Unser Hund, Hänsel

Ja, that’s totally German. It’s actually not that fancy, it simply says, “Our Dog, Hänsel”.





Well folks, our wee puppy has grown into a BIG puppy. Hänsel is huge already and only four months old. My neighbors had German Shepherd dogs when I was growing up so I know how big they are when full-grown and I saw both of Hänsel’s parents, but still, Hänsel is a big pup! And a puppy he sure is! We have never owned a dog before so this whole puppy training thing is a whole new world. It’s basically like having a furry toddler with sharp teeth.

I know those of you with dogs are laughing at me right now…

Puppies are hard! House training was easy and only lasted a few days, but man-o-man, just going for a walk is about 100 times more effort than it needs to be. Hänsel is so big that when he pulls on his leash, it nearly pulls my arm out of its socket! We are trying to teach him that he is not the alpha and do not let him lead during walks (which is why my arm is dead) and keep him at our side or behind us. It works pretty well until he can sense that we are headed home. I won’t even go into baths! Ugh! My neighbors probably think we live in a murder house from the noise of that dog yelping from water.

But, even with the frustrations, we have truly enjoyed watching him grow. If we can keep up with his basic training, I’m sure he will a great family dog. I take him around the lot every morning and evening for livestock chores so he is really good around the rabbits and chickens. Honestly, he could probably care less about them, but what is important to me is that he does not chase or bark at the livestock. Success there! But should a deer or dog come in the yard, they best watch themselves.

Last week when I took him out to go potty for the last time that evening, it was already pitch black outside. In just a brief moment, I could have sworn I saw some thing sneak under the porch of the next door neighbor’s house. Now keep in mind that we have all kinds of predators around here: wildcats, bears (higher on the hill), coyotes, foxes, raccoons, stray cats, stray dogs, you name it. But that night, what I saw was smooth moving, silent, and big. Mountain lion? Ack! Hänsel quickly turned around, growled, sniffed, and then decided that we better head back into the house. That scared the crap out of me. Because not only is it completely possible that it was a mountain lion (I myself have sighted two on my street in the last 7 years or so not to mention all the female calls we have heard this year), but also because the neighbor’s porch was only about 25 feet from where I was standing.

Ja, that scared the crap out of me.

So our dear Hänsel has already proven himself defender of the family and hater of deer. He is a-ok in my book even if I don’t have arms by the time I’m done puppy training him.

17 thoughts on “Unser Hund, Hänsel

  1. Who the man!
    Good dog I say!
    Smart of him to want to go back inside.
    He is huge indeed, what are you feeding him, Frühling bunnies? 🙂
    Love his ears!
    Most germans we see here are long haired.
    I prefer these, makes them look nice and muscled.

    Aren’t you scared to go outside with all those wild animals?
    I wouldn’t keep small dogs out there, they might get injured I think.
    You practically live in a zoo!
    We have nothing bigger than foxes, just my luck.

    • His father was a long hair, but his mother was short haired. I think he will be a short hair too. Aren’t his ears adorable?! I hope they stay nice and big. They remind me of bat ears. 🙂

      It really is a zoo around here. And not only because of my animals! We live in a big housing development, but the fact is, we still live on the side of a large mountain range and wild animals are a dime a dozen around here.

      Do you live in the city or the country in Belgium, Karolien?

      • I think his ears will look smaller when he grows up, pitty cause bat ears are the best!
        I bet you have all kinds of yucky critters as well?
        Spiders, snakes and so on..

        I think what best describes how we live is the suburbs.
        We are in between 2 cities, about 7km drive to one of them.
        Good for me there’s plenty of fields and woods nearby.
        I’ve never been a city person, they make me nervous 🙂
        Guess what..I’m born in Mechelen, and Mechelen is the city where ‘mechelse schepers’ come from…’malinois shepperd dogs’.
        They are quite popular in the US?
        I actually know this guy who trains them to become guard dogs.
        And he ones trained, damn can’t find his name!!
        This action movie actor…it’s on the tip of my tongue…

      • I used to be very comfortable in the city, but now I have lived here in a small mountain community for about 10 years. Now cities make me feel claustrophobic.

        I have seen/heard of Malinois Shepherds! But I don’t think they are very popular here in California. Maybe in other parts of the U.S.? Most people here have Pit Bulls, Chihuahuas, Black Labs, or Golden Retrievers.

