Sunday, February 12, 2017

My Post About German Shepherds

Disclaimer:  I'm a novice.  I have ZERO claims to knowing a whole lot about the world of German Shepherds, but I can pass along what I have learned along my 3-year journey with my big dog... 

I got my first German Shepherd in 2013; I have him now.  He will be with me his entire life.  I got him because the guy who owned him was neglecting him and after I basically tricked the guy out of ownership, I paid him what he had paid for my dog (and he went on to buy and neglect 2 other Shepherds who both died).  My dog wasn't cheap.  He isn't now.  He's full of allergy problems and his special food costs more than my food does per month.  Boarding him when I travel costs me huge sums of money.  But he's so worth it.  And I love him more than I can say (Mashallah).

I think he has a stupid name, but it came with him, so I kept it.  I would have liked to have named him, "Jake" (which you might think is also stupid), but his name is Mike; or affectionately, "Mikey".

German Shepherds have 2 distinct lines.  My dog is a "show line."  He's pretty and spoiled and makes a good house/family dog (but just don't piss him off because they are loyal and protective when they have to be).  They are usually the show dogs at events.  Very pretty posers.  Work lines are most often used for police work because of their high drive.  They are smaller and more hyperactive than show lines.  The distinction is VERY important in knowing what type of dog to buy if looking at German Shepherds.  Either is a big responsibility and like any breed, you must ensure that the characteristics of the dog matches your lifestyle and family.

At about 6  months old (Mikey), I called a professional trainer and he asked me, "Work line or show line?"  "Show line" just sounded better to me because I had no clue and that is what Mikey turned out to be.  I also had no clue about where Mikey had come from when I first "acquired" him and to my extreme good luck, he is from a very reputable breeder with champion blood lines. He also has a docile and sweet temperament.  I could have been in a whole lot of trouble had he turned out otherwise, but I just got extremely lucky.

NOTE:  Although they may be from champion blood lines from dogs with pedigrees - dogs born in Kuwait do NOT have pedigrees or registration papers (and they can not be obtained) which would allow them into international shows abroad.  KCA is working on changing that by setting standards that would include Kuwait in FCI - see post and information below about their upcoming show.  

Show lines and work lines come in a variety of colors and coat lengths.  My favorite is the sable color.  My friend has a beautiful dog, named Eros, who is a sable.  Mikey is a black and tan.

Mike Stages
Mikey was born on October 3, 2013, and is from the kennel of Jassem Al-Hashash in Jabriya.  His father is Frest.  I have found 2 of his litter brothers, Bruno The Shepherd, and Pix.  If anyone out there has a sibling, please let me know.  

Here are a few abbreviations surrounding German Shepherds that may confuse you.  I had to look them up and I'm still having a hard time with the language of Shepherds:

  • Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI)  (World Canine Organization) is an international federation of kennel clubs based in ThuinBelgium.  (For more information on FCI, see HERE and HERE).  Note that my post below relates to a group (KCA) which is trying to get Kuwait recognized by FCI locally.  This will allow dogs here to be issued pedigrees.  Currently, even though a dog may have champion blood lines (like Mikey), they are not recognized as a pedigree if born in Kuwait.  It is very unfortunate for local breeders who want to show dogs at FCI level events internationally.  There are some extremely talented dogs and trainers in Kuwait (as witnessed at this weekend's Sieger show and several others that I've attended).
  •  Weltunich der Vereine fur Deutsche Schaferhunde (WUSV) is the world union of German Shepherds.  (For more information on WUSV, see HERE and HERE.)  KK9A is the only WUSV approved group in Kuwait.  Most of the kennel and dog owners regularly travel to Germany to either perform in or participate in German Shepherd events.

Before I was blessed with my rescue German Shepherd, Mikey, I had no clue about any of this.  I am still learning and at every event I attend, I get to learn more and make more friends with people who have similar interests. This is the true calling of ALL of the dog groups in Kuwait:  Education.  

There are different genres of dog training and types of dogs.  KK9A (the group most dedicated specifically to German Shepherds locally)  is generally focused on sporting events; either obedience or attack (sleeve/bite work) and follow FCI and WUSV rules. Personal protection dogs also differ from sporting attack dogs and they require different training. I have met only a few private owners of dogs who have been trained for sniff work and/or tracking;  and I have never known an owner of a search and rescue dog in Kuwait - although they may be out there. I have known of only one emotional support dog in Kuwait (to a child with autism) and I have never seen service dogs being used by people with disabilities. Sniffer dogs are in use at Kuwait airport and there are also sniffer dogs on contract to the oil refineries.

Alianz group also has a lot of German Shepherd members (and some attend KK9A events also), but Alianz includes many owners of smaller breeds of dogs and they dedicate a lot of their time and resources to public education; including education for children. Worthy causes.

