Our Ninja has been a roller-coaster ride. He is too smart by half, athletic, and has drive through the roof!
He is the third GSD I've owned. My first was from a Seiger champion, and had his Schutzhund obedience training. I never finished his training (a divorce, long story) but I thought he had a lot of drive. Yeah... he was a pussycat compared to this one.
My second was just about the most perfect dog you could imagine. He trained so easily
, I figured I had just gotten better and now I had the magic touch. Except, now I see it was just the dog was amazing.
This one though... oh my! We've had a love-hate-love relationship for about six months now. There were times it seemed we were making progress and then he would do something that would frustrate me so badly I seriously considered becoming a cat person.
If we kept him totally worn out, we escaped the day without wounds. Other than that, he was good for most of the day and then about once or twice a day he would turn into some MMA fighter and nothing would satisfy him until he had a few rounds.
This slowly started to abate as he approached six months. But two things remained as huge problems: Walks and Car Rides. On walks, he would try to take control. He wouldn't just try to pull us where he wanted to go -- disobedience on our part was met with discipline! He would aggressively bite my instep, and block my movement. This would especially be true if a car passed and I wouldn't let him chase it. This always turned into a "Now I must teach you a lesson" moment.
I tried everything. Treats. Distractions. Praise. Ignoring him. Picking him up and carrying him. Anything. Everything. Nothing worked. The end result was that I stopped taking him for walks. They were too exhausting and frustrating. We started driving him to a park to let him run, but then he started being car aggressive from within our car. He would snarl and growl at every car that passed. My ears would be ringing from the barking to the point every car ride turned into a migraine headache. The end result: No more car rides.
The scary thing -- that I worried about all the time -- is what would happen if he ever got out of the fenced yard... I was really worried about what would happen should a car come by.
On the day he turned six months old, I bought an E-Collar.
OMG, what a lifesaver!
I know there are some on here who will tell you that e-collars are inhumane and the only way to train a dog is with a clicker and positive reinforcement. To those people I would say: You've never met this dog. I would have said the same thing after my first two GSDs. This guy is different.
The e-collar changed everything. First, I bought the best I could find and it has over 100 levels of stim. Second, I put it on my bare leg and tested it at varying levels. Yeah, as I approach level 100, it isn't pleasant. But it isn't like getting tazed or anything. (My son is an MP in the army. He's been tazed as part of his training. He told me that the collar is not even close.)
Secondly, I slowly worked my way up the stim levels with him. I was waiting for any indication that he felt it, slowly increasing the stim one level at a time. He feels it at level 55. I've felt level 55. It is like a nine volt battery on a tongue. Which is something I used to do as a kid on a dare. It's not something that you laugh about, but it is a LOT less pain than getting yanked by the neck with a prong collar.
The collar has a nick button and a continuous button. The nick button is what I use 99% of the time. As a car approaches, I tell him to leave it. If he starts to go after it, I tell him No! and hit the nick button. He bristles when it nicks him, but other than that, you'd barely know he got nicked. Three times now, I have used the continuous button because he was aggressively going after a car. Yeah, that makes him cry out. I hate that, but I would rather him cry out now, than end up under the wheel of the UPS truck some day.
But, remember I told you he was smart? Now that he knows the nick can lead to continuous, he never pushes it that far. And here's the best part: He doesn't even know I am the one hitting the nick button. Unlike popping him with a prong collar, the e-collar does nothing to harm our bond. As far as he knows, I am simply warning him before God-Almighty punishes him.
We are now going for long walks, and he is just fine. We just got back from the park -- someplace we hadn't been in a couple of months. Now that he no longer is snarling and barking at cars, we'll be doing more of that. Guess what? He is a lot happier now. We are getting out to new places. He is spending more time doing things he loves to do. And I am enjoying it all for a change. Talk about a win-win! He hardly ever gets nicked any more. Now when I say: "Leave it" he listens! What a concept!
The other great thing is the effect my stern "No!" has now. Even when he is not wearing his collar, he is listening to me now.
Not that all is nirvana in my house. Every now and then, he still wants to tussle, and he can still be pushy -- but that's fine. It's easy to take now because it isn't a three times a day thing. And my wife's hands and arms finally don't look like she has been beat with a cat of nine tails.
I know some people are going to recoil in horror at this post. Let them. If you have a high drive dog who won't listen no matter what you do, mark the six month anniversary on the calender, and buy both you and your dog a present. It will change everything.
More info on the proper use of an e-collar can be found on this member's site: