This blog post walks you through the selection and training process for my German Shepherd, Havok. I hope it’s inspirational and educational for you. Enjoy!
What I wanted in a German Shepherd puppy
Months ago when I lived in Wisconsin, I started feverishly researching German Shepherd breeders. I wanted a puppy that would be a sound and stable worker with high drives, good orthopedics, good health and correct conformation. To get all of that bundled up in one puppy, I knew I would have to be extremely cautious while sifting through breeders. There are countless good breeders out there: I wanted the best of the best.
I scrolled through hundreds of blog posts, websites and pedigrees until I finally found a breeder that stood out a cut above the rest. The breeder is a veterinarian that breeds only the best of the best in regards to health, temperament and drives. We talked on the phone for almost an hour during our first conversation; her knowledge and passion were commendable. After sleeping on it – always the best way to make a decision – I placed a deposit on an upcoming litter and hoped for the best!
The right puppy for me
I rolled my deposit twice in hopes of getting exactly what I wanted in a puppy. I finally selected the Kat x Barry litter and on May 6th, 2014, 8 beautiful puppies were born (4m, 4f). On June 27th, 2014, I picked up the “blue collar puppy.” He showed the most confidence and drives. He was slightly aloof and always had his nose to the ground. His registered name is Qrew vom Sequoyahhaus; I call him “Havok.” I’ve decided to write this blog post on Havok’s growth and development sprinkled with training tips to help make your puppy raising experience a good one! Here’s Havok’s story:
“Q” litter German Shepherd puppies. DOB 6 May 2014. (Kat x Barry)
Each puppy in the litter receives a collar color designation. Havok’s known at the “blue collar puppy.”
Havok’s dad is Barry von Casa Arado
Havok’s mom is Katastrophe vom Sequoyahhaus
7 weeks old
Baby Havok is such a dream! Driving home with him, my heart is so full of love it might burst! There’s an adorable, sweet, innocent puppy in a baby blue crate next to me. He’s looking up at me with the most enticing expression, a combination of mischief and adoration. He’s confident, courageous and curious – the best combination for a companion and working dog pup!
I take Havok everywhere with me. He goes on several shorts walks a day around the neighborhood. He runs errands with me and gets to meet lots of new people. He romps at parks and playgrounds, chasing butterflies and tripping on his own big paws! He bravely traverses new surfaces and fearlessly confronts loud noises and new objects. Anytime he hesitates, I demonstrate that the new thing isn’t scary at all. This helps him feel even more self-assured! Havvy climbs over tree roots and explores wherever his great nose takes him! I encourage Baby Havok to be independent and, instead of carrying him, I let him walk most places. This first week, the only dogs Havok met were my own two dogs, Duke and Zoey. I want to ensure he doesn’t have any bad experiences with strange dogs.
Havok hasn’t had any accidents in the house or crate. I make sure he gets plenty of potty breaks and regulate his food/water intake. His second night, he slept the whole night through! He didn’t wake up to potty, and he never whined. It was amazing. Almost too good to be true!
It rained, and Havok tried to avoid going potty in the rain, so I stood out there with him and acted like the rain was no big deal. (After all, it’s just rain!) Havok quickly toughened up and even splashed in a few puddles. At this age, puppies are sponges. One word: EXPOSURE. (Expose them to anything and everything!)
On the working dog side, what Havok did one night was awesome. We were out for a walk, and he showed the BEST what we in the working dog world call “Change of Behavior” in the grass. He was walking along and then he stopped, tossed his head and stuck his nose deep in the grass. He followed whatever odor he was in for about 5′ or so then looked up, had a “Squirrel!” moment and ran back to me. He was quite proud of himself, and I let him know with lots of pets and praise that I was very happy with him!
Havvy tried coconut water and bananas this week. He’s not a fan of the bananas, but he loves coconut water. Havok loves his dog food too, of course, so I’m using his regular kibble as treats for training. (Why upgrade to dog treats if I don’t have to?) He is never given food in a bowl. I do tricks and obedience with him so he can EARN his food. It makes him love training even more! And don’t worry, he doesn’t miss a meal. He’s quite pudgy!
