Archive for the ‘Working 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:_______________________
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I am not a person that adopts  dogs  from a shelter.  My dogs are acquired from a responsible, knowledgable Breeder.  In some places that confession is comparable to confessing to any number of  heinous crimes involving livestock, Meth labs, or eating kittens.  Don’t know what else to tell you about that…But that doesn’t mean that I’m not supportive of the industry, OR the animals.  I DO volunteer time to keeping the homeward looking dogs happy and exercised.  I’ve worked with behavior problems successfully, and if I do say so myself, made a couple of them adoptable.  It can be satisfying, and fulfilling work, watching a formerly “Reactive” dog walking out with his new family on a loose leash right past 40 people without so much as a sneeze.  But that’s all behind me as of today, until such time that the dog shelter organizations put political correctness and the cult of personality behind it. (Uh Oh…He sounds TICKED!)

Actually, I’m more Saddened than angry…I like helping dogs.  But the cult of the Positive Only trainers has managed to usurp the Shelter industry.  And they mean to make everyone submit to a method that damages dogs more than they will ever admit…

Arriving at my voluntary time for exercising the dogs today at a local county shelter, a sign was posted saying to all that walked in,  “Dogs within this facility are handled in Positive, Reward based Methods Exclusively.  Our clients and volunteers are obliged to follow these methods before, during, and after adoption,  Training is available for anyone interested.”

In the immortal words of one Scooby Doo,  “Ahh-Roooo??  Ruht Roh, Raggy”…  Under my breath I asked  ,” When have I ever been anything but positive with any dog?  Even the crazy mutt that tried to eat my face?”  A week later I walked that dog around the campus here…Others would have killed that dog…

Later in morning, a small meeting was held with the volunteers, conducted by the Director of the facility.  A nice, well meaning lady in her ’50’s, and an enthusiastic dog-lover, she began with the greeting of someone recently indoctrinated into a cult.  “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to all of you volunteers here that work with our dogs!  I want you all to know that we have something special for you all that we want you to embrace!  We have invited a wonderful professional Dog Behaviorist here to give you all training that you NEED!”  Her name is **************, and she’s an expert on Clicker-Training and Non Aversive Training.  All of us will be better able to help our resident dogs prepare well for their going home…”  (I’m not giving her name, as this is not meant to personally bash anyone. ( You’d know of her.)

“I was privileged to hear her speak and teach for 2 full days recently, and I must say, never having any formal dog training education myself, I was very impressed!!  She’s so kind to the dogs, and there’s never any punishment of any type to the dogs.  When they misbehave, you simply IGNORE the behavior until they stop.  When they do something right, they get a nice treat!  By the way, I’ve brought back a nice gift for all of you…She produced a shopping bag filled with small, belt worn treat bags.  She passed them out, sliding one under my lower jaw which was pressed firmly against the table top, resting in a puddle of drool and disappointment.

“Each of us will be trained to help our adopters use this method as well.  I think you will all find this very exciting, as it is the latest in behavioral science…Most all of the better, most qualified facilities around the country will be getting this program over time.  I think that you volunteers with dog-training experience will especially benefit from this new training.   We’ll have no more hanging dogs from a leash here again…You’ll find it unnecessary going forward.”

One of the volunteers raised her hand slowly…When did someone here hang a dog from a leash?” she sounded almost conspiratorial.

The Director answered in a slow, rehearsed voice.  “Well, never to my knowledge, but she showed us a compilation of punishments that different trainers have used.   It was awful….and we won’t have it here in any way shape or form.  The seminar will be next Saturday from 1 until 5 pm.  This is a mandatory meeting.”

As the meeting ended,  most of the volunteers filed out, thinking that something great had just happened.  I, and one other volunteer stayed seated.  The Director looked at us confused, “Is there something more?” she asked, genuinely interested.  That’s her greatest strength by the way.  Wholly Dedicated, but with little knowledge of dogs.

“Well, I guess there is a question or two…” I began. ” Has there been a problem with the way that we’ve been working with the dogs?  Has there been a complaint or a dog that went crazy on somebody?”

“Oh No, No!!!  You’ve both been great with the dogs!  Even ones that we thought were headed for euth services…But this is the future of dog training, the latest science. (She had zero knowledge of how long OC has been around)  I thought you’d jump at the chance to learn from ***************.  She’s written books and made DVD’s…apparently she’s quite well-known.”

