Archive for the ‘Things I learned from my dogs.’ Category

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:_______________________

Our 2013 Autumn Canine Tour has been over for two weeks now, and I am WAY behind in writing about it…There’s a lot going on  the GSA corporate campus, including a major move of the operation, so bear with me!

I want it known right up front that the business I’m about to write about has in no way compensated me for this story, and I’m writing about them only because I’ve rarely come across such a unique combination of talented people, forward thinking in dog activities, and a world-class facility! http://harborpawsandclaws.com/

I know dog care facilities with great People but less than adequate facilities.  I know of great facilities with people who should be flipping burgers elsewhere.  I know of good people with nice facilities that don’t involve themselves in the local dog community.  It’s just a business opportunity.  But the owner of Paws & Claws Boarding and Bath, Becky MacGregor,  has created something special in the north woods.  If this facility was located in a major city, it would quickly need to expand.  Quickly.

Owner, Becky MacGregor and Pal.

Owner, Becky MacGregor and Pal.

Located on 50 wooded acres in near the northern Michigan resort town of Harbor Springs, Paws &Claws (http://harborpawsandclaws.com/) is the contemporary culmination of a dream that started small, and finally grew into something special.  To me, the crown jewel of the facility is the huge 6000 sq ft Arena wing.  Custom made for Agility, Scentwork, IPO practices, or most other canine fun, it could also handle a good size crowd for seminars.  If any of the Trainers that spend a lot of time on the road teaching want a place to teach, and a wonderful vacation spot at the same time, you need to give Becky a call!  Once word gets out, I believe that Paws & Claws is going to be on a lot of radar screens .

exteriorpawsandclaws

The arena has a unique rubberized floor that is quite kind on the dogs feet, and comfortable for the owners as well.  The facility is heated quite nicely, owing to the family plumbing business.  Becky’s father was a major name in plumbing and heating in the area and he overbuilt the facility needs.  It even features geo-thermal energy, so the place is about as “green” as it can get.  Air Conditioning?  This is Northern blessed Michigan!  Open the large vertical door and let the prevailing winds off nearby Lake Michigan cool down the summer for you.  http://harborpawsandclaws.com/

Outside suites.

Outside suites.

Plumbing continues to make Paws & Claws special.  The floors in the boarding suites are all heated, making any dogs stay pleasant and comfortable in even the coldest winter. Air Movement throughout the buildings was masterfully designed to keep everything fresh.  Every kennel owner should have a Master Plumber for a family member!!!  The Boarding Suites are also a jumping off point for something else special.  The People that work for Becky.

I have never walked into such a busy kennel that smelled so NICE.  Not just Clean, but pleasant.  Not like a clean KENNEL, which can reek of bleach, but like a pleasant home.  With a total of 26 suites, that means that the working staff is hard at work, cares about the dogs, and takes great pride in being there.  During our visit, which was completely unannounced,  everyone was proud for us to see their place of work.  Hats off to everyone that works there…You really help define what a Dog Daycare/Boarding facility SHOULD BE!!! http://harborpawsandclaws.com/

Becky also took great effort in designing and laying out Movement for the dogs from inside to outside.  Many facilities are forced to move dogs thru a maze of confusion, because of poor design.  Not Paws & Claws…Everything seems to work in a circular manner that makes congestion or risk of unhappy encounters with reactive dogs, a non-issue.  Outdoor arenas have real GROWING grass!  (I can’t even keep grass in my 30′ by 50′ backyard with two drivey German Shepherds.  Even the human element has well defined areas for work and break time, and it all flows together.  Becky and her staff have a good system of communication as well when it comes to the needs of each boarder, and other important information.  The walls are lined with whiteboards that are easily seen, and generally apply to the area where each hangs.  Info regarding medical/drug needs, or special feeding details are easy to see.  This takes the worry away from mistakes being made by poor communication.

CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN, and more CLEAN!!!

CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN, and more CLEAN!!!

