Archive for the ‘Choosing a German Shepherd.’ Category

This will be my 200th post of “German Shepherd Adventures.”  A bit more than 4 years worth of reporting, editorializing, opining, teaching, learning, screwing up, eating crow, declaring victory, and growing.  The blog has changed as I’ve learned and changed, and it’s dug in its heels where I have lead it.  I’ve enjoyed it all.  I’ve hated some of it.  Its grown beyond my wildest expectations, and I hope to welcome member # 100,000 this Spring.  There are 168 different countries in the subscriber list, including someone from McMurdo Sound, an Antarctic Research Station!  (That thrills me to no end!)

The Good has far outweighed the Bad parts by a long shot.  I’ve been fortunate to make friends with, and make mentors of a few very talented writers, trainers, and others.  Imagine how thrilling it was for me to exchange thoughts with Mr. Ray Bradbury before his death in 2012…I was a fan of his from boyhood, and when I learned that he had read “GSA” and enjoyed a particular post enough to contact me, I almost fainted. Exactly how he found “German Shepherd Adventures” has never been clearly explained.  He said only that he was,” researching something”, for a short story, and Google spit me out.  I hold no claim to being a “Bradbury” level writer, but he was genuine and encouraging and enthusiastic.  We shared similar views on learning, laughing, and life, and I treasure our brief friendship…Among other notables, I count Carol Lea Benjamin, author, Dog-Trainer, and all around good egg.  Her training methods were at the bedrock of what works best, and she explains it clearly and without ego.  She has a touch of whimsy and laughter about her, and her cartoons rival James Thurber any day of the week.  Carol Lea also managed to get me interested in the Mystery genre.  Her fiction is a “potato chip” type of fare.  You will always look for, “just one more”.

Another luminary among writer/trainers that I’ve been privileged with knowing is Lee Charles Kelley, as well as his mentor Kevin Behan of “Natural Dog Training” fame.  Kevin has developed this way of helping many understand dogs “flow”, but nobody explains it better than Lee Charles Kelley.  Many thanks to both of you and the Natural Dog community.

Among the wonderful trainers, I simply must thank people like Wade and Lori Morrell, Ivan Balabanov, Andrew Ramsey, Michael Burkey, Becky MacGregor, Angie Ballman-Winters, Brett McKnight, Kevin and Cheryl Goede, and the group at Balanced Trainers from Dan Audet down the line.

I suppose that I could publish a list of “Low-lites” and “Low-Lifes” as well, but why bother?  They are a much smaller group, and below my notice.

Finally, I must thank Rhonda Sellers, and the Omorrow Pack.  I started “German Shepherd Adventures” with this group of people as my focus, and they have formed a wonderful core of friends.  I had no idea that the blog would eventually grow beyond those confines, and I didn’t care.  Being part of this family of crazy German Shepherd people was enough for me, and I thank each and every Omorrow friend for coming along on the journey so far.  Rhonda, you are a mentor and friend in the truest possible way, and I will always be indebted to you, and as grateful as I can be…

As for the parts of writing this blog that I’ve hated?  Well, most of them involved the cowardice and self-serving interests of people that enjoy hiding behind the anonymity of a keyboard.  Dealing with the darker corners of opinion and political-correctness, has been tiring and wearisome.  The rantings and raving of such people are a huge waste of time.  Those who practice militancy are a sad and confused lot, and doing more harm to the dogs and the dog community than is warranted.  I will continue to reveal their ignorance as much as possible.  On the positive side of these people, is the fact that they have often caused my readership to blossom into the eyes of new dog people and those looking for the best way to work with dogs.  I will continue to refer them to trainers that I know will help them determine “Best Practices” in dog training.

This is my way of thanking everyone that takes the time to read “German Shepherd Adventures”.  I hope that you will continue to visit with me here, and I will do my best to keep making it worth your time…

Above all…I want to thank my dearest friends, CarolAnn, Hans, Holly, and Sammy.

Hans, there has never been a better friend than you have been.  No more loyal partner, fellow worker, or goofy buddy.  I promise you a long and happy life.

Holly, my golden girl, you have become much more than what I thought was possible.  Above any other dog, you have taught me the most about Training, and How dogs Think.  You have challenged me, taught me, and given me the opportunity to learn from the masters.

Sammy, my newest buddy, you are something I never expected.  Your loyalty and manner have taught me what dogs are capable of when it comes to nurturing, helping others, and having insight into the human spirit.  You read people like no other living soul I have encountered, and you teach me without hesitation.

