What Kaiser has taught me so far
I’m posting this here because it’s about several different things but the overriding theme is what Kaiser has taught me in our short time together. I mention this because some people seem to get confused.
When I initially started seriously looking in to getting a German Shepherd I did a lot of research. I saw a lot of mythological stuff. OMG! GSDs are totally different from other dogs, you have to do all this stuff with them to make them happy, yadda yadda yadda. Not to mention the continuous ‘they’re so smart!’ stuff. I'll grant that Kaiser is smart and learns things very quickly.
I already had Boxers and have been working with foster dogs of various breeds. A dog is a dog is a dog. Mostly.
What I will say that I received advice from a few people here that has turned out to be sound:
Kaiser does need me to be firm and consistent with my leadership. I don’t think this has anything to do with being a German Shepherd. I think it has to do with being 80lbs of puppy with a limitless supply of energy and a boat load of curiosity. This was brought home to me the most in our work on not biting the leash when we are getting ready to go on a walk.
Last week I finally had enough of it. We had made it to the side walk but he was way out of control biting the leash and thrashing it about. I simply took him back in to the house, got him out of his harness and then took the other two the walk leaving him home. He did not like that.
When I got home I tried getting him together for a walk again. Similar results and I did the same thing. Actually, this time we didn’t even make it out of the house. I worked on some stuff for about 10 minutes and we tried again. We did this twice more before he finally got the message.
It is not completely cured but when I tell him to No he drops it immediately. Some of this I think is being 8 months old and will go away on its own, but he’s got to survive long enough for it to go away on its own first.
Next lesson: bilateral throwing and not mixing games. Kaiser loves fetch. I’m pretty sure he’d play all day if I had the time. However, the idea of ‘drop it’ has not gotten fully realized yet. During Saturday’s obedience class the instructor demonstrated how to get him there. I typically stand in one spot and throw the ball in one direction. Now I stand in one spot but I have two balls and I vary where I throw the ball. I don’t throw the ball until he drops the ball he has. Works like a charm and he seems to like this game even better.
The other thing is that occasionally I’d change the game in to a game of chase. I’d chase him around the yard until he dropped the ball. He seems to like that game too and its good exercise for me. However, it was recommend that we not mix the two games up. I think the reasoning for that is fairly obvious. I’ll probably find a different toy to use for that game to help keep it separate from fetch.
I’m thinking I was wrong about him guarding his food. After switching how he is fed I’ve noticed he doesn’t growl if I mess around with him. I now put part of his food in a Kong which is put in his bowl and the rest of his food is poured over the Kong. He usually needs me to help him pour out the rest of the food which means I have to put my hand in the bowl. Obviously, if he growls I’m not putting my hand in there. But he doesn’t. He just pulls back to let me get the rest of his kibble out.
I’ve also had 2 occasions where he got ahold of something he should have and I’ve had to reach in his mouth to retrieve it. No problems. He seems to get it. I also give him something better than the plastic bottle cap or whatever so we kinda trade with him getting the better end of the deal.
My next target is going to be getting his attention back on me when there are distractions. At this point I just want him to make eye contact if I call his name while he is distracted. We’re good at that game when we are working alone (I say his name, he looks at me, I click the clicker and he gets a treat). But if there are other people or dogs….I have to physically help him shift focus.
I’d love suggestions on how to accelerate this one. I think it will be a huge step in his learning.
As mentioned elsewhere we are also doing some agility stuff during the week. We’re not serious about it now, we’re focusing on obedience first, but it’s actually a lot of fun. I mentioned this earlier in another thread, not to start a thread about agility training (which obviously would have gone to that part of the forum) but instead to suggest to other people who might not be thinking about supplementing their obedience training with agility that they might want to give it some thought. Doing this puts us out of the regular classroom doing something different than what we do anywhere else. It seems to have a positive effect on Kaiser. In October we’ll decide whether to continue with the obedience or switch to something new for him to learn.
During the agility class I also discovered that cheese or steak completely invalidate the store bought treats. While we were playing around the instructor gave me some cheese to use for Kaiser because I was having trouble getting more treats out of the bag. After he had some cheese my treats were no longer good enough. Then another lady gave me two pieces of steak….game over.
Funny thing I found out because of this: stew meat bought at the store does not really cost more than the packaged treats. I cut the cube of meats up further so they are pretty small. But the effect they have with Kaiser is awesome. Unfortunately they do seem to have a side effects later. Perhaps mixing in some cheese with the meat will tighten things up as it were.
So that is what we’ve learned so far.