In planning to find a dog, my very first priority was health and longevity. Our previous foster dog Stormy (who died at just shy of 11) came from Swift Run, as did Shana's mother, Cinders. Shana, however, has come from Masaya Dobermans, who had purchased Cinders from Swift Run..
Originally we were looking for a girl, but Brandi (Shana's breeder) would be selecting for us. I do trust breeder's to select as they know way more about the puppies and the parents than I do. I asked for the naughtiest, smartest one, that I planned for not only being our pet, our business partner, and my obedience trial competitor. We had Jackie CD before who died at 6, and not only was I heartbroken but my plans to be able to compete with Jackie to the farthest of our abilities also were unable to be realized. Jackie and Leon's deaths made me a little extra vigilant to be as sure as possible (you can only stack your odds there is never a guarantee) to have a dog that could live out at least the average number of years expected (given nothing happens in the way of a natural unexpected disaster et).
So at first we were going to receive a boy from this litter. Robert was leaning more towards boy, but I had never had a girl to raise from a puppy. My girls who were old with me, Jazz and Stormy, had both received previous training prior to coming to live with us. They were bossy but fair girls. I definitely always imagined as a puppy they gave their owners a run for their money (hence how they came to live with me after most of the hard work had been done). Jazz was mine from age three, and when I became a trainer actually helped quite a bit in the pack dynamics and managing until she died at 16. Younger though, she could be very hard on new strange dogs and people, but quickly matured and mellowed out at about after four years old. Stormy was just a love when she came here at 10, feisty, and bossy. Stormy was a constant loyal companion for my dogs, myself, and my client's dogs until she died a year later. At this old age riddled with cancer that had gone untreated (who knew how long she could have lived if this was treated early on), she was still the first one to be exercised in the morning due to her wanting to be busy at all times LOL. I wanted this in my next dog.
As it turns out, someone thought the boy I was going to get would be better for Schutzhund than Shana was going to be. So Brandi called up and asked if I would be okay with a girl. Definitely I would be okay with a girl, plus I had been watching Shana on the tapes. Shana was the first or second one to climb out of her pen. Shana also was shown bossing her siblings from the tug LOL. This was my girl!
She came, and everything went as expected. She came smart, loving, sociable (if a bit bossy LOL), and very very strong for a puppy her age.
She also came a bit different from other Dobermans that I have trained. Shana was surprisingly strong even at a very early age. I have worked large breed dogs green and untrained before, and some amazing strong labs. Shana was the first puppy to try to use all her strength against me. Also Shana was my first puppy who was not going to follow me everywhere and anywhere due to any insecurities she may have. Shana is a very independent dog. Shana is also the first one of my dogs to learn how to open every door in the place, except the round knob doors (and she has been working on that). Shana also absolutely adores her family, is loyal, and a cuddle bug unless there is something more interesting for her to do. She loves to be busy and work.
So let's go into the things I did wrong before we present Shana's behaviors:
- At this time, I was very interested in Mike Ellis's work (I still am interested and working with this, but Shana is older now and I understand it a bit better). However, until this point, my dogs have mostly been brought up differently. I was looking forward to more freedom and play using Mike Ellis's work. Course, it was a very new method to me, and so ripe for mistakes to be made. At the time though, it did not occur to me that ball play, tug, and treats might need a bit more finessing on my part and to be careful to understand it better. Also Shana was probably not the best puppy for me to try this on green myself.
- I let myself get distracted a couple of times, and was not prepared for the strength Shana could put into a run towards the end of the line. I also had not been concentrating (as I used to with other dogs) on eliminating that for our purposes and goals.
- I was too eager not to put some boundaries on Shana in the idea of just letting her be a puppy.
- Through my fault, a client's dog bit her in the face entirely too young (not that you ever want your dog bitten, but it becomes more of a problem the younger they are).
- Right after we purchased Shana land developers, Porter Holdings Inc and their various LCCs, moved next store and tried to close our business down (with the eventual cooperation of the Town of York). Some important work was missed with Shana during this time, as we were stressed and saving our business. Took more than a year to get this under control, and then after that time we were still experiencing the stress from this. Had I known this was going to happen, I would have never gotten a puppy. They can so sense what is happening and suffer due to lack of attention. That went on from 2013 to 2015. We were not emotionally in a good way, and had to concentrate on making money more than the well being of our family (human and canine) to get through it financially.
Other things that happened:
- Just as a viable training plan went under way, Shana got lyme disease. That was horrible and put her out of commission for at least a month.
- Before that, a yellow lab attacked her on the beach. Did not do harm to her (I put myself in between them), but it was just enough to freak her out and set us backwards on our training plan.
- This last winter my husband badly damaged his back. He needed to go into surgery, and then got a septic infection that was not discovered until a month after the surgery. This required him to go back into the hospital, and I had to cancel all my clients during that period of time just to travel back and forth and meet the needs of my dogs and husband. The basic needs only, unfortunately.
Additionally, I should mention:
- While living the life of a dog with a trainer is filled with activity, it can be a challenge to even the most bomb proof temperament of dog. Imagine strangers and unwanted family coming in and out of your house, and you are obliged to be around them and pleasant almost every day! That is what it is like for the dogs that live here, and I do try to take them out of the fray as needed so they can decompress.