Zoey is definitely in love with Havok; Duke isn’t so sure. His previous home didn’t expose him to puppies enough, so he doesn’t know how to act around Havok. He gets frustrated easily and growls at him. I put a soft muzzle and a leash on Duke when he’s around the puppy so I can teach him how to properly behave. I don’t think he’ll need the muzzle for much longer, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. Zoey is incredible with the puppy. Her maternal instincts fascinate me!
I love my baby pack! My heart is so full!
Here’s a Havok German Shepherd puppy video! It has 25,000 views and counting!
Such a playful pup.
Baby Havok taking a cat nap while I grab a bite to eat downtown. He’s the perfect little lunch buddy.
Havvy is absolutely the most incredible puppy. He has slept through the night three nights in a row without waking up to potty or whining in his crate. So far he has only had two accidents – one in his crate during the day and one in the house. Both were my fault, not his! (I left him in the crate too long after he woke up from his nap, and I left him unsupervised in the bedroom.)
Havvy has met over a dozen dogs already – all of which were either dogs I know or dogs prescreened for temperament. Hav has been wonderful and sweet with them all! He is learning to respect other dogs’ space and be calm around them.
Baby Havok has been to three construction sites and played outside when the landscapers were here with their loud lawn mowers and weed eaters. At first, he freaked out and wanted to run back inside. I walked him around and kept him occupied until he became desensitized to the noises and didn’t mind them anymore. (Hav needs to learn that loud noises aren’t scary at all!!)
Baby Havok and Zoey are best buds. She lets him climb all over her and lick her face. She sometimes loosk at me like, “See, Mom? Told you I wanted a baby brother!” Duke is starting to come around. I still keep him on leash around the puppy, but he no longer has to wear a muzzle. I supervise them together because if Duke were to bite Havok, it would sour their relationship for a long time. Supervision is extremely important in a situation like this!
Havvy loves raw meat and chews on big carrots and baby rawhides. He will soon transition to a partial raw/partial wet food diet to ensure he gets all the nutrients his growing body needs. After all, “Everything in moderation” is the best ‘diet’ out there – for humans and dogs alike!
I couldn’t ask for a better puppy. I love having him around, and I’m having a blast training him. He knows sit, platz (down), stay, hier (come), no, and he’s working on finish and Fuss (heel).Watch this!
I’m so blessed to have this tiny gift in my life. (Love you, baby boy!!!)
Showing off Havok’s puppy obedience training at the breeder’s.
This video has millions of views!
4th of July fun at the cabin with Havok
9 weeks old
Baby boy has mastered the art of cuddling and being cute. I love this puppy so much that it hurts.
Havok watched Mommy train some dogs at the park this week. He’s not afraid of big dogs even when they bark at him. Havok experienced his first hand dryer in the park restroom. Then he headed down by the lake with me and climbed across some rocks. One rock was slippery and he slid off the rock and into the water. The waves knocked him around a little, but when I called to him he fought the waves and swam back to me. Precious little baby!
Havok got to play with two of his littermates and he even saw Grandma Uny this week. It was a happy little family reunion. Uny is such a fantastic dog. I hope he inherits her excellent hips, elbows, temperament, drives – everything! Here’s a link to her pedigree.
Havok has learned that he must be respectful of cats and not chase them. He met kittens a few weeks ago, and he was very gentle with them. But grown cats that run are much more tempting! Miss Stella taught him to leave her alone with a few hisses and swats. Smart boy – he figured it out quickly.
Havok and Duke are best friends now. They play nonstop. Havok still fits under the couch (just barely) so he hides under there then creeps out and pounces on Duke and Zoey. He thinks it’s great fun to bite the white fur on Zoey’s feet. (She thinks otherwise.) It’s so funny to watch them play!! Makes me happy
Havok loves eggplant and watermelon. He still enjoys eating carrots in his crate and even tried some apple slices the other day. Havok eats a combination of 4Health dog food and Grandma Lucy’s freeze dried raw food. I’m doing my best to ensure he eats a balanced diet and tries new foods every once in awhile. Havvy has a big boy appetite and eats as much as Zoey.
