Just as a sailboat needs wind to drive it forward, your dog needs motivation. Much discussion of “drives” takes place across the spectrum of canine training. What motivates a dog to certain behavior. What causes a dog to act in certain ways. I am convinced that “emotion”, from a canine point of view, is very powerful. In relationship training, it is foundational.
Humans are emotional beings. We would be incomplete if we weren’t. Without emotion, there would be no poetry, music, or art. Granted, there would also be no war, broken marriages/families, or other assorted poor decisions. There are emotions both pleasant and poisonous.
Part of the research for this post caused me to ask the questions, Can you be calm, when you are emotional? Can you be emotional and calm at the same time?? Are calm and emotion mutually exclusive? And does our emotion affect a dog? How do dogs deal with emotions? And what part does emotion play in our communication?
We have no doubt that dogs exhibit and “feel” emotions. Not in the same manner as humans, but they do experience some type of internal motivation. When we watch my two German Shepherds chasing each other around the training field with wild, reckless, abandon, we feel their “happiness”. We make special effort to “share” their emotion, by taking part in their celebration, offering them behavior that allows them to continue their games. Positive “emotion” if you will. Encouragement at the least. We work at observing emotional response in the dogs, and then reciprocate that back to them. It affects their sense of well-being, and helps us communicate with each other. We are telling them, in effect, I understand what you are telling me, and I’m sharing it. Dogs are better behaved when we connect on an emotional level. This is a daily exercise, and requires that you see through your dogs eyes sympathetically. And we know it’s impossible to do that perfectly. But you can learn to identify your dogs state of mind! It’s similar to becoming engaged and eventually marrying another person. You do everything in your power to learn about, and understand another person. You learn what makes that person happy, sad, angry, the entire gamut of emotional feedback. How do you do that? Observation, conversation, and honesty. Effort, motivated by love. It’s defensible to say that our dogs are “aware” of our desires much of the time, even if they don’t necessarily try to fulfill them. Some will bolt away from this next statement, but as far as social behavior is concerned, each and every member of a group or family is sensitive to the current tide of emotion within that collective. That includes both two and four-legged members. Don’t believe this to be true? Find a place where several dogs are together peacefully, and then introduce an unbalanced, or otherwise unsteady dog. The reaction is immediate and undeniable. Negative emotion, tension, and angst easily permeates any group of sensitive living creatures. The same is true of positive emotions, relaxed mind-frames, and smiling faces. Emotion communicates. Try the same experiment with human interactions with dogs. The next time that one or more members of your human family are exhibiting strong emotion, thru some disagreement or family tension, observe what most dogs do. A majority of them will excuse themselves from the raised voices and discord, and find a spot to lay low.
Emotion is a key to developing a communicative bond with your dog. Always approach training, or socializing, with an even temperament of your own. If you feel frustration develop, or heightened excitement, take a minute and chill out. Each of us will need to explore and develop our own individual means of “calming” our human selves. It is important. Dare I say, vital.
Other evidence of this emotional bond can be observed between dogs playing together. If they are on the same emotional level, you will observe harmony that resembles a huge flock of birds flying together. Rolling, twisting, and diving, they never seem to run into each other. How? It’s God-given in my opinion. When my dogs work together, it’s a sublime example of “oneness of mind.” When I’m involved in it with them, it’s absolutely “Next Level Cool.”
My advice is quite simple: Share emotion with your dog. If you observe him gnawing on a nice meaty bone, express the the emotion that he is. Is that bone goood? Ooooh yummmmy! Thats a Goood Boy! It’s beneficial to include yourself in his pleasure. It’s okay if you sound like an idiot talking to your dog in this manner. Dogs don’t care about that. They care about interaction with the most important person in their life, you. Celebrate the fun of playing ball together. Not including your dog in your activities is a sure fire way to frustrate your friend and it affects your relationship. Just examine a dog that suffers from Separation Anxiety.
Go ahead, encourage your dog often and eagerly with words and tone that make him feel good about himself. I have been able to observe the power of this conclusion training for Agility. The most successful trainers are ridiculously happy while training, even if the dog is less than perfect. The least successful are those that emotionally punish their dog if they missed a tunnel or jump the wrong bar. “Stupid Dog!”, they’ll spit, as though the mistake were the dogs fault.
In fact, and this is something I admire in the sport, foul language and yelling at the dog can result in points lost, or even disqualification of the team. This is where a positive attitude is of the highest value. Be in the moment with your dog, and make it uplifting in dog terms! Your assignment today, and for the rest of your time together is this: Watch for your dogs emotional output, and support it. We have all seen our dog smile about something. When you do, smile with him.

