Archive for the ‘Dog Book Reviews’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



    A  Dog-Training DVD that is simple, effective, AND engaging.  Hmmmmm…Sounds like the most difficult formula in the industry today.  So many training  dvd’s become victims of bad editing, poor production, or convoluted training methods that require too much explanation.  Many others, while informative, are often boring.  Well, now I’ve found a DVD that is entertaining, informative, and uses a methodology that IS  something truly innovative…Common Sense, and sound canine psychology.

 The title of the DVD is,  “3 Dog Days”, produced by Columbus, Ohio based Dog Behaviorist, Angie Winters, and “German Shepherd Adventures” gives it an enthusiastic  5 PAWS UP! (5 out of 5). 

  It should be noted from the start that the methods here are NOT intended for dogs under 4 months of age, but are designed as lessons for teaching respect, structure, and leadership to your pet.  They would be especially effective for Rescued dogs, or those taken into your home at a later time than puppyhood.  That’s as close as I can get to a critical statement of the DVD…I truly hope that Angie produces more instructional dvd’s in the very near future, addressing other subjects such as bringing home a new puppy.  She has a gift for understanding dogs, and teaching people what to do for them.  Let’s get to the meat of the matter!

  “3 Dog Days” is based solidly on the owner being a LEADER.  Ms.  Winters first point is that her method provides “…firm structure in a respectful manner…never hit, kick, or yell” at your dog…Anger doesn’t teach anything” .  (Now you can say the words, “that’s just common sense”)  She further makes the point very clear, that this is all about the Relationship that exists between humans and dogs.  It’s a very special and unique arrangement that effectively helps the team to develop a mutually supportive atmosphere based on trust between Leader and Follower.  Winters has a sound understanding of how dogs think, and what they want from us in every day life, and she describes it very well.

Using three techniques, (1) Silent Support  (2) Companionship and Control  and (3) Crate Work, “3 Dog Days”  will guide you both thru a weekend that will create an entirely new atmosphere in your home.  These are very positive techniques, without being mired down by the “jargon” and “What does that Term mean?” of so many “positive training methods”.  Again, this is just innovative “Common Sense” being used.  Somewhere, we lost that in the science that has become so prevalent in dog training.

“3 Dog Days” also utilizes the idea that each and every dog is a unique individual, requiring  a different approach.  This is the true strength of Ms. Winters approach.  Her well-rounded, and flexible techniques allow for such needs, which makes the canine in the equation more at ease.  Affect the dogs mind, to create a respectful relationship…This is powerfully demonstrated by the use of a “feral”, completely untrained dog, undergoing the transformation into an ideal pet dog. 

One outstanding method used here, is the most difficult to master for the human.  KEEP SILENT while training.  Do Not use the voice to calm the dog.  All of us talk too much in this relationship and learning Silent Support will push you into a powerful tool in training your dog. 

Body Language is another tool in the “3 Dog Days” that you will learn.  Our dogs watch us closely, far more so than we as humans do.  Focusing on that will be a revelation to some.  Using the snap of a finger, Winters corrects the dog from a distance, and gets the results that make your dog the well-behaved pet you desire.  Achieving Leadership, Leadership, and Leadership are the backbone of the “3 Dog Days” method.  The dogs mind, and personality , are both  fully engaged by the trainer/owner.  The steps to follow are clearly and easily explained in their entirety.  Many instructional dvds today seem to hold back small details from the viewer, so as to create a need for another DVD, to explain even further.  “3 Dog Days” gives you every detail the first time…

Mention should also be given about the technical details of the “3 Dog Days”.  If you have ever watched DVDs from Leerburg productions, you have found them instructive and interesting.  But they have taken little care in their editing.  Spelling errors and other glitches are common, and annoying.  “3 Dog Days” was produced by professionals that crossed all the “T’s”, and dotted all the “I’s”.  The settings and lighting were well designed and easy on the eyes.  The best compliment I can give is that this dvd is one that you will watch over and over again!  “Common Sense” has found a home in the world of canine training!!!

  In conclusion, I need to explain something about the title of this review, in which the words “Bubble Bath” appear.  In a wonderful moment of whimsy and humanness, Winters demonstrates that your dog and his training should be FUN!!!  That’s all the detail I’ll give on that.  But the fact that this very instructional and informative  DVD doesn’t take dog-training rigidly serious, will surprise and delight you!!! 

