Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dog days: more on breeds and trainers

Well I've been putting this off for awhile. Why? Because sometimes I procrastinate. Heck sometimes I even put off procrastinating till later. It's a sickness.

On this post I wanted to talk about:
A) How we picked our trainer
2) Our particular breed of dog

Let's start in reverse Microsoft Excel-sorting order and begin with number 2 shall we? Great!

The German Shepherd Dog.

I love em! Capt. Max von Stephanitz is credited as the father of the breed. He wanted an all around great dog, a super-dog if you will. There are many dogs that track better than a GSD, many that are better at agility than a GSD and many that are better at protection. But NO breed does all of those things together, better than a GSD. That's why they really are known as a super dog.

Interesting GSD trivia
  • For many years they were the only breed to have the word "dog" in their official name.
  • Adolf Hitler had two GSDs. Because of this the breed was known for a long time as the Alsatian (cool name) to disassociate them with that extremely vile character.
  • The Germans were fanatical about breeding standards (big surprise there huh) and for a long time there were two distinct breeds, the East and West German Shepherd. Their bloodlines were not allowed to mix and they were kept separated largely by the Berlin Wall. After the fall of the Berlin wall, and possibly before, the breeds were intermingled somewhat and the lines blurred.
  • As I understand it, there are no *true* East German Shepherds now. No pures anyway. But the legacy and bloodline still remains. GSDs of this vein are typically straight and flat in the back, bulkier with larger heads and are bigger than their American counterparts.
  • Addtionally the Eastern GSDs have fewer problems with their hips as they age.
Our Storm is of Eastern bloodlines. I dig that. And its basically how we found our breeder. After a lot of research, we decided that this was the type of GSD we wanted. And from that it was a matter of finding a reputable breeder within driving distance.

Driving distance for us is different from most people. We drove to Iowa to visit Heather's parents and just picked up our puppy on the way back. Done deal.

A word on breeds/dogs. For a long time GSDs were known as "bad dogs". When I was growing up it was the Dobermans that were "evil". Now it is Rotweillers and Pit Bulls. I've met all these breeds. They aren't evil. There are no bad dogs. Its true. But there are bad owners who screw up dogs on a regular basis and then the media over hypes the situation sending panic through the masses. Wait? The media wouldn't do that would they? Nah :) And clearly people would study instead of just believing the TV right? Well of *course* they do :)

Onward to our trainer.

Our trainer trains and owns special needs dogs. Dogs with high-bite incidents. She takes them in and re-molds their character, gives them confidence again, and makes them feel safe. And she has her own pack of which she is definitely the Alpha.

See dogs are much like most people. They have different temperments. Some folks just don't do well in crowds, some are recluses, some are open and jovial. Dogs are just like that. They each have a personality. Kim (our trainer) knows how to recognize that personality and work with it to bring out the best in the dog.

We found Kim on a whim really. We were looking for a trainer but had a bad feeling about places like Petsmart. And Storm was in desperate need of training and we were at our wits end.

Heather found the number and I called Kim. Told her our situation. Talked to her for like 20 mins on the phone. She took time to consider our feelings, asked lots of questions about Storm, gave advice on Storm's behavior and right there over the phone gave me a crash course in surviving the "puppy crazies".

I was hooked by her passion for dogs. I could tell she cared.

I did NOT get that feeling from any of the numerous trainers at Petsmart with which we spoke. And we spoke to several. Many of them *branded* Storm as dangerous simply because of her breed. BIG mistake with me. Shows a real lack of study on someones part when they exhibit that sort of attitude toward any dog. And when its Storm well then, on the inside, I lose all patience with people like that.

See some studies have shown that dogs are near the intelligence of primates. So when people start talking about "collar corrections" or shock collars or physical corrections of any kind ... well that's just not necessary. These are super smart animals.

The biggest mistake we humans make is attributing or overlaying our emotions on their behavior. But dogs dont think like we do. They don't have a sense of morality. They aren't guided by right and wrong. They don't get *angry* like we do. Or *jealous*, at least not in the same sense. Reading a dog's body language is the single greatest thing I've learned about dogs in general. Kim is big on learning to read a dog and see what they are trying to say to you. Understanding their body language is key.

So learning about that, like our puppy Storm, and our trainer Kim, has changed my life in regards to raising our dog 100 fold; one of the coolest members of our family.

Do we have the perfectly behaved dog? Nope. Will she bark at you like she'll kill you? Yep. Would she? Not with us here. I wanted protective. We got it. I'm not ashamed of it. You come to our house, she's gonna bark. But she remembers you after just a couple of visits. After that, yep she may bark but it's different if you listen. It's *excited to see you* instead of *gonna eat you*.

There are 3 main things I wanna work on with Storm right now. She still mouths too hard at times. She needs to walk better on a leash. And finally we need to be able to get her attention when she's intent on something else.

NONE of that is dangerous behavior for any dog. It's just manners. And we're working on em. It's a long process. But worth the wait :)

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Ah a GSD, its a wonderful thing. Remember when I was so excited we were getting a dog with the intelligence of a GSD and the playfullness of a boxer. Okay turns out she doesn't really have the intelligence of the GSD.... we still love her though... maybe one day.... right now she is like a seriously hyperactive child.

Something no one mentioned to us, Boxers puppy years last for three to four years instead of one... good times....