There are times when I watch my dogs and try to imagine what they are thinking, feeling, even emoting. Ears back, eyes closed, a deep sigh. Ears pricked straight up, eyes like lasers, a slight whine. Flat out laying on the grass completely supine, mentally and physically. Ready to pounce at the instant I produce a ball, intending to throw it so that their energy can find fulfillment.
The dog you live with, is an incredibly…simple creature. However, that simplicity is amazingly misunderstood by those of us with only two legs. It is complex beyond our grasp, because we are not masters of our emotions. In that hazily understood condition, we continue to choose the dog as a companion and friend. Perhaps it’s because we recognize that in their simplicity is a command of really living, really feeling. We want to understand that mindset, and emulate it for ourselves.
I consider it an unrelenting truth that our dogs reflect us like mirrors of mood, emotion, and mental state. They become us by proxy, and we affect every minute of their day. Now, I have come to believe that it’s time to allow myself to become a mirror of my dogs mood and mental state, for my own good. This being the opposite of what I’ve been doing, wanting the dog to emulate me…
Like so many people, all people, I am physically affected by the stresses and pressures of life. Our lives are busy in an unprecedented manner, with jobs, families, school, worship, and the myriad of responsibilities that are all too common to the human condition. We choose, and allow these responsibilities to become even more palpable and burdensome by the inclusion of an array of electronic devices that society tell us are necessary, even vital. Cell phones that demand we answer them, “Right blessed now!” whether it be another person or a text message. I-phones with complete access to every form of communication known to man. Check the Weather! Check the Market! See My kid at Soccer! Look at the cute kitty on Facebook!” The cacophony of distractions is varied and undeniable.
We enter our homes, our cars, our offices, our recreation, with phones, Ipads, Kindles, notebooks and other assorted electronica firmly clutched in our sweaty hands, or stuck in our ear canal, reluctant to disconnect from knowing what someone we “friended” had for lunch. Many of us can’t even operate a motor vehicle without the ridiculous panoply of I-phone, navigation, I-this and I-that robbing us of the attention required to aim a 3000 lbs bullet safely at 70 mph. Some have even paid for this necessity with their lives or that of others. Look around for someone of 25 years of age or under without a sweaty ear-bud inserted, spewing out racket at 140 decibels. It’s harder than you think. It’s not uncommon for us to have televisions in every room in the house, including the bathroom. All of this noise and “information” overload, is killing us. Or at the least, driving us toward a psychotic episode. That’s where the dogs enter the picture.

Your dogs mind and heart are capable of something that humans seem to fight: Contentment. Tranquility. Focus. Satisfaction with what it has, not yearning for something it doesn’t need.
I’m told that dogs seldom have high blood pressure. How many humans can say that truthfully? True, dogs have stresses of their own to deal with, but they’re usually from a human source ignoring the dogs being.
Dogs flow through life. They accept what they cannot,(or do not know they can) change. They content themselves with the warmth of their social group, or even find comfort in the solace of aloneness. Dogs are blissfully unaware of the political and social issues that swirl about them. They have no idea what CNN is, who Rachel Maddow or Rush Limbaugh are, and they care not one whit about gay marriage. The only quality they care about in humans is the one that takes care of them properly. Dogs don’t care if you are a vegan, if you support the second amendment, or if you are a progressive/socialist. They don’t have Twitter feeds or hash-tags. They don’t have Facebook pages or blogs unless a meddling human sets it up. They have more important things on their minds, like, who’s going to feed me supper? Who’s going to throw this ball for me? Is my Mom or Dad on the way home yet? What’s for supper? They are focused on important things, not what others say is important.
I’m going to be more like my dogs. For my own well-being. Unplug, stop worrying about what idiots are saying about useless issues, sit in the grass in the sunshine on a spring day, romp in the mud because it’s fun, play like somebody left the garden gate open. I’m going to master just focusing on what’s really important. I’m going to imitate my dogs and learn to “Be”.


When the word “Parenting” is attached to training a dog, it may cause doubts in the mind of serious dog trainers. Many will dismiss the product as “anthropomorphizing” the dog, trying to make the dog into a furry little human. The dog training world loves to fight about verbage and the meaning of phraseology. Everybody wants to make words support their individual viewpoint. But wait just a minute, and hear me out. This 90 minute video, by trainer Angie Ballman-Winter manages to include both words into it’s title, and it does so admirably and convincingly.
German Shepherd Adventures was honored to be invited to a preview of the nearly finished video recently, and we came away very impressed by what we saw, heard, and learned.
The video presentation is titled “Puppy and Dog Parenting Program”, and is the second release in the Angie4dogs video library. Angie has created a well-thought out, easy to follow, and effective instructional resource.
Intended for pet owners and their dogs, professional trainers might easily find much of value within, and they should not dismiss this video out-of-hand as below them. Angie is an experienced, competent, professional trainer, worthy of your attention.
Her special talent is working with everyday dog owners, teaching them to build a relationship with their pet that benefits them for their entire life. Her practice focuses on working with people and dogs in their own home, together, rather than excluding the human family in a “Board and Train” situation. An approach that we admire and support fully.
The contents of the video are divided into sections entitled, “Puppy Rights”, “Puppy Rules”, “Potty Training”, “Kids and Dogs”, “Chewing”, “In The Car”, “Yard Manners”, “Other Dogs And Cats”, “Guidance”, and the wrap-up, “Balanced Dog Parenting Plan”. I won’t give away the contents of each and every heading, but every one of them is discussed and described with a kindness ,thoroughness, and spirit of fun that makes 90 minutes pass quickly. The tone of the instruction never talks down to the viewer, whether new or experienced. There is a great feeling of conviction in the presentation, born of practical experience on the trainers part.
Two other headings are especially helpful, one titled “Puppy Practice”, and best of all, “People Practice”. Both practical hands-on approaches that produce results for both ends of the leash. Enabling the pet dog owner to continue what they learn after the trainer has gone home. The tone of these chapters works hard to build confidence in even the newest dog owners, that they can be successful creating a well-behaved and mentally balanced pet.
Two other subjects were of special interest, and may be something that Angie can build on in future videos. Brief mention is made of “The Touch”, and the “Mother Dog-Hold”, techniques that enhance “Guidance” and “Communication” with and for puppies. I believe that she may have much more to teach on those subjects.
Well designed, clear, graphic presentations are used throughout the presentation, which makes them wonderful resources for recall of important points. There’s no fluff here, everything needs to be where it has been placed. The presentation is thoroughly professional, and her technical film/editing crew are simply top-notch. Unlike so many dog training videos produced today, this is a work of art technically speaking. Everything looks and sounds like is was photographed ad produced by people who care about the art of making instructional video.

