Don’t assume anything!!!

Anyone who knows me is aware that I have a passion not only for dogs in general but helping dogs with aggression.  I recently  was hired by a couple with a very young German Shepherd puppy.  When talking to my client on the phone she was actually in tears because she thought there was no help available for this puppy.  Both her and her husband were told that the puppy needed to be euthanized. they also contacted three trainers and one recommended that in order to teach the puppy who the boss of the house is they needed to tie the puppy up outside of his kennel for 24hours without food or water and that would solve the problem, no wonder she was crying.  How could this recommendation do anything but harm to this 4 month old puppy?  The other day I went to my clients home for the first time and met the puppy and not only was he a very normal puppy he was also very excited to learn new skills, this puppy had a few strikes against him in the health department as well as his overall behavior towards his owners.  He had a very bad yeast  infection in his ears and allergies that caused him to itch non stop.  He also has food allergies and would have pretty bad bouts of diarrhea.  No wonder he was cranky 🙂  Luckily most of these issues are resolved as far as his overall health.  I found him to be a very good at seeking attention by jumping and mouthing when he wanted something, he is very excited by horses and cats as well.  One of the main issues they are having is the puppy will in their words ” attack them very aggressively” during the day.  What I actually observed was pretty much just arousal and normal puppy mouthing and jumping.  My clients told me that they have been raising German Shepherds for a very long time and have never gone through anything like what they are presently going through.

This puppy is from a very long line of working German Shepherds and this is something that my clients did not think about when buying the puppy.  Working lines are very different from other dogs that are bred for just plain family dogs.  In a nutshell my clients were very overwhelmed.  I also found out that this puppy rarely ever got walked and the only exercise was chasing the cat who more than likely did not appreciate this at all.  I think they thought that the puppy would just be happy in the yard running and playing and chasing the cat and they really did not need to do anything but feed and water the puppy like a plant.  Like my clients I have been raising German Shepherds most of my life and have never assumed anything about any of the dogs I have had.  I know that these dogs need jobs and training like all dogs do to be emotionally happy and physically healthy.  Our current German Shepherd Meika was a highly reactive dog to other dogs until I learned how to help her, now she has a  job and it is helping other dogs who are reactive.

I spent about two hours with my clients and their puppy just going over some training basics and impulse control exercises.  I also encouraged them to take walks with this puppy around their  property daily which is perfect for walking and enriching this dogs environment.  We walked around the property about three times pausing a few times to work on the basics.  My clients said to me and I quote ” We have never seen him have so much fun” What I observed was a puppy that really looked like he was doing something totally alien to him.  I asked my clients if they could make this a daily happening with him and they said yes, I said great.  After the walk we went back inside and the puppy calmly went into his kennel by choice and went to sleep.  They said ” he never sleeps during the day and only normally sleeps about 6 hours a day.  No wonder this puppy is excited and anxious.  For his age I told them it is normal for him to be sleeping up to 15 hours a day or at least napping and relaxing.  For the rest of the consultation this puppy was sound asleep and again they said they have never seen him do that.  In my honest opinion I think they did not know that actually walking this pup might help to calm him down.  The point of this story is that we can never assume what we think our clients know about training and behavior.  It is our responsibility as trainers and educators to carefully observe and be objective with our clients and their dogs.  Sometimes it can be such a simple thing as a walk and enriching a dogs environment that really can make all the difference in the lives of our dogs and our clients.


Dennis Fehling CPDT KA,


This is my girl Meika.

Dennis and Meika