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The Family Ferrari

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My son wants a Ferrari for Christmas and  I’m thinking about getting it for him.

I can afford it; my neighbor has a used one for sale.  Apparently it’s been “too much car” for him, so it’s sat in his garage.

I will definitely give my son driving lessons – I know that owning a car like that is a true responsibility.  My son hasn’t learned how to drive yet, so I may have to make some modifications to the car, just in case it turns out to me be “too much car” for us as well.

Performance cars have special tires; they allow the car to corner at high speeds and provide exceptional traction.  Excellent in a racing car, but probably overkill for our family, so I will take it down to Costco for some regular Honda tires.

Performance cars also tend to be noisy – my neighbors are going to object if every morning the car roars to life.  Part of the problem is the muffler – or lack thereof, so I’ll need to add a muffler.

Obviously there are liability issues with a fast and powerful car, so I’m only going to let him drive it when I’m there to supervise.  Otherwise it will stay in the garage where everyone can be safe.

Some of you may be thinking a Ferrari is overkill for a child, but my son really needs a hobby, and it does appear that there are a variety of tools and modifications that I can use to settle the car down.  A little change here and a little change there, and soon I’ll have a Volkswagen interior with a Ferrari body.  The car doesn’t care if we take out every ounce of it’s Ferrari nature – it’s just a car.

You should see what my neighbors want to buy for their family.  A working line German Shepherd.  The dog is supposed to become a hobby – the husband needs something to do when he gets home from work.

They know that a working line dog is a huge responsibility.  They guard the property and can be suspicious with people – but they’ve heard that the right tools can control that.  Rambunctious in the house?  That’s why you should kennel a working dog.  Boredom in the kennel causes barking?  Got a special collar to stop that.  Dog’s brain spins 10 times faster than the trainer’s brain?  That’s OK too – all sorts of special tools can slow the dog down and suppress his instincts, so the owner will have some time to think about what to do next while the dog bubbles over with frustration.

Soon, he’ll be well behaved. Quiet.  No trouble at all.  And delighted with his incompetent training simply to get out of his kennel.

The potential owner of this dog has already been warned that “high drive dogs” aren’t like other dogs.  They require a firm hand, lest they attempt a hostile takeover.  Cannot live in a home.  Require a  wide range of power tools, because “no one can train a dog like that” without suppression.

No one.

Lightening quick, responsive and designed for performance.  In a car, that’s my worst nightmare.   In a dog, that’s my dream. I wonder how the dog feels about the modifications that are designed to take out every ounce of who he is and what he’s been bred to be, so that an unsophisticated trainer can handle a dog that is way outside of their skill level.

My son cannot even drive a car, so I will not buy him a Ferrari.    It takes more than desire; it takes time and dedication to develop the skills to handle power intelligently, and common sense suggests that a novice learn on something easier rather than blaming the car for its design.  You don’t get a Ferrari if you haven’t succeeded at freeway speeds with a Honda; stronger brakes and heavier bumpers are not the answer.

Might be something for my neighbor to think about.

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

57 responses »

  1. You are so eloquent with your descriptions. Such a perfect comparison, I wish everyone would read this. Thank you and Merry Christmas. I hope you get what you need!


    Well said! Thank you.

    Kate An Hunter Carver Lake Veterinary Center 651-578-3290

  3. always frightening to see …

  4. Love this! That’s why I have a high drive doodle! You should see her tug and play now with Kellie and Molly’s help…Keep em coming Denise… Connie

  5. that is why I have never complained about my moderate speed retrievers in agility. we are all perfectly happy at our pace and feel no need and have no desire to run with the Ferraris!! I’m not a good enough trainer !

    • me too I get it and I’m working hard but will not probably be good enough nor really aspire to have a dog with that much dog, it take all kinds…

  6. YES, THIS!! I’ve actually had a few people say they want a GSD after seeing my puppy, a six month old Shepherd (mixed with a bit of husky, we think). “He’s so quiet and nice, and I want a dog that’s easy to train.” Yes, he learns very quickly. Which is why when people offer him treats I now make them hand them over to me because he’s already learned that if he’s quick enough he can just snatch them out of their hand (but not with me). They don’t realize that I spend AT MINIMUM hours a day walking him or at the off-leash park. That I train him for 15 minutes MINIMUM every day (not in one stint, but broken up into chunks, and not counting all the random training opportunities I take advantage of as they come along) and I expect that to go up as he gets older and his body is ready for the harder stuff. They don’t realize that he arrived with pronounced resource guarding issues that have required a lot of work to overcome (I’ve only had him two months, he grew up in an outdoor kennel having to scrap with a bunch of older GSDs for every bit of food or toys he could get) and he’s come a long way, but is hardly “fixed”. I probably won’t be taking a vacation this year that takes me away from home since it’s unfair to foist those sorts of problems off on to my mother while I’m away.
    Which is fine because I knew all of this before I got him. I wanted a performance dog. I wanted a dog that I could work with for hours a day. And I’ve dealt with the issues he has in previous dogs (and have a very good relationship with my dog trainer, who I see every week for agility class and is happy to help with behavioural issues as well). If I wanted a dog that I only had to do a minimal amount of work with, I’d get a lab. And certainly not a working line of ANYTHING.

    • “If I wanted a dog that I only had to do a minimal amount of work with, I’d get a lab. And certainly not a working line of anything”. I almost rolled out of my chair laughing at that one. I have high energy field labs who require many hours of training and exercise as well. My motto is a “tired dog is a good dog” By the way we hit 6 YPS on AKC JWW courses and 4.5 on STD with stopped contacts and there are faster labs out there making history..

      • But that’s why I added the bit about “working line”. I have a lab mixed with BORDER COLLIE and 90% of our training has been working on ways to motivate him (which, having been successful means we finish most agility courses in about 30 seconds or less, but there was about a year spent JUST figuring out how to get him to redirect the energy he would rather spend playing fetch into doing agility and disc dog). I’m sure if I had a lab specifically bread to be a sports dog it would be a different story. But that’s why my new dog is a GSD–way more dog to work with (my first dog was a rottie/shepherd mix so suddenly ending up with a dog with low work ethic was actually incredibly aggravating). But you can get a lab bred to be a family pet and nothing but, and you can get a German Shepherd bred for the same thing (if you look quite a bit harder in my opinion), and they’ll be a lot easier to handle than either of my dogs. There’s a reason labs are a favourite family pet, and that’s not a bad thing.


    I Love my Ferrari…..even when I am used as a racetrack at night when she hasnt had enpough road work.

  8. This is sooo good , and so true !

  9. Lots of breeders could/should include that on their websites.

  10. People run into less intense versions of this with Corgis. They see cute little dog. They do not really see smart, bossy, herding dog who needs a job.

    • So true. And dachshunds, as well – not ALL dachshunds, but many!! On a much smaller scale than a working GSD, but most still are not just a cute lap dog.

      I have a lovely Cardigan and we do agility and lots of hiking and tricks and cross-training and more…. and she still gets bored sometimes. Her sister is in a (very lovely) pet home and they describe her as a naughty bad dog! I can’t even imagine how “bad” my girl would be without all we do!!!

  11. That makes me very very sad….

  12. hope you share this post with them. Or they can talk to friends of mine, who didn’t return the high drive puppy they bought…13 unhappy years later, the dog died and they are happy…people’s brains work in wierd ways….

  13. Had to sit in the lounge at work biting my tongue as a co worker described how she loves her high energy sporting bred dog , but he is too much so they got the shock collar, but now he has developed some other non acceptable behavior so they started him on Prozac this week, he’s three, so sad

  14. I love this. I always tell people Kaleb is the worst house dog I’ve ever had. I actively discourage a lot of pet people from thinking about a high energy performance dog. I explain, he is a ton of work, a huge time commitment. He is only occasionally crated anytime outside of the car. But in order to live with him outside the crate in the house, he has to have a lot of exercise and he has to have activities (training) that keep his mind challenged. If I slack off, he becomes a pest, and then a nusiance and then a real PIA, so I can’t slack off. He must be busy many times in a day, he must run many times a day, and he still must have his pet time, cause the dog wants his cuddles. This is all in his nature, along with being the smartest, one of the sweetest, and most willing to please dogs I’ve ever had. I don’t want to modify that. Fortunately, being with this dog is one of life’s greatest pleasures, so the “work” is fun. And I’m lucky. I have a breeder who is intelligent and cares enough to match her dogs to the people they go to-she picked out the perfect puppy for my level of experience and life situation. Kaleb is one of the “calmer” ones from his lines. I have a trainer who will work with us without using power tools. I have a husband who puts up with a lot of dog. Denise, I hope your neighbors really research what’s involved and decide what they can really handle before getting that Ferrari. It’s a huge investment and commitment. Using tools that attempt to alter the make and model takes the joy out of that commitment and eventually sours the investment. It’s not worth it.

