There are certain 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 outstretched. Some dog breeds have certain characteristics that differ between breeds. If we are aware of these characteristics, it will allow us to better understand the members of our canine family.
Breed preference for farmers
We personally prefer the German Shepherd breed; however we have had a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix and a Basset Hound/Golden Retriever mix in the past. The former is on par with the intelligence of the German Shepherd. With highly intelligent breeds like the German Shepherd, training should be positive and done with care. A harsh word to a German Shepherd can be detrimental as they strive to please. We train our dogs with a soft voice. Harsh treatment or a loud, angry voice can make the dog aggressive or neurotic.
Not all breeds have the same characteristics
It is best to know the breed or mix you have adopted into your family to train them effectively. Highly intelligent breeds pick up on what you want quickly and have good concentration. Therefore, short intense workouts may work best for them. Some other breeds may take short sessions over a longer period of time. We limit our training to a few minutes and to a single subject. 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 with raising puppies. When adopting, we found several times that the new family member had already undergone training. We watch our new family member carefully for signs or traits that might have happened before we adopted them. Signs of mistreatment, abuse, harsh criticism, etc. that a previous owner may have employed may need to be corrected. No amount of training leads to out-of-control 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 that had serious fear issues. Another was deaf. We had to adapt the training to each dog according to his situation. With fear issues, we had to be careful to keep a calm voice, and be patient and gentle. Her self-confidence was so damaged that it took us two years to restore her self-confidence. What a lovely member of the family she turned out to be. We had to work on hand signals with the deaf girl.
When I was volunteering for a German Shepherd rescue, they would not adopt a female German Shepherd from a household that already had a female German Shepherd. There’s a reason for this, because a dog that has 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 knowing how he reacts to other dogs will make it easier to bring another dog into the house. If you understand the breeds and pay close attention to their behavior, especially with other dogs, such as neighbors’ dogs or on walks, you should know whether your dog is aggressive or not.
One size does not always fit all
We currently have two German Shepherd females 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’s going on in our cabin. The young dog lets the older dog know that it’s meal time, potty time or walk time. See the photo where they are lying together by the wood stove. The young dog has a job to do and the older dog depends on the young dog. In turn, they watch over 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 in a timely manner, kept safe, exercised and loved. It is important that we give the same attention to our two daughters so that they do not develop jealousy. All family members should take an active and equal part in training and feeding.
Adopting Shelter Dogs
Introducing an extra dog into the family must be done on purpose if it is to be successful. In case of adoption in a shelter, the 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 on neutral ground. We do road introductions from the cabin with both dogs on leashes for control. If someone gives you a dog, it helps if the leash is passed openly so the dog knows he has 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 was gone, 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 the leashes still in place, we allow more socializing to take place with us close at hand. Then we first accompany the new member to the cabin and allow them to explore. Then we bring the rest of the canine family inside with trailing leashes for possible check-in. We never show particular attention to the newcomer to avoid jealousies 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 always work for us. We want to give the new member of the family every chance of success. I’m not a professional dog trainer, but I’ve 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 high altitude farms in the Southern Rockies with his wife, Carol. For more on their mountain lifestyle and animal sightings coupled with their odd behavior, visit Bruce’s personal blog atBruce Carol Cabin. Play all sound NEWS FROM MOTHER EARTH posts here.
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