Boot Camp started as an 8-week course in 2004 with Trainer/CGC Evaluator Bert Haagenstad and WGSDR staff member Nancy as the "treat lady." After the 8 weeks, Bert announced that the class had run its course, but the students were not ready to let us go just yet. They asked us to continue the class, and we did -- for almost 14 years!

Bert's calm, leadership ways have brought many a fractious dog through their rescue temperament evaluation
(Chekota attended Boot Camp with her adoptive family and did well)

Boot Camp was initially offered to the shepherds adopted through White GSD Rescue and Southwest GSD Rescue, but we were approached by Jan, who had a young shepherd that she was attempting to train as a service/therapy dog and there was no training available going into the warmer months. Jan asked if we could make an exception for her unruly boy, Dylan, and open our class to the public ... and so we did. Dylan was not the only dog who went on from Boot Camp to become a certified therapy dog!

We started off small

In no time at all, the size of our class grew and we moved to the larger field


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Bert explains flooding and weaving and gives some insight into his training style/philosophy: "Dog training for me is more about training the owner to train the dog.  Through a lot of trial and error, I learned to read the body language of the dog.  I realized that by doing so I could anticipate what the dog was going to do before they acted or reacted.  Dogs display and communicate many responses through their bodies' actions and movements.  Being able to read these same signals gives the owner an advantage over other training methods.  I taught these subtle signals to dog owners in an effort to prevent negative behaviors.  All dogs freeze for about 45 seconds before they react. It's during this time the owner can redirect the behavior into positive behavior.  The window is small, but it does allow you to prevent negative behavior before it happens.

Dogs have two reactions.  One is fight mode -- dogs displaying a reactive behavior that some would call aggression.  (In reality, and in almost all cases, it is fear, not true aggression.)  The second is flight mode -- they want to get away from a person, another dog or a sound.  Proper socializing, or the lack thereof, is a major cause of negative dog behaviors.  I found two exercises that increase positive behavior through increasing social interaction.

Flooding is a process used to desensitize dogs that overreact to outside stimuli.  By placing a dog and handler (“the target dog”) into the middle of a circle of other dogs/owners you provide so many options for the target dog to respond or react to, the target dog almost always chooses not to react.  The idea is to watch the body language of the target dog for changes in behavior as the exercise progresses.  The circle takes one step forward, tightening the circle around the target dog.  If the target dog begins to look nervous after the circle steps forward, I would wait a minute or two to see if the target dog relaxes or not.  If the target dog does relax, the circle is moved inward one more step. If the target dog doesn't relax, I had the circle take a step back, wait a minute or two, then moved the circle inward one step again. If the target dog is relaxed and showing no sign of stress, the circle is moved inward one step at a time. This forward movement stops if the dog shows signs of stress and/or the circle gets within three feet of the target dog. When the maximum closeness is reached, the circle is directed to return to its original position.  I usually repeated the exercise three times with each dog in class.

Weaving.  The weaving exercise provides a situation where one dog and handler is stationary while other dogs and handlers walk past them. This movement often triggers a defensive or prey-drive reaction.  By safely being exposed to these triggers, the dogs learn that they don't have to react, thus working to desensitize the dogs."

Nancy's treat circle was always very popular

Even volunteer/adopter Sara (center) came up from Tucson to join our class

Volunteers Di and Traci hard at work

In 2007, we let the dogs try some agility equipment

Volunteer Betty helps out

Learning "sit" and "stay"

Jessie (with Frank in the middle) was a very dog-reactive girl who came out to Boot Camp with Lynda and Frank to learn how to play well with others ~ she did well enough to pass her Canine Good Citizen Test in early 2008

March 16, 2008

In March of 2008, we held our first Canine Good Citizen Test ~ 7 dogs passed including Jim & Mary with Jay / Michelle & Jim with Maddi / Frank & Lynda with Jessie, Jennifer with Trey / Bert / Di with Missy & Shiloh / Carole & Pete with Mariah
1st Boot Camp Herding Day
January 18, 2009

In January of 2009, after seeing a herding demonstration during an event at West World, we contacted Molly Wisecarver at Fire N Ice Kennels & Double M Ranch in Mayer, AZ, to ask her if she would give our rescued German shepherds a chance to test their natural herding instincts. At first, Molly was reluctant, but she agreed to give us a chance and she never looked back. Thank you, Molly, for 8 wonderful Boot Camp Herding Days!

Nancy & Bert conduct the first Boot Camp Herding Day

Baer shows how it's done

Shiloh & Missy tag-teamed to bring the small herd in, although Missy was trying to keep the sheep AWAY from mom (Di) and Shiloh was trying to bring them IN! It made for some comic relief for us ... and some embarrasing moments for Di!

Congratulations to the dogs that received their Herding Instinct Certificates ~ Baer (Bert), Emma & Hawk (Susan), Gina (Doug & Wendy), Jessie (Frank & Lynda), Mariah (Carol & Pete), Missy & Shiloh (Di), Hauer (White GSD Rescue), Taz & Tank

Threatening skies didn't stop us from having class
2nd Boot Camp Herding Day
May 3, 2009

We had such a great time in January, Boot Campers couldn't wait to get out to Mayer again, and even more people and dogs joined us!

