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Rolf, the Seven Week Old Rottweiler

Hi! Let me introduce myself: My name is Rolf and I'm a seven-week-old Rottweiler puppy from Germany! I am going to tell you all about tracking, one of the three exciting phases of Schutzhund work. I feel this is a wonderful opportunity for me, being as young as I am! All I ask for is your indulgence due to my age and the fact that I'm not very well versed in English yet.

All the information I will be giving you has been handed down to me through generations of hard-core, Schutzhund-titled breeding. Since the day of my birth I have been learning about training procedures from my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. And who better to learn from than those who have already been there?

Tomorrow I will be exactly seven weeks old. My strongest imprinting stage starts at 49 days (7 weeks) and ends at 84 days (12 weeks). They tell me my new two-legged friend named "Melissa" will be coming to take me to her house so we can begin Schutzhund training. I'm hoping she knows what she's doing so I don't develop bad habits or irreparable damage to my personality! Dad has told me over and over, "There aren't any shortcuts in training. Respect, love, and gentile direction are the only ingredients in a good relationship."

Melissa has come to visit me many times in my pen, and listening to her talk, I think that I am lucky to be going home with her. I overheard her saying that she doesn't care how long an exercise takes to learn, as long as her dog has fun and maintains emotional stability. She also said that she doesn't want her dog to get bored trying to learn the same exercises over and over again, but with her bag of tricks, she is well prepared to solve any problem. She does not believe in physical corrections, and knows that all behavior can be taught and corrected with positive reinforcement and positive directioning. And that sounds really good to me! Having a friend with an attitude like this, I'm definitely in for the long haul! If she really has this attitude, we can become the top team in the Schutzhund world and achieve the highest honors! And I, her honored canine friend, will live a happy and fulfilled life!

I have been with Melissa two whole days now, and she is keeping her word, and laying a stable foundation for me. Our bond is becoming extremely strong, and I am starting to trust her fully. No matter how many mistakes I make, Melissa's love, patience and understanding never diminishes.

For example, yesterday I was chewing on her antique wooden couch leg. She didn't get angry at all, but gently showed me a delicious sterilized bone filled with peanut butter. Sayonara to that couch leg! She never uses the "no" word, but always plays this substitution game. I think this form of training is great! I really don't want to do bad things, and she is showing me that her substitution game is always more fun. What a great way to live! Tomorrow will be my first day of tracking. Melissa has been in the kitchen all day making something called "liver", which smells really great. I can't wait!

Holy smokes! Sure I wanted to go tracking, but how could she wake me up at 5 AM? I cannot believe she is getting me up this early. Well, for two days she has been doing everything according to Hoyle, so I guess I will trust her with this decision. When great-granddad said that tracking is fun, and you have to get up early in the morning for beginners, I didn't realize he meant this early!

We drove to a well-manicured field where the grass is 3 to 4 inches high. I never saw so much water on the grass before! Melissa explained that the water is called "dew", and it will help me with my tracking work. She now has a very light chain hung over the branch of a tree and I am hooked on to the other end. This chain, or "tie-out" as she calls it, is high enough so that it swoops gently past my shoulder. I can stand and lie down, but I cannot get my legs caught in it. She told me that it's much better to be tied-out and free instead of inside a crate. The tie-out gives me better visibility, makes me feel more secure in my new surroundings, and helps develop the bond between us because there are no barriers between me and her.

She is approximately 10 feet from me, and tamping down the grass in a 20"x20" inch square. She has made three squares like this, and each square is about 15 paces apart. She has told me that these are called "scent pads" and they are the most important thing in tracking because if a dog gets a good start at the pad, he will not get lost on the track. She also explained that as I get older the pad size will gradually increase to 3X3 meters. On each pad she is lavishly spreading the food called liver that she made yesterday. Boy, does that stuff smell great!

The liver has been cut into squares that are 1/8x1/8 inch. She has also placed 4 flags on each corner off the pad. My friend is ingenuous because she has taken the straight leg of a wire hanger and has attached pieces of ribbon to it so she can see which way the wind is blowing. She said that for pad-work it does not matter so much about wind direction, but when we start doing "legs", or straight tracking, the wind direction will become crucial. So far she is doing everything according to what I learned from my family.

She has now taken me off my tie-out and has put water on my mouth, so I will lick it. Melissa says that not only do dogs smell with their noses but they also smell with their tongues. The water will clean-off my tongue so that I can use it on the pads. She then carries me over to a place (since I am only seven weeks old, getting distracted the way I do this is easier to facilitate training) where I can go to the bathroom. Boy did that feel good! I am then being carried to the pad and placed approximately 6 inches away. Holding the lead with her left hand, she then points to the pad with her right hand and says the word "FIND". Well, as my Dad says, never pass up a meal and I did not disappoint him!

