Dog trains man

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Training tracking with your dog, raising the bar

Are you ready to raise the bar and start with some serious tracking? There are many things you can practice beyond the first track.

Lets start as an example with a video of Kenzo where I train dry weather conditions with him. Here in Denmark it is rarely hot and dry, so the weather from last week with 30C/90F gave an excellent opportunity to train this. Kenzo also doesn't like hot weather at all. Together with the fact there is not much scent on a dry track, it will ask the out most of Kenzo. The track you are about to see is a 300 step track, laid by a "strange" person, has one turn, and we use a lot of objects on the track he has to find:

Under normal weather conditions, this track would have been a piece of cake for Kenzo. But you can see how difficult he gets it by just changing one variable: the temperature. He wasn't eager to find the track, he passed some objects, and he lost the track once. Although loosing the track is not a problem at all. The important thing is that he keeps on working trying to re-find it, and he did just that.

When you are ready to raise the bar too, make sure to draw up a schedule or journal for each training exercise. Then you are sure only to raise the bar on one or two variables. Especially note the weather conditions, as they will usually change, you will need to adjust your schedule according to them. Don't move forward to soon, and redo some tracking scenario's to ensure practice and a successful outcome. Here are some variables you can start working with:

Track length
Add to the length of the track in 50-steps intervals. You can also lay separate tracks and run them as legs. Make sure to have water with you on tracks that are more then 500 steps. Have a water break not to exhaust your dog. Each training exercise should end in a success.

Track scent
Instead of laying the track yourself which has a very familiar scent for the dog, let him follow the scent of a person he is unfamiliar with. This is something you need to do regularly, so your dog doesn't think the meaning is to follow your scent only.

Find the track
With the first track we had the dog laying down in the start of the track. Let him find the track by taking some steps away from it and let him search for the track. If you always indicate the start of a tracking exercise with putting on the harness, he will know it is "tracking time" and will start to look for the track himself. Move away max 10 steps from the track.

Weather conditions
Make sure to train in different weather conditions. Extreme dry weather and extreme wet weather are difficult to track in, as these weather conditions don't hold the scent. In drougth, the lack of moisture needed by the bacteria to work and be part in producing scent is missing. They same is true with extreme wet weather, also here the bacteria are not doing their scent producing work.

Age of the track
Let the track age in 15 minute intervals. Dogs can still track even hours after the track has been laid. This is also important to train, as in the first hour of the track the human scent is prevalent. After this period, the human scent fades, and the scent of the crushed vegetation by our footsteps is all what is left. The dog has to learn also to follow these types of tracks.

Tracking surroundings
Lay a track in grasslands, areas with low vegetation, forests and rural areas. And also in this order. Grasslands are the easiest, rural areas are the most difficult. When tracking in a rural area, make sure to start tracking with 30 minutes old tracks again, as it is mostly the human scent the dog can follow. But also think about tracking in a valley, or on hills. Where the wind blows of the scent differently then it would on a plain field.

Make turns on the track in different angles. Make sure to mark an upcoming turn with a marker 5 steps before the turn. When turning left, put the marker to the right of the track and vice versa when turning right. When you use a lot of turns make sure you or your tracking partner draw a map of the track. You should always know exactly where the track is, if it would be needed to help the dog.

Add distractions to the track like road crossings, change in vegetation, other persons laying tracks that cross yours, tracking along roads or farms with animals. You can use this to teach your dog to focus and not get distracted by external factors. When he does, make the stop and hold the leash until he re-finds the track. If you dog has forgot about the track, mark that with saying "No" as a correction, and put him back on the track again like if you would start the track. When crossing a road it is very likely he will loose the track. And you don't want your dog circling on a road trying to re-find it. Just move to the other side of the road and set him on the track again.

You are going to enjoy working with your dog! When you have practiced the above, you should take a moment and reflect on where you stand. You are already a pretty good tracker and very close to getting your TD certificate!

