My Way

October 8, 2005

 

I've spent my life owning and training dogs. I consider myself a student of dogs. The real masters of dog training and canine behavior are the dogs themselves. No matter what someone says or what theory of training you may hear about, if the dog does not respond well to it then it is not the right way.

    In the last thirty years, having had over one hundred litters as a breeder, I have been able to observe some things about puppies. They are very interested in food! They get nourishment from their mothers; in some ways, food is the first bond a pup has with another creature. It is only natural and wise to use food in puppy training. At sixteen weeks of age, my German Shepherd pups can heel off lead with right, right about, left, and left u turns, as well as change pace without ever having had a lead and collar on them for obedience. In addition, they sit fast when I come to a halt, and go from a sit to a down super fast! And best of all, they love to come when they are called, because they always get something delicious to eat! Then comes the ball which they love to chase. I always use two, so when my dog picks up the first one, I tease him to come back for the second. Before you know it, they run back and forth, dropping one so you can throw the other for them. 

     Young dogs, like young children, need security from their owner/guardian. This is why it is possible to train at this time in their lives without equipment. As they grow and develop, their confidence and curiosity grows as well. This is the time to begin with the long line and collar to teach them to pay attention under distraction by walking in the opposite direction. This time tested method of getting your dog to pay attention was how I began training my first dog, and how I will train my last. It works on every dog, period.  

    Because my dogs have a strong foundation in obedience through food, and then the long line, when I put a training collar and 6ft lead on my dog, it is easy for him to learn everything I want to teach him with minimal stress. He enjoys training and learning, and can advance from basic, through intermediate, and then on to advanced off lead work smoothly and reliably, because I’ve built a foundation that will always give him a positive attitude towards learning and pleasing his owner.  

  To make sure my dog will always be safe, I teach him to come from a long distance away using a remote collar. It is very important for a dog to know that you can reach him, even though he may be a few hundred yards or more away. As training progresses, I will use strong distractions, e.g. other dogs, cats, to make sure he will turn around and come back to me no matter what the situation. I consider this a matter of life and death. I love my dogs, so this work is mandatory. 

   Playing and training should always be combined so that your dog enjoys learning. I always have a ball or two in my pockets, as well as food treats and a favorite toy, so that I can reward my dog while I am training him. In this way, they overcome any corrections that may be necessary in order to make them perform reliably. I prefer using a prong collar, because it most resembles the mother dog’s teeth - her natural training collar! Dogs learn faster and with less stress using this collar, and progress to voice control quicker which is what it is all about. The goal of training is when you give a command; your dog obeys it without any collar or lead attached. To me, that is an obedient dog!  

  Another point I should make is that I don't like people petting and playing with my dogs. This is a bad habit that too many people fall into thinking that if they don't allow this, their dogs will not be properly socialized and friendly. Your pup is first socialized from the breeder, then by taking them places such as a group puppy kindergarten class, around town with you, and just being with you when you are around people. This is plenty of exposure to keep them friendly without going nuts every time they see a person or another dog. My dogs are polite around people and gentle with children because I teach them to be in control of their emotions. Too much emotion leads to bad behavior. My dogs are content to play with me and my immediate family, and look to us for affection and direction. It makes me sad to see a fully grown, handsome dog acting like a love starved little puppy. As they mature in age, so should their minds. 

  A dog lives about ten to fourteen years, on average. We live an average of seventy five years, or so. A dog goes through his whole life cycle in a very short time. A person is a child until they are about twelve. At thirteen they are teenagers, until twenty one, when they are considered adults. A dog is long gone unfortunately, by this time. So it is important to understand the life of a dog. They are puppies for only a few months, then young dogs. At one year of age, a dog is approximately 16 to 18 years old. At two years old, a dog is 21, an adult. They mature mentally very quickly. They must be handled in a different way when they are two, as compared to when they were 3 or 4 months old. One must consider their needs through these stages. You cannot treat them like a little child when they are in fact, an adult. 

  The better trained a dog is, the more fulfilling their life. You can take them more places and do more things together because you have a reliable, predictable pet. I believe in regular training sessions to maintain and improve my dog’s behavior. Exercise is extremely important. Your dog has four legs, not two, so they need at least twice the amount of exercise we do. Walking, running, and retrieving games will give your dog the exercise he needs to maintain his physique, and also keep him calm and problem free. A tired dog is an obedient dog.


   I feed my dogs twice daily, breakfast and dinner. Waiting twenty four hours between meals is too long, and can lead to anxiety and stress. Feed a combination of dry and raw, and your dog will be healthy and satisfied. I don't do too much with my dogs in the house. Outside is for play, inside is for relaxation.  This is how I teach my dogs to behave well in front of guests. They are used to being calm in my home.

   This is what works for me. My dogs are happy, obedient, love to learn, and are dependable. What more could I ask of them?! I guess “My Way” is their way too!

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