Tag Archives: vom haus huro

I’ll Take the Runt, Please!

While this blog isn’t specifically bully breed related, it is definitely worthwhile.  It tells the tale (or is it tail?) of Icon the German Shepherd and his owner, Jen of Vom Haus Huro.  Jen has been featured here many times and this is another one of her wonderful bits of print.


I do not understand the stigma of the labels applied to a litter of   puppies. For example, the “pick of the litter” is synonymous with quality. However, the “last pick” puppy of a high quality litter could be (and in most cases will be) of higher quality than the first pick of a low quality litter. I mean, the best puppy from a crappy litter is still a crappy puppy.  Just saying. The same thing goes for the runt.

Many people will toss that term out and say “oh I don’t want that puppy, it’s the runt”. Why? It may not have been the smallest at birth. It  may be at a different growing stage than its siblings. It may be a late bloomer and it may just be smaller. Who cares? Do we live in such a super size-orientated world that we cannot possibly accept value in something smaller than its counterparts? Maybe if breeders charged by the pound or used slide measurements like a pumpkin patch we would see more people reaching for those smaller puppies first.

Personally, I  really do not care what someone else may view as the  pick of the litter.  I also do not care if the puppy I like happens to  be the smallest  (Gasp! The dreaded runt!!). When I look at a litter of  puppies I am  looking at three things: temperament, attitude and working  structure.  Size, color, etc. do not even enter the equation. When it  came to Icon,  he was the puppy that nobody wanted, including me.  The  runt. The  outcast.  The untouchable. I kept him because nobody else  wanted him. I  resented the fact that buyers looked him right over due  to his  diminutive size. How dare they judge such an outgoing, brave  little soul  who could offer them everything that the other puppies  could except for  size. At 6 weeks of age I decided that the people  judging him just  weren’t good enough for him and kept him back “until  he grew” (or so I  told myself).  It was one of the best decisions I have  ever made.

I  didn’t want a puppy at that time. I didn’t want a male puppy. I  didn’t  want Icon. He had other ideas. He set about forming a bond so  deep with  me that he would skip meals and play times just to sit next  to me and  stare adoringly at me, waiting for me to notice him. He would  escape the  warmth of the puppy pen at night to sleep in the cold  hallway so that I  would find him when I opened the door in the morning.  I quickly became  enamored with his stubborn streak. His fits of puppy  rage and  indignation when he couldn’t reach the things that the other  puppies  could fueled his little puppy brain to work overtime to figure  out new  ways to accomplish what he wanted. My fascination and  admiration for him  quickly grew and I finally admitted the truth to  myself. The puppy that  I had never wanted, the one that never wanted  anything but me, was my  dog and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

Today, 2.5 years later  he still stares adoringly at me. Now, he doesn’t  have to wait for me to  notice him though, because I am as addicted to  his presence as he is to  mine. We are codependent, we spend all of our  time “telling” the other  one how great they are and we have fun. A lot  of it. Now when people  notice him and compliment him, I laugh a little  inside. I always wonder  how many of them would have looked past the  “runt” status and chosen him  for themselves. He gets compliments on his  work and on his looks. He  has his own following now, his own fans and  his own accomplishments. Not  bad for a runt.



The Leash is In Your Hand

The bond created between dog and handler is something that is unique to that dog and that handler.  In this post, our friend Jen of Vom Haus Huro has shared with us some of her inner wisdom and thoughts in regard to the teamwork, training and goals set forth for her dogs and herself as a trainer, handler and owner and what that means in terms of approach.  Enjoy!


There will come at least one time in life in which you will be faced with a decision in training. A moment or series of moments that can and will shape the future of your training plans and, in most cases, form either a base to build upon for the future or a derailment of training that can take you months to fix, if you are lucky enough to be able to recover from it at all. Everyone will have an opinion on your issue(s) and advice will flow at you from all directions. Which, if any, you choose to follow will ultimately decide your fate and that of your dog.

I believe that the most important thing is to consider who you are as a trainer, who your dog is as a dog and what your ultimate goals in training are going to be. There is always a lot of talk about drives and thresholds. “Oh, my dog has unbelievable pain thresholds”, followed closely by drive. “My dog has true fight drive”. Everyone is quick to brag about what their dog has and what it is. What is of even greater importance, however, is what the dog is NOT.

