Archive for the ‘Canine Well-Being’ Category

One of the benefits of writing for the public eye, is the learning that I do with every post or article.  The feedback you get is revealing, and sometimes deeply poignant.  Other replies are so angry that you feel the heat coming off the computer screen…In the other parts of my life, I have the privilege of doing a lot of public-speaking to groups.  My particular speaking- style involves being  quite informal, and occasionally leaving my prepared comments for  brief forays into “straight from the heart.”   I also learn a lot from these events…

The biggest lesson I’ve gleaned over the years?  Words and Thoughts are Tangible things that affect the souls around you.  Use them Wisely,  Kindly, and Judiciously…

Okay, what does that have to do with being seen naked by your dog?  Good Question…I’ll try and make this simple.  And the good news is this:  You won’t feel like you need to hit the gym or the Weight Watchers section of grocery store because of your dog.

As we learn to communicate with our dogs on a level beyond food treats, clicking, and leash techniques, it becomes evident that most of the communication is a One Way street.  The street leads from YOU, downhill, to the Dog.  The dog reads you perfectly, but the reciprocal is mostly non-existent.  The dog sees right thru every emotion, tension, and joy that you feel.  He expertly bases his every move based on the emotion pouring out of his human like a faucet on the sinking Titanic…They sense our “energy”, and they read it fluently.  And this works with every human they encounter…The energetic output of the human person is an open book to our dogs…Have you ever sensed that your dog doesn’t “Like” someone?  Sure you have…How does the dog know???  HOW does the dog know???  It’s because we are all Naked in the eyes of the dog.  At least figuratively…

Dogs are Mental beings, much as we humans are, with some differences.  Dog actually determine the value or threat of  humans in very short order.  Humans?  We get fooled all the time, and that’s how large bridges get sold, and fake Rolexes end up on unsuspecting wrists.  Go ahead, try to sell a dog the Golden Gate Bridge…He won’t go for even the best bargain basement price!

But seriously, think about this…Has your dog ever reacted to a stranger in such a way that you wondered what was wrong with that individual that seemingly, did nothing to provoke any reaction?  We humans broadcast our every emotion to the far reaches of the galaxy because we can’t help ourselves…Happy, Mad, Glad, and Sad, we BROADCAST all of it.  We are mentally NAKED to the most pedestrian of dogs.  Even more so to those dogs with training in protection and experience.

Another good example of this can be seen at any dog park.  There are always people to be seen, yelling or cursing at their own dog when it refuses to come to them.  Other transgressions are also met with snarly remarks, name-calling or even swatting the dog.  The dog reads this stuff like an eviction notice, and refuses to submit to it.

The fact that our dogs can see us as the naked, emotional, unstable, humans that we are, makes one correction necessary.  As handlers, trainers, or just owners, we do our dogs a giant favor by simply learning to calm our inner selves, and providing a calm, supportive, atmosphere.  I’ve observed a young handler at an Agility competition that further supports me.  The young lady had a wonderful Aussie that clearly loved the competition ring.  That day, the handler was upset about something, perhaps outside of the competition.  I don’t really know.  But between runs, she talked to several different people and it was easy to see her anger was hanging out all over.  The dog had begun hanging back from her on his leash, trying to avoid her emotional thunderstorm.  As the day progressed, the dogs performances got steadily worse.  As that happened, the handler became less and less patient.  Her own performance became quite unsteady, and they both went home disappointed and angry.  A earlier, that same team had won a national level competition.  This was about what the dog was seeing in his “Naked” owner.  Emotional Energy of a negative charge…

Think about this whenever you are with your dog.  What energy am I transmitting to the universe?  What naked appendage is my dog seeing?  We need to put on a coat of calm, with a nice turtleneck of positive attitude, and a pair of comfortable, confident, loafers.  Or some high energy, supportive and active Nike’s…

Again, this will take work and effort on our part as humans.  After all, the dog can’t help but see us “naked”…Lets show our dogs the best parts!!!

embarrassed-chimp

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There are infinite Truths about Dogs, just as there are infinite Opinions about Dogs…The opinions spring from the minds of humans, and they tend to be possessed of “viewpoint jaundice” .  Some of the crazier opinions are spouted by individuals that are wholly dependant on (and very self-possessed) of the fact that they are “educated”, and have degrees to hang on a wall to prove it to the rest of mankind.  They never cease being impressed with themselves mostly.

Some of the more profound conclusions have come from grizzled old geezers that depend on a pack of mongrels to guard their junkyards.  “Them dawg’s ‘er in muh brain…he ‘kin do ever’thing here but run the cash register…”

I’ve learned a lot from both…and I won’t ever let that change.  I’ll always listen, even if I’m just being courteous.

