Friday, December 30, 2011

GSD skull vs. Wolf skull

One of these things is not like the other.

German shepherd dog skull:

Wolf skull:


Try finding the differences.  There are surprisingly many.

Start with the lower jaw.  (Unfortunately the German shepherd dog's teeth are not correct)

German Shepherd Dog Puppies - 14 weeks old

Friday, December 16, 2011


I found this description of the Frankish herding dog Berger Picard’s temperament on Wikipedia and thought how perfectly it describes the seemingly close relative, the German shepherd dog:

The Berger Picard's attributes include a lively, intelligent personality and a sensitive and assertive disposition that responds quickly to obedience training. By and large, Picards are laid back and mellow but they are known for having a stubborn streak and being reserved towards strangers. They require a lot of socialization during the first two years of their lives.  Picards are energetic and hard working, alert, loyal and sweet-tempered with children. They are happiest when they have a job to do. They also have a protective nature, making them good guard dogs. However, they are not excessive barkers (at least should not be)
…the breed also has a well-developed sense of humor, making them an endearing companion, and they continue to be used very effectively as both sheep and cattle herder in their native land and elsewhere.   Like many herding breeds, Picards require human companionship and lots of it. Since they can be demonstrative to their owners and enthusiastic friends towards other animals, formal obedience training and plenty of positive socialization is a must. Athletic, loyal and filled with a desire to work a long day, the breed excels in any "job" as long as enthusiasm and praise is a part of the task.

Continued and varied positive socialization for a puppy is vitally important to his future stability.  Dogs that are separated from new experiences and environments in their youth tend to be “wild”.  The task of polishing a dog’s behavior by involving him in as much of your life (in and out of the home) as possible can seem trying, but the work you put in now will pay-off.
The goal is to increase your puppy’s confidence so that he faces life with assurance, instead of timidity, which may result in a fear-based aggressive dog.
Although I don’t feel a German shepherd should be described as “happy-go-lucky”, he should be relaxed in truly non-threatening circumstances.  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dog Training

Dog training occurs every moment you are part of your dog’s life.  If you are not actively engaged in any variety of formal training, then most likely some degree of pack structure training is occurring.

By formal training, I mean any canine discipline, such as obedience, tracking, scent training, agility, etc.

As I’ve promoted earlier, using local resources for formal training guided by an effective trainer will pay in dividends.  Your investment in your animal appreciates as your dog becomes more valued as a willing worker and an obedient companion.

Other training resources exist in books, video, and the web.  I feel the more effective methods you know and can apply, the more ideas you will have to draw from in future need. 

Dogs are so thoroughly entwined into human civilization that nearly all dog owners are to some degree dog experts.

There may be those who are well schooled or more importantly, those that have years of successful dog handling that may deserve the title “Dog Expert.”  However, I cannot presume that one method of dog handling is more successful to another.

One variable is that dogs individually, are dynamic.  The energy state, intelligence, loyalty, etc., vary, as do the humans that interact with them. 

Dog handling can vary remarkably from region to region around the planet.  With all the working breeds of dog and all the jobs asked of those dogs, it behooves dog handlers to educate themselves in as many human-dog interaction methods as practical. By using objectivity and logic, the best methods can be implemented and adjusted for specific needs.

The ultimate goal is a human that uses the dog to help decide what communication is needed to get to the end result.  The totality of the tools and tricks to use is truly infinite.  Reading the dog correctly facilities quicker and more effective results.  Arriving at this point requires putting your time in with your dog.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Puppy update

The pack is shrinking but the puppies seem to be business as usually here.

Pflaume and Wasser were invited to one of our grandson's kindergarten class.  This was a great socialization opportunity for both pups.  It is hard to duplicate 16 excited 5 and 6 year olds in the same room, at the same time.  A great experience for all.

The whole German shepherd pack, including parents, visited the vet two days ago.  The exams continue to be favorable and the inoculations remain current.  All went very well except for Kohl.  We now know he hates to have his temperature tested.

The puppies weights at the vet were:

Smaragd - 23.6 lbs.
Halo - 21.0 lbs.
Pflaume - 28.4 lbs.
Gold - 23.3 lbs.
Stahl - 28.1 lbs.
Wasser - 21.6 lbs.
Rostig - 25.5 lbs.