There is no such thing as a perfect dog. Each and every dog could have a little less of one drive and a little more of another. Each dog could be more balanced in a particular area and each dog will respond differently to different types of training. Focus first on what your dog is NOT, improve it to the best of your abilities in that area and then consider your next step at that point. When you put your dog on a pedestal of perfection, you forget to work on those small cracks that, in time, become large craters to your progress.

Another very important aspect is who you are as a handler. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and your commitment levels. Remember that your most important job as a handler is to protect your dog. You set the rules, the boundaries and the limitations on what is acceptable both from your dog and from those involved in the training with you.

I have seen people whipping their dogs with wooden dowels for a cleaner heel and to me, that is a line I am not willing to cross. Will they be getting better scores than me? Perhaps. It is entirely possible and more than likely probable that they will beat me, but there are no points in the world that are worth enough for me to do that to my dog. That is a line I have drawn as a handler and one that my dogs and I can all live with. That is what training boils down to. A relationship with your dog or dogs, based on trust, forged over time and tempered with time spent, miles traveled and trials faced together. Stay true to who you are as a handler and as a team. Stay true to your dog and the relationship and bond that you have created. Stand firm in your convictions and your beliefs and do not let the popular (or unpopular) beliefs persuade you to do else-wise. The leash is in your own hand. Not that of your trainers and fellow competitors, but yours and yours alone. You hold the responsibility right there in your palm. At the end of the day, it will be you and your dog(s), and you alone have to sleep with the decision that you have made. I hope you make good ones, my friends, and that your dreams are sweet.

Yours in training and sport,


Jen and Icon (UCH VP1 SG (NASS) Icon Vom haus Huro CGC BH CD CI NAT Puppy CH OFA)

Schutzhund: The Dog Sport of Masochists

Another wonderful blog entry by Jen Rainey of Vom Haus Huro.


Masochists? Really? Well, the definition of masochism, is the condition in which gratification depends on one’s suffering physical pain or humiliation. Switch that to pain AND humiliation and it would fit like a glove (or like a crisp new Schweikert trial arm). It is easy to torture oneself with trying for the perfect obedience round. It is all good fun to try for that better tracking score. It is absolutely a good time to train your dog to go after a guy dressed in an almost spot on Stay-Puffed Marshmallow Man get up. Sure, it all makes perfect sense. Do any one of those things and have fun. Do all three together? Welcome to my insanity. Welcome to my addiction. Welcome to my sport.

Schutzhund was developed and molded to be the triathlon of the dog world. 3 events, one dog, one handler, one day. What it has evolved into is a highly specialized sport requiring almost Herculean effort and extreme dedication (much to the dismay of close friends and relatives). Tracking. Obedience. Protection. They bill it as the T.O.P. Dog sport. They lure you in with training vests, tracking lines, balls on a string and new jute covers for that shiny new sleeve that you will convince yourself you and your dog cannot live without. Then there is the fourth aspect of the sport, the one that you will hear loudly and proudly discussed in the clubhouse, but hushed in the presence of the “newbs”: the handler injury. If you want to play protection dog, you’re going to have to be willing to bleed.

At this point it sounds scary, doesn’t it? Trust me, it’s not so bad. You will learn to love it. The virus will slowly take over your system and you will find yourself smiling in delight at that perfect 6 a.m. track, as opposed to groaning in indignation at your own stupidity for actually discovering that your alarm clock does, in fact, contain a 4 a.m. and yes, that shrieking alarm does expect you to wake up to “such it up”. Watching your dog at the end of a 33 foot line come up to, and indicate, an article will be the most satisfying experience you have had since graduation. The perfect turn that is taken on a track leg will fill you with the same pride as looking down at a quickly and correctly completed Rubiks cube. Whether you are trying for your IPO1 title and you lay your own 450 yard track with 2 turns, slightly aged and your own articles or you are trying for the elite IPO3 with its 800 yard length, laid by a stranger and aged 45 minutes just to make you queasy, the happiness you experience from a passing score will be the same.  Precision, pride, tranquility. Tracking. One phase down. If you were lucky enough to score 70 points or more out of the possible 100, take those field boots off and strap on your sneakers. Time for obedience.