One Truth has presented itself however, over and over again, in my Canine enlightenment.  It applies in many situations, but I’m being subjective here, as it fits my purpose.   “If You Want To Know The Truth About Dogs, Ask the Real Expert…Your Dog!!”

The Communicative Approach to Training Theory, (C.A.T.T.)  was born somewhere in it’s middle.  Much of what I learned has developed, in either a backwards direction, or more forward.  And the truth of the matter is this:  I didn’t really understand it until I figured out how to listen to my dog, Hans.  I had to abandon the natural (If egotistical) inclination to approach him in the attitude of, “I’m the superior intellect here, and you shall listen to me and submit to my training.”   If you believe  that approach  works in more than the grossest of manners…You’re absolutely, positively, and utterly wrong.

Most of us need a rethink of the definition between what “Training a Dog” means, and what” Educating a Dog”  means.  Training a Dog can mean anything from choke collars, E-collars, and Food deprivation, to plastic clicker toys, Positive Reinforcement, and many other methods.  It requires a book of instructions, and perhaps a seminar or thirteen. (Depending on the business sense the Instructor or Franchise owner has.  Return customers are Vital to most, and they will do their utmost to make you dependant on them. It’s  A Symphony of Turnstiles!) 

 People that rely wholly on Training their dogs are answering to the shallow end of the pool, the Physical dog.  If the dog sits on command, and has a good recall, these sorts are satisfied.  The problem is this…Many rely on the Physical to carry their dog to the next level.  Such “trainers” begin at the mistaken idea that their dog is inferior to the human aspect, and can only be expected to do so much, as it is just a dumb animal.  A dumb animal waiting to be “Shaped” or “Coerced” into the behavior desired. Such a process is dismissive and often denigrating to the marvelous living, four-legged being beside you…I refer to this as “Dis-honoring the Dog.”    Interestingly, this same sort of behavior takes place with human beings, often in the same Universities that crank out Phd’s everyday.  A young man with extraordinary ability to carry a football or slam-dunk a basketball is treated to the finest “Training Regimen” the school can provide… in the aspects of his sport.  His education academically, though available, is given a much lower priority.  The school then produces an illiterate hero to the masses.  Hopefully, he makes enough cash in the future to pay someone to run his life, because he’s incapable.  That’s Physical Training.

But Educating a Dog is something very different.  The dog is treated as though it is a fellow sentient being, (Not Human, but certainly aware.)  The dog is treated as though his own abilities are not limited because he’s “just a dog.”  Instead of being shaped or broken down into a behavior, the dog is allowed to make use of his own thinking faculties.  Accomplishing this, puts many more demands on the dogs human owner.  YOU must be observant, patient, humble, instinctive, and open to new learning!  I can hear the clicker people out there screaming at me  “If it’s NOT “Purely Positive” training, then I’ll have none of it!!”  Well, relax folks.  Not only is the Communicative Approach, positive for the dog, you’ll also find that this way of thinking will make you a better person.  Because it’s an attitude changer, and the goal is to make the emotion emanating from yourself, more positive! At least that’s what my dogs have told me…

Every time you approach your dog, whether it’s during training, while you’re looking for an affectionate nuzzle, or while you stagger down the hallway in the middle of the night headed for the bathroom, you are putting out a signal of energy to your dog.  Your energy might be telling the dog, “Stay. Wait for my Signal.”  It might be permission to approach for a belly scratch.  Or it might be saying, “Your Dad is half asleep and stumbling toward you in the dark.  Get out of the way or he’ll step on you…”  I like to picture it this way:

EnterpriseFIRE  Our dogs read this energy, and they reciprocate in kind.  That’s what my dogs have been teaching me about training, about communicating with dogs, and about how I behave in everyday life.  “Be Aware that You are Always Putting Out Energy Towards Every Living Thing.  It Affects Every Relationship that You Have.  Make It Positive.  And Keep It That Way.”

  If I arrive at home having been stuck in the infernal turmoil of city traffic, I’m usually not happy. My dark and glowering mood usually walks in the door ten steps ahead of me.   Without exception, I have noticed that my dogs beat a retreat to their safe spots in their kennels.  Without word one from me…Energy.

When I walk out into the yard, anticipating a game of Search or Fetch with my four-legged buds, they anticipate it and greet my appearance with unbridled joy.  No Words, just Energy.