The Grooming and Bathing suite is also quite nice, well-lit by natural light, and large enough to move about freely.  One very smart innovation was made here, using metal siding on the walls instead of wallboard.  Walls come clean very easily, and will continue to gleam pearly white for a long time to come, with minimal effort.  http://harborpawsandclaws.com/

I have to mention a feature that I think is unique to Paws & Claws…A Dog Mass Transit shuttle to the facility from neighboring Harbor Springs.  From a partnering Pet Supply shop in town, called Pet Pantry, customers are able to drop off their furkids and they are then transported in comfort to the daycare facility!  A regular schedule is operated and the convenience is outstanding!  Not to mention a really great graphics job on the van!

pet-taxi

Paws & Claws gets the coveted 5 Paws rating from German Shepherd Adventures!  The entire facility was well thought out from the very beginning, the employees are well-chosen and then trained, and I can’t say this enough, CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN and SPARKLING!!!  Yes, it’s located in a small town in Northern Michigan, and most of you will never get to visit, but I hope that many other operators of Dog Day Care/Boarding facilities can look at the website, and see the way this type of operation should be run!!!  Congratulations Becky and Staff!!!  GSA can hardly wait to visit again!!  http://harborpawsandclaws.com/

One of the benefits of writing for the public eye, is the learning that I do with every post or article.  The feedback you get is revealing, and sometimes deeply poignant.  Other replies are so angry that you feel the heat coming off the computer screen…In the other parts of my life, I have the privilege of doing a lot of public-speaking to groups.  My particular speaking- style involves being  quite informal, and occasionally leaving my prepared comments for  brief forays into “straight from the heart.”   I also learn a lot from these events…

The biggest lesson I’ve gleaned over the years?  Words and Thoughts are Tangible things that affect the souls around you.  Use them Wisely,  Kindly, and Judiciously…

Okay, what does that have to do with being seen naked by your dog?  Good Question…I’ll try and make this simple.  And the good news is this:  You won’t feel like you need to hit the gym or the Weight Watchers section of grocery store because of your dog.

As we learn to communicate with our dogs on a level beyond food treats, clicking, and leash techniques, it becomes evident that most of the communication is a One Way street.  The street leads from YOU, downhill, to the Dog.  The dog reads you perfectly, but the reciprocal is mostly non-existent.  The dog sees right thru every emotion, tension, and joy that you feel.  He expertly bases his every move based on the emotion pouring out of his human like a faucet on the sinking Titanic…They sense our “energy”, and they read it fluently.  And this works with every human they encounter…The energetic output of the human person is an open book to our dogs…Have you ever sensed that your dog doesn’t “Like” someone?  Sure you have…How does the dog know???  HOW does the dog know???  It’s because we are all Naked in the eyes of the dog.  At least figuratively…

Dogs are Mental beings, much as we humans are, with some differences.  Dog actually determine the value or threat of  humans in very short order.  Humans?  We get fooled all the time, and that’s how large bridges get sold, and fake Rolexes end up on unsuspecting wrists.  Go ahead, try to sell a dog the Golden Gate Bridge…He won’t go for even the best bargain basement price!

But seriously, think about this…Has your dog ever reacted to a stranger in such a way that you wondered what was wrong with that individual that seemingly, did nothing to provoke any reaction?  We humans broadcast our every emotion to the far reaches of the galaxy because we can’t help ourselves…Happy, Mad, Glad, and Sad, we BROADCAST all of it.  We are mentally NAKED to the most pedestrian of dogs.  Even more so to those dogs with training in protection and experience.

Another good example of this can be seen at any dog park.  There are always people to be seen, yelling or cursing at their own dog when it refuses to come to them.  Other transgressions are also met with snarly remarks, name-calling or even swatting the dog.  The dog reads this stuff like an eviction notice, and refuses to submit to it.

The fact that our dogs can see us as the naked, emotional, unstable, humans that we are, makes one correction necessary.  As handlers, trainers, or just owners, we do our dogs a giant favor by simply learning to calm our inner selves, and providing a calm, supportive, atmosphere.  I’ve observed a young handler at an Agility competition that further supports me.  The young lady had a wonderful Aussie that clearly loved the competition ring.  That day, the handler was upset about something, perhaps outside of the competition.  I don’t really know.  But between runs, she talked to several different people and it was easy to see her anger was hanging out all over.  The dog had begun hanging back from her on his leash, trying to avoid her emotional thunderstorm.  As the day progressed, the dogs performances got steadily worse.  As that happened, the handler became less and less patient.  Her own performance became quite unsteady, and they both went home disappointed and angry.  A earlier, that same team had won a national level competition.  This was about what the dog was seeing in his “Naked” owner.  Emotional Energy of a negative charge…

Think about this whenever you are with your dog.  What energy am I transmitting to the universe?  What naked appendage is my dog seeing?  We need to put on a coat of calm, with a nice turtleneck of positive attitude, and a pair of comfortable, confident, loafers.  Or some high energy, supportive and active Nike’s…

Again, this will take work and effort on our part as humans.  After all, the dog can’t help but see us “naked”…Lets show our dogs the best parts!!!

embarrassed-chimp

This subject has crossed the bow of my ship before.  I’ve thought, “I should write a post about that…”, but the idea never coalesced into life.  Until now…

Maybe I came home spoiling for something to write, that would break the recent log-jam I’ve felt myself in…Maybe I’ve just had enough of people so tightly wound up that they’re shooting diamonds out of their colons.  I don’t know for sure, but the log jam is now way down river past me, and it feels great!  

This is how we look at times...

This is how we look at times…

Is it just me and my reading of Facebook pages, Blogposts, and Forum posts, or has the world gotten incredibly serious about everything???  Where did simple humor disappear too?  When did the ability to laugh at ourselves and our lives take a flaming auger into terra firma?  It just seems to me that nearly every page on Facebook has become a ridiculous carnival of fighting, snide comments, and just a total inability to not take the world and ourselves so seriously.  Administrators have unpaid, FULL-TIME Jobs just editing and watching over the pages that they create and love visiting.  Every comment has potential to be a written beat-down on an otherwise innocent poster…I KNOW that there are people out there, that LIVE too cause chaos and discord from the faceless void of the internet…but some of this goes way beyond that intent.  People become absolutely livid if they read something that they don’t agree with, and they immediately attack the poster.  It makes me wonder what sort of dog owner are they with such a complete lack of humor?  And for that matter, what sort of miserable existence do such people live in everyday?

I know that a lot of trainers with far more experience than I read this blog.  (THANK YOU!)  I also know that most dog people that I associate with have wonderful senses of humor.  Either very goofy personalities,(Big hats, Dressing up dogs in costumes, fart jokes, Larry the Cable guy) or they are very sophisticated funny people with very literate senses of humor.(Drawing on people’s faces while they sleep, dropping off drunk friends naked in the country, and flatulence jokes)  I love that about them!  I LOOK for their posts and comments because they’re enjoyable to read!!!  I can point to any number of places as examples of the opposite extreme, but I’ll highlight just two that pushed me over the edge.

The first one was on a Facebook page that I’ll call, “I love my Dog” (Not the real name, but you get the idea)  A young lady posted several charming photo’s of her new puppy, just 9 weeks old.  She was obviously smitten with her puppy and just wanted to share her joy with the dog world.  Well, the 5th comment she received was this:  “Where did you get your puppy?”   (Here it comes…)

She replied about the wonderful breeder she had gotten to know and finally chosen her puppy from with care and preparation.  You guessed it…She immediately got flamed into a toasty ember by the “WHY DIDN’T YOU RESCUE A SHELTER DOG!!!  WHY WOULD YOU BUY FROM A BREEDER!!!  IS THAT PUPPY’S SIRE A Schh 3 with OFA’d Hips and 8 generations of Titled dogs????  The post went on for 30 or 40 such replies ad nauseum.   It became unreadable very quickly, and robbed her of her joy in having a new puppy.

The second example was my own.  I posted a very funny “This happened to me” story on a page that I administrate.  It’s a page for a private breeder, and we generally have a very entertaining and close-knit group.  It’s a pleasant respite from so many other Facebook pages.  The essentials of the story are this:  I was outside on the patio of our home/kennel on a pleasant summer evening eating my dinner.  It happened to be Ravioli, a favorite vice of my  2 German shepherds.  Well, my female Holly suddenly disappeared into the grove of pine trees in the back of the yard.  Once there, she started a barking tirade that sounded like she had found Jimmy Hoffa’s body, and that I should come running!  Which I did without hesitation.  Upon reaching her, she looked at me at did her best “Sit Pretty”.  I’d been had.   Running back to the table, there was my highly trained and titled male “Hans” with his big beak shoved into my dinner which he had now nearly finished.  (He left just enough for Holly to have her share)   I had been out maneuvered by these two geniuses and no mistake.  What could I do but laugh at them?

So I posted the story.  I expected several funny replies of support for the dogs ingenuity, a couple more of empathetic pity, and general good natured humor.  Which I got.

What I didn’t expect was the reply of a woman named “Beccie” (I fear for her skills in Spelling).  She chewed me out as having undisciplined dogs, and how her dogs had more respect for her from proper training, and why were my dogs allowed around the dinner table in the first place…blah, blah, blah.  She actually posted three times, becoming increasingly obnoxious, about my lack of skill in training and more blah,blah,blah…Several regular members of our group came to my defense, before I could, but her reaction demanded a response from me personally.  Eventually, recognizing that she just wanted to start turmoil, and being the Admin, I banned her from the page.  Hoping that this action would stop the thread.  I DID do the proper thing and explained why I gave her the boot to the group.  Most everyone agreed.  However, (and this is where these things always lead), someone piped up and posted, “Doesn’t she have freedom of speech?  Isn’t that censorship?”    