The DVD is available from    found here.  It’s well worth purchasing!


“German Shepherd Adventures” was first published on the ubiquitous Facebook.  As my posts became longer, and more photo-centric, I moved into the wonderful world of WordPress.  I love my online home here, and I am ever so thankful that this well-run, and easy to use site exists.  WordPress you are THE BEST!!!

Recently, as Facebook has become more of a mind to make as much cash as possible, or gather as much  information about its users as possible, they are making it more and more difficult to publicize and share my blog there.  At times, I have received messages from FB stating that I am writing SPAM, and will be prevented from posting for as much as 15 days at a time.  I do NOT sell anything on “German Shepherd Adventures”, I do not espouse political or religious views, but rather, I write a very positive blog that most dog lovers seem to enjoy.  Why “German Shepherd Adventures” has suddenly been branded  as SPAM by the FB people is beyond my understanding.  I can no longer depend on them as a conduit to spread information that helps people and their dogs.  It’s apparently okay to spread other “unsavory” sites featuring puking, drunkenness, violence, and foul language, but not stories and information about German Shepherds.  So be it.

That’s why I’d like to invite as many of you as would like to Subscribe to “German Shepherd Adventures” by hitting the “Follow” button at the top of the page.  If you don’t like my posts, you don’t have to do anything.  I suspect that perhaps someone on FB has labeled “GSA” as Spam enough times to make some computer somewhere take this action.  If you don’t want to read something you disagree with, I’ve never forced you to do so.  I’ve survived other attacks on FB over training methods, and perhaps one of those knuckle-draggers has something to do with this.  I don’t know…

So, please, if you enjoy my blog, come on over and subscribe.  I promise you it will be free, and I’ll continue to do my best to entertain, enthuse, inspire, and help you out with every post!   Thanks for your support!!   Robert Vaughan

A brief but very important post.  This week I received a short book purchased thru Amazon that has really shocked me.  In the last several weeks, the Omorrow pack witnessed the end results of a tragic medical error involving vaccinations.  A dear, sweet, German Shepherd named Smokey paid the price for what can be called a “Clerical” error.  The ultimate price.

We’ve always debated, questioned, and wondered about vaccinations for our dogs.  Most of us are “minimalist” when it comes to them, getting only what is absolutely necessary.  My friend Aimee Davis is Smokey’s owner, along with her partner Joe.  Since the awful situation, they have set out to try and fight these mistakes.  They’ve been researching alternatives feverishly.  And several of us have joined them.  I want to share an important resource that I found.

Stop The Shotsis not long, 102 pages.  But the author, John Clifton, has simplified and explained the most salient points in the debate.  The book is inexpensive.  Please check it out for the sake of your dog.

For you Smokey…




In my constant effort to keep up on the very best “Dog-Centric” writing, the part I look forward to most is finding a new story-teller with a fresh voice.  “Don’t Give Up On That Dog” by Denine Phillips is one of these books!

The most endearing part of this informative story, is that Denine lets her own doubts and small misgivings come through. She never claims the title of “Dog-Trainer”, or “Behavior Expert” A German Shepherd is a real handful as a puppy, and her first-time status as an owner is the center piece of her writing.   During an encounter with a trainer of Seeing-eye Dogs, and her yellow-Lab trainee, the author wonders what she has gotten herself into, choosing a German Shepherd.  A feeling common among first time GSD owners.

Her honest writing style records her mistakes, while at the same time, re-enforcing her drive to raise a well-trained and behaved dog.  She also tells a heart-rending story of Cooper becoming trapped by the door of his crate, and her frantic effort to free him.  Every story she tells is used as a lesson for every dog owner.  Her voice is never heavy handed, but is always self-deprecating and eager to share “what I did,so you don’t repeat it”.   It’s beautiful to see such work written by someone that doesn’t place her educational accomplishments prominently for her readers to plainly see.  There’s no ego in her writing that would put off everyday dog owners.  She never claims expertise, but her experience is used as a virtual classroom for all dog owners.

Another common obsession among German Shepherd owners has always been fully erect ears, and Denise’s new puppy, “Cooper” has a somewhat lazy,  though completely endearing, set of ears.  The efforts to correct the problem lead to a wonderful conclusion, that all dog owners obsessed with “appearance” should take to heart.

