German Shepherd behavior and training

Standard

We handle a buttload of German Shepherds.  Almost every single day we work with at least one or two of them.  As an intelligent and sensitive guarding breed many, many owners screw things up with their GSDs.  (Yes, I’m giving it to you straight like I always do and like a dog would)  In my opinion many professional trainers screw it up too through “over training” (more on that later)!

Here are 4 Great Tips for the German Shepherd dog owner:

  1. Never coddle the weak.  All of nature teaches us this and yet a lot of dog owners refuse to learn it.  If you have a nervous pup or a skittish older Shepherd coddling it and talking softly to it at all the wrong times will only serve to grow the fearful state of mind and misbehavior.  GSDs come with extra nerves so they could potentially be alert watch dogs but way too many owners let this grow to out of control proportions.  Keep in mind the dog’s own birth mother and father would NEVER coddle!  GSDs give birth to too many pups to do it.  And they do not talk as much as humans – instead, they prefer action.  Do you think you’re a better canine communicator and dog leader than the pup’s own natural parents?  Do you have dog instincts?  Can you run 32-45 mph?  Do you have an incredible sense of touch, smell, and taste?  Et Cetera Et Cetera…NO – you don’t – so please don’t presume to know more than mom or dad dog and to then dramatically change how they (and almost all animal parents) would do things with their young.  INSTEAD of coddling place your German Shepherd into confident and peaceful postures familiar to all canines.
  2. Don’t over train.  If you have a GSD then you know a lot of training comes fairly easy when compared to many other breeds.  The GSD is definitely smart and highly observant.  Sometimes they are too observant and too smart!  Do not over train and over ritualize everything.  In fact, the only thing I really want to set a rigid schedule for is feeding and elimination.  Everything else I do with my German Shepherd should be about flexibility and sociability (with the caveat of raising and training a professional working dog – which most folks do not do).  Over training your GSD just leads them into manipulating your training and controlling the same tired, stupid routine that you set.  Maybe you were impressed at first because the dog knew precisely when you were going on your walk but now there’s rudeness involved because the dog is hyping everything up prior to your getting the leash out of the closet, spinning in circles, whining, etc.  He knows where the leash is kept and that initial hyperactivity and rudeness can easily lead to exploding out the front door, and that then leads to dragging you off the porch, which then leads into pulling on the leash while walking, and then maybe even going crazy at every dog or person your dog sees!  And all this trouble actually stems from your training and you having your GSD perform the same thing each day!  Change it up, buttercup. y9W6UhdYSg6AqgpdYoQYEA
  3. Socialize like crazy.  Socialization does not just mean taking a puppy class at the local Petsmart.  Socialization is the gradual desensitization of our dogs’ super senses.  Socialization is any and every new experience, new location, new touches, smells, tastes, sights, and sounds.  Think about the vehicles, the beaches, the mountains, the cities, the country, the children, the old folks, the other dogs, the neighborhood cats, the squirrels, the garbage trucks, the Home Depot, the Costco parking lot, being left behind, or loading up and coming with…genuine socialization is infinitely more important to raising a healthy dog than going to the vet, than attending formal training, than grooming…socialization is and must be King!  If you socialize your GSD enough with calm, firm, and sometimes playful leadership your Shepherd will absolutely have the best life and love you the more for it.  Your GSD should NOT only love your family – that’s great in a literal war zone but everywhere else it sucks.  Don’t let yourself, your family, your dog and all society down…socialize for success. IMG_3047
  4. Learn your dog’s language and use the 4 Pillars for great behavioral results.  All dogs share an authentic and universal language.  I’d highly recommend learning  it from the dogs themselves.  To aid you in this observational quest to learn real dog language my books are always available for purchase.  Dogs can be incredibly manipulative – my books are there to help you identify and then stop those manipulations which then can let the better parts of your German Shepherd’s nature (and none of the nasty) come to fruition and full maturity. IMG_3629  IMG_3515  IMG_3141  Enlight172   (All dogs featured belong to former clients)

Speed hides mistakes. SLOW DOWN and you’ll make less mistakes with your dog.