If we’re doing bitework, my calm demeanor will keep the dog at my side.  The decoy could be covered in raw chicken parts and as long as my energy says, “Not Yet”, he stays.  No Words, no movement.  Energy… But the moment that I change to the energy of indicating a threat, I have 100 pounds of flashing lightning bolt.  No words.  No Motion.  Energy…

The Ultimate Clicker is not made of metal or plastic.  It is rather, something far more ephemeral, far less tangible, and certainly cannot be purchased from any website.  You can’t learn to use the Ultimate Clicker at a Seminar.  You certainly can’t learn to use the Ultimate Clicker from a clicker trainer.  The Ultimate Clicker, once found,  and developed, can’t be lost in a training bag.  Because the Ultimate Clicker is in your Energy…The emotion that you project, and that allows the dog to return that flow.

Learning to use this Energy, is much the same as learning to have a Positive Attitude towards everything.  I know you’ve approached a fellow human at work or home, and sensed the presence of negative energy, a snarly attitude, or even outright, unfocused energy.  We avoid that person as fast as we can, don’t we?  The problem is, so many of us respond to negative energy with negative energy.  “Give me a nasty attitude will ya’?  In your face Moron!”  We fall victim to this often.  It’s only human.

Once we master our emotion, our energy output, we can begin to work with our dogs.  We then learn to accept our dogs energy flow, and understand it.  It won’t happen overnight, but that’s okay.  “To Err is Human, To Forgive, Canine”…  Your dog wants you to understand this energy flow, and use it.

Here’s the next exercise for you as a dog trainer, and you don’t even need a dog.  Think about how you react to everything in your day.  A co-worker pulls a bonehead action, and costs you time.  A driver in a Malibu cuts you off in traffic, nearly causing an accident.  You spouse won’t stop talking while you watch television.  Your dog keeps putting a nasty, wet tennis ball on your lap.  HOW DO YOU REACT?  What energy do you put out in reaction?  Think about your reaction, and even catalog it.  Think, “How could I have better energized that reaction?  Do I always get that upset at things?”

  Think about your energy output this week.  In an honest examination, you’ll recognize a new way to approach everything.  It will be better for you, and for your dog.  Everyone around you will react in some way…It’s the Communicative Approach.

This subject has crossed the bow of my ship before.  I’ve thought, “I should write a post about that…”, but the idea never coalesced into life.  Until now…

Maybe I came home spoiling for something to write, that would break the recent log-jam I’ve felt myself in…Maybe I’ve just had enough of people so tightly wound up that they’re shooting diamonds out of their colons.  I don’t know for sure, but the log jam is now way down river past me, and it feels great!  

This is how we look at times...

This is how we look at times…

Is it just me and my reading of Facebook pages, Blogposts, and Forum posts, or has the world gotten incredibly serious about everything???  Where did simple humor disappear too?  When did the ability to laugh at ourselves and our lives take a flaming auger into terra firma?  It just seems to me that nearly every page on Facebook has become a ridiculous carnival of fighting, snide comments, and just a total inability to not take the world and ourselves so seriously.  Administrators have unpaid, FULL-TIME Jobs just editing and watching over the pages that they create and love visiting.  Every comment has potential to be a written beat-down on an otherwise innocent poster…I KNOW that there are people out there, that LIVE too cause chaos and discord from the faceless void of the internet…but some of this goes way beyond that intent.  People become absolutely livid if they read something that they don’t agree with, and they immediately attack the poster.  It makes me wonder what sort of dog owner are they with such a complete lack of humor?  And for that matter, what sort of miserable existence do such people live in everyday?

I know that a lot of trainers with far more experience than I read this blog.  (THANK YOU!)  I also know that most dog people that I associate with have wonderful senses of humor.  Either very goofy personalities,(Big hats, Dressing up dogs in costumes, fart jokes, Larry the Cable guy) or they are very sophisticated funny people with very literate senses of humor.(Drawing on people’s faces while they sleep, dropping off drunk friends naked in the country, and flatulence jokes)  I love that about them!  I LOOK for their posts and comments because they’re enjoyable to read!!!  I can point to any number of places as examples of the opposite extreme, but I’ll highlight just two that pushed me over the edge.

The first one was on a Facebook page that I’ll call, “I love my Dog” (Not the real name, but you get the idea)  A young lady posted several charming photo’s of her new puppy, just 9 weeks old.  She was obviously smitten with her puppy and just wanted to share her joy with the dog world.  Well, the 5th comment she received was this:  “Where did you get your puppy?”   (Here it comes…)

She replied about the wonderful breeder she had gotten to know and finally chosen her puppy from with care and preparation.  You guessed it…She immediately got flamed into a toasty ember by the “WHY DIDN’T YOU RESCUE A SHELTER DOG!!!  WHY WOULD YOU BUY FROM A BREEDER!!!  IS THAT PUPPY’S SIRE A Schh 3 with OFA’d Hips and 8 generations of Titled dogs????  The post went on for 30 or 40 such replies ad nauseum.   It became unreadable very quickly, and robbed her of her joy in having a new puppy.

