Tag: German Shepherd Dog

Memories of the past.

Angela Stockdale and Pharaoh came to mind!

In the last twenty-four hours I was in communication with a person in Essex, England about dog training (and hopefully there will be a guest post from him) and it caused me to think of Angela Stockdale.

I then did a search on my blog for posts where I had mentioned Angela and came across quite a few in the early days of blogging. Then I thought it would be nice to republish one of them; Four Years Old.

So here it is again.


How time flies!

Four years ago this day, the first post was published on Learning from Dogs. Here it is again:

Parenting lessons from Dogs!

Much too late to make me realise the inadequacies of my own parenting skills, I learnt an important lesson when training my GSD (who is called Pharaoh, by the way). That is that putting more emphasis into praise and reward for getting it right ‘trains’ the dog much quicker than telling it off. The classic example is scolding a dog for running off when it should be lots of hugs and praise for returning home. The scolding simply teaches the dog that returning home isn’t pleasant whereas praise reinforces that home is the place to be. Like so many things in life, very obvious once understood!

Absolutely certain that it works with youngsters just the same way.

Despite being a very dominant dog, Pharaoh showed his teaching ability when working with other dogs. In the UK there is an amazing woman, Angela Stockdale, who has proved that dogs (and horses) learn most effectively when being taught by other dogs (and horses). Pharaoh was revealed to be a Beta Dog, (i.e. second in status below the Alpha Dog) and, therefore, was able to use his natural pack instinct to teach puppy dogs their social skills and to break up squabbles within a pack.

When you think about it, don’t kids learn much more (often to our chagrin!) from other kids than they do from their parents. Still focusing on giving more praise than punishment seems like a much more effective strategy.

As was read somewhere, Catch them in the act of doing Right!

By Paul Handover.

As it happens, it feels a little like ‘what goes around, comes around’. Why do I say that?

Because just last Saturday, I sent off a selection of pictures and videos to Angela Stockdale. Stay with me for a while as to the reason why.

Angela trades under the name of The Dog Partnership and, frankly, what she doesn’t know about the behaviour of dogs isn’t worth bothering about!

Just take a peek at the page on her website under the heading of Teaching Dogs. Here’s a little of what Angela writes:

I consider myself so lucky for dogs alone to have been my teachers. I learnt from watching how my own dogs responded to another dog’s body language and vice versa their language. Watching, learning and working with Teaching Dogs was the only way I knew.

I was and always will be in awe of a Teaching Dog’s dogs ability to consciously adapt their body language in accordance to how the other dog was feeling. The result being, they could relax nervous dogs but at the same time maintain control of a problem situation. Remember, dogs talk dog far better than we do.

It came as quite a shock to me when I learnt about other approaches. It seemed foreign for people to have so much input in resolving what were described as ‘ behavioural’ issues. For me, working with these dogs was far more than resolving a behavioural issue. It was about improving the quality of lives of dogs who were not coping with everyday life. If they found dogs or people worrying, sometimes this was shown in displays of aggression. It is important to understand, these dogs were not aggressive, they simply displayed aggressive behaviour.

Now, I would like to introduce you to the world of Teaching Dogs and how these special dogs change the lives of less fortunate dogs, who never had the opportunity to really understand how to communicate with their own species.

Do read the rest here.

Back to why those photographs and videos had been sent to Angela. A couple of weeks ago, we enjoyed an evening meal with friends of friends, so to speak. This other couple owned a beautiful-looking male German Shepherd dog: Duke. Duke was 4-years-old. Our hostess remarked that he was very boisterous and had nipped a couple of strangers who had called at the house. She added that he seemed difficult to control. Duke had been there for about a month and he was a rescue so they had little or no knowledge of past behaviour.

Well, I’m no expect with dogs, that’s Jean’s domain. But there was something about Duke that captivated me. Something in the way he looked at me, his eyes linking so directly with mine, allowing me to see a dog that offered an honest openness.

More or less on impulse I stood up, held my right arm up at 45 degrees, looked Duke in the face and said, “Duke! Sit!”

Duke held my gaze and sat back on his haunches.

I moved my arm in a complete circle, around to the right, and said, “Duke! Lie down!” Duke lay down.

H’mm, I thought. Fascinating. This dog has been professionally trained at some point in the past, using the same ‘command’ system of voice and arm signalling as I had learnt with Pharaoh way back in 2003/2004.