Lighten up People!!!   Why does politics have to become a part of everything?  The reason that there IS NO proper discourse in politics is because a few humorless, opinionated zealots insist on turning every conversation into some political statement.  What develops is like a cancer…In a better atmosphere, no one would start out a post with a derivative of this sentence, “Please don’t flame me for this, but…”

After that sort of thing starts, everybody that has something interesting to offer begin to jump ship, because the enjoyment is gone except for those that love arguing and creating problems.  This is the point where administrators look furtively about themselves and implore the heavens, “Where AM I, and WHY am I in this Handbasket?”

This problem extends well beyond the confines of Canines and their People.  I can’t change the entire world and I won’t try.  But I can at least patrol my little corner of the world, and make it a more “Civilized” place.  As for those screaming about freedom of speech, and censorship…Whatever happened to the Responsibility of being Civilized?  Freedom of speech is a two-way street.  Most that would invoke this “Freedom” do their best to shut down the other lane, so I would opine that everybody is best served by just passing each other peacefully with a friendly wave.

In the past, on this very blog, I bewailed the demise of the old arrangement of what was known as “The Salon”.  During the 17th and 18th century, the Salon was a gathering of friends and invited guests to the home of  an inspiring Host.  The purpose of these gatherings was simple. To favorably and pleasantly amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through civil conversation.  The over-riding purpose was best defined by the phrase,  “aut delectare aut prodesse est”, which means “To Please or to Educate”.   I wish we could go back to such sensibilities, at the very least, in the dog-centric world.  Sadly, this generations idea of freedom of speech is this:   “Clamo mihi clamant, et usque ad consummationem et vos credatis sic conclusit me! “

This essentially means “I’ll yell and scream and shut you down completely until you believe the same way I do!!”

Be aware, in this corner of society, civility will be upheld to a high degree.       That is all.  Now go out and laugh with your dog!!!!

It’s July in Ohio.  It’s hot, it’s humid, and the air hangs like a mouldy blanket left at a Boy Scout Jamboree 2 weeks hence.  Walking, exercising, and training with the dogs during the day becomes uncomfortable if not dangerous.  Personally, as someone that prefers the climate of the northern Great Lakes, this place is only 2 steps from climatic perdition…That’s why our activities have taken place very early in the day for the last month or so…when it’s only 85 degree’s outside.  Sorry Ohio, I dislike your climate even more than I dislike your college football team.  (That which shall not be named here.  LOL)  But I digress into humor when my actual point is quite serious.

A pre-dawn walk is a riot of peacefulness.  Birds swooping over the lawns searching  for breakfast, a whitetail deer crossing the golf course with her two late spring fawns, a pattering of a light rain shower on the leaves,  the river running with the recent overflow of water.  A mother raccoon and her kits are busily eating my neighbors sweet corn crop in his fenced backyard. I can hear the babies cooing with delight at each juicy morsel they inhale.  Momma raccoon purrs with satisfaction, knowing that her babies will soon leave the nest and move on to their own devices, freeing her from the burden.  It’s noisy, but it’s natural.  By my side are the two German Shepherds that my wife and I share our lives with, both looking up at me wondering, “Where to today, Dad? Huh? The river? Chase the geese? Huh? Huh?”

Normally, I walk each dog individually, giving them ample time to do as each wants.  Those walks are often distracted by training or exercising some skill or behavior.  When I walk them together, I’m searching for something else.  Inspiration.  Clarity.  Prayer.  Or maybe something I can’t describe.  At any rate, it’s not about physical exercise…and the dogs are with me to be observed for whatever they can teach me…

My recent writing about the “Bond” that we all want to develop with our dogs has been on my mind like an icicle growing on the eaves of the house.  Dripping, growing slowly, drip, drip, drip.  There’s much more to be written and pondered, and this current walk together has been a catalyst of thoughts.  Now if I can only manage to get them on the screen with some sort of clarity…