German Shepherd Dog Puppies - 11 weeks old

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Trust, Respect and Manners

Respect from your dog is easy to describe.  Your position in the pack, as perceived by those that are naturally keen to pack structure (namely the dog) is the absolute indicator of the level of respect extended to you. 

I am not diving to depth in my thoughts on pack structure with these comments, but I feel it is important to know that your position in the pack is not secure without constant maintenance.  Additionally, an Alpha position you may hold in the living room does not establish an Alpha position in the bedroom, or kitchen, or the park.  Pack dominance if you care to have it, requires respect in all territories.

So if you are Alpha everywhere, you have respect everywhere.

The only gradient of respect I can perceive is fully proportional to the degree that you are challenged for Alpha.

Trust, is independent of respect and facilitated by manners.  You expect the best of manners from your dog, in return your good manners will only set an example as well as nurture trust between you and your dog.  If you are not clear how to extend the best of manners to you dog, spend sometime with a well-established dog pack. 

The Alpha does not barge and bully his way around as a matter of recreation.  In calm, normal conditions, all pack members move amongst themselves politely.  An insane, completely random pack leader will quickly become untrustable and a strong urge to escape the insanity or remove it will most certainly manifest.

Trust is the first and most important condition to established with your pack.

There are volumes of good information about pack structure, trust and respect, so good theory should not be hard to find.  You can e-mail me if you need any assistance in locating good advice.  My e-mail address is:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


This is an excellent example of an obedience trial from the 2010 USA Working Dog Championships.

The GSD (Hesy Naspo) and the young lady handler (Samantha Jimenez) are 7 years old in this video.

Make no mistake that Hesy owns an outstanding Czech utility dog pedigree:

Here is their protection trial:

Her tracking trial is not available.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Puppy update

Here is a short report of the litter’s recent activity.

We have three different vacuums staged throughout the house all the time.  The pups are becoming more familiar with them.  The overall progress is very good.

After more than a week of gradual conditioning to increasingly loud music, the entire litter received a pass two nights ago when they all reacted perfectly during Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog at ridiculous levels.

Rostig and Stahl performed outstandingly last night when I tested their tracking in the snow, during a windstorm in a completely unknown yard.

I invited them into the back yard at dusk.  I quickly walked off to a dark bushy corner and hid.  Together they followed the perimeter of the yard in a deliberate and ordered fashion when eventually their noses worked up to me.  I could not believe their resolve against the 30 mph winds that created chaos all around them.  The way they worked the fence-line seemed as if Kohl’s Czech boarder patrol ancestors were manifesting themselves.  I am so proud of these dogs.

The pups prefer to relief themselves outside, but when duty calls and the doors are closed, paper training has really paid off.

The pups continue to meet new people and receive regular visits from the girls next door.  The girls are quickly becoming the pups favorite friends.

We have received a great response from several excellent potential owners throughout the state.  It is refreshing to know that Alaska has a strong community of savvy German shepherd enthusiasts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Without elaborating on the several differing views from knowledgeable professionals about proper feeding quality and quantity, the following views do appeal to me:  Most veterinarians would certainly argue that a high quality commercial dog food supplied once or twice a day will sufficiently support your adult dog’s nutritional needs; and some very reputable breeders abide by a 100% raw meat diet.  Both schools have valid arguments to support their positions. 

You may have noticed that normal sized dogs have teeth remarkably similar to a wolf’s.  Physical evolution has not changed so great in the era of the domesticated dog that they have lost their meat eating teeth.   I feel it would be safe to assume that the remainder of the dog’s digestive system has evolved at a similar pace.  With those observations and assumptions, an easy presumption is that a diet similar to a wolf’s would promote your dog’s best health.

You may also have noticed that a dog eats a bowl of kibble much more slowly than a similar sized piece of meat.  Typically a normal sized dog consumes a rather large chunk of meat in seconds.  Again the assumption is that the gut was “designed” to work large pieces of protein and fat.

Cooked meat naturally seems a wiser choice to ensure elimination of bacteria and other toxins.  Cooked bone however becomes brittle and easily shards into dangerous blades that can damage a dog’s digestive tract.

Kibble eliminates concerns for punctured organs and food poisoning is nearly a non-issue. 

You may have noticed that dogs appear to survive well on a pure kibble diet.  Based upon their labeling, nearly all commercial dog food seem to have a smartly designed balance of nutrients.

Kibble also helps support good dental hygiene.

With these major points in mind, I feed the adult dogs a predominately kibble diet with some fresh raw meat every other day or so. 