Gina tries her hand with goats

Nancy handled Rascal for Dorothy

And once again Missy provided the comedy portion of our program

Congratulations to the dogs that received their Herding Instinct Certificates ~ Danny & Sophie (Kendra & Chris), Gina & Rohan (Doug & Wendy), Hawk (Emma), Jake, Jessie (Susan), Missy (Di), Rascal (Dorothy), Sophie & Benz (Cathy), Zack (Traci), Tank, Titan & Taz

Steff from Southwest GSD Rescue came out to join us a time or two!
June 21, 2009

CONGRATULATIONS to Tank, Hawk, Emma, Trinity, Ellie, Star, Zack and Kona on passing their CGC Tests!! Thanks to everyone who helped with the testing (Frank & Lynda, Carol & Moriah, Jan, Katherine & Davey), and to the treat lady (Nancy) who stayed hidden (for the most part) throughout the testing.

After our summer break, Boot Camp starts up for its fifth season in the fall of 2009

Nancy's 2009 Surprise Birthday Party Thrown by Boot Camp Attendees

Needless to say, Nancy was thoroughly surprised!

In early 2010, puppy Seishan joined Boot Camp with Dad Dave (at far right). We could hear her joyous shreaks from the parking lot as soon as she got out of the car; she was so excited to come to class each week. Seishan went on to become a certified therapy dog and visited hospitals with Dave. She also earned a Rally-O title.
3rd Boot Camp Herding Day
January 10, 2010

The morning was chilly but everyone was excited and anxious to get the party started!

Congratulations to the dogs that received their Herding Instinct Certificates ~ Zack (Traci), Kayai (White GSD Rescue), Jessie (Frank & Lynda), Rascal (Dorothy), Chance (Charles & Shelly), Buffy (Jewel), Emma & Hawk (Susan), Sophie & Benz (Cathy), Shiloh (Di), Kona (Jodi), Jackson (Erica), Mariah (Carol & Pete), Maggie and Hondo (Bob)
JUNE 13, 2010

CONGRATULATIONS Seishan (Dave), Buffy & Angel (Jewel), Maggie and Sasha (Angela) on passing their CGC Tests!! Thanks to everyone who helped with the testing -- Traci, Jodi, Lynda, Frank, Carol, Pete, Suzie, Laura and Diane & Shiloh
Our 2010 Halloween Boot Camp was a HUGE SUCCESS!!

Traci & Zack

Angela & Sasha

Lauren & Matilda

Carol, Mariah & Dorothy as the Great Pumpkin

4th Boot Camp Herding Day
March 6, 2011

Congratulations to Benz & Sophie, Blitzen, Bobby, Ginger, Hondo, Jan, Jody, Kat, Koda, Monty, Sami, Sasha, Seishan, Simba, Stunner and their owners for a fabulous time!
May 15, 2011
In May of 2011, we decided to add a little fun and competition to our regular Boot Camp class. We invited our Boot Campers to compete for the First Boot Camp Top Dog honor. Bert put the dogs through a series of obedience exercises, much like you would do in front of a judge at an obedience competition. The dogs were amazing and really showed off what they had learned at Boot Camp!

Angela & Sasha, John & Star, Di & Shiloh, Bert, Dave & Seishan, Darlene & Monty and Oliver

1st Place - Monty - Score 195
2nd Place - Sasha - Score 194-1/2
3rd Place - Seishan - Score 194
4th Place - Shiloh Score - 193-1/2
5th Place - Oliver - Score 190
6th Place - Star - Score 181-1/2

Our thanks to Leah of Dog House Training Academy for donating an 8 week intermediate training class to the winner.

Training in 2011
In mid 2011, as we moved indoors for the summer, Bert decided to offer a course in "Rally-O," a new and exciting form of obedience. Several of our Boot Campers and their dogs came out and were immediately hooked! A few even went on to compete in events and did very well.


Sasha and Seishan entered their first Rally Novice Show-N-Go Match at the Ahwatukee Swim Club sponsored by Desert Dog Obedience. Both dogs did very well, with only a suggestion for improvement from the judge for each. We are so proud of you!!!

Angela and Dave walk the course

Instructions from the Judge
Waiting for the results

In Second place with a score of 92, it's Angela and Sasha!

Dave and Seishan didn't place (Seishan was having a "blonde day")
but they did receive a leg towards their Rally-O title with a
passing score of 71

CONGRATULATIONS to Seishan, Dylan and Sasha who received legs on their RallyO titles at the November 12th PFOC show in Paradise Valley. In Novice A, Seishan received a 93 (and fourth place) and Sasha received a 91. In Novice B, Dylan received a 93 (and second place)!!!
On Sunday, November 13th, all 3 dogs showed again with Sasha receiving a 97 (a tie for 2nd place), Seishan receiving a 96 (4th place) in Novice A, and Dylan receiving an 86 for 4th place (Novice B). Both Sasha and Seishan finished their AKC Rally-O Novice titles! Dylan only has one more leg to go.

