Archive for the ‘Choosing a German Shepherd.’ Category

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…

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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.)

 

This post has been in development for several years, waiting to finally make it onto the blog .  Frankly, it’s been driving me crazy as I just can’t seem to get it “Right”.  I know what I want to write, but I want it to sound less like psycho-babble, and more of what it really is, which is behavioral understanding…  Admittedly, I know that this post will not be the definitive description of The Bond, as I’m describing it…there’s much more to learn.  It’s going to be a life-long pursuit…But if I can start others on this journey of discovery, then I’ll be happy…There might very well be others that already recognize the “Bond” for yourself.  You may have your own description for it, your own way of developing it.  That’s wonderful…Hopefully this piece will help someone else find it for themselves and their dog…

I remember that day so vividly.  It was the first time that I saw “The Bond”, living, breathing, buzzing with a gentle hum.  I couldn’t explain it, even if I had known what I was seeing.  I’m not saying that I understand it fully even now, but I do “see” it, and my best mentors are teaching me about it…It has been theorized, and I believe substantially “proven” that dogs are all  about Energy and Flow.  (To read more, check out Kevin Behan’s Blog.)   http://naturaldogtraining.com/blog/    That’s a major part of this “Bond”.  But I’m getting the cart before the horse…Come back with me, about 6 years ago, to the beginning of my dog career…

I had already spent 6 months actually visiting GSD breeders in my research.  I had driven to, as I recall, 13 different breeders..  During that time, I was not yet shopping.  My mission was to meet as many breeders and their dogs as I could, and form my goals clearly.  I met many wonderful dogs, two or three very nice breeders, a couple of  “questionable” breeders, several breeders that shouldn’t have, and at least 2 ego-maniacs, with delusions of god-hood.  I learned a lot…I also unlearned a lot.  (Think, “never judge a book by its cover.”)  One of the breeders that I met came right in the middle of my search, sixth or seventh in line.  She was not famous, she didn’t import dogs from the finest Germanic Lines overseas, she had absolutely no pretense about herself.  But she did have an encyclopedic knowledge of her dogs and their behavior.  Her name is Rhonda Sellers, and what I saw at her facility will forever be a part of my own work with dogs.  Her farm is located in a rural area, an island in a sea of tall corn, and waving hay fields.  There’s a gate to enter as you arrive, and when I passed thru, my car was engulfed in German Shepherds.  One or two barks alerted the mistress of the property, but no excessive, anxious carrying on by the 8 German Shepherds now giving my car the 5th degree.  I admit it now, I was hesitant to open the door and get out.  I needn’t have worried though, as the Pack leader walked out onto her deck, and without word, the dogs went to her without question or hesitation.  They were protective of her, but they also knew that she was here for them.  There was nothing to worry about…

Rhonda is a slightly built lady, not imposing in any degree physically.  She could be 30 years old, or she could be 60…(Much close to 30…LOL!)  But to this pack of German Shepherds, she was the center of the universe, and their behavior was controlled by what I can only call her thoughts.  She talked to them like mature children, and they swirled around her.  As our “interview” proceeded, I recall that each dog checked me out individually.  I had come here with some very specific needs and wants.  I was honest and forthright with my strengths and weaknesses as a dog owner, and what I planned for a dog.  While Rhonda listened intently, it was easy to see that she was watching each dog in turn.  In hind sight, I think the dogs were talking to her on a whole different level, unheard by me, but ABOUT me…To this day, it was one of the strangest experiences that I have felt.  And if this sounds somehow fantastic, it’s true.  My observations for that first day are still fresh.  Rhonda moved about her large property, and the dogs moved with her like a flight of birds.  When she sat back in her chair, talking, the dogs showed the exact posture.  When she leaned forward to press a question, the dogs followed suit.  That was “The Bond” in living, breathing action.

