Welcome to Southwest Florida German Shepherd Rescue Inc. Tuesday, October 04 2022 @ 09:20 am EDT

Cliff Notes on How To Ruin Your Dog

  • Saturday, August 06 2022 @ 07:35 am EDT
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Dogs come to us in lots of ways. Some are adopted as puppies at 8 weeks, after being weaned, some are rescued as adults or adolescents from known sources and finally some come to us as rescues with no information on any aspect of their personality or life experiences. Puppies are essentially blank slates. They have only the understanding of the world that they got from their mom and from the environment that they were whelped in. They also have an invisible and innate DNA makeup which is a determining factor in many aspects of their future personality. In many cases their life can depend on how this aspect of the dog is recognized, nurtured and focused. If the new owner could only know what to make of this cute fluff ball, he could prepare the dog for a fabulous future; but alas he has no clue and by making an easy mistake can turn the dog from what could be a great life, into a tragedy.

Some dogs come from working lines while others are inbred or just backyard bred. Regardless of their lineage, it’s invisible, and all puppies look and act cute and rarely show off these traits until you get to know them. Traits such as dominance, aggression, socialization, curiosity, prey or work or play drive, scenting and pack positioning are all visible to the owner who has seen them in action (as puppies). These characteristics are rarely seen by the person adopting (or rescuing them) seeing them in the whelping pen for the first time or on the street. What we see is 100% cuteness and we immediately fail to have that ability to study them long enough to figure out what they may be like as adult dogs.

By tracking this behavior and personality pattern, a new owner can easily focus the dog into that type of dog he was destined to be. A scenter (noser), an obedience champ, a herder, a dock dog diver, a Schutzund champ or a super frisbee dog; anything is possible so long as you know the dog is capable. All GSD’s can learn most any skill but some more than others need higher level of socialization and quite often a specific job, in order to be happy and content. A dog requiring such activity who is denied, eats your couch and you have no clue why. He also can be belligerent to other dogs or people and then the dog is turned into a shelter or worse. The dog can become fearful, bite, be aggressive or most anything else if the wrong training and developmental path is followed.

All puppies can learn, some more than others. Some with different motivations such as prey drive, food rewards and affection make for a training basis, which, as you can see help train the dog, positively or negatively.

When puppies are properly whelped and handled many of these traits become easy to detect and understand, if you are looking for them. If you understand that not every puppy can become the perfect Rin Tin Tin, then you are well on your way to understanding why it is essential to provide the right level of training to permit these dogs to become all they can be.