“Don’t Give Up On That Dog” is also outstanding in the neutral tone taken regarding training.  So often today, new authors become militant in whatever method they employ, and that schtick has become cloying at least.  Trainers from Cesar Millan to Victoria Stilwell, to Br. Christopher Savage (Monks of New Skete) to Patricia McConnell are quoted and respected.  Phillips doesn’t preach or proselytize any method stridently, preffering to focus on the end result.  Her end results have been outstanding as well, as her dog Cooper is today, a VERY accomplished dog.

Whether or not Denine Phillips ever writes another dog book, (Which I hope she does!)should doesn’t let on.   By the time she does, the title “expert” just might be fitting. This one should be in every conscientious dog-owners library.  It’s sad, funny, informative, easily read, and encouraging.  You can be successful in raising your own dog by following the experiences shared here so simply, and positively.   

If you want to start a fight with dog trainers, just give your opinion which method  of training is “Best”.  I promise you acrimony, pity, insults, and passive/aggressive attacks from EVERY  methods camp.  Usually from a tiny, vocal, minority.  Argue against any method, and you will reach DEF-CON 4 in short order.

I have written a post that will be controversial with canine community members that read it.  That realization is cause for sadness and deep disappointment for me, but that possibility goes right to the heart of why I wrote what follows. Actually, read without bias, you will find that TRAINING is NOT the point here, but rather the WAY it is presented to the public.   In point of fact, I have sat on this piece for several months, not wanting to make anyone feel as though I was attacking deeply held beliefs.  Attack was never my intention.  I am, truly, trying to find a common thread that might bring different philosophies together.  There is something to be learned in each method.

The editing that has occurred here has been brutal, but ultimately cathartic for me.  It helped me refine my own methodology, and look past a wall of Opinion.  I thought I had finally found a way to unite several disparate camps.  Unfortunately, when the smoke cleared, I was confronted by another wall.  This was not my Wall.  It was built by others, and a small, passionately vocal, group is still fortifying this wall.  Some in this group question my objectivity (which I maintain, despite popular notion) on this subject. 

My only request is that before you ignore me, “unfriend” me, or fill my comment box with malignant ire, read the post in its entirety.  You will find that this is not a post recommending one dog-training method over another.  Rather, it has become an essay pointing out the bottomless chasm of ridiculous and impotent arguments among dog trainers, and by extension, the entire society in which we currently live.

Zeitgeist translates loosely into the “Spirit of the Times”, and makes reference to the attitude that prevails in any given group at any given time.  In the past several years, a definite “Zeitgeist”, has wound it’s way into a collective of individuals that train dogs.  Truth be told, there is more than one such collective, each with its own particular zeitgeist.  That is my subject.

I have been an admirer of Mr. Cesar Millan, a.k.a. The Dog Whisperer, for several years.  (Some of you just bolted for the nearest exit, I know.)  During my early times with dogs, I have also been very interested in a training system known as Operant Conditioning, or “Clicker Training”.  The main source of contemporary training in this highly successful method, is a talented woman by the name of Karen Pryor. (Some of our runaways just peeked back around the door to see if  I’ve come to my senses)

Please note, that I manage to admire both individuals.  That admiration took a torpedo in the waterline recently, and it lead me to finish this piece.  I have always been an equal opportunity type, and I employ facets of each of these systems in my personal training.  I also use other methods beyond them.  Each dog is different, and responds in it’s own way to each stimuli.  I use that which produces the best result with that individual dog.

This last week, my wife and I enjoyed attending Cesar Millans speaking tour in Columbus, Ohio.  Mr. Millan is engaging, entertaining, and informative without being preachy, or criticizing those who dislike him and his methods. ( In stark contrast to his  detractors.)  And they are legion…Anyway, I casually mentioned that we would be seeing his show on one of the social media outlets, and the response shocked me.  “How can go see a show that teaches such brutality with dogs?!!!”    “I have no respect for any Trainer that employs his methods!”  I have many more, but these two pretty well sum up the list.  Some of them attack Millan’s personality, while others stick to his methods.  Still others take laser aim at his lack of Educational Degrees or Certificates of Expertise.  I knew that Cesar is, unfortunately, a polarizing figure in the canine training world. Some time ago, you were forced to choose your allegiance to either him or Victoria Stillwell, another television dog trainer/behaviorist.  You couldn’t possibly admire both simultaneously, simply out-of-the-question.

