The German Shepherd Dog has a distinct personality marked by direct and fearless, but not hostile, expression, self-confidence, and a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. The dog must be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet overtures without itself making them. It is poised, but when the occasion demands, eager and alert; both fit and willing to serve in its capacity as a companion, watchdog, blind leader, herding dog, or guardian, whichever the circumstances may demand. The dog must not be timid, shrinking behind its master or handler; it should not be nervous, looking about or upward with anxious expression or showing nervous reactions, such as tucking of tail, to strange sounds or sights. Lack of confidence under any surroundings is not typical of good character.To this end, I introduce Ilsa to new and potentially frightening experiences that will help her build greater and greater confidence and trust. It is not that the confidence and trust is not there, but whether it will serve her well, no matter what the circumstances. Canine stress inoculation. One of the tests I know she will have to accomplish is the elevated grate. Grates are spooky things to dogs unaccustomed to them. Ilsa's test will be twenty feet up with gusts of wind and even water coming through it.
.........So how does Ilsa react? She lays down and takes a rest.
Ilsa's willingness to stay on task, snorking every potential hidey hole for the scent she in trying to follow is exemplary. I commonly use one of the local high schools or a park as a training ground because of all the confusing layers of scent from the many different people.
We use a section of capped off and drilled out PVC pipe containing used socks and underwear from the person being sought as the search object. Occasionally, if possible, we will enlist the assistance of the actual person.
When she is tested, Ilsa will have evaluators trying to distract her from her task. Evaluators have all manner of distractions including other dogs, cats or squirrels introduced into the search dog's path. The first human encountered is the Registration/Entry Clerk. As the dog continues to work, the Neutral Stranger shows up. Next, a Friendly Stranger arrives with treats trying to lure her off task. If she continues on task, a Can Rattling Stranger pops out from behind a corner. A Gun Shooting Stranger has a starter's pistol waiting in the brush. The Umbrella Opening Stranger usually carries a supply of umbrellas because of failing candidates. Finally there is the Weird Stranger, who may have any sort of costume, designed to freak out any dog they approach. They may be dressed in tinsel playing bagpipes with an accomplice or two waving flags. Anything goes.
This is the Triathlon of Agility. Through it all, Ilsa must stay on task.