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German Shepherds first started being developed in the late 19th century by a man named Max von Stephanitz. Stephanitz is still today credited as having fathered the entire German Shepherd breed. An admirer of the German sheep dog of the time, he chose to breed selectively to procure his most desired traits and weed out those that were unnecessary or undesirable. Stephanitz bred his dogs for years, creating the founding root of the German Shepherd breed and eventually become the dog we know today.
When the German Shepherd was brought over to the United States, the breeders in America changed up the bloodlines of the breed by mating it with other types of dog. It is still up for debate whether these breeders aided or damaged the development of the German Shepherd, as American breeders were working towards a show-quality dog while the original German Shepherd was intended primarily for work.
German Shepherds in the United States have coats that are on the shorter side of medium, usually brown and black, tan and black, or cream and black, but not uncommonly producing an all white or all black variety. The truly German variety of the breed has a longer coat which is occasionally (but rarely) seen in the U.S.
German Shepherds were initially developed by Stephanitz as a working breed. To this day, even with the American cross breeding, German Shepherds excel in the work force as hunters, farm dogs, service dogs, narcotics dogs, and law enforcement dogs. German Shepherds are an exceedingly agile, strong, and athletic breed, with a very malleable temperament. They can be trained to work as aggressive guard dogs or be gentle helpers on the farm.
In their native country, the breeding of German Shepherds is so meticulously monitored that a registered shepherd must have had both its sire and damn Shutzhund certified, which means that they have been evaluated for temperament and ability by professionals. Shutzhund certification pays no mind to the size, coat, or general appearance of the dog, which is vastly different from the American variety of canine judging.
The primary visible difference between true German Shepherds and American German Shepherds, besides the length of their coat, is the lack of sloped hips. True German Shepherds have hips level with their shoulders, as the original breed was intended to. American German Shepherds have a distinct slope at the back of the torso into the hips. Sloped hips are argued over by many international breed enthusiasts, being the desired trait for showmanship in America, but also leading to an earlier onset and more significant risk of hip dysplasia.
Whether you are choosing to acquire an American German Shepherd or seeking out a true German Shepherd, you must research your breeder thoroughly. Because of the popularity of this breed and its potential for strength, there are many unethical breeders out there who are trying to turn a quick profit by mating irresponsibly. With proper research, either variety of German Shepherd can provide you with a loyal worker or a loving family pet.
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German Shepherd is a kind of breed that caused different oppinion among different peple. While some see it fierce and threatening, some others, especially who had a German Shepherd look at it much more tenderedly.
The German Shepherd is often aloof – they don’t often walk right up to a stranger but size them up, as if silently figuring whether you are worth their time. Some dogs take longer than others to warm up and create a bond, but once that bond is made is a dog that will face any threat imaginable to protect their family.
It is this loyalty and sense of duty that has made the German Shepherd a dog that willingly guided the blind, works as law enforcement, herds livestock, competes not only in shows but in dog sports, is a friend to the military and performs countless duties in homes throughout the world.
In the late 1800s cavaly officer Capt. Max Von Stephanitz sought to perfect a dog for farm work. As with many animals bred for function, what was needed locally was different than the dogs available. The breed today takes the look of a defined breed but not all are the same. A dog developed as a show dog might look very different from one developed for police work, which may have a different body type from one working on the farm.
American soldiers brought the breed to the US after being introduced to the breed in the military. The breed is still today used to assist soldiers throughout the world.
By the standard, the male should be 24-26 inches at the shoulder with females 22-24. They should be longer than they are tall, with an image of power and grace. Disqualifications from show include: cropped or dropped ears, nose not mostly black, undershot jaw, docked tail and all white dogs. There are many many dogs that are larger than the standard, or all white dogs, as well as all black dogs, that are still fully German Shepherd. For those interested in details of show conformation requirements they can be found at http://www.akc.org/breeds/german_shepherd_dog/
In early development it was felt the GSD should be above everything utility and intelligence. The breed is still today a working machine…functional in the ability to cover ground easily whether after a loose cow or an escaped criminal. They are distinctive in appearance and although known by different names are the same breed throughout the world.