Normally I would treat such e-mails with the uninterested disdain that they so richly deserve, but I was curious.  Who were these people  gradually filling my message box with spit and vitriol because I was going to see Cesar Millan.  So I began to click on some of the names, and I found a common thread.  But I’ll get to that momentarily…

Whenever I take to the training field, I observe my dogs intently.  I’ve gotten quite good at it, if I say so myself.  This is a vital activity when running a track, or a scent target.  Very subtle changes in the dogs behavior are like an open book to me,  making me put aside my own opinion to follow the dogs input.  The dog is almost always right.  I’ve learned to trust him.  The point is this:  We learned this skill from 5 different trainers, all of whom used very different methodology.  We have gleaned the very best from some of the very best.  All are fine trainers.  Each of them disagree with the others over small minutiae, (Using bait, Not using bait, using toys, etc etc.)  Such is the way of Dog Trainers, unfortunately.  But these Trainers also took small details from others and found that they also had merit.  None of these trainers utilized Operant Conditioning, or “Clicker Training”, and that becomes important to this story right now.  I discovered Karen Pryors first book in the public library.  I read that book.  I found that book interesting.  I realized that the method had tremendous application, especially in the teaching of Obedience.  At first, I utilized a little pink clicker, and it worked just fine.  But part of my training program involves long distance separation of myself and the dog.  In a loud environment, such as would occur at most disaster sites, I realized that the clicker was useless.  I began to use hand signals with great success!  But “Marker Training” settled into my program comfortably.  It became a “Part” of what I was training with…I found clicker training to have no application in Tracking/Apprehension, or Protection work. I was also developing something else in my mind, and thought that Operant Conditioning methods were lacking something I desired, namely, developing a Relationship with my dog.  But that was fine, as there were other methods.  I am an objective individual, and completely pragmatic in everything I undertake.  Do the job Well, and use the best method for completing the job.  And I always follow (to the best of my ability)  the example of my favorite person, Jesus Christ.  (Don’t run away, this won’t hurt you)  Which means I practice the spirit of, Love, Joy, Peace, Long-suffering, Kindness, Goodness, Faith, Mildness, and Self-control .  Translation:  I NEVER CAUSE MY DOGS PAIN IN ANY WAY!

I offer this short description to those of you will say, “He has never tried OC training, and has no knowledge or training with it!  He’s been drinking Cesar Millans Kool-Aid for too long…”   I am not only familiar with Operant Conditioning Training, I also use it.  But it has limitations that cannot be overcome.

  This then, leads me back to the discovery I made regarding those who, in large part, beat Cesar Millan up verbally every chance they get.  Using the flyer that they printed, for the purpose of their  peaceful “Protest”, I checked the names of the trainers that they were recommending.  Here is the flyer:   It’s not very legible in this format, but I offer it as proof that I read it.

To a  Person, everyone of these trainers is a “Clicker Trainer”.  And this is the point where I piss off Operant Conditioning trainers everywhere.

Flyer from Cesar Millan protesters.

My main question to Clicker trainers is this:  “Why do most (can’t generalize here) practioners of this method insist that it is THE ONLY method that deserves to be utilized by dog owners?” I found the Facebook page of a group calling themselves “Protest Cesar Millan in Columbus, Ohio”, where my point is further made. (Their URL includes the phrase,” go away Cesar”)  Here are some of the quotes as cut and pasted from that site prior to the show:  I have edited out last names.     _______________________________________________________________Protest Cesar Millan February 4th Columbus, OHUmm, I forget what Liz and Jen said, they can say, but I (Monica) said that I would like to ask him how he can keep his stance on his views while science and people with actual degrees in the field have disproven his methods. Then she was like, hmm, that brings up a good point, degrees. What do you have? So I told her about my bachelors and KPA and then she asked about Karen Pryor. So I told her about her. I did make sure to start with, I know Cesar loves his dogs or he wouldn’t be doing this.Wendy Sounds to me like he is getting scared.I do hope he changes his ways.I think he must be the most disliked person in the USA.No dog deserves him or his training methods.How the Juggernaut BeganMillan received no formal training; he is a noncertified, self-taught expert. This real-world learning began when he was a kid in Mexico and was known as “the dog boy” because he had a natural touch. Later, in the United States, he worked with aggressive dogs as part of a grooming business. He then created a canine academy, which attracted some high-profile clients.

January 16, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Of course there’s not just one way. There are many methods and techniques. But they are only valid if they are built on the science of behavioral modification and learning theory.

