prepared and willing to provide the best of these things that you can is part of loving your dog.  Does your dog spend most of his time locked in a crate, or small room alone, because you’re busy??  If your dog becomes sick, do you make sure that you consult a Veterinarian?  Do you carefully make decisions regarding vaccinations?  (This is a touchy subject, as some common vaccinations are actually dangerous and unnecessary)  This requires that you make informed decisions…Will you take the time???  Will your dog find itself tied outside to a post or tree in cold, heat, rain, or snow left to create a path where it paces alone wondering where his pack is???  Referencing the Golden Rule, would YOU enjoy that???  Your dog has a sophisticated and active mind.  Will you fulfill his mental needs with active play, exercise, and stimulation?  And 15 minutes a day is NOT enough.  Most behavioral problems have their source in boredom, inactivity, and lack of leadership.  Loving your dog means fulfilling these needs, and it takes TIME.  Maybe more time than you realize…Never let it be more time than you are willing to give, for your dogs sake.  This is a big reason why shelters and rescues are so busy and filled with dogs.  (Or should I say “Inmates”?)

Is your dog an “At Will” employee?  Meaning that you can “fire” him for whatever reason at whatever time?  Some dogs are gotten rid of when they become an “Inconvenience”.  Some of these are even “Euthanized” because they become more responsibility than the human wants.  Let me re-phrase that so you get the full impact.  SOME PEOPLE HAVE THEIR DOG PUT TO DEATH BECAUSE THEY NO LONGER WANT THE RESPONSIBILTY.  I grieve at the lack of “Love” that human beings are capable of demonstrating.

I believe you probably understand what loving a dog entails.  Time, effort, money, resources, more time, research, a bit more time…But the end results are MORE than worth the efforts!!!

You will always find that “Love” is a part of every facet of communication.  It is simply putting yourself in your dogs paws and asking yourself, “If I was a dog, and my owner did that to me, how would I feel?”

Next, we’ll dig into “Live With Your Dog.”   Thanks for reading, and please feel free to FOLLOW German Shepherd Adventures by pushing the FOLLOW icon at the top of the page!!!!