Schutzhund obedience is one of the fastest paced and exciting things out there. Fast? Exciting? Obedience? I kid you not. Extreme drive and the ability to cap it are essential in obedience. The build up of drive and then stopping it and compressing it becomes an art form. Eventually that build up has to explode. By design, that is inevitable. By training and luck, that explosion becomes crisp, correct and joyful obedience. The sheer joy of having your dog at your side, completely amped up and yet focused on you and remaining compliant and biddable is absolutely unequaled. The multitude of times that your dog had missed the ball and gotten your thumb will be forgotten. Those flesh wounds from doing targeting practice with tug toys that the manufacturers seem inclined to make smaller and smaller are now scars worn with pride and a sense of contentment through accomplishment. A mere 300 paces stands between you an accomplishment. Well, 300 paces, 3 retrieves, motion exercises (sit and down while moving for the IPO1 with a stand from motion and extra recalls added in for the IPO2 and 3) and then the send out. Why split hairs, though. Energy. Compliance. Intelligence. Obedience. A mere 70 points out of 100 once again stands between you and the next phase. Let’s do this.

Protection is in many ways just a continuation of obedience and yet it is the most popular of all the phases in terms of spectators. Maybe because they don’t have to get up at 6 a.m. like you do for tracking. Maybe because not every dog guards the same, but if you have seen one dog do the flat, meter jump and wall retrieves, you’ve seen them all. Or maybe its simply the display of raw power harnessed by the power of a bond with a human utilizing voice. Oh yeah, and the dogs bite stuff. Who doesn’t want to see someone get bit at the end of any day. That’s just good fun. Between the handler and the helper man (who I surly hope has good insurance) stands between 2 and 6 blinds. The dogs have to learn to search the blinds at the direction of their handler in order to show their obedience and their commitment to the search process for locating our bad guy. Now the real fun begins. I know the helper is in the last blind. The dog knows he is in the last blind. The crowd has helpfully pointed that fact out to both the dog and I with their clustered presence in that area in case either of us were too dim to figure it out or too nervous to remember. Target acquired. Missile locked and loaded. Time for blind searches.

Now you need to send your dog, who is almost out of their mind with anticipation, to a blind in the opposite direction of where Senor Bad Guy is camped out. Your dog will look at you like you are crazy and then, if you are lucky, with acceptance, as they race away from their target and around the empty blind. Requirement met. Game on. As your dog races back toward you, you get the extreme pleasure of shouting to your dog “HERE…REVIERE”. This is a two point process. You will see your dog look at you when you yell “Here” with an expression that clearly says “Really? He’s like, right there” but when you get that eye contact and you extend your arm toward the hot blind and say “reviere” you are rewarded by a brief flash of excitement in your canine teammates eyes as they double their speed and race toward that blind and bad guy saying “oh yes, I’ve got this”. Here comes my dog, helper man. Hope you are ready to fight.

Now as your dog disappears behind the blind you hold your breath. One of two things will now happen. Either the excitement will make your dog deranged with its own power and he’s going to go in for a bite or training will have won over and you will hear the sweet sounds of a machine gun bark, complete with ample flashing of all 42 teeth as your dog unleashes a full set of colorful doggy expletives at our decoy buddy in the blind. Once the barking starts, so does the fun The judge now signals you over for the pick up. You watch, awed despite yourself, as your dog ignores your approach in favor of making sure that his suspect stays put. You approach about six feet behind and the moment of truth you have been dreading arrives. “Hier…fuss”. You are asking your dog to leave his guard and return to a heel position. It is time to move this suspect. Come on out dirt bag, we got you.