Finally, Thank you to my dear wife, CarolAnn.  You put up with this silly collection, and make it your own.  You must be out of your mind, but it seems to work…

Okay, everybody, Go  Take Your dog out and do something!!!

writingmonkey1

Advertisements

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…   http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_19/184-6455469-4164567?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=think+like+your+dog+and+enjoy+the+rewards&sprefix=Think+like+your+dog%2Cstripbooks%2C218

thinklikeyourdog

Hey Central Ohio Nosework fans!!! It’s FINALLY HERE!!!! See the registration below for the Introductory 2 hour workshop to Nosework at the ARF facility!!! This will demonstrate the upcoming 6 week class beginning February/March 2014!! The workshop is open to all, but the actual class will be limited to only 10 (ten) Handler/Dog teams, so if you are interested BE AT THE WORKSHOP!!!!
Part of this workshop will be for the purpose of forming a Nosework Club here in central Ohio for Fun, Training, and Competition!
Introduction to Nose Work Workshop Saturday, February 8, 2014 Presented by Robert Vaughan Administrator, K-9 Detection Sports Association         Workshop Fee:  $10.00 Would you like to find out more about the dog sport of Nose Work – an uninterrupted performance in scent-detection by a dog and a handler? … Agility and Rally for Fun is pleased to welcome Robert Vaughan to the ARF Dog Training Center on Saturday, February 8, 2014 to present an Introduction to Nose Work workshop from 3:00PM-5:00PM.  ARF is located at 1000 Morrison Road, Suite I, Gahanna, OH  43230.  Robert has been involved in scent work for nearly 7 years and in competitive Nose Work for another 5 years.  The exciting dog-sport of Nose Work is coming to ARF and Central Ohio.  You and your dog can take part in this game, which is both mental and physical, no matter age or mobility limitations.  Professional K9 handler Robert Vaughan will help you gain the foundation of Nose Work, and show you a new way to build the relationship between you and your dog.  All Breeds are welcome and capable.
To register for the workshop please complete the following and mail to:  Susie Thomas, Agility and Rally for Fun, 8609 North Spring Court NW, Pickerington, OH  43147.  Please include a check made payable to ARF for $10.00. Name:______________________________________________________________________________ Street:______________________________________________________________________________ City, State, Zip:_______________________________________________________________________ E-mail :______________________________________________________________________________ In consideration of my participation in this workshop sponsored by Agility and Rally for Fun, I agree to indemnify and hold harmless Agility and Rally for Fun LLC, the owner of the training center at 1000 Morrison Road, and all other persons connected or associated with this workshop from any claim or loss or injury to myself, my dog or my possessions which may be alleged to have been caused directly or indirectly by any of the above mentioned while on this property. I personally assume all responsibility and liability for any claims regarding theft, accident, injury, and death or otherwise alleged to be caused by negligence of the above mentioned. SIGNATURE:____________________________________________  DATE SUBMITTED:_______________________

I’d given up writing about training methods, good, bad, and silly.  It seemed that the Non-Aversive loving, Operant-Conditioning Zombies had been winning the heart of the politically correct society we live in, and it just wasn’t worth the flaming stupidity that happened when you dared argue with the Clicker Sorority.  (Yeah, it’s mostly a female movement.)  I no longer cared what these people did in their training, as long as I was free to train in the method that I know works best.  Click your brains out ladies, and hope you don’t need to correct any behavior problems with that thing…And I left it at that.  What a relief…

But something has happened, and a new uprising is stirring in the dog training world.  Balanced Trainers, like myself, are beginning to rise up on blogs, chat rooms, and other canine based internet sites.  They are writing and making video’s, and finally pushing back on the tidal wave of Skinnerites, and Pryor Zombies.  They are exposing the failures of Non -Aversive training, they are pointing out the harm that a militant stand for any SINGLE method causes dogs.  When a Clicker trainer admits that they have behavior problems with their own dog, or a clients, the Balanced Trainers are finally jumping on it and providing guidance where none has existed before.  What happened?

Well, it seems that the “politically correct” (as a collective) , always seeking complete control, went to far too fast.  Amongst other actions, they have succeeded in legislating a complete “Ban” on certain training collars in the country of Wales.  They are aiming at the rest of the U.K., but Balanced Trainers are rising up in defense of methods that are not only successful, but completely harmless to dogs.  The methods of Balance succeed where non-aversive devotee’s regularly fail.   The Balanced Trainers have risen up.  It’s about freaking time!!!