I still had other breeders to visit over the next few weeks, and I saw some very fine dogs.  But I found myself comparing every one (dogs AND people) back to Omorrow, that small farm in the cornfields.  I even returned to a couple of those breeders from before Rhonda, to use what I had observed.  I then returned to Rhonda and made my decision, but that wasn’t the end of my experience.  Over the next few weeks, I visited and re-visited.  I thought I knew what I wanted, and was convinced.  To my surprise, I learned that this wise and experienced dog-person was deciding what I really needed.  I had decided on a pup from a large and curious Black & Tan male, with a beautiful female that looked similar.  On one visit, I was introduced to a large, solid Black male.  Certainly an imposing creature, and a first time bred female, also solid black.  Rhonda suggested one of these upcoming pups, certain in her appraisal of me.  I was mesmerized by the relationship that existed between her and the big German Shepherd, and I began to adjust what I was thinking…Suffice to say, I listened and trusted.  I have never regretted trusting her.  But that was only my first exposure to “The Bond”, that hidden state of understanding and communication that is achievable with a dog.

The next time I saw it, was with a small, but energetic fire-ball of a terrier on an Agility course.  This time I “saw” it as an identifiable energy between dog and human.  As the dog ran the course, there was no talking, no flailing hand signals by the handler…I noticed that the pair rarely were separated at the eyes…They watched one another for instruction, explanation, and yes, celebration.  It was uncanny in my thinking, and I knew that I would need to speak with the handler.  That took some time, as the duo won everything that day, and were deeply involved in the accolades heaped on them as prizes were handed out.  The handler was a very fit lady, 63 years young, well into her second adolescence.  The first question I asked her took her by surprise I think.  Usually she hears, “How did you train your dog?”  Somehow, I got it right this time, and asked, “What was going on between you and Sammy (the dog) out there?”   She laughed out loud at the question, not rudely, but in relief.  “You mean,  ‘how does he know what I want him to do?”

“Yes, exactly…you never lost your eye contact with him…It looked like you willed him thru the course.”

“Well, that’s only sort of true…We’ve worked together for 5 years now, and we have a “connection”, I’d call it…”

Our further conversation revealed that something beyond “Training” was, and had, been going on for those years.  “It’s more than mastering a specific method of training, or strict method.  A good trainer will observe the dog, motivate the dog, and allow each dog to be an individual with unique needs.  It’s a lot more work than using clickers or food or toys exclusively…but the connection is stronger.  It eliminates behavioral problems.  You learn it by living with your dog, working with your dog, and understanding where his energies flow most freely.  When both dog and handler have matching energy, you have success.  But it’s more work than most trainers want to put in, time wise.”

It should be re-noted here that I have great admiration for trainers in Agility disciplines.  They are unafraid of looking inward for better ways to relate to their dogs and the training needed.  The “bond” between dog and handler is paramount to the most successful competitors…So many other dog sports and the trainers there, are mired in tradition or “science”.   Many, (certainly not all), practitioners of Protection sports and Schutzhund, and others look tom the past for training.  Many such dogs spend more time in kennels and crates because they are unable to socialize out of fear that they will harm someone.  But it’s being proven time and time again that such dogs can be perfectly capable not only of “Family” life, but walked in public.  Such dogs are competitively successful, and well-liked and trusted out in the community.  Because the trainers/owners/handlers are using “relationship” as part of their program.  Building a “Bond” with the dog, not treating them as a tool to be used and put away.

