|Welcome to Sugarloaf Shepherds
Featuring the Vantasia Line of
White German Shepherd Dogs
We put a lot into our puppies. When they leave to go to their new homes, a lifetime guarantee goes with them. It’s in their contracts. Aside from the guarantee for their genetic health, we provide that,”Seller MUST have first right to ... recover the Puppy ... should the Buyer decide to ... give away the puppy at any time.” This is to ensure that our puppies do not wind up in shelters or breed rescue facilities, or out on the street. Once a Sugarloaf Shepherds puppy, always a Sugarloaf Shepherds puppy -- that puppy is guaranteed a home by us, throughout his lifetime.
And, so it was that we learned from a puppy buyer that they could no longer keep a certain puppy, who then was about seven months old. The owner said that the puppy could not be potty-trained and was always nipping at her small children, when they played. When the puppy, who is now named Max, was delivered to us after a long car trip, we were worried that the puppy buyer was right, and that we would not be able to find the puppy a good home, because of his bad behavior. ...
Ziva, one of our female White German Shepherd dogs, is approaching four years old this year. Linda and Ziva were making good progress in canine agility over the course of a year, until Ziva had a litter of puppies. Ziva also has had obedience training and earned her Canine Good Citizen certification when she was only about a year old. In most respects, Ziva is a well-behaved dog with a good temperament. But, she does have an obsession – cats. This included Tommy (who is no longer with us, unfortunately) and Princess Kitty.
Tommy was a rotund gray tabby who once had been a feral cat. He was known to frequent the golf course where our son, David, used to work. David had told us that Tommy was the one feral cat at the golf course who always came to him when the others all ran away at his approach. David had asked us if we were interested in giving Tommy a permanent home, and so we welcomed him into our menagerie. He was our first cat here at our new home in Mercersburg, PA. When we got him, our vet said that he looked to be about three to four years old. He weighed about twelve pounds when we brought him home. We thought that he would earn his keep by catching any mice he might find around our home, but first he had to be quarantined for several weeks, to ensure he didn’t have any parasites. By the time he was out of quarantine, Tommy had decided that he didn’t need to catch mice for a living. He was a member of our family and was entitled to bed, board, and an allowance, like any other minor in our household might deserve. To our best recollection, he never caught anything. He did put on some additional pounds, but he was really cute and friendly, and he got along well with most of the dogs. ...
A number of months ago, one of us was using a can of whipped cream to prepare a dessert, when Nicco, one of our White German Shepherd Dogs (WGSD) happened to be hanging around. Perhaps it was not very wise, but that person, who shall remain unnamed, decided to treat Nicco to a squirt of whipped cream. She (or he) aimed the whipped cream downward towards Nicco’s mouth, and pressed the nozzle to release a stream of whipped cream downward. Nicco picked up on this immediately and snapped up the squirt of whipped cream before it hit the kitchen floor. Nicco was hooked from that time onward.
The next time one of us was using the can of whipped cream, Nicco somehow noticed and came over to get his squirt. After awhile, some of the other dogs decided to get in on the action. Spyce, our sole black and tan GSD, Dolly, and Ziva became addicts as well as Nicco.
Now, we have noticed that Nicco has associated certain sounds and activities with the potential for receiving a whipped cream fix. For example, I often have a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter evening, and usually top it off with a squirt of whipped cream. Nicco will come over quietly, sometimes after rising from a nap, upon hearing one or more telltale sounds associated with hot chocolate. These include the tinkling of a teaspoon, stirring the hot chocolate; opening of the door to the kitchen cabinet where the mugs are stored; even the shaking of the whipped cream aerosol can, prior to its use. It is a testimony to the super hearing these dogs have, that they can hear some of these sounds that most of us humans wouldn’t even notice. Now, realizing that the dogs can hear things we might not notice, we figure that it’s worthwhile to check out what might be going on outside the house, when all the dogs suddenly start barking without apparent provocation.