Hav now weighs 19.2 pounds – a three pound gain in one week!! People like to tell me that he’s going to be bigger than me. (Fortunately I think I’ll weight about 20 pounds more than him when he’s full grown.)
Hav now knows sit, down, stay, come, hier, spin, and revier, and he’s learning roll over. He’s learning German, Dutch, English and French commands.
10 weeks old
This week has been exciting for Havok. He’s starting to get bigger by the minute, and he’s a lot of fun!
Havvy goes everywhere with me: Toyota service center, the local apparel embroidery shop, the park, the lake. I don’t let him greet everybody he sees, because I don’t want him to grow up thinking he gets to meet everybody and then act up when I don’t let him. I want him to be NEUTRAL around people – social but not overly friendly because a good personal protection dog is just that! (Allow your puppy to greet people but give it a command first such as, “Go say hi.” And make it a point to NOT let your puppy greet people that are going to be overly excited and cause him to be hyper. Teach kids to pet the puppy’s back – not the head – and encourage the kids to “be gentle.”)
Another place I’ve been taking Havok for the past two weeks is the dog park; however, he’s in my arms the whole time. I want him to be exposed to large amounts of dogs. I do NOT want him to get trampled, pick up parvo or practice HYPER behavior around dogs. (Oftentimes, the energy at dog parks is very high because most of the dogs at dog parks are cooped up all day long and the dog park is the one outlet for their energy. This is how fights break out – dogs with poor manners meeting other dogs with poor manners that have explosive amounts of energy.) I want Havok to watch the dogs and learn to be calm with lots of dogs around rather than get hyper and constantly want to play with them. Before entering the dog park, I always stop for a minute and evaluate the dogs inside playing. Are they calm and respectful with each other? Or are they dominant – humping, barking, growling, even fighting? A good energy in the dog park is a predecessor to going in. Bad energy almost never ends well – enter at your own risk!
Back to puppy talk! Havok is expanding his vocabulary. One of the most important words I’m teaching him is “No.” I want “No” to have meaning behind it. When I say “No,” it means stop whatever you are doing because I don’t like it. Stop chewing that, stop barking, stop whining, stop disobeying a command. I use “No” on rare occasion, and I use my voice to ensure that he understands it’s a serious command.
Speaking of chewing, Havok is doing great! When he’s not being supervised, he goes in his crate. But for the most part, he’s out of his crate a lot! I have plenty of bones and toys on the floor for him, and whenever he picks up something he’s not supposed to (like my shoes) or if he grabs at something (like the drapes), I issue a quick “No!” and he instantly understands that his behavior doesn’t please me. He drops the shoe or lets go of the drapes. Havvy hasn’t had a chance to chew anything he’s not supposed to. He’s quickly learning the ropes around here…such a good boy!
Enough trainer talk – back to puppy speak! Havok loves chasing butterflies. He has started to get “the zoomies” and will race around the house at top speed when he’s playing with Duke and Zoey. His favorite spots to hide are under the couch and under the dining room chairs. He thinks he’s a pretty big deal when he has a toy in his mouth and struts around like he’s tough stuff. It’s adorable. Makes me laugh every time!
Here’s Duke, Zoey, Beau (board and train client dog) and Havok at our favorite hangout place! It’s so beautiful here in Tennessee. I’m so happy we moved here a few months back.
11 weeks old
Havok is so much fun! He’s my little buddy. He’s fitting in nicely with my pack, and everybody loves him. Lots of new adventures this week.
Havok went swimming! He follows me EVERYWHERE, so I used that to my advantage at the lake. I went in myself and ignored him. He whined at the shore and tossed a fit, but I didn’t give him eye contact or attention until he stepped his first foot in. Then I cheered him on and called him to me. He whined and howled like a little baby, but soon enough he was swimming! And he loved it! He swam back and forth from me to the shore about 20 times. He’s a total natural. (Swimming is a great low-impact exercise for dogs of all ages. For puppies, it’s especially important to minimize medium- and high-impact exercises like running on slippery floors or jumping from objects higher than their knees. The goal is to protect their developing joints to prevent dysplasia and other serious joint issues later on down the road.)