The GSD is one of the breeds some pet food companies have developed special formulas for. They are also many people who feed a raw meat and bones diet. An important factor in feeding German Shepherds is food selection. Do not feed for fast growth – it does not necessarily mean a bigger adult but can mean a weaker adult. High energy food that boosts fast growth should be avoided especially in the rapid growth time of 3-8 months of age. This reduces the chances of displasia later. While selection of breeding dogs and testing hips and elbows before breeding is certainly a factor, equally is diet.
Many things vary within this breed. One GSD charges fearlessly into a conflict that includes gunfire while another trembles in a thunderstorm. Some have been guilty of biting while others would never except under extreme threat threaten a human. Some are bold in any circumstance, some are borderline fearful. Handling and breeding can make an immense difference in this breed. Additionally the breeding and genetic markers for disease can affect an otherwise suitable working dog. Genetic issues affecting the eyes, skin, heart, neurological system, digestive and skeletal systems are all possible within the breed – and most are found by testing before breeding.
It is this testing and the maintaining of healthy, tested clean lines that makes a good GSD an investment. A few health issues to watch for besides the hip and elbow displasia include thyroid disorders, skin allergies, Addisons, vonWillebrand’s disease, heart murmurs, cardiomyopathy, epilepsy, wobbler syndrome and spinal bifida can all affect the breed. Many problems show up at under 2 years old. A condition called EPI, Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, is another issue that can be overlooked.
A more complete list of the health issues that can affect the breed is at http://www.awsaclub.com/healthgenetics/caninegen.htm – and remember that although it can look like they are prone to every disease known to canines, many of these can be eliminated by genetics.
Although not genetic, owners of GSD should be familiar with the danger of bloat. Like many deep chested dogs, GSD is susceptible to this critical emergency that needs immediate medical attention. This condition is fast-striking and fatal.
Do not be deterred by the list of health issues in the breed – instead, use that to choose your dog wisely. Understand that without testing you have the risk of losing a dog you’ve become attached to – and it may well be worth $ 700-800 for a dog that has a healthy genetic family rather than getting one of unknown background for $ 150 then spending thousands treating problems that are lurking unseen. For a tested, working and show type dog bred for temperament, trainability and soundness do not be shocked by prices $ 1,500 or $ 2,000 and up. Many of these come with health and soundness guarantees.
Dogs of 12-15 years are not uncommon. With a reported average litter size of eight, it’s important to choose mates wisely.
The trainability of the German Shepherd is well documented. The movie “K-9” and it’s sequels revolved around a German Shepherd, as did the infamous Rin Tin Tin. The first seeing-eye dog in 1928 was a German Shepherd. The GSD is one of the most intelligent dogs in the canine world, in one test just behind the border collie and poodle. John Kennedy, Roy Rogers and Franklin D. Roosevelt kept GSD.
Schutzhund, a competition not for the faint of heart, is but one thing the GSD excells at. This competition tests the dog’s intelligence, soundness, tracking abilities, willingness to work, courage and trainability. While photos from these competitions show dogs scaling obstacles and making spectacular leaps to latch bites onto the arm of a “suspect” it’s important to remember these dogs are highly trained. They are not vicious…they are trained to get to a suspect, restrain them and ideally get them on the ground for the safety of their handlers.
No dog, German Shepherd or otherwise, should be teased or mistreated to induce aggression. The difference between an aggressive dog and a trained K-9 is extreme. A K-9’s training is based on play – an aggressive dog is based on survival, and this difference is critical to understand. It drives an aggressive dog to unspeakable acts and reflects poorly on the many great dogs of the breed that are highly trainable.
A good dog with obedience training doesn’t need special training for protection. These operate from a position of defense of the home – and the bark of a GSD is often enough to change the minds of someone who thinks they want to do harm. The natural protection instincts of a good GSD is normally sufficient to deal with a threat.