The food was now on the table. I grabbed a small piece of meat off my plate and returned to Duke who had, of course, resumed his pottering around the room. “Duke! Here boy!” Duke came over to me. “Duke! Lie down!” Duke did so. I placed the piece of meat on the wooden floor about three feet in front of him. Duke’s eyes were riveted on the meat. “Duke!” Duke’s eyes reluctantly engaged with mine. “Duke! Stay!” I repeated the Stay command a couple more times as I backed away about 6 or 8 feet.

“Go on, Boy. Take the meat!” Duke gleefully grabbed the piece of meat. Gracious, I thought, this dog is magnificent. I wonder ……..

I took another piece of meat, “Duke! Sit!” “Duke! Stay!” I then backed off that 8 feet again, got down on my knees and placed the piece of meat just between my lips. I knew this was potential madness with a dog I had only met some 30 minutes previously, but there wasn’t an ounce of doubt in my mind. I voiced in my throat for Duke to fetch the meat. Duke came straight over and confidently and carefully removed the meat from my lips.

What a truly fabulous dog! It was a wonderful evening and once home both Jean and I were eulogising about Duke.

Then two days later, our dinner hostess rang me. “You know, I have decided we can no longer keep Duke. He is too strong a dog, I can’t control him. Is there any chance of you finding a new home for Duke?”

Without question, Jean and I would have offered Duke a new home; in a heartbeat. The only thing stopping that was me wondering if this strong-willed, male German Shepherd might be a Beta dog, as Pharaoh was. Or just might be too dominant a male dog to fit in comfortably with our dogs, especially Pharaoh who was at the stage of life where the last thing that should happen is for his happiness and contentment to be disturbed.

I hadn’t a clue as to how to answer that question. But I knew someone who would know: Angela Stockdale.

I rang her, caught up on old times and then explained the background to Duke’s situation. Angela said to repeat the exercise that I had witnessed when I took Pharaoh to her all those years ago, when I wondered if Pharaoh was an aggressive dog. My uncertainty with regard to Pharaoh followed a number of times when walking him in a public area with other dogs and he had been very threatening, both in voice and posture, towards some of those other dogs.

This is what Angela arranged. I took Pharaoh up to her place at Wheddon Cross, near Minehead in Somerset. When we arrived, Angela was standing just by a gate into a fenced paddock, maybe a half-acre in size. In the far corner were two dogs.

Angela asked me to bring Pharaoh to the gate and let him off the leash. It was clear that Pharaoh was going to be let into the paddock. I cautioned that Pharaoh could be quite a handful with other dogs and, perhaps, it would be better that I walked him into the area still on his lead. Angela said that wouldn’t be necessary. So as she held the gate open sufficient for Pharaoh to enter the paddock, I slipped the lead off him and backed away, as requested.

Pharaoh had hardly taken 2 or 3 paces when Angela called out, “Paul, there’s nothing wrong with him!”

I was astounded and stammered, “But, er, er, how can you tell so quickly?” “Because my two dogs haven’t taken any notice!”, came the reply.

Later Angela explained that in the paddock were her female Alpha dog and her male Beta dog. Ergo, the two top dogs in terms of status so far as dogs see other dogs.

In fact, Pharaoh was utterly subservient to these dogs, in a way that I had never witnessed before. Later on, as Pharaoh relaxed and started playing, Angela said that she thought that Pharaoh was a Beta dog. Mixing some of her other dogs into the group was later able to confirm that.

So back now to present times and Duke.

Thus last Saturday, as Angela recommended, we selected two of our dogs, Cleo our female German Shepherd and the most socialable of dogs, and Casey, a strong but not aggressive male (he had some PitBull in him).

Duke arrived and was allowed freely to nose around the large grassed area some way from the fenced-off horse paddock that we were using for the ‘introduction’.

Duke pottered around and then caught sight of Cleo and Casey in the paddock.

First sighting of Cleo and Casey.
First sighting of Cleo and Casey.

Then the meetings began!

Hello! My name is Duke. Do I smell OK? Mr. Casey?
Hello! My name is Duke. Do I smell OK? Mr. Casey?

And play didn’t seem to be too far off the agenda!

You lead, Cleo, I'll chase!
You lead, Cleo, I’ll chase!

So all the photographs and videos have been sent to Angela, and we will see what the conclusion is!

As Angela put it, “Remember, dogs talk dog far better than we do.”


Yes there’s no question that dogs talk dog far better than we do!

Just a sigh between friends.

Something in common with our dogs, or not?

These days there is plenty to sigh about. Whether it’s presidential politics this side of the Atlantic or immigration and ‘Brexit’ in Europe. However, today’s post is not about our, as in human, sighs but is about the sighs that our dogs make.