I haven’t done a lot of obedience training this week. My goal is to build Havok’s drive more than anything else. I play a lot of tug with him (targeting his grip to the back of his mouth) and play with tennis balls to build his ball drive. I had a crazy dream last night that he was 12 months old, and I had completely forgotten to build his ball drive. In the dream, a trainer friend of mine tossed him a tennis ball, and he looked at it dumbfounded. I panicked…and woke up from the dream to see him lying next to me, sleeping peacefully. Maybe he was dreaming about tennis balls too –hopefully dreaming he was chasing one and holding it possessively like we’ve been working on!
Havok went to his first vet appointment this week. He’s a healthy 20.6 pounds and hardly whined when he got his second set of puppy shots. I’m very proud of him! He also got some more Heartguard Plus and Nexguard pills to protect him against heartworms, fleas and ticks. (Trifexis is better for wintertime because it covers just fleas rather than both fleas and ticks.)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The most important thing about raising a puppy is exposure, exposure, exposure. Take your puppy everywhere. Introduce him to people. Clang pots and pans and praise him when he shows interest. Climb over rocks, go through tunnels, sit on porch swings. Make sure he’s walking 95% of the time. Have him off leash and teach him to follow you so you can work towards 100% off leash obedience as an adult.
Havok is the best pup I could ever hope for – and well worth the wait! I get compliments everywhere I go. Most compliments are along these lines, “Oh my gosh, that’s the cutest puppy I have ever seen. No seriously, he’s going to be extremely handsome when he grows up! Such perfect markings! And look at those big bones!”
Here’s a YouTube link that shows Havok’s new trick: finding my keys in the grass. I’ve trained him to track my footprints (crushed vegetation) and lie down when he finds the keys. These are the early stages of article tracking for Schutzhund/IPO.
Here’s Havok at Greenway Farm! He swims like a fish. Totally adorable!
Shopping at Tractor Supply. Havok barely fits in the grocery cart! So cute! 11 weeks old
Just hanging out on this old fan. No big deal. Hav also went up and down metal grated stairs. Great exposure for a young pup! 11 weeks old
If you have any questions about training, please feel free to contact me. Starting in August, I’ll be offering three puppy packages featuring information and training geared towards raising the perfect puppy!
12 weeks old (July 2014)
Road Trip to Wisconsin!
Havok went on his first long road trip this week. We drove almost 1,000 miles from Chattanooga, TN, to my hometown of Minocqua, WI. I have Wisconsin Air National Guard duties to fulfill so my parents agreed to take Havok and Zoey while I work in Madison. We played tourists the whole drive up there – stopping at every major tourist attraction, taking pictures here and there – a road trip with lots of stops is the best possible exposure for a young puppy. I made sure Havok had plenty of chances to run around and get his energy out, and I gave him plenty of carrots and rawhides to chew on. He was a happy puppy the whole ride. He didn’t whine at all! Looking over at him, he was almost always sleeping or looking back at me. He has such a loving look in his eyes when he looks at me. The connection I feel with him already, even at such a young age, takes my breath away. What a precious puppy. I’m so thankful that I have three wonderful dogs that all fill my heart with love and amazement in different ways.
Here’s Havok on a tank like a boss. Rest stop in Tomahawk, WI. 12 weeks
Havok and my baby sister instantly became best friends! She took him on all sorts of adventures. 12 weeks
14 weeks old (August 2014)
Road Trip Back to Tennessee!
Havok was a very good boy for my parents. They said he only had one accident in 10 days. What a good boy! It’s important for a puppy to spend some time with someone other than his owner so he can learn to be comfortable in different situations with different people. Having a strong bond with your puppy is good, but too much togetherness can create separation anxiety. I want Havok to be happy-go-lucky, curious and adventurous wherever he goes! Spending time with my family was great for Havok, and it gave them a chance to get to know him before he’s all grown up!
Picking up Havok. I couldn’t believe how much he’d grown in just 10 days! He’s starting to get a very distinct black stripe down his back, and his mask is blacker than ever! So handsome!
