As a dog trainer based in Surrey and Hampshire, I have become known as the go to person when your German Shepherd in misbehaving. Whether this is a multi – dog household, the rescue dog or a brand-new puppy. This is probably because we have lived with over 30 German Shepherds and trained and walked many more.
This is my story of my German Shepherds, well some of the story anyway.
Over the years, I have been asked many times about our dogs and some of their history. With so many dogs to talk about, it has been hard to leave anyone out but if you are a German Shepherd owner you may be interested in some of the problems that we have faced. Healthwise or behaviour wise, we have probably seen it all. We have bought brand new puppies, taken on rescue dogs and rehomed adult dogs and we have fostered many more as well. We love the loyalty and determination of these dogs which can lead to new hobbies, new friends and a different way of life. Now you must walk your dog and fulfil their requirements to keep them occupied. If you don’t give a German Shepherd a job, then they will find one.
As a dog trainer, I hope to give you an idea of how to live with one of these dogs, but with very clear idea of some of the problems, challenges and the fun. If you need someone who understands what it is like to live with one or more of this magnificent breed, then come and talk to me. They are a working dog who needs exercise and mental stimulation and as an academy we provide many ways to teach you how to provide this.
As a child I always wanted to have a dog, but circumstances prevented it. I was a competitive swimmer so there was a lot of travelling which means no time for a dog. But as soon as I had my own home, thoughts turned to a dog – I would rescue one. But as I had little or no knowledge, Sam didn’t stay. Barney (1) did and was quickly followed by Candy who became my first competitive obedience dog. By this time, I was also training others and running with friends, my first dog club. Attending more and more seminars, watching more dog trainers and competing, I wanted more than my first two could offer and so bought my first German Shepherd puppy from a top breeder. This led me to learn even more and travel all over the country learning and watching from the experts. I worked with John fisher and John Rogerson, Roy Hunter, Roger Mugford and Ian Dunbar. This built my knowledge and experience and as my daughter will tell you, she came along too. She grew up around the dogs and helped with them as she got older. By this time, sadly my marriage had finished and there were many struggles and if it hadn’t been for my dogs, nothing would have got done. By this time, I had 4 German Shepherds and had fostered many more. The dog training clubs were growing, and I was teaching others to become successful trainers alongside me. Working with Joyce Stranger and many others, we raised thousands for charity and appeared several times on the television with our dogs. We took them to St Pauls and did a down stay with all the reporters from the national newspapers in attendance. And in the evening, we spoke to many people at Waterloo station about the need for a responsible dog ownership campaign. This grew and we worked many times with Pet food companies at Crufts and the championship dog shows spreading the message. Jette was the perfect dog to accompany me and soon after Freya joined us. She was the last puppy we ever bought as since then, the dogs have found us.
Stuart in the meantime, had always wanted a dog after growing up with Jonny, a GSD x. His dad had been a war dog handler in the British Army at Liphook and he had the need to have one of his own. Dexel was his first boy, but despite being given a fantastic life and from a good pedigree – he was a haemophiliac – one of the first in the breed, and he sadly died when just 6. Next came Lulu, who had bad hips and died very young followed by a puppy who didn’t stay as it had a heart problem. Although we didn’t know each other then, we had both been to the same breeder, but luckily enough I didn’t get one from there. Heide was a rescue puppy and she more than filled the whole left by the sadness of the others. Two more pups arrived as by this time, Stuart was keen to breed and show – but bad hip scores prevented this. Luckily, Gretel lived until old age, but her hips did give her problems as a youngster but with careful off lead exercise and good food, she had a happy life. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with the male, Faber who had bad hips, poor eye condition and when put into the Vets for routine castration, found to be riddled with tumours so wasn’t allowed to wake up – such a sad day for everyone. Then along came two more dogs – Troy at 15months who had a total trypsin deficiency and kept stealing food and Putz who was a qualified for Crufts at 18 months old but never attended more than a couple of shows, as Stuart hated the double handling and much more. Putz quickly became the ideal family pet and lived a wonderful life with the other dogs. Fina joined soon after and she was the sister to my Freya but when she got older, she suffered health wise as well, getting anal furunculosis as my Jette had suffered earlier on. It was great fun to bring up two litter sisters in different families and see how they differed despite having similar life experiences.
Another of my rescue dogs was Khan, a beautiful dog but had little life experience and on his first trip to the woods, grabbed a large branch and tried to walk between trees, not understanding why he couldn’t get through. He also tried to walk over the leaves on the canal and fell into the lock. It was just after this, that he had his first epileptic fit which eventually killed him at 8. Katie had also joined us by then, as she could no longer stay with her own pack, as the other girls did not like her. She got on well with Freya and Khan though and had a happy life with us until we lost her at 10 with a torsion (bloat). Having lost Venn with this as well, I do know how awful it is to see dogs suffer with this. In fact we have lost dogs from all sorts of illnesses and some of them far too young, but our last pack of four, we did have 9 at one time, were very healthy and we got them to 13. Then old age, strokes, CDRM and paralysis caused them to pass.
We currently have two rescues; one came to us as her owner could no longer cope with her stroppy ways. She spent a year working with us wearing a muzzle but as she joined our experienced teaching dogs, Ben and Zytta, she learnt how to behave. She adored our madcap Brook, who was distantly related to Putz, Stuart’s old dog and he led her everywhere and she became the teaching dog she is today. Which is just as well as Barney (2) needs all the help he can get. Having suffered dreadfully from the hands of a cruel training establishment in London, he was rescued at 6 months old fearing everything. He is great with us but has done damage and we are grateful that our friends who supported us in keeping him. Thankfully the growth in secure fields has meant that he has a wonderful life with us, and we have learnt lots from him.
Working with Ben and Zytta who were our teaching dogs, we have met many lovely dogs and who have lived with us for holidays or for training. Many more dogs have joined us at training classes, as our exhibition display team or our social walks. Everyone we meet teaches us something new. Whether it is a German Shepherd or another breed, each dog has a story to tell and we love working with them to unfold this and share it with their owner. So why not join us and find out more about your dogs.
Whether you have a perfect puppy or a terrible teenager, every dog has a story. The rescue dog doesn’t always have a terrible past but may be confused or anxious. Working together you will find that the first six months can be the hardest but watch that dog blossom and develop into the dog you have always dreamed of. And the journey can be so much fun. You may learn a new activity such as scentwork or agility or maybe you meet other owners and share a walk on the beach or across the downs. Just walking will make you feel better and having a working dog means you try harder to enrich their lives. You must or you will have a bored dog who finds a job to do. Sadly, many of the rescue dogs we have worked with only ended up in rescue because the previous owner didn’t have a clue. They became noisy, reactive, aggressive and frustrated all because their owners didn’t have time for them. You may have to adjust your life to fit around a German Shepherd, but it is worth it for the loyalty they show you and the fun you will have.
Want to find out more about what we can offer? Well you could look at our Lifestyle classes or why not have a go at Scentwork. As a Scentwork Uk judge and trainer, I have seen German Shepherds excel at this and are born to search which is why the police use them. Tracking or Searching are perfect activities to consider. Agility will keep you both fit and Obedience – well we all want a well-behaved dog that you can take to the beach, woods or park, don’t we? Check our services page for more details at https://www.thewalkaboutway.co.uk/classes or get in touch now at https://www.thewalkaboutway.co.uk/contact-us for a 121 assessment and lets see what your dog can tell us about what he/she needs.