Raising a powerful breed puppy into calm, social maturity PART 1

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We have a new addition to our team at the Dog Language Center – it’s a bouncing Rottie pup! In this series I will delve into some rare yet wonderful puppy-raising hacks for all our rabid fans out there ūüėČ This post is lengthy but so worth it. Brace yourselves…its real talk from a genuine dog whisperer again.

If I could recommend one thing above all else it would be socializing the pup. In fact if I could only pick one thing to give to my new powerful breed puppy (or any pup for that matter) it would be ultra-socialization. What does this mean? It means that even above dog training or behavior modification and above visits to the vet or grooming shop, getting a puppy socialized makes all the difference in preparing the animal for success or failure, behaviorally speaking, for the rest of its life within our modern world. This ultra socialization means the gradual desensitization of our pup’s super senses each day/week/month that passes during the entire first year of life. The five senses of Touch, Smell, Taste, and Vision and Hearing develop quickly within young dogs and must be guided and influenced if one ever hopes to have a calm dog. The best way to help a dog truly mature and become calm is to get as many varied experiences and people and animals into the pup’s life as soon as possible. Many breeders do puppies and future dog owners a horrible disservice due to fixating on FEAR of parvo or other zoonosis as they fail the rapidly growing pups by coddling and keeping them away from normal life around the neighborhood. Friends, the health risk of socialization is so, so worth the behavioral reward. The law of the universe says we will most assuredly reap what we sow. No risk = No reward.

Let me point out now that authentic socialization is so much more than just attending a puppy group class somewhere or tossing your growing pup into high excitement environment dog daycare. While the puppy group class consists of one type of socializing please be aware that this “socialization” is usually nowhere near enough for most puppies to achieve social normalcy and it is certainly not enough for many powerful breed pups that tend to naturally guard and become more protective as they age. Also, there are many cons to be aware of in light of our desire to raise a puppy CALMLY and without the need for food treats and excessive shallow external reinforcement! When or if you do decide to place your pup in an excitable group class setting I’d ask you to reconsider. Believe it or not I DON’T typically recommend group classes filled with pups because older, balanced, calm, example dogs are usually absent and not on scene to help set the proper tone! Right off the bat this goes directly against nature’s ways and the way of all canines. So the group class is unnaturally wild with energy and overexcitement. The hapless dog trainer then often employees more excitement usually by way of a treat in attempts at competing with the already excitable pups that they are trying to make perform frivolous sits or downs. Rather than intelligently adding calmness, the professional trainer competes with the already highly excitable environment! Competing by raising more energy with an environment filled with foolish young pups is unwise and wasteful. As the trainer on hand encourages people to utilize high-pitched praise and “high value” treats in exchange for one second of the pup’s attention it often becomes a disgusting display of mismanaged energy and a total lack of natural leadership. It’s a bad scene and a noisy one to boot. Is it any wonder that most puppy “group” classes soon dwindle as the weeks pass to just one or two stalwart owners trying for perfect attendance as they drag their pups to the local Petsmart for the last couple weeks? I encourage any puppy owner to look deeper instead of just doing what’s typically done.

A similar conditioning of over-excitment and high energy can sadly yet easily develop in any pup that is at dog daycare all the time. Typically the workers in a dog daycare love dogs but many may not know much about real dog language or how or when to take action or adjust the pack’s energy. So day after day the rapidly growing and rapidly learning puppy is learning that whenever he lays eyes on his own species it’s supposedly instant play time and he (if he is a already a normally-functioning puppy) most certainly will raise his energy to heightened play levels…even if you’re just trying to smoothly walk down the street and past another dog and dog owner. You can see the problem with conditioning your puppy to be hyper from a young age.

When we compare and contrast the levels of energy found within a normal group class setting or dog daycare versus say of the energy while taking a wonderful hike through the mountains there are stark differences. That, Dear Reader, is not good. Excitement + Excitement = Calmness is a false equation, fuzzy math, that cannot work out mathematically and or scientifically within the animal no matter how badly many large pet training conglomerates might want it too. These conglomerates want to sell “high value” treats to dog owners in order to bribe their way into a pup’s life during an excitable round of obedience! A much more real world, beneficial equation that helps a puppy calm down and learn about real life around it would look like this… Excitement (the pup has this energy normally without being encouraged) + Calmness expressed through proper dog language (this is provided by the loving dog owner) = Calmness and steadily growing Maturity! Now that is a winning equation. Sadly, most dogs never achieve maturity because most dog owners have inadvertently downgraded their relationship to one of employer and employee (by “training” the dog according to typical dog training within the industry) even though the dog lives in the home and, in many cases is even babied and coddled at unnatural and often outrageous levels. Balance is nowhere to be found!

