“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” ~Roger Caras
Helping people develop a stronger relationship with their 4-legged family member is incredibly satisfying to me. My name is Matthew and I’ve been directly involved with dogs and their training for over 15 years. My exposure to professionally trained working dogs goes back much farther than that though as my best friend has been breeding, training and showing dogs for over 30 years.
My previous dog was a purebred German Shepherd Dog from strong working lines. We trained for a number of years as a wilderness search and rescue team. This was challenging as there is no analogy to that work in the canine world. Never does the junior member of a wolf pack ever find the prey, run back to find the pack alpha and bring them to the kill. But that’s exactly what I and others trained our dogs to do for lost people! Along the way, my dog and I developed an incredibly close bond. I used to say that I didn’t even have to give him a command. I could pretty much look at him while concentrating on what I wanted him to do and he’d do it!
That bond was in evidence at my local vet’s office when one of the techs came to me and said, “I’ve seen your dog and the relationship you two share. I’ll pay you to show me how to have that same relationship with my dog.” How could I say “No” to that? That began my active journey to help people better integrate their dogs into their family’s lives.
The problem is that the German Shepherd Dog, in particular, is the 2nd most popular dog in America, behind the lab. That’s been pretty consistent for a few years now. But those 2 dogs are completely different. Labs want to please their humans and are one of the easiest dogs to train. GSDs are highly intelligent and would rather train their human than be trained by them! I really don’t feel that a GSD makes for a good first dog for any family. This is part of the reason that they are the most returned breed at the shelters. But with a few pointers, practice and patient persistence any family can manage and train their GSD, or almost any working dog for that matter, to be a treasured family member.
Why I Want To Help People
It seems that many families don’t know that a German Shepherd, and some other working dog breeds, do not make good first dogs. Somewhere between ages one and a half and two years, they become convinced that they have been cursed with the exception to everything they’ve heard and they become eager to give them up. I know. I have one of these dogs at my house right now. The previous owner literally could not give away this dog fast enough and was ready to hand her over at first meeting.
Part of the problem is what I call the Disney effect. Disney has convinced a lot of people that dogs have a whole host of human emotions. This has not always worked out so well for the dog. Unlike the relatively large and heavily folded human brain, dogs have a brain that is about the size of a lemon and is smooth. There really isn’t a lot of thought going on up there. Much of their behavior can be attributed to the fact that they are incredibly aware and have a strong sense of pack/family structure. Most of their decisions boil down to “This is a good place for a dog to be.” or “This is not a good place for a dog to be.”
The last part of the problem as I see it is that advances in animal training have really come at a rapid pace in the last couple decades. I haven’t seen a single TV dog trainer that appears to be aware of the latest advances and insights into training. Overall you can say that modern trainers have done a poor job of informing the public of what we know. Thus, sharing what modern trainers know with the public is part of my motivation to build this site.
My Mission With GermanShepherdFamilyDog.com
There is a lot of outdated and false information about dog training out there. And no one is focused on training the dog for not just one person, but to be an integral member of the family. And there are a lot of expectations that people have without truly understanding the mind and will of a working dog.
My goal is to provide some insight into the modern way of training a dog. I want to show people how it produces a dog who doesn’t obey you because it’s afraid of getting punished, but because it genuinely wants to do what you want it to do. And I’ll do it without using giving you a modern psychology course in operant conditioning, behavior modification and stimulus-respone-reinforcers!
Join this journey to better understanding along with me. Ask me questions and for help. Offer your own opinions. Together we can make this world a kinder, gentler place for people and their best friends.
All the best,