Stay with this as I republish a recent item that appeared on Mother Nature Network.


Why do dogs sigh?

Mary Jo DiLonardo, March 24, 2016.
We sigh when we're frustrated and when we're happy. What about our four-legged friends? (Photo: sgilsdorf/flickr)
We sigh when we’re frustrated and when we’re happy. What about our four-legged friends? (Photo: sgilsdorf/flickr)

Every dog owner has experienced it at one time or another. Your dog lies down, often with his head on his front paws, and lets out a sigh. Is he sad? Content? Disappointed in his life?

It could be any of the above, it just depends on the context, says the American Kennel Club.

“When the sigh is combined with half-closed eyes, it communicates pleasure; with fully open eyes, it communicates disappointment: ‘I guess you are not going to play with me.'”

Geez. Guilt trip, anyone?

A dog’s sigh is “a simple emotional signal that terminates an action,” writes Stanley Coren, Ph.D. in his book, “Understanding Your Dog for Dummies.”

“If the action has been rewarding, it signals contentment. Otherwise, it signals an end of effort.”

So if you and your dog just finished a fun romp in the yard or a great walk in the park, that sigh means, “I’m content and am going to settle down here awhile.” If your dog has begged at your side all during dinner without a payoff, that sigh signifies, “I’ll give up now and simply be depressed.”

Dog trainer Pat Engel agrees.

“My own unscientific observation is that dogs usually sigh while resting, or when they are what I call ‘resigned,'” she writes in the San Francisco Chronicle. “These sighs seem to mark a physiological transition into a deeper state of relaxation.”

If you feel like your dog sighs (or yawns or makes other noises excessively), it’s worth mentioning to your vet, Engel suggests. There’s always a chance that a health issue might be at the root of the sounds.

If a medical reason isn’t to blame, then concentrate on reading the cues your canine is sharing.

Massachusetts dog trainer Jody Epstein says a dog’s body language is definitely the key to interpreting the noise he’s making.

“If his body is relaxed, ears soft, head down on the bed in what we might call a ‘sleeping’ position, and he’s in perfect health otherwise, then I’d expect it’s just a sign of uber relaxation,” she writes in her All Experts advice column. “If he’s laying there, but sitting up watching you and doing it, then it’s more likely an active communication that you may wish to address.”

Like, hey, buddy, isn’t it time for a treat? Or when was the last time we played ball?

One dog may sigh because he's frustrated; another may sigh because she's comfortable and is ready for a nap. (Photo: Brent Schumacher/flickr)
One dog may sigh because he’s frustrated; another may sigh because she’s comfortable and is ready for a nap. (Photo: Brent Schumacher/flickr)

Is a sigh always a sigh?

“Dogs make many vocalizations, and they mean different things depending on various factors such as context, experience, relationships, the individual dog, and much more,” says certified animal behaviorist and dog trainer Katenna Jones of Jones Animal Behavior, in Warwick, Rhode Island. “There is also human interpretation: One person’s sigh is another person’s huff, moan, groan or whine.”

And, Jones says, some breeds tend to make more or different sounds than others.

“The most important thing is to remember there is no one answer. It’s important to not apply human feelings to dogs because dogs are not humans!” she says. “Look at the context of situations in which your dog is sighing, take note, and see if you can identify why YOUR dog is sighing — because it may be different than why MY dog is sighing.”

Just because we don’t always know what our dogs are trying to say, doesn’t mean we should stop trying to figure things out.

The AKC points out: “Dogs make sounds both intentionally and unintentionally, and they all have certain meanings. Just because we do not understand the wonderful variety of sounds that dogs vocalize does not mean that dogs are not doing their best to communicate with us.”


So come on, you dear readers, send in some examples of sighing and other wonderful sounds that your dogs make!

Here’s my contribution from YouTube. The sound of a German Shepherd deep asleep and a very familiar sound in this house when Pharaoh is sound asleep.

Published on Sep 5, 2014

At first I had no idea it was him. I thought maybe it was my husband (who was downstairs in the living room taking a nap) and the dogs and I were upstairs….but soon figured out it was him! This was the first time I had heard Jax snore. I especially love his little face when he was woken up by his brother. Which I think he did on purpose. Haha. It is hilarious!

Love, trust and faith!

The most important lesson that dogs offer us.

The following photograph was sent to me by Suzann who in turn received it from Joyce.  Thanks to you both.  Included with the photograph is the background to the picture.

