Let me start by saying that I don't know everything there is to know but this is my blog, so I'm going to share what I do know - at least at this point!
I am going to write about training. Believe it or not, this is a highly controversial topic. Moreso than even politcis or religeon. Indeed to some it IS a religeon. Why entire blogs, Facebook pages and Associations are devoted to the steadfast allegiance to one way or the other of dog training. Cesar Millan is a genius; Cesar Millan is a horrible brute. Clicker training is the Only Way.The good old Koehler method is the only reliable way to train a dog. The old fashioned Koehler method is outdated and abhorrent. You should never use a prong collar. You should use only a prong collar. Food rewards are bribery and for dummies. Food rewards are the best reinforcers. And on and on.
What IS the answer? Lucky for you, I have a special knowledge of training German shepherds and here is the secret one and only correct method for training them. Its called the von Stephanitz method.
Yes, the founder of our breed also discovered the best way to train them. He summed it up simply with this phrase: “ ‘How shall I say this to my dog?’ Whoever can find the answer to this question has won the game and can develop from his animal whatever he likes.”
What that means to me is that the key to successful dog training is communication. Most dogs are pretty willing to cooperate with humans and work with us. It is how we as a species have helped develop them as a species. And German Shepherd Dogs especially are known to have a strong desire to work with us, to cooperate and some might say to please us. So its really a matter of figuring out what exactly you want them to do and then how to make them understand that in a way that is comfortable for both of you. By that I mean, both of you achieve understanding with a minimum of discomfort and preferably with a great degree of satisfaction, however that comes to be between you and your individual dog.
I will address various training issues the way I have found success with different dogs I have trained. I will say that even though I have trained a fair number of my own dogs and other people’s dogs to advanced levels, I learn something new from each dog, and a way that was magic with one dog may be a flop with another. The constant thread in all is that I tried to understand what the dog needed to know from me in order to succeed and tried to apply that in a way he or she could understand and that would work for me. In order to communicate to your dog what you want and expect from him, you must first define it for yourself.
So, that said, I’ll start to address some questions that folks new to dogs, new to the breed, or even experienced shepherdists may have. Mine is not The Way, The Truth and The Light by any means, but its my opinion based on 30+ years of working with GSDs. If you have a way that works better for you, then by all means use it.
Since everyone always wants to know “ What makes you an authority? How many ----- have you done?” I will include my CV in dogs for what its worth. Lots of people are more accomplished than I, and some are less accomplished but a lot smarter, so use what you like and ignore the rest..
For the record, here's my background:
- Police K9 officer 1988-1994 Patrol and Evidence.
- Trained 14 dogs to Schutzhund titles, 6 of them bred by me, most of them to SchH3, FH and competed successfully at the National and regional level with them.
- Represented the US in FCI World Tracking championship with homebred bitch, youngest dog there.
- Earned dozens of Obedience titles including four of my dogs with Utility titles some Highs in Trial, all breed and specialty, some Dog World Awards.
- Professional trainer the past 20 years
- Teach and train others in Obedience tracking and assist in training of Search and Rescue dogs, and working on my fifth Utility dog now.
- Currently serve as an ASCA Obedience judge and AKC provisional tracking judge
Each dog teaches me something new, and I never get tired of learning. They humble, exasperate and delight me every day.