The second example was my own.  I posted a very funny “This happened to me” story on a page that I administrate.  It’s a page for a private breeder, and we generally have a very entertaining and close-knit group.  It’s a pleasant respite from so many other Facebook pages.  The essentials of the story are this:  I was outside on the patio of our home/kennel on a pleasant summer evening eating my dinner.  It happened to be Ravioli, a favorite vice of my  2 German shepherds.  Well, my female Holly suddenly disappeared into the grove of pine trees in the back of the yard.  Once there, she started a barking tirade that sounded like she had found Jimmy Hoffa’s body, and that I should come running!  Which I did without hesitation.  Upon reaching her, she looked at me at did her best “Sit Pretty”.  I’d been had.   Running back to the table, there was my highly trained and titled male “Hans” with his big beak shoved into my dinner which he had now nearly finished.  (He left just enough for Holly to have her share)   I had been out maneuvered by these two geniuses and no mistake.  What could I do but laugh at them?

So I posted the story.  I expected several funny replies of support for the dogs ingenuity, a couple more of empathetic pity, and general good natured humor.  Which I got.

What I didn’t expect was the reply of a woman named “Beccie” (I fear for her skills in Spelling).  She chewed me out as having undisciplined dogs, and how her dogs had more respect for her from proper training, and why were my dogs allowed around the dinner table in the first place…blah, blah, blah.  She actually posted three times, becoming increasingly obnoxious, about my lack of skill in training and more blah,blah,blah…Several regular members of our group came to my defense, before I could, but her reaction demanded a response from me personally.  Eventually, recognizing that she just wanted to start turmoil, and being the Admin, I banned her from the page.  Hoping that this action would stop the thread.  I DID do the proper thing and explained why I gave her the boot to the group.  Most everyone agreed.  However, (and this is where these things always lead), someone piped up and posted, “Doesn’t she have freedom of speech?  Isn’t that censorship?”    

Lighten up People!!!   Why does politics have to become a part of everything?  The reason that there IS NO proper discourse in politics is because a few humorless, opinionated zealots insist on turning every conversation into some political statement.  What develops is like a cancer…In a better atmosphere, no one would start out a post with a derivative of this sentence, “Please don’t flame me for this, but…”

After that sort of thing starts, everybody that has something interesting to offer begin to jump ship, because the enjoyment is gone except for those that love arguing and creating problems.  This is the point where administrators look furtively about themselves and implore the heavens, “Where AM I, and WHY am I in this Handbasket?”

This problem extends well beyond the confines of Canines and their People.  I can’t change the entire world and I won’t try.  But I can at least patrol my little corner of the world, and make it a more “Civilized” place.  As for those screaming about freedom of speech, and censorship…Whatever happened to the Responsibility of being Civilized?  Freedom of speech is a two-way street.  Most that would invoke this “Freedom” do their best to shut down the other lane, so I would opine that everybody is best served by just passing each other peacefully with a friendly wave.

In the past, on this very blog, I bewailed the demise of the old arrangement of what was known as “The Salon”.  During the 17th and 18th century, the Salon was a gathering of friends and invited guests to the home of  an inspiring Host.  The purpose of these gatherings was simple. To favorably and pleasantly amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through civil conversation.  The over-riding purpose was best defined by the phrase,  “aut delectare aut prodesse est”, which means “To Please or to Educate”.   I wish we could go back to such sensibilities, at the very least, in the dog-centric world.  Sadly, this generations idea of freedom of speech is this:   “Clamo mihi clamant, et usque ad consummationem et vos credatis sic conclusit me! “

This essentially means “I’ll yell and scream and shut you down completely until you believe the same way I do!!”

Be aware, in this corner of society, civility will be upheld to a high degree.       That is all.  Now go out and laugh with your dog!!!!

It’s July in Ohio.  It’s hot, it’s humid, and the air hangs like a mouldy blanket left at a Boy Scout Jamboree 2 weeks hence.  Walking, exercising, and training with the dogs during the day becomes uncomfortable if not dangerous.  Personally, as someone that prefers the climate of the northern Great Lakes, this place is only 2 steps from climatic perdition…That’s why our activities have taken place very early in the day for the last month or so…when it’s only 85 degree’s outside.  Sorry Ohio, I dislike your climate even more than I dislike your college football team.  (That which shall not be named here.  LOL)  But I digress into humor when my actual point is quite serious.