“Oh we know about her…and her method.  But we’ve also tried the method, and found that it just doesn’t solve the needs of the dogs.  It’s an incomplete way of training, and doesn’t do anything to solve behavior problems in any dog.  Clickers have a small place in a trainers bag of tricks, but there are also other ways.  You know yourself that every dog is unique and has different needs…What ********** does just doesn’t cover them all.  A more Balanced Approach is the what helps the dogs…not plastic toys.  And the other consideration is this in regard to Clicker training…It can’t be taught over the course of two days!  Once ********** leaves here, you’ll have an entire volunteer group doing it wrong anyway. Confusion will reign, as you have bad science being used by poor performers.  Most of the dogs that pass thru here either arrive with issues, or develop them while here.  Non-Aversive training will only create more issues that will create behavior problems.  You, more than all of us, must know how many shelter dogs are euthanized each year because someone “In the Know” says, ” that dog can’t be helped, so killing it is the only safe option .”

She looked at us like she knew a secret kept from us.  “Well, I think this is the right thing to do for the shelter…Are you aware that in Europe, Wales I think she said, and in a couple of states here in the US, there is already legislation to ban certain training tools and regulate the dog training industry based on training methods?  This is coming, whether anybody likes it or not…You have to keep up with the science.”

The rest of that conversation was short and concise, ending with myself and one other talented dog trainer resigning from volunteering at the Rescue.  Political Correctness has come home to roost in Ohio.  And it’s probably headed for your home as well, under the guidance of the local  political correctness squad.   Over something that “correctness” doesn’t begin to fathom….Our ability to train our dogs in the best methods for them…Balanced, kind, and uniquely suited to each dog, has been, and will be, under fire by these groups until we, as balanced trainers/handlers begin to defend what’s right.

This is why  I’ve begun looking for other trainers/handlers and Dog Writers that truly understand dog learning and training.  balanced trainers that become experts at understanding which method(s) works best for the dog.  Not Non-stop treat dispensers,  like some sort of Human Pez Dispenser filled with kibble. Not brutal in any way, but capable of understanding and utilizing  the power of aversion.  Or before you go there, punishment of a proper degree.  I’m happy to see a few of them out there now beginning to stir the pot and educate about Balanced, natural training.  People like Wade Morrell, Ivan Balabanov, Kevin Kinker, Kevin and Cheryl Goedes, and others I’ll mention in another post.  I don’t mean to leave any other talented trainers off this list, but know that I see and support you on this blog as best I can, and will continue to do…It’s time to stand up and take back the dog training world before legislation DOES suddenly oozes into our local government.  We need to work together against a small but media savvy machine that’s been operating for several years while we were busy training, competing, and correcting bad behaviors,  thinking that we were not in danger from the sources of self-proclaimed experts.  If you train in a balanced way, if you can write or make video of balanced training, get your stuff out there.  Make kind, instructive, comments on Facebook and the chat rooms.  Explain why Natural, Balanced training is the best way in calm, Professional tones and terms.  We have a lot to lose if we don’t get serious and SOON…If it takes a few minutes away from working in the field with the dogs, use your communication time to teach the dogs a good long “Stay”.  YOUR help is needed, along with your skills, talents, and determination to train well!

Other components of the Dog World are also being threatened by similar groups and individuals.  One of them is legislation aimed ostensibly at Puppy Mills.  Don’t get me wrong, puppy mills need to be gotten rid of NOW.  They are a cancer on the dog profession.  But the way current legislation is being written by HSUS, PETA and other groups threatens the Purebred Dogs that are needed to support survival of the breeds in their pure form.  There’s much more detail that needs to be written about regarding this assault, but I’ll save it for another post.  But there’s already a lot of information available out there.  Try Googleing the phrase “Dog Breeders Legislation Pending” and see what “The Devil Is In the Details” really means.  These groups are crafty, and yes, sneaky.  They work behind the scenes until they are full-blown READY to strike, and then they do.  Stay Alert and spread the information that you discover, it can help us save our rights, our livelihood, and ultimately the future of dogs…

footnote*  I will continue to help working dogs that need whatever they need.  I can handle that on my small kennel property, and I won’t lose the good that can be done…

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…

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…

 

If you work with, or just walk a large, black, German Shepherd around in public places, you will eventually be asked, “Does your dog bite?”  I guess that’s to be expected.  Owners of Pit Bulls, Malinois, and several other breeds suffer just the same line of questioning.  Time was, I would assure the questioner that my dog was definitely not a Biter, and yes, they could pet him.  Well, hindsight is 20/20, and I may have done my dogs a disservice.  Education has lead me to another path, and my answer to that question is far different today.  Not because Hans nailed some poor unfortunate, thank goodness, but because I’m more tuned into the true nature of the dog.  And you may not like what I’m about to expound on here, but facts are facts, and it will serve us all if we take responsibility for the predator on the “other end of the leash”.