To help you draw a schedule for your training exercises, I can recommend you to read the book Tracking Dog: theory & methods, by Glenn R. Johnson. The book lays out a very balanced training schedule. And is also a very good book to learn tracking and help you troubleshoot along the way.


Related posts:
How to: Going your first track
Preparing to move beyond the first track: studying body language
Tracking: training turns

Kenzo on a "wet" tracking day
Note: For everybody that was asking why on earth I was wearing long trousers on such a hot day. Good question ! The answer is ticks. After the track I removed 7 ticks from Kenzo and 2 from myself that were looking for a place to dig in. Kenzo is also well protected for ticks. But this is something you have to look out for when tracking.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Travelling by car with two Hovawarts

One of the challenges we faced with Viva joining the family as our second Hovawart was how to travel safely by car with two 90 lb dogs.

I did some research on blogs and resources on-line and also got some great advise from Rod Burket from, by commenting on his guest post Show Some (Car) Restraint! on Edie Jarolim's blog Will My Dog Hate Me?.

Rod advised in our case to go for the crate solution. Mainly because of the size of our dogs. And I agreed with Rod on that. But things turned out easier said then done.

You can't always get what you want

The crating solution gave us some short term challenges, as the crates we would need for our Hovawarts are the XX-large kind. And they don't fit into our current car. We went looking for a car that matches the size of the crates, but buying a bigger car in Denmark is not something you do lightly. Just a hint: you pay 180% tax on cars in Denmark. I will leave the rest to your imagination.

But something needed to be done. When we only had Kenzo we used a harness and seat belt system. Just putting Viva next to him in her own harness seat belt system made me worry that they could hurt each other by smashing into each other, would an accident occur. Like the big dogs they are, the chances of them hitting the side of the car or the front seats on impact seemed too high. The seat belts would protect us from them becoming a projectile in the car, but I felt their own safety was at risk.

Putting Kenzo restrained on the rear seats and Viva restrained in the back of the car would not leave enough room for much else. We tried that once and it didn't work.

Down to the car repair shop

What could we do to improve our current car while waiting (and saving) for the final solution? This is what we came up with:

We let the car repair shop rebuild the back of the car into a dog safe area. A steel safety grill has been set up between the back and the front of the car which will prevent them from becoming a projectile in the car. A steel compartment divider splits the back in two so they will not smash into each other with an accident. There a sun screens for all the windows protecting them from direct sunlight. And finally, a load compartment mat in plastic, resistant of any dirt their paws may bring in and a smooth surface like Hovawarts prefer. There is a harness for both dogs which we will attach with a long leash to a belt system in the back. The only function this will have is to prevent them from walking out in traffic, would an accident occur.

Test driving

Viva ready for a test drive
It might look like a lot of space on the picture but it is not for our Hovawarts. They are able to just turn around in each of their space. They can sit, stand up or lay down in reasonable comfort. When we make enough stops they should be alright. We are going to do some test drives to see if they can enjoy the ride and if there is enough space. One of the great things with this solution is that I can re-arrange the steel compartment divider in the middle to the left or right and create more space for one of the dogs. The other can then move to the rear seats in our good old harness and seat belt system. So we would still be able to do some fine tuning down the line.

Roof box

To create some more space and not to have all the luggage laying around in the rest of the car, we also bought a roof box. Which should be able to contain most of our luggage if we would travel light (hope my spouse is reading this too). Whats wrong with buying some new clothes and dining out a lot on your destination? We are on vacation!

For the moment this is as good as we can do, to travel safely with Kenzo and Viva. But we are looking forward to the crates, and the car that would fit them.


Here are some great resources with information on safe travelling by car:
Dog Jaunt
Dog Cars, see also the car review section by make and model


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blog the Change for Shiloh the Hovawart

Blog the Change

Today it is Blog the Change day. A wonderful initiative by Be the Change for Animals. So far I have been reading a lot of great and inspiring blogs. In particular the blog by @boulderdog Healing the Planet One Animal at a Time.