Indianapolis International Airport
Indianapolis International Airport

 “One of our photographers returning to the Indianapolis International Airport took this photo of a soldier getting special guard duty from man’s best friend as she catches a nap in the terminal. About 10 soldiers and two dogs were in a group at the airport tonight. It wasn’t clear if they were coming home or heading out, but we thank them (and the dogs!) for their service!” – WTHR-TV

I’m going to skip the many comments that have been attached to the photograph, however smart and witty they are, and focus on the fundamental lesson that dogs, and many other creatures, offer mankind.  It is this.

Our society only functions in a civilised manner when there is a predominance of trust about us.  When we trust the socio-politico foundations of our society.  When we trust the legal processes.  When we trust that while greed and unfairness are never absent, they are kept well under control.

Having trust in the world around us is an intimate partner to having faith in our world.

At a time when inequality is making frequent headlines and Russia is sabre-rattling over Ukraine let us never lose sight of the primary importance of trust.

For without trust there can be no faith and without trust there can be no love.

Here’s another photograph of the greatest ‘dog-teacher’ of them all; the German Shepherd dog.

Love, trust and faith.
Love, trust and faith.

The King of dogs.

A reflection on the history of the German Shepherd dog.

Yesterday’s account of getting to know GSD Duke a little better caused me to find a post that had been sitting in my Drafts folder for a couple of years.  It was about a piece published in The New York Times, Sunday Review, October 8th, 2011 under the heading of Why German Shepherds Have Had Their Day.

Why German Shepherds Have Had Their Day


SUCCESS can be a drag. You yearn for it, strive for it, and then, when it finally arrives, it sets off repercussions you never anticipated that sometimes undo that success.

Take the German shepherd. Originally bred to the exacting standards of a German cavalry officer, it became one of the 20th century’s most popular working breeds. But in recent years that popularity, and the overbreeding that came with it, has driven the German shepherd into eclipse: even the police in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, who had relied on the dogs for years, recently announced they were replacing them with Belgian Malinois, because the less-popular Malinois were hardier and more reliable.

But there is good news about this bad news, if you are a lover of the breed, because less visibility, especially in inspiring roles as public servants, is likely to mean less demand for the dogs. That means less reason to produce too many puppies, which is the best thing that can happen to any purebred dogs.

The article continued with the history of the breed.  But rather than stay with the NYT piece, for more about the breed history I’m going to cross over to the website of the British charity, German Shepherd Dog Rescue (GSDR). They have a comprehensive account of the History and Origins of the Breed.

History and Origins of the German Shepherd Dog

A brief insight into the development of the breed


The German Shepherd breed appeared late at the end of the 19th century in Germany and they were first exhibited at a show in Hanover in 1882. They were not like German Shepherds as we know them today though being rough coated, short tailed and rather resembling mongrels. The German Shepherd Dog as we now know it didn’t really appear until after the Second World War.

The breed was actually created by the cross breeding of working sheep dogs from rural Germany by an ex cavalry officer called Max von Stephanitz whose aim was to create a working dog for herding which could trot for long periods.

A breed standard was drawn up and the first breed show took place in 1899 following which the GSD became firmly established across Germany. In 1906 the first dogs were exported to the USA .

Since then, the breed has grown enormously in popularity and is now one of the most popular pedigree breeds in the UK as a pet as well as being the favourite working breed for many forces, especially the police. They are widely used for security purposes because of their strong protective instincts.

Many people in the UK still call these dogs Alsatians which may partly be due to the fact that when they were first bred, the Alsace region of France, where these dogs were very popular, was part of Germany . I still get people who think that Alsatians are the traditional short coat black and tan dogs and that German Shepherds are the long coated dogs that have become popular.

GSD’s make wonderful family pets and will protect family and home.

These dogs are highly intelligent and will show undying devotion to their master but they are dogs that need company and stimulation to be at their best. It is however, important to remember that this is a working breed and that they do have certain characteristics that some people might find difficult to live with. The German Shepherd should be steady, loyal, self assured, courageous and willing and should not be nervous over aggressive or shy. Nervous aggression is something that we are now seeing more often as a result of bad breeding. It is sad but there has always been indiscriminate breeding of German Shepherds right from the start, which has lead to problems with temperament and health.

Before leaving the GSDR website, please read more about this important charity, “We are one of the longest standing and largest German Shepherd rescues in the UK.” and if there is any way at all that you can help, please, please, please!  (And fellow bloggers, consider a post spreading the word about this wonderful charity and these most magnificent of dogs.)

So a few memories of German Shepherds closer to home.