I have no particular attachment to any dog group in Kuwait; I like them all!  As I often say, "My dog changed my life."  I've met some of the nicest, kindest, most helpful people anywhere through the dog groups in Kuwait; and made more new friends in the past years than I can count.  The big dog groups are KK9A and Alianz, and I am hoping to learn more about the recently-new Kuwait Cynological Association (KCA) which is trying to take the steps necessary to join FCI, allowing Kuwait breeders to represent their country internationally (and if you have a chance to attend their show this coming weekend, please show them your support).

Almost all of the dog lovers (breeders and non-breeders) are also rescuers.  None that I have met has ever turned away an animal in need.  I have seen some big, tough guys who have no trouble holding a sleeve and letting a 100 pound dog attack them;  sitting with tears in their eyes trying to console a dying stay.   So, with more education comes more chance of reducing animal neglect and cruelty in Kuwait and (God willing) create better animal regulation and law enforcement.  So, I continue to promote all the shows and all the animal associations, groups and rescues in Kuwait. Collectively, all will inevitably do tremendous good here.

Some words on dog training:
  1. Everybody has an opinion
  2. Everybody knows better than you do.
  3. Just because they've watched the entire box set of "Dog Whisperer" does NOT make them an expert and/or a trainer.
  4. Just because it says, "Trainer" on their card doesn't make them one.
  5. You can be a trainer too - as long as you educate yourself.  Then you can get cards that say, "trainer."  (I should have cards made that say, "Incompetent Trainer"!  Ha!)

I didn't start early enough with Mikey.  Everybody is an expert and I listened and waited until he was around 6 months old to start serious training.  Big mistake.  The OWNER is the most important trainer that the dog will ever have.  If you send your dog to a trainer for a few months, he might learn a few things, but more likely, he will only take commands from the person who trained him.  I learned this from a very wise friend, Mr. Ahmed Hajj.  He was one of the first trainers of K9s in Kuwait and has since retired.  I didn't know that by sitting next to him at a few of the Alianz dog gatherings, I would learn so much or be graced by someone so knowledgeable.  Now, he is a dear friend and I value his advice tremendously; even though he peppers our conversations with comments about how badly I've spoiled my dog and how it may be too late now for redemption (said shaking his head).  

So my advice is:  Learn how to train your dog BEFORE you get a dog (ANY dog). Research the breed for characteristics.  Look on YouTube. Study the videos.  Talk to trainers. Go to trainers who will either work with you and your dog or who will train you to train your dog.  Mikey will not listen to anyone else's commands but mine.  If someone tells him to, "sit," he will often look to me for approval first.  That's what you want.  Don't confuse your dog by too many masters.  Start early - immediately.  Repeat the same commands (don't confuse him by changing commands).  If someone says that they can take your dog for a month or two and he will come back completely obedient and changed; beware. Unless you are comfortable disciplining him yourself or learning what you should be telling him, he's not going to learn.  A puppy isn't much different than a child; he should learn from his/her parent.

And more advice:  
  • Don't listen to others' BS.  I can't tell you how many times I heard (or overheard) people saying, "Your dog isn't 'original' German."  "Look at his tail.  It's too long."  "Look at his nose, it's too big."  Blah blah blah.  So what?
  • Don't listen to people who tell you that an electric collar is the answer to your dog's obedience problems.  He/she will only lose brain cells every time it is shocked and immediately fear everything. Don't  train a puppy on a sleeve.  Wait until 6-plus months because his teeth are still forming.  You can buy toys with the same training sleeve material (kind of a heavy burlap) if you want him to get used to tugging at it; just as long as it isn't hard.
  • Socialize your puppy around other dogs and in different noisy situations to make him self-confident.  I made the mistake with Mikey of not socializing him enough around other dogs and OMG do I regret it. He has no problems with little children or even cats, but goes crazy when he sees any other dog (scary, although short-lived).
What will my next dog be? A German Shepherd for sure!  He looks big and mean and scary and scares the crap out of my neighbors, but he is just big.  That's it.  Big and friendly and scary-smart.  I think he would go to great lengths to protect any of my neighbors if he ever had to.  He's just that kind of dog.  And the only damage he would ever do to my friends and neighbors would be to kiss them to death!  But a dog can smell bad intentions just as well as good intentions.  It is chemical.  There is a chemical smell to a bad person with bad intentions.  Those people should be afraid.

Does the below look scary?  It's the way German Shepherds play.  These two actually adore each other.  It was a morning ritual.

Mikey and Lucy

I overheard a woman recently saying, "I could never own a German Shepherd.  Those dogs turn on their owners."  Well hey, I got news for you:  So do Chihuahuas and just about any other breed of dog if it isn't properly handled.  Just make sure that you educate yourself.

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