Looking in my heart I know what really would be the change for me. It is also healing the planet one animal at a time. And that one animal for me at this moment is Shiloh the Hovawart. For her to get healthy and live without pain. For Shiloh to find her forever home.

Shiloh has been in my sights now for more then half a year. She is only 2 years old. And all that time she has been cared for by the rescue project HALO (Helping Animals Live On). Me and my twitter pals have been tweeting almost daily for her and were able to raise enough donations for her to get a necessary 2nd hip operation.

But Shiloh is still in need of a family. It is now already more then half a year. If we could be the change for Shiloh, wouldn't that be a great change?

Update January 2012: Shiloh adopted after 2 years 


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Kenzo stopped visiting the dog park

We have never been a fan of the dog park. A dog park in Denmark is a larger park, usually fenced in, where dogs are allowed.

After not visiting the dog park for a long while, I started to pick it up again, but this time for another reason then just let Kenzo meet other dogs.

Study body language

Viva is a reactive dog. To help her, I needed to brush of my knowledge on dog body language and get better in recognizing the signals in other dogs that set her off. I made some visits to the dog park on my own and study dogs and how they react to each other. Next I would try with Kenzo again. As Kenzo is very well socialized, he usually tells me what the other dog is about. So the idea was to double check my observations of the other dogs with Kenzo's behaviour.

Let the games begin

So today, after a long time, I went to the dog park again with Kenzo. We first went to tracking class, so Kenzo had a chance to get rid of most of his excitement. There was a group of around 6 dogs right at the entrance. Kenzo did his thing not coming in right away and sniffing a little bit around on the other side of the fence so the other dogs could get used to him. Then we went in and he could start greeting the other dogs.

Shortly after a man comes in with his dog, walks into the middle of the group, took the leash off, went out of the dog park again, and sat down in his car. Let the games begin? I didn't stay around to see what would happen and moved away from the group with Kenzo. Just a gut feeling. And also the trouble started shortly after. The new dog started growling to one of the other dogs, which had 2 of the other dogs react with an equal growling threat. I don't blame the dog, it maybe was very uncomfortable for him also to be "dumped" in the middle of a group of other dogs. Luckily one of the owners could stop it by yelling high, and others started to get the group dispersed. Looking over my shoulder, the man was still in his car, looking like not to care at all what would happen with his dog, and the other dogs for that matter.

In a dog fight

Walking down the path we quickly met other owners with dogs, and after a while the group had swollen to around 6 dogs again. One was a little insecure and I also noticed Kenzo doing his best display of calming signals he had available for this dog in particular. Two seemed very self-assured and they had to check Kenzo out to see if this big male would behave nicely around their presence. It was a nice group of dogs, no bullies, and all behaving nicely. We walked like in a long line, so the dogs enjoyed running back and forth along that line.

A new dog was coming up ahead of the group, slowly and with stiff body language. Kenzo and some of the other dogs pretended not to notice him and with good reason. You can probably already guess it, he went up to meet the insecure dog. They stopped about one meter of each other and the eyes met, and almost instantly he attacked the insecure dog. Two more dogs followed in the blink of an eye. Owners where jumping in to get their dogs. Kenzo was on his way in, but he came on my recall (yes!). In all that confusion one person was not saying anything and didn't make an effort to stop the fighting. It was the owner of the dog that had chosen to attack. The insecure dog was bitten in the hind leg and whined very loud. Her owner then tried to step in between the dogs. She screamed to the man to get his dog, but he was doing nothing. Then she also got bitten in the arm. And finally, that made him get his dog by the collar. His only comment was that it was her own fault she should have let the dogs find out of it themselves.

