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How do you find a balance between a well behaved dog and a dog being a dog? I mean dogs are naturally diggers, curious critters that get into things, chewers, sometimes wary of strangers and other dogs/aggressive...I'd imagine a dog that's constantly shocked for 'being a dog' would be a well behaved dog and a robotic one too.

Is it fair to set these restraints on dogs that naturally wouldn't be there or is it simply the process of domesticating an animal? Is it like molding a child to be a good person or forcing them to go against their natural tendencies?
 

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How do you find a balance between a well behaved dog and a dog being a dog? I mean dogs are naturally diggers, curious critters that get into things, chewers, sometimes wary of strangers and other dogs/aggressive...I'd imagine a dog that's constantly shocked for 'being a dog' would be a well behaved dog and a robotic one too.

Is it fair to set these restraints on dogs that naturally wouldn't be there or is it simply the process of domesticating an animal? Is it like molding a child to be a good person or forcing them to go against their natural tendencies?

That's a heck of a question! I will give you my two cents...
In order to live harmoniously with a domesticated dog, particularly a large, powerful animal like a GSD, you have certain responsibilities as an owner.
Those include providing a proper home, food/water, exercise, mental stimulation, and love. People differ in their opinions of how much thinking dogs do and how they process information, but based on what I believe to be true, dogs essentially separate their world into two categories: things that are good for me, and things that are not good for me. As a result, your job is to teach the dog, through both obedience training and also by the way you live with the dog, what the rules are - that is, what will he be rewarded for, and what is not acceptable. I believe dogs are the healthiest and happiest when they know what is expected of them. This is part of living with a social pack animal. If you do nothing to teach the dog its rank and role in your household, your dog will take over. Obviously, with a large powerful animal like a GSD this presents a significant problem as well as a danger.
When you mention things like digging or chewing these are often the signs of a bored dog. I think most people will tell you (and my personal experience has been as such) that when a dog is properly mentally and physically stimulated, it doesn't dig, chew, or destroy things that it's not supposed to (there will always be exceptions of course). So in answer to your very open-ended question (but a neat one), there are certain genetic predispositions that dogs will always have. But our job as responsible owners is to control those dispositions and utilize them in a responsible and productive way.
 

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I have often wondered this myself. I came to the conclusion that I want my dog to be a dog but only when I say it's okay. And I think if you provide enough planned outlets for them, they do alright. I used to feel really guilty about something simple like making my dog heel when we are walking, but in the end I think they benefit more from clear boundaries than from having "freedom" in the human sense. The parts of being a dog that are enjoyable are still important, but is it really necessary for my dog to mark every single rock and bush to be happy? I'm not so sure. I have a cue for "go sniff" and she usually returns to heel position of her own volition after she has marked something.

I guess it also depends on what sort of environment you live in. We're lucky to live near wilderness areas and nature preserves. Someone in the city might have a harder time managing behavior than I do...I don't want to assume my experience is true of others.


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It cannot be "either or" for me, I'm one way person about it: people should not be allowed to have any dogs if they are not prepared to train them. Like it is in Europe nowdays. The ownership of GSD must be licenced.
 

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How do you find a balance between a well behaved dog and a dog being a dog? I mean dogs are naturally diggers, curious critters that get into things, chewers, sometimes wary of strangers and other dogs/aggressive...I'd imagine a dog that's constantly shocked for 'being a dog' would be a well behaved dog and a robotic one too.
The more you can guide your dogs to practice the kind of behavior you want from them and limit their opportunities to practice behavior you don't want, the more you can provide safe and healthy ways for them to engage in "being a dog", and the more you can accept and respect your dog for who s/he is, the less need there would be to punish them for engaging in "bad" behavior.

For example - if you have a dog that loves to dig: Supervise them when they're in the yard, confine them to a part of the yard where they can't destroy the landcaping, and/or provide an area where they can freely engage in digging. Our dogs are in the garage when we're not home. There's nothing they can chew or destroy, and there's a dog door to an outside run for potties. The run is separately fenced from the rest of the yard, a concrete walkway down the side of the house, with no plants to dig up. They only go in the rest of the yard when we're out there with them, and yes - they do dig and eat dirt if we're not right on top of them! :sick: Fortunately, they don't live to dig, so if they feel the need once in awhile they can do it at the beach or the park, where it doesn't matter.

At 4-1/2 years old Halo is still a chewer, and will get into things. She likes to eat TP right off the roll, she'll steal any food she can get at, and has even stolen kitchen knives off the counter, and potholders that smell like food, and sponges left in the sink. I provide Nylabones for the dogs to chew, and bully sticks a couple times a week, and keep reminding my husband not to leave food laying around, to put the sponge away when he's done using it, and that he can't walk out of the kitchen, even for a second, if he's in the middle of cooking. And then I remind him again. And again....:wild:

If I had a dog that was wary of strangers or other dogs, I would do my best to avoid putting them in situations where that would be a factor.

Is it fair to set these restraints on dogs that naturally wouldn't be there or is it simply the process of domesticating an animal? Is it like molding a child to be a good person or forcing them to go against their natural tendencies?
Of course it's fair - use your analogy of a child. The natural inclination of kids can be pretty brutal! Parents need to teach them right and wrong, to show them how to behave towards others. Dogs aren't kids, but that's pretty much what we have to do when we get a new puppy. They're born knowing how to bite, to bark, to dig, to chew, to eat when they're hungry, and to eliminate when they have the urge. We have to teach them that it's not okay to bite people, when it's okay and not okay to bark, and how much, where they can dig and where they can't, what they can chew and what they can't, what food is theirs and what's not, and where it's appropriate to eliminate, as well as how to alert us that they need to go. All those things are what they need to know in order to live in harmony in our human world, and how fair would it be not to show them that? To have them constantly being in trouble for doing things we never trained them were "wrong"? By training my dogs, by giving them clear and consistent rules, I give them the tools to succeed.
 