The next time I was struck by this “Bond” was with a Sheriff’s Department K9 Unit patrolman.  It was during a simulated live  fire exercise, with a closed environment apprehension.  Officer and canine communicated silently from room to room, up two separate stairwells.  The dog was put “on point”, leading the 3-man unit in the search for a supposed armed perpetrator.  As I was the tail-end observer, I had a close view of how the dog and Handler communicated with the smallest of indicators.  I, in fact, missed the most important signal of all given by the German Shepherd.  I learned about it sometime afterward talking with the officer.  He described it this way.  “When we were in the stairwell, the dog kept his nose upward, testing the next level.  If he moved without hesitation, and avoided eye-contact, it was safe.  When he slowed, or caught my eye, he was unsure and became cautious.  When we finally reached the door where our subject was concealed, he stopped and stared at me for direction.  It was a full 30 second, unblinking stare.  But since Casey (the four-legged officer) couldn’t open the door he didn’t bark or alert.  He avoided alarming the suspect, and told me that somebody might easily be on the other side.  As you saw, he was right…That communication doesn’t just happen, and training it has no methodology.  The Deputy graciously offered me this explanation for the bond between him and his dog.  “It starts the day you meet your dog.  You begin to grow into each other.  First thing that I recommend a new Handler/Canine do together?  Play ball together, get out a tug-toy, and wear each other out.  If it takes an hour, do it for the full hour.  If you can’t do that, you need to be in better shape anyway.  Play is the foundation of your team training.  Everything in the dogs future is a game to him.  Forge that bond immediately and build it everyday.  Invent other games, and work out at things that make the dog rely on your communication for what you want him to do in a given situation.  Try to do some of this without using your voice, just facial expression or hand signs.  Build this relationship strong enough, and you just might get the urge to take a dump in the backyard, just like the dog!”

Okay, that may be more information than necessary, but the officer was making a point.  Relationships are made by working, playing, and being silent together.  In other words, Living together.  Getting inside the others thoughts and intentions.

I’m still trying to understand if this type of “bond” is possible with every dog owner and their dog.  It might the possession of only a few special people and their canine.  Certainly, far fewer have it than claim to have it.  That much can be observed at any dog-park on the Blue planet we call home.  This bond cannot be forced into existence, nor commanded, nor willed by force.  It cannot be forged by the fire of passion, but rather, appears to coalesce, like fog in a boreal forest.  Slow, quiet, not observable except by those that recognize its unique properties.  And it certainly cannot be rushed.   But I  know that we can all pursue The Bond.  I don’t believe that it’s only a matter of how much time we spend with our dog to achieve it.  Certainly that helps, but the quality of time and work and drive to learn together is a huge part of the equation.  We all eventually get the dog we deserve, and the end result is squarely on your human shoulders.  Give your dog your very best, and never stop pursuing, The Bond…

 

I was quite shocked at the reaction to my last post.  Overwhelmed to say the least.  It was easily the biggest 24 hour period in the history of the blog, and I’m grateful, if surprised.  Truth be told, I had put off posting “Why There Will Always Be Back Yard Breeders” for 2 weeks, thinking that the piece wasn’t going to interest anyone.  It also felt like I was missing some pertinent viewpoint, a statement that covered the every angle…In that last point, posting was the catalyst for clarity.  I had seen the tip of the iceberg, but there was much more below the surface, waiting.  Thanks to the messages on the Blogsite, and the very active discussion on Facebook, I believe we can further the discussion in positive, and upbuilding ways.

The post was intended to start a discussion founded on cooperation, understanding of other viewpoints, and a realization that we all have different reasons for owning dogs.  For the most part, I think I accomplished that in some small way.  Still, I also found those who read everything thru a certain prism of their own preconceived notion, no matter how diplomatically it is written.  Which is unfortunate, because these are the people that cause the problems within the community…

There were a couple of issues I deeply want to refute.  One individual thought that I was taking an “elitist” attitude towards “Back Yard Breeders” and even referred to me as “arrogant”.  Wow…Back Up the dog-sled Kellie Ann.  My use of the term “Back Yard Breeder” is for the generally known terminology.  I didn’t coin it, and it’s recognized by most.  I didn’t define “Back Yard Breeder” as anything negative OR positive…It’s simply a generic term in use by many.  There are many fine dogs produced by breeders that limit to a single litter per year or less, and they could be labeled as such should you choose to do so…

One other thing, NEVER did I say that you must pay any set amount for a “Good” dog.  I have met GSD’s that were very fine specimens for free.  I have met $15000.00 dogs that I wouldn’t own because they were not well-bred.  I never value anything based on monetary concerns.  Or amounts.  Please, people READ what was written without preconceived ideas of what I “might” write.  I’m fairly clean and understandable.  I also believe that I have a good grasp of how to be neutral, and inviting.  This is based on my exceptional ability to BE Opinionated and xenophobic to the extreme.

