August 31st, 2010
The decision to have a female dog spayed is one that is often made under the assumption that caring for a dog in heat is too much work. For those who’ve decided to keep their female German Shepherd intact, knowledge and preparation are all it takes to keep things under control without it being hassle, and for those who’ve decided to take on the task of breeding, knowing your dog’s cycle becomes key to success.
The first step is being able to predict when your dog is going to be in season. Unlike some animals who enter mating season at specific times of the year, female dogs can be in heat at any time during the year. However, this does not mean that your dog is ready to mate for the entire year. In dogs, mating follows a regular cycle. It varies between breeds, and between individual dogs, but the majority of female German Shepherds will be in season approximately once every six months. Take note of the end of your dog’s last cycle, and you can predict that it will happen again another six months from that time.
You will know that your dog is in season because she will begin menstruating. Bleeding typically lasts about a week, and is followed by about three weeks during which your dog is fertile. Unless you plan on breeding, it is very important that you keep your dog separated from male dogs during this time. Nearing the end of this time, your dog may require more attention and petting than usual.
Whether you’re planning for German Shepherd puppies, or have kept your female German Shepherd intact for other reasons, knowing your dog’s cycle and knowing what to do when your dog is in season are extremely important.
August 26th, 2010
Humans have been leaving their mark on animals for thousands of years. While cattle and livestock have been branded since the times of ancient Egyptians, working dogs have typically been identified by collars. Unfortunately, collars can come off, but there are several identification methods available to us today that serve the purpose of being permanent as well being safe and humane. The purpose of having a permanent identification method for working dogs is important in a legal sense, and especially important for registration purposes.
The two most popular identification methods today are the use of small tattoos, and the implantation of a microchip from which information can be digitally read. While the microchip is certainly the high-tech option, it loses the benefit of making the dog immediately identifiable, and requires possession of a special microchip reader. In the United States, microchips and tattoos are encouraged, but no permanent form of identification is enforced. However, several other countries, including Canada, have made the use of identification tattoos mandatory for canine registration.
Identification tattoos should be given when the puppies are at about six weeks of age. It is important that the tattoo is administered properly, and placed appropriately. The skin will stretch and distort the numbers as the dog ages, making them unreadable if done improperly. Of course, the numbers to be tattooed should be the litter registration number, and the registration number of the individual puppy. Cleanliness is the first priority in order to avoid infection. Properly sterilized tools should be used, and the area should be cleaned with rubbing alcohol before-hand. The puppy should be on its back, and held down by an assistant to keep the legs from moving. Tattoos are typically placed on the inside of the upper-thigh where there is less fur to obstruct the tattoo. Make the numbers small and dark to help the withstand the effects of stretching and distortion over time. Tattoos can also be placed on the inside of the ear, although this is becoming less common.
The process is not entirely painless, but having a guaranteed proof of ownership in the event that someone attempts to steal your German Shepherd puppies or Belgian Malinois puppies is well worth the mild discomfort of having them tattooed. If, at any point, you are unsure about the tattooing process, you should not hesitate to contact your veterinarian for further advice.
August 24th, 2010
One of the most important aspects of a good protection dog is good nerves. If you’ve ever seen a pet get spooked in a loud thunderstorm, you know how loud noises can often throw an animal off-guard. Even most humans jump at the sound of a large bang. For police officers, recognizing the sound of gunfire, being able to remain steady and calm, and being able to act quickly and effectively to neutralize the threat are all life-saving necessities. The exact same is true of protection dogs.
In French Ring sport, there is an exercise intended to test the nerves of a competing dog, and how it performs during gunfire. In this exercise, the decoy/helper is given a gun that fires blanks. The dog is instructed to take a bite on the decoy, and the decoy fires the gun twice during the approach. The decoy fires once more during the bite, and then freezes, at which point the dog lets go and begins to guard the decoy. The judge then signals for the decoy to attempt two escapes, during which the dog will take two more bites to prevent escape. Finally, the judge signals to the handler to disarm the decoy and end the exercise.
It is important that protection dogs be trained around gunfire, and this exercise certainly accomplishes this. However, French Ring dogs are being trained with a fatal flaw that could end disastrously in a real-life situation. The third shot fired by the decoy is made after the dog has already taken a bite. In a real-life situation, this would be fatal to the dog. A criminal with a gun is not simply going to fire blanks into the air during a real confrontation; he’s going to aim at the dog biting him. A true protection dog should always be trained to target the weapon-arm as a first priority. Waiting for the handler to disarm the opponent is simply absurd, and could quickly end in death. The sooner that the gun is out of the criminal’s hand, the more of a chance there is that all involved will survive without serious injury.
The Belgian Malinois, and German Shepherds that compete in French Ring exercises are certainly impressive, but when it comes to true, functional protection work, you need dogs that are trained for real protection in real-life scenarios.
August 19th, 2010
The Bullmastiff is a large and powerful breed with a muscular build. It is a molosser type breed, and came about as a cross between the English Mastiff and the Old English Bulldog. The head and muzzle are broad and relatively square. The ears naturally fold downwards, and are usually left as-is. Cropping of the ears occurs rarely, if at all. The coat is short and fine, with fawn, red and brindle being the most common color variations. White markings are sometimes seen on the chest.