The next time I speak to a group about dogs, or dog bites, or whatever, the response will go exactly this way, especially if it’s a group of children:

“Mr. Vaughan, does your dog bite?”

“Thank you for that excellent question!  Let me answer it this way.  How many of you have a dog at home?”  The audiences always have  more dogs than not.  “My answer is this:  Yes… undeniably, unequivocally, absolutely, and honestly, my dog bites.  And whats more, so does the dog you have at home that licks your face when you get home, and sleeps on your bed.  All dogs can and will bite!”

There will be gasps from the front row, and from school administrators worried about liability of such a beast loose in their school.  First, because Hans will probably be sitting nearby, off-leash, with that German Shepherd look on his face.  Secondly, because very few people believe that their Cocker Spaniel has any notion of biting anyone or anything.

The response I’ll give has a two-fold purpose.  First, I don’t want any child, or any adult to suffer a dog bite.  They are singularly unpleasant, and tend toward scarring and infection.  Please be careful when you approach any strange dog that you don’t know.

Secondarily, but far more interesting and perhaps more controversial, Your Dog Bites Because It’s a Predatory animal, and it enjoys Biting.  It’s the end result of his Predatory Drive.  Chase a ball, bite it.  Chase a rabbit, bite it.  Find a bowl full of kibble, bite it.  Wave little hands in front of a puppies face?  Probably gonna bite it.  And therein lies the problem.

The question before you as your dogs leader is this? ” How do I allow my dog the natural outlet of biting, without the biting being inappropriate at best, and tragic at worst?”

We struggled with this when we first had our German Shepherd, Hans.  He is a working dog and has the instinct to chase and bite.  The interesting thing was this:  Hans never bit me.  Not once.  However, my poor wife carried some bruises and bite marks that would horrify a coroner.  The bites were never delivered in aggression, but always happened when she would attempt her version of play.  Run away from him with the ball,  throw the ball and chase him when he wouldn’t give up the ball.  When he did bite, she would grab the dogs snout and say, “NO!” gently but firmly.  Hans saw that as a challenge.  Our 6 month old German Shepherd got a reputation with my wife.  “Why doesn’t he bite you???” she would cry.

Well, we figured it out eventually and Carol has since become a very fine trainer, but she learned the hard way.  It had to do with how I played with, and responded to his instinctual behavior.  Our play involved allowing him to fulfill the ultimate release of his instinctive behavior to hunt, that is to bite something.  When he was under a year of age, I used a five foot long, flexible fiberglas rod with a string attached to it.  The business end has a chamois cloth tied to it.  We would flip that chamois around around like it was crazed, and Hans’ job was to catch it.  The game finished when Hans was told to release the prize.  When he did, the game could resume, drop the chamois produced another round of catch it.  He picked up the game and the “Out” command very quickly.  This game also built his prey drive into something that could be readily utilized into his training.  As he grew older, I used a 24-inch , two-handed ,leather tug toy.  The idea was to grab the tug, bite it hard, and take it away from me.  I always allowed Hans to win this game after a bit of wrestling, and he became confident, and he knew when and what he was allowed to bite.  As an aside, this game also taught me how not to get bitten during this exercise.  I learned his approach, the look in his eyes, and his timing.  We developed his “out” command during this play consistently.  He will drop anything he has in his teeth upon command, and I do mean anything.  We practice this “out” even with raw turkey drumsticks.  Did the play create an aggressive dog?  Absolutely not.  And we’ve found a way to do what comes naturally to a predatory canine.  Teaching not to bite by teaching when and what to bite.

 

After his first year of life, we moved into bite sleeves and decoy work.  He loves these exercises, and he has tremendous recall off an attack, because we allow him to do what comes naturally in the first place.

Many will give the advice, “When a puppy bites, grab his snout and prevent him.  In my observation, you are retarding his instinct by doing this, and he’ll become frustrated quickly, leading to continuing problems.  You are better off to do what his litter-mates did when they bit each other to hard, give out a blood-curdling “Yip!!” that says, :That’s too hard!! Stop!!!”  The dog will often step back from you, shocked.  This is how you speak dog…Dogs teach each other the limits of biting, very early.