  15. Great minds think alike — I continually tell my students in my perfect world you would arrive to class never having trained a dog before and I would hand you a trained dog to work with. Instead you arrive to my class without dog training skills and on the end of your leashes you are holding a Ferrari! (they all laugh – but it has a great deal of truth to it) Why don’t you take your neighbors to IPO practice and have them put in a sleeve…send the working line German Shepherd dog ; – ) Please videotape!

  16. There is a german shephard pup in the puppy class I’m attending. Very high drive dog going after whatever comes near it and looking bored to tears when “working” with it’s “handler”.
    It’s very depressing to see. I can’t really get it off my mind for some reason. I only see a poor outcome for this dog with great potential. It really breaks my heart.

    • Maybe the person would be open to advice !

    • Carole, I almost feel like you have been in the class I am attending. I have a pup who has some interesting drive characteristics who I am working with to focus and channel his drive with more or less success. When he goes into drive he is not terribly clear headed. When he loses it he is a beast and I have to reel him in. Some of the folks in the class must think I’m insane to have a dog like this, for me he is a real training challenge and stretching me like I haven’t been stretched for almost 20 years with a dog.

  17. Yet another excellent post. I really wish more people would think about their breed choice before getting a dog.

  18. pauline hosenfeld

    Denise, once again, you put it so well. Great post! Happy Holidays to you and your family!

    • I am so glad you posted this! The analogy is perfect and certainly personifies a number of folks I know who purchase a highly driven line puppy with the sole purpose of exerting CONTROL over them. What a train wreck this usually ends up to be—–a livid owner and a completely confused, maladjusted and sometimes hostile dog………sigh

  19. Know Thyself SHOULD be the first principle of choosing a dog. I was able to condense it for myself when looking for a new puppy a couple of years ago–I was thinking about switching breeds, & told a breeder that what I wanted was “a very sweet dog with a good work ethic and an off switch”. There’s a REASON I don’t have a BC, or herding dog of any breed–much as I love watching them work, all that intensity would drive me bonkers. In the end, I went with another flat-coat from a friend’s litter, carefully selected by her as “the relationship puppy”. She loves to work, & in an hour or so, when I pick up the training bag, she’ll be bouncing off the wall with delight. Right now she’s lying on a dog bed at my feet, gnawing an antler, & we’re both content. It’s all about choosing a dog for your real life, not your fantasies.

  20. And shame on the breeder willing to sell a WL shepherd…..

  21. Before I got my driver’s licences I swore my “First car” would be a Porsche. And indeed, I saved enough money to buy a used Porsche when I was in college. I blew up the engine before I learned how to really drive that car, but once I learned more about what the car could do and how to drive it, I had many amazing, dream like drives on winding canyon roads, flying along deserted highways in the middle of the night, adreline fueled, fabulous drives – driving just for the pleasure of being behind the wheel of an incredible machine. I loved that car, and even though it was a lot of car for a young driver I learned a tremendous amount and loved the experience. When I needed to get more practical in my life and transportation was more important than drives just for the pleasure of driving, I sold the Porsche. It wasn’t “transportation” – it was a dream on wheels. You don’t buy a Porsche (or Ferrari) just to run errands.
    I made mistakes with my first dog, too. She used to be my back seat driver in the Porsche, and she was just as inappropriate for the novice dog owner that I was – as that car was for me as a novice driver. But I learned so much from her – a field-bred Irish Setter who needed a job, and compelled me to learn everything I could about training her and giving her jobs just so we could live together. She taught me a lot about dog training, and every dog since then has added to the lesson. That inappropriate first dog made me love dog training and want to be a better trainer with each dog I added to my life.
    The Ferrari analogy is a great one. I have never owned another car like my Porsche, but the dogs in my life are all “Porsches”. The Porsche was never “just transportation” – and my dogs are not “just pets.” I love what I can do with my working dogs, the teamwork is its own incredible adreline fueled rush when we do something together in perfect harmony. When people tell me they want a dog like mine, I think, no, probably they don’t. The partnership they see is the result of many many hours of training and time spent learning how to make my dog be the best that he can be. There is so much to learn, and so much time spent before you can have the magic partnership that makes living with the canine equivalent of a Ferrari (or a Porsche) the dream it was meant to be.
    Thanks, Denise, for an eloquent description of what it means to own that Ferrari – and choosing a dog (or car) for real life and not fantasy

    • Ha! I have a 1964 VW Beetle.

      Ypu know those sogns that Beetle Owners used to put on them –“My other car’s a Porsche”.