When you get a young dog from a breeder, he can probably give you some insight into that particular individual in so far as their outwardness, sociability, curiosity and personality. If you heed these observations and train accordingly, you will find that the dog will fit the model you have created. If, however you take a dominate pup and fail to provide direction and alpha, the dog will learn what he wishes which is typically all things bad and aggravating, rather than understanding what he needs to do to comply and please you (the alpha). When training begins too late, and cuteness prevails over direction; training becomes more difficult and certain already learned negative behaviors Puppies are essentially blank slates. They have only the understanding of the world that they got from their mom and from the environment that they were whelped in. They also have an invisible and innate DNA makeup which is a determining factor in many aspects of their future personality. In many cases their life can depend on how this aspect of the dog is recognized, nurtured and focused. If the new owner could only know what to make of this cute fluff ball, he could prepare the dog for a fabulous future; but alas he has no clue and by making an easy mistake can turn the dog from what could be a great life, into a tragedy.
Some dogs come from working lines while others are inbred or just backyard bred. Regardless of their lineage, it’s invisible, and all puppies look and act cute and rarely show off these traits until you get to know them. Traits such as dominance, aggression, socialization, curiosity, prey or work or play drive, scenting and pack positioning are all visible to the owner who has seen them in action (as puppies). These characteristics are rarely seen by the person adopting (or rescuing them) seeing them in the whelping pen for the first time or on the street. What we see is 100% cuteness and we immediately fail to have that ability to study them long enough to figure out what they may be like as adult dogs.
By tracking this behavior and personality pattern, a new owner can easily focus the dog into that type of dog he was destined to be. A scenter (noser), an obedience champ, a herder, a dock dog diver, a Schutzund champ or a super frisbee dog; anything is possible so long as you know the dog is capable. All GSD’s can learn most any skill but some more than others need higher level of socialization and quite often a specific job, in order to be happy and content. A dog requiring such activity who is denied, eats your couch and you have no clue why. He also can be belligerent to other dogs or people and then the dog is turned into a shelter or worse. The dog can become fearful, bite, be aggressive or most anything else if the wrong training and developmental path is followed.
All puppies can learn, some more than others. Some with different motivations such as prey drive, food rewards and affection make for a training basis, which, as you can see help train the dog, positively or negatively.
When puppies are properly whelped and handled many of these traits become easy to detect and understand, if you are looking for them. If you understand that not every puppy can become the perfect Rin Tin Tin, then you are well on your way to understanding why it is essential to provide the right level of training to permit these dogs to become all they can be.
When you get a young dog from a breeder, he can probably give you some insight into that particular individual in so far as their outwardness, sociability, curiosity and personality. If you heed these observations and train accordingly, you will find that the dog will fit the model you have created. If, however you take a dominate pup and fail to provide direction and alpha, the dog will learn what he wishes which is typically all things bad and aggravating, rather than understanding what he needs to do to comply and please you (the alpha). When training begins too late, and cuteness prevails over direction; training becomes more difficult and certain already learned negative behaviors become the standard. These become self gratifying traits that are taught by the dog to himself and are almost impossible to ‘unlearn’. Changing a behavior (behavior modification) is ten fold more difficult than training a task correctly the first time. If the dog is permitted from the time you get him, to get away with murder, then you will be the cause of a problem dog. If the dog is predisposed to being alpha, and you ignore discipline in training and directing him, you will probably wind up giving him away by the time he is 1 yr old because of his behavioral issues.

If a dog has traits such as scenting, play drive, focus or an eagerness to explore, you as the owner can take these traits and work them so that the dog uses his God given skills to become the best dog he can be. Training is play to dogs and if done in a way to spend time with the owner, these training sessions become positive play.

If an owner is too lazy to understand that if he doesn’t do the training himself and gives that function off to a trainer, then what you will have is a trained dog for the trainer, and a nightmare for you and your family. If you, the owner isn’t holding the leash when a pup is trained, then you will surely regret it; since the dog will not understand you as alpha and now you have lost this valuable formative time with your pet. If you understand that training can only be done in a manner, outside the home and with distractions and other dogs, then you will wind up with an animal that only complies with commands at home and is an air-head outside the home. These dogs will probably be non-compatible with other dogs as they have not been socialized. Social skills are only somewhat learned as a small pup. They relate to their siblings but have no clue as to the world around them. When they do begin to explore and play, many puppy breeders fail to let them out of a confined area and the dogs become limited in their understanding of the world. When you get pups like that, they need to start from scratch in learning there is a big world out there and its not as scary as it seems. When a dog is confined as a puppy you loose one key element of their social skills, that being the freedom to explore. This introverted behavior now has cast a behavior into the pup such that he can become overly anxious and scared when exposed to normal activities, strange situations, other dogs, some noise and chaos and to many of the daily distractions life has top offer to a young dog. When a pup is raised in an antisocial environment, (sequestered and not allowed to interact with other dogs), your job is to turn that around by putting him in a class like Star Puppy in a qualified training facility, with a qualified trainer. This allows him to see other dogs and breeds and to understand more about how everyone plays. Keeping your pup home and enjoying his cuteness ruins the chances of having him cope with these social behaviors and results (many times) in a fearful reserved animal who is more about hanging on your leg than being friendly to dogs and people. Frequently they show signs of separation anxiety since they don’t want to be out of your sight, as you are the only stable thing they have ever known. Having folks pet your dog is also a vital part of dog learning. Sequestering the dog, regardless of breed, and not allowing him to meet people, experience environmental changes, be in places outside the home under your supervision and in general exposing him to everyday life will place your young pet in dire jeopardy of being reserved and fearful, which takes the joy out of having a pet that can go anywhere and meet most anyone.