- When one of our dogs go out, strange dogs are not the novelty they are to other dogs who don't get to see them pretty much 24/7. That is just naturally going to be so.
So the result of all this for my dog, Shana? She has become very reactive to strange dogs, and she is also very slow to warm up to dogs that come here. When she panics, she lacks bite control and impulse control. Actually now, we have a pretty good handle on it, but it has been very challenging at points and hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I see that light now, but it's been a whole lot of hard work for the both of us.
So what did that plan start to consist of:
- First, in April of last year, I went back to my KMODT routed knowledge began training Shana in that way. I am familiar with this method, but have only been to a seminar with one trainer, Margot Woods, that actually trained with the founder of this method. This time I took an online course with Tony Ancheta, and learned a lot more about training under this method. He also studied with the founder of this method. This helped us to get the to the base needed to have us working together as a team. Also being familiar with it, I was able to get us back to a place that I felt more comfortable working with her.
- Additionally, we implemented Margot Wood's sit on the dog exercise. However, I have found that also working Shana on distance long down stays helps specifically with her attitude on this exercise (or it has seemed to). Shana especially gets reactive when their is any leash pressure or she is close to me when a dog approaches. So I am sure to cycle the sit on the dog (Shana close to me leash pressure) with Shana at a distance down stay (strange dogs close to me as she needs to exercise impulse control).
- We added back in the fun and games of tug, treats, and balls. Specifically to get her more relaxed around strange dogs and doing something enjoyable when they are around, and therefore marrying that feeling as a reward to exercising a form of control around them.
- In order to prepare her for fully (no micro managing) off leash training, I cycle her in between training with metal training collar and electronic training collar. This is to do a couple of things 1) know what her true state of mind is when not on electronic collar and how much that resembles her state of mind when she is not on it and 2) to have some control to work as close as possible to dogs to teach her how to be calm and to feel safe. Also, very important in the beginning of the back tie training for sit stay, the electronic collar to stop her (not a problem anymore) from hitting the end of the line and potentially breaking her neck. She used to break so hard and fast, it was a real problem and concern.
- If the electronic collar is on, I try not to use it unless it is for a calming or control reason. This is to get her to feel comfortable as possible as close as possible to no equipment being on.
- Many more relaxed times for Shana where she is not required to be in or part of daycare or training. Definitely some time off for her where she can just cuddle with Robert, laze with Boris, or play with Ziggy.
- Also a real attempt at Shana and I having some alone relaxed time as well as fun time.
- One thing that has really helped is not interfering with Shana when she wants to get away. Sometimes she is making excellent decisions to avoid conflict, and there I am calling her back to spend time with me. I am conscious of that and have noticed a big difference when she knows she can escape something stressful and I am not going to absently minded call her back into the fray.
- Dog games with everyone Shana has a positive relationship with in the house and outside. Hiding something or someone is a big favorite.
- Keeping a log of reactiveness or non reactiveness to follow what seems to be working, what seems not to be working, or what I have stopped doing (this is a complicated plan and sometimes hard to remember everything).
- Tricks have been used to get Shana comfortable performing around other dogs in close proximity.
- Freestyle dance uses these tricks for Shana plus our relationship to get her comfortable around other dogs in close proximity. Plus I can really read how comfortable she is but how readily she is performing and having fun. Shana loves doing this:)
- When snarking or bossing a dog is inappropriate, these are times that Shana will be practicing a 10 minute down stay. This has been helping a lot in the reactiveness issues at the house. Last thing Shana wants is to need to be still for any period of time LOL.
- Being sure to get Shana out and about in public, particularly paying attention to crowds she can handle easily vs overwhelming her. Although overwhelming her (ie Tyler's Seminar and road trip) also has it's advantages. Without having carefully picked our destinations and distance from distractions though, I am not sure Shana would have worked as well at Tyler's seminar.
- Managing the dogs that come here, and do not respect or pay attention to Shana's signals. In that, I will be sure to show them to keep away rather than automatically go to correct Shana's communication that she is uncomfortable.
- Using the muzzle so I can get close in without worrying about "speedy's" impulse control. This way I can fully focus on what I am doing rather than worry about what Shana may do, because we are all safe. Looking forward to not relying on it, but I am waiting for the loose look of Shana to appear feeling comfortable before attempting that in close proximity to a strange dog. Also allows me to have her with daycare and strange dogs at home, yet keep everyone safe. This helps Shana learn by being in a certain state of freedom to manage her reactiveness.
- We have some great advanced commands under our belt that allow me to instruct Shana where to go in stressful situations.
- I do not tend to obsess over canine body language all that much. With Shana, it's more important because she can be less obvious about her state than most (right up until she reacts with gusto).
- Teaching Shana to walk away instead of react. That has been ongoing and part of the advanced commands (send away for fetch) for instance that have been part of her training.
I am sure I have forgotten some of what we are doing with Shana. I may update this article to go over anything I missed. Here is the progress that we have enjoyed to date:
- So much more relaxed on our beach walks. She only starts to get concerned now if a dog starts booking towards us. This is much more relaxing for both of us, and now we can both enjoy much if not all of a public walk.
