“The Dog Ate My [Chanel] Homework”: Apollo

I never thought I’d ever use “The dog ate my homework” — that old hoary chestnut, cliché, and excuse that some kids use when they haven’t done their homework—  but Apollo actually ate my homework! Well, to be precise, he ate a good third of my draft of the Chanel Le Lion review. No, I’m not joking.

It’s at this point that I will tell you to stop reading if you are uninterested in puppy photos, puppy shenanigans, and the wonkiest of wonky GSD puppy ears.

My Chanel Le Lion draft is hardly the only thing that the little stinker has eaten (quite apart from multiple cannibalistic attempts to eat my arms, face, nose, toes, ankles, calves, and ears). He’s chewn shoes, toilet paper rolls, kitchen paper rolls, socks, linen, clothing, kitchen utensils, Nivea jars, hair brushes, tv remote controls, and even stolen my underwear to hide in his crate where he could eat it peacefully.

Apollo is also THE most talkative, grumbly, opinionated furry child that I’ve ever had. Ever. He far surpasses my grey Persian, Pushkin, who was nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible” by 4 vets in 3 different cities. No, Apollo will not just talk nonstop, he will tell you off vehemently if YOU tell HIM off. Like when he’s caught red-handed:

Caught red handed!

Mildly remorseful? Arguably not. Apollo told me off for telling HIM off. And trust me, German Shepherds really WILL tell you off when they’re indignant.

This is his peeved look at being interrupted in the middle of a really good chew. Pffft.

GSDs have many nicknames: Velcro Dogs, German Shedders, “Land Sharks” (for the biting as pups), and German Shredders are only a few of them. So far, we’re batting 3 out of 4, but I could take the shredding if it had not been my 10-page, single-spaced, hand-written Chanel Le Lion review. I write everything out by hand on a legal pad because law school taught me to write like the wind (far, far faster than even my fast typing speed) and because my thoughts can flow uninterrupted if I’m not being OCD about typos, spacing, and the rest. But man, it HURT when Apollo swallowed the entirety of the first page other than a tiny scrap, then also major sections of pages 2, 3, and 4.

I like puzzles as much as anyone, but it’s extremely difficult to reconstitute a puzzle when a good one-third to one-half of the pieces are in a German Shepherd’s stomach and some of the remaining scraps are basically saliva-smeared specks.

Paper isn’t Apollo’s greatest love; my face and body remain his most prized teething objects. The German “land shark” has given me my fourth bloody wound on/in my nose; my arms look so bad that the vet tech at Apollo’s last vet visit said it looked like I’d been mauled by wild cats; and I have deep tooth marks on my ankle and toes.

Trying to tire out the little hellion and holy terror has usually resulted in me being so sleep deprived that I’m too tired to eat and sleep, while he just continues to be chirpy as if nothing happened. It’s insane! I take him on 2, 3, or 4 walks during the day, have roughly 4-6 short 15-20 minute training sessions to engage him and wipe him out mentally, then finish with two late night walkies. And you know what? He’s STILL trying to eat the stone and wood floors, still galloping around like Seabiscuit inside and out, and still cavorting like the Roadrunner combined with the Energizer Bunny.

His Highness may have had the best time when my city and state were struck by an anomalous blizzard, blackout, water freeze, electrical freeze, and food and water shortages. But, boy, Apollo was ecstatic in the snow, perhaps because he remembered his native Michigan, the place of his birth and first 7 weeks. Have you ever seen a happier pup with triangular ears?

Apollo was roughly just 12 or 13 weeks old there which makes his size, as you might guess from the photos, exceptionally large! At 11 weeks, he was already 35 pounds and my vet (who has treated my last 2 German Shepherds) estimates that Apollo will be over a hundred pounds, “easy.”

Apollo is now roughly a few days over 16 weeks and I estimate that he’s around 55 pounds. To put that into context, most German Shepherd adult males are around 65-75 pounds, maybe 85 at most. In other words, I have Godzilla on my hands combined with Hannibal Lecter, Jeffrey Dahmer, and a barracuda.

“Godzilla,” however, is being a very, very good boy in his training. (Minus *ahem* one recent incident with a wild cat last week, but we shall not talk about that.) Instead, I’m going to praise him for how quickly he’s learnt commands, each in 3 different versions or languages: German, English, and hand/sign language. There are a few practical reasons for the sign and hand language, as well as the German, and you can read more about why the trio is recommended for Schutzhund German Shepherds here if you’re interested. (Scroll to the middle of the page.)

