Archive for the ‘Omorrow German Shepherds’ 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

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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

Here we go again, another hot button issue on the periphery of our friend, the dog.  If it’s not training methods, then it’s breed standards, or standards of a particular breeder.  Those are the evergreens.  We might also include the differences between rescuers as opposed to buying from breeders.  Vaccinations against more holistic methods.  Raw feeders v Kibble feeders…The arguing goes on no matter the subject.  It is my belief that, as dog people we will soon be completely unable to stop outside factions from taking control of our interests, because we can’t agree on anything that really matters.  When I posted a challenge to my readers to find something that we ALL do agree on, I was disappointed in the answers.  Most were based on emotion.  And while I agree with the sentiment, “We all want what’s best for our dogs.”  it doesn’t really protect us from the onslaught of rules and legislation that some would impose on dog-owners everywhere.  So I’m going to wade into the latest attempt to prevent good people from practicing what they love most, and are most skilled at doing.  Much of the problem comes from those with “Certification”, “Title” or “Degree”, but little experience.  Education, but little instinct for the art.  Desire for control, but scant leadership ability.

  Should “Dog-Training” require higher education and Licensing from a Controlling Organization in order to protect consumers and ensure that Positive Methods of Training are observed?

This is the latest skirmish among those of us in the canine professions, and there is at least a small group that would love to make it a subject of Governmental legislation.   Not to put too fine a point on the subject, but most of the sturm und drang, encouraging more control and necessitating expensive licensing, is coming from those that follow the Purely Positive philosophies.  Many of them have an alphabet soup of degree’s that they love to place after their names wherever they can find space for them.  They complain against, and harbor real hatred for individuals such as Cesar Millan, who has no degree hanging from his wall.  Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not entirely in Millans camp either, but he may be the foremost authority on being demonized and hated by fellows in the industry.   Anyone that can rightfully say that they practice anything similar are also demonized by the “Other Side.”  And truly, Cesar Millan is only the tip of an iceberg that would have crushed the Titanic, as opposed to the minor, but effective damage that  hunk of frozen water caused.

The largest impetus behind this legislation of “Certification”, seems to be, ubiquitously, filthy lucre.  Money.  With a dash of  “do it MY way, or don’t do it at all.”  Check out the websites of the various “professional” organizations that claim to represent “Dog Trainers/Training” as an industry.  None of what they offer is inexpensive, although some of the programs may have benefits.  Pay the charge, and you may be allowed to train with one of several big names in the industry.  Pay more and you’ll be given credentials, some without ever having to meet the individual responsible for teaching you.  Assembly line “certification”.  But under the proposals of an elite cadre of individuals, those payers would still be able to hang out a shingle “legally.”  And make no mistake, they are overwhelmingly instructed, indoctrinated, and walking lock-step with the Purely Positive mind-set coven.  Their intent is too force everyone to lose the use of certain tools, techniques, and methods that stand out from Purely Positive.  Don’t believe this can happen?  Then why are German Trainers forced to hide and deny use of training collars or various types?

Keen observation of this situation fascinates me.  I get to see  dog-training from several divergent perspectives.  First, The Law Enforcement K9 trainers.  Second, The IPO/  schutzhund/PSA  perspective.  Third, The Service/Therapy dog perspective, and finally, The Pet Dog/Rescue/Boarding facility perspective.  They couldn’t be more different.

In the Schutzhund/IPO/Law enforcement world, Performance Is The Proof of a good, solid, trainer.  There’s no obsession over who holds what degree, what Trainer Organization pay homage (and cash) too.  What matters, is what the dog has learned under your guidance.  Word of mouth is the best advertising, and the weak and unskilled, or ego-driven can’t survive.  And they don’t.  Yes, there are plenty who claim great skill in training protection/sport/LE dogs, but they soon fall victim to their own failures.  Performance is the primary judge in this arena.

The Therapy/Service dog arena has hitherto been a world of people wanting sincerely to help.  Good people more concerned with capable, skilled, dogs than who trained the dog.  But I see disturbing trends in this system.   over certification, outside interests controlling what types of training are mandated, outside interests trying to change where Service dogs are welcome, businesses restricting access to PTSD/Emotional support dogs, and more.  Alongside those problems, there are people selling credentials to anybody that wants to walk an untrained dog anywhere they please, whenever they please.  The Service Dog problems are two-headed and complex.  I don’t know where the balance will come from, but there’s a real battle ahead.  This area needs discussion and balanced administration.  I hope that those involved have the wisdom to find ways to continuing to provide these valuable working dogs to people that desperately need them.

Finally, the Pet Dog industry.

You’d find more rules/laws in Port Royal, Jamaica circa 1655.  Anybody can hang out a sign and print business cards and call themselves a “Dog Trainer”.  But don’t get me wrong, I support that right.  Success or failure should come from the hand of the consumer.  If a dog trainer doesn’t produce successfully trained dogs/owners, the market and word of mouth will eliminate them.  Trainers of ALL methods.  Trainers with an alphabet soup of degrees after their names, and trainers with nothing more than skill and experience to bolster them.  This then is where the ugliness rears it’s head.

A small but loud group of individuals, coupled with others that smell money in the water, see a fur-covered gold-mine in them thar’ hills.  These people want very specific laws and standards to be mandated upon everybody, with subsequent denial of licences or certification as support.  Most of those in this group are from the Purely Positive training cabal.  Only their way is the right and proper way.  Most of them seem to care more about controlling how others train than actually training themselves.  If they had to prove that their methods are totally successful, by producing results of lasting effectiveness, then the open market would soon eliminate them.

The blogs, FB pages, and books that are published by this crowd seeth with contempt toward anyone that dares question “Science”, and the modus operandi of the Purely Positive Crowd.  Anyone without the “required” titles given by the “professional” dog trainers associations is considered unfit for the public to seek help from.  This attitude has become so vitriolic that certain trainers are even adopting an outward appearance of supporting the militant minority of PP.

Does anyone prove their skill, talent, or instincts with a display of which seminars they’ve attended or which Dog Training Organization they mollify with lucre, or how many acronyms follow their name on a business card?  Like the politics of our time, it seems the Least qualified keep getting elected because they have the media on their side, or the money to overwhelm any opposition.  And the least qualified become the voice of Canine Behavior because our society is impressed with academic achievement and the fallacy that education is the end-all-be- all of our profession.  It’s time for proof.  Go out and Prove you are a skilled dog trainer.  Train people, train dogs, and do so in a way that stands the test of time and professionalism.  Work in such a way that doesn’t rely on bashing other trainers and their methods or philosophy of dog behavior.  If you feel the need to challenge someones opinion or methods or lack of qualifications to train dogs, let YOUR ABILITIES prove it, not your word processor, or even worse, words spoken loudly from the relative anonymity of the internet.  That being said, be happy to know that there ARE schools for dog trainers that are quite good, and worth their cost.  But only because they teach you to decide what works best for you, not a militant curriculum of their own.

My personal solution to these arguments is to do what I do regardless of anyone else’s “opinion” of what I “should” be doing.  My success will speak to my clients, not my influences.  We need more legislation like we need new holes drilled in our skulls.

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 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!

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…