I think this latest turn-around, and subsequent surge of Reason, came at the guiding hand of Ivan Balabanov, World Champion competitor and Trainer.  Oh yeah, he’s also a breeder of the Belgian Malinois, something else that ticks off the HSUS,  ASPCA, PETA and the other alphabet soup of busy bodies that think they know best for the dog world.  Ivan has probably been to busy traveling the world training dogs and winning everything to keep abreast of this nonsense.  He has really turned his attention to helping train new handlers, study canine learning, and inspiring a new era in dog training.  He’s written some fantastic new things, and I suspect and hope that he is working on a new book discussing the topic of “Aversives” in training.  Beware Non-Aversive types…such a book could cause serious brain hemorrhaging to many of your militant types…Here’s a link to some of Ivans stuff.  http://malinois.com/site-training-tips/positive-training-or-reliable-training/    Ivan knows his way around a training facility, the mind of the dog, and oh yeah…The top of the Winners platform.  But he also trains peoples pet’s.  The dogs enjoy being with him, and their families enjoy learning from him.  I’m writing a separate post about this remarkable Dog Man, so I’ll move on to some other very fine posts and opinions that have recently jumped into the public domain.  Maybe Common Sense is making a much needed resurgence…

Stop number 2 on our tour of Balanced Trainers is to Mr. Roger Hild of http://www.tsurodogtraining.com/  Check out his methodology on the main page as you scroll down.  The  Tsuro Method…Balanced, effective, and well described.  Also visit his interesting articles link http://www.tsurodogtraining.com/articles_of_interest.htm      Remember, my purpose in highlighting these trainers and their sites is to encourage you to pursue BALANCED Training, rather than a militant stand for any single method.  Every dog needs a unique combination of things to successfully  take to training.  NO SINGLE method alone can help a dog with behavior problems…One article that he writes on is here…http://www.tsurodogtraining.com/_articles/real_training.html     Another is titled, http://www.tsurodogtraining.com/plan_b.htm

Our next stop on the balanced trainers trail is Mr. Dale McCluskeys video heavy website…http://k9pack.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/dog-psychology-corner-physical-response-and-relational-disconnect-2/   Very strong on relationship training, Dale has lots of great balanced training while also going after the damage of an unbalanced view with a vengeance…Dale tells it like it is, but his experience makes the truth pop off the screen!

And then there’s The TerrierMan!  http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2010/02/calm-and-assertive-clicker-training.html   His is a wide open blog site with so many interesting things that you’ll search this site for hours!!  The link above is especially interesting if you want to belive that Clicker training is a superior method!

Finally, I have enjoyed Mr, Tyler Muto found here…(And on Facebook!) http://connectwithyourk9.com/    and the blog, full of great reading is found here:  http://connectwithyourk9.com/category/blog/.    So balanced, and wide ranging, that you really must explore it yourself…some of my favorite articles are: http://connectwithyourk9.com/humane-dog-training-a-different-perspective/   and  http://connectwithyourk9.com/the-relativity-of-pressure/   see also:http://connectwithyourk9.com/a/  and its follow up article  http://connectwithyourk9.com/now-that-i-have-your-attention/.

Sometimes it has felt that Balanced, omnivorous trainers have been shut into small prison cells and joyously shouted down by the cult of OC and Aversive Training deniers.  I am thrilled to be able to start hearing from and seeing the Balanced Methods finally get their word out and slowly eroding into the monopoly that a relative small group of VERY LOUD and media savvy +R trainer militants have held.  All I ask of you, my reader, is to investigate everything that is out there for your dog!!!

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.

I am an admirer of the contemporary essayist and writer, Edward Hoaglund. (If you’re interested, here’s more info.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montaigne)    Chances are, you’ve never heard of him, but thats’ why I’m writing this post.  Mr. Hoaglund was born in New York, New York in 1932.  During his early twenties, he took a job at the Ringling Brother and Barnum and Bailey’s Circus  tending to the large cats that took part in the circus acts.  Pretty exciting stuff for a young man looking to find a voice in the world…Thats a side note regarding my admiration for him, as young Edward had a speech impediment, a severe stammer.  He is quoted as saying, regarding this problem,  “‘Words are spoken at considerable cost to me, so a great value is placed on each one. That has had some effect on me as a writer. As a child, since I couldn’t talk to people, I became close to animals. I became an observer, and in all my books, even the novels, witnessing things is what counts.”

You see, he and I share a speech impediment.  His,  a stammer making speech unintelligible at times.  My own is a strangulated vocal chord sometimes making my voice too weak to be heard, or hard consonants impossible to form.  So we’ve both bonded with the written word, in order to bring to life what we observe, feel, and need to express.  We also share a great love of canis familiaris, and we sate our love for them by writing about them.  I was ruminating over my recent post on “The Bond” we all seek to form with our dogs, and it occurred to me that Edward had written something quite profound in the same vein.  I frantically tried to remember where I had read it, but couldn’t find it for Part 1…Well, I finally found it in my journal, where I recorded it, and it will be central to the rest of this post.  Here’s the quote:

“In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human.  The Point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog!” – E. Hoaglund.