Boot Camp regular Angela and Sasha on Sasha's RA (Rally Advanced) and first leg in Beginner Novice Obedience.
We are SO proud of you!
June 10, 2012

: Darlene w/Oliver and Monty, Jan w/Sydney, Tracie w/Peter and Deb w/Miyu on earning their CGC titles!
Thanks to Dave w/Seishan (at far left) and Di w/Charlie (at far right) for being our tester dogs/handlers ~ and thanks to all our helpers (Angela, Richard, Mickey, Taylor, Katherine, Steff, Jake and Apple's folks)

Volunteers Lucas and Anthony joined our class in 2013. We paired Anthony with one of our rescue furkids in the hope that a match could be made, and it was!! Anthony made Patsy an official member of his family not too long after attending Boot Camp classes with her. You may also recognize Anthony as our official Santa Paws Claus. Lucas moved away but returned not only to Arizona but to volunteer with White GSD Rescue in transport and training. He adopted his first transport dog, Anya, in 2022.

It was a cold and dreary day in December, but still the faithful kept coming to class

Obstacle course anyone? Some of the dogs loved it ... others, not so much, but we had fun!

"Circle Right"

5th Boot Camp Herding Day
March 17, 2013

Congratulations to Benz (Cathy), Blitzen (Brett), Bogart (Eileen), Chinto (Mickey), Denver (WhiteGSDRescue), Dylan (Jan), Ellie, Fergie (Steff), Gemini (SWGSD Rescue), Jake (Nancy), Jodie (Scott), Loki (Sarah), Miyu (Deb & Jake), Monty (Darlene), Patsy (Anthony), Sasha (Angela), Seishan (Dave) and Shiloh (Di)
July 28, 2013

Cooper & Elise

Polo & John

Devon & Jennifer

Chinto & Mickey

Thanks to all our volunteers: Dave & Seishan, Jim, Lucas, Richard, Angela & Sasha, Jake & Deb, and Anthony, and a huge "Good Job" to Robert, Elizabeth & Bella, who will definitely be ready for retesting next fall

When our class was too large to fit into the activities room at Doggie District, we took it outside into the DD parking lot
6th Boot Camp Herding Day
March 16, 2014

Congratulations to Bella (Robert), Bolt (Di), Buffy (Chris), Chinto (Mickey), Devon (Jennifer), Jandi (Darren), Miyu (Deb & Jake), Monty (Darlene), Patsy (Anthony), Peter (Walt), Riley (Gary), Sasha (Angela), Seishan (Dave), Winter (Dorothy) and Sundance (Traci)


Still going strong in early 2014

Criss-cross exercise
SUNDAY, JULY 6, 2014
Andy's Boot Camp buddies celebrate his adoption

Bert w/Michael (standing), Di w/Gracie, Dave w/Seishan, Glenda (Andy's new mom), Stacy w/Lorelei (laying down hidden), Chris w/Red, Traci w/Kele, Jim & Terri (kneeling) w/Cindy, Deb w/Miyu, Andy (green arrow) with his new sister Madison and cousin Sydnee, Gary w/Riley, Leah w/Ava
Boot Camp regular Miyu, handled by her owner Deb, received her Agility Certificate from Jumping Chollas in the
Foundation and Relationship Class!
Jinx was a very special girl and an integral part of Boot Camp for almost 2 years before she was adopted. She worked with two of our volunteers, Traci and Di, both of whom had been with us for a while and had trained dogs of their own. By the time volunteer Wendy joined our ranks, Jinx was a seasoned Boot Camper and was ready, willing and able to teach Wendy how it's done.

"Flooding" with Di

Learning tricks with Traci

Showing Wendy the art of flooding

Class in early 2015
7th Boot Camp Herding Day
March 21, 2015

Congratulations to our Herding Instinct Tested Dogs!!!
Bella (Darlene), Bella II (Robert, Elizabeth & Angelina), Benson (Janice), Brady (Steff), Buffy (Chris), Chinto (Mickey), Dylan (Jan), Jinx (Di), Kele (Traci), Kimber (Leah), Miyu, Nacho (Jewell), Peter (Walt), Piper (Jennifer), Seishan (Dave), Sydney (Don), Tucker (Georgie)

Class in late 2015
8th Boot Camp Herding Day
February 27, 2016

Congratulations to our 15 Herding Instinct Tested Dogs!!!
Seishan (Dave), Chinto (Mickey), Brady (Steff), Chaka (Steff), Mellie, Snowy, Miyu (Deb), Iggy (Jake), Watson (Heather), Kele (Traci), Buddy & Zenith (Di), Bella (Robert, Elizabeth & Angelina), Nacho (Jewell) & Benson (Janice)
Boot Camp continued on until approximately 2018, when it was finally shut down due to low attendance. It was definitely a labor of love. We cannot even begin to count the number of dogs (and people) who have attended and benefitted from the time and commitment given by our trainer, Bert, and the treat lady, Nancy. We have loved being part of your training journey with your dogs.

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