Merritt Clifton: German Shepherd Apologist

Attack Dog Training

German shepherds are one of the most common breeds in the world. I am not opposed to people keeping them and breeding them. Some of these dogs are wonderful family pets. Others are superior law enforcement dogs.

But what I do oppose is total hypocrisy in providing analysis about different breeds of dog.

I have not mentioned on this space before, but I am deeply skeptical of the research put out by Merritt Clifton of Animals 24-7. Not only does he get a lot of breed history wrong– his sloppy use of the term “molosser” is enough for me to question anyone’s expertise about dogs– but he actually engages in pseudoscientific claims about the behavior of breeds he happens to like.

Most people know Clifton for his tireless campaign to prove to the world that “pit bulls” are walking time bombs that are just about to explode at any moment.  Anyone who questions him has been targeted as a “pit bull apologist” or a “pit bull nutter.”

But Clifton himself is one hell of an apologist. Just not with pit bulls.

In his analysis of dog bites from 1982-2014,* Clifton makes some interesting claims about German shepherd bites:

German shepherds are herding dogs, bred for generations to guide and protect sheep. In modern society, they are among the dogs of choice for families with small children, because of their extremely strong protective instinct. They have three distinctively different bites: the guiding nip, which usually does not break the skin; the grab-and-drag, to pull a puppy or lamb or child away from danger, which is as gentle as emergency circumstances allow; and the reactive bite, usually in defense of territory, a child, or someone else the dog is inclined to guard. The reactive bite usually comes only after many warning barks, growls, and other exhibitions intended to avert a conflict. When it does come, it is typically accompanied by a frontal leap for the wrist or throat.

Because German shepherds often use the guiding nip and the grab-and-drag with children, who sometimes misread the dogs’ intentions and pull away in panic, they are involved in biting incidents at almost twice the rate that their numbers alone would predict: approximately 28% of all bite cases, according to a recent five-year compilation of Minneapolis animal control data. Yet none of the Minneapolis bites by German shepherds involved a serious injury: hurting someone is almost never the dogs’ intent.

There are several Clifton’s claims. The first is he conflates herding dogs with livestock guardian dogs. Herding dogs really don’t guard sheep, and the German shepherd’s ancestors were herding dogs. Instead, they engage in predatory behavior that is modified through selective breeding and training. Everyone who lives in a rural area knows that untrained collie-types are a major problem for people keeping sheep and goats. With no training to modify their behavior, they often surplus kill stock. Livestock guardian dogs, by contrast, bond with the stock and protect them. They are selected against exhibiting predatory behavior, and although these dogs sometimes do become predators of livestock, it is not something that anyone would breed for or tolerate within those strains. With herding dogs, though, it is often a tricky balance between herding and hunting.

Note that I said the German shepherd’s ancestors were bred for herding. The modern GSD has not been bred exclusively for this behavior for over a century. If you want an idea of what the original GSD was like, you will have to go to eastern Germany’s Harz Mountains and look for a mid-sized herding dog called Harzer fuchs, which means “Harz fox.”  GSD were partially developed from the Thuringian sheepdog, and the Harz Mountains extend into Thurginia. This dog is actually an active herding breed, but Germany itself has many regional variants of sheepdog. This one just happens to look a lot like the standard German shepherd and is probably similar to the Thuringian type of dog that was crossed into the GSD.

The dog we call a German shepherd dog today, though, has undergone a radical transformation from the sheepdog. One cannot ignore that the dog we call the GSD today was largely the brainchild of a German cavalry officer named Max von Stephanitz. Stephanitz used prick-eared sheepdogs from southern and Eastern Germany, and very quickly began to standardize them and develop them as generalist working dogs. He founded the  Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde in 1899, and his club began developing the breed as the ultimate working dog. There was a heavy emphasis on breeding the dogs for personal protection and military purposes, and a strong selection away from bite inhibition behavior.

German shepherds bite people. His decision to arbitrarily create three categories of German shepherd bite is just weaseling. No credible ethologist or animal behaviorist would recognize these distinctions. GSD have been bred for personal protection and law enforcement. When they bite, it has nothing to do with herding.  I bet there aren’t 200 GSD in all of North America that are used for herding stock, but there are thousands that are bred for protection work and sport and for law enforcement purposes.

What Clifton has done is really good example of legitimizing violence. German shepherds are generally thought of as dogs belonging to the police or a good conservative family, while pit bulls are the dogs of the nonwhite underclass. When a pit bull bites, it is a thug dog. When a German shepherd bites, it is the good shepherd.

In essence, the German shepherd is the equivalent of ” the good guy with a gun” we often hear right wing extremists talk about.

Clifton is treated as an expert on dog bite issues. I don’t know why. I will leave it to more qualified people to make analysis about pit bulls, but I can tell you that German shepherds should not be given a free pass when it comes to dog bite issues.

I am not an expert, but I do know enough about dogs to know when someone is just making stuff up.

Clifton is not giving an intellectually honest answer when he gives his German shepherd apologetics.

