Archive for the ‘Scent Worj’ Category

“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


I’m contemplating a haggard and forlorn pair of Docker shoes that are sitting under the table of our patio furniture.  They’re about 3 years old, leather, with soft rubber soles.  The once dark brown tone is now sun-bleached and several shades lighter.  The left shoe is missing the entire toe, which has allowed the sole to partially detach and flap freely when I wear them out in the yard.  The right shoe, while intact cosmetically, is missing the padded insert and leather cover that had the Dockers logo branded to it.  Currently, both shoes are soaking wet.  They smell like…well, like old, wet, shoes.  My wife throws them in the trash bin on a weekly basis, and I recover them on the same schedule.  “Those things are just gross…throw them out!”  she pleads with me.

“But they’re  my yard shoes…” I counter, ” I need them to mow in, and work the grill, and take puppers out for her 3 AM potty-break.”

“I bought you a new pair of foam rubber togs for all that stuff!  If the neighbors saw those shoes on your feet, they’d think you stole them off a cadaver from a shallow grave!” (I file that accessory gathering tip for future reference.  Shoes are expensive. I’m a pragmatist.)

Her somewhat descriptive opinion of my footwear dissuades me not one iota.  The shoes are indeed, very comfortable in that way that only old, familiar, things are…An old pair of blue jeans, a fishing hat, a coffee mug from a long-ago camping trip, its rim melted by an all too close dutch oven of blueberry-cobbler. Familiar, irreplaceable, artifacts of memories I refuse to surrender to oblivion.

This pair of shoes is different though.  So many of such objects, are reminders of single events, individual nights around a fire.  This pair of tooth-mangled loafers, resplendent in their saliva induced wetness, is a monument to a time of my life that I will cherish forever.  These shoes will be somewhere near me for the rest of my life…

It’s late October, 2009.  For whatever reason that good wives have, I have been given my marching orders to hie myself directly off to yon Designer Shoe Warehouse.  Upon arrival, I am to peruse and purchase one standard issue pair of “Nice-Looking, yet casual pair of leather shoes”  Apparently we have dinner plans with some friends at a local outdoor cafe’, and my wonderful, well-traveled Vasque hiking boots are NOT welcome.  (Truth be told, my every-day bush-shorts and quick-drying, many-pocketed  Ex-Officio shirt were not welcome either.)

I’m not a fashion conscious  kind of guy, so the first pair that she nodded approval of, that fit, went to the register and out the door.  The first actions of my now ersatz loafers.

I wore them that night, and the look was approved by my better-half.  Little did I suspect that these shoes would become so important to me…

The very next day was Friday, a day we had anticipated for quite a while.  We were to make a trip to Butler, Ohio,  a bucolic breath of fresh farm air in rural Ohio.  Our destination was Omorrow Farm Kennels, where we would be taking home our newly acquired German Shepherd puppy, now 9 weeks old. This is a real, working ranch, where my boots feel right at home.  Loafers need not apply.  (Shoes or People.)

After a wonderful morning of puppy activities,  we took our bundle of black fuzz to his new home.  He entered our home like he owned the place, and was trying to sell it to us.  The first item at his eye-level was, you guessed it, my new shoes.  At that moment in time, they were pristine, virginal.   The next moment in time, they were not.  Small puppy teeth are like needles, and leather is no match.  The first wounds of many to come.  I used  those shoes to teach my German Shepherd, now named “Hans”, his first “Drop it” command.  He picked it up fast, even though at first he’d look at me as though to “Do I haff Sumfing in my teef?”

As those shoes became more broken in, I used them when we took our evening walk together.  They were comfortable, and easy to put on.  I wasn’t yet allowed to wear my “nice” loafers out when it rained, but I wore them nearly everyday.  We were training Hans in “socialization” at this time, so we went to stores, the airport, the senior center.  I always dressed  appropriately for these places, the loafers got a lot of mileage and still looked great.

Dogs become “aware” of our habits.  I learned this early one morning as I sat in my office working.  Hansie had been sleeping on the floor nearby for an hour or so.  Suddenly he jumped up., walked to my closet, and extricated my loafers from inside.  He turned, walked across the room to me, and laid that shoe on my lap.  He then sat in front of me and just stared.  “Are you trying to tell me something, Hans?”