He learned the difficult Aus/Drop It/Leave It command in under 15 minutes (which is amazing!), picked up the recall Komen/Hier/Come command in a few days (minus that wild cat that taunted him), and is doing really well on his Sitz, Platz, and even his Bleib/Stay, though I grant you that one is a wee bit rough. I posted all sorts of videos on Apollo’s Twitter page showing him in action but since I’m using my infamous Gollum “my preciousssssssssss” dog voice that only my friends and family normally hear, I shall not repeat them here. You guys are a much larger audience than Apollo’s Twitter peeps, so I will not so willingly or easily embarrass and mortify myself with my “Gollum.” But look at what a good pup Apollo is at fetch indoors, something we do when he’s still got a load of energy at the end of the day.

If there are any GSD people reading this, I think he has potential with regard to his “bite work,” no? He doesn’t let go to reposition much, if at all, which I think is very promising for SchH down the road. (Assuming we can get all the basics down pat, first.)


By the way, if you’re wondering about Apollo’s amazing ears, they are very typical of his people. GSD puppies are famous for the wonkiness of their auditory appendages. Up, down, sideways, up, triangle, down, sideways — rinse, lather, and repeat for many, many months. Apollo first had one ear go up, then both, then they became a triangle, then each one flopped in turn. They should repeat that course a few more times until his teething is over, which could be as late as 8 months of age.

Here are a few photos of his glorious ears and their progression:

Oh, Apollo may look like a little angel all right but trust me, this is a German Shepherd on steroids. What’s funny to me is how obviously Apollo is a “high drive” and also “high prey drive” German Shepherd when he was supposed to be the mellowest pup in the entire litter!

Part of that conclusion was, I think, because his mother produces extremely mellow pups, but methinks the nature of his father was overlooked. One doesn’t become a World VA champion —in the global equivalent of the canine Olympics where the top, best Schutzhund dogs from every country from Japan to Brazil compete— SIX TIMES over unless one has a little extra…oomph.

In fact, Apollo’s vet — who is the vet for the GSD and Malinois K9 officers of both the Police and Sheriff’s departments in my city— told me at Apollo’s last vet visit that he was not a “typical” German Shepherd but “hard-headed— even by German Shepherd standards,” “feisty,” and particularly “cocky.” Which may explain why Apollo has driven me on more than one occasion to the breaking point. (And that’s without discussing the issue of cutting his nails which….ooof.)

My greatest obstacle up until now is that Apollo has been extraordinarily limited in what he’s been allowed to do and where he’s been allowed to go because of Parvo and other infectious canine disease health concerns. He won’t be cleared to go to a dog park to burn off his energy with other dogs until his third, final Parvo shot, along with distemper, rabies, and other things. Since Parvo is in the ground everywhere where animals go (and even many human places), he can’t even go on walks in regular parks or hang out with neighborhood dogs, so I’ve done my best with what’s available to me and medically safe. But, man, I’m telling you, on the 5 day mark after his final set of vaccines, when it’s finally safe, we’re off to a dog park to let other creatures deal with my little terror and agent of chaos.

In the meantime, I have an ornery little stinker on my hands who tells me off at a variety of things when he isn’t talking profusely to me about the time of day, his toys, how he is entitled to chew on my arm as his personal teething toy, how he wants water, how he wants to pee, and everything else. In fact, Apollo is THE most talkative, opinionated grumbly, furry child that I’ve ever had. Ever. He far surpasses my grey Persian, Pushkin, who was nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible” by 4 vets in 3 different cities. No, Apollo will not just talk nonstop, he will, in fact, go so far as to tell you off vehemently if YOU tell HIM off.

I’ve always said that I really adore loudly grumbly, opinionated, talkative pups, but I never imagined one who would talk QUITE SO MUCH! And boy, is he mouthy in terms of a full set of razor-sharp pterodactyl teeth while he’s telling me off (especially during bath time or nail-cutting attempts):

Bath-time REALLY sets him off. He was so mad the other day! It makes me laugh to think about it because, my god, his loud tirade lasted like 5 whole minutes!