Young Pharaoh 12th August, 2003 when he was just 10 weeks old.


We are friends for life! Each for the other.


Pharaoh, ten-years-old, and King of his Castle!  Taken on the 3rd June, 2013 at our home in Oregon.


 The arrival of young Cleo!

I suspect Pharaoh is explaining to Cleo that there’s only rule of the house – his rule!

Picture taken April 7th, 2012

Little Sweeny and Cleo

From puppy to Big Dog!  Cleo resting where she shouldn’t be! February, 2013.

What magnificent animals they are!

More on Pharaoh’s life.

What a wonderful relationship it has been.

Years ago if I was ever to own a dog, it had to be one breed and one breed only: a German Shepherd Dog.

The reason for this was that back in 1955 my father and mother looked after a German Shepherd dog called Boy.  Boy belonged to a lovely couple, Maurice and Marie Davies.  They were in the process of taking over a new Public House (Pub); the Jack & Jill in Coulsdon, Surrey.  My father had been the architect of the Jack & Jill.

Jack & Jill, Longlands Avenue, Coulsdon, Surrey
Jack & Jill, Longlands Avenue, Coulsdon, Surrey

As publicans have a tough time taking holidays, it was agreed that the move from their old pub to the Jack & Jill represented a brilliant opportunity to have that vacation.  My parents offered to look after Boy for the 6 weeks that Maurice and Marie were going to be away.

Boy was the most gentle loveable dog one could imagine and I quickly became devoted to him; I was 11 years old at the time.  So when years later it seemed the right time to have a dog, there was no question about the breed.  Boy’s memory lived on all those years, and, as this post reveals, still does!

Pharaoh was born June 3rd, 2003 at Jutone Kennels up at Bovey Tracy, Devon, on the edge of Dartmoor.  As the home page of the Jutone website pronounces,

The Kennel was established in 1964 and it has always been the aim to breed the best German Shepherd Dogs for type and temperament. To this end the very finest German bloodlines are used to continue a modern breeding programme.

and elsewhere on that website one learns:

Jutone was established by Tony Trant who was joined by Sandra Tucker in 1976. Sandra continues to run Jutone since Tony passed away in 2004. Both Tony and Sandra qualified as Championship Show judges and Sandra continues to judge regularly. Sandra is the Secretary and a Life Member of the German Shepherd Dog Club of Devon.

Tony Trant

Turning to Pharaoh, here are a few more pictures over the years.

Pharaoh, nine months old.
Pharaoh, nine months old.


One year old: June 3rd 2004.
One year old: June 3rd 2004.

The next picture of Pharaoh requires a little background information.

For many years I was a private pilot and in later days had the pleasure, the huge pleasure, of flying a Piper Super Cub, a group-owned aircraft based at Watchford Farm in South Devon.  The aircraft, a Piper PA-18-135 Super Cub, was originally supplied to the Dutch Air Force in 1954 and was permitted by the British CAA to carry her original military markings including her Dutch military registration, R-151, although there was a British registration, G-BIYR, ‘underneath’ the Dutch R-151.  (I wrote more fully about the history of the aircraft on Learning from Dogs back in August 2009.)

Piper Cub R151
Piper Cub R151

Anyway, every time I went to the airfield with Pharaoh he always tried to climb into the cockpit.  So one day, I decided to see if he would sit in the rear seat and be strapped in.  Absolutely no problem with that!

Come on Dad, let's get this thing off the ground!
Come on Dad, let’s get this thing off the ground!

My idea had been to fly a gentle circuit in the aircraft.  First I did some taxying around the large grass airfield that is Watchford to see how Pharaoh reacted.  He was perfectly behaved.

Then I thought long and hard about taking Pharaoh for a flight.  In the Cub there is no autopilot so if Pharaoh struggled or worse it would have been almost impossible to fly the aircraft and cope with Pharaoh.  So, in the end, I abandoned taking him for a flight.  The chances are that it would have been fine.  But if something had gone wrong, the outcome just didn’t bear thinking about.

So we ended up motoring for 30 minutes all around the airfield which, as the next picture shows, met with doggie approval.  The date was July 2006.

That was fun!
That was fun!

What a dear dog he has been over all the years and, thankfully, still is!

As if to reinforce the fabulous dog he still is, yesterday it was almost as though he knew he had to show how youthful he still was.

Because, when I took his group of dogs out around 7.30am armed with my camera, Pharaoh was brimming over with energy.

First up was a swim in the pond.

Ah, an early birthday dip! Bliss!
Ah, an early birthday dip! Bliss!