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Of course it's fair - use your analogy of a child. The natural inclination of kids can be pretty brutal! Parents need to teach them right and wrong, to show them how to behave towards others. Dogs aren't kids, but that's pretty much what we have to do when we get a new puppy. They're born knowing how to bite, to bark, to dig, to chew, to eat when they're hungry, and to eliminate when they have the urge. We have to teach them that it's not okay to bite people, when it's okay and not okay to bark, and how much, where they can dig and where they can't, what they can chew and what they can't, what food is theirs and what's not, and where it's appropriate to eliminate, as well as how to alert us that they need to go. All those things are what they need to know in order to live in harmony in our human world, and how fair would it be not to show them that? To have them constantly being in trouble for doing things we never trained them were "wrong"? By training my dogs, by giving them clear and consistent rules, I give them the tools to succeed.
I really like this paragraph and agree that laying down rules for harmony set the dog up for success rather then failure. There are natural instincts that need to be curbed and that can also be harnessed

I don't agree with forcing a dog to be a robot or forcing them to live in a small cage 23 hours of the day so that they don't get into trouble. I also don't agree with allowing the dog complete freedom before it's been earned. There is a happy medium and most dog owners that have found it have both parties that are happy.
 

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I feel that it goes both ways. Yes they should be trained, but I prefer them not to be robotic. I'm okay with them not heeling all the time, I'm okay with them running and rough housing, but when I want them to do something I do expect it. I want them to enjoy themselves, but give them guidelines to follow.
 

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We have the reverse issue at our place. Indi was in training to be a Service Dog and does not understand the "Just being a dog" part at all. On the leash she knows exactly what to do where to be and how to act, but once she is off leash she has no clue. We are teaching her that she can just do doggie things if she wants to. Her first lesson was using the dog doors to come and go as she pleased. She did not have to ask permission to go out or get a drink and it bewilders her a bit sometimes, but she is learning pretty quick so far. Be patient and consistent and your dog will learn the rules and strive to get your approval and attention. They are much smarter and more resilient than we usually give them credit for.

Wheelchair Bob
 

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I really don't care what the dogs do (within reason) as long as they listen when I need them to. Of course this comes with consistent training.
 

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Children naturally make messes, aren't potty trained etc....

So, I train my children and I will train my dogs.

My house, my rules..
 

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We've been lucky that our dogs have not chewed or destroyed anything. My husband is very supportive in having a dog that is a "natural dog". We let her chase our cats because it's play and she will not harm them. We have certain areas that are OK for digging. On walks, we often let Molly self-guide the walk, giving her ample time to smell and if people or other dogs approach, do her "calming signals". We don't yell at her when she barks, we say, Thank you, she doesn't know what that means, but she knows we don't overreact and get angry.

When my kids were growing up, they had boundaries, but lots of freedom too since they were honest and stayed within those boundaries. I think Molly is starting to learn her boundaries.
 

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I learn what I can expect from the individual dog and I go from there. Examples:

Dakota: From a pretty young age I learned that Dakota would not be a social dog. People could come in the house, but they were told to just leave him alone. I avoided taking him places he didn't have to go if there would be people. He is still expected to: potty outside, have excellent recall, stay in the yard, don't steal food from the table or get into the garbage, and cooperate for any care that needs to be done (ears cleaned, nails clipped, medications administered).
Ditto I expect the most from Ditto. She has always seemed older than she is because she is that well behaved. I expect everything I mentioned for Dakota, plus she goes out in the public and meets people. I expect her to be calm when we are in crowds, and the older she gets the better she is with it. We are at about 98%. I also expect her to move off the couch when Dakota wants the spot, and she does without me even asking.
Daisy Although Daisy isn't the oldest, I expect the least from her. I have learned that you have to put the garbage up with Daisy and if you leave food unattended for too long, it will be gone (unless you preoccupy her). I have learned that she will never have 100% recall and she will dig holes in the yard. All of that being said, you would think "wow, she is a mess" but really- I love her. After I got past the idea of her learning these things, I have a great relationship with her. I still correct her, but it never shocks me when she does the things she does. I still expect: cooperation with health/grooming care, no biting anyone or any house pet, she also has to get off the couch for Dakota and does 90% of the time without being told, she knows many "tricks" and is expected to do them when asked.
Weegee Weegee is the baby but I expect quite a bit from him. He does everything Dakota does. We are working on not being a fear biter and I think with more time he will be great. He is expected to allow for medication and grooming. I let some leeway for him and grooming because it can become tedious. We are still working on his recall also and I hope to be at 99% by the end of the year.

Essentially- with each dog I try to get them to behave as close to perfect as THEY can. The exercise they get is great for "being a dog" and I allow them to play together nearly anytime they choose (they only cant at bed time or if they get too hyper).
 

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I give my dogs as much freedom as I can trust them with.

If I can trust them to sit still in an unexplored, unfamiliar area filled with oh-so-tempting bunnies so that I can take a stupid picture for my blog (as we did today)...



...then in exchange they get the freedom to run around and chase those bunnies and go be doggy dogs until they tell me they've had enough.



If I can't trust them to listen to me off-leash in the country (which is always a bit of a challenge for my city-bound crew), then they do not get that freedom.

Our relationship is a two-way street. They do what I want when I ask, they observe some arbitrary-to-them rules and manners, and in exchange I try to be reasonable in my demands and do my best to give them what they want when they ask. The balance shifts according to what we're doing and where we're doing it, but I do my best to respect their needs and desires and give them as much freedom as they can safely handle. They're dogs. I want them to get to be dogs as much as they can. Otherwise, what's the point?
 
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