A pre-dawn walk is a riot of peacefulness.  Birds swooping over the lawns searching  for breakfast, a whitetail deer crossing the golf course with her two late spring fawns, a pattering of a light rain shower on the leaves,  the river running with the recent overflow of water.  A mother raccoon and her kits are busily eating my neighbors sweet corn crop in his fenced backyard. I can hear the babies cooing with delight at each juicy morsel they inhale.  Momma raccoon purrs with satisfaction, knowing that her babies will soon leave the nest and move on to their own devices, freeing her from the burden.  It’s noisy, but it’s natural.  By my side are the two German Shepherds that my wife and I share our lives with, both looking up at me wondering, “Where to today, Dad? Huh? The river? Chase the geese? Huh? Huh?”

Normally, I walk each dog individually, giving them ample time to do as each wants.  Those walks are often distracted by training or exercising some skill or behavior.  When I walk them together, I’m searching for something else.  Inspiration.  Clarity.  Prayer.  Or maybe something I can’t describe.  At any rate, it’s not about physical exercise…and the dogs are with me to be observed for whatever they can teach me…

My recent writing about the “Bond” that we all want to develop with our dogs has been on my mind like an icicle growing on the eaves of the house.  Dripping, growing slowly, drip, drip, drip.  There’s much more to be written and pondered, and this current walk together has been a catalyst of thoughts.  Now if I can only manage to get them on the screen with some sort of clarity…

When you sit in a forest in the anthracite black of night, or walk  in the twilight of the approaching dawn, and you really focus, it becomes obvious that all living things are interconnected.   All things living are symbiotic in some way…True, humans are closer to the animals than we are to the trees, but we are all part of, and dependant on each other to varying degrees.  How could we not be?  We all come from the same Creator.  He alone understands the full measure of the bond between all living things. ( Okay, if you don’t accept that there is a God, a Creator…then what I say here probably won’t be your cup of tea.  Just give me a listen anyway.)  That’s your loss…those that believe that this all came about by chance, by evolving are missing something wonderful.  Namely this:  All Things Have A Purpose.  The belief that all of this came about by chance takes away all meaning in life.  There would be no reason for it, and it would eschew responsibility for anything.  Nothing to look forward to…Be born, live a while, and die.  That’s a sad way of life, and I fear that more people live it than we realize.

Faith tells me that not only are all living things dependant on each other, but some of those living things were meant to have special and fulfilling relationships.  Like Humans and dogs…humans and horses…humans and fresh strawberry pie.  (Sorry, strawberry pie isn’t a living thing, but I do feel a very deep relationship with it.  Digressing again)     That’s what I was thinking as I walked with the dogs this morning.  I realized that as we have been overtaken by technology, science, and the human insistence on making work easier, we have abandoned this bond between all living things.  The Clan of All Living Things has been fragmented at best, and shunned at worst.  Horses were working partners, as were dogs.  They lived to serve their keepers, and their Keepers cared for them as cherished work mates.  There are still people who treat their animals this way, and you’ll find that they have the best ” Bond” that can be had.  Training methods are NOT the key to the Bond,  and such people prove this everyday.  Sensing the emotional output/input of the dog is the key.   Allowing the  energy between master and canine to flow unimpeded…What I mean by that is simple.  “Training Time” is time to train.  “Bonding” time is time to observe, listen, and understand.  Yes, training does aid in creating bond, but it’s only part of the equation to that end.  I’ve been reading the book, “Rin Tin Tin, the life and the legend”  by Susan Orlean,(http://www.amazon.com/Rin-Tin-Legend-Edition-Hardcover/dp/B00BR5G9M0/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top and I was surprised to learn about the “method” (or lack thereof) that Lee Duncan used with his beloved dog.  Duncan describes it as their “Wanting to please each other, and see the other happy.”   Okay, that quote screams of esoterica understood only by the quotee, but something about it rings true.  Duncan and Rin Tin Tin were together constantly.  They communicated on the dog’s level, in language and behavior that the dog understood.  Duncan never made Rinty a small human in a fur coat.  They had, “The Bond”…(A reading of this interesting book gives a bit more insight, but it is ultimately a very sad story.)

What I take from the story is that their relationship was not “Built” by any training method.  “Built” has a connotation of forcing or shaping  something into existence. Often with resistance from the subject.  Duncan gave credit to the deep bond they shared for Rinty’s huge bag of talents.  He states that they never learned “Tricks”.  Certainly there had to be some form of training, but they mention little of it.

Again, I’m not offering any strident method to building a bond with your dog.  My suggestion is only this:  Put aside the training and the discipline for a few minutes a day, and just be with your dog.  Observe (don’t sit there trying to interpret body language) Talk to the dog, (No, he won’t speak back), but he’ll become accustomed to knowing that he has your undivided attention aside from everything else.  Turn off the science and try to feel the flow that moves your dog…My suggestion for practicing this is to sit out in the dark some night this summer and just Listen…You’ll be surprised at what you’ve missed.  The same thing goes for the dog…You’ll be surprised at what you’ve missed while you were busy working at having a dog, instead of enjoying the dog just being with you…

As a final thought, I want to state that I now believe that this “Bond” cannot be built, as though from a blueprint.  Rather, like most natural, created things, it “develops” in a time and manner uniquely to itself.  Allow yourself to watch it develop, and stop trying to force it…That doesn’t mean I’m foregoing “Training” and “Working”, not by a long shot!  But there should certainly be time to just watch the passage of time,  the learning process, and your own growth as a dog trainer.  Treat yourself and your dog to this simple pleasure…

 

My friend and fellow German Shepherd lover Julie Reeg wrote a piece for the Columbus Dispatch about her experience in becoming a dog lover…It’s her first foray into being published, and I hope she continues writing!  Here’s her story!

 

 

 

 

OK, I get it now.

I didn’t understand “dog people” — how they consider their four-legged creatures their “furry children,” their reason for living.Above all, I didn’t get how Fido was so welcome on the couch, the bed or anywhere else that Fido wanted to be.Not that I was a dog hater: I’ve had dogs.Seventeen years ago, I bought a dog because my son — Jordan, 5 at the time — made me feel like a bad mom because all the other kids had pets and we didn’t.

Enter Ashton, a cute Shih Tzu puppy — a shoe-chewing, pee-on-the-carpet puppy who barked regularly.Don’t get me wrong: Ashton was sweet. He really was.Sadly, though, Ashton didn’t make it past age 2. On Beggars Night, unbeknownst to me, he licked some antifreeze in a neighboring driveway and quickly succumbed to kidney failure.I was sad — truly. Rest in peace, buddy.

Kaya, another Shih Tzu, came next. He, too, was a sweet little dude.And, nowadays, I have Gracie and Griffin, two Yorkshire terriers who represent the yin and yang of my life.Gracie — all 9 years and 6 pounds of her — is a burrito-shaped sweetheart. Griffin, an 8-year-old who drives me nuts daily, is the most anxiety-prone animal on the planet.I have invested many years and plenty of money in dogs.But you wouldn’t have seen me sleeping with them (who wants the bed smelling like a dog?), fawning over them or treating them as if they were human — or hugging them, kissing them or letting them lick my face (gross!).

Until now.

My granddog, Mora, entered my life a year ago.My son, 22, always wanted a German shepherd — and, because Jordan is grown, he can have whatever pet he wants. He chose her. (Actually, she chose him. I have video to prove it.)And now she owns me.I am crazy in love with her. I’ve become — gasp! — a “dog person.”Worse, I’m the type who annoyingly shows off pictures of a dog, tells stories about the latest cute thing she did and treats her as if she were a grandchild.

She is the Most Beautiful Dog Ever.  Mora has transformed me and my feelings about dogs, especially big ones.I don’t even know who I am anymore.She recently came to stay overnight with my fiance and me, and, the next morning, I let her get up on the bed and cuddle with me.

She. Was. On. My. Bed.

It’s ridiculous how this “little” girl — 90 pounds and still growing — has stolen my heart.I never thought I wanted (or liked) big dogs, yet big, beautiful Mora has Grandma wrapped around her paw.Grandpa Michael is equally smitten. And, when he’s around, sometimes I get slighted: She cuddles with him.I try not to take it personally; I just might go to the kitchen to get her a treat — to coax her my way.I worry about her almost as much as I did my son when he was young: Is she eating enough? Why is she panting so much? She seems sad; what’s wrong with her?So, to all the “dog people” I’ve ridiculed for years out of a lack of understanding, I apologize: I get it, and I’m proud to be one of you.

Now, let me show you some pictures of my granddog. Isn’t she a-Mora-ble?

Julie Reeg, 52, of Gahanna happily runs with the big dogs now.

The A-Mor-able  Mora.  My Grand-Dog!

The A-Mor-able Mora. My Grand-Dog!

