1.) All Dogs are Different.

Let me start with a short story: Back in the days when my parents allowed me to get my first dog, I bought a nine weeks old German shepherd puppy from a reputable Kennel in Karlsruhe in southern Germany. Since the City of Karlsruhe is an eight hour drive away from my hometown in the north, I only had a few hours to select my dog out of a litter of 3 males and 2 females.

I wanted a male, so this left me with 3 possible choices. When I told the breeder of my selection, he smiled and said that I may want to reconsider. He went on and put a bowl of food in the kennel. As you can probably imagine, all play stopped and the pups raced towards the food bowl. Suddenly, one of the males (the one I did not pick at first) jumped onto the bowl and growled loudly at all the other pups – tail up, all teeth showing.

The other pups respectfully moved back and kept their distance. Once the little “attitude pup” was done feeding, he left what was left of the food to the others. He was only nine weeks old at that time.

After I saw this, I took the breeders hint and reconsidered. “Wolf” was the name of this little guy, and he grew up to become one of the most dominant alpha-males that I have ever worked with.

Some of my Schutzhund team-mates back then were so impressed by Wolf’s courage as a young adult, they went back to the breeder and bough several of the puppies born to the same parents in a subsequent litter. They however turned out to be almost the opposite of Wolf, much more nervous and timid than even an average German shepherd dog.

It is important for you to do your research before you buy a puppy. Selecting a pup with the right pedigree from a reputable breeder is enormously important if you are thinking about getting into any kind of competitive canine training later on.

However, even if you are very careful in your selection, all dogs are different! It is amazing to see that there are still a lot of dog handlers and even professional trainers out there that take a cookier-cutter approach to dog training. This may be comfortable for the trainer, but it is completely wrong for the dog. Like human beings, every dog is unique. You can’t train an alpha-male the same way you train a timid or fearful dog, but you can train them both very effectively if you tailor your lessons to their individual personality traits and breed characteristics. Once you start training your dog, pay close attention to what motivates him most and what does not. Some dogs do anything for a treat while others care much more about play. Some dogs learn new behaviors in five minutes, others need five days. We will talk more about motivation a little later.

(Note: This post belongs to a series of multiple articles about the fundamentals of positive dog training.
Click here to go to the overview page that allows you to easily navigate to each article in this series.)

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