Then in a way he has not done before, Pharaoh wanted to play ‘King of my Island’, which is in the middle of the pond.

Halt! Who goes there!
Halt! Who goes there!


This is my island! So there!
This is my island! So there!

Then a while later, when back on dry land, so to speak, it was time to dry off in the morning sunshine.

Actually, this isn't a bad life!
Actually, this isn’t a bad life!

Long may he have an enjoyable and comfortable life.

The nose of the dog!

The incredible power of smell that dogs have.

The nose of a German Shepherd dog!

Regular readers will know that I subscribe to the blog Naked Capitalism masterminded by Yves Smith.  Some time ago, there was a link on NK to a story about how a tiny Chihuahua dog rescued some missing girls.  It seemed like a good opportunity to take a closer look at this most magical aspect of a dog’s qualities.

First to that story.

I saw it on the Care2 website, from which I quote the following:


Hero Chihuahua Finds Missing Girls in the Woods

by  August 2, 2012

A 3-year-old chihuahua named Bell is an unexpected hero after finding three young girls who became lost for hours in the woods in Newnan, Georgia, on Monday.

CBS Atlanta reports that, on Monday, 8-year-old Carlie and 5-year-old Lacey Parga went for a walk with their dog Lucy down a cul-de-sac on trails near their neighborhood.

What started as a casual stroll became an unintended, and at times frightening, experience. As Carlie tells CBS, ‘”We tried to find our way out of the woods. We kept following paths and stuff and we got lost.” Indeed, they became scared that they were only to get more and more lost.

Carlie’s father, David Parga, noted that it wasn’t characteristic of them to wander off and, after searching for them but not hearing them respond, he contacted police and firefighters. Neighbors joined them including Carvin Young who thought to take Bell, who plays with the girls every day and knew their scent. Bell was able to lead searchers to the girls.

The full story on the Care2 website is here and on the CBS website here.

So what is it about the nose of the dog?  A dog has more than 220 million olfactory receptors in its nose, while humans have only five million, making dogs’ sense of smell a thousand times greater.  Frankly, trying to get one’s intellect around precisely what having a sense of smell one thousand times greater than a human means is tough!  So on to another story.

The Bark and Clark blogsite reported an item in February that had been seen in the K9 Magazine.

17 Dogs, 3 Generations, 70 Years.
There’s one constant…
…the family dog.

After moving to Wellesley, Massachusetts for an anchor job with a major television sports network, Kevin began taking his German Shepherd, Beverly, for walks in the surrounding neighborhoods. They developed a route that included historic Atwood Street. Beverly kept veering toward one house in particular that had also caught Kevin’s eye previously, thinking it looked familiar but not knowing the reason.

After talking to a close family relative who had also once lived in Wellesley, Kevin was shocked to discover that the memorable house had once been a childhood home to his father, Bob Walsh, before WWII. After digging through old family photos that had been tucked away for years, Kevin uncovered a picture of his father as a toddler with his family on the house’s front porch, complete with their first family dog, Dee Dee.

Kevin’s father had been writing short stories about all of their family dogs through the years, but never knew about the photo. Its discovery was the pivotal moment that offered proof that the Walsh family’s journey with dogs had come back to the exact place where it started.

They’ve turned this story, along with other dog tales, into a book called Follow the Dog Home: How a Simple Walk Unleashed an Incredible Family Journey.

Dog’s nose leads family to back long lost old home, site unseen. German Shepherd, Beverly, is chronicled on WCVB TV’s news magazine show Chronicle. 70 years later, the family goes back “home” for stunning reunion and photograph.

Dogs and life

A lovely guest Post from author Dianne Gray.


Dianne was unaware when she contacted me that her timing was exquisite!  Why?  Because it had recently crossed my mind that many readers must wonder why a blog with the name of Learning from Dogs so infrequently had articles about dogs!  Hopefully both the Welcome page and my piece on Dogs and integrity make it clear that it is the qualities of dogs, the examples they set to mankind, that inspire these writings.  As I say in Dogs and integrity,


  • are integrous ( a score of 210) according to Dr David Hawkins
  • don’t cheat or lie
  • don’t have hidden agendas
  • are loyal and faithful
  • forgive
  • love unconditionally
  • value and cherish the ‘present’ in a way that humans can only dream of achieving
  • are, by eons of time, a more successful species than man.

So it is a double pleasure to offer Dianne’s guest post today because it reminds us, so clearly, that the qualities of dogs are something very real for mankind.