Society no longer requires work from 99% of our dogs. Instead these many dog owners that make up a good portion of our society desire calmness and trustworthiness. This is particularly important for young dogs and pups that will grow to be powerful, natural guardians. “Tapping the breaks” on growing guarding behavior is a must-do as it rears its head. The caring puppy owner must take action at the earliest possible evidences of any unsocial behavior (that is if you want a calm and trustworthy future dog that is fit for your children, your home, your neighborhood, the neighborhood children, and can be trusted in society at large. If you don’t want that then by all means continue “training” and “working” your dog as it is often tragically instructed almost everywhere.) Important Note: these unsocial signs or early signs of misbehavior are often overlooked in group obedience classes and they are overlooked in private sessions with professionals because of their horrible fixation on obedience and work!!! Then, typically at the year or year-and-a-half mark, as the young dog reaches sexual maturity, whatever unaddressed and underlying issues or problems the pup harbored come fully to fruition and suddenly it dawns on the dog owner that they have a serious problem on their hands. Then we get a call. We see this in almost every session we do with clients! What good are tricks and obedience when/if the original professional on hand cannot/did not identify and then take action and instruct you on the proper actions in order to prevent or reverse future issues with your dog? Too many people waste money on early piss-poor training instead of prepping their pups for real world success by way of extreme socialization.

Success Hacks for socializing your powerful puppy:

Because your pup is going to become a hulking beast or a dog that could intimidate some folks it is even more important to get people to TOUCH and pet your powerful puppy as early as possible!

This means week one of bringing the puppy home some visitors must come over and the pup should be starting right away to go out front of your house on mini walks to meet the neighbors. Yes, I know I might be going directly against some vets advice on keeping them “safe” and sound until the pup is damn near a teenage dog but I don’t care! I genuinely want what’s best for you and your pup behaviorally speaking and I’ve handled thousands and thousands and thousands of dogs with serious behavioral issues. Unlike many vets I don’t have the luxury of subscribing drugs and or just suggesting spaying or neutering or putting the dog down – if we’re being honest those are the three main approaches most vets take when dealing with dog aggression or extreme anxiety or other behavioral problems. Back to my point…Denying a young, rapidly growing puppy a couple months of socialization is most definitely Harmful to the dog’s psyche. I love the expression safety third. If life was always safety first no-one would ever do anything, or accomplish anything, or go anywhere. We’d all be paralyzed, unhealthy shut-ins. Socialize for success my friends. Sure, don’t roll your pup in dog crap and don’t bring your puppy to the busy dog park and let it drink from stagnant water while it’s 9 weeks old but other than those two things I would highly suggest the puppy meet as many people and social well behaved dogs as soon as possible in a majority of cases.

Make sure people and other dogs can touch your pup ANYWHERE on their body. This will inform you straightaway if your pup is fearful or dominant or overly hyper and then you’ll be able to devise a plan to help alleviate these issues if present (HINT: they are usually always present and need to be addressed or guided). Discover early on whether the pup refuses to let another dog sniff their rear end…if they’re nervous and they try to avoid being sniffed then you MUST jump in and make the nervous pup get it’s butt sniffed because that’s normal amongst canines. YOU dictate what’s normal to the dog just as older dogs in a large family pack would do. And forcing a nervous pup to get touched everywhere is one of the most important things a caring puppy owner can do for their pups. Yes I said force. You are forcing the pup to get out of your space and to be handled by a friendly person. You are forcing the nervous yet powerful pup to leave your space just like the mother dog weaned and forced her pups away from her body super early on. Hacking into the puppy’s sense of touch early on is INFINITELY More Important than any kind of obedience training!!!!!

German Shepherd behavior and training

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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)