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A while back my German Shepherd dog disappeared for 4 days. He finally made it back weak, tired and hungry. I had written him off. I was glad he was back. One reason is he is an excellent watch dog. I know that he does not bark at shadows, when he barks there is something going on that he tries to alert me to.

I have observed him many times barking and trying to alert me to nearby activities. I have peered out the window to see what the barking is all about; perhaps there is a deliveryman, a visitor to our or our neighbor’s house or just someone walking by.

What I like is that he keeps looking to our back deck and barking at the “intruder” until he knows he has gotten our attention about the “danger” and it is only then that our German Shepherd settles down.

Alan Bliven mentioned on the discussion board sometime ago after I posted that my dog was gone for 4 days and showed up weak, hungry and happy to be home, that he may have roamed off because he was bored. I thought about it and realized this could be true.

So I began working with my dog. I have taught him to “chase” the young birds off the ground while they are in the early training stages. He loves this game.

Next, I began letting him in the loft with me when I feed and water the breeders. I will show him eggs and squabs which I allow him to sniff. They are in individual breeding pens so I don’t worry about turning my back on him. I will talk to him while I am doing this so he feels like he is part of the routine.

Occasionally when I have showed him a squab, he has opened his mouth as though I will be happy to just pop him a snack or something. I give him a quick but gentle rap on the snout and tell him NO. He puts his head down and I go on and continue. We have this great little routine down and he seems to enjoy it. In the morning, the two of us will walk down to the pond and look around the brush for snakes or anything else that might move that we can chase. He moves about cautiously sniffing the tall grass and watching what I am doing. He loves this game too.

After a little while we head back to the loft for our routine there. After we are done and weather permitting, we sit on the deck and look at the view where I continue to talk to him and tell him he is a good German Shepherd dog and that I am proud at the great job he does watching the birds and the family. This always pleases him.

After we are done, he willingly allows me to put the tether on his collar and I go into the house, he finds a warm place to lie down and sleep. He feels at peace with his place in the world. I would encourage anyone that can involve their dog in any way with the birds that it will be fun for both you and your dog. I am not an animal trainer but I know some things that have helped me control him and that was mainly I needed to be the “alpha” dog.

This goes back to when they were wolves and there was a main wolf that was the leader, what is called the alpha dog. The alpha dog eats first, goes through doors first, corrects others behavior quickly and is understood that he eats first and provides protection to the other dogs in the pack.

A dog will naturally try to be alpha if you let it. You have to in no uncertain terms let him know you are # 1 and the other people in the household are number two and so on. He is low dog on the totem pole. But he is okay with it once he knows that is his place.

When we play and if he ever nipped at me or a tooth actually caught some skin he was promptly reprimanded and put on the ground with me standing over him scolding him. He will always put his head down as if to apologize and acknowledge that he just made a mistake, what was he thinking and would not do it again!

There was never any question for him as to who was alpha dog in our pack. Having little grandchildren around I am in the process of letting him know these are “alpha pups” and he is to leave them alone. I tell him these are “MINE” while I hold them and I look at him hard so he understands. I think he does because he will lay on the ground and expose his underside. A position I understand that shows his submission.

Working with my German Shepherd dog around the pigeons and getting good results is satisfying and very useful (chasing young birds off the ground). I encourage anyone with a problem dog that you have to “lock up” when working with your birds to go through the process of training so it can become your “assistant” and be fun to hang around with you and your pigeons.

Tony Chavarria