Boy, this takes a lot of concentration, but Melissa does something very nice while I am on my first pad. She is very quiet, and keeps looking at a thing called a "watch", and every so often she reaches down and gently pets me on my back. You have no idea how reassuring that feels, and it makes me want to find every piece of liver! I have been on the first pad for about 9 minutes; all the food is gone, and I am really tired. I lifted up my head to quit, but Melissa put her hand on the pad and said "find" again. Her hand was pointing to another piece of liver. When I ate it, she praised me, gently picked me up, and put me back on my tie-out. She gave me some water and said I must rest for at least 15 minutes before attempting another pad. This is fine by me! She sat down next to me, and with her soft, endearing petting and her silence, I felt truly loved and knew that I wanted to work with this person!

While I was resting, I realized that the last piece of liver that Melissa pointed to came from her hand, because I remember eating all the other pieces. She said I was right, and there are some very important reasons for her doing what she did. First, even though I wanted to quit, I was shown that I should always push myself that extra bit. Second, it was a bond-building exercise. It showed me that her and I would work together, so if I couldn't find all the food, she would help me. Third, it helped reinforce the "find" word again.

Fifteen minutes have passed and Melissa is undoing me so we can attack the next pad. She follows the same procedure, water on the mouth, a walk, and being carried to the second pad. She puts the lead in her left hand and her right hand again points to the pad and she says find - I start to eat. While I was tracking the second pad I remembered something my Mom had told me. She always use to say if you are doing a job you should always enjoy what you are doing or it just is not worth doing. She was 100% right. Where else can you have a job where all you have to do is eat delicious food?

I worked this pad for 11 minutes. Same procedure, I had eaten everything except for that one piece that Melissa found when she pointed and said "find". I did happen to make a startling find when I was working the second pad. In between the liver pieces was Melissa's scent! I had better log this scent identification procedure into my brain because I think it is going to come in handy for future tracking work. Now back to the tie-out to rest another fifteen minutes.

Wow did that fifteen minutes go fast! But I am ready to take on the third pad. Melissa does not miss a beat she is very consistent, every step she had taken on the other pads she utilized on this one and there I am 6 inches away from the third pad. My great Granddad told me that some puppies can only mentally handle in the beginning one or two pads for the first time out but I am Rolf from Germany and I will not let down my partner-that you can take to the bank!!! I worked the last pad for 10 minutes I am exhausted but elated. My partner and I really accomplished something today and I look forward to tracking with Melissa in the future.

On the way home, Melissa explained something that nobody in my family ever told me: A Schutzhund I track should be aged for at least 30 minutes. Melissa said if we added-up the time for today's work we'd see that the last pad was aged over 1 hour and 21 minutes:

7 minutes to lay each of 3 pads=21 minutes
15 minutes of rest between each pad (total 2 rests)=30 minutes
10 minutes to track each of 3 pads=30 minutes

So the total time for the last pad is 1 hour and 21 minutes of aging time. Now according to Melissa, to learn the rest of the tracking (turns, crosswinds, etc.) is like falling off a log. She says by the time I am six months old I will be doing FH tracks effortlessly! Boy, this is a great way to learn tracking. Not only do I make progress in leaps and bounds but the training sessions are put into place in such a way that I can understand them. I do not understand why I hear all these horror stories about forced tracking, problems on the track, other dogs shutting down mentally, owners yelling and disciplining their pets, when it is so easy and pleasurable doing Melissa's way. I am truly lucky to have such a compassionate and learned teacher on my side.

Written by Neal Seaman

In today's dog training world, there is a lot of misinformation being spread around. There are some popular training methods I would like to discuss. When you work your best friend, train him for the house or even just let him be a couch-potato, you can avoid making some terrible, abusive mistakes:

These methods include using electricity are sometimes signified by such popular buzzwords like "alpha" and "pecking-order". Advice that goes along with these words usually includes: look at your dog till he turns away; press your dog down until he submits; the owner must always win for perfect compliance and obedience; it's good when your dog's ears are back or his tail is between his legs, and or he shows other signs of submission.

People who give this advice obviously cannot imagine what it is like to be on the receiving end of these so-called "training" techniques. You NEVER have to push or force your dog into submission to get obedience or cooperation. You never have to assert yourself to be "top dog" to get your dog to work. The purpose of training is to establish a working relationship between partners. Submission is not training--it is ABUSIVE AND EMOTIONALLY DAMAGING.

The horrible results of this abusive "training" advice: if your dog is emotionally damaged, he will be unable to enjoy his life. This makes it even more difficult for future training, because he will be a nervous wreck and unable to concentrate or learn productively. He will develop all kinds of aberrant behaviors in other areas of his life. And finally, any bond of love and friendship will be lost, because your dog will be unable to trust you. Most importantly nobody has the right, no matter how high they are on the evolutionary ladder, to use abuse. People who give you this advice are not dog trainers they are not even human because they have forgotten the words compassion and love.

A dog trainer that abuses an animal to get scores in a trial so he can make more money, be sponsored, or whatever, when detected should be blackballed in participating in all future shows. Judges at these shows whether they be AKC, Schutzhund, Ring-Sport are propagating abuse by allowing these individuals to continue their reign of terror. An abused animal, with a judge's trained eye is very easy to spot.

A real dog trainer trains. A real dog trainer will always be able to channel aberrant behaviors into acceptable behaviors, without ever damaging the emotional state of the dog.

Written by Neal Seaman

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