Last Updated: 12 March 2008
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Our dogs are our friends who share our lives. Each one of them has a unique personality and occupies a special place in our hearts. When we tell our non-doggie friends how many animals live here in our home, we are met with disbelief and a little bit of skepticism. We hear comments like “How do you DO it?” or “ How much dog hair must that be?” or “ That is so much work.” What most people REALLY think to themselves is that we are crazy!
Yes, we have to vacuum daily, and even then, occasional dog hair clusters float our from beneath a sofa or a chair. On muddy days, when the dogs come in from playing with sandy, wet underbellies and tails that brush against walls and leave splashes of dirty-tail-art, I do get frustrated. Our beautiful wide board pine floors are etched with scratches from dog toe nails. Our furniture is scarred from various assaults – three of our 4 month old pups tried reupholstering a sofa one day, a 7 month old puppy chewed a loose strand of fringe on a nice ottoman & left a large tear. Our mud room, where we sequester 8-12 week old pups when we can’t watch them carefully, has beaver timbers that once were moldings. But, for the most part, the dogs live in harmony with us & our possessions. We have dog beds everywhere, and on a typical night, you will find a dog napping in each bed, as well one or two making themselves comfortable on Our bed. We have dog toy boxes in several rooms, and the dogs do select their favorites to play with. When we sit to read or watch t.v., inevitably one of our young adults will curl up on the sofa in one of our laps, unaware that a lap dog is supposed to be SMALL. We enjoy this time with our dogs.
A typical day begins early, and all the dogs need to go out. Some of our dogs sleep in giant crates in our bedroom, others sleep on dog beds scattered through out our room. Each dog has a favorite spot. Annika likes to sleep on our bed. The Bat likes to alternate between our bed and the tile floor in the bathroom. Sherry and Kiddie like to sleep as near to me as they can, on beds next to our bed. Xenia likes a particular dog mattress. Bunny prefers her crate, where her collection of stuffed bunnies reside. Charlotte sleeps upside down in her crate…(etc.) They all settle in and sleep soundly at bedtime.
Come morning, there is a good deal of noise as they all clamor to be first to go out. The dogs know the routine, and they come back in to wait for breakfast. Meals are a busy time as we feed a partially home made diet & there is some preparation time. Most of the dogs wait quietly, watching me. Charlotte is prone to getting impatient. She will look to see if her bowl is forthcoming, and if she feels I am being too slow, she will let out one mournful, impatient bark to say, “I’m very hungry!!! We separate our three youngest pups to eat in one room, and everyone else has their own feeding place in the kitchen. Brina & Bunny sometimes like to taste test other food bowls, but mostly, everyone exercises good manners. Even though our dogs are not aggressive about their food dishes, we STILL separate the littlest puppies at emal time. Young pups are rude without meaning to be. They violate the dog rule code, and an older dog COULD get defensive. We avert this by separation at meal time.
After breakfast, everyone stays inside for an hour and a half or so. We don’t like our dogs to eat and then go immediately out to run and play. Some of the pups will wrestle or play with toys during this waiting time, but mostly they lounge.
When it is time to go out, we organize the dogs by “buddy system”, in groups. A group of them go out together for play time. The dogs have their own giant fenced yards, and each yard has dog door access to a spacious “dogroom” in the lower level of our house. The nursery has an adjacent yard, as do the adult lounge (complete with sofa and wood stove for warmth in winter), and the “Play room.” We have a whole dog apartment set up for their comfort and safety. Most of our dogs get along quite well, but we occasionally have to alter the group formation if a bitch/multiple bitches are in heat. The dogs love to run and play chase games in their giant yard. Some of the yards also have play equipment – our pups enjoy the tunnel slide especially, and in summer, there are kiddie pools. Occasionally, the dogs like to dig. This is their yard, so we allow digging… and they all join in to dig giant Dens!