There, that finishes my “professional, journalistic” review of the “Puppy and Dog Parenting Program”, by Angie Ballman-Winters. Now let me gush about the video as a customer. This is a great video that deserves a place in every dog owners library, and every professional dog-trainer will certainly benefit from it. The discussion of “Parenting” a dog, (or puppy) is convincing, and may well influence your own thinking, and approach to working with any dog. This is not a “New-Age”, fluffy subject, but rather a proven way to build a better relationship with the dog.

The video will have multiple ways of access when finished this spring, streamed on-line, and as a physical DVD. As the release is finalized, GSA will give further instruction so that you may purchase this wonderful program!

The Power of a Quiet Presence.

I witnessed the convergence of two very profound truths before this post was written. They came together quite organically, leaving me with little doubt as to their validity. I’d like to share it as a part of my “Communicative Approach” to training dogs, which I hope you are reading with an open mind.
You see, all of us fall into the habit of yelling at dogs. Whether you work in a boarding kennel, as I have, or with your own dogs at home. Whether you train in agility and rally, obedience, IPO, or dock diving, or any other type of training involving dogs. We humans are a noisy bunch, tightly wound and often stressed by life, as it comes by us at 400 mph every day. Oh, we try to relax and be calm, but we fail as often as not. And like it or not, it affects our training, and the relationship we have with our dogs. And if you work with dogs in large or semi-large group situation, it probably happens to you a lot.
The fact of the matter is this: When we allow ourselves to become frustrated, excited, and loud, the emotion and energy transfer immediately to the dog or dogs. They interpret our energy as excitement and the need to get their energy to another level somewhere above what we are putting out. Sometimes way North of where we want them to be.
Everyone understands the tenant of “The Golden Rule”, “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.” Now let’s look at this from the dogs point-of-view. Suppose you have a problem with unwanted barking behavior, and want to eliminate it. Your solution is to yell loudly at the dog every time it begins to bark. “QUIT THAT %#$$@*&^%&&$ BARKING or I’ll &^*(%^$ you until the ^&&%#$ and the handle breaks off *(&$$% and the base cracks in half %#^^&*!!!!

Do you really believe that the dog understands your words?
Do You really believe that the dog understands your intent and tone?
All the dog hears is, “ARRFF ARF ARRFF ARF ARFFF ARF ARRRFFF ARF ARRFF ARF ARFARFARF AARRRRFFF!!!!!!” Which the dog then interprets as, “HEY!! I’m trying to be louder than you, and joining you in the Bark Fest!!! It’s time to be loud, obnoxious, and boisterous with my human!!! Here’s my best shot!!” Epic Failure to Understand Your Dog.

