Learning Pathways

Yesterday’s Pepper picture! (Yes, I take a lot of pictures)

Pepper is doing super!

Knows her name, Sit, Sometimes Stay (hey, she tries), Come, Down, Crawl, Shake, and is doing better with Drop/Leave. She now plays Frisbee and ball outside and has learned Drop/Leave. She will play with anything including stealing the shovel a few days ago.

She is very good to heal, but she sometimes pulls a little on the way home. She has now taken 4 walks on heal with no leash on property.

She also now crates on command but is not happy about it. Still she is quiet and does well. (I am awake most of the time, so she is with me a lot)

Dig it!

Digging is fun! Pepper loves to dig in the sand and enjoys it all.

If you have a dog that likes to dig remember to pay attention. They can eat everything they find and really make a mess in a hurry. On the other hand, pepper likes to dig and then fall asleep in the cool holes she has dug, air conditioning 101!

Having a ball…

I have been lucky.

Lots of people talk about how their dog does not fetch or play with them.

Out of 9 Shepherds, 42 American Eskimos, 316 (I think) Poodles, 1 Collie Shepherd, 22 MOATs (Mutts of assorted sizes) and 1 Scottie only a few did not like to fetch. Mostly the Scottie. To be fair most of the animals I have had were puppies that I later homed, but if we just concentrate on the 15 or so home animals all but the Scottie loved to play fetch. That in itself is lucky. (The Scottie (My daughters “gifted” to me) loved to play, but tore everything up before we could play with it)

Fetch is a tough game to start at first. Dogs like to keep stuff, hide stuff, bury stuff, and generally not share by nature. You have to build trust and as you do realize that there will be some hiccups. Some will be big, some small.

Start by rolling a ball and sitting on the floor. Hopefully the puppy will come back close. Take the ball and use “Drop or Leave It” if you can, then throw again. Little distances. Working your way up to some thing big. As you do you will see that the puppy wants to interact. As you work increase distances and use other items from time to time.

As always, the key is consistency. Be consistent to win all the time. Remember, repetition makes perfection. Guide yourself all the way there.

A little sleep…

Gotta say first that little Pepper is doing great with her sleep. Why great? She slept through thunderstorms. That is an amazing feat for many dogs, and it makes me happy that she is not afraid.

It is interesting the amount of rest dogs get compared to people. We sleep between 33% to 25% of our day away if we are normal. This is 6 to 8 hours. Dogs can sleep considerably more. Sometimes 50% or more, which is 12 or more hours a day.

We need to be mindful and help them along but realize they may tucker out from time to time. Puppies need time to rest and reset, and most dogs need time to just relax. I think most people do as well, they just don’t do it.

Pepper is sleeping about 11-12 hours a day at this time, and she is napping a little in between where she is awake, but just chilling, waiting for someone to move. Not a bad life, right?


There is a tried and true statement anyone getting a puppy of any type should know: Puppies bite.

Now, I hope you know this but they are not out to hurt, destroy, maim, or cause any issue. They just address the world around them with what they have, that incudes their amazing senses, their keen intellect, and their paws and teeth.

Always curious

To stop biting on anything is an exercise in patience. It will not happen overnight and instead will be a series of reinforcements to control or at least guide the behavior. I am big on redirecting, and when a puppy starts biting, I give them a toy instead. Over time this creates the good and bad while I work with them on bite pressure and being more patient. The best part of a dog is their near insatiable curiosity; we do not want to curtail that. We just need them to understand we are not chew toys.

This is also another situation where you have to realize that consistency is everything. My hands have thick callouses from swinging an ax. When puppies bite me, I rarely feel it. Suppose I allow it though it is acceptable for everyone, including those who are not so grizzled. I find that sometimes people roughhouse with their dogs and then wonder why the dog roughhouses with company or others. We have just validated it is ok to do this. You can’t have it both ways.

Just remember not to be negative, and be patient always and things will get better each day.

Puppy walks

Puppies and people have a significant need to play. Pepper is no different. We play for quite some time each day right now, as play is the best way to learn, and right now, Pepper is in pure learning mode. She picked up steps on her own. (From her kennel, I am sure) She now knows the yard limits even though eventually that will grow. (and she loves to run)

The first rule of working with a puppy is almost always the lead. Pepper is catching on to “heel” rapidly and has it down within reason. She understands what we are doing and has gotten over the “I will do what I want to do” puppy independence. It is essential to work on lead training as soon as possible. As a German Shepherd owner, you have a responsibility to understand that a full-grown German Shepherd is quite an animal and, if not trained, can pull a grown man along the street or accidentally hurt someone. It is imperative that they understand several commands, and leash (lead) training is primary.

When you get started collars should be tight enough for control but loose enough to slide overhead. This is in case they ever get stuck. You will need to understand how to move the leash if they try to pull away. You will decide if they can pull the collar off or if you can maneuver it to keep it on quickly. No prongs or chokers are my preference. It really doesn’t hurt a German Shepherd much, but it is not good practice.

Panic lead.

Leashes should be short or standard length. If you use a retractable lead, it is a death sentence. Wrong type of dog. Longer leads can become weapons if the dog is unwieldy. I use short panic leads on adult dogs, and longer leads for walks or puppies. When I rode bike with Luna and she paced me I used a standard 6 foot lead. It was loose enough that she could pull free but she never did and stayed next to me at all times. Expect to have several leads for different purposes. It works better that way.