- She will now sit when asked if a dog starts charging towards us, and let me turn to confront it for us. Not that she won't react if the dog manages to get to us...but she no longer tries to lunge instead of go into command and let me deal with it.
- At home, she does not bolt across the room to try and correct a dog for simply coming up the stairs.
- She has become kinder and less bossy to her daycare friends. If Shana is stressed, she tends to take it out on her canine friends or a human stranger, if she can not get to her target. I have taken this to mean she is getting more comfortable and thus has more control over her reactions.
- She has started to become somewhat interested in strange dogs.
- Other dogs are finding her more approachable.
- Her obedience around things she finds stressful is coming along so nicely.
- She listens more often to my husband:)
So now let's talk a bit about Shana's specific behaviors. At first, their was nothing really concerning other than her strength which blew me away. She was able to go to dog events and everything without being at all concerned.
|Boris, Shana and I at the beach, no|
]one is concerned.
|Shana, Clooney and Dudley having a great old time.|
|Shana is not in this picture, but she is with me taking|
the picture and is unconcerned.
|Shana and I at a Kennebunk park, having passed dogs|
|Again at the beach with an unconcerned|
Shana and her brother Boris.
Somewhere, we also have a photo of Shana walking with us in a Pet Expo in town. At one point, we were at a dog demonstration in town, and again Shana had absolutely no concerns.
This is Shana today after much work with me, and at a recent seminar to practice some new ideas. As you watch me, there are differences in how I would usually handle Shana in this same scenario. I would tend to have Shana in a command going forward for one. So this is very loose leash walking towards a strange dog she has never seen before. This does make sense to me in this training scenario as there is a time that you need to make space for "the mistake" or "good decision" to occur.
Here are some videos of her during Tyler Muto's problem solving seminar (and I will most likely write a blog on the ideas being worked on here):
The above are long videos that I have not chopped up yet. A good study in canine body language of a Shana Doberman though! Things you can see in those videos:
- When she starts focusing in on a dog (front view in those videos).
- Tucked tail and sloped back when she feels very uncomfortable.
- Head position I was looking at from the back of her.
- Later you can see her looser more swingy walk as she feels more comfortable (I love when she does this, she is adorable).
On 7/20/2013 was when the dog bite to Shana's face occurred. There was no immediate fallout, and in fact she is great friends with the dog that bit her. However, it is after that where things began to change, and I was slow on the heads up. When she started to get snarky, I thought it was just a growing phase of being a bossy girl. Slowly it began getting worse though, until finally I realized we had a problem.
So the behaviors of concern have been:
- Very nervous and fearful around dogs even if they were from a great distance. This has vastly improved between mid last year and now.
- Very concerned about new dogs that come here, or dogs she has not seen for awhile.
- She would (given the opportunity) deflect on a canine friend or human stranger when she is in this stress state.
- She used to try and go out of her way to boss me when stressed. This consisted of barking, body slamming me, and nipping hard. That is all pretty much extinct. She trusts me more and will follow my lead knowing that I am going to make sure everything is all right, and that she has a job to do while I am doing that. I pretty much ignored all that bossing by just following my protocol and training, hence she stopped doing it. Also praising her for making the right choices when she would normally default to bossy.
- I could not even easily get down a street at one point, if Shana saw a dog come out of a house that was not doing anything. That is no longer a problem either with me anyway. I have not had my husband try walking her in public yet, and he is certainly more of a push over than I am.
- The automatic impulse to lunge in a manner that was not controlled and felt like she was using every single bit of her power. Also not a problem any more, but certainly was at the time.
I felt extremely bad about these behaviors as they were interfering with Shana's ability to enjoy a good walk and an adventure. Something I love to do with my dogs. Something my dogs love to do, especially when they are not stressing over who/what they may see.
As a trainer and dog owner, you feel like kind of a loser when you have caused behavioral problems to come about. I have raised two puppies (Leon and Boris) before, and had/have seven adult dogs (Jazz, Neptune, Jackie, Stormy, Harley, Tommy, Ziggy) come to live with me with no fall out before. Any issues they had came with them, and were made better. The puppies of course began issueless and remained that way LOL. So to feel like I have so failed Shana in the beginning, that is a hard guilt to get over and deal with.
Shana is the best BTW! Loving, loyal, fun, athletic, and she will leave this period of her life behind so we can have even more fun and adventure. In the future, I believe I am more prepared to take on a healthy and athletic puppy and not F up! It's nice to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and remember in the future no matter how indestructible your puppy may seem....they need to be handled and cared for carefully. Or one of you is going to pay the price in the future. At this point, I was happy to take that load and do my work in training consistently and diligently to have a dog less concerned about the environment.
For instance, I am very doubtful that outside my own dogs and puppies their own age, my new puppy will be exposed to the adult dogs who come here for play. Two, no matter what happens, I will do my utter best to be sure that I take care of my mental state to best take care of my puppy. Hopefully that was just a fluke and will never happen again. Three, don't coddle your dog but always be sure you are advocating for them to the best of your ability.