You try and fool your dog into believing you are in control by ordering the helper around in your best, tough guy voice. Considerably harder when, like myself, you are a girl with a fairly non serious personality. I suggest watching some Law and Order to prepare. It couldn’t hurt. “Helper, STEP OUT”. Now you hope that when the helper steps oput and moves around the blind your dog will stay in heel position. Thankfully, he does. What a good boy. Time for the escape bite. You leave your dog to guard the bad guy while you retreat behind the blind. Bad guy now makes a bad decision and attempts to escape. Kill. Maim. Destroy. It’s escape bite time. Poor guy usually doesn’t get further than a few feet before gaining a weighty attachment to their left arm. A quick out command, followed by the dog releasing shows that you are still in control. Now the bad guy threatens again, the dog counters and the drive begins. During the drive the dog is threatened by the helpers physical proximity and a padded stick for extra emphasis. A leather wand and a little hug? Threaten my dog? Please. He eats my hands for obedience. He knows no fear.

Now after we out our dog from the drive we come to what, for me, is the best part of the day. Courage test time. Now we take our dog WAY down to the very end of the field and face our helper who is at the opposite end. A field apart we square off. It is now the helpers job to show us just how scary he can be. He is going to come at us with everything he has. Yelling, waving his arms and physical presence are being used to imply that he would like to rip me apart…..and my little dog too. Moment of truth time. All the training in the world wont give a dog the nerves to stand up to that sort of threat. That comes from genetics and a lot of luck. Hold that collar. Breathe deeply. Send your dog.

What follows next is beautiful. Helper and dog each hurling toward each other with everything they have. You watch your dog pick up speed, target the sleeve and then launch. A mere few seconds later they are back on the ground and into another fast drive, just to make sure the dog meant that long bite. End of drive. Helper gives up. Out your dog. Now you move in. You pick up your dog in a heel and you move around to disarm the helper by taking the stick. With your ever vigilant dog by your side between the two of you, you move to the judge. Then the words that seal the entire deal. “Jen and Digger. Reporting out for IPO2 protection.” 70 or above and you are now that new shiny title. 80 or above and you get that title and the chance and privilege to attempt the next highest level at the next trial. Hostile. Agile. Mobile. This is protection.

The next week when your 4 a.m. alarm blares, you reach over and turn it off, grab your band-aids and your hot dog slices and head out into the pre-dawn darkness. Why? Because the virus is no longer controlling you. You are now the virus. The only treatment is more training, the only goal the next title. This is schutzhund. Schutzhund is life.

If all goes well you can go to an World level competition and when you are done. It’s time to start the next dog. After all, every addict needs their fix.

The Fault is Mine, The Glory is Theirs

I’ve been lagging on the blog for a bit – a lot of fun (well, not so much!) has happened, but here’s another wonderful article by my GSD-owning training partner, Jen Rainey of Vom Haus Huro.


They know not that they have earned a title. They care not for the scores. They are unimpressed by the cheers of the crowd and they remain ignorant to the scorn of those who judge them. Yet our dogs continue to try, to strive and to achieve. Why? Titles and accomplishments are not for dogs. They are for the owners and the window shoppers. What is for the dog is the time that the owner invests, the pride shared with that much beloved dog and the joy of working together.

When my dogs fail to perform a task, follow a command or pass a trial I always look to myself, to my performance, to find the fault. Did I spend enough time working with my dog? Did I form an appropriate bond? Did I work the dog repetitively with high motivation and fun? Did I myself give a performance consistent with what I present to my dog during training? The fault never fails to be mine. If we do not pass it is because I did not teach the task; because I did not present the same picture; because I failed to bring what I needed to bring to our team. As handlers it is easy to blame the dog, the venue, the crowd, that weird tuft of grass or that sunny spot that blinded us for 5 seconds. But these are not reasons, they are excuses. Excuses because we fail to admit to ourselves and to our ever forgiving canine partner that we, the “higher being” failed to do our job when the heat was on.

One could easily assume that since I look first to myself for fault that I may also look first to myself in success. The exact opposite is true. When we have success it is because of my dog. It is because my dog did his job, as he always does, and brought his half to the team. More importantly the success is his (or hers) because he suffered my repetition in training, he made the correct decision even when I asked incorrectly and he gave me his all when the time to put up or shut up was right in front of us. Because while I worry about the judge, the crowd and the performance, he worries only about working with me and experiencing the joy of teamwork.

Your dog is the only relationship that you will be in where the other participant will put your happiness first. Each and every time. Cherish that selflessness for what it is, strive to deserve it and above all try your hardest to remain ever conscious of it. None of us will ever be good enough to deserve such devotion in our lifetime but we are lucky enough to have it anyway. That in itself is a gift beyond measure. One which we owe our dogs for all of their days.