It is no surprise that there are many heroes in this breed. Ceasar, a K-9 handled by Corporal Mark Sarna of the Shaker Heights Ohio Police Department, had a resume that included drug detection, tracking suspects as well as being a certified therapy dog and friendly with children. Griff, a K-9 with the Summit County Sheriff’s Department, and his handler Deputy Kathy Wilmot is another awarded dog and a great illustration as to the unknown these dogs and their handlers can face. Called to a domestic disturbance where the suspect was threatening to burn down the house of a girlfriend with her and her kids in it, Griff tracked the suspect through freezing rain. While he wanted to continue, the humans insisted on returning to the command unit and before long a second call came in. The suspect returned to the home and was becoming violent. A very dangerous situation evolved with the suspect assaulting the dog and handlers, attempting to kill the dog hands on despite being tazered. Griff not only never gave up but never shifted position – he put himself between the suspect and his handler, willing to lay down his life if need be. After the incident was over it was learned the suspect had commited an armed robbery just hours before, was out on bond and had a previous stint of 13 years in prison.
In the dangerous work of police and military work many German Shepherds have paid the ultimate price for their instincts and training. They serve faithfully and have confronted the worst of humanity, not only on a daily basis but also in events such as the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombing.
Because these are bold, intelligent and trainable dogs they must have a home that will TRAIN them. Select a good, healthy dog and put the time into training them. This doesn’t take 6-8 hours per day…it’s teaching things in small ways on a day to day basis. Left to their own devices they will be unhappy and find their own means to entertain themselves, and you probably won’t like it. A bored, untrained dog can destroy vehicles, homes and lives. Once trained then you can sit back and enjoy your beautiful, functional, intelligent and well mannered dog.
For the right home the German Shepherd is a wonderful companion and security that doesn’t fail with power outages. If yours is the right home, do your homework and find the best dog for you. They’re a wonderful breed with a big heart.
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When I discuss the concept of crate training with pet dog owners they often look a little befuddled. I know exactly what they are thinking in most cases before they even open their mouths. Pet owners think of their dogs as family members, loved ones in some cases even our furry kids. Why would we want to put them in a crate?
There are many benefits to crate training a dog, especially if you have a puppy or a young dog and you are in the process of house training. I often ask people, especially those with small children, if they ever used the baby pens. “Of course they reply, I would have never had any peace or quiet”. Well a crate for a puppy is the same concept as a baby pen. You would never leave your baby or child unsupervised, free to wander the rooms of your house where they could injure themselves. Puppies, like small children need a place they can go when you are not available to watch every move they make, a safe place where they can hear, see and smell you without being underfoot. A crate is a safe, quiet place your dog can go when they want peace and quiet, to snooze or just to withdraw into their own sanctuary. I have never met a dog that does not enjoy their crate if the crate is introduced into their world correctly.
There are many benefits of crate training your dog not just for housebreaking but also to prevent destructive behaviors such as chewing, counter surfing and trash exploring, especially while you are away. When a pet is injured or sick a crate is an ideal location for them to rest and, should you ever need to evacuate your dog you will be grateful if you can safely contain your dog on a long journey, in a shelter or in compliance with a hotel’s pet policy.
Contrary to what many may think, a crate is not a tool for punishment, or a long term confinement tool. With training, an adult dog can remain in a crate for up to 8 hours but will need plentiful amounts of exercise before and after crating and an assortment of toys for mental stimulation during its time in the crate.
There are many different sizes, models and varieties of crates. The more durable crates designed for airline travel, in my opinion, do not make the best crate for home use as they tend to be bulky and restrict the dog’s view of their environment. For my dogs, I use the canvas/mesh style of crates for their daily use and that is where they often disappear to be alone while we read or watch television. This design provides for shaded visibility, they fold easily, are durable and can be moved or stored with little problem. Many pet stores provide the metal wire crates that collapse and can be easily moved around the house. These are good crates for large dogs and dogs that may chew. They also come with accessories such as water bowls, fans to keep your pooch cool, and fabric covers to blend them into your home décor.
To start the crate training process make going into the crate a game. Dogs should be encouraged, not forced, into their crates. To generate interest feed them in the crate with the door left open, throw in the odd treat or toy and within a short period of time you will find them happily exploring the inside of their new place delighted to find a surprise. As time goes by gently close the door giving them treats for staying quietly inside, progress on to actually fastening the door and then extend the period of time you leave them in their crate. Remember, offer treats and toys to go in and do not let them out if they are barking or pawing at the door. You want to let them out when they are calm and quiet or they will learn very quickly that if they bark or paw the door opens. If you work on this and make it a fun happy place for your dog you will soon find them choosing to snooze in their crate as happy as can be.
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