The key to outliving your puppies “biting/nipping” habit, is to teach him that biting is only for certain toys, and certain times.  The way to control it is natural…Find an activity that allows him to use his teeth for the purpose that God gave them to him.  As always, the secret to most dog training, is too spend the time necessary to work with, and understand your dog.  Find help when you have questions.  It will allow your dog to be his best!

 

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
―    George Bernard Shaw

All training has, or should have, a foundation built on communication.  Every method of dog-training claims to be based on communication between dog and trainer.  Every Trainer claims to be in communication with the dog while they’re training together.  It’s a universal hubris that we share. “It’s as though my dog knows what I’m thinking before I give him the command.” we find ourselves saying.   I’ve begun calling that hubris, for simplicity sake, a delusion.  That delusion is costing our dogs dearly in emotional fulfillment.

Strangely enough, I’ve learned much of this truth  from an individual that lays no claim to ever having been a  “trainer of dogs”.  In fact, most of her dogs have never had “formal” training at all.  They’ve been allowed to live as dogs will, within the confines of what their “leader” will accept as proper, and she understands that dogs are motivated by “feeling”.  Everyday, on this breeders ranch property, you may find as many as seven or more intact male German Shepherds, milling about together with both human family, and visiting strangers of the human persuasion.  When the brood bitches are not in heat, you may very well also encounter them on the property beside the males.  From puppy to a nearly thirteen year old unfixed male German Shepherd, (A dog that has earned the right to be crabby at times), they live and thrive under the guidance of their emotional leader, a small, slightly built lady that lays no claim to being anything but a farm girl (a compliment if I ever gave one)that loves German Shepherds. (And makes AWE-INSPIRING Banana Cake.  But I digress)   Yet, the dogs watch her for every move, as though she looks down from Olympus itself, casting thunderbolts into the sky.  When she walks the property, her dogs are at her heel.  When she is in her kennel office, they swarm around her waiting for and receiving the support they seek.  And none of them has ever had a day of “sit”, “down”, “stay” formal training from a “trainer” that has a certificate of achievement, boasting that they are a “Master Trainer”.  In fact, among other signs in her office is one that say’s “Ranchin’s Hard Work.  Y’wanta?”  Which I believe says more about Mrs. Rhonda Sellers than necessary to back up my position that she is one of the finest trainers I’ve ever observed.  She works hard at understanding and communicating with dogs on a level that goes way beyond the “technique” of any Training modality.  She understands what her dogs “feel”, and understands them.  It’s that simple.

So what does that say about those of us that have “credentials”?

We need to work on our communications skills.  Not our dogs…they’re doing just fine waiting for us to catch up to them, like a rider waiting in a downpour at an open bus stop.. We need to re-define what “training” means. Are naturally performed commands sit Sit, Stay, and Down really Trained into our dogs?  Or are they just methods by which a dog relieves stress?   We need to accept and embrace the process of understanding that dogs “Feel”.  That the concept of what “drives” a dog has been made so complicated by well-intentioned but misguided “experts”,  that recovery is difficult at best.  The Operant Conditioning crowd has used the misnomer “Scientific method” as a billy club to convince the gullible that a clicker can accomplish miracles.  A supposition proven fatally flawed time and again, by the failure to help dogs with behavioral problems.  Our problem is education, NOT lack of it.  So many  “Trainers”are “educated” to do things incorrectly from the point of view of the dogs.  Not to put too fine of a point on this, but “Petsmart” store type “training” has done more damage to the dogs than a plague of distemper.

It’s just as big of a mistake to assume “human” tendencies in our dogs.  They are, in the end, still dogs.  They need and want us bi-pedals to get with the program already and respect their true “Dogness”.  I define that as realizing what motivates  our dogs in the real world, not the man-made world of guesses and theories, top-heavy with bias and egotism.  It’s so much simpler that we will make it, with our technologies, scientific thought, and Behavioral studies that are more about humans than dogs.

This thought process has shaped and cut away the useless chaff of my training regimen.  Gone are the overuse of treat morsels, gone are the toys at every success.  My dogs, and a few practitioners of real  canine communication have guided me down this road, and I’m determined to share it with others for the sake of the dogs.  Current methods allow a permissiveness that  is harming the mental strength of our dogs, especially those breeds that relied on the inner calm and heart of the trainer/handler, to perform important jobs.  It’s our fault as dog people, that this communication has waned, and only  when we rediscover a more natural way to listen and communicate will we understand where we have failed.  In this case, failure is a beginning to a better way for our dogs.  In my next post, I’m going to show you the steps I’ve taken specifically, on the journey of true Canine Communication.  I call the first step,  “I wish my dog could do that!”