Pretty profound if you’re asking my opinion.  And yet, it’s almost a completely ignored concept in the world of dog training today.  An examination of specific modals of contemporary “training”  show a heavy and misguided reliance on  pure “Science”, which ignores that dogs are bound, or even freed, by the emotional capacity that they have.  Science and Behavioral Theory ignore the true source of the bond that human and dog can achieve together, namely a flow of energy that produces positive action between the two living souls.  Heavy reliance on clickers and food treats(and the crazy idea of ever increasingly, “high value”  treats)  to achieve obedience, or tricks, or whatever actually blocks the ideal flow of energy thru the dog, by interruption.  Therefore such methods are more like bandages on sucking chest wounds, unable to stop bleeding because of inadequacy.  Training our dogs should more properly focus on the personal trust and bond that we build with our dog from day one together.

The $100,000,000,000.00 question is this:  How do I develop my own “dogness”, a state of empathy (as opposed to sympathy) with my dog?  And can we achieve that state?  Truth be told, I don’t know…but I’m trying anyway.

I’ve noticed a recent proliferation on the internet of sites that focus on “Observation” of canine behavior.  Body language and physical reactions that reveal what’s going on between those fuzzy ears.  Facebook has a page that shows photo’s of dogs and page members post their interpretation of different “signals”.  I believe that careful observation is an important part of developing “dogness”, but from reading the various posts, it seems to me that “Human Psychological”science is encroaching  on the discussion.  Some of the observations turn the dogs into furry humans with human reactions to various situations.  It becomes so complicated, burdened with way too much  minutiae, that the salient points are shrouded in “What does that mean?”  But I do believe that some of it is on track.  Most especially those observations that are simple.  Those that allow dogs to be dogs.  Those that understand that dogs are really very simple, uncomplicated, creatures.  It is only human science that turns the mind of a dog into a convoluted labyrinth of difficult to understand behaviors.  Becoming aware of your own “dogness” may well be a result of your own willingness to be simple and straightforward in your own thinking.   Again, this is a major obstacle to most people who call themselves “Trainers”, or  “Behaviorists”.  They want canine behavior to be complicated, understood only by people with degrees and formal education.  Many want to put dog training into the stratosphere of professions so that those who have only experience are cast aside as “wannabees”.  But I’m telling you, dogs are much happier as simple thinking souls.  That’s not to say that dogs are stupid, or mindless.  They do have intelligence, that much is rock-solid.  But when we understand their inherent simpleness, we can approach what Hoaglund was speaking about… becoming partially “dog”.

The first thing that I’ve attempted in gaining this bond, is to simplify my own approach to training.  I took every book on training and understanding dogs that I own, the notes from every seminar I’ve attended, and tried to distill them into one, simple truth.  I began with the concept of “Drives”.  There are behaviorists and trainers that will assign a different “drive” to every behavior.  In my thinking, they all can be refined into a single motivator, a single “drive”.  It’s called “Prey Drive”.   The drive to hunt, search, eat, and play for one essential reason.  Your dog is a “hunter”.  Operating off this conclusion has allowed me to ask simpler questions of why my dog does what he does.  “Why would a born-hunter react in this way?”  “What would a simple hunter do in this situation?”  That’s my approach…Not everybody subscribes to what I do, and that’s fine.  You find your way…Ask yourself this:  How can I see the world in the same way as my dog?  How do I suspend the human tendency to judge and analyze everything that comes before me, and react like a dog would?  How does my dog communicate with me?  Am I trying to see things from his viewpoint, or am I forcing him/her into some wayward, human paradigm like Operant Conditioning or pure Pack Behavior?  Have I ever tried to duplicate my dog’s way of communicating?  For instance, have I ever tried to duplicate a “play-bow” to my dog?  What was the reaction?  Try not speaking to your dog, and communicate thru body language…or facial expression.  Closely observe how your dog reacts to your mood…If I get frustrated or even angry about something, what does my dog do?  Hide?  Growl at me?  Suspend your adulthood for a few minutes, and pretend to be a dog!  Sniff at things, roll over on your back…whatever a dog does during it’s time.  (I’d not recommend that you  go around humping things like some dogs are wont to do, as this could lead to legal and ethical, not to mention social complications)  Find a way to Be Dog.  It will open up a whole new understanding of your canine friend!

(P.S.-  I’d also not recommend allowing someone to lead you around on a leather collar and leash in public.  More complications that you don’t want.  I’m just sayin’…)

 

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!