HYANNIS – “Everybody respects Griffin,” said Augusto De Oliveira, who had just led 90-pound Griffin and seven other German shepherd dogs along West Main Street across from the Melody Tent and then back home, down Betty’s Pond Road. By “everybody,” he means the other seven dogs, although it would be easy to think he means, literally, everybody.
Griffin is 3 years old and the alpha dog in De Oliveira’s orderly eight-dog pack. De Oliveira, 22, originally of Brazil, is the owner of Griffin Shepherd Kennels of Hyannis, where he keeps Griffin’s pack, and three puppies that are already sold. He breeds German shepherd puppies. His next 30, not conceived yet, are already sold, he said.
Cute. Eight German shepherds from 90 to 65 pounds, stare you right in the face and because of the confidence that De Oliveira exudes to both his dogs and any human around, all you can think is, cute.
While on the busy road, he had his dogs on leashes, but he said, “I always have my dogs following me off-leash. I can control what ever they do. I can read them. I can tell whatever they’re about to do.”
And it was true, as if he had a magic wand or he spoke “Dog,” as he demonstrated by getting all eight dogs to lay down, follow him, and even sit for photos. A video he has posted on Facebook is an astonishing display of his command over the pack, even in the face of other barking dogs.
In the title essay in the book “What the Dog Saw” (2009, Little, Brown and Company), Malcolm Gladwell wrote about Cesar Millan, host of The Dog Whisperer that aired for eight years on The National Geographic Channel. “Combinations of posture and gesture are called ‘phrasing,’ “ wrote Gladwell, “and the great communicators are those who match their phrasing with their communicative style – who understand, for instance, that emphasis requires them to be bound and explosive.”
Of the famous TV Dog Whisper, De Oliveira said, “A lot of people compare me with him.”
Combinations of posture and gesture. Griffin and the pack get it. And De Oliveira gets them. “My dogs live as a pack. They know each others’ place in the pack,” he said.
There are two males, 3-year-old Griffin, and 1-year-old Jake. “Griffin is Jake’s father,” said De Oliveira. “Jake grew up knowing Griffin is more dominant. Griffin became confident and dominant early, because he was the only male. Now, he sometimes shows dominance to Jake.”
There are six females. Harmony, 6, is the oldest. Hannah, 4, the smallest dog at 65 pounds, is Jake’s mother with Griffin. “She is a very dominant female,” he said. “All the other females respect her in the pack.” Sadie is also 4. Jenna, 2, has three puppies at home right now from Griffin, said De Oliveira. Savannah is 2 and Priscilla, at 1-1/2, is the youngest of the pack, he said.
“I can only can breed them when the female is in heat,” he said. “You can tell because they bleed. There are little drops of blood in the first week. They not ready to mate yet. A week later, when they stop the bleeding, they are ready to breed. Griffin automatically knows she’s in heat. A week after she started heat, he’ll be with her the whole day. He’ll make sure no other males come near her.”
It takes 63 days to have puppies, he said. He keeps his puppies a minimum of eight weeks. “People come from all over the country,” he said. “I don’t ship puppies. They come to me so I can meet them first.”
De Oliveira said he learned about dogs while growing up on his grandparents 100-acre farm in Brazil “in the middle of nowhere.” There were farm animals, he said, adding, “my grandparents always rescued dogs.”
He was born in the United States, and moved back and forth between here and Brazil a few times when he was very young. He settled in Brazil until he was 18, when his family wanted him to move the USA to learn English. He has been in this country for four years.
When he came to the America at 18, he lived in Dennis with his aunt, he said. “I worked as a dishwasher the first year I was here,” he said. “I didn’t know anyone. I got my first dog at a pet store, a chocolate lab named Priscilla.” He does not have that dog anymore, but he used to take the dog everywhere, he said. People noticed how well behaved Priscilla was, he said.
He began getting work as a dog trainer, and also started raising and breeding German shepherds. He earns $80 to $100 an hour as a trainer, he said. And he sells his puppies for $1,500 each. At 22, he owns his own house, he said.
“I train all breeds,” he said. “I raise raise German shepherds. I train dogs, especially bad dogs. Those are the people that come to me. There’s always a reason why a dog is acting a certain way. I can tell by their body language, their eyes, the way they look at you, everything.”
One issue he faces with bad dogs, he said, is, “Anyone can go out and get a dog. That’s a problem. They have no idea how to communicate with a dog. They treat them like a baby and use human psychology on a dog. That becomes a problem. And the dog may develop aggression.”
“If someone never had a dog, they should go to a professional trainer,” he said. “If you fail with that dog, it’s going to become a big problem.”
“You have to have a way to communicate with the dog,” said De Oliveira. “One of the main things is to exercise the dog. You have to be willing to put in the time to train and socialize a puppy for people and other dogs. And choose a puppy from the right breeder. You need a good start from day one. If there is no socialization, it makes your work so much harder.”
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— Brian Tarcy