There was also a post that insinuated that I was dismissing of the AKC registered dog.  Again, a supposition that is patently untrue.  What was expressed was that it’s very easy to tell AKC anything you want, and have a printed pedigree.  They offer NO details of health, hips, or anything else on said pedigree.  But they are trusted by many who are know no better.  For the time being, the AKC is the best record keeping we have in the USA.  Don’t put words in my mouth Kellie Ann.  Thank you…

There were a couple of others that chose to take cheap shots at certain specific breeders.  These are people that have individual and often unsubstantiated beefs with said breeders.  Mostly due to their own ignorance, or seeking to elevate another breeder.  This was NOT the place for it, nor is Facebook.  I have reported those posts and taken them off their respective posts.  These are the very types of things that cause so many problems that we are trying to address.  “V.M.”, YOU are not helping.  Grow Up.

NOW FOR THE BEST PART!!! (The POSITIVE Stuff!)

I cannot thank you all for the vastly overwhelming positive discussion enough.  Even when you disagreed with me, or questioned something, you were NICE.  You Joined a Discussion in a positive way, and CONTRIBUTED.  Believe it or not, over 41,000 of you.  That’s a huge deal for me, and I’m grateful for all of the shares, and especially for all the new FRIEND requests that I have, and the new Followers here.  I want to mention a few by name…

My new Friend Lila Bauwens.  Your calm demeanor and wonderful thoughtful words are inspiring!

Terry Maxwell, your story touched a heartstrings, but made a powerful point!!

Lydia Campbell!!  YOU are exactly the type of person that deserves to have whatever dogs come into your life, because I KNOW they will be loved, cared for, and happy.  Your story of your 3 made my day!  Thank you!

LM Duke- Your quiet wisdom and experience made my day!

There are many others!!!  Thank you all!

Now that the discussion is started, I’m researching my next two posts.  They will be entitled:       ” Why Breeders Breed. ”      and     “Why Rescuers Rescue”.     I look forward to your input!!

 

Recently, a certain Facebook page has been a battle zone because an individual posted questions about breeding her German Shepherd.  The poster was obviously new to the idea, uneducated, and woefully unready for the task ahead. I’m not saying she was “unworthy”, but that’s the way the boards took it. As can be expected,  she got flamed by several hundred people from every strata of the dog community.  Many of the comments were heated, many were unprofessional, many were quite correct.  What was accomplished?  Absolutely nothing of value.  I’m positive that it will be her last post on what is the largest and most popular German Shepherd page on Facebook, but I think we’ve once again shot ourselves in the proverbial foot.  Here’s why:

Every professional breeder of dogs stands by their dogs as “The Finest”, “Exclusive”, “Best Temperament”, ” German Lines”,  “We sell to the US Military” or some such other claim, whether true or not so…And we ask some fairly high prices for our product.  Which is fine.  If an individual will pay $30,000.00 US Dollars for one of your dogs, more power to you.  That’s wonderful.  And I’m not going to ask anyone to stop pushing that envelope…If you can get a Million Bucks for a dog, Yippeee!!!  I’d take it in an instant.  By my crude calculation, we will have cornered 0.00002% of the Canine buying market that can afford those prices.  I know as well as you that breeding and caring for a new batch of puppies from a fine pedigree is NOT a huge money-making scheme with the overhead involved.  Veterinary bills, food, kenneling, and other sundry expenses eat profits like potato chips.  If we sold our dogs for too little, we’d be paying people to take puppies.  Too much, and we’d have no facility to properly keep them.  You’d end up on an episode of “Hoarders” or the local 6 ‘o clock news.  Therein begins the problem…

