About

My name is Aimee and this blog features my German Shepherds, past and present. It developed over a year ago when we brought home our puppy Dusty.

Dusty in her Bailey chair.

Not long after we brought Dusty home, we found out that she had megaesophagus. Mega-e (where the title of this blog came from), is an incurable, idiopathic disease that effects a dog’s esophagus. Dusty’s esophagus was basically like a limp bag, so she wasn’t able to push food down into her stomach the way a normal dog would. That’s why we built her the Bailey chair depicted above, so that gravity would work its miracle and provide her the nourishment she needed. Unfortunately, gravity wasn’t enough in Dusty’s case, and she passed away soon after her diagnosis. She died of aspiration pneumonia, a common side effect of mega-e.

After Dusty passed, I decided that I wanted to keep writing, so my tales turned to our other dog, Smokey, a rescue from the Chester County SPCA.

Smokey

Smokey was with us from almost the beginning of our life together. My boyfriend, Joe and I rescued him when we first moved in together. He taught us a lot about dogs, love, patience and training. He also taught us about the horrors of the underground world of puppy mills that was lurking right outside our door, because he came from some type of “kennel” operation, and living with him day to day showed us what a dark world that must have been for him. He was our “crossover” dog, and if it weren’t for his behavioral issues, I wouldn’t have found one of my passions – clicker training.

After we lost Dusty, Smokey was pretty lost himself, so we decided to get another puppy, Shelby, who is now a centerpiece of this blog.

Shelby

Shelby introduced me to another one of my passions – herding. Even better, she introduced me to my current trainer, Carolyn Wilki of Raspberry Ridge Sheep Farm in Bangor, PA, who uses a positive reinforcement approach to train working herding dogs. Shelby was our first, fully clicker trained dog, and she has taught me a lot about timing, patience and what a creative outlook on training can gain you.

Unfortunately, earlier this year, Smokey passed away. After receiving a series of vaccinations, he experienced a severe reaction which triggered IMHA/ITP and aggravated (or caused) a case of lymphoma which took his life just three days after diagnosis. Smokey’s death taught me another hard lesson about dogs and canine health, that there may be such a thing as too much of what you think is a good thing. His death brought me closer to Jan Rasmusen of truth4pets.org, who is battling to inform the public about the dangers of over vaccination, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to join her cause, which I participate in to this day, to honor Smokey’s memory.

Three months ago, we decided on another dog, as it was Shelby’s unfortunate turn to be lonely. Though we loved having puppy Shelby, we felt that it was time for another rescue, and because rescues have an easier time placing puppies, and we didn’t want to go through housebreaking again, we opted for an older dog, one that was harder to place because of looks or behavioral issues that we knew we could overcome. So we brought home Panzer (f/k/a Daniel) who we found on Petfinder and adopted from All Shepherd Rescue.

Panzer

Panzer is our first GSD that didn’t have to be trained to swim, and he’s our most ball crazy dog yet. He’s teaching me a whole new line of training using toys instead of treats, and he came with his own set of quirks to work through. Panzer also introduced me to the dark side of fighting rings, which I have barely even touched on yet, but will most surely do in the future.

In this blog, you’re likely to get a little bit of everything. I touch on canine illnesses, animal welfare issues, over vaccination, but my most frequent topic of discussion is training. I’m not a professional dog trainer, but I take the hobby very seriously, and I’m constantly learning about the latest developments in dog behavior and learning theory. I’m an avid clicker trainer, and I rely on the principles of operant conditioning in training my dogs. I do my best to refrain from using any kind of positive punishment, and I don’t ascribe to the theory that I need to dominate my dog to make him behave.

After having two rescues, both of whom came from deplorable situations, I’ve learned that some dogs can’t be and shouldn’t be trained using choke chains, shock collars, rolled up newspaper, aggressive touches, kicks, slaps, or alpha rolls, but that all dogs can be taught using some kind of motivator (food, toys, treats, praise, pets and kind words).

That being said, I’m still learning, and my views on all forms of training are constantly evolving. Dog behavior, like dogs in general, is complex, and there’s always more to know, something I strive to do every day. At the end of the day, this blog is just about sharing what I’m learning and what is working for me. It’s about sharing the tears, the heartache, the laughs, the victories and the magic moments that my dogs bring me everyday and hopefully you’ll share your stories with me as well. Enjoy the blog!

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17 thoughts on “About”

  1. Hello, how can I contact you about some herding questions I have? I really want to start my female GSD in herding, but when I took her to this trainer in our area, a lady who was supposedly nationally renown, she repeatedly hit her with a rake as hard as she could every time she went too fast (it was her first time ever on sheep), and then insisted on teaching her “who the boss was” by whipping her with a rope every time I turned and she wasn’t by my side. My female was yelping, trying to hide, and ended up running to the car where she refused to come out for hours. It really turned me off of herding, but I found your blog, and I’m hopeful that you could possibly help us get started with training herding using little to no positive punishment. I found some training buddies who have sheep their dogs work (they use lots of compulsion) that they said I could work her on with whatever methods I pleased. I’d really like to get her HT title, but have no clue where to start. Any specific posts, books, advice, videos,etc. you could refer me too? Any help is appreciated.Thanks in advance!