It’s Not The Dog, It’s The Owner

I’ve heard this saying and said it a million times and yet I still hear the same excuses and the same complaints – heck, I’ve said them a few times myself in frustration over my own dogs.  Having owned and trained my own personal dogs for as many years as I have and competed with them, I’d rather give them the time of day than to rush them.  Here’s to you, Ms. Rainey for another fabulous bit of authorship.  You rock!

This entry is dedicated to all of the dogs out there who are slow to go – including my own Lyric, who’s ADD goofy behavior has often driven me nuts.


How often have we all heard that saying? How often have we all SAID that saying? I’m willing to wager it’s a fair amount for us all. I wonder, though, how many people really take into consideration what it truly means. For sure there are instances of dogs that are too damaged physically or emotionally to do a certain job or task but I have to often how often one finds oneself in such a situation. I think that in today’s world of high speed technology and “bigger, badder, better” mindsets we often lose sight of one of the greatest tricks we have in our trainer’s bags. Time. It seems like such a simple notion, doesn’t it? Time, by definition, is a common term for the experience of duration and a fundamental quantity of measuring systems. Why then, when none of us knows exactly what our personal “duration” will be are we so addicted to the notion that we must confront an experience, master it, speed through it and set another mark in the distance to aim our warp speed engines at? Simply put, we have time. A select few have managed to find joy in the journey, but what about the baby steps of just finding joy in today? in the hour? in the now?

I constantly see younger and younger dogs in the rings training, competing and then being tossed aside for the next new dog, the next better dog. My question is why? At what point did we forget that it is our time and our efforts that we put into these dogs that results in the benefits we get back out of them? We have a saying about canine nutrition (that we often also apply to breeding): garbage in, garbage out. I believe the same is true of training and time. You cannot put 5 minutes into your dog a day and expect the dog to give you the focus and working drive of a dog that is receiving 50 minutes a day. It just does not work that way.

Beyond that a dog that earns it’s UCD title at 12 months old with a score of 95 gets the exact same certificate as a dog that earns its UCD title at 5 years old with a score of 71. So why the rush? If you don’t get a “super awesome hotdog bonus wow” certificate, then why push? My personal experience is that even an extra certificate wouldn’t be worth the rush (and subsequent foundation shortcuts) but that’s a topic for another lengthy note. Enjoy your dog. You can’t guarantee that you will be here tomorrow. You can’t guarantee that your dog will be there tomorrow. But you can guarantee no regrets if you spend your time appreciating what your dog is doing (or trying to do) for you, spending your time judging your successes and not your failures and refusing the play the “I need a better dog” game. In the end, we get the dog we NEED, not always the one we thought we wanted.

What Do I Train? Dogs, Of Course!

I borrowed this from my wonderful training partner, Jen Rainey of Vom Haus Huro German Shepherds.  I really love what she had to say in it.

The question that I am most often asked is “what kind if training do you do?” to which I typically respond “dog”. I’m not being sarcastic when I give that answer (o.k. so maybe I am to an extent. lol) but I don’t believe that I subscribe to any “one” kind fo training, but more of a mish mash melting pot of methods. The way I train is my own. It’s my baby. Like any baby it is ever growing, always changing and occassionally full of surprises, both good and bad. My training theories and methods have evolved from the way way that I view dogs. I don’t think that any dog is exactly the same as another and I think that a “cookie cutter” approach to training is what leads so many dogs and their owners down a road that they would have otherwise been able to avoid.

 As humans we insist upon our individuality and our ability to be ourselves. Our own entity. Yet that very right that we so vehemently defend for ourselves is often the very first thing we strip from our dogs. Each and every dog has it’s own personality, its own strengths and weaknesses and its own potential and limitations. I believe that when we begin to work with a dog we have the choice to either try and force that dog into the predetermined mold that we envisioned for it or we can evaluate the dog for who and what it is and essentially exploit that dogs strengths to hide or reduce its weaknesses. Lying to ourselves about who or what our dogs are or about who or what we are as their trainers will only diminish the working relationship that we share with them as well as severely effect the success of our training efforts.