I attended a wedding in early August. Little Havvy was my handsome date! He schmoozed all of the guests and showed off all of his tricks for them. Havvy now has a fan club! haha!
15 weeks old
Havok pulled a fast one on me. He was chewing a bone in the passenger seat here while I was driving and it fell so naturally I picked it up and gave it to him. About 15 seconds later, it fell again. Without thinking, I reached down, picked it up, and gave it back to him. (After all he was sad without it!!)
Then the light bulb went on. I kept driving and looked ahead but watched him out of the corner of my eye. He grabbed the bone, flicked it off the seat, and looked over at me with the most defiant look in his eye.
(GASP!! The little sh*t!! LOL)
When I show people Havok’s obedience and tricks, they often comment wondering if he’s too young to already know so many commands. The answer is no! This puppy just taught me how to retrieve his bone. I think he can handle sit, down and shake.
Havok’s drive building and bite development are coming along nicely! I do all of his training myself so it’s always rewarding when I take him somewhere new and receive high praises on his training! 15 weeks
17 weeks (September 2014)
Road Trip to Wisconsin (round two!)
Heading up to Wisconsin for my final Air National Guard drill duty weekend. I’ve had an amazing experience serving in intelligence operations for the Guard, but my life is taking me in new directions. Time to focus 100% on my growing business and my awesome pack of dogs!
This picture was taken in the middle-of-nowhere Illinois. It’s hot, humid and yucky! We stopped so the dogs could run around, but I think they were happy to get back in the air conditioned car. 17 weeks
18 weeks old
Driving back down to Tennessee!
We had a great time in Wisconsin. I’ll miss my military family a lot. They’ve been so supportive of me! Havok impressed everybody with his cuteness + obedience factor. It’s amazing that I’m able to travel with such a young puppy and not have to worry about potty accidents, biting/nipping my friends, chewing things he isn’t supposed to. He’s such a well-mannered gentleman!
The road trip adventure continues at Churchill Downs! What a magical place. I absolutely love the strength and beauty of horses built for one thing: racing. They’re such majestic creatures! Zoey my Aussie with Havok who’s 18 weeks old
19 weeks old
Lots of drive building, confidence building and socialization
My friend’s son had a soccer tournament so I brought Havok along for the exposure. I put his “DO NOT PET” vest on so the kids wouldn’t mangle him. All too often, people make the mistake of letting anyone + everyone pet their puppy. This is fine when the puppy is really young, but as the pupppy matures you want to remember there’s a time and place for everything. A puppy that’s allowed and/or encouraged to greet everyone grows up to be a dog that pulls on the leash and whines whenever he sees someone. Teaching your puppy to walk passed someone without getting pet (or expecting to get pet) is very important. Havok knows that when his vest in on, nobody is going to pet him. He also knows that when he’s not wearing the vest if I say “Go say hi” he’s allowed to greet whomever approaches.
19 weeks old – is it time to start saying his age in terms of months now? My baby boy is growing up so fast!
5 months old (October 2014)
Havok is a tracking machine!
I started imprinting Havok on tracking when he was 10 weeks old. I learned a certain style of tracking training back in 2013 at Vohne Liche Kennels. I learned another method from Gary Hanrahan who owns Havok’s sire. And I learned yet another tracking technique from Mike Stogsdill. I’ve taken all three methods and combined them into my own. That’s how I do all of my training. I learn different styles, I toss out what I don’t like, and I combine it all into my own personal style. I have the utmost respect for the people I learn from, but that doesn’t mean I agree 100% with what they do and how they do it. That’s where gut instinct comes into play. I find what works for me, and I do it.
I laid a fairly hard track for Havok today: 400 feet, handler laid, multiple turns, crosstracks, grass to pavement back to grass, windy. He nailed it. Nice, steady tracking pace. Nose buried so deep in the grass I couldn’t see it. It was beautiful!
