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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Lucas method - by Bruce

Below is a photo of our three dogs and Carol. Gypsy which I had written about before and our two German Shepherds, (GSD's), Bozwell and Sarah. I have specifically wanted to write about our dogs for some time now but hesitated fearing I could not do them justice. There is no way I could write about their virtues the way Barbara Galasso does in her German Shepherd blog referenced on the right at the top of the list under blog's that I follow. Whether you own GSD's or not I suggest you read her blogs to better understand what I will write about our two GSD's. I intend to write about those who own GSD's not the breed and its many virtues. Many own GSD's that probably should not have them in the first place. I have done enough applications to adopt GSD's that I can say the one common comment about them is their intelligence. They are truly remarkable dogs and almost everyone recognizes their intelligence as superior.
That is why I called this blog topic the Lucas method. There are different ways to train GSD's, but the one that works best for me is what I call the Lucas method. Not far from where we live is a wolf refuge run by a fellow named Kent. Kent has rescued wolves and observed their behavior for many years now. Kent told me about a special wolf called Lucas, an Alfa male wolf that was totally unique. He ran the pack based upon his dedication and love for the pack and each wolf within the pack. The other wolves by consensus appointed and kept him as leader until his natural death even though there were younger and stronger wolves within the pack that could have easily taken over. Lucas was their choice due to his love for each member of his pack not his dominance over the others. Wolves and GSD's have many similarities in common inasmuch as they are both highly intelligent and large family oriented animals. They have a built in lie detector system that is better than any man could ever build. It simply can't be fooled or tricked. It is virtually fool proof and totally reliable. You can't fool them. If you have sincere love and concern for each member of your pack they know it with certainty. In Lucas' case the other wolves chose him because of love not power. Actually love is power but not over bearing power.

There are two ways to train a dog. You can exert your will over them, which is what most people do, or you can be so pack oriented that they choose you. The last is what I call the Lucas method and how I prefer to raise our GSD's. They actually choose you as pack leader rather than you having to exert your will over them. I can give examples of how this works. When our GSD's are allowed into the back yard and there are deer outside the fence their nature is to run to the fence toward the deer, hair all ruffed up. I call their name and they go from high alert to looking at me for direction. I tell them to leave the deer alone and they will divert from the deer to checking out the back yard or going about their business. I vary whether I call them off or not to make sure they will obey when I do call them off. When I let them out in the morning to go potty they will all head in different directions and when done will usually come back and sit by me and wait by me until everyone is finished. They have never been trained to do that, it is just what they do. They keep a vigil for the other members of the pack.

A few days ago Carol had the two GSD's on leash and I had Gypsy. About 40 yards ahead of us a 500+ bear walked out into the road and both GSD's lunged on leash. Carol hung on to the leash but they were carrying on at the bear and Carol was on her butt in the road. I grabbed Bozwell's leash and let him know who had control and he immediately calmed down and then Sarah calmed down. Gypsy barked but was under control from the start. I turned my back on the bear and focused on Bozwell and when I turned around the bear was headed back into the woods. On my authority as elected pack leader the GSD's went from a high state of alert to calm. To be a Lucas type pack leader you have to be always aware of what the others in the pack are doing and be a very close observer of each one.

The dog whisperer on the National Geographic channel has worked miracles with all kinds of dogs but when it comes to dogs as smart as GSD's he may have a ways to go. He does wonderful things with dogs but there are other methods that work well too. I think the Lucas method is a great way but not suitable for everyone. It requires close observation of your pets and knowing something about their traits and responding properly on a consistent basis. It adds a new dimension to what he teaches, I think. Carol has times when the Lucas method works for her but it seems to work better for me. As we go on our morning walks when I have both GSD's, they are constantly paying attention to me and looking for direction. For me the morning walk is an intense period where I connect with the dogs. I believe they generally walk better for me than Carol most of time.

Animals have an instinct that we have evolved away from but in the GSD it is still keen and active. If they pick you as pack leader by consensus rather than you having to exert your will on them they naturally respond better. It is accomplished through consistency, observation, trust and being aware of all their needs. It worked for Lucas the wolf and it seems to work for me. I do not believe it would work for everyone though. When it does work however and that bond of trust and love is established it is the highest standard.

That is why some people can be around wild animals and have no fear because they know by instinct that you mean them no harm and they in return have no fear either. There have been people like that down through the years that can connect with various animals on a level that others can not. Whether it is a special gift of love or a very keen awareness of animals and their traits I don't know. I wish mine were more refined but at least our dogs fully realize there is a love bond between us and they submit out of love not an exercise of my will. They do naturally what many have to be trained to do. Thanks Lucas for your big heart, your love, and your constant caring for the individual pack members. You taught Kent a lot and he revealed to me your secrets too. It is only right that you be recognized for what you accomplished.


Barbara said...

This was GREAT Bruce especially this write....."They have a built in lie detector system that is better than any man could ever build." Right you are. They know when someone is "faking" it or if they are truly someone that they can trust. Oh yeah and they have a memory like an elephant. Do them wrong one time and they never forget it and their trust of you is never the same. I'm afraid I'm not a Lucas type trainer. Two of my three are "out of control." Can I send them to you in "bear" country?

Bruce said...

You sure can Barbara. I wish we were closer because I think having GSD's that do what you want because 'they' want to do it rather than 'having' to do it works better in the long run.

Lucas was one smart old wolf. He was so good that none of the other younger wolves in his pack even tried to challenge him which is totally unheard of. There is so much to learn from animals and so little time....

GingerC said...

Very well written! Love your descriptions. I might add that the "Lucas method" can also not work on certain dogs. I have had a couple like both cases they were dogs that did not have EARLY human bonding.

Barbara said...

I'm afraid Bruce that we'll never learn everything that there is to learn about animals. I've always said that they operate on a whole other "plane" totally different from ours. Their really are on a whole other level than we are. I think I might have written something about this train of thought one time or another.

Bruce said...

Thank you for the kind words Ginger. Any encouragement is welcome.