I have observed this phenomena first hand. I’ve been guilty of it myself. But I’ve also tried and succeeded at the polar opposite. At my place of employment, we regularly placed 15 to 40 dogs in an open grassy enclosure for what’s called “Day Camp”. The dogs are allowed to interact, play, and socialize. I know that many of you in the Day Care industry are horrified by the very notion, but believe me, it works quite successfully. When the entire Dog Day Care industry accepts and utilizes the concept, the dogs will thank you. Yes it does require that your day care workers be more than high school children without canine experience, but that’s only a good thing.
Every large group of dogs will be made up of different breeds, temperaments, and behavior types. Even when groups are selected carefully for compatibility, there will be situations. Period. How it’s dealt with will be the largest factor in peaceable (and bloodless) resolution. Running across the field yielding a club, yelling like Attila the Hun, will only make it worse, and raise the excitement level. Once the emotional energy is released (from the human), the dogs will pick it up, and take it to a greater level. Not only will you fail to stop the altercation, you may very well make it worse.
As I often do, while reading various and sundry pieces of literary works, (anything from MAD Magazine to Atlas Shrugged and beyond), I come across truly profound passages that defend or even deny suppositions that I arrive at. This post was inspired by a passage in the Holy Bible, (Don’t Leave, It won’t hurt you!) and is found in the book of 1st Peter chapter 3, verse 4.
The good apostle, who had a bit of a reputation as being a bit impulsive in life, (cutting off the ear of a Roman Soldier with a sword as example) talked in that verse of a “Quiet and Mild Spirit” that was part of a “secret” that is kept within a persons’ heart. Something that normal persons can possess and display. He even said it “pleased God” to see this spirit displayed by the individual. Whether you value the message or not, I have seen the value and power of reacting and displaying a quiet and mild presence among groups of dogs, and over single dogs. Truth be told, the same mental attitude tends to work on humans as well. If you want to continue an argument with someone, by all means raise your voice, stick out your chest, or threaten violence. If you want to calm down an encounter, remain quiet but without cringing. Violence begets violence, and calm produces calm. Don’t believe me?
As I did my job every day, I see this on a constant basis. I often find myself in an enclosed space with 15 to 25 unleashed dogs playing and interacting. Sounds like a recipe for chaos doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. Unless…
The ability to keep some measure of control over such a group starts with the person or persons overseeing the collective. Can you manage to control your emotions and output of stress? Can you avoid yelling, shouting and the hyper-kinetics of your own stress? Is anger a common emotion that you harbor? Will two dogs wrestling in play cause you to boil over? If not, then don’t expect the dogs to remain calm either. You’re the catalyst. Stay out of the pack until you can master your own feelings.
Okay, I hear people say that, “I can’t help myself, I care about the dogs, and I’m passionate about taking care of them. I don’t want them to get hurt, so I express myself loudly.” Mule Muffins.
Let me explain it this way: Anger, displayed by yelling or chasing dogs with intent, is like a thunderstorm. Unpredictable, dangerous, and out of control. Passion is a waterfall. Ever-flowing, steady, and predictable, yet powerful. Too many people can’t tell the difference. The dogs pay the price.
I know that I’ve written about this subject before, but my research and application has only reinforced my belief in it. Try caring for your dog or dogs without speaking sometime soon. Use body language, try using your eyes, try developing a calm demeanor. Try to picture the behavior you desire from your dog in your thoughts, and do so without negative thoughts.
A “Presence” of leadership is something palpable and powerful, but never threatening. Not only will it help control frenetic, frenzied activity, it also makes shy, nervous dogs, respond to you. For instance, in my work, we sometimes encounter dogs that are quite reluctant about coming out of a kennel. They may be frightened of the environment, they may be shying from the loud barking in the kennel area. Taking the time to enter the dogs enclosure slowly, and sitting quietly and patiently will quite often bring the dog to your side. Don’t react too quickly, as the dog needs time to trust this new presence. It might take several minutes, even multiple sessions. But the quiet presence will eventually produce results.
Another example of this is my work with blind dogs. When first encountered, some dogs lacking sight react to strange presences by being defensive, even nipping or worse. Allowing your presence to be felt thru scent, and a calm voice, will allow you to work with such a dog. As trust grows, your calm protective presence will allow you to walk such a gentle soul. The dog becomes confident that it is in no danger with you, and that your presence is trustworthy.
There is great power and strength in a quiet and mild spirit. With dogs, and with people.

I have the opportunity to observe a large variety of people with their dogs every day. At work, at play, or just hanging out. In fact, much of the development of the communicative approach to dog-training was born of these sessions, by simply watching both human and dog interact. No matter which method of training you choose to discipline your dog in, you must, must, must, be able to communicate effectively. Not just trainer to dog, but also in the reverse, dog to trainer. I suppose that it should have been an early lesson in the Communicative Approach, but these things often arise only in retrospect, or hindsight. And so it is with Self-Control. And by that, I mean your Self-Control as a trainer, handler, or human being. But what is Self-Control? Let me start at ground zero for the definition as it is intended in this context.