Once we can be honest with our dogs and ourselves we are actually in a much better position to not only experience training advancements but to also meet and surpass our original training goals. At this point I begin to focus on the two parts of training that I think promote the best results: remove the gray and be fair. I’m going to address both of this points in further detail in the next two paragraphs. If you are bored now, leave, because it’s only going to get worse. lol Anyone that knows me knows 2 things about me and training. Number one is that I win at obediene. A lot. I don’t say that to boast or brag, I say it simply as a fact. I win much more often than I don’t.  I don’t win because I’m a great trainer or even a good trainier. I win because I am fair and my dogs give their hearts every time we step onto the field because they appreciate and have confidence in that fact. Number two is that I am fiercely loyal to my training theory beause it allows me to be fair, to let the dog shine for what it is and above all, to let us enjoy the trip, the training and the victories.

Removing the gray sounds easy. Training should, after all, be black and white but it is absolutely astounding what we can do to complicate it. Sit means sit. Sounds easy enough. Sounds perfectly black and white. That’s because it is. Where we get the “gray” is when we tell our dogs “sit” and the dog instead smells the ground, looks at another dog, dances around and smiles or jumps on us. When we laugh and say “oh, ground must smell good” or “no, now is not the time for hugsies super sweetie baby doggy” or “oh, you want some attention, don’t you?” we create the gray. If you allow a behavior you agree with it and every time the dog attempts something other than sit and we reward it either by laughing it off or explaining it away, we are not doing them or ourselves any favors. We are only complicating matters and creating more gray in our black and white world. I prefer, instead to use marker words and rewards. “Yesssss!” and a reward of food or a toy for good, “nein” and a witholding of the reward for no. Once the dog knows and understands all commands then a negative reinforcer such as a collar pop will be added to the “no” to create consequence for ignored commands.

Now we come to the fairness portion, which, fortunately for me, the dogs and the sake of brevity, matches up very well with removing the gray. It is unfair of me to expect the dog to reason out that if I say sit at training, it means sit but at home it means ‘walk around for 5 more minutes and then lay over there’. It is unfair of me to only mean what I say on the trial field and it is unfair of me to rely on the use of threats and correction colllars or other training tools to bully my dog into listening while on the training field only to undo all of that by trying to reason my dog into obedience at all other times. I’m not saying I do any of these things (in fact I try not very hard not to. lol) but sadly I have seen it all done as people try to make thir way down the path of training. My dogs perform only because they know that compliance will, at all times and in all situations, result in positive things. Treats, toys, hugs, pets, whatever it takes to make that dog know that that one simple act of obedience was enough to make me the proudest owner on that field. 

My dogs are by no means robots that listen 24/7/365. They do have their off days and they also have their moments of brilliance. What I’ve found is that through removing the gray and being consistantly fair, I’ve been able to increase those brilliant moments and decrease the off days. Anytime you are rewarded for one behavior and discouraged for another it makes it easier to continue to choose the correct behavior and forget about the bad. They have joy in their work and their jobs because it has always been a source of excitement and praise and they have confidence in their work because they know they can count on me to be fair. I am not willing to accept radicial changes to my theory because I will jealously guard the resulting work ethocs that they bring to the table. My methodoloy can and will change because any time I can find a way to further narrow the gray I can and will take advantage of that, provided that that method also is grounded in fairness. I’d rather retire a dog untitled than force it joylessly into work that it has no interest or natural ability for. Right or wring it is where I stand.

So that’s my training in a nutshell. I train dogs. I train them fairly, consistantly and concisely. I train not for results, but for the joy of the work and the sake of the dog. Love it or hate it it’s the only way I can be. I won’t abuse a dog for a title. I won’t take a shortcut to get fast results. I will give that dog every advantage. I wil take every pain to help that dog understand not only the commands that we use but also the joy that can be found in following them. I’ve said many times that I have never met a person with a dog problem but I have met many a dog with a person problem. I say it because I mean it. As humans we seem to think the dog should be the smarter half of the team and reason through OUR thought processes. While it may not be true, I prefer to at least THINK that I am smarter than my dogs, and therefore present things to them in a way that they understand. Easily, effectively and happily.