IMPORTANT POINTS:
Socialize your dog
Training by the owner
Use the dog’s natural talents and instincts to help him learn

Getting puppies turned into great dogs is an easier task than getting a rescue dog from the street. When you get a rescue dog, you have no understanding of anything about the dog, from personality to training and from sociability to drive or even the dogs name, you have to use your instincts to decipher the dog and reorient him or her.

When a dog comes into your life he may have some traits that were learned by his prior home or circumstance, some of which are okay while others are problematic. If the new owner fails to begin to establish the rules through training, these prior traits and behaviors will become the standard. Training, as was said previously, are play to the dog, therefore taking him to classes not only is fun for the dog, but establishes you as the alpha and allows the dog to be corrected in a positive manner all the while establishing you as his alpha.

When a new owner recognizes a behavior as problematic it is in the best interests of the dog to correct that immediately. Failure to recognize this will establish that behavior as acceptable and it may never go away. Training is essential to developing a proper relationship with your dog. Training can be in most any format. Given that question of how best to train to 10 trainers, you will get 10 answers. One thing however is for certain, if you don’t hold the leash during training and if training does not include socialization, your training time and resources are totally wasted.

Many trainers wish to train in a sterile environment such as your home. This needs to be avoided at all cost. Home is for reinforcing learned behaviors and to practice what you have learned, but if the training is done at home, the dog will consider the home as where he needs to comply, but when outside the home, it’s a free for all. Distractions from anything such as other dogs, people, cars, trees, cats and rabbits and even the wind or thunder can cause your dog to react in a way that can be dangerous to you or to the dog himself. If the dog is trained in a situation that takes into account changes in venue and environmental conditions, he becomes desensitized to other factors and will be far more prone to listen and adhere to your instructions.

Trainers can focus your efforts in a far more productive and effective manner than doing it yourself, but with you holding the leash. The beauty of a trainer is that he can see what you may be doing wrong and show you how to correct it. He can teach you timing and how to provide a correction, create a positive or negative marker or to show you the proper sequence of learning behaviors that is progressive and uses what the dog does readily to help him learn and polish his skills without becoming frustrated or breaking down under the pressure to comply.

Effective training is a series of taught behaviors that, when placed in a proper series, can bring your dog up to a responsive social standard quickly and painlessly. Training that isn’t followed by practice rarely works well. Trainers who fail to understand correction to teach a behavior rarely get the desired results. A dog, especially a GSD, needs to understand the limits of what is expected, and through correction and or positive reinforcement the dog understand what you desire of him and tends to comply. Correction, in the form of leash or voice markers help the dog to understand what is asked of him. Positive reinforcement in the form of treats praise, petting and soft voice recognition also helps establish the desired behavior. Dogs don’t speak English, but understand pressure and release when on a leash is used and voice inflection and tone when being corrected or praised off lead. Words help, but how they are used as positive or negative markers, determine their effectiveness in learning or even in modifying a behavior.

The use of tools to provide corrections such as prong collars, martingale collars or e-collars are all just that, tools. No one tool is right for every dog, and no one learning or training methodology is right for every dog. A good owner will know his dog’s personality, and in most cases can figure out what makes the dog respond, creates happiness or shuts the dog down. By using these personality traits tools, you can choose the leaning technique and appropriate tools for your dog.

Rescue dogs are a bit more difficult to figure out. A good trainer or behavioralist can assist in deciphering the unique code for these animals. A talent that comes from years of experience and from a keen understanding of behavioral traits. Once the code is broken, it usually takes a combination of 80% love and understanding and 20% direction to begin to turn the dog around.

