There are some natural characteristics in animals that don’t change much. For example: coyotes run with their tails down, dogs run with their tails up, and wolves run with their tails straight. Certain breeds of dogs have certain characteristics that differ from breed to breed. If we are aware of these characteristics, it will allow us to better understand the members of our canine family.
Breed preference for homesteaders
We personally prefer the German Shepherd breed; however in the past we have had a Border Collie / Australian Shepherd mix and a Basset Hound / Golden Retriever mix. The first is up to the intelligence of the German Shepherd. With very intelligent breeds like the German Shepherd, training should be positive and carefully done. A harsh word to a German Shepherd can be damaging as they try so hard to please. We train our dogs with a soft voice. Rough treatment or a loud, angry voice can make the dog aggressive or neurotic.
All breeds do not have the same characteristics
It is best to know the breed or mix that you have adopted in your family to train them effectively. Very intelligent breeds quickly pick up on what you desire and have good focus. Therefore, short, intense workouts may work better for them. Some other breeds can take short sessions over a longer period of time. We limit our training sessions to a few minutes and to a single topic. We reward success with a little treat and lots of praise. There are several ways to train which can be found online or a professional trainer can be used.
Monitor past training errors
We adopt rescues and therefore have no experience in raising puppies. While adopting, we found on several occasions that the new family member had already undergone training. We carefully observe our new family member for any signs or traits that may have occurred before we adopted them. Signs of mistreatment, abuse, harsh criticism, etc. that a previous owner may have employees may need to be treated. No training leads to uncontrollable dogs that lack structure in their lives; dogs need structure and routine.
Be consistent but flexible
Our training techniques over the years have been slightly different depending on the dog. For example, we adopted a dog who had serious fear issues. Another was deaf. We had to adapt the training to each dog according to their situation. With fear issues, we had to be careful to keep a calm voice, and be patient and gentle. Her confidence was so damaged that it took us two years to restore her confidence. What a lovely member of the family she turned out to be. We had to work out hand signals with the deaf girl.
When I volunteered for a German Shepherd Rescue, they did not adopt a female German Shepherd from a household that already had a female German Shepherd. There is a reason for this, as a dog with gender issues usually doesn’t get along with another dog of the same sex. When two females fight for dominance, it can be very bloody. Males usually stop fighting when a dog surrenders. Knowing your dog and how he reacts with other dogs will make it easier for another dog to come into the house. If you understand breeds and pay close attention to their behavior, especially around other dogs, like neighbor dogs or on walks, you need to know if your dog is aggressive or not.
One size doesn’t always fit all
We currently have two German Shepherds and they get along well. One is old and deaf; the other is young and full of energy. The older dog relies heavily on the younger dog to keep up to date with what is going on in our cabin. The young dog informs the senior dog of meal time, potty time or walk. See the photo where they are lying together near the wood stove. The younger dog has a job to do and the older dog is addicted to the younger dog. They in turn look after each other.
Meet needs equally
Dogs have specific basic needs and it is up to us to meet those needs. They expect to be fed on time, protected, exercised and loved. It is important that we pay the same attention to our two daughters so that they do not develop any jealousy. All family members should take an active and equal part in training and eating.
Adopt shelter dogs
Bringing an additional dog into the family must be done on purpose in order to be successful. In the event of adoption in a shelter, dogs must meet there for the first time on a leash. If this goes well, the new dog should be transported home separately and the dogs reintroduced to neutral ground. We make presentations down the road from the cabin with the two dogs on a leash for control. If someone abandons a dog to you, it helps if the leash is open openly so the dog knows they have a new family. We did it twice and both dogs knew they were with a new family; when the surrender was over and the other person left, the two dogs never looked back.
Introduce a new dog to your pack
If the introduction goes well again on neutral ground, we take the dogs together for a short walk and then bring them home. We have a fenced back yard, so with leashes always in place, we allow more socializing to take place with us on hand. Then we first escort the new member into the cabin and allow them to explore. Then we bring the rest of the canine family inside with drag leashes for possible control. We never show special attention to the newcomer to avoid jealousy and we resume our normal activity.
These techniques have always worked well for us over the years. These techniques may seem like a lot of work, but they still work for us. We want to give the new family member every chance for success. I am not a professional dog trainer, but have had dogs for almost eight decades, so my observations come from the fact that dogs are part of our family and personal experience.
Bruce mcelmurray farms at high elevation in the Southern Rockies with his wife, Carol. To learn more about their mountain lifestyle and animal observances coupled with their odd behavior, visit Bruce’s personal blog site at Bruce Carol Cabin. Read all his NEWS FROM MOTHER EARTH posts here.
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Originally Posted: 12/14/2020 11:46:00 AM