I try to use whole pieces of venison, although I do use fresh store bought beef (including burger) and sometime chicken as well.  Proportionally, the raw meat is a very small part of the overall diet. 

I use two or three different types of kibble at each feeding.  I feel a wider variety of nutrients will serve my dogs better.  Plus, here on our island in Alaska, merchants sell out of stock from time to time. Weeks may pass before a particular brand of food becomes available again; so unplanned changes in diet are only in part.  Additionally, I typically offer kibble with a meat product as the first ingredient.

I feed the adults once a day in the evening (except for Kora during her pregnancy and nursing).  I am also very careful to not over-feed them.  A dog that is not fixed, gets regular exercise, and is fed properly should look rather thin in the mid-section.  Over feeding a dog so he will get big does not serve in his favor.

As a growing puppy, Kohl’s weight trailed behind the German shepherd growth chart that is easily found on the internet.  For nearly a full year, his weight stayed at 77 lbs., but with his heavy East German bloodlines, he has continued to increase in weight.  The heaviest he weighed was 92 lbs. just around the time Kora went into heat with no change to his diet or routine.  He has dropped back down and maintains around 85 lbs., an excellent weight for a male GSD.

At feeding time, the adult dogs are fed together.  We have never had aggression from any dog at feeding time because they must be calm and attentive to me before allowed to approach their bowls.

I offer fresh water at all times.  Using water as a reward is useless in Ketchikan, Alaska (rain averages around 13 feet annually).   Water is plentiful with every visit outdoors.  Additionally, our German shepherds have a high demand for water.

The puppies should be down to two feedings a day shortly.  I use a puppy kibble and one can of puppy food at each feeding, slowly phasing out the canned food.  I have also offered very small portions of venison a couple of times in the last two weeks.

Using the feeding guidelines on the kibble packaging is a great starting point, then with small changes in quantity, dialing in an appropriate serving size is more controlled. 

Puppy kibble may be offered up to a year of age, but I suggest a switch to adult food at around 6 months.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Puppy update

The greatest event for the pups since the last update has been a trip away from home to visit the veterinarian’s office.  The nine received exams, DHPP vaccines and a second round of dewormer.  All checked out very well and were a huge hit amongst the staff and visitors.  I was impressed again by the professionalism of Dr. Mangis and the team at the Ketchikan Veterinary Clinic. 

At 45 days old, the puppies have increased in weight from 9.5 to 11 times their whelped weight.

Paper training in the kennel where they bed at night is 100% effective.  Everywhere else, paper training is improving, but not perfect.   I am truly impressed with their strong doggy nature at so young an age. 

They are very smart.  Behavior I have instilled in the adult dogs is reflected in the puppies without consciously meaning to; while I prepare the dishes for the puppies, they calmly wait siting near with full attention on me.  A part of the adult dogs’ feeding ritual is that they all sit calmly with their attention on me before I permit them to approach their dish.  I have not purposely implemented feeding the puppies in this manner.

Rudimentary prey drive is very strong in all of them.  Scent tracking for kibble is a lot of fun because they can’t quite see the small bits being thrown.  They do respond promptly when they hear it hit skip across the floor.  Watching them work intently with noses to the ground for such a small snack is remarkable.

In the morning, they are released from the kennel and fed in the adjacent laundry room.  When the food is gone, they are invited into the front yard.  It is always dark and the weather is usually no great surprise for Southeast Alaska in the fall. 

When the novelty of the great outdoors wears off, inside they go for a nap in the laundry room.  They sleep very soundly when the clothes dryer or washer is running.

The remainder of the day they make multiple visits outside and a couple visits up the stairs to the main floor. 

Nearly every front yard adventure prompts a visit from new people that walk by.  Kora always makes a little time to play with the pups, but her size, speed and agility visibly humbles them.  The few times Kohl has ventured with them, his interest in play is predominately with Kora, not the pups. 

Kora’s maternal aggression is waning towards new people and practically non-existent towards our dogs. 


Of course we always supervise the other dogs when they are with the puppies.  For the most part the puppies find better things than the older dogs to molest, but from time to time they seem to gang up on one of the dogs and it becomes real uncomfortable quick.  The alpha male German shepherd and the crotchety old mix-lab rescue have no problem breaking away from the pack to the sanctuary of the bedroom, escaping the mayhem of the inquisitive youngsters.

