Monthly Archives: March 2012

Survival in the wilderness with Klaus…

I hate to admit this out loud, and perhaps I am a little premature in my thinking, but I’m not convinced that say, If I was lost in the woods with Klaus- let’s say on a hiking trip gone wrong- that he would come to the rescue and save the day like in those doomsday survival shows on tv where the dog upstages Lassie and finds help.

I wonder if that bond won’t come later on in life and he’s just too immature right now? I tend to think of him as a bratty 14 year old teenager with how he interacts with us. I’ve watched plenty of worst case scenario shows where the dog sticks by its master keeping them warm or, somehow understanding what “go find some help!” means and tracks down help and everyone lives happily ever after, after they’ve eaten and warmed up of course.

Klaus? Not so much. For one- he HATES cuddling. Cuddling with him is a rarity. Though I have to say he’s gotten better and has allowed us the “privilege”  now and again. If he and I were both chilled to the bone would he snuggle up and keep me warm?

B- I think if I let him off leash and he got a yummy scent he would be off in an instant. His recalls are NOT reliable. And he also doesn’t have the strongest of nerves so I wonder if it would be a situation where he’s whining and crying and barking the whole time while I’m trying to figure out a survival plan! He is however my little velcro dog so I wonder if he wouldn’t wander too far. Ugh but then again, that would make me doubt him being able to actually leave me to go find help say if I was unable to walk or move because of an injury. I can’t go to the bathroom by myself without him charging in behind me!

Let’s also consider if I was injured and in absolute agony……If i sneeze Klaus is running over concerned but not in an ‘awwww” sort of way. His concern manifests itself into jumping on me paws outstretched. So I would imagine instead of comforting me he would just add to my injuries! Oh gee whiz Klaus, thanks for the broken nose you just gave me on top of my broken arm and leg! You’re such a swell dog.

I’m sure I am jumping the gun with this assumption. At least I hope I am…..



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Yes that is a prong collar….

And no it is not a torture device. I don’t know how to discuss this without starting a massive debate. People tend to feel so strongly against them- as evident to the anonymous comments I received (in mentioning of the prong in the post from the other day). I wonder if this is a spill over from the prong debate on The German Shepherd Dog Community via Facebook? The original thread was posted a few days ago as someone was having difficulty with putting on and taking off the prong. They asked for any pointers owners might have and prefaced their post with saying they needn’t bother with the negativity and it got nasty real fast! Funny thing is someone asked about the Herm Sprenger prongs today and it is a much more positive thread- so I don’t know what to think. I didn’t even post a comment on either of them!

Anyways, it’s great if you and your dog can get on with a flat collar or a head halti or harness and I really wish they had worked for us- they didn’t.  Don’t judge and insult others who have found the prong to be a viable TRAINING tool in their own situation. Don’t discredit someone’s responsibility as a pet owner and trainer for choosing to use what they use. I take no issue with directing someone on the proper way to use a prong (or head halti or harness) in regards to what works for them, but I do object to people flat out calling someone irresponsible and an animal abuser, and making statements that people who use prongs shouldn’t own pets of any kind!

When properly trained in how to use a prong- it has become for us an essential TRAINING tool. That is OUR experience with trying all others. And that is OUR decision we have made as responsible and loving pet owners.

Klaus pulled from the very beginning and pulled to the point of choking himself out on the flat collars. He was stubborn and head strong and just would not heed to the pressure of a flat collar around his neck. It was scary and awful to witness. A lot of times traumatic damage to the esophagus and wind pipe occurs with flat collars and dogs who pull. We began by implementing the age old adage of stopping in our tracks and waiting for him to calm down. We were taking a step at a time. Pulling. Stopping. One more step. Pulling. Stopping. This was when he was just a few months old! We attempted to address this issue on a daily basis for two months to no avail.

At this time we were seeing a trainer one on one at the place we use to go for doggy day care. We were told to try the gentle leader or the head halti. And in the beginning it worked! We were so happy and relieved. We really believed we had found a solution and we could move forward with our training. Walks were a pleasure now- for everyone. He was getting stronger everyday but now it was a breeze taking him for walks- and not the least bit traumatic.

However he quickly learned to pull through. Essentially the gentle leader would force him to turn his head if he was pulling too much due to where the leash was clipped to. Because Klaus’ drive is high all around, the pulling began to not bother him. He even began to use it as a way to play tug o’ war with it. To this day there is a slight variation in the fur on his nose that is a clear indication of where the gentle leader laid across his snout.  Oh and as a funny side not- I can’t tell you how many people assumed it was a muzzle! What a weak that would be! He can still open his mouth and take a bite if he wanted to.

The trainer we were working with was “positive enforcement” only, with not a lot of experience with working line shepherds, and she was dead set against even showing us the prong. Because we did not want to use it without proper training we looked to the harness next. Which, let’s really think about this for a second. Sled dogs wear harnesses which encourage them to pull. Why would we implement a harness if we were trying to stop him from pulling? I know it’s supposed to redirect depending on if it was a front or back clip harness but it did not work for Klaus.