Do you find yourself yelling at your dog?? Do you yell at the dog(s) you work with? Do you believe that yelling at dogs is in anyway helpful? If so, you lack self-control.
Observing kennel workers on a regular basis, I see more reliance on the high volume human voice than any other method. Closely followed by such silliness as spray bottles, and “time out”, which means banishment to a kennel or a crate. All three of those methods show that “self-control” has degraded into eliminating what annoys the human involved. The dog learns nothing except that the human doesn’t understand the first thing about dogs or their training. Will yelling at a dog (or a pack of dogs) quiet them for any meaningful length of time? No, simply put. In fact, it probably has the opposite effect. If you try to prevent unwanted barking by yelling at the dog, the dog thinks that you are taking part in the barking, and will amp it up accordingly. If you are trying to eliminate an unwanted behavior in your dog, will yelling stop the behavior? No, and it likely will raise the dogs anxiety level. Not only does the dog not understand your words, your volume confuses his ability to read your body language.
The only humans that really need to yell, are military drill sergeants. But they have a different goal, and a very different individual in front of their steely gaze. That may be why some dog trainers confuse yelling with a useful tool. It works with people that are being conditioned to obey commands in the stress of combat. For the most part, your dog is just not under the same demand. Nor is the dog as intelligent as a human, that can understand the “why” of such conditioning. All a dog knows is the energy or emotion that your yelling produces.
Some of the most self-controlled dog trainers that I’ve watched, have been the Decoys in top level bite work. They understand how to raise a dogs level of excitement to a given point, and just as efficiently lower it back to what I’ll call, “Petting the dog is now possible” level. They use their own body language and energy to slow the dog, often without using the voice at all. Yet they use their voice to raise the dogs level to the attack level.
Another great place to observe self-control with dog training is agility. The best competitors never yell at their dog, mistakes are corrected by hand signals usually, but also with contact of an instructive nature. Not striking, but guiding. Yes, I know that yelling can be heard at any of these events at some point, but not everybody is thinking properly.
Want to observe “lack of self-control” in its native habitat? Try a dog park on a Saturday. Lots of dogs, lots of distractions, lots of dog owners struggling to keep their dog under control. You can always observe somebody chasing a dog across the field yelling at the top of their lungs to “Get back here you stupid dog!!!!”
Communication that truly helps is always given in a calm manner. Yes, the intensity level, not the volume, can be properly raised by the human, should the lesson require it.
I use as an example the “down-stay”. Which is actually a misnomer. The dog should be taught that “down” means “stay until otherwise told.” The release from down is always another command, whether verbal or visual. But that energy level comes from the trainers physical demeanor. Anger, which almost always begets yelling, has no place on the training field or while working with your dog. Your dog reads anger in only a negative sense, never as a response to the knowledge of how important a lesson may be. Dogs don’t process things through that prism. They sense your emotion as raw, intimidating, fearful. Not protective, which may very well be your intended purpose. The dog cannot delineate between anger and a high priority command, because the concept is beyond his cognition. Yelling at a human child to “Stay Out of The Road!” might work because the child can be taught to think of the inherent danger of such actions. Not so your dog. Truth be told, yelling at your child or any other human being is generally counterproductive as well. Learning to calmly discipline and instruct will make all of us better at life’s varying situations. There will always be that one boss, parent, trainer, or other human that feels that a loud voice is the most effective tool. They are usually the most avoided and lonely people. We simply don’t enjoy being pushed around by aggressiveness, and we usually respond badly to such treatment. Put yourself in an empathetic mode with your dog, and develop self-control, or risk living in a state of constant non-compliance with dogs.
Occasionally, you will see a human lose their cool at a competition, practice, or training session. They might call the dog names, throw a leash, or kick an object because of some perceived failure of the dog, or the stark realization that the failure was purely on themselves. This is not as common at competitions, but it does happen in practices with others at a class, and it definitely happens in the privacy of their own sessions. Maybe you’ve had a rough day at work, on the crowded roads, or with a friend or family member. It happens to all of us. Sometimes life just happens that way. Pop culture psycho-babble would advise “letting off steam”, maybe even busting things up and relieving the stress of anger. Fortunately, we’ve moved beyond that sort of craziness.
Our emotions flow thru our dogs, and once you’ve lit that spark, it’s going to burn. The Book of Proverbs, 14:30 in the revised standard version Bible says it clearly: “A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot.”
Way too many people think of anger as passion. Overflowing enthusiasm. But it’s not. Anger is just frustration that blocks even flow of energy and emotion. It has a place, but not in dog training. If you find yourself angry, put your dog up in a calm place, walk away, and find tranquility. Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s a better way.
Take notice that I haven’t discussed anything about hitting or kicking a dog. I shouldn’t have to really. You know better. And if you don’t know better, leave dogs alone and start a tree farm in North Dakota. I’m talking about violently taking your anger out on a dog, not physical corrections that involve correcting a dog. A small tap on the ribs is not out of line, though some might believe it is so. Punching with the fist, kicking hard enough to move the dog, or pinching an ear are what I’m referring too. If you are a Cesar Millan hater, don’t bother me with your complaints, because that’s way below the level of what humans are capable of doing. I’ve yet to see the man harm a dog out of anger, in spite of what you might want to convince others that he’s doing. I may not entirely agree with him, but I recognize that he’s been attacked more because of political correctness than his methodology.
By choice, I write predominantly about Working Dogs, not Aunt Mable’s fluffy, white, cockapoo, though the point still applies. Large, driven dogs correct one another with far worse physical correction than we should, so small physical contact is not described as losing one’s self-control.
I have observed what I’m discussing here first hand. Outsiders will observe bite work for instance, and believe that the training is vicious, or out-of-control. They see a wild, angry beast, attacking an equally angry human being. They always miss the subtle scritch between the ears that the handler will give to the dog when commanded out to a sit position. The dog is not out-of -control at all. The same applies to the Handler. The phrase “controlled chaos” is often used in K9 circles, and a well-respected family of trainers even use that as a name for their business enterprise. Their dogs live in their home with their daughters very successfully. My conclusion is that the family has mastered calmness of heart and self-control with their dogs. And those dogs are at the top of their game. That style probably permeates their home, including raising their children.
I’ve talked to my own dogs about self-control. I’ve asked them, “How do I train you in the best way?”
They’ve shown me by their behavior, which mind-set produces success in training, and working. The answer is always the same. “Keep your Cool Dad. I understand you, and if you listen calmly, I’m communicating with you in return…listen closely!”


Fighting the Good Fight?

Posted: May 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

Source: Fighting the Good Fight?

Keepin’ things Toothy!!

Posted: May 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

Canine Dentistry and You- Keep the Bite in those Pearly-Whites!

