The Best Book on Obedience Training for German Shepherd Dogs

The Best Book on Obedience Training for German Shepherd Dogs

The best book on obedience training for German Shepherds is out of print.

Toward the PhD for Dogs:  Obedience Training from Novice to Utility. By Robert J. Martin and Napoleon A. Chagnon. Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich. 1975.)

This outstanding obedience book is out of print because the second author, a cultural anthropologist, loved to write books and articles with ‘catchy titles’ then explain what the titles mean in the sub-title. Unfortunately, people looking for a good dog obedience book are not looking for   ‘catchy titles’ they are looking for an obedience book. If ‘obedience’ does not show up somewhere in the title, they look elsewhere.

The book never made it to the second printing.

Robert Martin, the first author, was an experienced trainer, dog show competitor and German Shepherd owner. Napoleon Chagnon, the anthropologist, was one of his students and owned a German Shepherd in need of obedience training. The book is dedicated to their two German Shepherds.

This book covers the training necessary to pass Novice, Open and Utility trials. Unlike other dog obedience books, which cover unrelated topics such as nutrition, house breaking and personality tests, this book is strictly to the point. A refreshing change.

Both authors are high in trial winners.

There are several unique and valuable features to this book that are especially useful to the person who cannot attend obedience classes. Every training exercise is explained systematically with photographs to illustrate exactly what is meant. Beginning with the first lesson on how to put on a choke collar properly, with pictures, to the very last, the instructions are clear, to the point, sequential and detailed.

The book is organized according to the obedience trial type, beginning with Novice Obedience. Within each section, the authors provide an introductory chapter on what will be learned in the next few weeks, the equipment that will be needed, as well as how to measure the equipment for the specific dog. In the first section (Novice), you are told how many minutes to practice at a time and how many times a day, from the initial learning experiences to the final chapter on preparation for the trial.

Each chapter is devoted to one week of training, which commands are to be taught and how to teach them (with accompanying photographs). Each training session begins with a review of what has already been learned. New exercises are taught slowly, one at a time, with few repetitions at first and more as the week goes on.

Within each chapter, you will also read the possible problems you will encounter in teaching the exercise(s) and how to correct them without threatening or intimidating your dog. Because the book uses a German Shepherd for its examples, corrections are shown for a dog of that size rather than a miniature dog.

In the last chapter of the Novice training section, you are shown how to set up a mock obedience ring in your own yard (including the dimensions) to use to get ready for the trial. You are told the order of the exercises which you and your dog will be expected to perform. This way, before the trial itself, you and your dog are actually practicing all the exercises, in order, in a mock trial. In other words, you know what to expect at a trial and can practice it for at least a week before the trial, including the long stays. A copy of the judge’s score sheet is included along with what all the items mean and how the judge will score your mistakes. For someone who has never entered a Novice trial, this section is invaluable.

The same pattern is followed for learning all the exercises for Open and Utility.

One of the advantages to owning a book of this kind, especially for those interested in trialing their German Shepherd, is that the exercises can be taught puppies from an early age. When puppies are introduced to leash training early; the sit, stay, stand, down and come commands at a young age, by the time they are old enough to compete, they are so familiar with these exercises that achieving the Novice Obedience title (Companion Dog or the CD) in three trials, is practically guaranteed. Once these basic lessons have been learned, moving on to taking and retrieving a dumbbell, scent work, hand signals, and walking over jumps are almost like play for a puppy and can be taught very early as part of playtime.

Although this book can teach you all you need to know to teach your German Shepherd its obedience exercises, learning alone or in isolation from other dogs is not the best idea unless you have no other option. Take your dog to obedience classes, if you can, as socializing with other dogs from an early age, beginning with puppy classes, will also help prepare your dog to compete in obedience trials by letting him know other dogs are not a threat. German Shepherds are very protective of their owners and feel it their duty to make sure no human or animal will cause harm. Obedience classes help to teach a German Shepherd to discriminate friendly strangers from threatening strangers and how to respond to an owners command to accept a stranger as non-threatening.

This book should still be in print and probably would be if the sub-title had been the title. If you can find a used copy, buy it! A re-issue or reprint with a change in title would probably sell very well.