  2. I am happy to have found your blog! We are raising a German shepherd ourselves (also a rescue), and we are about to start fostering for her German shepherd rescue agency. Looking forward to reading more about Shelby and Panzer!

    • Good luck with the fostering! That’s wonderful! We will be foster parents together, we are getting our first foster this weekend (probably, assuming her spay goes well).

  3. Nice to meet you 🙂 You talk a lot of sense!
    We have german shepherd Sam, adopted from our local rescue 🙂
    I look forward to reading your posts!

  4. I have nominated you for a Liebster Award! If you choose to participate and want to claim your prize, more information can be seen here: http://grimmsfurrytail.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/a-debt-of-gratitude/. You can pick whichever Liebster Award style from my sidebar or, if you want, take both! i love your beautiful photography and your shepherds–looking forward to more!

  5. I would like to ask your views on something privately, related to your post about pet breeding. Could you toss me an email, please, if you have a chance?

  6. Goldie Watts said:

    Glad I found your blog. I am also a dedicated clicker trainer and living in the deep south find myself in a wasteland for support. I’ve trained my Bullmastiff, rescue Dobe and Sheltie to some minor akc rally and obedience titles and done a goodly amount of counter conditioning for reactivity, all without the use of aversives. Books and dvds are my teachers; there is no culture of clicker training here at all (although there is some bizarre clicker usage). I’ve been wanting to get my 2 year old Sheltie involved in herding but it’s a frightening prospect here. I know of Carolyn Wilki and have been drooling over her course offerings, but am not able to make a trip to PA at this time. Have been to 2 sessions with what sounded like a fairminded sort of trainer, but don’t know that I can go on with her. My boy got his 1st leash correction on Sunday and being a tough little Sheltie he just kind of froze and his eyes glazed over. Of course the comment on the sideline was “see, he didn’t freak out at a leash correction”…….I don’t even know how to respond to that, other than I feel sick to my stomach every time I picture the look on his face. I’m an older person, have had dogs all my life and though i was never an abusive trainer, I am so sorry I didn’t know much earlier what I’ve learned in the last 8 years. The best relationships are not about being in charge and in command. Good for you for going against the grain in herding. If you’re aware of any resources that might be of use to me, please share.

    • Hi Goldie! Sorry I’m just now getting back to you! If you’re ever able to make it I would highly recommend doing a week “herding boot camp” at Raspberry Ridge, it’s amazing what you can learn and how much progress can be made in those sessions, but I totally understand that it’s a far journey and a lot of money. It’s tough just for me to get there and I’m only about 2 hours away! Unfortunately, the resources for herding a sparse in terms of positive reinforcement. There just aren’t a lot of people doing it. The old ways in the old sports die hard, I suppose. Personally, I would not ever go back to a trainer who collar corrected my dog, but that’s pretty much what you’re going to find in the herding world. I would be wary of correcting around stock though, because as I’m sure you can guess, it can create redirected aggression and/or a loss of the desire to herd, which is just sad! If you are interested in getting involved in herding though, I would recommend management tools (lots of long lines and fences) around stock and really perfecting and solidifying your “lie down” with your dog in the most extreme of circumstances. Then you work on the lie down not facing you (we use a target for this), then you work on the “walk up” then lie down, walk up, lie down, I do have a blog post about working on that with Shelby somewhere here, I think it’s called “At Home Herding Behaviors” or something to that nature. All of that stuff you can practice dry (off the stock). Please feel free to email me at aimeedavis48@gmail.com if you have any specific questions and maybe I can help or point you in the right direction!

  7. Love your shepards! I’ve got a couple questions for you. When you get a chance, can you send me a quick email?
    -Shaye
    shayewalsh[at]gmail[dot]com

  8. Your dogs are beautiful. Dusty looks like a little angel – so sorry you lost her and Smokey.

  9. Hi there,
    I stumbled across your blog in an effort to find a good place to take my dogs herding. I own three Rhodesian Ridgebacks(I know, not typical herding dogs) and I’m always looking for activities for them to do. I recently moved to Harford County Maryland, and was looking for a place for them to learn herding. I used to live in NC and I used to take my oldest dog to lessons with a man that owned goats and cattle. It was a wonderful experience for her. He bred and trained Australian Shepherds to herd. Anyway if there’s a direction you could send me in that would be wonderful. Thank you in advance!

    Corey

  10. Hello there, I hope you don’t mind me including the photos of ‘Boone’ the German Shepherd in my blog post. I have of course included a link to your own blog. WordPress will probably let you know but just in case here’s the link: http://notsodangerousdogs.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/when-the-camera-lies/

    If there’s any problems with this please let me know.
    Kind regards,
    Grace

  11. I see you’ve already been nominated for ‘the Liebster Award’ but in case you want to take part again, I nominated you on my blog too 🙂 You don’t have to feel obliged, I just took part as it was something a little different 🙂 You can read all about it here: http://dogtailsblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/liebster-award-nomination-spreading-love-of-the-canine-kind/
    Your blog always has something a little different, and of course lovely GSD’s!

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