Owning a survival dog for comfort as well as protection has been a major goal of mine for the last several years. But knowing what a big responsibility this is, I knew we needed to be in the right place in our lives before we could accomplish that goal. Now, after settling into a place with a big yard and plenty of room to explore. We decided that the time was right, and brought home our brand new German Shepherd/Husky mix puppy on Christmas Day.
Breed: German Shepherd/Husky mix
In this article series, we will chronicle the joys and pains and training a pup to be a perfect playmate for the kids while also retaining the skills needed to become a fierce guard dog and efficient hunter and tracker. We will provide a concise, step-by-step guide to provide the tools you need train your puppy into the perfect survival dog. When trained correctly, certain dog breeds can learn to help with various tasks around the house or farm, flush out game and track prey, locate resources such as food, ammo and other survival items and even provide search and rescue assistance. What better companion to have around in the EOTW? Not to mention, these fiercely loyal animals will lay down their life for you in a crisis situation without so much as blinking an eye.
We opted for a mixed breed to help reduce the possibility of breed-specific health issues that often arise in full blooded breeds. Not to suggest that a mutt is better then a full blooded dog, only that depending on your needs and how much you want to spend you may or may not choose to go for a pure bred dog.
Ayla’s mother is a pure bred German Shepherd Dog (GSD) and her father is a 75% GSD 25% Husky mix. Of course these percentages are only theoretical based on the fact that her grandfather on her dads side was 50/50 GSD/Husky. We know that sometimes specific traits can be more dominant than others, making it a little more difficult to predict certain personality traits. Luckily both breeds have some very valuable charactaristics, and Ayla seems to be a good mix of both, however most of her qualities seems to lean more towards the GSD. She is highly intelligent, eager to please and absolutely busting with energy!
Her cute, floppy ears will begin to stand up strait around 4 to 5 months. This is a common characteristic of adult GSD’s.
First Things First
Deciding what type of survival dog is right for your family is a very important task that should not be taken lightly. Considering the high demands that will be required of an animal to be used in a service capacity, you will want to make sure you choose a dog that is capable of handling the job. Be sure to check out our article on choosing a survival dog to help you make a well-informed decision.
Once you have decided that you and your family are mentally and physically for this responsibility and you have selected the perfect breed for you, it’s time for the real fun to begin!
When you first bring home your new survival pup. One of the most important things to remember is that consistency is key! You must decide what the rules of the house are and every member of the family must agree to uphold the established rules for the new pup at all times. If you deviate from this, your intelligent new pup will quickly learn to manipulate situations according to who lets him get away with more or even worse, that the rules are bendable. Either of which is a bad message to send to your impressionable new puppy.
Main Rules to Decide Immediately
1. Where the puppy will sleep: I highly recommend the crate training method simply for cleanliness and to give the dog a place that he can call his own. Most dogs do not go to the bathroom where they sleep so this is a great tool for controlling when and where your pup learns to go to the toilet. You want to make sure that the pup is crated where you can hear him whining to go out in the middle of the night. Be sure to always allow your pup to go outside to relieve himself when he cries, and put him right back into his crate. If you allow him to play at this time, he will also learn to whine when he wants to come out and play, not just when he needs to go outside.
2. Potty Training: Choose one door in the house and take your pup outside through the same door every time. This will ensure that the pup knows where to go when it’s time to go outside and does not become confused and decide to go somewhere else in the house. For Ayla, we decided to hang a bell on the door for her to ring when ever she needs to go. That way we are sure to hear her.
3. Chow Time: Decide where to put your dogs food and water bowl, and when they will be fed. Dogs should always have access to fresh water at all times of the day, but food should be restricted to 1 or 2 times per day, and should be at pretty consistent times such as once in the morning, once in the afternoon. I do not recommend free feeding as this could lead to bloat or weight problems later in life. Plus, letting them know you’re the one who feeds them will help them to quickly establish affection for you.
4. Rules of the Roost: Decide whether or not the pup will be allowed to sit on the furniture and stick with it! I recommend not allowing your new puppy onto your furniture at all, especially with the larger dog breeds. Although it’s cute for them to hop up and sit on your lap now when they’re cute little puppies, it’s not gonna be so cute when you’ve got a fully grown 90 lb dog trying to climb onto your lap.
5. Starting commands: Decide on 3 commands to work with do not introduce any new ones until those 3 commands have been completely mastered. Here are my suggestions for the first three:
SIT – This command is the pillar of all other commands. You want your pup to learn this one right from the very beginning. Not only is it one of the easiest for them to learn, but it will also allow you to establish who is in control from the very start. If you do not assert your dominance with your pup very early on, they will try to become pack leader and assert their dominance over you. This is simply the way they live in nature and it is our job to teach them the way we expect them to live in their new, domesticated environment.
STAY – This is also a good basic command to teach from the beginning because it will allow you to keep your curious new puppy away from situations that may not be safe for him or her. If you can use the stay command every time you allow the pup inside the house, they will quickly associate their response to this a positive thing. To the puppy he thinks, I stay = I get to come in the warm house. That way, later on it will be easier to control your dog when he is of the leash.
GO POTTY – Whether you call it “potty”, “doing your business”, “outside time” or whatever other term you feel comfortable, choose one way to call it and always remind the puppy what it is. When you take your dog outside and excitedly encourage her “go to the potty Ayla”, then she learns what the word potty means, and she also associates the time with warm, positive feelings making her more apt to let you know when she needs to go in the future. I hung a jingle bell necklaceon the door handle and has been a fantastic training tool since it allows the dog to make sure she can be heard when she really needs to go. It’s easy to miss a whine or bark as something other then a bathroom call, but when you bell train you are sure that the pup will always be able to go when she needs to.
Always remember never to hit, spank or yell at your dog even she has an accident in the house. Most accidents are preventable if we make sure the dog gets outside often enough. If the pup learns that even when she sounds the alarm she still doesn’t get to go outside, she will eventually give up and just go in the house. It’s important to put a lot of effort in to this area during these first crucial weeks. Although it may be challenging at times, like anything that’s worth having it’s worth working for. If you follow this guide, in only a matter of months you have a well trained survival dog to call your own!
In Part 2 of the “Raising Ayla” series, we will discuss using German training commands, plan a weekly training schedule and follow Ayla on her journey to adulthood!
To learn more helpful techniques for training your service dog, check out this great book!
***This article was contributed by Chrystle Poss a.k.a. “Survival Girl”, a Survival Spot Blog Guest Author and devoted Prepper. She has been writing articles on survival and emergency preparedness since 2006. You can find her work on various websites and publications.***