Merlin to the Rescue
On a cold Monday afternoon in February, 2007, I was alerted by a neighbor to the fact that a raccoon was approaching my property, and that three of my dogs, in my fenced-in backyard, were barking at it. The yard is enclosed by a 6-foot chain link fence. By the time I went to see what was going on, the raccoon had climbed to the top of the fence and continued to attract the attention of my then 5-year-old un-neutered male White German Shepherd Dog (WGSD), Merlin, and two yearling WGSD females, one of which was his puppy.
Merlin was definitely in a protective mode. Before I could approach closer, to corral the dogs and bring them inside, Merlin had jumped against the fence and dislodged the raccoon, which then fell to the ground, inside the fence, and immediately began approaching the younger dogs. Merlin stepped up between the younger dogs and the invading raccoon, confronted it, and, after a pitched battle, during which Merlin was bitten, he eventually killed it.
Later testing by the Pennsylvania Game Commission verified that the raccoon had been rabid, which accounted for the raccoon's strange behavior. Usually, the Commission agent later told me, raccoons stick to treed areas, are smart enough not to start fights they can easily lose, and are rarely seen in the daytime. This could easily have been a story ending like "Old Yeller," but all the dogs were up to date on their rabies shots, so they were not likely to have been adversely affected by the rabies virus. Still, because no system is perfect, we were told to keep an eye on Merlin to make sure he didn't exhibit any rabies symptoms over an official quarantine period of 90 days.
Britt the Home Service Dog
We didn't realize what we had when we first got him, but soon saw that Britt was special. We took him to obedience training where he learned the usual sit, stay, down, and other commands. He did so well that he later earned his Canine Good Citizenship title. He proved to be a willing and quick learner.
Lance was no professional dog trainer, but he worked with Britt occasionally to teach him various jobs around the house. Pretty soon, Britt compiled a fairly extensive list of jobs that he could perform. They included picking up clothes and putting them in the clothes hamper, putting trash in the trash can, fetching various items, etc. Once, Lance became frustrated trying to find the remote control for the TV late at night with all the lights out. So, Lance trained Britt to fetch the TV remote control in the dark.
Britt also became Lance's butler in the morning, having learned to fetch Lance's shoes automatically whenever he saw Lance putting his socks on. When the socks were white, Britt would fetch Lance's sneakers; when they were dark, Britt would fetch Lance's dress shoes. Britt's willingness to fetch various items led to some remarkable events connected with Lance's leather key case.
Britt the Athlete
When Britt and our Golden Retriever, Maggie, first started playing with each other out on the school field near our home, they were both about the same size. Maggie would tease Britt with possession of a tennis ball in her mouth, and then easily outdistance him when she got him to chase her. We always thought Maggie was fast. It wasn't long, however, before Britt got bigger and bigger, and stronger, and faster. Pretty soon, Maggie couldn't outdistance Britt. Instead, whenever Britt saw Maggie on the run, he would soon chase her down and herd her to a stop. No tennis ball was safe then.
One day when Lance was playing with him on the local school grounds, just for fun, Britt leapt over a four-foot brick wall and down to a lower level grassy embankment. It was a drop that that exceeded six feet. He did this without a second thought and without any ill effects afterwards. After that, we were always amazed at how tremendous an athlete Britt was.
Britt the Pushover
Britt was the largest dog we had. He was in good athletic shape at about 95 lbs. Yet he was the most gentle dog you could imagine. He got along with just about all people and dogs. Once, we decided to bring Ben, a 10-month-old German Shepherd Dog, home from the local animal shelter with the idea of adopting him. We had visited with Ben at the shelter several times and convinced ourselves of his gentleness. However, when we introduced Ben to our other dogs, we noticed that Ben tended to bully Britt, even though Britt was twice his size.
We had to find another home for Ben because we were afraid Ben would hurt Britt, or Britt would at some point lose his temper and hurt Ben - but that never happened. Later when we got Merlin, an 8-week-old white German Shepherd Dog puppy, Britt and Merlin would play roughly together, but Britt would never lose his temper. When Merlin became full-grown, Britt still got along with him very well, despite Merlin's declared ownership of all the tennis balls - and Britt still outweighed Merlin by about twenty pounds.