What was I thinking

I will spare you the human aftermath. Just want you to know Kenzo and me left the dog park and will never return. My thoughts were with the insecure dog, and that his owner should not have taken him into the dog park. Same story with the owner of the attacking dog, he should also have taken his responsibility as a dog owner. But in god's name, what have I been doing there in the first place. Stupid. I put Kenzo in harms way and that's my own fault. No more dog parks now, final.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tracking: training turns

A track with multiple sharp turns can be a challenge for dog and handler. The change in wind direction blows the scent away from the track and the dog can overshoot the turn and get "lost". With sharp turns (300 degrees or more) it is even to be expected your dog overshoots on a turn. What to do?

Kenzo waiting patient for his track
When the dog overshoots a turn he will put some effort in finding the track again. Depending on patience and temper there is a risk he will loose interest and give up the track. Doing turn exercises on a smaller scale will motivate him to keep looking for the track and to prepare him for the fact that the track could continue in every possible direction. Dogs that are used to straight tracks with there handlers behind them, tend to always try to find the track in the same forward direction.

Snake track
Training turns can be done with a so-called "snake" track. This is a short "S" shaped track that you lay in a imaginary square of 10 by 10 steps. The boundaries of the square mark where you make you turns. Put flags/markers on the corners of the square so you can orientate yourself when laying the track and find your turns when tracking. As with the circle track, make heel-to-toe steps and put treats on the track. Put a treat under each step when you make the turn.

Follow the track with the dog on a short leash. The treats on the track will slow your dog down and will keep him on the track. If he overshoots stand still and let him find the track. As the leash is short, he will find it. While turning and overshooting, study the dogs body language. He will probably stop wagging his tail and move his head up. When the nose goes down he will try to find the track. When the tail is wagging, he has refound the track. This will help you recognize turns on real tracks.

Turns on the track
When you start making turns on your real tracks, make sure to start with easy 45 degree turns. Don't make a sudden turn, gradually change the direction of the track divided in a 5-6 step movement. Put a flag/marker 5 steps before you start the turn, so you can remember where the turn starts and you can help your dog. Also try left and right turns before making more frequent and sharper turns.

If your dog would still have difficulty with the turns on a real track, regularly repeat a snake track with him, and help him by laying some treats just after the turn on the real track.


Related posts:
How to: Going your first track
Preparing to move beyond the first track: studying body language


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Meet Shiloh, Hovawart in need of help

Shiloh is a sweet girl in need for a home. She is currently being cared for by project HALO (Helping Animals Live On), a no-kill rescue organization based in Charlotte, N.C.

Only 1½ years old, Shiloh shows severe signs of hip dysplasia and recently had surgery on her left hip. Rehabilitation took several months with water therapy, needed to built up enough muscle mass so Shiloh could bear her full weight on her operated hip. Shiloh has just regained her confidence again and starts using her left leg fully. She now is able to run around for brief periods and loves to play with her toys and doggie friends.

She currently is on anti inflammatory and pain medication. The operation of the right hip is long overdue, but project HALO is in lack of funds to be able to perform this. Donations to help Shiloh receiving her 2nd hip operation are most welcome.

Shiloh has such a great diposition who gets along well with everyone. Her favorite pasttime is to give hugs and kisses. She is one of the most affectionate dogs the people of project HALO have ever met. She really just wants a family to call her own.

If you are interested in adopting Shiloh or donate, please visit the website of project HALO to fill out an application or contact Rhonda at projhalo(at)bellsouth(dot)net for more information.

More info is also available on Petfinder: Shiloh on Petfinder. I will also post updates with more info on this blog when it comes available.


Shiloh is being followed by the Twitter community a lot. A big thanks to these twitter pals for spreading the word of Shiloh on Twitter.

Update January 2012: Shiloh adopted after 2 years

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Viva adopted: adressing her health issues in the first two months

The first time we noticed Viva was a half year ago. When her first family had left her in the local shelter. As a dog lover with a weak spot for Hovawarts I followed what happened with her. She got quickly adopted, but things went wrong and she returned to the shelter again after some months. That's when me and my wife decided to adopt her.

