Anthropomorphizing our Dogs:
I hear it all the time. “Fido is spiteful and gets back at me by destroying the house when I leave.” “Oh that dog, she knows I hate that.” “My German shepherd puppy defecates in the house when I leave him to pay me back for leaving him alone.”
First of all, be VERY CAREFUL not to attribute our human qualities and characteristics to dogs, German shepherds specifically. This can lead you to become personal and lose your objectivity when training. I have done it too. I should know better. Here are a couple of helpful things.
1. Dogs live in the moment. If we were really able to see the thinking process of a dog, we would realize that they don’t have the capacity to plan out a complicated premeditated payback. They just think in the moment. Certainly they remember queues about certain smells, sounds, people. But rather than those being personal vendettas, they become more like programmed scripts.
2. Dogs are very basic and think in terms of a limited set of goals, pack order, food, shelter, defense, mating, sleeping. They don’t have career goals, nor do they have aspirations. They don’t read self-help books or worry about what their peers think of them. They don’t get up in the morning and look in the mirror and wish they looked prettier or younger. They aren’t looking to improve their socioeconomic status: Pack, eat, roof, fight, mate, sleep. We are sooo much more complicated.
3. Stimulus/Response: Don’t get personal. Don’t react out of emotion. Don’t attribute to your dog more intelligence than he/she has. Train dogs to develop their programmatic software. Be deliberate, consistent, disciplined, objective and emotional. Don’t think they are disloyal when they don’t complete a discipline, just reinforce and go back to the beginning.
4. STEP ONE: Do a dog assessment. They are not all the same!!! Dogs, including different breeds, have differing levels of intelligence, different skills, different levels of tolerance, physical abilities. Within the breed, some have more drive, some better noses. Each is different. Some dogs will wilt at a harsh word. Some need a prong to get the idea. They are not one better than the other, only different. Certainly some are better at one task than another, but dogs which are better at SAR are not superior to therapy dogs, visually impaired guides.
5. Don’t expect your puppy to live up to your preconceived ideal: If you buy a dog for a specific purpose as a puppy, you can’t get personal and lose interest in them when they don’t live up to you. You need to be flexible and find what they are good and and participate with them in it. Also, if you are demanding certain qualities, buy from the right lines and don’t expect it all. Some people buy show lines in hopes of having a gorgeous black and red, but also a top, tough, sharp, sport schutzhund competitor. That usually doesn’t happen. Most will do great, but will extra effort.
6. Dogs, generally, are loyal by nature. Honoring the pack leader is natural. What they are seeking is your presence, not your presents. Don’t try to substitute toys for time. Dogs want to be with their leader. If they aren’t loyal to you, one might ask, are you the pack leader or not?
I will write more on this later. Especially about how treating dogs like humans can have some horribly undesirable repercussions.
I hope these blog posts help you enjoy you German Shepherd puppy or dog to its fullest. They are truly amazing ANIMALS (as opposed to people) and more easily remain so if treated as such. Please visit our K 9 University for more useful articles and links.