Behavior and Protection Training with Lower Lassen K9
By Richard DuPertuis
Story and Photos By Richard DuPertuis
The quiet of this Saturday morning is shattered by three dogs on the neighboring property. They rush to a wire fence and bark ferociously at a large dog on the other side. But that 82-pound German Shepherd doesn't even look at them. His attention is entirely focused on his owner, who has ordered him to walk at her side. He will do so, allowing no distraction, until she issues a new command.
“We’ve had German Shepherds before,” says the dog owner’s husband, Paul Corbisiero, sitting in the shade at the edge of the training field. “None of them had the energy of this guy. He just ignored our commands.”
Out on the hard-packed, sanded field, wife Diana yells, “Fuss!” and breaks into a run. Bruno, their once-problem dog, gallops at her hip. Paul smiles and says, “He’s worked out really well since the training.”
Welcome to warm-ups at Lower Lassen K9, a professional dog training enterprise in a wooded region just northeast of Shingletown. Founded by Guenter Kuhnert and Debra Miller in 2007, the canine classes conducted here shape dogs for basic obedience, special services and occasionally rescue. Instruction can be private or in a group.
Lower Lassen K9 accepts dogs of all sizes for training, and some people come from quite a distance for its services. Caron Boyle arrived from Gridley with the smallest student of the day, Brando, a petite poodle. “He’s working toward becoming a therapy dog,” says Boyle. “We’re going to take him to the hospital in Chico to see the patients.”
During obedience training today, Miller and her dog join about 10 owners and the dogs in line on the field. Kuhnert calls the commands and the line moves in unison. The dogs walk at heel and make their turns, then sit and wait while the owners pace away, then return to command the dogs to heel again. Some of the canine students wear leashes, others do not. It depends on the level of progress of a dog, and of its owner.
“When we are training, we consider our work as a team – us, the owners and the dogs,” says Kuhnert. “That’s very important. The owner needs the respect of the dog.” Miller says they take on the role of coach. Her partner reads dogs very well. Together, they read the customers.
The couple met in Germany, and quickly found a common interest in dogs. “I started with my first German Shepherd when I was about 27. It’s my life now,” says Kuhnert. Miller tells of growing up in the Bay Area. “My parents were collie breeders for the show circuit, so I grew up with dogs.”
After obedience class comes the most dramatic training of the day, Schutzhund. Literally translated as “protection dog,” this is a German dog sport that dates back to the military in the early 1900s. The training is a more precise regimen that incorporates elements of protection dog training. In competition, judges hold a dog’s reactions to commands to high standards.
Miller says she found Schutzhund 25 years ago, after one of life’s little twists took her to Germany. “I fell in love,” she says. I was completely addicted to learning all the various techniques.” She says that she misses the camaraderie of the Schutzhund club and wants to create one in this area.
To a casual observer, the object of Schutzhund is to teach a dog to tear off someone’s arm. A human helper slips a heavy, protective sleeve on the left arm. He (in this case, Bill Winter) stands dead still with his left arm held low and parallel to the ground. A dog is sent to him with the command “Voran.” The dog moves in, holds position and barks repeatedly. This continues until the helper triggers action by moving. Instantly, the dog leaps at and clamps its jaws on the arm. Another variation has the dog chase down a running helper and bite that arm.
The helper yields the sleeve to the dog, who pulls it off and parades around with it in obvious pride. “That’s his prize!” cries Miller. She says if there was no protective sleeve, the dog wouldn’t know what to do. So, yes, though the bared fangs of a full-grown German Shepherd barking might intimidate some, this dog won’t hurt anyone and is, in fact, having a lot of fun.
Kuhnert and Miller live together in a house on the grounds with six ponies and six pets. Five of those pets are dogs, some of them rescues from animal shelters. “I’m a failure at fostering with this one,” Miller confesses, stroking a dog named Ramona. The sixth pet is the cat Blumchen, German for Little Flower. “He rules the house,” Miller says with a laugh. “We can’t train cats.”
32632 Emigrant Trail, Shingletown
(530) 474-1322 • www.lowerlassenk9.com