When you sit in a forest in the anthracite black of night, or walk  in the twilight of the approaching dawn, and you really focus, it becomes obvious that all living things are interconnected.   All things living are symbiotic in some way…True, humans are closer to the animals than we are to the trees, but we are all part of, and dependant on each other to varying degrees.  How could we not be?  We all come from the same Creator.  He alone understands the full measure of the bond between all living things. ( Okay, if you don’t accept that there is a God, a Creator…then what I say here probably won’t be your cup of tea.  Just give me a listen anyway.)  That’s your loss…those that believe that this all came about by chance, by evolving are missing something wonderful.  Namely this:  All Things Have A Purpose.  The belief that all of this came about by chance takes away all meaning in life.  There would be no reason for it, and it would eschew responsibility for anything.  Nothing to look forward to…Be born, live a while, and die.  That’s a sad way of life, and I fear that more people live it than we realize.

Faith tells me that not only are all living things dependant on each other, but some of those living things were meant to have special and fulfilling relationships.  Like Humans and dogs…humans and horses…humans and fresh strawberry pie.  (Sorry, strawberry pie isn’t a living thing, but I do feel a very deep relationship with it.  Digressing again)     That’s what I was thinking as I walked with the dogs this morning.  I realized that as we have been overtaken by technology, science, and the human insistence on making work easier, we have abandoned this bond between all living things.  The Clan of All Living Things has been fragmented at best, and shunned at worst.  Horses were working partners, as were dogs.  They lived to serve their keepers, and their Keepers cared for them as cherished work mates.  There are still people who treat their animals this way, and you’ll find that they have the best ” Bond” that can be had.  Training methods are NOT the key to the Bond,  and such people prove this everyday.  Sensing the emotional output/input of the dog is the key.   Allowing the  energy between master and canine to flow unimpeded…What I mean by that is simple.  “Training Time” is time to train.  “Bonding” time is time to observe, listen, and understand.  Yes, training does aid in creating bond, but it’s only part of the equation to that end.  I’ve been reading the book, “Rin Tin Tin, the life and the legend”  by Susan Orlean,(http://www.amazon.com/Rin-Tin-Legend-Edition-Hardcover/dp/B00BR5G9M0/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top and I was surprised to learn about the “method” (or lack thereof) that Lee Duncan used with his beloved dog.  Duncan describes it as their “Wanting to please each other, and see the other happy.”   Okay, that quote screams of esoterica understood only by the quotee, but something about it rings true.  Duncan and Rin Tin Tin were together constantly.  They communicated on the dog’s level, in language and behavior that the dog understood.  Duncan never made Rinty a small human in a fur coat.  They had, “The Bond”…(A reading of this interesting book gives a bit more insight, but it is ultimately a very sad story.)

What I take from the story is that their relationship was not “Built” by any training method.  “Built” has a connotation of forcing or shaping  something into existence. Often with resistance from the subject.  Duncan gave credit to the deep bond they shared for Rinty’s huge bag of talents.  He states that they never learned “Tricks”.  Certainly there had to be some form of training, but they mention little of it.

Again, I’m not offering any strident method to building a bond with your dog.  My suggestion is only this:  Put aside the training and the discipline for a few minutes a day, and just be with your dog.  Observe (don’t sit there trying to interpret body language) Talk to the dog, (No, he won’t speak back), but he’ll become accustomed to knowing that he has your undivided attention aside from everything else.  Turn off the science and try to feel the flow that moves your dog…My suggestion for practicing this is to sit out in the dark some night this summer and just Listen…You’ll be surprised at what you’ve missed.  The same thing goes for the dog…You’ll be surprised at what you’ve missed while you were busy working at having a dog, instead of enjoying the dog just being with you…

As a final thought, I want to state that I now believe that this “Bond” cannot be built, as though from a blueprint.  Rather, like most natural, created things, it “develops” in a time and manner uniquely to itself.  Allow yourself to watch it develop, and stop trying to force it…That doesn’t mean I’m foregoing “Training” and “Working”, not by a long shot!  But there should certainly be time to just watch the passage of time,  the learning process, and your own growth as a dog trainer.  Treat yourself and your dog to this simple pleasure…

 

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’…)

 

I spend way to much time on the internet.  However, as a writer/researcher, that’s where the action happens, and so I keep my nose to the hard-drive.  Sometimes I discover things that really confuse me, and this time, it’s a doozy.  See if you don’t find the same thing…

When you peruse websites, forums or Facebook pages that discuss contemporary German Shepherd breeders, you will undoubtedly finally read the words, “…the German Shepherd dog is a mere shadow of what it was…”  or, “…von Stephanitz is rolling in his grave over what his working dog has evolved into”,  or  “Law Enforcement agencies all over the world are abandoning the German Shepherd in favor of the better suited Belgian Malinois…”  (Don’t freak out, I’m NOT dissing the Mals!  Second best dogs in the world!!!)  “The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling!!!”  said Chicken Little.  “The German Shepherd is Fading Fast!  Surely The Breed Is no longer what it was!”  said the forum member posting.  on the Pedigree Database.

