My breed of choice is the German Shepherd Dog, however, I was raised with toy Poodles and have trained many different breeds. I love them all!
“Lucky” – My first German Shepherd and first dog as an adult. My son wanted a Rin Tin Tin dog. We were living in an apartment and could not have pets so I promised as soon as we could afford a house we would get a Rin Tin Tin Dog. Lucky was a fabulous dog! She tolerated all of my mistakes and I can only pray she forgave me the harsh training methods in use back then. I am not certain I have forgiven myself. She was my first dog to train and my first dog to compete with and my first dog to win a first place ribbon with. Sadly she had hip dysplasia and never was able to work past the Novice level as she was not able to jump.
“ Wolfie” – was a huge white German Shepherd. I thought him dumb as a box of rocks. But no- he was not, he simply was not tolerant of force training. When he growled at me for trying to force him into a ‘down’ I realized I had a problem. He was going to outweigh me and be much stronger. So I watched him and when he sat I said Sit. When he downed I said Down. I used Lucky to teach him to walk on leash. A few years later I read Karen Pryor’s ground breaking book, “Don’t Shoot the Dog”. This book was about using positive training instead of force training. I understood that what I was doing with Wolfie was called ‘shaping’. It worked. I lost Wolfie very young to cancer but from the day I embraced positive training to the day he died he was the most obedient and joyful dog. As I was a single mother at the time and my young son was interested in scouts and sports I was not able to take the time to compete with Wolfie.
“Max” – was a stunningly gorgeous long coated German Shepherd. I adopted him from the animal shelter just hours before he was to be euthanized. My son had his learners permit and wanted to drive so he drove us to the shelter to get our annual dog licenses. While I was doing paperwork, he went back to visit the dogs and found Max. We took him home on the spot. My husband was somewhat surprised. I told him we got three licenses but one came with a dog attached. Max was an escape artist. Fence jumping was an art. His agility career was born. Max earned several obedience and agility titles. He was reactive and we worked with this issue constantly. One day while we were taking a walk in our neighborhood we were attacked by an off leash dog. Max was bitten badly as was I. Our physical wounds healed but the attack took its toll on Max. He would never be safe off leash at a dog show again, it was simply too stressing for him. With his best interests at heart I retired him, although I continued to work on helping him handle his fear aggression and reactivity. Max loved puppies though and he raised my next two dogs. Max would be the dog I cut my training teeth on. I credit Max with making me who I am as a trainer.
“Kayos”– a lovely bi-color German Shepherd. She was my heart. Kayos was born just one week after we lost Lucky. I nearly turned her down as my heart was broken over losing Lucky. I am so thankful I did not; she helped me heal. Kayos was a snap to train and loved to do anything with me. She was going to be my future agility dog. All that came crashing down when we discovered that her hips were severely dysplastic to the point the vet recommend euthanasia at 16 months. We did not heed his advice. Kayos did obedience and was a first class tracking dog. She excelled at therapy work. She was the neutral dog at countless Canine Good Citizen tests. She was my dog calmer. She would step in and help me teach classes as my demonstration dog. She earned multiple obedience and tracking titles. At 4.5 she got a new hip. It helped her live to nearly 14, a greatly advance age for a GSD. I lost another piece of my heart when Kayos passed in August 2016 of cancer.
“Havoc”– a mess! He was a mess. He still is! He arrived and Max took him under his paw and taught him how to be a good dog. Max did his job well as Havoc is a good boy! He is very talented, loves to work, will do anything for me. He is great protector. He has earned many obedience, agility and nosework titles. I think 22 so far. I say so far but Havoc is 10 now and mostly retired. He helps me at CGC tests from time to time but he has earned his right to hang out on the couch. Havoc is extremely high drive and the first GSD I tried protection work with, He loved it. I hated it. He wails when he gets excited. He loves to go for walks and the neighbors hear him wailing as we leave the house. Thankfully he calms down in a minute or two!
“Mayhem” – is my current partner. She is incorrigible! Mayhem and I had a rough start and I nearly returned her to the breeder. I was tired of dogs with “issues” and Mayhem was a shy, cautious dog with little confidence. Many would have labeled her “nervy”. It is very difficult to train a dog that is afraid of everything around them. Mayhem was afraid of her leash, collar, walking outside, cars, trucks, bikes, people and other dogs. I felt there was no way I could ever compete with this dog. Do I have to compete? No I don’t, but it is a hobby for me and personally fulfilling. I kept Mayhem. I had known she was fearful when I bought her home, the breeder knew this and also knew she would have difficulty placing her with a family. I had committed to her the day I said I would take her and if she was never able to compete that would be okay. She has become my project. I would say she is pretty successful project! As of today she has earned 26 performance titles in obedience, rally, lure coursing, dock diving, agility, and herding. She is easily the most successful competition dog I have had. However, I don’t measure her success in titles earned. She is still fearful, she will always be fearful. Careful and consistent socialization and slow exposure has helped her learn to be comfortable in the world she lives in. Even if she never stepped up to the start line in an agility ring, she still would have needed the life skills she now has just to survive. Mayhem was awarded the prestigious Performance Award of Merit (PAM) by the German Shepherd Dog Club of America in 2016. Only 13 German Shepherds earned this in 2016. She is still bothered by dogs in her face and children that rush up to her but she knows I have her back.
The future – maybe a corgi. I plan to size down and hope to have a puppy in 2018 or 2019.