When walking a GSD they should always be at your side unless asked to go forward. (Advanced stuff there). A German Shepherd who leads will think you are taking cues from them, the end goal will not be achieved, that goal is control. If they stop or pull and you let them, they are smart enough to know they can do it again. Consistency is everything. When on a lead your actions should not waver, and your control should not either. Mixed messages can be bad for the dog, and frustrating for you.

A good German Shepherd will not pull. They are attentive to their owners commands and respond well at all times. (Even if it goes against their judgement) Work towards that goal every day.

What’s in a name?

I find names to be quite interesting with dogs. I have named a lot of them over the years. When we bred poodles when I was younger I named every puppy. This of course formed an attachment but also made every day fun. Over time I had to come up with more interesting names because I was running out of names. So Super Puppy and others that followed had more whimsical names.

When I moved out and got my first puppy that was my responsibility I realized that dogs often named themselves. Either by look or action you can pick a dogs name easily after waiting. So I did so and my first puppy became “Candy” as she smelled candy easily and acted like she wanted some. (I do not give dogs Candy)

Satin was next, my first full blooded German Shepherd. Satin was also the only GSD I attack trained. She was a constant companion and at the time I was always happy with her. She got her name from the how she liked to rub against me and the Satin feel of her coat.

So it went. Max was always at the maximum and thought he owned the world. Muffin attacked my girlfriends Banana Nut Muffin on the first day. Shiva destroyed her box on her first day. There have been many more.

Pepper was based on looks, but as Pepper came home it was obvious that she was a Pepper. She is highly intelligent and watches often. She also loves to bolt. She waits when off lead and gets some distance then runs like crazy for pure fun. Pepper it is, and Pepper will lead the way.

Welcome Home Pepper

On 8-21-2022 it was Peppers time to be here. She found her way into our home for an adventure that would mold her, and of course change us with her impact. Pepper found her way from right outside Pontiac Michigan from Von Hanabrit German Shepherds. The Kennel owners were obvious caring individuals and bred German Shepherds for their amazing attributes. Take some time to look over their site, it is older, but it has a lot of good information on it.

I have to start this journey with a horrible picture. This was a big decision post-Luna and all of the other German Shepherds I have trained and owned. For many years I have considered building a kennel that was not like all the others I have seen. Most are dirty, disorganized, or a small thought to a big responsibility. The breeders I bough Luna from were very positive and amazing individuals. So are the people at Hanabrit. Eventually I will try to build a more comprehensive list that is not for profit. I digress.

Judy from Hanabrit allowed me to spend time with the 3 remaining young ladies who were ready to find a home. My process has worked with Shepherds, American Eskimos, Poodles, and volunteering at shelters. I simply sit inside with animals and interact.

Each of the 3 had positives to be sure. One was an Alpha and wanted to be the center of attention. One was off to the side a little and was cute but not interested. The third, Pepper, was different.

I wish I had spent time documenting all the moments with Luna, I did quite a bit but was paying attention to training and playing with her as much as writing. I hope I can be more effective with Pepper. Peppers demeanor focused on watching. The Alpha wanted to be the center of attention always. The other puppy waiting for their turn, but did not pay as much attention. Pepper watched and when the time was right moved up, interacted, and seemed to learn. If you have ever had a puppy you will know that personality changes as the puppy enters a home based upon the core temperament of the animal, and based upon the owners, the owners ability, and the owners emotions. (I will explain that someday)

I spent time and little not quite pepper yet kept coming back when I was left alone and only stopped to become a landshark and devour the evening dinner, yum. I decided she was the one I would pick if I weighed the other items and thanked Hanabrit for their wonderful hospitality. I had multiple things to consider.

If you are thinking about getting an animal you really need to think about it. I have training a variety of dogs (and even cats, birds, rabbits, and fish) and still will consider any new animal brought into the house. If you are thinking about getting a German Shepherd do some research first. I consider them the best dogs on the face of the planet, but they are not. For every situation a dog may be better suited, it is why the breeds were created from breeder selection to develop specific traits. I am a firm believer that there are no (as in zero) bad dogs and it is the situation and owner that creates bad dogs. As you consider a dog, consider the breed, the level of commitment necessary, the space necessary, the impact on you, and most importantly the impact on the dog. DO NOT feel that they are along for the ride and will do as you say, it is a recipe for disaster and I have a story about that that is terrifying.

I left, had dinner, talked to people, then talked to Dana for a while. Our lives would change, we would have new items to consider, and our cat would be impacted as well. (She thinks she is a dog so it didn’t matter much to her) I went back to the hotel, stayed up most of the night, and made a decision the next morning. IT was time.

Before meeting with Hanabrit I had some shopping to do. I was 3 hours from home and needed to make sure the trip was ok. My initial purchases were:

  • A Small water bowl – dogs need to drink. Leaving them thirsty is as bad as leaving you thirsty.
  • A pad for the seat – I would not be belting a newer puppy, they have enough anxiety.
  • 3 Toys – Including a rope and 2 stuffed toys to allow for interaction along the way.
  • Several drinks for me – I would not be as mobile as I usually was when my family was with me, as such I might be limited on my interaction.

I cleaned up and headed there. An adventure will follow….