Kora still nurses freely at times but the end is certainly near.  The puppies demand for milk seems more of a habit than anything else.   

Slowly, but surely, the puppies’ indoor experiences accumulate.  Amongst the group of experiences confronted and accepted are a loud TV, a cat, the running vacuum in a distant room, and a 6 month-old baby.  A major milestone to achieve will be close proximity to the vacuum with the same disinterest.

Crate training has started for them, very gradually and in twos for now.  Every trip to the store or other errand is accompanied by a pair of the pups. 

Temperament testing is continuous.  The puppies have subtle changes in results from day to day so repeated testing is crucial.  I am impressed by the puppies, and believe their new owners will concur.

This week the puppies will be introduced to the leash and get to explore parts of the neighborhood.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Video: German Shepherd Dog Puppies - 5 weeks old


In the simplest of terms, temperament could be defined as behavior towards the environment.  In the broadest of terms, temperament is the collection of behavioral traits that make your dog who he is.

Like opinions regarding desirable German shepherd physical characteristics, opinions about temperament are equally varied.  Most dog experts agree that some scale of temperament can be applied by testing dogs against a cache of stimuli.  One end of the scale characterizes dogs in whole or part as shy, timid, fearful and aggressive.  At the opposite end of the scale are dogs that just don’t care, are distant or even depressed.

Dogs' usefulness to early human civilizations must have evolved when the two developed a working relationship that included a high degree of trust.  Early man certainly would have made no effort to domesticate dogs if aggression could not have been tempered.

A human-canine work relationship, regardless of the duty, is far more efficient if the dog trusts the handler.  When not at work, a friendly and relaxed dog allows for faster development of trust, which directly translates to predictability from the dog in the work environment.  A dog who is hair-trigger dangerous unless all measures of restraint are applied is a complete nuisance. 

Temperament testing methods vary.  Typically with working dogs, the results are used to vet prospects for appropriate service. An indifferent puppy could prove to be the perfect dog for an individual craving a training challenge.  With good effort, this same dog may prove to be a whole new animal, driven by work or sport that may have sparked his interest.

A consistently shy or nervous puppy most likely will not make the best candidate for K9 duties.  These dog temperaments typically bring about nervous aggression.   They may also be described as sharp, hard or both.  I believe a dog can be friendly and good-natured with definite sharpness and/or hardness in a working environment.

The same sharpness and courage that manifests correctly as aggression for protection, carries over to other work (e.g., herding, tracking, retrieving) as drive and persistence. 

Our dog Kohl is good-natured and friendly.  He is typically relaxed save for a few excitement triggers he has.  He is sharp in response to certain other dogs, black bear and cats that resemble black bear. 

On-leash when confronted by a bold dog he responds aggressively and is hard against correction.  When playing ball he is sharp to the degree that his full attention is on either the ball or the ball thrower.  If other dogs are in the game, his sharpness is directed to any dog that thinks about working his ball except for the Lab I mentioned in my comments on dog work.

He never barks at strangers he sees from the window as they walk by.  The doorstep is a different story though; all within earshot are alerted that there is someone at the door.  If the visitor is known, redirecting his friendly excitement takes some effort and patience.

Very few strange people hold Kohl’s attention while walking on-leash.  He ignores most people, but from time to time he deems certain people suspicious and lasers his attention on them until all is clear.

Kohl certainly has high-energy.  Although temperament is a function of the chronic energy level of the dog, a dog described as having “high-energy” does not necessarily define the behaviors for which the energy is being applied.

Concerted testing and observations provide a fairly accurate baseline from which to judge a puppy’s temperament.  Just prior to 5-weeks of age, our puppies all show some drive for dominance over their littermates, humans, and other dogs.  There is a decisive change that occurs just after the needle teeth arrive where exploratory biting replaces sucking and licking.  In short order, sharp counter bites from littermates check even the most dominant.  Through these encounters, temperament is being formed.

The pups learn to avoid certain siblings, how to react when accosted, and test how to approach unknown dogs.  Most of the experiences are different and individual dogs develop unique responses to similar stimuli. 

Fortunately we have had well timed decent weather recently.  This allowed us to acclimate the litter to the big outside world with few surprises.  As the weather worsens, the puppies’ tolerance for gusty winds and light rain improves quickly.