Viva in the shelter, 5½ years old
She had issues. She was overweight, flea-infested and had a poor skin condition.

We took her to the vet to look at her skin condition. The vet gave us some Hill's prescription low-allergy dog kibble as she guessed it was probably a food allergy. We also ordered blood work to investigate further for other possible allergies.

Unfortunately Viva couldn't cope the low allergy kibble and went down with some severe diarrea. We changed back to the original kibble to stop the diarrea. The vet got us some new, this time very-low-allergy, kibble. At least she could digest that but the whole thing made me uncomfortable. I don't know for sure if Viva suffers from food allergy as the other allergy test results hadn't come in yet. And not knowing what ingredients she would react upon, what would be safe for treats or snacks? The ingredients listed on the bag looked like something from which each living molecule had been removed. At the end I went along, better safe then sorry at this point in time. But I still have a bad taste in my mouth of getting pushed a Hill's sales pitch without a proper diagnosis.

When we got results back from her blood work allergy test Viva tested positive on dust mites and fungus. The good news was that this was treatable with a vaccine that had no known side-effects, so we ordered that. Now we had the whole allergy picture laid out. And although not overly excited with feeding low-allergy kibble and allergy shots, it would do the trick. We decided to go for it also because we started to notice other issues with Viva that could be a lot more severe.

Viva (left) and Kenzo (right) playing
Getting to know Viva better, other things with Viva started to worry me. She didn't seemed as mobile/agile as Kenzo. When Kenzo would land on her lower back when playing she seemed to be in pain and she stopped playing immediately. Also I guessed that the pain could be a cause for her aggressive, fear-based, behavior with some other dogs we met on our walks.

We went back to the vet to have this looked at. The vet investigated Viva's back and noted something was there that caused pain. We went outside and I showed her how Viva walked. Viva drags her feet a little when she walks (sounds like walking with slippers) and she also moves slowly as if she is tired. And when she is running, I can keep up with here. The vet discarded that to be an issue, but wanted to have a closer look at her back. Again, like with the food allergy diagnosis that didn't feel right.

We agreed to take x-rays of her lower back and got very bad news. Viva had spondylosis, a form of osteoarthritis. Three discs in her lower back were affected and were growing towards each other. This caused inflammation and pain. When left untreated, other discs would follow, resulting in a back as stiff as a board. The vet gave us a glucosamine and omega3/6 food supplement which is good for the inflammation and prevents the spondylosis from spreading. So far so good, but when she also suggested pain-killers and possibly also steroids, we thought that now it was enough. The total picture of Viva on low-allergy kibble, treated with agressive medicine and some of her signs neglected just didn't cut it. It sounded like a future of side-effects and new problems.

Inspired by my Twitter pal @dawgblogger on the possibilities of traditional Chinese medicine (TCVM), stem cell treatment, etc. we went looking for another vet. I found a vet that studied Chinese medicine in China itself, specialised in joint problems and an advocate for alternative treatment giving seminars, teached on universities, etc. She got her Ph.d. on that subject and travelled the whole country to handle the difficult cases everybody else had given up.

So we visited the new vet. Her approach was completely different. When we arrived we started with going on a walk where she observed Viva. Without me telling her she quickly noticed the same issues with Viva's walk I noticed before which our own vet had discarded earlier. After that we went inside and she did a physical examination, with a lot of feeling and rubbing Viva over her whole body. She concluded that the problem was not only the spondylosis in her lower back but also that her weak muscles were not able to support the back properly and had to be strenghtend. It was probably a result of Viva over a longer period trying to walk in a position that would give her the least pain. She was not sure that even more could be wrong, also because the right hind leg reacted differently to some reaction tests she did. But we had to move the muscle problem out of the way first to be able to see if more could be hiding.