One of the dogs we've had was named Sophia. She was a blondish Golden Retriever bitch that we got free from a breeder when she was eight years old and no longer being used to turn out puppies. We were Sophia's retirement home. One hot summer day, we took our three dogs up to the local school grounds for a little exercise. On the way back, with our Maryland home in sight, Sophia got all excited and took off at a run.
At first, we thought she was running home, but then she veered to the right, crossed a street, and headed into the state park. We quickly got home and secured the other dogs, and set out to look for Sophia. Since we had not had Sophia for very long, we were afraid she might have pulled a "Lassie, Come Home" move and was headed to the farm in Virginia where she had birthed her many puppies. Fortunately, before we had gone very far from the house, we saw Sophia heading back towards us from across the street, but she was soaking wet. Apparently, Sophia had decided it was time for a swim in the lake that we had introduced her to several days earlier.
We hadn't had Sophia very long when it appeared that we had a problem with ground hogs in our back yard. They were burrowing under our timber retaining wall and possibly undermining it. We had mentioned this to the breeder from whom we got Sophia, and she suggested we just let Sophia solve the problem. She said Sophia had been the ring leader of her pack of dogs on the farm, and that Sophia was an expert hunter.
Sure enough, as soon as we let Sophia loose in the back yard, she immediately spotted one of the ground hogs. With speed that belied her usual grandmotherly pace, Sophia seized one of the ground hogs and had it in her mouth. Sophia grabbed another one before the ground hogs apparently deserted my backyard permanently. It was like the groundhogs were the Clanton brothers and Sophia was Wyatt Earp. The ground hogs got out of Dodge City and there was no more groundhog problem.
Britt the Key Operator
Britt was our first white GSD. We never had shown Britt in conformation until last year, when we showed him in the altered pet category. Mostly we had taught him to do a lot of jobs. We intended only to keep Britt as a pet, but he inspired us to add other wGSDs to our family and eventually establish Sugarloaf Shepherds.
Britt amazed us with his desire to help. Several years ago, in late Fall, we had accumulated an enormous volume of fallen leaves on our front lawn, completely covering a wide expanse of lawn right up to our driveway. I guess we had been too busy to remove the leaves on a regular basis as they fell.
One morning, just before Linda and I were to leave for work, we had needed to transfer several items from one car to the other, preparatory to driving the other car in for service. My hands were stuffed with several items already, including my leather key case. As Linda continued to hand me additional items to hold, my key case silently slipped from my grasp and disappeared into the pile of leaves. When I realized what had happened, we both started looking for the keys in the area next to the driveway, but with no luck. Finally, we used Linda's keys to drive the car to work.
In the evening, after arriving home, it was already dark as we resumed looking for the keys with the aid of a large rake and a flashlight. We still hadn't found the keys when Linda let Britt out to have some fun. Light-heartedly, I commanded Britt to "Find keys!" I didn't really expect much, but Britt had been trained to find treats in the house, so he started looking, burying his nose in the pile of leaves. Almost immediately, he came up with something - a tennis ball. We praised him, and reiterated - "Find keys!" He started looking again and so did we.
We were very surprised several minutes later when Britt walked up with my leather key case in his mouth and offered it to me. Britt repeated this feat a year later during the winter when, on command, he found my keys in a flower bed that was covered with a healthy growth of ground cover, loose leaves, and snow. I had accidentally thrown them into the air, in the dark, while slipping on a patch of ice on the nearby path to the house. From then on, Britt would automatically pick up my keys and "hand" them to me whenever he found them within reach, after my having carelessly strewn them about the house.
Britt took on other jobs as well. He picked up my clothes from the floor and put them in the laundry basket; he put our used plastic bottles in the recycling bin; he picked up trash and put it in the trash can; he used to find the TV remote control in the dark and give it to me; and he got my shoes or sneakers for me in the morning. One summer, after I had returned home from a back operation and a lengthy hospital stay, Britt actually served as my service dog. Because I was under doctor's restrictions not to bend or twist my back for awhile, Britt picked up various items on command when I pointed to them or accidenytally dropped them. And, of course, he always kept me very warm at night.
|Click on the logo at the left for Karen Pryor's Clicker Training web site. It has all you need to get started training your puppy with positive reinforcement.|
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