October 5th - 12th
The Ranch, Loveland CO

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If We Really Love Our Dogs

We hear it all the time, people professing their great love for their dogs. It is a wonderful thing, the bond between humans and canines. Dogs, particularly German Shepherd Dogs, have an amazing ability to connect with the person in their lives which often makes their humans love them even more.

Our love for our dogs often exceeds our abil­ity to express the fullness of that emotion; words are not sufficient to the task. Being human, we search for other ways to show the world and our dogs just how much we love them.  Some will buy the best, the softest, the shiniest or just the most expensive collars, beds, crates, dishes, boots, sweaters and the like for Bowser. It is human nature to show everyone how much we love our dogs by the things that we buy for them. That must be why we do it, because our dogs surely do not care if their collar has the most bling, or their bed is stuffed with pure down.

Another way we humans express our love for our dogs is with food. Of course it is important to research diets and seek out the very best ingredients, whether it is raw, commercial, or some combination thereof. Treats also should be made of quality ingredients. Finding the treats that really appeal to our dogs and meet our qual­ity standards may take some research, but it is worth it because we love them. But once we find the best treat that our dog really loves, we don’t stop there. Many of us end up with several dif­ferent kinds of treats for our best friends, and I sometimes wonder just why. I’m pretty sure that we are transferring our own desires for a variety of treats, because I know our dogs are pleased to have a treat at all. They don’t know there are 3,529 different varieties of treats available.

Worse yet we often shower our dogs with love in the form of food. Again because many humans have little discipline when it comes to food and often use it for comfort, people tend to believe they are making their dogs happy by feeding them more than they should eat. We’ve all seen those dogs who are too loved, but not well loved. Truly loving a dog means keeping him at a very healthy weight, not showering him with fattening gifts.

Perhaps the biggest problem occurs when we love our dogs so much that we forget to let them know who is in charge. There are two groups that should never be without leadership—children and animals. It seems that dog owners believe they are showing an animal just how special he is by not making him do something he doesn’t like, or worse yet, by allowing him to do things that can be hurtful to animals or people. Let me be clear - the dog must never be in charge.

Dogs are much more confident when there is an obvious pack leader. In nature there is always a pack leader. When pups are whelped there is always a pack leader; first it is their dam who makes it very clear from the outset that she is in charge, then the litter owner becomes the obvi­ous successor as pack leader. A dog who cannot find an obvious leader will attempt to become the leader. Never let your dog think he might be in charge. He will not resent you for being the leader; he will respect you for it. But you do have to assert your position as leader and never allow the dog to have the upper hand (or paw).

Trainers remind us time and again that we must convince our animals that “nothing in life is free.” It is a very simple phrase, easily remem­bered and just as easily taught. Your dog must do something to earn everything. If the dog wants to go out, or come in, make him sit before going through the door. Want to give your dog a treat? Make him do something, no matter how simple before giving it. Following this basic tenet of training does two things: it makes sure your dog doesn’t run you over to get to the treat or out the door and, even more importantly, it serves as a constant reminder that you are in charge.

There are trainers who believe a dog should never be allowed on the bed. That is because they believe it gives the animal the idea that he is equal to his people. We think that’s a really good idea for those people who have trouble maintaining control of their animals. An alternative is that the dog is never allowed on the bed unless invited. The dog is not an equal because he does not have full access to the bed, only with permission.

Think it is cute when your dog jumps on you? It may be cute when he’s small but it will be very ugly when he is full grown and stands head and shoulders above you. How on earth can you hope to exercise control over an animal when his paws are on your shoulders, especially if the dog doesn’t accept you as his leader? Jumping on you may seem innocuous enough, but it is in fact an attempt to gain control over you in some way. See me! Pay attention to me now! Don’t leave without me! Not to mention that your friends and family most assuredly don’t want to be jumped on.

Body language is an important element of pack leadership. Think the leader of a wolf pack allows other wolves to lie on top of him? Not on your life. There are plenty of ways to show affection without the dog assuming a position of dominance. Some people think that wrestling on the ground with their dog is a fun activ­ity, when it actually is a good way to convince your dog that you and he are equals.

We need to remember that the best way to love our dogs is to train them. Training gives them the confidence they need to be a suc­cessful pack member. Training lets them know what the rules are, what the boundaries are, what will make us happy. An out of control dog is not a happy dog; he’s a dog without a leader and a problem to those around him. An untrained dog ultimately becomes a frustrated dog because he does not know how to please us. Training does not have to be rigid or formal, only sufficient to let the dog know how to be a good dog and make for a happy pack — or family.


In this issue the GSDCA has published the 2011 National Advance Brochure. The board directed this change as it will result in a significant savings over printing and mailing individual brochures. The Advance Brochure is a benefit to members and is not mailed to non-members, making this change an easy way to save on printing and postage costs.

In a little empty space in this issue you will find a quotation from a book by Robert J. Berndt. A friend gave us this book recently and we’ve found a number of ideas we believe should be shared with the dog fancy. Watch for some of these gems and others we may come across in the future.