We agreed to start a treatment with acupuncture for the pain and an exercise program to start training her muscles. Involving swimming in a pool with a treatmill and do a lot of walking up hill. Viva got her first acupuncture right away and we started the exercise program. The vet suggested to do this for a couple of weeks and then to re-assess the situation depending on the progress Viva has made. She instructed me to be on the lookout for any change in behavior that might indicate Viva was in less pain. In the mean time we can also talk allergies and nutrition again, as she suggested there are other options then low-allergy kibble. And she wanted, like me, know what ingredient triggered Viva's food allergy. But she stressed to work on her back now first, as the allergies seem to be/get under control with what we were currently doing.

I liked this. She noticed a lot more of what was wrong with Viva. Without even looking at an x-ray or other info. One thing in particular I noticed which I thought gave a lot of hope. When she was examing Viva and pressed on the top of her back, it looked stiff as like you would press on a woaden board. She repeated the examination of her back after the first acupunctur treatment, and I it was clearly noticeable that Viva's back reacted with more movement and flexibility to her touch.

And that is where we are now. Will undoubtedly be continued. For more information on treatment of joint problems, allergies, Chinese medicine, stem cell treatment and a lot more, please visit @dawgblogger's blog. On these topics it is one of the richest and most clear sources of information on the Internet.

Kenzo (left) and Viva (right)
One thing is for sure. Even Viva is struggling with her health, she still enjoys every day with her new family, Kenzo in particular. We have been on a vacation, started training in obedience and tracking on our own and have already been on lots of dog walk adventures. And she enjoys it as much as her health will allow it. Probably even more then that.

For us it is an absolute joy to see her getting better mentally. We hope her health will follow soon. And that she will have a great "second part" of her life.

She deserves it.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Book review: Feeling Outnumbered

Feeling Outnumbered? How to Manage and Enjoy Your Multi-dog Household
by Patrica McConnel and Karen London

This 50-page booklet is a quick how-to guide for anybody having difficulties with their multi-dog household. It explains how to train group commands so you can get control over the situation: when eating, playing, greeting, waiting and walking.

The social skills of all the members are also put under the loop, and how you can help your dogs to ensure that interaction is done on a polite manner. The booklet also provides a good checklist with signs that would indicate looming conclifts between your dogs. Preventing them is better then curing them.

It provides enough depth to tackle the basics and gives tips on further reading if you would need that. Some basic knowledge on how to train an individual dog is more or less required. The booklet mainly adds the group dimension to your existing toolbox.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Book review: The Cautious Canine

The Cautious Canine: How To Help Dogs Conquer Their Fears
by Patricia McConnell

This 30-page booklet gives you a quick walk through of the possibilities to help dogs with their fears. Don't expect the actual treatment to be just as short as this booklet, the author also clearly manages any expectations you might have for a "quick fix" on page 1.

It is not possible to cover a complex subject as behavior based on fear in a booklet, but the author manages very well to give a good overview of how a treatment schedule could look like in a five step program. She indicates what all the key factors are you should be aware of and follows up with some recommendations for further reading. What I liked in particular was that it describes hands-on and real-life situations you might encounter when following the five steps.

This booklet will definitely get you started, no time to waste.

The only thing I found disappointing was that the examples, although the booklet uses a lot of them, always elaborated on the same subjects: meeting new people, or the mailmen or pizza boy at the door. And there are lot more factors that can trigger fear in a dog. Instead of elaborating on the same examples, different examples could have been used like fear for other dogs, sounds, crowds, etc.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A word on Hovawarts and dominance

The Hovawart is labeled as a dominant dog. Let me share Kenzo's story with you to see how dominant they can be. Or not be.

Kenzo, the Alpha wannabee puppy?

The pack leader
When we got him as puppy, now more then 2½ years ago, little did I know about the breed. Trying to be prepared I read some books recommended to me and talked to other Hovawart owners. It was clear to me that this cute little fellow soon will try to challenge my position as the pack-leader. Especially with Hovawarts this was supposed to be the case, as the self-assured dogs they are. So I started from the start with being a pack leader. You know. Move through the door first. Eat before the dog eats. Dog cannot be above (couch, stairs) you. Etc.