Your puppy grows much faster than you will ever believe is possible. His ears are standing up, mostly. His clumsy legs have begun carrying him around your yard like Sonic the Hedgehog on speed. And then one day, you see a small dribble of blood on his face, and you’ll panic a little bit. With just a little investigation, you realize that your baby has lost a tooth. Your puppy is developing into a fully-armed carnivore, with a mouth-full of razor sharp dental appendages. Or at least, he will be. Soon. You’ve experienced the nasty little needles that are his baby teeth, on your fingers, your ankles, your clothing, and if he’s especially precocious, other handy targets on your person. They can inflict great pain, and even injury worthy of medical attention. Puppies with the right genetics are going to show great skill in chomping down, and satisfying the urge to bite things, so prepare yourself. Whatever you plan on doing with your dog as an adult, will decide how you deal with your junior grade werewolf, and his toothy antics.
At 6 to 10 weeks, the puppy will have twenty eight temporary teeth. Since puppies don’t yet have molars, his teeth are comprised of canines (the pointy ones), incisors,(his grabbers), and the pre-molars(crushers).
His first incisors will begin to abandon ship at about 3 months of age, with the rest of his needles finding their exit between 4 and 7 months. By 8 months, the adult teeth will be fully installed and ready for action. While puppies love nothing more than tugging on toys, rags, or other equipment, it’s best to hold off on any serious tug-work until all of his adult teeth are in. Many trainers, myself included, do no such training from 4 months to almost a year of age. Don’t worry, your puppy won’t forget how to bite and tug if that is your goal. Give him time to develop, and he’ll be back with a vengeance when it’s time.
The early weeks are a great time to acclimate your puppy to having you or your Vet put your fingers or dental tools in his maw. Done successfully, your Vet will thank you profusely in the future. Not only for the health benefits of good tooth brushing, but also for the Vet that likes all four of his fingers where they are supposed to be located. Thumbs are also valuable in their opposed position. Help preserve them.
Gently rubbing the puppies gums and emerging teeth will feel wonderful to him, but be gentle, and keep your fingers clean. Practicing this will help you keep track of anything abnormal in mouth, such as misguided teeth, or lumps and bumps in the mouth. When the process is finished, the puppy will have 42 strong, healthy, teeth and a proper attitude towards human assisted maintenance for the rest of his life. You’ve done everything right for his little teeth so far, so what’s next?

Caring for the teeth is not complicated but it takes effort. You can save yourself a truck-load of cold, hard cash payable to your Vet by making the effort though, so unless your funds are inexhaustible, take note.
Periodontal Disease comes in two basic forms: Gingivitis and Periodontitis. Gingivitis can be simply described as masses of nasty crud allowed to form on and between the teeth. It then moves into the surrounding gum, under the tooth, and forms pockets inside. The gum becomes soft, bloody, and the teeth will eventually fall out. It hurts the dog. It smells completely awful. And having an infection that close to the dogs brain, is just inexcusable for the caring dog owner. Don’t let it develop. Brush his teeth at least weekly, and provide nylabones for chewing. Your Vet can also provide dental care, and this may be a wise treatment. But it’s expensive, and can be avoided by your hard and diligent effort.
Periodontitis is gingivitis extended beyond all common sense, veering sharply into neglect. The teeth begin breakdown, become loose, bleed, and cause the dog pain. He may begin to refuse food, drool excessively, all accompanied by a nasty, nasal discharge. Whatever the treatment may be for these conditions, if you have allowed them to develop, you have been neglectful. Sorry to drop the bomb, but your Vet may be too professional to tell the truth. He or she can fix some of the damage, but none of it need ever have gotten this far. Cavities, Abscesses, and tooth loss are normally caused by neglect. So, what can I do to fulfill my dogs dental health?
Diet is very important. Having raw, uncooked, bones to consume is a big help. Chicken or turkey is best, but beef is also acceptable. A top quality kibble will also keep the teeth free of debris and solidify the gums. Yes, I know that kibbles have other problems, but that’s another discussion. Fresh water is always vital to your dogs teeth.
Learning to brush your dogs teeth is an easy skill to master. There are products that will aid the treatments,(canine toothpaste, brushes, finger brushes etc.) Don’t use human toothpaste as the dog will swallow it. Greenies and nylabones are helpful as well, scraping debris off the teeth.
That’s a simple plan to help you keep your pet dogs teeth clean and healthy. But what about dogs that work with their teeth? Schutzhund(IPO), law enforcement, and other disciplines have additional concerns. Number 1 in my book is tennis balls. Everybody seems to use them at one time or another, myself included. But be warned, the material in a tennis ball is abrasive to the enamel on the dogs teeth, and prolonged chewing on them will damage the teeth. Canine teeth erode into plateau tops, flat instead of pointed. Other teeth suffer as well, but those impressive fangs will show it first. Substitute rubber balls that have nubs on them for texture. They last longer, and don’t abrade. And never leave play balls with an unattended dog for entertainment.
For more aggressive activities such as bite work, consider the material that tugs, sleeves, and suits are made with. Jute, a heavy burlap fabric, has been used for many years. Unfortunately, it too tends toward the abrasive. Modern linen materials, and contemporary synthetic materials are available, and are much better for the dog. Bite suits are predominantly made from these materials, and are therefore much safer. Covers for bite sleeves are becoming much more common, and are worth the investment.
The way helpers work your dog during bite work can also affect your dogs dentition. Encouraging and teaching good, full grips will lessen the torque on canines fangs, during a fight. Lifting dogs off the ground by their teeth should be done with care as well. Teeth can be broken, repaired or replaced certainly. But it’s not cheap, and shouldn’t become necessary. There are lots of stories on the internet about dogs with replacement teeth made of titanium, or kryptonite, or some other exotic metal. This happens because of severe injury. NO reputable Veterinarian would pull healthy, undamaged teeth to replace them with metal copies, so that a dog can look like some moronic, gold-toothed, gangsta rap-singer. A certain element of society may think this is cool. Well, it’s NOT. It’s also a fantasy born of wannabeism.
Your dogs teeth are important to him. His health can be measured by his dental condition. You, as his owner, master, and advocate can do everything that will keep him healthy. Just pay attention, and do it.