We believe this group turn out is an excellent way for our dogs to learn how to interact with multiple dogs of varying age and size. They have great fun wrestling, playing chase, playing keep away with toys, and herding. Xenia loves to lead the others on a patrol of our fence lines. Xenia will do this all day, especially if the horses are out and moving about in their pastures! Some of the dogs eat lunch, one likes to come in the “people part” of the house to nap from 12-2. they all have their preferences.
When you have only one dog,, the dog enjoys a fenced yard for a short time; time enough to explore the scents, & roam about. But, a solitary gErman Shepherd Dog is soon bored, and will ultimately seek companionship. When you have one dog, you must entertain him with a Frisbee or a ball during his yard time. We have the luxury of a built in play group. Our dogs tire themselves out with their daily play. They are very active when outside. Still, we take groups for walks in our hay fields or on our wooded trail system. The dogs never go very far from us, and they love to investigate all the scents in the woods.
During the day, I will choose an individual to do some training with, usually for a fairly short time, and then I will move on to another of them. When we are preparing for shows, we do ring training, a fitness regime, and practice stacking a couple times a week. We take the dogs to our friends’ place & practice on other grounds, not just our own, to prepare the dogs for what is expected at a new venue.
When I go on short errands or to a friend’s, I usually select a puppy or dog to accompany me, so our dogs are used to being in a vehicle and used to going to new places. We also take our youngsters to training & even our adults to a handling class. Mostly this is to expose them to situations with lots of noise, other breeds of dog, people.
We also have frequent visitor days, where potential puppy families come to visit. Our dogs enjoy this, and generally show off, all vying for attention from the guests.
At the end of the day, the dogs come in & have dinner before relaxing with us. They are content to be very calm in the house, because they are tired from the day’s activity. During this quiet time, we might trim toe nails for them or brush some of them, or clean ears. During warm weather, we have to do nightly checks for ticks. Our dogs are used to being handled, and they give us no problems about this.
This is a quick glimpse into a typical day’s events for our dogs. When dogs live the way ours do, we have the benefit of knowing them a little better than we would if they resided in a kennel. They are very bonded to us, and they are motivated to work for us because of that bond. (As well as a love to to work for food and play and prey!) We do not sequester our dogs away from us prior to shows. (A common practice, for those of you who are not aware!) Our dogs are always happy to come to us and look animated. We don’t need to do things to upset their routine and stress them out in order to have them want to find us.
We also know more quickly if anything changes with a dog – Did one lose a pound or two? Is one asking to go urinate more frequently? Drinking more? Vomiting? Off his/her food? Is one’s coat more dull than usual? These details help us to ascertain potential health issues/illness as fast as possible. When a dog is living in a kennel, it is more difficult to know how frequently he urinates or if he seems “off”. We can tell if one of our dogs doesn’t feel well just by looking at their expressions.
For information on how we raise our litters, please visit our Early Puppyhood Development” page. Our puppies begin life in our nursery. We put a good deal of work into ensuring they get the best possible start, with a lot of handling, socializing, and attention to creating positive experiences that will help them adjust in their new homes and lives.
It is our strong belief that a German Shepherd Dog will not be happy living his life alone in a kennel or in a fenced yard. These are intelligent and emotional dogs who do best with a lot of personal attention, regular, exercise, and mental stimulation. Their capacity to learn is limited only by our creativity in what we endeavor to teach them. A sad, lonely, pent up dog will never reach his full potential. A German Shepherd dog who jumps out of his fenced yard,& runs away is an unhappy dog. We couldn’t lose our dogs if we TRIED to. They simply do not wander far from us., A German Shepherd Dog who is unsocialized, frustrated and lonely can become destructive or even aggressive. Most of the time, Humans create these problems in dogs by the situations we create for them.
If you commit to bringing a German Shepherd Do into your life, you should be prepared to devote a good chunk of your time to this dog. Time to socialize him, train him, exercise him, love him. If your lifestyle does not allow for this, please be honest with yourself, and select a different breed!!!!!