  2. German Shepherds grow into their paws and ears. Hansel will be a good 120 lb dog by the time he finishes growing.

    I’ve trained shepherds my life. It is done with a short lead and a choke collar. I know it sounds cruel, but they learn faster. My two girls Greta and Eilsa are 10 weeks old now and have already learned the basic commands and house rules after only two weeks with me. Being post stroke, I only have stable use of the left side body. They are very intelligent and eager to please. Establishing Alpha status is the first thing I do usually within 24 hours h reminders daily for the first week.

    About what crawled under the neighbor’s porch, if it had of been yours Hansel would probably attacked it to protect you. His willingness to go inside was probably to get you inside to be safe. You are his and vice versa.

    • Thanks for the tips! Truly! We have been keeping him on a very short leash so that he can’t lead or go any further than at the side of the person holding the leash. We actually had to buy a training choke collar for him yesterday becasue it is so hard to walk him. And now.. voila! No more pulling!

      I think you’re right about him trying to get me in the house more than him trying to run away. It was a very strange thing.

      • NOT saying that choke collars are bad (okay, choke collars are bad, prong/pinch collars are better in that they are less likely to cause an injury), but you don’t want to rely on it forever/very long. Yes, even Shepherds can be trained without choke or pinch collars. 🙂 I used a pinch collar on my dog when he was younger, but as soon as you think you can stop using it, I would. Now that my dog is older, he does great on leash, but I’ve also used the Gentle Leader head-halter-type in the past. There are also Easy Walk harnesses that work well for some dogs (not all).

        The “watch me” command is super helpful when working on leash walking with dogs. This is also great advice for teaching leash manners: http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/LeashTraining/Loose-Leash/.

        I would also absolutely recommend “The Other End of the Leash” by Patricia B. McConnell, as well as some of her other books. Dr. Ian Dunbar is also great (his website dogstardaily.com has loads of free info) and Dr. Sophia Yin has good advice as well.

        One last thing, be careful of trying to be “alpha” and try more to focus on just being a LEADER for your dog. Going down the “alpha” path will more often than not take you backwards 10 or 20 years in dog training/behavior. Obviously I don’t know how Jo trains her dogs so I am not trying to bash her use of the word, but when most people talk about “being alpha”, it ends up being old-school-punishment-driven ideas. You just want to end up with a dog who respects you and sees you as a source of direction and stability … without having to “alpha roll” them, lol. 🙂

      • You make some very good points. I guess what I have is called a prong collar then… not a choke collar. It has pokey things that lay flat when relaxed and stick up when pulled.

        I don’t want to use punishment “techniques” on our dog either which makes walking him with this collar necessary. He has a regular fabric collar for around the yard. I think in a week or two we won’t even need to use the pokey one anymore.

      • Caitlyn,
        Perhaps Alpha is the wrong choice of words, but I do let them know it’s my way and not their way. I find using a command voice works very well. Tone of voice is everything to a pup who wants to please. It’s not all work either. There is plenty of opportunity for them to be just puppies. I find the command voice works well on children and grandchildren too. 🙂 Of course there is plenty of loving and horseplay that goes along with it too.

        In defense of choke collars, I have found that when they pull hard enough against it to cause pain, they stop long before they do injury to themselves. But then again it depends on what they are after also. I had a black lab who used to get better the children and the road to protect them from danger. I noticed the same behavior yesterday with Elsa and my 2 year old grandson who was heading towards the pond. No the choke collar won’t have worked in that case. But I agree, choke collars are used only as a training tool.

      • Jo, sounds like you raise some well adjusted dogs! I definitely agree that you should start out letting them know they can’t walk all over you … big OR small. After working with people and their dogs for many years, I would have to say that 90% of dog problems are due to the people, lol. And not on purpose for the most part, just that no one’s told them how to deal with it. You’re also right about the choke collars … they are a tool and can be helpful if you know how to use it. After seeing a lot of people who misuse it, I usually just tell new dog owners to avoid it. Sarah, like I already mentioned I do prefer the pinch type, dogs seem to understand it better. Sounds like you are on the right track! You will love having a GSD. 🙂

  3. Hi Sarah,
    I love the pictures. Just tell me one thing, how did you manage to get a puppy with ears large enough to match the rabbits? Glad you were safe and protected.
    6 days ago we had our first litter of kits, 9 of them. Our Snow Ball is a first time mother and has done nothing right. She did not make a nest or pull wool. She had the litter on the cage floor, scattered everywhere. Fortunately I found them within the half hour she gave birth. Last night she nocked one out of the nest and it froze. Poor thing. She doesn’t like to feed so I sit with her in my lap every 12 hours to give the little ones a chance. So far so good. At least she has milk even if she has no idea what she is doing. She guards the nest box but that’s seems to be it as far as instinct goes. She is eating well but doesn’t like her oats even though I have mixed them with sunflower seeds and some pellets. Any suggestions would be great. I have another 1st time doe expecting in about 3 weeks and I would love to get her off to a better start. These are French Angora. Thanks, Lotte in PA
    PS; Glad you like the ‘post card’. The picture was up in the mountains of Switzerland, where my dad comes from. Absolutely beautiful!