I write this not as someone who wants laws against German shepherds, but I can tell you that everything Clifton does is about making law on pit bulls and other “molossers,” which, I’ve pointed out, is actually bogus term.

All I am saying is consult the ethology literature on herding behavior, and read the actual history of German shepherd dogs. They are derived from herders, which is true, but they haven’t been bred exclusively for that behavior in well over a century. A German shepherd is a dog that has been bred to bite people, preferably under control and training. But an untrained, reactive GSD can do a lot of damage to person, just as any big dog could.

____________________________________________________________________________

*Clifton, Merrit. “Dog bites and maimings, US and Canada: September 1982 to December 31, 2014.” Animals 24-7.

 


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Dog Fancy Magazine Features Kevin Behan, Neil Sattin and Natural Dog Training

I always look forward to opening up the mailbox. Sure, email is great – but there’s something magical and mysterious about having physical, tangible items delivered to you from somewhere beyond. The other day was no exception, as I happened to receive the latest issue of Dog Fancy magazine (November 2011). And in the “Natural Dog” section is a feature on Natural Dog Training, including interviews with me and Kevin Behan, along with a couple people who have had some very positive experiences with NDT. (Cliff Abrams and Sang Koh).

The article is entitled “Push Away Stress” – and I think it does a great job of zeroing in on one of the central principles in how we interact with our dogs – that the key to establishing a rock-solid connection with your dog is to recognize that life for your dog, especially in a human world, creates stress. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to give your dog ways to relax that tap into their innate mechanisms for releasing stress. By doing so, you are teaching your dog that no matter how the world makes them feel, you are uniquely capable of helping them get through it.

Neil Sattin Heeling With His Dog Nola

This might all sound a little mumbo-jumbo-y, but I’ve seen it now time and time again, how tapping into your dog’s primal circuitry changes things for the better. My DVD set (and this website, and Kevin’s books, and Lee Charles Kelley’s articles, and…) gives plenty of examples of how once you’re plugged in with your dog you can turn that relationship into enthusiastic “obedience.”

Note that the reason that I put the word “obedience” in quotes is because the concept becomes almost moot. Your dog doesn’t “obey” you – because there’s no need. What happens is that you learn how to communicate with your dog in a language that they understand. So your dog listens, and responds.

Not because they are suddenly blindly obeying you, or because you’ve become the “authority” in their lives – but because they care what you have to say. It makes sense to them. Even more, it FEELS good to act in harmony with your desires. Because now you both want the same thing.

Neil Sattin and His Dog Nola Sit-Stay

If reading the Dog Fancy article is your introduction to Natural Dog Training, welcome! I’m sure you’re intrigued to know what “pushing” is all about – as the technique was essentially the focus of the article, without any detailed instruction on how to actually do it! As you might expect, I do explain thoroughly how to do it on my DVDs – but I also provide written instruction here on my website on How to Push with Your Dog (and the follow-up – Why to Push with Your Dog).

Thank you to Dog Fancy magazine (and writer Susan Chaney) for an open-minded article about what we do. And thanks, once again, to all of you. It’s your attention, questions, and feedback (yes, keep sending emails with your stories of your success!) that help remind me why I’m doing this in the first place.

Dog Fancy Magazine Features Kevin Behan, Neil Sattin and Natural Dog Training is a post from: Natural Dog Blog – Training and More

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A Slow Learner

This is a very slow learning process.  Good thing I have a patient dog.

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Animal Rescue: Dogs are susceptible to several types of allergies

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Allergies are just as miserable for pets as they are for humans. The constant itching, scratching, paw licking, chewing, skin rashes or chronic ear infections that come with allergies can make life uncomfortable for canines. Treatment options can
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Win a $200 Gift Card!

We all worry about losing our dogs, and thankfully technology is making it easier than ever to keep track of our dogs if they should become separated from us. We just learned about a new product…



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Couple warned that fines for lost dog flyers could cost $750,000

LOST DOG: OLLIE Is this government gone wild or lawmakers with too much time on their hands? Or is there a serious misunderstanding? WRC-TV,Channel 4 NBC reported: In Washington, DC, Roger Horowitz and his wife Annemarie were walking their dog Ollie when he was frightened by a car backfire and bolted. Ollie is a rescue dog who had been abused by his previous owners. He still has over 20 pellets in his back from having…
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Pet Food Recall: Primal Pet Food Cat Food

Primal Pet Food has voluntarily recalled a single lot of raw frozen cat food.  The official press release by the FDA is below, and it can be found here.  PetistUSA first saw news of this recall at Truth About Pet Food.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 13, 2015 – Primal Pet Foods is voluntarily recalling a single batch production code of Feline Turkey Raw Frozen Formula 3-pound bag. FDA tested product in response to a single consumer complaint. Primal Pet Foods was alerted by FDA that the testing of two bags of this lot resulted in a low thiamine level. Neither FDA nor Primal have received any other reports concerning Thiamine in Primal products. No other product manufactured by Primal Pet Foods is involved in this voluntary recall.Primal Pet Food

Only the product with the following Best By date and production code is included in the voluntary recall.  It is best to check the production code on the back of the bag to determine if the product has been recalled or not.