New Release coming soon!!

Posted: May 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

My good friend and  trainer Angie Ballman-Winters of Angie 4 Dogs is on the brink of releasing a second DVD and I want to let all of my readers know about!  German Shepherd Adventures will be writing a review of the DVD as soon as possible and we can’t wait!  Angie is a terrific trainer, and a great teacher that has a winning way with all dogs!  Look forward to it soon!!!


Not long ago I wrote a post discussing the seeming lack of Mentors in the sport called Schutzhund.  (And for future reference, I will not use the politically correct term now in use, “IPO”.  The term lessens the history and intent of what schutzhund meant.  Since I, and others beside me, seek to make the sport answer honestly to its’ heritage, I will use the term “Schutzhund”)  As is our wont, the editorial board of GSA, sat down to commiserate over foamy topped steins of der Materlands finest, and eventually, over what we recently  published.  It seems that there may be more soil to till on this subject, and notes were hastily scribbled on napkins and pizza boxes by all in attendance.  So it was all hands on deck, and hie thee off to the research library in the Research Wing of German Shepherd Adventures.  I’m still sitting here. The information that I’m seeking doesn’t seem to exist in written form.  There’s a positive dirth of source material…almost nothing of worth has been laid to the written page about the Schutzhund “culture” that I imagined to have existed in early 20th century Germany.  My hope was to find something from those formative and heady years that we in 2016 had lost.  Something retrievable, and in turn, beneficial to our sport.  So many have opined that the schutzhund of vom Stephanitz and his cohorts is fading into history, being eroded by society, political correctness, or a generation more drawn to sedentary, electronic, diversions.  I wondered if the past could provide us with solutions, encouragement, or at least, direction.

I was in search of descriptions of crisp, autumn gatherings of families in a common pursuit.   Legendary German Shepherd’s dogs, proving themselves worthy of procreation.  Venerable Bavarian toughguys, training and handling the dogs with skill and single-mindedness.  Younger men, doing all they could to earn their place in the local verein, demonstrating to their elders and betters that they could carry on the traditions and standards being set into place for schutzhund.  The Frau’s and Frauleins gathered together, gossiping, watching over younger ones, and keeping the men from taking in one too many steins of Bier.  There would have been food aplenty, laughter, and probably no small amount of scheming between the dogmen.  The Vereins (or Associations) of all sorts are important in Germany, whether they be for shooting,(Schutzenverein) singing (Sangerverein), or the local Volunteer Fire Fighters (freiwillige Feuerwehr).  Statistics show the German people to be “joiners”, seeking the comradery   (kameradschaft) of their peers in many pastimes.  One source states that 1 in 3 residents belong to some local club.  Those clubs provide activity, socialization, and good food, as well as identity.  My research lead me thru every book on the German Shepherd, and der schutzhund that I have collected over a decade of serious acquisition.  And there are many of them.  Packed with pedigree’s, breeding strategies, and personal backbiting on the part of the schutzhund “powers that were”, there was NO mention of club activities.  Zero.  Zip. Nil.  Clubs and personal allegiances were given some attention, but no idyllic descriptions of summer days at the training field.

And maybe that’s part of schutzhunds problem.  The “culture” never existed, or was taken for granted by those too busy to stay attached to it.  Maybe the culture was poisoned by the addition of people with very different goals and schemes.  Ego and competitive spirits with singular intent tainted something grand, and inclusive.  When money, greed, and exclusivity become the norm, a large portion of the community will be excluded, dismissed, and disenfranchised.

When one observes the current situation of our “national” organizations that administrate our sport, (try the Facebook postings on any of them) there seems to be one fracas after another, many of a personal nature.  People end up calling for the leaders to abdicate for the good of the sport.  Leaders strike back at individuals for negative or subversive posts of personal opinions, and even taking away privileges of their voluntary services.  We just cannot get along in a spirit of cooperation and innovation, and we are chasing away those who could conceivably preserve schutzhund for future generations.  We MUST create a “Culture” around schutzhund that invites new people, encourages more experienced ones to share knowledge, and build a wider interest base.  If we don’t, we can kiss it all goodbye.

Now let me give credit where it is due.  I have been investigating and learning from a unique group of individuals that have produced my feelings of late.  I was first exposed to this line of thought by Meagan Karnes of The Collared-Scholar blog     http://www.collared-scholar.com/lessons-learned-from-my-dog/when-the-collars-come-off-dog-sports-egos-and-the-struggle-for-power/.

Karnes is also involved with an organization known as The Sealed Mindset Leaders.  Lots of thought-provoking reading there, and programs for learning Leadership.  There, I noted a quote that really struck intellectual  “oil”.  I’m going to quote it here.