      Well. I always wanted to put a Sign on mine saying “I’ve got a Veedub. I do not need another car.”

      Veedub dogs should also be known as the Jeep Dog — as in “General Purpose” — gthey can be anything that teh owner wants for them 😉

      Jenny — with Veedub German Shepherds and a Ferrari Working Kelpie 🙂 A thing of beauty and a joy forever — but nort made to go slow 😉

  22. OMG, i once used the same analogy with Loki! I called him a special edition corvette. It had quick response speed and you had to know how to respond to it and handle it otherwise you would surely crash it. I would not let just anyone drive my corvette. He taught me that. It breaks my heart to hear about people getting high drive GSDs or Malinois (or in some cases SIBES who need to work, because i have one of those too) and don’t do right by the breed. For the Sibe, i run her (with loki) 3x/week and long walks the other days. for my corvette (Loki), training games, no matter how bad I am at it, we do it almost daily. He will get the blues if we go more than a day without working his mind. I hate to see him blue. Like a corvette who’s not being driven and sadly won’t work anymore…

    I agree with one commenter. take him to the sport field and put him a bite suit with some working line GSD’s. then see if he’ll be up for the challenge! 😉 tee hee… i sure hope he comes to his senses.

  23. this post got my attention so well!!!! I loved every bit, the comparison, the conclusions, every single step of the way I questioned then was quick to agree with you at the end! AMAZING post!

  24. Reblogged this on musings of a pirate and commented:
    this is quietly brilliant…

  25. Connie Macchione

    “Dog’s brain spins 10 times faster than the trainer’s brain” A perfect description of my JRT. If she had been my first dog, instead of the mild-mannered Golden I started with over thirty years ago, it would not have fared well for either of us.

    People are always telling me how cute and adorable she is. I just smile and nod, because she definitely is a cutey, but always several steps ahead of me, literally and figuratively! She is easily frustrated if I haven’t planned our training sessions well enough to keep up with her. I wouldn’t have had the patience or knowledge as a novice to do this dog justice, and, sad to say, might have resorted to some of the tools you alluded to.

    Just because you want and can afford a high-performance car/dog/horse doesn’t mean you should get one. Too bad the people who need to read and understand this the most won’t see it. As you said, the analogy would most likely be lost on them anyway :/

  26. I had a very bad experience with a Ferrari last Saturday. I was in a class working with my wonderful little Lotus. In our first group agility class we were off in a corner doing a focused session when a Ferrari jumped three fences on a mission to crash my Lotus. We’d been nowhere near them at any point, the only provocation was our existance. I really hope people take your words to heart. Don’t get a Ferrari unless you’re going to drive it safely and responsibly.

  27. The worse part is that at least a car isn’t a living, breathing, thinking being that cares it’s being mishandled or driven recklessly.

  28. I have a Ferrari. He was a product of what I assume was an accidental breeding, as he was sold at 6-7 weeks out of a box in the Costco parking lot (I received him thirdhand from the original buyer). He is of indiscriminate lineage, yet a performance dog person’s dream; a brilliant and tireless worker, and I can only hope I ever have another dog in my lifetime as amazing as he is.

    But, I often have wondered, what ever happened to his littermates? Its possible he was the most souped-up of the lot, but, I doubt it. I wonder if any of them are still alive, and if they are, are they sequestered to someone’s backyard, eating their way through cinderblocks and fence posts…? Or, if they are lucky, on prong collars and prozac?

    There are the Ferraris sent to the wrong homes by questionable breeders, then all the accidental ones as well. More food for thought…

    Thanks for the great post Denise.

    • I also have one of these accidents ! A family member had her & she was a little lost puppy with a collar on . The family member was not caring for her and was man handling her which was making her push harder & more out of control . She is a great athlete & very smart . I showed her the hand signal for down at 12 weeks only twice & she got it . My story is not as simple because of some issues relating to her past but I can relate to your story . She’s a little Pit ! I took her at one year of age .

    • One of my Ferrari’s litter mates ended being put down as “unmanageable” 😦

  29. ” I wonder how the dog feels about the modifications that are designed to take out every ounce of who he is and what he’s been bred to be, so that an unsophisticated trainer can handle a dog that is way outside of their skill level.”

    Probably like any child of above average intelligence stuck in the “leave no child behind” educational system.