*Note: I’m not bashing the gentle leader or harness for other dog owners who have found they work for them and their own situation. But for us- no way was it going to work for the kind of dog we were dealing with. No matter how often we worked with these type of leashes. We were working on dog training on a daily basis- everyday at home on our own as well as the one-on-one classes we were having with the trainer, 1-2 a week! We don’t claim to be professional dog handlers but we also weren’t slack in our training by any means.

Thankfully we discovered a trainer who had experience with high drive and working line German Shepherds who was able to properly show us how to use a prong and implement corrections.

I know people cringe and think corrections?! How harsh. The prong mimics the type of “corrections” he would get from his mother or his siblings. Having it explained to us that way made so much sense! If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching the pack dynamic of mother and offspring- you would have seen dogs being “corrected” by a quick little nip on the neck. We tried the collar on our arms and legs to see what we were dealing with- and the force of corrections we were giving Klaus were barely noticed.

I have to wonder about all the naysayers if they are reacting to something that merely looks horrendous without fully understanding the prong? They tend to be the ones who are so quick to ask “well would YOU want to wear one?!”. I have to ask them do YOU have any training/experience with this type of collar? No? Why not educate before passing judgement? I’m not saying that there aren’t people who misuse the prong. But any of the collars can be misused- I am talking about the people who are trained in the proper way to use them.

A quick flick of the leash and the collar is tightened and quickly released. With a dog who pulls while wearing a flat collar, there is no release, just constant pressure and in our case a dog that was choking himself out. With the head halti he would pull and pull to the point the fur was worn down around his snout- and yes it was properly fit to begin with. I’d say the type of training we do now with Klaus is 5% corrections and the rest is “positive enforcement”- through high reward treats, praise and love, and the opportunity to play with his favorite toy, his ball.

The first day we used the prong Klaus was in a heel. Now mind you our former trainer had never shown us a heel- rather her focus had been to get him to not pull using the harness- “we’ll get to a heel if he can learn to not pull on the harness”. It came in handy when we were addressing his dog reactive issues while walking him.

We love walking Klaus and I know he enjoys his walkie time as well. I can’t imagine using a halti with him now- he’s such a powerful dog. He knows what the prong means, he doesn’t shy away from it or fear it. He runs to the door and nudges the handle indicating “hey mom come on! let’s go now!”.

In the end, when you’ve tried the flat, the halti, and the harness and nothing seems to be working- take a deep breath. You do have options. I know the prong may seem scary at first, but seek out a professional (and the people at the big chain pet stores I wouldn’t consider professionals- I don’t even think they should sell prongs there) and learn the proper way to use such a collar.

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Furmination: round two

This was a quick brushing last night. We still have yet to get his other side but it’s difficult with him laying on his right side- his bad hip side, soooooo I imagine we’ll have a few more photos to take of what we brush off of him!

We love our Furminator! Seriously worth it if you have double coated dogs. They can be pretty pricey in pet stores but you can find them on Ebay and Amazon for really cheap. Honestly though the price is pennies compared to having this done at a groomer. He looks so much nicer after a brushing. He’s due for a bath soon so that will help encourage the shedding of his winter coat too. I just love how sleek he looks- like a proper and handsome gentleman 🙂

He’s getting darker overall. A lot of people don’t realize he is a German Shepherd. His coloring is “black sable”. With the seasons changing we’ve also noticed the undercoat becoming more red instead of beige. He still has his “fox-hound” ears. I hope he always keeps them! I think it’s the only place on his body that he still has remnants of his puppy fur. They’re the reddest parts on him.

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You have to see this to believe it!

I know Shepherds shed. I know this. I KNOW THIS! But this is unreal. I was in the office last night making some curtains and I hear my husband yell in a concerned voice to “come out here!”. I get out there and see what at first looks to me as if Klaus tore apart the couch more. I instantly think dammit Klaus- I thought we had that curbed! Upon further inspection I see it’s Klaus’ hair! Jesse brushed Klaus for only 5 minutes and this is what came off of him…………………….

Then this morning I handpicked about 1/3 the size of this pile of tufts of hair that had collected in the corners of the room last night! I think the unseasonably warm weather has Klaus really blowing his coat now. I can only hope that the most severe of the shedding is over?

Wishful thinking 🙂

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I think we skipped Spring…

The weather here has been unbelievably warm- like June warm! We have broken records here 3 days in a row. I have to say that although I do prefer the cold and the snow (ducks head to avoid rotten vegetables), this weather allows for some really ice outside time with Klaus. He has had three walks everyday this week. Our last walk around 11pm was met with temperatures of 67 degrees!

Every other dog owner has had the same idea so it’s doubly nice for Klaus to socialize with everyone. He is so much better now on walks towards other dogs. In the past we were having some dog reactive and lunging issues. He’ll posture every now and then but since implementing the prong (yes the prong, again I will duck the rotten veggies) he is such a different dog. His excitement stems from wanting to meet the other dogs and not being able to while on the leash. We still need to address his issues with dogs who walk by the house while he’s inside as he will freak out and bark like a madman- but we are getting there!

