Lessons in Obedience…and Humility

German Shepherd Pup quote

As some of you may be aware…I think I’m pretty smart. That’s because I AM pretty smart. Especially when it comes to certain things. Things like animal health, and training animals…but most especially about training German Shepherd dogs. I’m sorry, kind of bragging here….but I rock at that!

…which is probably why this happened…

We breed registered German Shepherds….occasionally.  Like two litters in the last 12 years kind of occasionally. We have always owned them and generally speaking, with the exception of our first dog, who we allowed to become a freak show, they have all been beautiful and well-behaved.

I enjoy walking our dogs in town at the park, just to show off how well-behaved and approachable they are. We send our puppies to their new homes with a complete handout of my own training tips, which I follow up with phone calls to check on their progress with their new families.

I watch Caesar Millan (the dog whisperer), mainly for the opportunity to scoff at and feel superior to the people who are having issues with their dogs.

People stop me to comment on how well trained and lovely all of our dogs are. I know and have experienced first hand the German shepherds who are not well trained. At best they are a handful, at worst they are dangerous, and overall they give a bad reputation to a breed who should be known for their intelligence and loyalty. Our aim is to breed healthy, well balanced dogs that can show people how amazing German Shepherds are.

Lola - our perfect 'Mom dog'

Lola – our perfect ‘Mom dog’

One of my favorite phrases is “when training a German Shepherd, just write what you want them to do on a sticky note and put it on the fridge.  When you come home they will have done it.”

And all of these reasons are why ‘Ruby’ happened to me. 

‘Ruby’ is the reason that we had our last two litters. I was looking for our perfect next dog. Being something of a control freak, we can’t just buy our next dog; I have to make her myself. After finding the perfect ‘Dad dog’ to breed to our perfect ‘Mom dog’, we would have our perfect next dog.  And from a litter of seven, we chose ‘Ruby’.

The perfect 'Dad Dog'

The perfect ‘Dad Dog’

Ruby came to teach me a few things. She began by teaching me that I don’t know everything.  Every now and again I start to forget that I’m not Gods gift to all things German Shepherd, but don’t worry….my new teacher steps right up almost daily to remind me that I still have some room for improvement.

We decided that it was a good idea for Ruby to go to obedience class. She is only 3 months old, so it’s very simple stuff. A type of ‘puppy kindergarten’, no problem at all. We really didn’t need the class; we thought that she should go so she could be socialized, but mainly so that others would have the opportunity to lay their eyes on a highly trained, obviously superior puppy.

And of course….I told people that. 

Ruby's brother who is NOT chewing on the deck in this photo.

Ruby’s brother who is NOT chewing on the deck in this photo.

We practiced with Ruby so that she would have already achieved perfection with the sit and down commands. We practiced walking on a leash. We practiced our eye contact and our recall. No problems at all. I even told our obedience teacher that she should prepare to be very impressed with Ruby.

I imagined all of the faces of the other puppy owners looking in awe at my superior dog. I imagined us being ‘bumped ahead’ in obedience classes, and joining the adult advanced group. I looked forward to all of the help I would be able to offer the other puppy owners who would be trying to get their puppy to sit for the first time. I was prepared to offer my dog training skills and advice to everyone.

One’s big, fat ego can be a troubling thing don’t you think?

There are some things that I hadn’t thought of – Ruby’s extreme motion sickness for one. A crate would have been a great way to transport a puppy to her first obedience class, but my Ruby was so well behaved that I knew she would be fine just sitting in the back. The barfing started before we were at the end of our lane way, and rarely did it stop during our 20 minute drive to town.

Another thing I hadn’t counted on was the fact that Ruby had never seen dogs that weren’t German Shepherds before. As she leapt from the jeep, her eyes locked with the eyes of a little, pure white dog….who was wearing boots….another thing she had never seen, and this was not going to be good.

Well … Ruby just had to get a closer look at that!  Jumping and yanking on her leash, walking forward on only her hind legs, propelling me ahead on the icy pavement with no control at all, she got a good look at the little white thing that was wearing boots. She was pretty sure that this little white thing wearing boots would love to play, and have her jump all over it.  Thankfully, I was able to plant my feet and yank her 35 pounds of exuberance back towards me before she had the chance to wipe her dirty farm feet (which have never seen boots), all over that pretty little white dog.

The rest of the class was a continuation of the same idea. My perfect dog who could sit, stay and lie down at home, had now never heard a command before in her life. She had obviously never seen a leash before, she didn’t know ‘sit’ or ‘lay down’, she didn’t know her own name, and she definitely had no idea of who I was.

I had a one hour workout of being dragged behind a maniacal pup who wanted to play with everyone. Other pups were cowering between their owners’ legs, trying to adjust to this new environment, and I really wished my dog would give me a break and just do a bit of cowering. Her leash was wrapped around my hand five or six times and was pulled so tight that I was sure my fingertips were about to pop off.

As the class ended, our instructor opened the door so we could leave. We had to walk through the ‘advanced class’ to get outside. Great! Here were 20 more friends for Ruby to launch me towards!

A man, whose adult dog was sitting placidly on a mat beside him, laughed out loud at me as I tried to maintain a sense of dignity while taking much larger than natural strides behind a 35 pound pup who was blissfully launching herself toward every fun new thing she could see.  He offered some advice, and told me not to give up on her, that German Shepherds were sometimes a handful.  I bit my tongue, and smiled my insincere gratitude at him as I was unceremoniously dragged towards Ruby’s newest conquest.

Our little Ruby

Our little Ruby

Ruby’s teacher laughed and said, Terra you will be amazed at how much she will improve as the weeks go by.  Positive thoughts…positive thoughts…

It stuns me when I remember a few months ago; I told Kelly that I would probably blog about how to raise a highly functioning German Shepherd. I thought it was only right that I share with the world my experiences and expertise.

Well now that Ruby has happened to me, I still plan to blog about our adventures in training, but lets change the title to something a bit more comedic….

How about ‘Lessons in humility by Ruby’…“The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.” – Samuel Butler





8 responses to “Lessons in Obedience…and Humility

  1. Had to laugh because it is just so typical of German Shepherds. They don’t have any idea what size they are – and they think like little kids.
    Love the post-it note comment
    Can’t wait to see/read more
    Gorgeous dogs!

  2. Linda Fitzpatrick

    Great story Terra. As I read this I could see you being pulled behind your puppy!! Good luck with this one.
    Your Aunt

  3. I am waiting for the next chapter….I loved the first one!

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