“…the Suffocating of Innovation that occurs in a ‘Control Centric’ environment.  In such settings, ‘Power’ resides with a “Manager”, and the manager does everything he can to protect that power.  As a result, mistakes are frowned upon and punished, fingers are pointed and blame is placed.  As a result, Innovation is suppressed.” –  Sealed Mindset    http://smleaders.com/

The organizations controlling and ostensibly guiding schutzhund are headed up by venerable names and imposing dog-world politicians.   It seems an obvious truth that some of them are very concerned about Keeping their positions of power and influence.  Negative comments or perceived slights of opinion are quickly suppressed.  Some of those in disagreement are put out of commission as fast as possible.

On the other hand, there are those of the rank and file members that think nothing of bashing those in positions of responsibility.  Maybe even slandering them.  Those individuals are often desirous of having control themselves.   Wanting to Control is poison to the whole community we seek to preserve.

Schutzhund has been, and  is currently mired in a “Control-centric” environment.    (But let me say up front, that there ARE clubs AND Leaders of those clubs that are already working beyond this crippling mindset.  More about them later…)  Not  to place too fine a point on the blame, but much of the problem seems to focus on the European source of the original discipline.  Men that should have the thinking of their forebears, have allowed, or encouraged a more passive thinking to take over.  The insistence on making earning titles easier for dogs unable to perform up to original standards, has watered down (or even completely flooded) the original intent.  One well-known contemporary observer and editorial author, Jim Engle, has used the word, “Pussification” to describe what has happened in the mother land of schutzhund.  Here’s Mr. Engle’s website at Angels Lair. http://www.angelplace.net/usca/DayOfReckoning.htm.   My goal here is not to rewrite what others have so well reported on as far as “who’s who” in the debate, or to blame.  My intent with this subject is to encourage a re-building of “Culture”.

Please keep three operative words in mind:  Recovering, Restoring, and Re-building.

The record of how Schutzhund culture existed is nearly lost in history, at least editorially.  Pedigrees and breeding records are the remainders of that time, and while valuable, do not give a full story of how a local club operated.  People were not the important part of the recorded history.  Call it an historical oversight, call it a Germanic culture norm.  It doesn’t matter.  Written records of the personalities and pleasures of der Hundeverein were simply not commonly written.  Maybe the people then couldn’t imagine that the culture would eventually fade away, a way of life forgotten.  Politics would always hold sway.   Politics held great influence in the early days of Germany, when schutzhund was born.  And now, politics continues to hold influence an unbalanced and militant role in our society, during what may well be the demise of schutzhund.  A potent mix indeed.

But lets talk about positive things that will help.

RECOVERING:  Whether it is recorded or not, there was a culture built around schutzhund.  Families gathered, worked dogs, discussed breeding, discussed their lives, played with the children, drank beer, grilled weiner-schnitzel, and formed a collective around something of common interest.  Wise, experienced members taught and teased.  Younger, eager members strove to learn and join the discipline.  Families supported their club in various ways.  Were they perfect?  No, but they managed.  Times were simpler, though the spectre of war was ever present.  But those people found a way to work their way through what life threw at them.  Their Dog Club provided at least something to distract them in difficult times.  Money was scarce, but their association wasn’t built on what members cash flow provided.  Status wasn’t the guiding force either, as everyone could take part, from Haus Frau to Reitmiester…  THIS is what will help us RECOVER the culture of schutzhund.

RESTORING:  This change of attitudes will require leadership.  Restoring schutzhund clubs to something worthy will not be simple, but it can be accomplished.  There are clubs and groups that have the right mix of experience and attitude.  Restore clubs, and we will restore “culture”.  These clubs must want to teach new people, young people, and be willing to create an atmosphere of welcoming.  An elitist attitude must be not be allowed.  Not everyone is going to have a puppy that will be able to reach the high echelons of competition, but if they can try hard, they should be allowed to try.  In such an environment, individuals can be taught the knowledge that will help them save both schutzhund, and the breeds that make it what it is.  Why did the German Shepherd deteriorate to the state it is in today?  Clubs weren’t around to teach what needed to be taught.  The German Shepherd suffers because a culture died.

REBUILDING:  It is clear that the politics of “schutzhund” has torn down what was once an honorable and strong house.  IPO is decidedly NOT schutzhund.  The powers- that- be within the current organizations no longer care to preserve what was.  It’s time to free ourselves of their influence and restore what was.  That will require separating from the organizations that seek only to “evolve” into something “modern”, something “progressive.”  Starting over, free of such influence, will bring back a culture that can encourage, include, and ultimately, save what schutzhund was, and can be.

You will notice that I have avoided specifics in mentioning organizations either International, or National.  I have also avoided mentioning individuals that are either working for, or against, schutzhund “culture”.  Each of us needs to do our research if we want to restore the discipline of schutzhund.  There are notable individuals out there, such as Ivan Balabanov, Jim Alloway, Brian Harvey, Deb Zappia, Meagan Kearnes, and Jim Engle, that are working in the right direction.  They may not always agree totally, but they are at least working at something.  If the rest of us want to save schutzhund, and indeed Dog-Training as an industry, we must find a way to support them.  Find a way…