As my vet said, Apollo is “exceptionally hard-headed— even for a German Shepherd” so all attempts at “redirecting” when he’s biting me fail, as do attempts to desensitize him to getting his nails cut by feeding him a constant stream of treats, letting him have the Dremel as background sound, feeding him treats off the clippers, and so on. Last month, I gave up and asked my vet if his techs could do it. It took THREE of them to manage an 11.5-week old pup. So, I’m just doomed, especially when Apollo reaches the expected 100+-weight as an adult.

Meanwhile, all attempts to desensitize him to the vacuum cleaner worked within two tries and he’s fine with brushing— both of which are things which dogs normally have great issues with when they’re babies.


To put it another way, I don’t think it is fear, lack of desensitization, or lack of redirection that are responsible for him trying to eat off my face like Hannibal Lecter when we’re hanging out or for him to have a meltdown and lunge for my arm or face when he’s been held for a manicure before even the nail clippers appears: it’s just him. Being a barracuda is his “love language” and I think my arm or nose is operating like a teething pacifier for him. Obviously, this does not bode well for a pup who is probably well over 50 pounds at just 16 weeks of age and will be over a 100 as an adult.

I’ve decided I will get private lessons for him with a professional trainer, separate from puppy group classes, once he’s medically cleared with all his shots. One of the most highly respected, best reviewed dog training places in my city costs $250 for a single 60 minute session. I may look around for someone more affordable because that is a heck of a lot for just one session, but the person who my vet has recommended unfortunately does negative correction training. That is something with which I vehemently disagree on a theoretical and practical level’ I believe in positive reinforcement training. On the other hand, I recognize that super high drive dogs, like Apollo, could probably do with a few corrections (so long as no choke, prong, or electric collars are used and so long as the “correction” is just a short snap on the leash or squirt of water in the face.)

I have to admit, I’m torn as to which direction to go, but every single fiber of my being bristles at the thought of punishment/Cesar Milan/Alpha Dog/Dominance training and rejects it. The last time someone did that to a high-drive GSD of mine (an Army K9 trainer), I ended up with a dog that was a loaded weapon and had to be watched at all times because his fear-aggression was off the charts. And, yet, I recognize that Apollo is, as one GSD person told me recently, “totally EXTRA” (emphasis in their words), so I really need to find the right fit for him as well as someone experienced in dealing a dog like him (as opposed to all the unflappable, mellow Labradoodles or Goldies out there).

So, that’s what Apollo and I have been up to. I’ll keep you updated with a post next month after we’ve been to the dog park a few times. There is a huge mini-lake or large pond at one place and I basically threw poor puppy Zola straight in, much to his initial dismay. But within 15 minutes, he loved swimming more than anything and it became a lifelong passion. I will get baby Apollo swimming right away, too. I’ll share videos if I don’t sound too much like Gollum cooing over his Precioussssnesssssss, but we’ll see.

In the meantime, enjoy the very rare photos of Apollo taking a nap or just chilling quietly on the bed because trust me, it doesn’t occur often. Ditto the deceptive angelic sweetness. (This angel will use your nose and arm as his personal “Chianti with Fava beans”… ;))

23 thoughts on ““The Dog Ate My [Chanel] Homework”: Apollo

  1. Oh my goodness, he is so cute! Those ears! But what a handful. I think you’re very wise to look into a top-notch professional trainer, even with all your experience. I’m sorry about your shredded/digested review, though. But boy, did you make me laugh with his antics!

    • I’m glad the little holy terror made you laugh, my dear. He wants you lots of bites and nibbles in response.

    • Come prepared with oven mitts in case he’s not over his teething at that time. 😉

  2. What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing the start of your journey with Apollo and for giving us a little feel for his already-complex personality.

    • Aww, I’m so pleased you enjoyed it. O was hesitating to veer so much off’course or off-topic, but there was pretty much no other way to explain the huge delay in the Chanel review, lol.

  3. Wow, you’ve got quite the challenge, as well as a lot of holes and swallowed paper. My kitty chews on my nose and fingers to let me know he’s hungry for his breakfast, but he doesn’t even break the skin. Apollo is really cute though, and once you’ve figured out his training, he will be a fiercely loyal protector for you. I hope you fared well during the Great Freeze. As for me, I was thankful for my cats, three layers of wool, a heavy overcoat, hat, gloves, three scarves, six blankets, and a gas stove. Come on 2021, time for things to improve all around!