It was obviously walking time, and he knew that those shoes were the vehicle of his desire.  From that day on, when he was 5 months old, he would retrieve my shoe when it was time for a walk.  Early in the morning, he would leave his crate, find my shoe, and place it ever so gently on my head.  Time to go Dad…

As Hans approached 6 months of age, we began teaching him how to Trail human scent.  We played “run away” with him at first.  I’d leave him with another handler and run away and hide.  Upon release, he’d charge after me until he could cover me with sloppy kisses of reunion.  Soon, we advanced to finding an object that smelled like Dad.  That pair of loafers, now approved for my use in the rain, became the easiest target in his collection.  We didn’t tell Mom that we used my shoes…Meanwhile they took on a few more battle scars from maturing teeth.  The color was beginning fade from…yucchhhhh!   Dog slobber!

I started wearing those shoes out in the yard, for various things.  Mowing, getting the mail, errands to the feed store.  We all have shoes that become our “Go-To’s”, and these were mine.  Hans grew, matured, and he still communicated with me thru those shoes.  He loved to tease me by getting one of them and running around the house, daring me to chase him.  I admit, I fostered these off-duty shenanigans, by doing just that.  I admit it, it was joyous revelry!  We played together with those now somewhat embattled shoes.  We trained hard together, and we played hard together.  One day, the big hairy scamp decided to run into the yard with my shoe, placing the wading pool between himself and my pursuit.  When I approached, he dipped as though he was going to drop my shoe in the water.  When I yelled out “No!”, he looked at me with complete knowledge of what must now be done.  Into the water went my shoe…it sank completely.  Hans ran around the yard like his tail was on fire, yipping and barking in delight!  That particular shoe, the left, took on a wrinkled appearance from that day until now.  Which is okay really, because my second puppy, a beautiful young lady German Shepherd named Holly would eventually eat the toe off that shoe.

I’m wearing those shoes right now as I sit on our patio typing away at this.  When I look at them, I don’t see the scars, the discoloration, the missing tassels.  (Note:  Only one tassel is actually missing. About a year ago, the other was observed sticking out of a rather large, firm fecal mass.  I scooped it all, and disposed of it)

No, when I look at these shoes, I feel my dogs presence.  I feel his playfulness, his impish character.  I see his development into a top-of-line Scent detection canine.  I see his face take on the recognition of my scent, and his comfort in it.  I remember all the training we’ve been through together.  I see the time he had one of them on his big nose, and it got stuck there…He bucked around the yard like an unbroken young colt until he bumped into the garden wagon and it came off.  Two nights ago, I saw him take my shoe into his crate, where he curled up and slept with it between his big paws, looking only for my scent in his dreams.  His devotion moves me to write about an old pair of tattered, beleaguered, but much loved shoes…Nah…I’ll never throw them away…


I’m writing this tongue-in-cheek in small part.  The remaining part is righteous indignation fused with trying to achieve a middle ground where things are not so mutually exclusive as we are lead to believe.

Recently, you may have read a blog post authored by my friend Aimee, at “My Mega E Dog”  (This debate will NOT change my respect for her as a writer, trainer, or person!!)     She is a gifted writer, and very heartfelt in her belief in the clicker-training system.  That’s great, and I support her.  But a SINGLE sentence set me off…  I quote:

“Exercise, discipline, affection” is one of the saddest phrases I have ever heard.”

  I put it to every dog owner, handler, trainer, admirer, or whatever you consider yourself with dogs, that if you attempt to raise and give a dog a home without EXERCISE, without DISCIPLINE, and without AFFECTION being an integral part of your training, you will not only fail miserably, but you will have a dog that is unpredictable, untrained, and maybe even dangerous.

This is where the militancy of the Clicker-Trainers gets them in trouble.  They have a deep-rooted hatred for anything “Millan-esque”, and they reject every syllable of that method.  It’s time that they had those three words, and the phrase broken down and explained to them.  I won’t change any of those minds, but I can see to it that new dog owners will try to understand that Clicker training is NOT the end-all, be-all method.  It IS a good method, but Exercise, Discipline, and Affection must be wedded to it in an unbreakable bond.  These things are NOT mutually exclusive.

It’s important to note that these three traits are only properly used in that order. 1) Exercise  2) Discipline, and 3) Affection.    We cannot, and must not, anthropomorphize our dogs with the mistaken notion that Affection sways a dog into obedience and proper behavior, and is THE only trait required.

