I confess that the title of this article wasn’t the brain child of myself, but came from a program I was listening to over the week-end. It got me to thinking of how it applies to us and our dogs.
One of the great things about the German Shepherd Dog is that he is so versatile. If you don’t want to show him in conformation shows any longer, you can train him for obedience trials. If you don’t want to do that, you can just enjoy him as your family pet. He wasn’t born for just one thing. Take him for hikes, take him camping, boating, fishing, jogging or even for rides in the car. He’s not picky. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing; the German Shepherd Dog enjoys doing it with you. There probably isn’t a better companion dog than this breed! Truly this dog’s happiness comes from his interaction with his owner!
How much of your dog’s brain is being utilized? Do you provide him with the stimulation that he needs to develop his fullest potential? How many of these dogs die never knowing what it is to come out of a kennel and go for a walk with their owners? How many fetch a ball? In fact how many of them even know what a ball is and what to do with it?
If your dog was hooked up to one of those brain monitors in the hospital, would a straight line appear all across the screen indicating that he’s brain dead? Or would there be a lively zig zag running across the screen indicating that this dog’s brain is well and very much alive because his owner recognized the need for stimulation in this dog’s life?
Do we owe our dogs anything more than food, water and shelter? Does our responsibility to them extend further than the heat in their kennels in the winter and the air-conditioner in the summer? Is that enough? Do we owe them more than this or are we of the mind set that their basic needs are being met and they’re only a dog and some of us put too much time into “humanizing” them?
So what does that mean…….humanizing them? It would seem to some beyond the three essentials (food, water and shelter) anything more would give the dog a more human nature than that of an animal. So does he need more than the essentials to live? No he could and many do exist just on the essentials. Day in and day out, the same old/same old! After all some would argue, he’s an animal and his basic needs are being met so what more could he want?
To agree with this mind set would be to ignore the very nature of the dog and that is foremost and above all else the reason for his existence in the first place. That is to be a companion to man. Very simple. Very basic. He wants and needs to be with his owner. Once his basic needs are met, his primary goal is to be with his master. Now if one owns a kennel full of dogs, that’s not going to happen too often for most or them or even a few of them.
I’ve read that the brain of a German Shepherd is equal to the brain of a seven year old child. Gee, considering that most of what we learn, we learn in the first five years of life, means that this breed of dog has the capacity to learn so very much. How many of them are being taught all that they can learn? How much stimulation do they receive lying on the floor of a kennel? Very little.
We now know that the dog is capable of more than having an intelligent, teachable brain. We now know that he is also very capable of emotions and feelings. He’s sad when he loses one of his own kind and sad if he should lose his owner. He mourns losses just like we do. He rejoices in companionship with his kind and our kind.
When’s the last time you looked into your dog’s eyes and seen that there is a whole lot more going on behind those “Hershey Browns” then just a dumb dog looking for a treat from his owner? Get close to a dog and he anticipates your every motion. He responses to your every mood. Sometimes it’s as if he knows you’re going to do something before you do! They have this uncanny ability to read us better than we read ourselves.
When you have a “love affair” with your dog…..that is letting him participate in your life, the enrichment that he brings to it would never have been fully realized without him having your permission to truly live his life. In this writer’s opinion a dog that lives his life ONLY in a kennel has never truly lived, rather he’s existed in a small fenced in area in a great big world because his owner didn’t invest the time it would take to realize his dog’s potential. Just imagine what that would be like only being able to walk back and forth, day in and day out and you had the intelligence of a seven year old kid? Now that’s called sad…..
From the book: "HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE"....Kaufman, director of the Option Institute and author of A Land Beyond Tears ( LJ 4/1/82), contends that if you change a belief or attitude you can change your life. A decision to pursue happiness, he claims, can improve relations with others: "We can engineer our own responses, choosing love over hate, peace over conflict and happiness over depression." The first five sections relate Kaufman's philosophy and offer stories of clients' successful changes while in therapy. Section six has short chapters detailing shortcuts to happiness. The book has a four-page bibliography and two pages of additional readings. A cut above most self-help books; recommended.
My rating: Teaching and training the GSD: (4)