Millan bases what he does on mythology and makes it up as he goes along. It’s a TV show, folks. If one were to try to televise one of the correct, scientifically based, humane, effective ways to deal with aggression, people would fall asleep or turn the channel. It’s not exciting, it’s not sexy. Millan is not about dog training. He’s about exploitation for the purpose of fame and fortune.


You get the gist from these few comments.  This is where I put together the Zeitgeist of the year 2012 in this country, as designed by the current political system we are enduring.  I define it,   for these purposes, as the “I’m smarter and more educated than you are, so shut up and do it my way. If you don’t like my way, I’ll find a way to get around you, and force you to do it my way.”

The insistent, and cloying, reminders of the collected College Degrees and Training Certificates Acronyms are at best rude.  At worst, they smack of insult and Class warfare.  A lesser wordsmith might say, “Snotty”.  The assumption that only people who are suitably degreed, seem to understand why OC is so important.  They also assume that those of us who don’t support their position are uneducated, and need to be re-educated.  (“Let’s set up a camp outside of town and..oops,Don’t get me wrong, not all of them are so brazen that they attempt to shout you down.)  Rather they employ a Passive/Aggressive approach,  “That poor person…he needs our help.  I feel SO bad for his dogs being trained with brutal shushing techniques…”

Cesar Millan has no such degrees, and whether or not he is a dues paying member of any of the current Trainers Organizations in vogue, I do not know.  He does, however, have many years of practical experience, and observation of his subjects.  If you have to choose between a very young Heart surgeon, just out of residency, full of himself and his advanced degree and a 30 veteran of the operating room that has instinct honed to a fine edge, which do you want operating on you?  Experience is very important.  The wisest canine person I know, has no Degree in dog behavior, but can lead a pack of 15 German Shepherds off-leash, and they look on her as the Leader.  They are well-behaved, obedient, and happy as a dog can hope to be.  She has been doing this for 30 or 40 years…

Also, the implication that non-practioners of Clicker training, are without education is pure hokum, and just wrong.  Look back at this quote above:      I would like to ask him how he can keep his stance on his views while science and people with actual degrees in the field have disproven his methods. Then she was like, hmm, that brings up a good point, degrees. What do you have? So I told her about my bachelors and KPA and then she asked about Karen Pryor. So I told her about her. I did make sure to start with, I know Cesar loves his dogs or he wouldn’t be doing this.Wendy Sounds to me like he is getting scared.I do hope he changes his ways.I think he must be the most disliked person in the USA.No dog deserves him or his training methods.How the Juggernaut BeganMillan received no formal training; he is an uncertified, self-taught expert

   My next question to this group is:  Why does Mr. Millan so intimidate your stance that you back into a corner and strike out at him personally?  Is he taking business away from your facility?  Do his speaking engagements cause people to say “I would never try Clicker Training!”         NO, he does not.  In fact, Mr. Millan doesn’t care which method of training that you utilize, as long as you DO!!!     Again, to use the simpler vernacular, “You catch more flies with honey.”        You will be doing the world of Operant Conditioning/Clicker Training a world of good , by demonstrating Clicker Training at every opportunity in a positive manner.  You insist that your training is purely positive, why doesn’t your Public Relations dept. follow suit?     This is what really set off this post.  Some of you have become known not as “Clicker Trainers”, but as the “Anti-Cesars”.  Is that anyway to reach the public?  I suppose in these politically correct times, with their horrendous continual political campaigns, NEGATIVITY is viewed as more effective, (and powerful) than quietly proving what you know to be true.  Operant conditioning IS a wonderful method, being given a black eye by a small minority.  I thought of writing Karen Pryor a letter.  It would start like this:

Dear Karen Pryor,

   Thank you for your years of hard research and efforts.  You are helping people and dogs everywhere.  But you should be aware that a small cross-section of adherents to your methods are representing you in a very negative way…A way that I don’t believe you would approve of, or even conceived.

I’ve reprinted here a miniscule sampling of what I’ve read on the internet, emanating from clicker training chat rooms, websites, and other authority types.  Prove it to yourself.  Type “Anti-Cesar Millan” or “Clicker Training is the Best” or a derivative into Google.  You can read this drivel for the next month non-stop!

My last request is this:  Please stop using the negative methods of promoting Operant conditioning.  YOU are making it more difficult for ME to convince people of its effectiveness.