  30. My friend has got a ferrari gsd bitch. Just follow the enthusiastic barking when he’s training her. Love it.

  31. that’s why I love my King Charles Cavalier – he is a high performance cuddlier and that suits me just fine 🙂

  32. Pingback: Travel Log, Beasts in the House | Trials of an Agility Neophyte

  33. None of this should be a problem Denise. Your neighbor’s have a dog trainer living nearby. I am sure there is someone within a hundred miles of your house that has driven a high performance car. Put an ad in Craigslist for your son. You exaggerate the issues. (so glad I am on the other side of the US, you can’t hit me!)

  34. I’ve got a Ferrari. Used to have a whole bunch of them. Now I have just one, a 13.5 year old female Malinois … working lines, high drive Malinois. Due to a breeding agreement years ago with a dog we took in we ended up with 13 high drive Malinois …well, 12, and one show off, but our home group became 3 and a Great Dane. Of the 2, two were puppies from the high drive line, one was incredibly high drive, one, well … he was from the shallower end of the gene pool and while still very driven and energentic, he was more the helmet-wearing type (yes, a very strange ideal for a Mal!) Unfortunately we were right about his shallow end and he passed at 10. THe other one was the show off who earned his FR1 early on, before we moved back to the US and life changed, and they became very energetic, busy pets.

    They began to calm down around 12 years old, and when the “show off” passed away this past May at the age of 14, the female former puppy finally relaxed a bit, and began to show her age. Up until she was 11 years old I had never seen her sleep. She was always alert and ready in case I ever needed anything. Her mom was the same way. Over the next 2 years I “caught” her resting her eyes 2 more times. Since the older one, my boy Jocko passed, she has been a regular napper with me, and even startles herself with her own snoring.

    I love my Ferraris, but cringe when I hear people talk about how cool they are, because I know how much they require you to change your lifestyle, and because if you don’t, I will meet them when they come into the rescue.

  35. I had a ferrari as my first dog, a rescue that was promoted as submissive, sweet and agreeable… well, she walked in my home and took over… I barely knew anything and she was a HANDFUL. Brilliantly smart and active, and fast as heck ( believed to be greyhound and GSD) she made life interesting and I have a book full of stories about this dog. I joked that if she had wound up with someone else she would have been re-homed at least 10 times ( if not more) . We were dedicated to exercising her physically and mentally and it’s what got me started in dog sports. She was hard headed and determined as they come… in the right hands she could have been brilliant, but I learned that I am not a ferrari owner, they need strong “drivers’ and I am not strong, I am a laid back take the back road type… and a dog like her liked to live on the edge at top speed at the race track pushing anyone and everything out of her way; and a lot of times she liked to take the wheel and make up her own course and throw the driver out of the car at top speeds 🙂

  36. Someone at work actually said to me once that her dad wanted to get a dog. He’d need one that came when called and did what he said, but he can’t walk very well and didn’t have time for training. She then asked me what kind of dog should he get. My reply? A stuffed one.

    • On wheels with string attached I woud hope!

      I’ve never had any success getting my stuffed dogs to ‘come when called’ though they all do an incredible ‘stay’ — but one will only do a stand-stay, one a sit-stay and the other a down-stay.

  37. Awesome Analogy! I would add that a Ferrari is kept in the garage on 34 degree rainy snowy days like today. Not a performance dog. They need the same amount of physical and mental activity on a miserable day outside as they do on a beautiful day outside. Many uninformed pet owners do not realize that these animals are athletes. Just like the marathon runner who needs to keep running, so does the performance dog. Thanks.

    • I can’t even begin to count the times I am up at the park in the rain throwing the toy for my ferrari asking myself again why i needed a working line dog again

      • Besides energy level , I wish you all would elaborate on typical characteristics of a high drive dog .

      • Hmm. I remember Ken Rosewall (Australian Champion Tennis Player) giving advice to parents of would-be tennis stars.

        If you need to remind your child to go out and practise his/her tennis, s/he’ll never be a star player. It is those who stay out playing tennis and need to be yelled at to come in for dinner, NOW, and then rush back to the tennis court again when they’re told they may leave the table.

        Now to me, that is a sign of ‘drive’. A high drive dog is the one who demands whatever s/he has the drive for — and once there they don’t ever want to stop.

        If you have t say toyour dog, come on Tarzan, let’s go out annd play ball/chase bunnies/practise Agility/etc and your dog looks at you and says, “Oh, OK! sSounds fine to me,” you do NOT have a high drive dog. The high drive dog is looking at you, willing the spoon to bend, so that you will get up off your lazy backside and DO whatever 🙂

  38. I’m so impressed. This comparison may hit the mark when you can see disaster looming in the future if someone insists on choosing a breed completely unsuited for their lifestyle and family.


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