The lot involved in this voluntary recall is:

Primal Pet Foods Feline Turkey Raw Frozen Formula 3-pound bag (UPC# 8 50334-00414 0) with Best By date 060815 B22

Primal takes very seriously, the need for adequate Thiamine levels in our feline diets. We include Organic Quinoa Sprout Powder as a natural B-Complex supplement to ensure that adequate levels of Thiamine are met. Additionally, Thiamine occurs naturally in other ingredients contained in our Feline Turkey Formula such as: Turkey Muscle Meat (including heart), Turkey Liver, Organic Sunflower Seeds, Dried Organic Kelp, Organic Collard Greens and Organic Squash.

Consumers who still have bags of cat food from this lot should stop feeding it to their cats and call us at (866) 566-4652 Monday through Friday, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm PST. Consumers with further questions should visit our website atwww.primalpetfoods.com or call us at this same number.

Cats fed only diets low in thiamine for several weeks may be at risk for developing a thiamine deficiency. Thiamine is essential for cats. Symptoms of deficiency displayed by an affected cat can be gastrointestinal or neurological in nature. Early signs of thiamine deficiency may include decreased appetite, salivation, vomiting, and weight loss. In advanced cases, neurologic signs can develop, which may include ventriflexion (bending towards the floor) of the neck, wobbly walking, circling, falling, and seizures. If your cat has consumed the recalled lot and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian. If treated promptly, thiamine deficiency is typically reversible.

 


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Scott Walker's "Aversion" to Dogs Proves He's Human After All

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How large? How hairy? How oblivious about the concept of personal space? I know what it's like to be caught unaware in an invisible prison of dog dander, to feel that creeping itch in your eyes and a scratch in the back of your throat and finally—if
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Company offers chance to 'rent' a bunny as test run for pet ownership
About a dozen children and their parents came out to a STEM Bunnies event in Bloomington on Tuesday to learn about rabbits and touch and pet the animals. Markus Bachman, a 15-year-old volunteer, spoke to the kids about the commitment of owning a …
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Dog Training – It’s All About the Relationship

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Photo by AndyMcLemore

Your dog’s behavior doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase (or seen it written here): “The dog is always right”? The reason is that dogs are simply responding to what is happening in their environment. And, specifically, how their environment makes them feel.

Whatever your dog is doing, it is ALL about the relationship that you have with your dog. And the relationship that you have with the significant people in your life. And the relationship that you have with yourself.

The obvious relationship that matters here is how you are with your dog. Are you nervous? Rigid? Harsh? Grounded? What are you communicating with your body language? What is your emotional state communicating to your pup? 99% of the time, what your dog is doing is “right” – meaning that your dog is simply taking in all of the information that you’re giving (and primarily the physical and emotional information – NOT the intellectual or conceptual information) and doing what makes the most sense to a canine under the circumstances.

Guess who else’s behavior doesn’t exist in a vacuum? YOURS! You are affected by your self-image and beliefs, and the relationships that you’re having with those around you. One of the biggest challenges that I’ve had over the past 10+ years of working with people and their dogs has been helping the PEOPLE change their habits. I would see, over and over again, how the emotional atmosphere of a person’s life – their stress at work, or in their primary relationships, or their view of themselves – was affecting how they lived their lives. Their habits. And this is important, because…

Your habits are creating your dog’s habits.

A little over 5 years ago I decided to branch out and get some training, as a coach, from the Robbins-Madanes Institute for Strategic Intervention. For me it was an opportunity to not only focus on shifting my own habits of being, but to also develop more skills at facilitating change for the humans with whom I was working. In the time since then, it has truly been an honor to not only be helping people with their dogs, but also to be helping them with the overall quality of their lives.

During that time, it became a passion of mine to work with people on improving their romantic relationships. You may notice that my original site (yes, this existed BEFORE Naturaldogblog) www.neilsattin.com has been revived. There’s a lot of great content there, and more in the works, that’s focused specifically on improving relationships. I’m also about to launch a podcast, called Relationship Alive, focused on helping you have amazing relationships (or easeful breakups – should that be the path that you choose). So stay tuned for more information on that.

In the meantime – think about it this way. Your dog is an emotional creature, picking up on everything that’s happening in the environment and responding from a place of heart – not head. What’s going on in your world? Where is the stress? Where is the tension? Where is the anger? Where is the love? Now look at your dog’s behavior, and ask yourself “how is my dog giving a voice to everything that’s happening in our world together?” I look forward to hearing what insights you uncover.

Dog Training – It’s All About the Relationship is a post from: Natural Dog Blog – Training and More

Want your dog to come when called, no matter what?

Want to strengthen then connection between you and your dog?

Check out Neil Sattin's Instructional Videos - step-by-step instruction that makes it easy and fun!


Natural Dog Blog – Training and More

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