    • Boy, you really went through hell during the great blackout/freeze. You poor thing! You more layers than anyone else I know, including Alison Cook the restaurant critic. I hope you didn’t get sick as a result of the freezing temps.

      I fared better, somewhat, except with regard to running water. Thankfully, I had filled up bath tubs for just such an emergency, thanks to a long-standing paranoia about not having water to flush the loo, wash dishes, or have safe water for pets. Even so, the tubs were running perilously down to nothing after just 4 days. The whole thing was so stressful and, yet, I was one of the lucky ones, comparatively speaking.

  4. He is just perfekt and my advice is to stick with the positive training. I train my bandit at the police dog training-center. They only advice positive training. By the way I live in Denmark so maybe it’s not an option where you live. Different countries different costumes. Good luck with your beautiful baby.

    • I really appreciate your input and thoughts on the positive reinforcement method. You’ve solidified my gut feeling that, even with this sort of high drive, stubborn, obstinate, rambunctious German Shepherd, it would be a mistake to opt for correction training.

      There are a lot of places here that provide such training, but I have the sense that police dogs still get correction training. Your police force seems more enlightened.

      By the way, I love Denmark and Copenhagen. I tried to move there back in 2010, but things fell through.

      Give your Bandit a kiss from me. 🙂

    • Awww, that made my day. Thank you. I really hesitated in posting it, since it veers so off-topic from scent, but the little rascal has taken over my life at the moment and there wasn’t any other way to explain the long delay in the Chanel review (or my lack of time to return to regular, weekly reviews as I had originally planned).

      Having said that, I confess to being a bit of a proud parent about my boy’s beautifully wonky, crazy ears. They always put a smile on my face. 🙂

  5. …and he was the mellowest of the litter?
    I have my 8 month old cat who tests my patience and sleep deprived nights as it is- I don’t think I could handle Apollo even though I love GSDs. I was looking at his pics guessing by his paws he’ll be a big dog. My mom’s beloved black GSD weighed 135 lbs. He literally would walk under our kitchen table and lift it with his back. He is so adorable though. Those ears haha. Good luck…

    • No, the litter situation was something else. They were all supposed to be mellow, because of their mom, and Apollo was indeed very chill when he was with his siblings and mother. Most who met him thought he was the mellower and sweetest of the lot.

      But once he came here and was away from his litter mates, he seems to have transformed into something quite unexpected, something on a whole other level. I guess he came out of his shell or he didn’t feel the need to suppress his personality to get along with his siblings.

      Whatever the explanation, the dog he is now is absolutely nothing like the sleepy, relaxed, low key pup je had been or that everyone expected him to remain as going forward. Instead of being low drive, he’s most definitely high drive, with all that that entails. It’s…a lot. Lol

  6. Gosh Kafka, he is beautiful. Wunderschön! You will become best friends I’m sure. Until then it’s just a few precious carpets, furniture and skin….small price to pay. I don’t envy you but it’ll be worth it. How’s your sleep these days?

    Loving the puppy content. All the best!

    • Thank you for the kind words on Apollo.

      As for sleep, let’s just put it this way: I drove 20 minutes to the vet this afternoon only to discover Apollo’s appointment is actually for tomorrow. I don’t know the day, the time, if I’m coming or going, or anything else at this point. Total zombie from sleep deprivation.

  7. He’s such a little badass. I love the look on his face. He can’t hide that he’s thinking, “Just wait till your back is turned….” LOL

    My little Italian greyhound destroyed part of a paneled wall and chewed up part of a linoleum floor when we tried to keep him in the laundry room at night and he was only 4 months old at the time. I should have used a crate, but I think he would have figured out how to escape that, too. The solution, I just put him in the bed with me and all was well. 🙂 Yep, I’m a sucker like that, but you pretty much have to do that with sighthounds. They all massively crave body contact when sleeping, with dogs or humans.

    Darling Ricky also chomped on a couch a few times and chewed up part of a cedar chest. Even though he’s deceased now, his teeth marks still live on the cedar chest, the little rascal. But we still love our doggos.

    • Ricky sounds like such a scamp and little devil! ♥️ I am smiling so much at his shenanigans, bur particularly the memento he left you of his teeth marks on that cedar chest. I bet you smile now whenever you see it.