Thanks for reading, it’s great to be back…and thank you for your support!  We have eclipsed 35,000 readers!!!

Chances are very good that your first visit with a veterinarian and your new puppy will involve The Discussion.  That discussion involves, ” When shall we schedule spaying/neutering your dog?”   Very few vets will back off from the issue until you either schedule the procedure, or take a stand.  It’s ingrained in their medical school training/indoctrination.  You will have to make a decision.

It has been my observation that many dog-owners hesitate at first when asked about this operation.  Some express doubt.  ALL have questions.  What’s the scoop behind spaying/neutering?  What are the positives?  What are the negatives?  What’s True, and what’s blatheringly False from the politically correct?  I hope to provide some plain language council here, free of the long-winded and technical.  Hopefully I can arm you with the questions you need to answer to make a decision that benefits your dog, not someones opinion.

Up front,  I’ll tell you that while I am not a breeder, I am a very determined “Bloodline Preservationist.”  My long-range plans are to breed the dogs that I own and care for, and to provide  Limited and Selective Stud Work to outcrossed dogs that have passed a veritable minefield of approval in health, temperament, and quality.  The bloodline I have chosen, were carefully and thoughtfully developed by a professional breeder at Omorrow German Shepherds by the name of Rhonda Sellers.  My research has traced and found this pedigree to be something extraordinary, something to be preserved.  But this is not my primary reason for my stand on Spaying/Neutering.

Understand, I will never breed an inferior dog, or one that has nothing to offer the betterment of the breed.  Nor will I allow such a dog to be bred.  My feelings about spaying/neutering are not really applicable to the dogs of that sort.  But when a dog has something to add to the breed, it should be kept intact.

Let me address this issue from the viewpoint of a pet-owner that has a puppy, or has adopted a rescue dog.  How do you decide whether or not to Spay or Neuter?  Here are some positives and negatives to consider:

When talking to you about the Health impact of Spay/Neuter, Health Risks, are seldom brought up by Veterinarians.  These will be central to this post.  Note that I am not at this time addressing the “population control” aspects at this time.

There are no truly compelling reasons to neuter a male dog, save those given by activists, or those with monetary gain at risk.  The widely varied problems associated with Neutering actually exceed the benefits implied.  To be fair, the positives include: It virtually nullifies the risk of testicular cancer.  No testicles, no cancer, simple.  But what you’re not being told, is that the actual chances of testicular cancer in dogs is only about 1%.  (Yes, ONE PERCENT)

It may also reduce chances of some prostate disorders,perianal fistulas, and perhaps even diabetes.  But these are rare occurrences on rare ailments, with questionable studies used to fabricate something positive on the side of the Pro-Neuter lobby.

Conversely, some of the proven risks of Neutering are as follows:

Increased risks of Bone Cancer in large and medium size dogs.  This is a hormonal causative.  Bone cancer has very poor survival rates.

The risk of Hypothyroidism is Tripled in its possibility.  Many symptoms can be traced to this problem.

Prostate Cancer is given a  X 4 greater chance of developing.  Again due to hormonal obstruction or depletion.

Bone density and joint problems are exacerbated by neutering.

Adverse Reaction to certain vaccinations are also worsened by neutering.

 

As For Spaying in the female, the positives are greatly unbalanced when compared to the negatives.  Positives include:  Reduced risk of Mammary cancers if performed before 2.5 years of age.

It removes opportunity for uterine, cervical, and ovarian cancers, which only about 5% will ever suffer from in any case.

On the Negative Side:   Bone Cancer chances are nearly tripled.

Sarcomas of the heart, lungs, and spleen are greatly increased in chance and severity.

Obesity can become chronic and debilitating.

Recession of gender specific organs is also increased, such as in recessed vulva’s.  Vaginitis also becomes more common, as well as Vaginal dermatitis.

Here too, vaccination reactions can be become more frequent and pronounced.

It would seem that many risks are apparent for these surgical procedures.  Complications during the surgeries can also be fatal.  Anesthesia is rarely found to be a “Good” idea to even the healthiest dogs.  Reactions are common.  INflammatory complications can also lead to poor health, expensive, long-term medications, and bleeding.  However, in light of truth, Death from post-operative complications are very rare.

 

There are some very extensive studies published academically, and on the internet that reveal the risks.  On objective reading of them reveals no real reason medically, to have these performed on your dog.  Using a web-browser can reveal these studies under “Complications of Spay/Neutering of Canines”.  Read them for yourself, but have your dogs well-being in mind.