The Bullmastiff temperament is usually described as independent, calm, and docile. They are not generally agressive, and are mostly friendly towards humans and other dogs. In comparison with other breeds, they do not bark often, but may bark on alarm. Several health problems are common among the breed, with hip dysplasia being the most common due to the dog’s size. Hip dysplasia occurs in approximately one quarter of all Bullmastiffs.
The Bullmastiff was originally bred in England during the late 1700′s to early 1800′s. Their original purpose was to help guard the estates of gamekeepers. They were trained to tackle and hold down intruding poachers, but were not trained to bite them. Both their large size and gentle temperament reflect this. Today, their large and lovable nature lends itself well to life as a family pet. Despite originally being bred as a guard dog, they are not usually used for that purpose today. Though their large size is intimidating, they do not have the nerves or temperament required of guard dogs today. More common working breeds such as the German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois or Dutch Shepherd are better suited to guard work, while the Bullmastiff is best left as a pet or companion dog.
August 17th, 2010
Hundreds of years ago dogs were only kept on farms, and were not permitted within the confines of city life. Today, it is a very different story; dogs are seen accompanying humans in all places and filling a variety of roles in human society. While different dogs perform a variety of different jobs, they all have one form of training in common: obedience training. Obedience is the key factor that has allowed us to integrate canines into our society so effectively. Without obedience, there is no control, and without control, your dog cannot reliably perform its job. Schutzhund emphasises the importance of obedience training in all of its exercises. Sch3 titled dogs are required to show exemplary obedience. Unfortunately, other sports such as KNPV allow for obedience that is just good enough to pass. While protection work and agility are certainly very important, obedience should always come first.
Unlike protection work and tracking, which take advantage of the natural tendencies in canine behavior, obedience training is very unnatural for a dog to learn. Because of this, training obedience can be very stressful on a dog if not done correctly. When we deliver our personal protection dogs, we tell all of our clients to perform quick ten-minute obedience exercises with their dog each day. This not only improves the dog’s obedience, but also helps build a strong bond and sense of leadership between the handler and the canine. In a ten-minute training session, the dog should be able to complete a sit, down, come heel and stay, about 20 times each. Keeping the sessions short and quick helps reduce the stress on your dog. Remember to use a strong and commanding voice during these exercises. Done five times a week, this becomes 100 repetitions of each command; over a month, it becomes 400. Keep doing the math, and you will find that this leads to a happier, more balanced dog with very strong obedience.
I am very fortunate to have the luxury of walking my dogs each and every day on the street. I walk my dogs at least five miles a day, and not a day goes by that I won’t someone won’t pass us with their own dog. Although my dogs don’t pose as a threat to those who walk past us, people always react the same: they immediately stop, and tighten the lead. This reaction is the exact opposite of what one should do. By doing this, one only builds suspicion in their dog. One must use common sense when walking their dog. This means having a loose lead and to have movement, not to stop. Remember: a loose lead shows control, a tight lead shows no control. To some, this is common sense, but common sense is often not so common.
August 12th, 2010
French Ring Sport is a European dog sport that originated in France during the 1900′s. It shares a common history with Belgian Ring Sport and has a similar set of rules. Although the idea of dog sport began as a way to test the working ability of participating dogs, French Ring and Belgian Ring have always been somewhat of a spectator sport, intended to impress on-lookers with feats of canine agility and bite-work. This has lead to the development of some of the most physically demanding exercises of all dog sports.
One of the toughest exercises in French Ring is known as the palisade. It is considered an advanced agility exercise, and is only required for Ring II and Ring III titles. The palisade is essentially a vertical wall that the dog is expected to scale. The palisade must be jumped twice in a single exercise: once over, and once more to return to the handler. The minimum height for a palisade is 1.7m (5.5′), but an additional 2 points are awarded for extra 0.1m of height added to the palisade, for a maximum of 2.3m (7.5′). To put this in perspective, most municipalities impose a limit of about 2m (6.5′) on fences surrounding residential property.
The palisade in French Ring is built from horizontal planks of wood stacked one atop another and held in place by two wooden posts. During training, an incline is sometimes added to one side of the palisade to allow the dog to descend easily rather than dropping the full height of the palisade to the ground. This incline is, of course, not present in official competition.
To train a dog to scale a 2.3m palisade is certainly an impressive feat, but one should keep in mind that impressive feats in sport do not always translate to effective protection in real life. A dog that can take on a palisade with a smooth wooden top may have a great deal more difficulty attempting to scale an uneven chain-link fence. Respect should be given to those who put in the immense amount of dedication required to train their German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois for French Ring, but true protection work should be left to dogs who have been properly trained for protection work in the real world.
August 10th, 2010
Schutzhund is a dog sport that is practised by canine enthusiasts in Germany, the United States, and many other countries worldwide. It began in Germany as a way to test the ability of working German Shepherd dogs during the early 1900′s, but has since grown into a popular sport with dedicated followers from all over the world. To the average spectator, the sport of Schutzhund may be indistinguishable from real protection work, but when it’s time to invest money in a dog who is expected to protect oneself and ones family, knowing the difference between a sporting dog and a protection dog is invaluable.