Dianne Gray

Dianne is a writer.  As she explains on her blog site,

I live in Australia, have a sensitive-new-age Rottweiler called Kitty and a German Shepherd (in desperate need for The Dog Whisperer) called Sabre.

I’ve had interesting jobs, including working in a crocodile farm in Far North Queensland.

My web page can be found at http://www.diannegray.au.com/

The story

Sabre enjoying some Winter sun.

Sabre came into our lives in November 2004. He was seven weeks old. We were lucky enough to get Sabre from Bob Knight, a German shepherd breeder in Canberra, Australia. For those of you who don’t live in Australia you wouldn’t know that Bob was tragically shot and killed in 2010 while driving his truck through Sydney – the innocent victim of a gang war taking place several blocks away, he was hit by a stray bullet.

Bob was very passionate about his dogs and would interview those who were interested in buying one of the litter. If he didn’t think you were capable of managing a German shepherd he would not sell you one. He also ensured that each and every one of his puppies were brought back to him weekly (if possible) for free puppy training. So for over twelve months we (and the others who had bought one of the litter) met at the lake to take our dogs for a walk and training.

We live in the inner city and have an enormous yard so Sabre loved playing catch and patrolling the borders of our property. We live adjacent to a laneway and had some trouble with junkies shooting up near our fence and threatening to kill him if he barked at them. When he was two years old he became very ill very suddenly (it was Good Friday and near impossible to find a vet). We took him to the out-of-hours vet in the city who just looked at him and ($A800 later) told us not to feed him for the rest of the weekend.

By Saturday morning he could hardly move. We called Bob who told us about a woman called Jan who would be available to see him who lived in a nearby town. She was a country vet and looked after horses and cattle – so we loaded him in the car. This was the best move we ever made because, as it turned out, Jan would save his life a couple of times. When Jan saw him she couldn’t believe another vet would tell us not to feed him. “You don’t feed animals, they die,” she said. She gave us some horse paste (I still don’t know to this day what it was) and told us to put some in his mouth every hour. She said to try and give him his favourite food as often as possible and to call her every hour and tell her if he had eaten anything. She said he had the classic symptoms of having ingested a common bait (I’m not revealing what it was publically) and if we couldn’t get him to eat within four hours we had to bring him straight back to her. Basically he was starving to death.

We put the paste in his mouth as often as possible and tried to tempt him with cheese (his favourite) for three hours. Finally, he took a small mouthful of cheese and we celebrated like it was Christmas! We took him back to Jan for the next three days and he got stronger and stronger and within a week was back to his old playful self.

Twelve months later he began to walk with his head to one side and then he’d shake it and basically seemed very uncomfortable. We took him back to Jan who looked in his ear to find he had a chronic ear infection. She gave him antibiotics and cleaned his ear, but weeks passed and it just didn’t want to budge. We took him back to Jan every weekend and she would clean his ear (he wouldn’t let us touch it) and give him a penicillin injection. I surfed the net trying to find out what I could do to get rid of this damn infection – we were trying everything possible and it still wouldn’t budge. Then I read somewhere that yoghurt in a dog’s diet can be good for this kind of thing. I added yoghurt to his diet and within a week he was looking better. We still had him back to Jan’s every weekend for a few months and I still put yoghurt in his diet!

Six months later he started to change and became obnoxious and aggressive with us. We thought it may have had something to do with the ear infection so we took him back to Jan. She laid him on his back and felt his testies. He was kind of shocked and so were we, but she had definitely done the right thing because at this stage he had testicular cancer in both testies. She operated and found that the cancer was at the advanced stage. She was pretty sure she had got it all, but told us the signs to watch for over the next few months. She put him on ‘girly hormones’ as she called them and he was on those for about twelve months – and what a pleasure he became. He was behaving himself and not cranky or aggressive like before the operation. He was a different boy! If you have a male dog that is not de-sexed and he becomes even the slightest bit aggressive, I strongly suggest you have him checked for testicular cancer!

Because we’d had so much trouble with the junkies I decided to get cameras around the outside of the house. It was such a novelty at first – I’d come home from work and check the cameras to see what had happened during the day, but then I noticed something really sad.  Sabre would say goodbye to me at the gate every morning and then just sit there ALL DAY waiting for me to come home. It was heartbreaking, I’d never realised until this time how lonely he was. I’d watch the tape on X30 and it reminded me of one of those television advertisements where someone stands still while everything around them speeds past. So hubby and I decided it was time for another dog. This is where Kitty comes into the picture. From the moment Sabre saw her he absolutely loved her and she loved him. She is obsessed with his tail and when we go anywhere she grips onto his tail and follows him.