      I will pray to the canine dogs that my Apollo does not follow Ricky’s footsteps when it comes to destroying flooring. Lord knows, he’s tried but, thus far, thankfully, he’s been unsuccessful. Thus far…lol

  8. Those ears are KILLING ME. I adore expressive pets, and Apollo is just so. His eyes! So full of life and personality. I’d love to visit you & him in your corner of the world. Love, love, love all the pictures.

    His royal puppiness sounds exhausting though, I hope you’re holding up. Especially since your area, and you, really haven’t been spared lately.

    He reminds me a bit of my beloved childhood golden retriever. My sister picked him out of the litter-she just had this instant connection. When we came back to pick him up after he’d been weaned, he was HUGE -a good head taller than his littermate, and he was clearly the leader of the pack.
    He had SO MUCH energy. I was a child so obviously I didn’t bear the brunt of the training but I do remember that feeling of complete, utter exhaustion. An agent of chaos. Yet he mellowed out just enough to be the absolute best, perfect dog. He remained mischievous to be an endless source of fun, but he was obedient enough to be fine both in our home and with outside company. Pranks, yes, but no more wreaking havoc. Such a loving, good-hearted goofball.
    His insane energy levels were also a blessing in his old age: he didn’t show his age, at all. People were stunned a 10yo golden retriever could seem so youthful. He’s been gone almost ten years now, but we still talk about how good we had it with him all the time.

    Golden retrievers and GSDs have different personalities and quirks of course, Apollo and my dog aren’t the same, but all this to say that, for all the chaos and bone-deep exhaustion you may experience right now (and these feel *terrible*), the best probably has yet to come.

  9. How I wish my late dog-trainers book was available in English. His method may not have made your life with Apollo easier, but understanding some of his behaviours may have made them (a bit) more tolerable. It reminds me of my first year with Mrs. Merkel, although she is no Apollo, she was a handful and not one to back down. Maybe it helps, but my trainer always made it clear that a pup is not a grown up dog, and that within wolf packs pups get away with an awful lot. He always said, they really can’t (always) do what you tell it or want it to do (or not) when they are still ‘dog children’. He did say that if you are displeased, best is to say it to your dog. “I really don’t like you doing this”. He was convinced, and showed me many times, that a dog’s understanding of human speak is fenomenal and more importantly they smell the ‘displeased pheromones’ so pretending you are calm whilst you are pissed off is likely to create confusion or worse, mistrust. Better to shortly shout (like a bitch shaking a pup when it is overstepping its limits) and then move on. He wasn’t a big believer in positive reinforcement, always regarding this as a short cut to ‘good behaviour’ instead of the long (and intensive) road to mutual trust. I believe Apollo in essence wants to love and trust you unconditionally, but before he can do this he will make your life difficult (and eating your notes is just a prime example of how wonderfully intelligent dogs are). His behaviour is his way to ‘talk’ to you and to negotiate his position in his relationship with you. Be honest with him, don’t bribe him, don’t punish him.
    And apologies if this is unsollicited advice..then just ignore! Wishing you perseverance!

  10. Dear Kafka, I wrote a long comment, but the dog ate this too..;-) Just saying hello now, and wishing you patience with the little man. My trainer always used to say, remember they are puppies, biologically/brain developmentally speaking they cannot be other than they are now. He said it is best to really think of them as children, and he is a very young child. I could write a lot more, if you think it may be useful let me know!

  11. Longtime lurker and hardcore chypre-head here! I enjoy your forays into green territory, am encouraged to step out of my comfort zone and into the ambers, and appreciate your writing in general for being both clear and comprehensive.

    My sister and I grew up in the ’70s with another high-drive GSD in disguise. (Her mother had been high strung, my parents later found out.) Living on 5 acres in a rural state gave us kids plenty of opportunity to help our GSD get her ya-yas out; she took her duties seriously and liked to herd us away from our friends.

    I can neither confirm nor deny that friends of the family did their part to calm her by visiting from out of state with the devil’s lettuce, which, when smoked, caused our boisterous girl to slump and her ears to descend until they were perpendicular to her head.

    Apollo does look truly penitent! (It suppose it helps that he’s had the chance to perfect that expression.) My brother-in-law grew up in a family that bred and sold GSD puppies, and if I happen to hear anything useful, I’ll share it.

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