|After months of practice Bobcat demonstrates his pack
leader skills with a 100 lb. German Shepherd.
||This page is a testimony to the
long term value of professional dog training
Watching Cesar Milllan for 2 years before I got Tyler did not prepare me
for raising a "full blood" German Shepherd dog (GSD). From day one
"prey drive" meant he wanted only to chase and kill my cats.
Dog trainers, notably Cesar Millan via TV, and
Donna Soderstrom (by
private lessons followed with classes), were essential to teach me
how to handle this amazing dog. A powerful GSD such as Tyler is the
pet equivalent of owning a race car. The race car is nice to look at
but an average person cannot drive it; only a highly trained,
skilled driver can control it on a race track. Even though your ego
tells you otherwise.
A novice cannot control a German Shepherd. When I became aware of Tyler's
athletic capability it scared me. Either I had to attain
excellent command of him or he'd be locked up in a yard to
live out his life barking as a "guard dog". That seems to be the
fate of many dogs, and especially large breeds.
Dog training was confusing, complicated, all new because I started
as a beginner. Tyler was my first dog since the family pet, Pepper,
in the 1950s.
My first efforts were often embarrassing, it was expensive, it
took a lot of time. Not having raised children I felt strange
playing with a dog. Why does he enjoy tugging on a stupid piece of
rope? Why must I toss his toys to play fetch? He looked intelligent
but was as easily amused as an idiot.
Tyler revealed to me that I lived too much in my head, had forgotten
the simple joy of play. Computers, work, living alone, had shriveled
up part of my joy for living. In the months that followed Tyler
rehabilitated me much the way Cesar Millan describes the way dogs
| "I think it's quicker to achieve connection
with a dog than a human because humans think too
much,...balance is happiness, harmony, ...endless
opportunities to create whatever you want ...some people
have lost that." [Cesar
Keep in mind that I only achieved this with the right professional
Let me stress the concept: owning one of these dogs and
mastering how to handle it are as far apart as is buying an
airplane and learning to fly one.
A professional trainer is not just any person who calls him or
her self a trainer. First I checked out Petsmart but found the wrong vibes with
that person. Then I took Tyler to 5 weeks of puppy class at a special
"Big Dog" place. Not enough structure from the seemingly bored,
burned out owner. His associate gave me her number was too flakey
to even connect with. Cesar Millan on TV was helpful but not enough.
Uncle Matty's VHS tape was not enough. Books were not enough.
Private lessons with Donna Soderstrom, followed by her basic
obedience class, was the right ticket. Why? For me there has to be
written material to provide structure. Donna was A+ in that
department. Classes with people at my level of ineptitude provided
necessary support. I'd learned the power of that effect when I quit
smoking in 1991 by taking a 7 week course called "Freedom from Smoking"
the American Lung Association. The group support assisted me in
quitting for good.
Donna's classes always have weekly homework. That means Tyler and
I practice his commands daily. The cumulative effect has been very satisfactory.
The calm, patient
Bobcat proved to be the true pack leader over Tyler. He studied
"the dog." Tested out hissing, claw snaps, snout biting as means of
control. Taught the excited GSD that he would only play when the dog
was calm - or else Bobcat would leave.
I also learned to stay calm. Watching Cesar Millan taught me that. Month after
month I stressed to Tyler the following
"Cat friend. No eat cat! No chew cat! Cat is family. No chase cat!
Bobcat friend. Yes, cat smell good. No bite! Lick OK."
Labyrinth, said "Rocks friends!"
when he summoned them for help. His voice was so adorable
Rusty often imitated Ludo.
These comments (no eat cat) were never shouted in anger, only stressed in a
concerned but friendly tone of voice. I wanted Tyler to see Bobcat
as a friend, as part of his family.
Tyler often sat next to me as Bobcat rested between me and my computer
keyboard. I'd pet Bobcat with Tyler watching happily saying "Bobcat
nice cat, Bobcat friend."
I use a tone of voice to imitate
Ludo, a Jim Henson puppet,
from the movie Labyrinth. In response to his ability to summon rocks
"Rocks Friends." It was so adorable I've adopted that tone
of voice with Tyler when I say "Cat friend! Bobcat friend!"
|The result of all this time, effort,
See for yourself! This is trained behavior that required months of
Tyler's natural prey drive has been replaced with
acceptance of Bobcat as his cat brother. His friend.
