I have been adoring, keeping, training and working German shepherd dogs most of my life. I served as a police officer/K9 handler for the better part of two decades and now in “ retirement” I train my own dogs for competition and teach other people how to work with their dogs. I work with many kinds of dogs, but GSDs are my true love and specialty. Yes, after 40 years, I htink I am an expert.
I want to write here about those cases, common and uncommon and help people find the path to real enjoyment of this amazing creature. I see far too many people get in over their heads, have no support or help, or worse, get just plain bad advice and ultimately abandon their dogs to shelters or give them away on the Internet or just have them put down. The dogs deserve better. After all, they are hero material.
I often hear the same complaints over and over, and they most often come down to the fact that while the buyers admired the idea of a large strong dog with protective capabilities they weren’t necessarily prepared for the effort required to properly train and maintain one. One of the most common issues I find when working with clients especially new owners, is what I call “ worship”
I remember back when I got my first very own purebred GSD, having been enamored of the breed since I first saw Roy Rogers and his dog“ Bullet” race across the screen of our little black and white TV in the 50s. I read stories about the sentry and patrol dogs who had served in WWII.
“Carly” was backyard bred, but she was purebred, and I was star struck with all the wonderful things that GSDs could do and had done. Hero war dogs, police dogs, search and rescue dogs, guide dogs for the blind, family protectors and sheep herders. Wow! How could I ever be worthy of such an animal?
My adoration knew no bounds, and I treated her as an iconic heroine, wishing to please her and to be deserving of her devotion. That’s a problem. Of course no one back n the day was talking about “ dominance” and rank and behavior modification, so my belief centered around the idea that if I loved her and praised and petted her a lot she would inevitabley become some sort of miraculous superstar...
And that’s where people get into trouble. They are so busy admiring their dog, they forget that they are supposed to be the dog’s leader, teacher, and trainer not just his “ superfan.” Simply being smart and capable and having a storied breed history or great pedigree will not cause the puppy to develop into a star. Time, effort, training, socialization, boundaries, exercise and care will help that happen.
That and leadership. As one well known trainer once advised, “German shepherd owners need to be decisive individuals.” So, my goal here is to get new GSD owners to set aside the worship for a bit and get down to the important process of developing your puppy into the magnificent representative he or she can be.
We’ll talk about “The Basics” of training-- those traits and skills that make a well behaved companion, and what those things actually are, which may not be what you think they are. We’ll talk about socialization, and how that does not mean driving to the dog park, turning puppy loose and sitting on a picnic table chatting on your phone while your puppy runs amok chasing and bullying or being chased or bullied by other dogs.
We’ll discuss how to avoid some of the most common complaints about GSD behavior like “ separation anxiety,” fearfulness, and its cohort “reactivity” toward other dogs, and even true aggression, and then get down to some of the exciting sport and real jobs and just fun things you can do with your amazing purebred GSD.