How do you become a sissy as a former trainer in a German Shepherd Club?
If only the explanation were so simple …
I grew up believing that I am at the top of the rankings and the dog has to parry.
The sharp no was the word I used most often at the beginning of every dog training. If the dog didn’t obey, there was a strong jerk on the spiked collar or a kick in the butt. Later there was also the stimulation current device for the dogs that did not want to hear or even became aggressive.
I have never questioned these methods either. Why should I? I didn’t know better. The training with punishment worked (unfortunately). And at the time, nobody was thinking about why it worked and what effects it had on the dog. Because of the success, I was conditioned to this type of training.
The first doubts came when I jerked so hard in one of my dogs in an uncontrolled moment that the dog collapsed howling. I loved this dog and had done such violence to him that I had to go to the vet and then to the ophthalmologist.
It couldn’t be, so I had to change something!
But how? At that time there was no internet and in the dog schools that I know there was no other training. Well, I just wanted to take care of my own dogs and quit as a trainer.
Strangely enough, the dog that taught me the most about other dogs was Wastl, a Dachshund-Cocker-Schäfer mix. He trained our German shepherds and was ready to do anything for me without ever saying a harsh word to him. All he got was affection and treats!
I remembered my studies and what I had heard about learning theory. I watched my dogs and their behavior much more intensely. I realized that if you led them with praise and affirmation to where you wanted them to go, they would follow and cooperate much more joyfully. This corresponded to a tenet from corporate management that I had learned during my studies: “Emphasize strengths to minimize weaknesses”.
And lo and behold, that also worked for our German shepherds, they didn’t learn so quickly, and at the beginning it was sometimes difficult, but in the end it worked somehow.
But the most important thing was: I no longer saw dogs as subordinates. They were thinking and feeling beings, they also had a social system and were only too willing to cooperate if they were treated accordingly.
One step was to take off the barrack yard sound, no longer to command or to issue commands. If I’m not ready to punish my dogs, I don’t need orders. (I only got to know the word “signal” instead of command or command much later.)
My dogs understood me even if I didn’t speak to them sharply. Well, it didn’t always work out as I hoped, but overall it worked.
When my last German shepherd died of cancer in 2010, I decided to only take dogs from animal shelters that were considered to be non-placeable, and shortly afterwards I was lucky enough to meet a trainer like Sonja Meiburg and thus thousands
I then continued my education and learned a lot about learning theory, dog body language and so on. I learned that dogs actually only do what gives them success and / or reward. I learned that if you offer desirable behavior and reward it properly, you can get away from unwanted behavior. I also learned that treats are only a tiny part of the possible rewards.
I wanted to know more about dogs and how to train them, read a lot and attended many seminars and workshops. The most amazing thing I’ve learned is that dogs don’t learn any differently than humans, and that I could have made my life easier much earlier if I thought about some of my previous work as a trainer in a large company Dogs would have transferred.
And to draw a conclusion:
My dogs are not perfect, but they don’t have to be; we humans are not perfect either. But my dogs are happy as far as I can tell. When I got them out of animal shelters, they were scared, distraught and sometimes even aggressive. Today they trust me blindly, children and strangers can stroke them without any problems (Mara is reserved and evades with strangers), they demand cuddle units and, and, and they have confidence in mankind back!