And that’s where the confusion comes into play.  Because if you read further on the internet, there are so many breeders of World Class German Shepherds that exceed what ever expectations you might have, that the phrase stretches credulity to the nth degree.  Many of the laments come from breeders bashing on other breeders.  “That guy and his kennel are breeding thru a failed bloodline that should have been stopped years ago!  If this were Germany, those dogs would have been culled or rendered unable to breed!”.  Such posts are common on the P.D. and it’s even worse on places like Facebook.

One such prognosticator of the German Shepherd Breed and it’s future (or lack thereof)  opined that the German Shepherd has been rendered useless as a working dog at all, and informing all that he was going to start with another breed entirely.  He was, in his words, “despondent over what has been done to his beloved Schaefer-hund by so-called “Sport-Dog” breeders, and Americans with their “Looks before Ability” attitude.  Oh, woe was he…

Well, I followed his name back to Facebook.  He turned out to be a young man in his early twenties, that I would guess had owned his dog for a whole 8 months already!!! He had had trouble house-breaking the puppy, and he blamed it on bad breeding and influence from the weakened breed.  That’s one source that I found for this reported “Down-Fall of the German Shepherd”.  It’s “Fashionable” now to bemoan and rend ones outer garments, in mourning over the grievous condition of the German Shepherd…

It’s also quite common for Breeders of every stripe to wail that “Everybody but me and my friends are ruining the German Shepherd!!”  This seems like either an economically based problem, or hubris, bordering on self-deluding psychopathy.  The German Shepherd Dog is certainly at the very end of its usefulness…

Now, for better or worse, I’m going to tell you what I believe about this idea that the German Shepherd Dog has been ruined as a breed in its entirety…

Mule Muffins.

Granted, there have been some twists in the road, and not a few ill-advised detours.  People with different intentions have certainly put their own stamp on the breed, creating their own ideal.  Other breed aficionado’s absolutely HATE the results.  Working Dog people stand aghast at the “Frog-shaped” American bred show dogs, whose hip structure negates proper “glide” in movement.  The American Show dog people call the “working shepherd” undeveloped and unsightly.  In all honesty, I  am not a fan of the show dog style of German Shepherd, for reasons that will remain my own.   I’m not here to bash on  people who choose to follow that standard.  I’m taking the responsibility to myself, to support and handle the standard that I believe in.  Let them have what they want…Are they ruining the German Shepherd for All of Us????  I don’t think so…

On the other paw, I believe that there is a core group that are breeding and developing German shepherds that would make the crabby old Captain green with dog-envy.  They show up regularly at Schutzhund competitions, Protection Sports events, Disaster sites both natural and man-made, Sheep-herding(both competitive and real world WORK)  They serve and protect Officers of the Law everyday, find explosives for soldiers in the field, find and recover lost loved ones…they are beginning to help find certain cancers in patients long before our technology can detect it.  The list of what real “Working Dogs” are doing today is ever-growing and dynamic. The foundations of what von Stephanitz wanted is unshaken, and remains intact.  Only the “Chicken Littles” of this world that want to be heard and repeated by the ignorant sheeples are saying that the “Sky Is Falling” on the German Shepherd.

Reason on my conclusions this way…If the Original German Shepherd Breed was so perilously close to the precipice of extinction, why would so many be working so hard at cultivating their own blood-lines?  These are people who truly Love the German Shepherd dog, and, in spite of what some believe, they are not getting rich breeding them.  They do it for the “Ideal”…the notion that a German Shepherd can be truly Great when bred and trained properly.  If the breed itself were really in such danger, how would IPO competititors be producing dogs that excel in their sport?   Yes, there are other opinions of what the “ideal” German Shepherd is.  That’s fine.  Leave those of that opinion to themselves, and allow them the joy they find in a different path to their ideal dog.

The dream of von Stephanitz isn’t dead, or in danger.  It’s just that some have lost the vision to recognize where it still lives and breathes, and  thrives.  The Working German Shepherd is alive and well, in spite of what you may have read…Now go out and work your dog, he’s itching to do the job he was born to do…