Shepherds respond to love but also to respect. They love their people, the family, their home and in some cases their new dog brothers and sisters, but need to combine that with respect to balance out their ability to assimilate into a home or pack. Shepherds are also a bit protective of these new things, so at first establishing you are alpha and that you do not need protecting, helps them understand their place in the new pack. Remember to them, you, your family and dog brothers and sisters are now their new pack.

Failure to assimilate this new dog into the new pack can be a recipe for disaster. If everyone in the home isn’t on board with the adoption, the dog will know. If one person is fearful of the dog, he will know. If the culture of the home and tense and not stable the dog will know and many times become unstable as well. Sheps are quite anal and emulate what they see and feel. If you are a strong leader with a happy and well adjusted family you will do well with a rescue pup.

Change is hard for us, much less a pup with no control of any aspect of his new life. Be sure to bring the new family member along slowly and positively to develop trust before trying to change his behavior or train in new behaviors. It is okay to establish rules even at first because allowing bad behavior from the get go isn’t good; but how those new rules are implemented makes their effectiveness greater.

IMPORTANT POINTS:
TRAIN YOUR DOG WITH QUALIFIED SUPERVISION, BUT HOLD THE LEASH
SET RULES AND GIVE THE DOG GUIDANCE BY BEING THE BENEVOLENT DICTATOR
ESTABISH THAT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY ARE ALPHA TO HIM
ALLOW HIM TO BECOME A PACK MEMBER AND TO FIND HIS PLACE
CREATE A POSITIVE NURTURNG HOME AND LIFE FOR THE PET

The hardest thing for a dog to do is to change owners and packs, mid-stream. Rescue dogs are doing just that when the transition from one home (or shelter) to another home and pack. You have to recognize that this trauma is psychologically taxing and can result in a total shut down. They may not eat, they may be fearful, they even poop in the house because they are scared to go outside…. All is understandable but there is a positive side to this. GSD’s are quite pragmatic and can go from situation to situation and do fine. This is partially because they think. The have the brains and intellect of a 4 year old child and therefore have the ability to learn new things, to change homes and packs, to comply with new rules, to adapt to new rules, food, people and pets and to completely upheave their lives and still come out OK.

By nurturing a GSD and allowing that transition to take place you effectively let him learn ad adapt at his own pace. This is the best way to make that transition of all aspects of life mor palatable and for him to settle in at a pace he sets. Forcing behaviors on a new rescue makes the transition far more scary and can cause the dog to break down or take far longer to adapt that is necessary. All the time you have the dog from day one however requires reassuring him, accepting him, even if he has an accident or two and to learn more about him from him!

The dog will begin to show you what he knows and what he doesn’t. This typically takes about days to establish. Once you understand it, use that information to help him feel at home. Train him in areas he is weak and praise him for things he knows. May your praise demonstrative, happy, and send a clear message that you are happy with whatever it is he is doing that you like. Peeing and pooping are easy ones. If he goes outside, make it a super happy time and let him know he is a good dog. If he shows you he has to go out, and can convey that in a way you can understand, make that a party suitable for your kids graduating from med school. He will know you are happy and recognize you not only understand, but that he now knows he has a means of communication with you going forward. That’s a big step. If you don’t look for these traits, you may not see them as they are typically subtle and happen very quickly.


FINAL TAKE AWAY:

Dogs want to be with their human, especially GSD’s, so if you are not prepared to have the GSD you just adopted as your shadow and best buddy, find another breed. If you choose to not train or socialize them, get a stuffed dog. If you don’t like dog hair everywhere, find another breed. If you don’t want this new friend for life, yours or his, don’t get a GSD or for that matter any dog. If you are not willing to sacrifice time and energy for your dog, don’t get one. If you and your family members don’t have the time to spend with him because of other family obligations, reconsider the timing of getting a dog, especially a GSD, as these are thinking, loving and feeling individuals, who need you as much as you need them; and deserve a great compassionate and loving home in which to thrive.

Erik Hoffer