I spend way to much time on the internet.  However, as a writer/researcher, that’s where the action happens, and so I keep my nose to the hard-drive.  Sometimes I discover things that really confuse me, and this time, it’s a doozy.  See if you don’t find the same thing…

When you peruse websites, forums or Facebook pages that discuss contemporary German Shepherd breeders, you will undoubtedly finally read the words, “…the German Shepherd dog is a mere shadow of what it was…”  or, “…von Stephanitz is rolling in his grave over what his working dog has evolved into”,  or  “Law Enforcement agencies all over the world are abandoning the German Shepherd in favor of the better suited Belgian Malinois…”  (Don’t freak out, I’m NOT dissing the Mals!  Second best dogs in the world!!!)  “The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling!!!”  said Chicken Little.  “The German Shepherd is Fading Fast!  Surely The Breed Is no longer what it was!”  said the forum member posting.  on the Pedigree Database.

And that’s where the confusion comes into play.  Because if you read further on the internet, there are so many breeders of World Class German Shepherds that exceed what ever expectations you might have, that the phrase stretches credulity to the nth degree.  Many of the laments come from breeders bashing on other breeders.  “That guy and his kennel are breeding thru a failed bloodline that should have been stopped years ago!  If this were Germany, those dogs would have been culled or rendered unable to breed!”.  Such posts are common on the P.D. and it’s even worse on places like Facebook.

One such prognosticator of the German Shepherd Breed and it’s future (or lack thereof)  opined that the German Shepherd has been rendered useless as a working dog at all, and informing all that he was going to start with another breed entirely.  He was, in his words, “despondent over what has been done to his beloved Schaefer-hund by so-called “Sport-Dog” breeders, and Americans with their “Looks before Ability” attitude.  Oh, woe was he…

Well, I followed his name back to Facebook.  He turned out to be a young man in his early twenties, that I would guess had owned his dog for a whole 8 months already!!! He had had trouble house-breaking the puppy, and he blamed it on bad breeding and influence from the weakened breed.  That’s one source that I found for this reported “Down-Fall of the German Shepherd”.  It’s “Fashionable” now to bemoan and rend ones outer garments, in mourning over the grievous condition of the German Shepherd…

It’s also quite common for Breeders of every stripe to wail that “Everybody but me and my friends are ruining the German Shepherd!!”  This seems like either an economically based problem, or hubris, bordering on self-deluding psychopathy.  The German Shepherd Dog is certainly at the very end of its usefulness…

Now, for better or worse, I’m going to tell you what I believe about this idea that the German Shepherd Dog has been ruined as a breed in its entirety…

Mule Muffins.

Granted, there have been some twists in the road, and not a few ill-advised detours.  People with different intentions have certainly put their own stamp on the breed, creating their own ideal.  Other breed aficionado’s absolutely HATE the results.  Working Dog people stand aghast at the “Frog-shaped” American bred show dogs, whose hip structure negates proper “glide” in movement.  The American Show dog people call the “working shepherd” undeveloped and unsightly.  In all honesty, I  am not a fan of the show dog style of German Shepherd, for reasons that will remain my own.   I’m not here to bash on  people who choose to follow that standard.  I’m taking the responsibility to myself, to support and handle the standard that I believe in.  Let them have what they want…Are they ruining the German Shepherd for All of Us????  I don’t think so…

On the other paw, I believe that there is a core group that are breeding and developing German shepherds that would make the crabby old Captain green with dog-envy.  They show up regularly at Schutzhund competitions, Protection Sports events, Disaster sites both natural and man-made, Sheep-herding(both competitive and real world WORK)  They serve and protect Officers of the Law everyday, find explosives for soldiers in the field, find and recover lost loved ones…they are beginning to help find certain cancers in patients long before our technology can detect it.  The list of what real “Working Dogs” are doing today is ever-growing and dynamic. The foundations of what von Stephanitz wanted is unshaken, and remains intact.  Only the “Chicken Littles” of this world that want to be heard and repeated by the ignorant sheeples are saying that the “Sky Is Falling” on the German Shepherd.

Reason on my conclusions this way…If the Original German Shepherd Breed was so perilously close to the precipice of extinction, why would so many be working so hard at cultivating their own blood-lines?  These are people who truly Love the German Shepherd dog, and, in spite of what some believe, they are not getting rich breeding them.  They do it for the “Ideal”…the notion that a German Shepherd can be truly Great when bred and trained properly.  If the breed itself were really in such danger, how would IPO competititors be producing dogs that excel in their sport?   Yes, there are other opinions of what the “ideal” German Shepherd is.  That’s fine.  Leave those of that opinion to themselves, and allow them the joy they find in a different path to their ideal dog.