Standard

Sifu Hill, my Wing Chun Kung Fu instructor, always tells his students that “Speed hides mistakes.”  As a martial artist master with 50 years experience in differing martial arts (40 years studying Wing Chun) my Sifu knows what he’s talking about.  He often exhorts the individual that is going too fast to slow down in order to get the technique down properly.  Speed may look flashy to the beginner but the master knows that a good Wing Chun practitioner should be able to work the method both slowly and quickly and that doing it slowly and smoothly is the best way forward for the beginner.  It is the same with the Garrett Stevens Method of dog behavioral rehab and natural dog handling.

fullsizeoutput_1e0a

This is my Mook Yan Jong, my “wooden man dummy.” It is a necessity for the serious Wing Chun disciple. I begin by SLOWLY working the forms around the imaginary human arms and legs while simultaneously striking the hard wood of the dummy sometimes causing tiny micro fractures in my arms which toughen the bones upon repair. I am loving it!                                     For more info check out Hill’s Wing Chun

Mainstream dog training techniques also hide many mistakes behaviorally speaking.  Many dog trainers go fast because A. They’ve been taught to go fast and to continually motivate. and B. They know (in some cases) they can hide a dog’s mistakes and make themselves and the dog they are working with look better momentarily.  They encourage their students to “work the dog” and take fast turns.  These turns do a full circle when heeling (which, incidentally, is what overexcited or neurotic dogs do – they circle and pace and stare).  The Garrett Stevens Method is different because we also encourage a quick turn to interrupt problematic eye contact when a dog is about to stare at an energy-escalating stimuli BUT (and this is huge) then we have the owner slow down immediately and many times even instruct them to stop moving for a moment.  We do NOT have them do a full circle like so many trainers and behaviorists do – instead we have our clients turn 180 degrees then greatly slow down their movement and the dog’s.  This way the dog’s body and the dog’s energy is not allowed to complete the turn and hype the dog back up again by way of letting him/her continue to stare and in many cases continue to threaten the stimuli.  The Garrett Stevens Method is 180 degrees different from what most trainers are teaching – that is why it works so well!  We do NOT attempt to hide mistakes.  We point them out and then move on towards success.  By tapping into the 4 Pillars of dog language one will find it is much, much easier to influence a dog’s energy and behavior – especially when compared and contrasted with other dog training and behavior mod methods.

Your dog, as the member of a fast living, fast dying, fast moving species, may seek to control the situation through speed and by speeding your movements up.  Don’t let that happen!  Stay as calm as possible.  Don’t talk a lot while attempting to slow the dog down.  Take action quickly then take action smoothly and very slowly.  Now pause and take action even slower.  We desire DE-escalation.  We need to keep experiencing the energy drop and guide the dog to do the same.  (For more info look for my third book on all things dog and human behavior about the 5 incredible senses of our dogs and the 4 Pillars of dog language!)

Please don’t be one of the millions and millions that are impressed by watching some Belgian or German Shepherd briskly heeling like a robot, doing circles and trotting beside the handler on Youtube.  If we could ask more questions of that same exact dog behaviorally in many cases it may be found wanting.  Is that same dog that was excitably performing the heel on Youtube trustworthy and calm near human babies?  Is that same dog calm around other members of his/her own species?  Can they play with other dogs?  Can they be off leash and calm at a buddy’s barbecue?  Is the dog going to destroy the home when the owner/handler leaves or is it calm enough to manage itself maturely?  Speed hides mistakes.

There’s a saying that came to us all from the Military.  It goes “Slow is smooth – smooth is fast.”  Take it to heart when handling your dog or pup.  Take it especially to heart when handling the out of control, or fearful, or aggressive dog.  If I had a saying it would be something like “Speed up socialization (because we can never socialize enough) and Slow down the dog or pup’s movement in the midst of that socialization.”

Happy Handling and keep Slowing Down and getting it right,

-G