The opportunity came as a surprise to Ljúfur and me. A friend of ours saw a small ad someplace int the Net and pointed it out to us. We responded – or I responded for him – and a few days later he met with Ída for the first time.
She was a few days into her Heat cycle and her owners felt she should have at least one litter in her life. She is a pure bred German Shepherd, and as Ljúfur is also a pure bred, they seemed a perfect match, since they are unrelated.
They met a few times during her season and ten weeks later Ída had a litter of eight healthy pups. It is a custom that owner of the stud can have one pup for himself, sometimes two, but we were only interested in one. I had for a while had a secret wish to have a daughter of Ljúfur for my own house. Ída is intelligent and virile bitch and I was enthusiastic to have Ljúfur’s daughter with her.
When the puppies where born I was occupied for three months. As I had to pay a penalty to the judiciary system for having walked in on a sex-adventure of my X and a friend of hers. Unfortunately because of this, I was unable to choose a puppy for myself.
I place great emphasis on how to choose a puppy, and as every dog owner does, and there are many recommendations to this procedure, I have to mention my own procedure which is quite simple. Choose the dog who loves you if you can love it back!
The reason for this is very simple. The puppy who loves you more than the others, will do everything you ask of it. If you love it back, you will care better for it and have more fun training it.
Since I was away when the time came for the puppies to choose a new home we had a problem. Ída’s owner had promised that I would be the first to choose and that I wanted a female puppie. My sister was looking after Ljúfur and Salka at this time, so it fell on her to find a solution to this dilemma. She opted to let Ljúfur make the choice for us. She took him a couple of times to visit the litter and in both of those visits there was an obvious connection between one of the females and their father. Ljúfur made the choice for both of us.
When I was a free man again I was able to make the first trip to visit the litter, which I did first thing. Soon it was apparent that Ljúfur had made the best choice when he chose Birta.
Birta was the only pup Ída had problems with, there was simply no way she could discipline her. She has a fiery spirit and a determined soul. Plus she has an loud attitude and is vocal about almost everything in her environment. There was no way that she would keep quiet and she onley obeys when she has thought about it. Ída tried to discipline her but there was no way that she would back down.
At first I wasn’t sure how to raise her with her powerful spirit. It seemed to me that I had a choice of two options. Be firm with discipline from beginning and to train her through games and encouragement from early on. The second option was to allow Salka and Ljúfur to influence her, to stay myself on the sideline and allow her to outgrow her bad habits through her own choice. I opted for the latter for I was interested to see how the other dogs – Káta was also in the home – would bring her up. I was also aware that I was dealing with a post-imprisonment depression and I don’t believe one should train more than minimum when depressed.
As time went on I learnt quite a bit about how older dogs allow the young ones to grow up. For one thing the pup is almost never disciplined. He can wallow in the food as much he can, to the point of snatching bones from the mouth of older ones. I have seen a grown dog give way to a pup trying to snatch a bone from the jaws of other dogs but it is rare. But as playing goes the pup is allowed to attack and bully the grown dogs until they reach somewhere around eighteen months old. Around the age of maturity between fourteen and eighteen months the pup becomes a grown up and is not anymore allowed to bully grown ups.
For Birta to come off from teenage to grown up was fluent. Salka had always been her primary playmate, her father sometimes cutting in. It hadn’t been easy for Birta to play with Ljúfur. He is large, strong and from puppy point of view a bit clumsy, so she could easily hurt herself. Káta on the other hand – who is more the leader than Ljúfur – never played with the pup, not when seen doing so. There were moments when Káta took Birta by the two of them and taught her, or bonded with her, throug games.
The first twelve months were hard on me because of her barking habit. If she met anyone human or dog she would brake out in barking. When meeting the other dogs in my SAR training group, she would run around barking at anyone. She would be vocal in any situation which took her fancy and be relentless.
There was a time time when I felt like putting some work into discipline for her barking was really difficult at times. But gradually she came to her senses. My attitude with dog-barking has always been “not to join in”. As when you give out to a dog who is barking, you’re actually joining in on the loudness and agitation. When adopting an attitude of not caring and not joining in, the reason for barking goes away more quickly. Except for greeting guests, a dog has less need for barking if you don’t care for it and if you feel nothing as opposed to the agitation in the dog. This attitude helped Birta to gradually lessen her own need for noise and as she was sometimes rewarded for shutting up, she saw more reason to shut up some more than not.
I also reasoned that while the older dogs where taking care of her upbringing, she had less bond with me and therefore less reason than not to pay attention to my wishes. Of course this would have changed quickly had I trained her, or played with her, about twice a week. But I was curious. How would the other dogs teach her and how does a puppy grow up in a pack. No one I knew in human world could teach me this, so I relied on my own pack to do it.
Eventually as Birta began to mature her vocal attitude matured as well. When she was around eighteen months I began to give her negative response to her barks and she quickly adopted a new attitude. At the time I realized that I had probably made a mistake and I will not make it again: It would have been easier for me, my neighbors and others if I had taught her early on to keep quiet. I also realize that I would have had an easier and better adjusted dog had I trained her twice a week. This being said, I also would still have a lot to learn on dog-pack behaviour.
All in all Birta has been a source of joy in my house. Barking has been a problem yes, but that’s about it. When she was around eight months old, her friend Salka had six puppies with Ljúfur. It had been an accident on my part. I hadn’t paid proper attention when Salka was in heat and behold: Consequenses.
From the day those puppies got born Birta was beside the litter. She watched her siblings with interest day and night. She tried to teach them to play as soon as they could look her in the eye, by dropping toys into the box but never going in there herself. Somehow she new that the box was off limits to all but Salka, or perhaps she understood her own size.
At the time she was quite large and muscular as she had plenty of exercise from playful and energetic Salka. The moment her siblings left the box on their own accord she looked after them along with their mother. She played with them, cleaned them and care for them. She was almost better at cleaning their spills than their mother was. That being said, I have never seen a bitch more attentive and hard working than Salka.
Birta also is a very gentle soul. She has a determined and strong minded soul indeed. And yes she might greet you barking. But the moment she reaches you she’ll try her best to kiss you, lick you and befriend you. This has always been a core of her being, just like her father: Gentle friendliness is a core of their soul.
Also she is very keen on playing with other dogs and humans and has always been. She is a quick study and regurgitates on what she learns. Two commands are always taught early on with every of my dogs. “Think” and “foot”. Think, is when a dog has wound the leash around a lamp post or the humans legs, but has to unwind and fix the leash by himself. Foot’, is when the leas has gone down under between the front legs of the dog, making the leash pull the neck down when the dog pulls it. This command is to alert the dog to fix the leash by himself by lifting one of its front legs thus allowing the leash to straighten out.
Both of these commands, Foot and Think, where hinted to Birta the week she came to my house, only nine weeks old. She learnt them immediately and since then, as is usually with dogs who learn these techniques, has never allowed the leash to get in the way of a good walk experience.
In fact, the reason I teach these two commands immediately is simple. I have noticed from experience that when a dog learns this leash technique quickly it alerts and ferments their minds. They learn to use their intellect more quickly and to more complicated tasks. Actually I feel that thes two commands are the only basic essential commands to teach, as other commands and techniques tend to follow naturally from the interest of the dog.