There are certain natural characteristics in animals that do not change significantly. For example: coyotes run with their tails lowered, dogs with their tails raised, and wolves with their tails straight. Some dog breeds have certain characteristics that differ between breeds. When we are aware of these traits, we can better understand our canine family members.

Racial Preference for Homesteaders

We personally prefer the German Shepherd breed; However, in the past we have had a Border Collie / Australian Shepherd mix and a Basset Hound / Golden Retriever mix. The former is on a par with the intelligence of the German Shepherd Dog. With highly intelligent breeds like the German Shepherd, training must be carried out positively and carefully. A harsh word to a German Shepherd can be harmful as they go out of their way to please them. We train our dogs with soft voices. Harsh treatment or a loud, angry voice can cause the dog to be aggressive or neurotic.

Not all breeds have the same characteristics

It is best to know the breed or mix that you have introduced into your family in order to train them effectively. Highly intelligent breeds are quick to pick up what you want and have good focus. Hence, short intense workouts can work best for them. Some other breeds can have short sessions over a long period of time. We limit our training units to a few minutes and only one subject. We reward success with a little treat and lots of praise. There are several different ways to exercise that are available online or a professional trainer can be used.

Look out for previous training mistakes

We accept rescue operations and therefore have no experience with puppy training. Through adoption, we have often found that the new family member already had an education. We carefully monitor our new family member for any signs or traits that may have appeared before we adopted them. Signs of abuse, abuse, harsh criticism, etc., that a previous owner may have used may need to be addressed. No training results in runaway dogs who lack structure in their lives. Dogs need structure and routine.




Be consistent but flexible

Our training techniques have varied slightly over the years depending on the dog. For example, we adopted a dog who had serious anxiety problems. Another was deaf. We had to adapt the training for each dog to its situation. With anxiety problems, we had to be careful to keep a calm voice and to be patient and gentle. Her confidence was so damaged that it took us two years to restore her confidence. What an adorable member of the family she was. We had to work out hand signals with the deaf girl.

Aggression of the sexes

When I was a volunteer for a German Shepherd Rescue, they did not adopt a German Shepherd into a household where a German Shepherd already lived. There’s a reason for this because a dog with sex problems usually doesn’t get along with another dog of the same sex. When two women fight for supremacy, it can be very bloody. Men usually stop fighting when a dog surrenders. Knowing your dog and how they interact with other dogs can be a great way to bring another dog into the household. Understanding breeds and paying special attention to other dogs, such as neighbor dogs or walks, should know whether or not your dog is sexually aggressive.

One size doesn’t always fit everyone

We currently have two German Shepherds who get along well. One is older and deaf; the other is young and full of energy. The older dog relies heavily on the young dog to keep up to date with what’s going on in our cubicle. The young dog lets the older dog know when it is time to eat, potty, or take a walk. Look at the photo of them lying together near the wood stove. The young dog has a job to do and the older dog is dependent on the younger dog. They, in turn, pay attention to each other.

Meet needs equally

Dogs have specific basic needs and it is up to us to meet those needs. They expect to be fed timely, safe, exercised, and loved. It is important that we give equal attention to our two girls so that they do not develop jealousy. All family members must participate actively and equally in training and feeding.

Adoption of guard dogs

Bringing an extra dog into the family should be purposeful to be successful. When adopting an animal shelter, the dogs should meet there for the first time on a leash. If that goes well, the new dog should be transported separately at home and the dogs should be reintroduced on neutral land. We do introductions down the street from the cabin with both dogs on leashes for control. When someone hands you a dog, it helps if the leash is kept open so the dog knows he has a new family. We did this twice and both dogs knew they were with a new family; When the surrender was over and the other person left, both dogs never looked back.

We introduce a new dog to your pack

When the introduction on neutral ground goes well again, we take the dogs for a short walk together and then bring them home. We have a fenced-in back yard so that with the leashes still on we can allow more socialization with us in the immediate vicinity. Then we first accompany the new member into the cabin and let them explore. Next, we bring the rest of the dog family in with the leashes pulled for possible control. We never pay special attention to the newcomer to prevent jealousy and we resume our normal activity.


These techniques have consistently proven themselves for us over the years. These techniques may sound like a lot of work, but they consistently work for us. We want to give the new family member every chance of success. I’m not a professional dog trainer, but have had dogs for most of my nearly eight decades. My observations therefore come from dogs as part of our family and personal experience.

Bruce McElmurray High altitude homesteads in the southern Rockies with his wife, Carol. For more information on their mountain lifestyle and animal watching in connection with their strange behavior, please visit Bruce’s personal blog website at Bruce Carol Cabin. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS Contributions Here.

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