I told Havok to ‘load up.’ Instead of jumping in his spot (passenger seat), apparently he thought the floorboards would be a good spot to hang out while I drive. Such a weirdo! He’s getting so big! Almost 60 pounds at 5 months
5 months old (October 2014) continued…
Havok reaches a milestone! HIS FIRST TITLE! Havok is now “Qrew vom Sequoyah Haus CGC”
Havok earned his “CANINE GOOD CITIZEN” title tonight at just five months old (23 weeks).
Havok is now an AKC Canine Good Citizen. 5 months old
Two days after earning his CGC, Havok rocked the field doing some bite work! This is what “balance” is all about. I’ve worked hard to shape and mold Havok into exactly the dog I want him to be, and he hasn’t let me down. Not even for a second! 5 months old
Havok pictured with Zoey and my board and train client dogs, Sig the Dobe puppy and Luna the Boxer mix puppy. 5 months old
Six months old
And almost 60 pounds!
Did I mention Havok is an excellent cuddler? A personal protection dog that’s well-behaved and a great cuddle buddy. I’ll take one of those! 😉
Good morning from Havok, Duke and Ziva (my board and train GSD). She’s here for obedience, confidence building, drive building and the early stages of protection training! Beautiful girl! Smart as a whip! Havok’s three months younger than Ziva and already bigger than her!
Havok’s “Fuss” is coming along nicely! Beautiful focus! This was at a PSA club. Afterwards, several people approached me about training. They couldn’t believe how well-behaved Havok was, and they were blown away that he was just a puppy.
Havok’s first leg bite! No hesitation at all! PSA training. 6 months old
More PSA and personal protection training! Note: I love elitek9.com – lots of great working dog gear.
Say Cheese! Duke and Havok.
Seven months old
Havok is maturing into a very fine German Shepherd Dog. His drives are incredible. He’s eager to please and highly trainable. Big boned, big head, nice conformation. I’m looking forward to doing great things with this puppy in the near future!
Pack sit-stay at the Publix grocery store parking lot. From L to R: Havok, Zoey, Tilly (board and train), Blaze (board and train), Duke. Havok looks HUGE compared to Duke now! It’s mostly the camera angle but wow!
Duke (L) and Havok (R) with their matching bandanas!
Twelve months old
Havok is now a year old, and I couldn’t be happier with the dog he has become. He goes everywhere with me, and I trust him 100% in new situations and around strangers, kids and other animals. His obedience is impeccable. He’s alert, intelligent and confident. We moved to Spokane, WA, in May 2015, and we celebrated his first birthday on our road trip out here!
14 months old
Havok attended his first ever conformation show in August 2015 – the IABCA Seiger Show in Post Falls, Idaho. It was my first time ever handling for a dog show, and I showed both Havok and Yedi our Australian Shepherd. Havok competed against showline German Shepherds and received the highest possible show rating for conformation “V1.” His stack was perfect. His manners were impeccable. I was so proud of my working dog out there kicking butt!
Havok received the title of “New International Champion” and walked away with three V1 ratings.
16 months old
Havok’s bite work continues to impress me. His drives are outstanding. With his old DDR/East German bloodlines, he continues showing more and more drives as he matures. His coat is getting darker. He’s now 82 pounds with nice bone structure and a big, blocky head. We get compliments everywhere we go!
17 months old
Havok’s now 84 pounds of muscle and hands-down the best dog we could’ve hoped for.
Update: April 2021
I hope you enjoyed following along as I raised Havok and documented his training! It’s now nearly seven years later, and he is still just such an amazing dog! He’s been my demo dog for years, and he’s an invaluable member of my pack. Confident. Versatile. Outgoing. He’s a wonderful Personal Protection and now FAMILY PROTECTION DOG. He’s wonderful with my daughter!
You were referred to me by Ranada Gruber. (I own a Border Collie female – 5 years old)
Never having owned a Border Collie I would am looking for some instruction and possible introduction to ways to channel her energy (possibly in agility classes).
Ranada is very impressed with your ability in handling/training dogs and people.
I would greatly appreciate any information you could send me regarding possible classes, dates, times and prices.
Hi Barb! Wonderful. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can get started! -Amy Pishner
With thanks! Valuable information!