We all get on Facebook, or our websites and extol the virtues of our German Shepherds.  We do all the right things for them, and  produce beautiful, well performing, temperate dogs.  Then we charge $2000.00 for a pup.  Untrained.  For many prospective buyers, that’s pretty steep.  Especially if the buyer is NOT interested in PSA, or Schutzhund, or any other discipline.  They just want a family dog.  But,  “$2000.00??!”   they’ll moan.  “Well I can find a German Shepherd in the newspaper for $100.00!”  And they’re right.  Because there’s a market for them.  Yes, those dogs aren’t fit for breeding, working, or many times, trusting. However, outside of our collective of serious, professional breeders, trainers, and handlers, there’s a lot of customers waiting.  And there are, and always will be, less than concerned people who are willing to do volume business over anything resembling improvement of the breed.  These people skip the overhead, feeding the cheapest “food” they can find, skipping veterinary care, proper whelping facilities, and socialization.  Proper care?  Fat chance when they  have 10 litters on the ground…Some of these even have the temerity to register their litters with AKC.  To a large part of the population, “AKC Registered” means much more than it deserves.  It’s nothing to BYB or Puppy mills but a “Selling Feature”…

There will always be people to whom a “German Shepherd”, (or any other breed) is a status symbol, or a weapon in untrained hands.  They give no regard to the fact that some of us value the quality of our dogs.  They don’t care if we ridicule them on Facebook either.  What can we do about it?  Not much. Trying to stop them with legislation doesn’t work.  Ever seen those signs around schools that declare a “Drug-free, Gun-free Zone”?  Yeah, I’ll bet those signs made every parent of a child  in that Connecticut Grade school feel safe too…It’s the same effect.

We, as protectors of the breed, could also use some lessons in diplomacy.  When people ask uninformed or outright ignorant questions, it does NO GOOD to flame them out, and tell them that  they’re idiots.  They WILL find a dog somewhere, and the cycle begins again.  Frankly, I don’t know how to stop substandard breeders and their ragged product.  Give Well-Bred dogs away?  Not Likely.  Lower our prices?  Not practical or advisable.  Hunt down and eliminate back yard breeders? Torch the puppy mills?  Enjoy prison.  Some of them have great dog training programs for inmates.   Legislate spaying and neutering for every dog that doesn’t meet a “Standard”?   Just whose standard shall we use???

I’m convinced that the only thing we can do, is educate, educate, educate.  Calmly.  Professionally.  Thoroughly.  Train our dogs well, and use every opportunity to show the interested the how and why of our well-bred dogs.  For those who have the means, find a young person that would love a dog, but may not have the means, and make an apprentice out of them for a couple of hours a week.  Everybody wins in that situation.  There has to be more ways to encourage preservation of the great dogs, than just the petty warfare so often found on the internet.  The real effort may be in the losing of EGO among some of us…Every Facebook page, and every forum has several “EXPERTS” only too happy to spew vitriol at anyone they deem unworthy.  Who died and made them God?  I don’t know, but I do know that we, and the breed, will lose this war if we don’t find a more effective way of causing change.

The main focus of my canine-training, is, and always has been, scent-detection/Search & Rescue and nose work.  Barely 2% of my time is spent with Protection, bite work, or anything of that type.  Yes, we play some fairly aggressive games with our dogs, answering their need to express their “Prey Drive” emotion adequately.  These games involve lots of Tugging games, Goose-chasing, (I balk at calling this “herding” because Hans likes to go straight ahead and make the buggers fly off in a panic, rather than round them up), and occasionally some sleeve work, to keep his skills sharp.  But when you have a large, black, german shepherd, non dog-people will always assume that he is a Trained Weapon of Mass Destruction.  And even if he is, they will have a completely mis-guided, uninformed idea of what it takes for a dog to do protection work.