First meeting Sabre and Kitty.

Sometimes when they’re playing in the yard she grabs his tail and runs past him so fast he ends up running sideways! Kitty has had her fair share of problems as well. She was spade (by a vet other than Jan because she doesn’t have the capacity or equipment to spade female pups) and three months later she went on heat! I took her back to the other vet and he had only removed one ovary. So she had to be spade again, the poor darling. Meanwhile, Sabre must have had enough male hormones left in him to want to mount her every five minutes. So what I did was rub eucalyptus oil on Kitty’s back and this was enough to keep him away (the smell made him sneeze). Now we find Kitty has arthritis (she’s only fifteen months old) so we’re back to see Jan every other weekend for treatment. We’re kind of like a family now!

Sabre and Kitty today.

Kitty and Sabre are a wonderful pair and now when I watch the cameras when I get home from work all I can see is the two of them playing all day long. It’s a wonderful life!


So back to me!  Couple of items to close this lovely story from Dianne.

Firstly, a photograph of these caring owners:

John and Dianne Gray.

Secondly, Dianne’s Blog ‘Dianne Gray – Writing and loving life! is full of reflective pieces, as one might imagine.  This one caught my eye and seemed perfect to close today’s Post.

The Last Unicorn

So true –

“Writing has nothing to do with publishing. Nothing. People get totally confused about that. You write because you have to – you write because you can’t not write. The rest is show-business. I can’t state that too strongly. Just write – worry about the rest of it later, if you worry at all. What matters is what happens to you while you’re writing the story, the poem, the play. The rest is show-business.” — Peter S. Beagle

Happy Birthday dear blog!

Learning from Dogs is three years old this day.

Ironically, we are away this day but here are the ‘stats’ from yesterday, the 14th:

594,721 individual viewings

449 subscribers

An average of 1,300 readers a day (and still growing!)

3,705 comments in this period

Nearly 1,372 posts since the start

It seems a rather trite thing to say but, trust me, this is said from the bottom of my heart.  All of you who come to Learning from Dogs, whether just a couple of times or most days, have made this a wonderfully creative three years for me.


And now here’s a republication of that very first post back on July 15th, 2009.

Parenting lessons from Dogs

Much too late to make me realise the inadequacies of my own parenting skills, I learnt an important lesson when training my GSD (who is called Pharaoh, by the way).  That is that putting more emphasis into praise and reward for getting it right ‘trains’ the dog much quicker than telling it off.  The classic example is scolding a dog for running off when it should be lots of hugs and praise for returning home.  The scolding simply teaches the dog that returning home isn’t pleasant whereas praise reinforces that home is the place to be.  Like so many things in life, very obvious once understood!

Absolutely certain that it works with youngsters just the same way.

Despite being a very dominant dog, Pharaoh showed his teaching ability when working with other dogs.  In the UK there is an amazing woman, Angela Stockdale, who has proved that dogs (and horses) learn most effectively when being taught by other dogs (and horses).  Pharaoh was revealed to be a Beta Dog, (i.e. second in status below the Alpha Dog) and, therefore, was able to use his natural pack instinct to teach puppy dogs their social skills and to break up squabbles within a pack.

When you think about it, don’t kids learn much more (often to our chagrin!) from other kids than they do from their parents.  Still focusing on giving more praise than punishment seems like a much more effective strategy.

As was read somewhere, Catch them in the act of doing Right!

By Paul Handover.

Aussie dogs

A rather overdue posting.

Back on April 2nd this year, I posted a piece called I am your dog!  The item was motivated by coming across a personal reflection of the relationship that I had, and still have, with Pharaoh, my German Shepherd dog, back in 2007 when I was still living in England; I met Jean in Mexico Christmas 2007!

Among the many comments was one from Perfect Stranger who writes the fabulous blog Dogs of Doubt.  He said in his comment,

Hi Paul, I do believe this comment belongs on this post … two videos, part of a true story about an Aussie dog, a modern day “Dog on the Tucker Box”, a true blue friend to an entire town who eventually ended up building him a statue … yeah, not “it” but “HIM”.

First video shows you how tough Aussies animals are ,, watch the fight, it’s awesome, I laugh every time I watch it. they say it really happened. 🙂

Second video is the trailer for “Red Dog” – The Pilbara Wanderer!  , hope you get to see the movie

I promised to make that comment a post all on it’s own right – then promptly forgot!  So apologies and here are those two movies.