There are many Schutzhund exercises that fail to properly train and prepare a dog for real life scenarios, but one of the worst, by far, is the Bark and Hold exercise. In this exercise, a decoy will hide himself behind a two-sided structure known as a blind. The decoy wears a bite sleeve over one arm, and holds a stick in the other. The dog is trained to corner the decoy inside the blind, and bark aggressively for a length of time. Eventually, the dog is given the signal to take a bite. During the bite, the decoy will strike the dog with the stick in an attempt to distract and disorient it.
Amongst true protection dog trainers, this exercise is given another name: Bark and Die. As grim as this may sound, the reality is that Schutzhund dogs are being trained to make several mistakes in this exercise. In a life or death situation, these mistakes could have terrible consequences. The first big mistake is that the dog is trained to stand and bark in front of a man holding a weapon. The idea behind this is simply absurd. The reality is that an armed criminal is not going to stand idly by while a protection dog barks at him; he is going to attack. The second big mistake is that once the dog takes a bite, the weapon arm is not targeted. Targeting the weapon arm is absolutely essential, as it prevents the criminal from fighting back. A real criminal will not be softly hitting the dog with a small stick; he will be attacking with a real weapon. In a dangerous situation, these mistakes can not only cost the dog its life, but could also cost the lives of the human beings it’s protecting as well.
Whether you’re looking to purchase a German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd or Belgian Malinois as a protection dog, it is vital that you understand the difference between a sporting dog, and a real protection dog. Schutzhund is just a sport, and a dog trained in Schutzhund simply cannot be depended on to protect the lives of you and your family.
August 5th, 2010
French Ring is one of several European ring sports, with the others being Belgian Ring Sport and Mondio Ring Sport. There are small differences between each, but these differences are far outweighed by the many similarities. French Ring sport, in particular, was developed in France after the popularity of sporting dogs took off in the neighbouring country of Belgium during the early 1900′s.
Like other dog sports, French Ring awards titles to dogs who perform well in exercises. These exercises are divided into three categories: obedience, agility and protection. Between dog sports, many of the basic obedience and agility tests remain the same, although each incorporates its own methods and rules for how each exercise should be performed.
Jumping exercises are one example of how the same basic concept can be performed quite differently from one sport to another. In French Ring, the agility exercises take on an element of classic track and field. For the long jump exercise, a metal “key” is placed on the ground, which the dog is expected to jump over. This key consists of hurdle-like bars that are knocked out of place should the dog fail to jump the entire distance (a minimum of 3 meters), thus allowing judges to measure the length of the jump. While it is commendable to test the distance-jumping ability of a dog, there is a big difference between jumping over a metal platform in sport, and jumping over a gap or ditch in the real world. On the other hand, KNPV makes more of an attempt to mimic real world scenarios through their hedge jump and ditch jump exercises.
Of course, you should always remember that any dog sport will never be nothing more than sport. Training German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois for real protection work requires real protection dog training.
August 3rd, 2010
Schutzhund is a dog sport originating in Germany as a way to test the working ability of German Shepherd dogs during the early 1900′s. Since then, it has involved into a popular sport, and is enjoyed by canine enthusiasts worldwide. The sport itself offers titles to dogs who compete favorably. Teams of handler and dog can compete for specialised titles that focus on one specific area, but the standard Schutzhund titles demand proficiency in three areas: tracking, obedience and protection.
The purpose of obedience is to test a dog’s loyalty, intelligence and ability to be trained. Obedience exercises are performed in all levels of Schutzhund training, and are especially important during the preliminary Begleithunde (BH) stages. One such exercise is known as the “send out” exercise. While the basic concept of Send Out is fairly simple, this exercise is considered one of the more difficult to train for, especially for inexperienced handlers. In the exercise, the handler gives a “send out” command (typically “voraus”), to which the dog must respond by running in the direction signalled by the handler. After about 30 paces, the handler gives the “platz” command, to which the dog must respond by immediately stopping its run and entering a down stay.
As with all distance exercises, it is best to start training at short distances, and gradually increase the distance until it is above 30 paces. Before training the send out exercise, it is important that the dog already be trained for to down stay with the platz command. Begin the send out training by having the dog simply run out, and then gradually add in the platz command. Many trainers begin training by placing a toy in the field and having the dog run to the toy. However, the effectiveness of using a toy is debatable. Regardless of how training begins, one should keep in mind that no toy or object will be present in the Schutzhund ring during judging. Speed is important in this exercise, so it is important that you train for the exercise when your dog is well rested and has energy.
Whether you have a German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd or Belgian Malinois, obedience is the most important factor in successful training. If a dog cannot consistently follow basic commands, there is no way it will be able to complete complicated protection exercises. One should also keep in mind that Schutzhund training is effective only for sporting dogs. If you want a true protection dog, you need a dog that has been trained specifically for real-world protection from the very beginning.
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