The dream of von Stephanitz isn’t dead, or in danger.  It’s just that some have lost the vision to recognize where it still lives and breathes, and  thrives.  The Working German Shepherd is alive and well, in spite of what you may have read…Now go out and work your dog, he’s itching to do the job he was born to do…

I know I promised that I would follow up the infamous “Backyard Breeders” post with two posts, hitherto entitled “Why Breeders Breed” and “Why Rescuers Rescue”.  Well…I finished both posts today.  I edited them.  I re-read them.  Read ’em again.  Did some more editing.  Added some photo’s for fun.  Gave each post a new title…Then I deleted both posts, a total of 5,795 words.  “Fly away ye’ wee fairies!!”  I called after them as they disappeared into the electronic ether, unread by everybody but me, myself, and I.  (You’ll find that line funnier if you affect a Scottish accent…)

The fact of the matter is this.  We ALL do things for different, sometimes very different reasons.  I messaged or spoke with dog-people from both sides, Breeders and Rescuers.  The  latter group I almost called the “Anti-Breeders”, which I learned would have been a bad generalization.  It’s true of some, but not all.

I could list 50 different reasons that breeders breed, some incredibly stupid and ill-advised.  Other reasons border on the Sublime, and need to be encouraged.  I could also list 50 different reasons that Rescuers obsess over which dog is on “death-row” in 24 hours, and how to free that same dog.  Spaying and Neutering are gospel to these fine people…I can’t commend them enough for their tireless dedication to the cause.  Or, more correctly, To The Dogs.  One friend, I’ll call her Aimee, (because that’s her name).  Aimee has managed to navigate both sides of this watery deep.  She has purchased from a breeder, AND she rescues dogs with alarming regularity.  (Let me give you her blog-link, and let you see first-hand what she does:http://mymegaedog.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/off-to-tending-camp/She wrote me a lengthy note about Rescuing and working with shelters and the profound reasons that she does the work.  I also spoke with Breeders.  I’m not going to link them, because it just seems that breeders are magnets for abuse, from “Anti-Breeders”, groups like PETA, and sadly, from each other.  Especially from EACH OTHER…Facebook alone is a veritable “Omaha Beach” for those who would breed dogs, for whatever reason, Good or Bad. (If you don’t get the Omaha Beach reference, shame (And a POX!) on your History Teacher.  Google it.) 

I will say this:  I thought I was able to write quite objectively about both sides of the issue, even though I identify with one of them strongly.  Both Breeders and Rescuers have a dark-side, and they both have a Light-Side.  Both received commendation from me, as well as some well-deserved  castigation.

My final conclusion, and the reason I sent both posts into perdition’s flames, is this:  We Do What We Do Because We Love Dogs.  Or at least 99% of us do.  (There IS an evil underbelly of society that just uses dogs for their own nefarious and evil reasons .  I give you Michael Vick, or the operators of commercial Puppy Mills.)

I would hope that this mutual Love would give us something in common.  We all agree that ALL dogs deserve good homes.  We all agree that Dogs deserve training and good treatment.  We  agree that all dogs deserve to live as long as possible in good health.  We all think that we have the best way of delivering those things as well, and this is where the fighting begins.  As example, I noticed a post on a Facebook dog- centric page from a young man trying to find information on where to recover his dogs pedigree papers which were lost.  Several of the posts were helpful…He just wanted information.  What he got was insipid and obtuse “reasons”  that he shouldn’t be considering breeding at all, but to go out and adopt a dog instead.  It was the wrong place, at the wrong time, and added nothing to the posters reputation for intelligence.  This kind of thing doesn’t help the dogs in any way.   “Get Off My Page and Go Back To the Mutt Farm“…(An actual Facebook post…)

I’ve tried to put this into a final statement…It seems to me that we all need to focus on our own activity, and let others have their own convictions.   Concentrate on making improvements to the Dog, the breed, the relationship between you and your dog!  DO THIS YOURSELF!!!!  Don’t get so hung up on what someone else is doing, when you can improve your own little corner of the world first!!

Therefore, and To Wit, I want to hear from All of YOU about Why You Breed or Why You Rescue.  And all the other permutations of these activities.  We are trying to find common ground here, or at least an Understanding to those who disagree with each of us.  This will give you an open opportunity to express why and what YOU INDIVIDUALLY  do  to make dogs lives better…I will be watching the comments closely, and asking Facebook Admins to do the same…KEEP IT POSITIVE. Help others understand…  I will personally remove comments that start down the same old dark paths we’ve been down before a thousand times.

Got It?  We’re waiting to hear from you!!!  Have fun and have a great time writing a short paragraph!!!  (Then you can go out and play in the blistering heat if you want.)