I thought I should update you on Ari’s progress since I know the last update was not very promising. I do still think I probably should have given you the freedom to select a dog for me from your whole kennel rather than specifying Arena, because only you knew their temperaments. Ari’s temperament is still somewhat “sharp,” meaning that she is sensitive and short on self-confidence. However, I have noticed gradual improvement in these areas.
Ari has learned to sit on command well. So well that she often anticipates the command and sits before it can be given. Since her back is rather long, we decided to change the cue to her name and a closed hand above her nose. She took to that quickly enough. In fact, she has learned most of what she needs to know to do her job. She taught herself how to “auto-load” into my van as soon as the door is open and the wheelchair lift is lowered. Unlike most handlers, I use the German Flexi retractable leashes because they fit my specific needs, and Ari understands exactly how much leash line is available. The procedure I go through to load myself into the van involves a couple of steps, and she quickly taught herself where she should be during each step. Watching her work this all out was mildly fascinating.
About the only behavior Ari still has trouble with is the one I mentioned to you before, she does not come to me reliably when not on leash. She will usually come to me if there’s somebody else around and she believes we’re about to go somewhere, but not otherwise. This has been a puzzle for the trainer and I; Ari understands what I want, but the strangeness of my movements and the wheelchair are just enough to trigger her insecurity. That being the case, we think it’s just a matter of time before she realizes that the security of her leash is only available if she comes to me. As you said, she’s far happier on-leash, and very intently watches me for clues on what to do next.
Ari is also “volunteering” some of her time at a local nursing home for the elderly. I started that to help her adjust to people in wheelchairs, but the residents have also adjusted to her. You could reasonably say Ari has established her own fan club there, because she willingly walks up to the residents she recognizes and lets them pet her. I occasionally need to use the leash to urge her towards somebody new or different, but she clearly understands that her job there is to be petted and stroked. The technical name for it is literally “pet therapy,” and I imagine we will keep going there as long as possible.
So yes, I think it’s safe to say that Ari has won a place in my heart and others. We expect her to only improve with age as her trust in me grows to where it overwhelms her insecurity. The largest problem we face at this moment is that our trainer has been out of commission with hip and back problems. I may have to replace her, and I dread the process because it’s much like starting over.
I thought you might find the following of interest. I know you’re on Facebook, and the German Shepherd group is rather active. I just joined recently, and had no trouble fitting in because it’s far more that just breeders and show people. However, European participation is light, causing me to sometimes feel like the lone advocate for the way Europeans handle GSD breeding. In truth, many people agree with me once I explain the differences, and I’m still slowly learning them myself. I don’t think I ever told you this, but the whole reason why I originally contacted you was to get a dog as free of genetic defects as possible. My veterinarian was concerned about my intention to get a GSD because those she examined had serious health and/or behavioral problems. I think my vet was pleasantly surprised by Ari’s health, and that reinforces my impression from this group that even American veterinary professionals don’t fully understand how badly screwed up the Americanized GSD is! Anyway, I encourage you to consider joining this group as I think your experience as an European GSD breeder and show judge would be refreshing. I also know of at least one Canadian breeder who is “open” to having access to West German breeding stock (which Ari could have helped with if I had not needed to spay her for working purposes L).
From: Scott Royall [mailto:notification+kr4m2rkbksyr]
Sent: Sunday, February 12, 2012 15:11
To: GERMAN SHEPHERDS
Subject: Re: [GERMAN SHEPHERDS] The statistics published by the OFA show that two…