How to grow a German shepherd

Local breeder, Jan Zerebeski, shares what it takes to train dogs well

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Several years ago, we ran a story on JanzHaus, a German Shepherd breeding business located west of Sylvan Lake. Owner, Jan Zerebeski contacted us to provide some updates to the story and clarify a few points.

Original story: German Shepherds an alternative to security systems

With the current increased concern about rural crime Zerebeski has noticed a corresponding increase of interest in people asking about security dogs.

“Just in the last week I’ve had numerous calls asking for security dogs they can adopt to protect their acreages because there’s been some recent break-ins around the Sylvan area,” she said.

Zerebeski said she sees people as wanting to raise their puppies to be a family pet first and foremost but that they also feel safer and more secure with a German shepherd for protection.

“Our dogs have particular personality traits which make them suitable for police work, detection work, search and rescue and wonderful family pets.”

JanzHaus has imported and bred German Shepherds for 20 years. Her motto is the “Proof is in the Pup.”

“We look for even temperaments, hunting instinct and sound character, and strong nerves. This is the complete package for a good sound Shepherd.”

While Zerebeski does not provide training programs for owners once the dogs are sold, the puppies are trained from the time they can hear. A dog is born deaf and cannot hear until approximately it’s 21 days old.

Training starts with the “come” command that’s done by offering food when the command is given so the puppies smell the food. Zerebeski explained there is an order of importance to the five common senses of a dog as a means of communication starting with the most important being smell, then hearing, sight, touch and taste.

Zerebeski stressed the importance of training your dog as it’s growing and said official training is required at eight weeks.

“If you don’t start teaching from the eight week point, they’re not learning or developing mentally.”

Zerebeski refers her dog owners to top trainers in the industry and says the training is about both teaching the owner as well as the puppy so the animal is raised properly. She said if a German Shepherd is aggressive or mean, it can be traced back to a lack of training.

“Usually it’s the owner that makes the mistake of not training their pup and that’s where you encounter problems with any dog not just specifically with Shepherds… When people adopt from me, my requirement is to seek out a reputable trainer because that’s crucial.”

There are a few misconceptions about German shepherds Zerebeski felt it important to clear up. One in particular is the idea that they are mean. She said the dogs are only mean when they’ve developed what’s called “fear aggression” that can be imprinted in them when they are puppies and often happens at dog parks, an area Zerebaski stressed her owners need to stay away from in the early days of training.

“I say to stay away from dog parks when you have a puppy because if they’re attacked by another dog, they develop what’s called ‘fear aggression’ where now when they become a young adult, a dog approaches them and and then they want to lunge at it to protect themselves because they remember what happened to them when they were puppies.”

Zerebeski explains the mind of the dog responds to memory, whether the memory is that of fear or pleasure. To memory or association is added the ability to imitate. These, together, form the main background of the dog’s mental processes. They may be acquired through the instinct handed down generation after generation or through the training of the dog by its owner/handler.

Before they are adopted, the puppies are socialized with kids and other dogs.

Owning a German shepherd is something people need to be prepared for according to Zerebeski. She encourages people to do their homework before owning German shepherd and recognize the commitment they are making.

“They’re one of the smartest dogs in the world, that’s why the police use them. [Potential owners] need to do their homework and they need to have time for that puppy. It’s just like having a child. You need a full commitment when you have an animal.”

Expanding on the unique qualities shepherds bring to police work, Zerebeski said their heavy coats allow them to work under extreme climatic conditions while their training and genetics gives them the skill to search a car in approximately three minutes. She added their presence seems to have an inhibitive psychological effect on potential wrongdoers and that German shepherds trained to apprehend will invariably make a successful arrest despite the fact they are trained only to hold, never to be savage.

When people leave the kennel with their new dog, Zerebeski says they are fully prepared for their new adventure and have all the support they need.

“When someone leaves my kennel they have all their information on trainers, vaccination protocol, diet, and life-long breeder support.”

Puppies that exhibit a high interest in fetching balls are the ones to focus on as potential working dogs Zerebeski says.

“You want dogs that have lots of ball drive because that ball drive gives you the foundation to train them for anything you wish such as search and rescue and detection which is sniffing for bombs, explosives, gas line detection, or anything that a handler is wanting to train them in.”

One of Zerebeski’s puppies is now about three and is on active duty with the New York state troopers sniffing for bombs and drugs. She also has active dogs working as part of search and rescue that work with police officers.

Upcoming litters will be offered throughout the summer and early fall.

For more information, call Zerebeski at (587)447-4046 or email her at: info@janzhaus.com. Please visit their website for further information at www.janzhaus.com.

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