See, he wants to dominate
We went to our first dog training class just before the start of his adolescence. The trainers knew and heard about the Hovawart breed and pointed out to me I had to become more of a leader otherwise ... They wanted Kenzo to do what I said he should do, no matter what. Not following a command would first trigger the "No" word in increasing levels of volume, and eventually a leash correction. Well that definitely didn't work. Actually I could see Kenzo's contact now starting to focus away from me. The "breakthrough" came when one of the trainers jumped in to help me and show how to do it. Kenzo didn't move. "See, he wants to dominate" the trainer said. She tried again. Kenzo didn't move. Then she called upon the other trainer "Come and help, we have a real alpha over here". Basically I didn't know what was right or wrong, but based on Kenzo's obvious discomfort, I decided that enough is enough and we called it a day.

You cannot rule a Hovawart
Coming home and thinking things over I remembered some advice I got from our Hovawart breeder which first now started to make sense to me. You cannot rule a Hovawart. I started to follow up on that because why can Kenzo and me work together when training on a daily basis for fun. And not in training class. Fun is the difference here. Kenzo works based on some kind of partnership with a mutual form of respect which we both enjoy. Not on an alpha ruled relationship. The solution was obvious, find a training class with a trainer that works based on these principals. I found out there were a lot of those out there. Kenzo and me are now working happily together without one of us trying to dominate the other. Just because we both think it is fun. I also stopped all those Eat-before-the-dog-eat rules, and it has made absolutely no difference at all.

The pack hierarchy
Another thing that puzzled me was the theory of the hierarchy in the pack. To establish the hierarchy my wife also had to enforce the pack leader rules. I was a little worried, as she is laid back and didn't enforced any of those rules for very long. OK, she doesn't want Kenzo on the couch or in the bed but that's for other reasons. This was kind of worrying me, what if Kenzo didn't see her as pack leader? Since the pack hierarchy theory is something based on Wolfe behaviour with a strict line-of-command, it made me wonder if Kenzo would try to move up the ladder. But he didn't.

Then there are the dogs he played with, came over to visit, and also other family dogs that went with us on family vacations. I couldn't see any sort of hierarchy exist. Sure one dog has resource guarding issues, the other has not. But when thinking of moving through the door opening, they seem to do that in random order. The resource guarding dog was labeled as dominant btw by his owner. Nice excuse not to do anything about it I guess.

So, are Hovawarts dominant?
I was discussing this with another Hovawart owner which had the opinion that Kenzo just not is a dominant dog and his dog is. Happy to have made some kind of point, because in that case we can at least agree that not all Hovawarts are dominant, I also asked him what he did with his Hovie. He did not do any working dog or obedience training other then one obedience class in the start, kept him a lot outside during the day, but did made long dog walks with him. I couldn't convince him but you are probably guessing what I am getting at. The lack of a job just made an unhappy dog, not a dominant one. The other owner needs some kind of harshness to keep his not so happy dog from rebelling.

I still doubt that Hovawarts should be labelled as dominant. They are just working dogs that need a job to be happy. They can get a job by attending tracking, search & rescue, "Schutzhund", etc. training classes. We use the dominant word as an excuse not to give our dogs what they need and covering up issues they might have. But I still doubt because I am neither a professional dog trainer or a behaviorist. You will have to make up your own mind when you own a Hovawart. But what I hope you will do is think twice before labelling your Hovie as dominant, and see if there is not something that he needs which you should provide, or if he has an issue that needs to be solved. The correct diagnosis is half the work.

Just for the record, the trainers didn't do anything harsh to Kenzo and the other dogs involving real punishment or alpha-rolls. And I learned a lot of them on other areas. I still have a lot to thank them for.

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