I often compliment Tyler that he is lucky to have Bobcat as a
friend. "Cat good friend!" I cheerfully tell him.
He lights up every time he sees his pal Bobcat. They play hide &
seek around the main room keeping the excitement below the level
that causes Rusty to warn sternly "NO CHASE CAT!"
How Tyler went into a Chinese restaurant
A novice dog owner is not a skilled trainer. All I knew about
chain or choke collars was from watching
a PBS Uncle Matty VHS tape in which he shows the angle to jerk the
choke collar to make a "leash correction" to train a dog. But a highly spirited monster
like Tyler can have his throat damaged with the frequency &
intensity of such leash corrections.
When I put a choke collar on him it did seem to work. He was better behaved
he went hyperactive (excited) I'd have to jerk so hard he'd yelp. I didn't like
The case for a professional dog trainer who is above
average—an accomplished trainer
Yes, I could have trained Tyler with a prong
collar at the "Big Dog" place.
But the vibes never felt right and I should not comment further.
What Donna did was custom fit a pinch prong collar link by link to
the perfect fit. Being a novice I never would have understood that.
Nor would I have understood how high up it has to be worn—right behind
his ears. Now
I believe a pinch collar, or a choke collar, should only to
be fitted by a professional. The handler (owner) must also be trained in
its appropriate use. But most importantly when NOT to use leash
corrections. I now know that dogs straining on a chain collar
are being mishandled, yet that is what I frequently see. It seems
normal to everyone to choke their dog as it strains to pull on the
The effect of the closely fitted prong collar on Tyler was a minor miracle. I have
only used it
a few times in the presence of the trainer to pinch Tyler (leash correction).
Instead I simply put it on his neck when we go for walks. No leash is attached yet Tyler
feels the slight pressure of the prongs like a pack leader reminding
him "I'm here."
The prong collar was like power steering
Scootering to the first intersection (200 yards)
Tyler heeled so perfectly his tongue almost lay on my left knee!
WOW! If he
pulled ahead only the slightest pressure on the leash made him relax
back, then I let the leash go slack. I never had to jerk it.
At the intersection I stopped to praise him as the best heeling dog in
the world! It was like power steering. Where did this perfect dog
suddenly come from?
Tyler instinctively knew not to pull
against a prong collar because it was like (figuratively) Bobcat
showing his claws!
It gets better
I took the leash off the prong collar and put it back on his harness. Then we
had a normal, but exciting, walk with Tyler sniffing & pawing
at gopher holes through the almond orchards. Miles later we arrived at a
strip center where the Supermarket is located. Hmmm...Chinese take
out from a place called The Rice Bowl. Yum. I had not had Chinese
food since moving to Oakdale from Mountain View over 5 years ago.
How could Tyler go into a restaurant?
I put a 6' leash on the prong collar. Tyler heeled perfectly
into the Chinese restaurant with customers sitting at tables all around
him. He sat perfectly—looking up at me (what we call "Look at me!")
as I placed an order with the cashier. The kitchen
doors swung open and closed as the cook went in and out. There were smells,
sounds, all new to Tyler. But he maintained his sit. "Look at me!"
I said and Tyler did. He voluntarily went into a down as I ordered
a dinner. "Ready in 15 minutes, come back then."
I never had to leash correct him. Outside I took the leash off the
prong collar to reattach to his harness. We played with his toy
Dino the dinosaur. Later, when we returned to the Rice Bowl
the lady saw us scooter up and brought our order outside. The dinner
was secured in the rear scooter's basket for the drive home. My
heart was warm from the pride I felt by taking Tyler into a
restaurant. He was a very good dog! All that training had
Bobcat showed me how to be the boss of a German Shepherd. Not
by bloodying him, but by being the calm, patient leader. The
prong collar is like a Bobcat substitute. Maybe that's cheating, but
when my dog is rock solid amidst distractions (like a Chinese
restaurant) it is a joy to be his master.
Professional trainers are not equal. Check out the vibes they
send to you. If something doesn't feel right inside they maybe you
should take your dog elsewhere.
Can you allow your large breed dog to play with a cat?
Can you take your dog into a Chinese restaurant, order dinner, and
receive praise from a customer? (A customer held open the door
for us then praised Tyler from her car.) I'm starting to really love this dog