There are some dogs that do antagonize him though- a certain all black shepherd who seems to hate everyone as well as a few pit bulls. The other night I heard the black shepherd’s collars jingling (he has a very distinctive jingle which makes it easy to anticipate what’s to come). Thankfully he was on the other side of the street but the black shepherd lost it. But I kept Klaus in a heel and focused on moving forward. The issue I was having was the man walking the black shepherd was running then stopping then starting again. So by the time he passed us we had caught up with him. I didn’t even see another couple walking their two dogs. But thankfully everyone was happy to meet. Meanwhile the black shepherd was getting into it with a guy walking his three little dogs- one of them not on a leash!

I have to make a side note- I don’t think I fully understand dog owners who do not leash. So many bad things can happen! There are a few neighbors who have tiny dogs that they just open the door and let them out and don’t even stand to watch and make sure. We don’t have a nicely fenced in yard yet and these dogs wander into our yard. Thankfully Klaus likes little dogs but who’s to say what would happen if the little dog went after Klaus?! He is always on a leash with us now- always. I can’t wait until we can address our sorry excuse for a backyard and get it fenced in properly!

Anyways here are a few photos of Klaus all tuckered out from his walks. And of course, kindly disregard our terribly printed couch- I was washing the slip cover. AGAIN!

I like it when he gets all cuddly with me! It’s such a rare occurrence with him I have to relish it when I can. Well it’s another really amazing beautiful day so we are headed out for walk number 1!

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Teeth brushing: it’s a two person job

But let’s be real here….everything with Klaus tends to be a two person job. Bath time: a two person job. Flea and tick medicine application: a two person job. Getting him in and out of the car: sometimes a two person job. The brushing of his fur: also sometimes a two person job.

Teeth brushing: always always always a two person job!

I liken it to wrasslin a gator- or at least what I imagine it would be like since technically, I have never wrestled one before! 🙂 At first our technique involved my husband holding him between his legs, while sitting on the floor- with me brushing. This was frustrating because like a true indignant child, Klaus would clamp his teeth shut and it was utterly impossible for me to unclamp them.

Now I’m the one to “hold” him and my husband is the one who brushes. It seems to be working better. But only slightly. He tends to do the alligator roll and often I get a Klaus skull to the nose. I’m hoping that eventually Klaus will submit and just relax. There are moments of him being a good boy but then he goes and clamps his jaw tight. Makes me realize just how powerful his jaw really is!

I’m confident that this will become an easier thing for all of us the more we do it- honestly we should have been doing this way more consistently. But I know it will always be a two person job in one sense  or another.

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Has Spring finally sprung?!

Today was absolutely brilliant out! But I’m hesitant to really comment on the arrival of Spring and warmer weather only because it was just a few days ago we broke a record with 68 degrees. Which two days later was followed by a few inches of snow! What the frank?!

We took advantage of the weather and walked Klaus much farther than we have in some time. He is in need of some serious conditioning- of course all within his pain threshold.

We met up with my husband’s business partner and his little Boston Terrier Olive for a short romp in the park. She came over the other night. It’s funny to see the dynamic of the two of them. In the beginning it wasn’t all peachy-keen. She was a rescue from not a good home, where big dogs really picked on her. Even though she is much older than Klaus, the issue was his size, even as a pup. It was the first time Adam had ever heard Olive bark! Now, the little pip that she is will run full force and body check Klaus.

They only played for a few minutes and this is the end result……

Notice the broom? That has become a staple form of “decoration” in our living room while Klaus is blowing his coat. I imagine after being outside in the warmth today, tomorrow it’s going to look like I never even swept!

Here’s another photo from a few days ago. We have a cat named Phoebe who does NOT like Klaus. She lives for the most part in a room dubbed “the cat room” aka the room my sister is moving into shortly. We have a cat door that allows for her to come and go as she pleases. Well she rarely pleases. I can’t tell you how this moment happened. I can tell you it didn’t last long! Klaus is fine until Phoebe starts swatting and hissing and he’s in instant play mode. Meanwhile she is in defense and attack mode.

She will be set up in the office with all her amenities. I’m hoping that a change will promote more interactions between the two. I try and work on it with them a few minutes a day. Making sure he is in a down stay and chilled out. Who knows though, Phoebe was a rescue off the street. She’s had a rough beginning. My mom stopped in the middle of a bridge to pick her up. She even had second thoughts as to what it was exactly she was stopping for. Phoebe was almost completely hairless. She looked more like a rat. She had a broken tail, a broken tooth, some nasal problems as well as she was unable to hear anything for the first 2 months I had her! She had also recently given birth though we didn’t know where any of the babies were. It really saddens me to think that someone would drop her off on a bridge with the intention being she’d get hit. There were a number of animals found dumped so we weren’t sure exactly what was going on with that.

Miraculously she regained her hearing and her coat grew in beautifully and I’ve had her ever since. We think she is a tortoiseshell mixed with a maine coon. Really similar colorings as Klaus- we just wished they’d share more in life than just the same colorings and address!

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