There will always be that type of person that observes a working dog performing protection work, that say’s, “I gotta have me one of those…”  Not only do such people completely misunderstand the work, the responsibility, and the sweat-equity involved in such training, but they demonstrate their COMPLETE ignorance of dogs.  (By the way, The National Rant Service is hereby issuing a “Impending Rant Warning” for this blogsite effective immediately)

The question that set this off went this way,  verbatim:  “How do you make your dog mean enough to do Attack Dog stuff?”  If this was a one time only, unique question, I probably would have given a calm answer.  Explained the truth behind what we do…but the question, and the assumption, keeps rearing it’s ugly head.  It’s time that it was addressed…

Yes Virginia, there are Mean dogs.  They might also be called “abused” dogs, not-withstanding physically ill or mentally damaged specimens.  Such dogs are to be found tied-out behind garages, shut in cages, or simply abused by ignorant and evil humans.  This is often how members of the “Innocently ignorant” public feel about dogs trained as protectors, or sport dogs.  They must be “Mean” in order to do protection work…(This is where my aneurysm starts).

Let me be succint.  A Dog that is “Mean”, is an untrained dog and has no right to the title, “Protection Trained.”  An owner that goads, teases, or abuses a dog to the degree that it is “Mean”, reactive, or untrustworthy around other living souls, is an evil person.  They are not “trainers”, “Handlers”, or any other sort of “Expert”.  In fact, if you train dogs by being abusive, you are wholly, morally bankrupt.  And mentally deficient in more ways than I can say…Don’t call yourself a Dog Trainer.  Ever.

Now, back to my calm, professional demeanor…

Most trainers of true “protection” dogs are producing dogs that will fit into the mold you could easily call “family” dogs.  These dogs are calm, obedient, social, and love children.  They are also healthy, mentally and physically.  Yes, when so directed, they will do what must be done to protect and serve their family.  But you will rarely see this displayed, because the dog is “trained”.  Normally, I fall back on my own dogs as examples, but this time I want you to meet a dog and trainer that meets these standards perfectly!  The dog’s name is “Valko”.  He is dark sable German Shepherd.  He was trained by one of the finest trainers on planet earth, Mr. Wade Morrell of Ohio. https://www.facebook.com/Priority1Canine   The dog is sharp and tough, and will fight like a lion under the proper conditions and permission of his handler.  He has earned his “Protection Dog” title.  This same dog, was recently placed into a family, to serve his purpose.  (I’m not using names, because they don’t know I’m using them here.)  The family has young boys, about 5 and 9 years of age.  Too watch this family with this dog, you would be lead to believe that that they’ve owned the dog since it’s birth.  They are, impressively, bonded as a family circle.  No small feat, as this is pretty much the family’s first dog.  The big Shepherd watches over those children with the eye of a Guardian, as well as the parents.  Out in public, the dog is social, even gentle, to new people that are given approval.  “Valko” is obedient to a fault, but retains something that tells you he is still a “Dog”, given to stealing corndogs, and rolling over expecting belly rubs from any available fingers.  Can I give any higher praise to a “Protection Dog”?  I don’t believe it possible…

This short example is just one example of the many finely trained protection dogs out there.  There is no “Mean” about them…Only protective, and very capable of stopping harm to his own.  This is a topic I could write on long, and enthusiastically.  But I’m going to end it on this note:

“Properly trained, a Human Being can be a Dog’s Best Friend”.

"Mean?"  Or well-trained?  Don't jump to conclusions.

“Mean?” Or well-trained? Don’t jump to conclusions.

No subject obsesses dog owners more than how to feed a proper diet to their dog.  Sadly, it’s a subject that causes as many fights and quarrels as training methods.  Facebook has several Raw feeding/BARF pages,(Biologically Appropriate Raw Food), as well as links to other groups and pages.  Some of these pages are quite friendly, and really do seek to help, and discuss the subject.https://www.facebook.com/groups/RawHealth/?hc_location=stream  This one is my particular favorite.

http://www.rawinstinctsmagazine.com/RIM2.html  And this is the online magazine that Erica Danow is behind.  I can’t find a more even keeled and informative website anywhere on this important subject

I really have enjoyed the pages that Erica  has set up on FB, as well as her Raw Instinct Magazine website…

Other sites, which I will not dignify with identification, have a “My way or the Highway” approach.  Perfect!!   Just what the Dog World needs…More reasons to fight and carry on…It’s tiresome and really quite off-putting.  But, we still have freedom of speech…at least for the moment.  I’m only going to express my disdain of these websites and pages by NOT MENTIONING their names.  On with the meat of the matter…(Raw meat, specifically, organ meat)