    • I special ordered him with the giant ears. 😉

      I had a doe (Dandelion) that was the same way with her litters. It doesn’t get any better. After a few litters that I had to constantly care for or keep a close eye on, I sold her to a “pet/fiber home” because she just wasn’t a good mother. I can’t afford to keep a poor breeder or poor mother around here.

      It isn’t so much a first-time mother thing. Poor mothering instincts are kind of a case-by-case thing. But I have noticed that it is genetic. A rabbit that is a poor mother will usually produce more rabbits with poor mothering instincts.

      Are you trying rolled oats? I’ve noticed my rabbits don’t like crimped or whole oats much, but gobble down the rolled oats. You are mixing them just fine… you probably just have some picky rabbits. You may try to trick the does a little by offering the oats an hour or two before feeding pellets for the day.

      • Thanks for the rolled oats tip. Over the last few days her milk has become more. She also lost a total of 4 kits to the cold, 3 all at one. Since then we remove the nesting box when she is not feeding and give her the kits twice a day. This seems to have helped since she is not yet willing to wait till they are finished eating. I do keep them in a cool part of the house so they won’t have trouble adjusting to the colder temperature in the garage where the cages are kept in the winter.
        Sadly though, we did loose one kit for other reasons. It was VERY small and slowly ate less and less no matter how much we encouraged it. The doe even held still for me to milk her into the kits mouth but I guess nature had other plans. We are now down to 4 kits, nice and big. I hope we don’t loose any more.
        Next month we have another 1st time doe expecting. I think I have learned a little on what to watch for and hopefully we will have greater success. I will keep you up to date. Perhaps my daughter can help me send you a pic or two. She loves photography. Today we took a pic of the 4 little guys with full tummys all sleeping in a row, bellies up. And they held still too!
        Thank you for all your help and for your love and enthusiasim for ‘small’ farming.

      • Oh man, I’m sorry to hear about your kit losses. That’s never any fun. The kit that you say was smaller than the rest sounds like it was a runt. The runts never thrive no matter how much you try to “force” them to. I’ve noticed that at a certain point, they will refuse to eat. There isn’t much you can do about that.

        I bring the kits inside at night during real cold weather too. At least until they open their eyes. On e they start opening their eyes, they get super jumpy like popcorn and it’s hard to keep them in the nestbox. Then I fill the doe’s cage full of hay and turn the nestbox on its side so they can hop in and out to their little hearts content.

        I wish you the best of luck with your next litter! Don’t get discouraged if you have a runt in a litter, there always seems to be one. (And yes, send me that photo! I’d love to see some bunny bellies.)

  4. Us who read along like baby bellies too hint hint 🙂

    In a little while I’ll have 2 skinny pig litters..very excited!!

    Babies are just too cute, no matter which kind, even bambi’s Sarah 😛

  5. The last 2 years we’ve had a mountain lion in our area and it liked to use my backyard as a sidewalk and my dogs would go nuts at night when they could smell it. At the time my boyfriend worked overnights at his job which is only a half block away from the house and they spotted it several times watching them outside the fence (the whole place is fenced in). They even caught it on the video surveillance system jumping the fence after everyone left at 3am to go after the rabbits in the yard and my boyfriend was the only one given permission to carry a gun with him at night in case it jumped the fence while they were working. We haven’t seen signs of it this year yet so I’m hoping its moved on since I don’t feel like it using my smaller dogs as snacks. (I have 4 dogs: 2 Boston terriers, a German shorthaired pointer and an olde English bulldogge/English pointer mix. Its a house full).

    Also tip for walking is when he starts to pull stop and walk in the opposite direction of the why he’s pulling to show him he needs to follow you. Then after 5 to 10 steps turn back around and walk in the direction you were headed. Trust me, when my last dog was a puppy (well she still is at 2) my neighborhood thought I was losing it until some of my neighbors stopped and asked me what i was doing Lol. He’s turning out to be a handsome doggie 🙂

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