First, a breakdown of the individual words:


1) bodily or mental exertion, especially for the sake of training or improvement of health: Walking is good exercise.
  Your dog, whether Schit-zu, German Shepherd, or Bull Mastiff, is at least partially, an athlete.  In varying degrees admittedly, owing to breed, and physical structure, but an athlete nonetheless.  They are ANIMALS that need to move, run, play, hunt, wrestle, and otherwise use up energy.  Put any dog in a crate for 4 hours, and you will get a bored, crazy, ready-to-explode, animal.  The more athletically inclined a dog, the more corresponding exercise they will require on a daily basis.  Clicker Trainers do Exercise their dogs, mentally and physically, so there is no denying that Exercise is a vital part of their method.  Little more need be written about this.


1) activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training: A daily stint at the typewriter is excellent discipline for a writer.
2) behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control: good discipline in an army.
3)a set or system of rules and regulations.
4)to train by instruction and exercise; drill.
5)to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control.
DISCIPLINE is the quality that most annoys, disturbs, and otherwise pisses-off Clicker-trainers.  This is because they misunderstand, mis-interpret, or choose to ignore, what precisely real “Discipline” entails.  Reading the above abridged definitions of the root word, you will find no reference to inflicting pain, or causing trauma whether physical or mental.  Setting boundaries, understanding established rules, and following them is Discipline.  A dog cannot set his own rules, nor can he Discipline himself in a human world.  Discipline from his human, teaches him to not surf the kitchen counter for something to eat.  A dogs canine-inspired discipline says, “I must east, and I will go anywhere I must to do so…”   Therefore, to live with us, a dog must have, and be taught the Discipline of rules, boundaries, and limits.
   This Discipline does not involve pain, swatting, yelling, or shocking.  It can be taught with a clicker.  I implore you to use a “Positive re-enforcement” method of instilling discipline.  But please, establish Rules, Boundaries, and Limitations for your dog!!!  Understand Discipline for the meaning that is intended by those who use it.  Think of it as the  “Come, be my follower” method, not the “You are my slave, and will obey me regardless” method.
and finally:



fond attachment, devotion, or love: the affection of a parent for an only child.

emotion; feeling; sentiment: over and above our reason and affections.

Clicker Trainers have a very different view of what Affection means to a dog.  They tend to anthropomorphize, or give human qualities, to an animal. A dog, left on it’s own, can live wholly without affection, solitary, and satisfied to find something to eat. We, as humans, contrastingly need Affection, and we need to give it away.  I grant you, our dogs accept affection, and thrive upon it when offered in the proper context.  It is a bonding mechanism, and a wonderful one at that.  But to say that Affection should be the Top priority is truly not accurate.  To quote my esteemed colleague again from her post:

“Positive reinforcement training is all about putting affection and the bond between human and dog at the top of the list, not the bottom.”

This is how that might sound in the fantasy world of “Affection First”

“Fluffy, please don’t jump up on the kitchen counter and steal food.  I LOVE YOU so much…(Click)

“Don’t lunge at that nice little boy on the sidewalk…I will pet you and stroke you, and give you doggy treats!”(Click)

BOND and AFFECTION  are two separate things, but they are also symbiotic.  One does not exist without the other.  The above examples are perhaps somewhat over the top.  But it doesn’t cloud the issue.  Just being affectionate with your dog will not train it to obey, perform, or learn.  Affection is part of the reward for Obedience, Compliance, or Good Decisions.   Affection can take many forms, and I exhort you to use Affection freely and without restraint!!!  Every positive action my dogs take turns into a blessed Festivale of playing, rewarding, praising, and outright snackage!  But that Affection comes after the fact.  Because that’s how dogs think.

Hopefully, you’ve read ALL of this, and understand the intent.  Clicker Trainers use “Exercise, Discipline, and Affection” whether they like the quote, the source, or the idea or not.  Saying that “Exercise, Discipline, and Affection” is a “Sad” line of reasoning is misleading and indicative of bias of a personal nature toward an accomplished Dog Behaviorist.  From a purely human and humane standpoint, this trinity of behavior reinforcements is unparalleled, unsurpassed, and superior.  They can, are, and should be a part of every training methodology.  When proper intent is observed, they follow something very old but still considered, “The Golden Rule”.

“Also, just as YOU want men to do to YOU, do the same way to them.”     Luke 6: 31

Yeah, It’s the Word of God, and it applies in this instance to my dogs.  I treat them the way I want to be treated.

Whatever method you want to train in, and Clicker Training is a great one, don’t forget…Your Dogs Needs and Wants EXERCISE.  Your Dog Needs and Wants DISCIPLINE, Your dog will Thrive and Return AFFECTION.