I did not start out as a Raw diet feeder.  And I’m still NOT doing it 100%  My reasons are  probably typical, (Assume whiney voice)…”It’s too much work!”, “It’s Expensive”, “I didn’t have time to visit the butcher…”, “I’m on the road so much…”(We do Search & Rescue work), “I need to figure out what else we can add to supplement…”    You’ve heard these and more yourself, maybe even said them yourself.  Truth be told, all of these things are true…But the more I switch over, the benefits to my dogs are so striking, that it all falls away like chaff.  Let me address these whiney excuses one at a time:

“It’s Too Much Work”-  Oh shut your pie-hole!  Raw meat, maybe a few pieces of sweet potato, (my dogs love them!) a dollop of plain yogurt occasionally, green beans…It doesn’t take any longer than dumping a bowl of toxic kibble into a bowl and then praying that your dog will eat it.  Another surprise I got was the enthusiasm which the furkids attack a Raw meal…Hesitation?  I don’t think so…As you practice and collect new ideas, it becomes simpler and more routine.

“It’s Expensive!”-  Lets see, in my case, two German Shepherds equals roughly two and a half large bags of “Premium” kibble per month.  That’s about $190.00 each month.  Then add in the expense of treating their itchy skin, hotspots, and nasty tartar build up in their teeth.  Add another $300.00 in Vet Bills.  Then, consider the long term medical effects of feeding overcooked, under nourishing kibble, and you can add another $5000.00 to $10,000.00 amortized over 10 years.  With a little creativity and learning, Raw feeding can be done quite nicely for around $200.00 per month.  But that’s me…Some spend more, some spend less. Hey, here’s a crazy idea…STOP Spending $8.00 on a Starbucks Cup-O-Sludge!!  Again, the savings from Vet bills can be substantial.  AND, Your dog will be much happier!

“I’m on the road so much!”   My personal stand by excuse.  Ever hear of a gadget called the Coleman Cooler?  Used by hillbillies with 4th grade educations everyday of the summer to keep beer cold while floating down a river on an inner-tube!  Surely you can figure out a way to use one in your Ford Expedition or Chevy Malibu.  (Maybe not in a Fiat, but why would you want a car smaller than the cooler and with less horsepower anyway?)  They even have these coolers that plug-in to your dash and make their own cold air!!

“I didn’t have time to visit my butcher…”  Oh my sweet, giddy-aunt… Get over yourself and schedule your life in a more adult manner!

“I need to figure out a varied meal plan to make it interesting for the dog…”  You know what?  You’re right.  But between the resources above, and the people who hang out there, and the top-notch writing at Raw Instinct, and the friendly group on Facebook’s “Raw Health”, you should have no problem coming up with something.  Or a bunch of somethings…Hop to it, Jack! (Or Jackie as the case may be)

"Sure it's Raw, but it's still civilized!"

“Sure it’s Raw, but it’s still civilized!”

Okay, I’ve allowed myself to blow off some irreverence in this post, and you’ll notice that I’m NOT giving specific advice on WHAT to feed, or when, or how.  Please, make these resources the place for solid information.  You’ll develop your own Raw Feeding program eventually, that works for you and your dog.  You’ll find people there that make mixes of their own, you’ll find those that really go back to nature in a big way.  For instance, twice a month my dogs get freshly killed chickens, (One per customer Thank You!) feathers, beaks, and feet included.  They love it, and their health displays it!  For the squeamish, there’s a lot of alternatives.  Pick what works!!beefliver

I want to Thank my friend Dharma GSD for first getting me on the ” Road  to Raw” (Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, 1945)   My dogs health has been all the better for it, and our Vet really hates us!

"I'd build a fire and cook this, but I've got NO thumbs!  RAW it is!!"

“I’d build a fire and cook this, but I’ve got NO thumbs! RAW it is!!”