We have gradually introduced new objects, sounds and environments to the puppies.  Our location in downtown Ketchikan (a pseudo-urban environment) allows for a plethora of stimuli to the pups from the apparent comfort of the yard.  Every hot rod and Harley-Davidson motorcycle that passes through the tunnel below our home must do so at full throttle; certainly an ear opener for a puppy.  Added to the arbitrary list of sounds the litter has adjusted to are float planes wailing to get airborne, sirens from the downtown fire department’s engines, and repeated hammer blows from pile driving and other machinery at the main dock.

Proper acclimation to various environmental stimuli and effective dog handling will aid in the support of a workable temperament.  For each alarming but benign stimulus that results in no ill effect to the puppy, added courage emboldens them.  Our intended results are happy, balanced, and well-adjusted dogs. 

Next:  Puppy update

Friday, October 28, 2011

Video: German Shepherd Dog Puppies - 4 weeks old

Preparing for the Whelp

During the time from breeding to whelp, we took care to feed Kora appropriately and to create a comfortable and safe whelping area.  She typically slept at the foot of our bed in the evenings, so predictably that was where she was expecting to den.  This is the worst area, and continued evidence that human support of domesticated dog breeding is best.

Drawing from long ago experience of my parents’ efforts breeding my childhood German shepherd, Lacy, I knew a bit of what not to do. 

My wife provided other vital pieces of the breeding puzzled by discovering the website 

What we needed was a whelping room. 

We felt that the best room in every respect was a basement room with access to the backyard.  Unfortunately all the dogs access the backyard through this room.

I divided the room into a 10-foot by 6-foot secured whelping kennel inside the main room.  The entire room was scrubbed, painted and a floor drain was installed.

The whelping box was 5-foot by 5-foot, bottomless and about 6 inches tall.  I had 12-inch box wall additions ready to install when the pups got bigger.  I strategically installed closet dowels at the edges so that a puppy would not be accidently squashed by Mom.  My parents lost one puppy out of three litters by that exact happenstance. 

For the puppies’ warmth, we opted for heating pads and a heat-lamp.  Because the room was not heated by the home heating system, I added a portable electric hot water radiator in the kennel, and a forced-air heater outside the kennel.

To combat humidity, a constant battle in Ketchikan, Alaska, I fabricated and installed a temporary exhaust fan.

With the floor painted in epoxy and the floor drain installed, maintaining cleanliness has proven to be easily manageable.

On her 52nd day of gestation, we introduced her full-time to the kennel.  I spent hours at a time with her every day, so that she remain comfortable with my presence during the whelping.

Kora made it quite clear as time for the whelp neared, that she was not happy with any dog passing through the room, even though she was safely in the partitioned kennel.   We obliged her and the other two dogs go outside through other doors.

Since Kora is a proven watchdog, and her maternal aggression was in full steam, we were concerned about her mothering.  As it turned out, she has been an excellent mother.

An impressive series of storms we received the litter’s first couple of weeks has proven to be the greatest complication.

Kora was very comfortable at a range of temperatures in the kennel for the eight days prior to the whelping.  When the little guys arrived, the storm born drafts made regulating the temperatures absolutely stressful.

The pups must have warmth to digest food properly for their first several weeks.  Thankfully all survived.  I believe the pups are better for it.  They all have excellent food drive as a result of the litter size; food was not always available at the slightest whim.  They also have experienced a range of temperatures, the extremes of which were certainly uncomfortable at times.

Based upon the puppies scaling the 12-inch whelping box walls after only being in place for a week, and Kora’s preference to spend time out of their reach, we removed the whelping box and allowed Kora more time away from the puppies.  This was just after the litter’s third week.

Now that their “world” was doubled in size, we encouraged paper training by establishing a separate sleeping area and elimination area.  Most of the puppies caught on to this quickly. 

At 4 weeks, we encouraged the puppies to venture beyond the kennel.  They were all exploring the adjacent laundry room within several days.

Presently at 5 weeks, Kora suffers through teeth and claws to nurse the pups from time to time.  Additionally, over the last week or so, she has been quickly correcting the puppies’ persistent biting and clawing.  It is remarkable to watch her firm yet exact mouthing of their little muzzles.  The puppies are not only testing each other, they are testing everything, moving or not.

A few hours ago, Pink and then Vader climbed the entire flight of stairs from the basement to the main level.  Their achievement was rewarded with a quarter cup of dry kibble all to themselves.  Both consumed it with no problem, which is also an achievement because no pup has been offered dry kibble up until then.

Next:  Temperament