Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Struggling Through the Teen-Age Years of a Boxer's Lifetime Journey

Every where we go, on every road side picnic area and at every state-line welcome center;  someone runs up to me or my husband saying, "Can I please pet your Boxer?"  They then proceed to tell us about the Boxer they had to leave at home while they are on their travels, or the Boxer that they were raised with, or the Boxer that their Mom or Dad had or the one their Uncle or Aunt had, or the Boxer who lived two doors down, or that they used to breed Boxers.  We've even listened to very long stories about Boxers who just died while we actually try to comfort the owner who is crying so hard we can't understand all her words.

Boxer lovers belong to their own sort of 'cult'.  You either love them--and I mean REALLY love them in an obsessive bizarre and iconic sort of way--or you are indifferent to them;  or in the worst scenario, you are scared of them.  I mean REALLY terrified, like you would be scared of a lioness on the Serengeti.  We've been in cute wee towns and villages, walking our beloved Boxers down the row of shops and restaurants, leisurely enjoying our day and up ahead we have seen Mothers grabbing their wee bairns (children), scooping them up tightly to their chests and running for the relative cover of the other side of the street as though our dogs were devils of evil, marching like the headless horseman to torment and torture their young.  And, opposite...  And, more often.  People come running out of restaurants still chewing and wiping their mouths just to be able to pet our dogs and let them jump on them and lick their faces while laughing at their exuberant enthusiastic and very wiggly joy that a perfect stranger, who smells like hamburger, would take the time to come and play.

I'm always amazed at both types.  (I, myself, fall into the latter category).  In reality, (whatever that is), all Boxers have a different personality just like every other dog.  While they have certain traits that are common to the breed, many are calm and well balanced dogs and some may not be.  All depends on how the handler is able (or not) to control the behavior of their dogs.  My dogs, as you well know, are highly exuberant, enthusiastic, high energy and overly reactive.  I am not a dog trainer, although I am constantly working on how to train my dogs.  Lately, I have the two 'twins', as I call them, in Agility 1.  They totally love, love, love it.  They get to run and jump and touch and go through and sit and down and it all seems like play to them.  So, now, whatever control I had, has gone out the window.

Malcolm thinks that any time any other dog in his class does something right and gets praised by his handler, HE should get a treat.  If he can't get it from me, he tries to pull me over to the dog who got the praise and get a treat from that dog's handler.  Yes.  He pulls me over there to steal a treat from that handler's treat bag.  With 5 other dogs in the class, I am being pulled literally all over the ring.  When, on the slim chance that this doesn't work for him, he pulls me to an obstacle that he knows and likes to do--like sit in the box--and does that until he gets a treat.  Yes.  I AM that woman with the WORST DOG in the class!  On top of this, since he thinks all the dogs are just playing anyway, he lunges at every dog that gets anywhere near him.  And now, he does this same behavior on walks around the neighborhood.  I am beginning to feel like I will be banned, soon, from my agility class and my neighborhood.  Maybe those terrified Mothers are not so wrong to scoop up their children and run?

McKenzie is a whole 'nuther story.  There is only 1 other dog in her class.  A pit bull who is very sweet and well mannered.  McKenzie is really excellent at all the obstacles except the ones that move.  She got scared on the teeter-totter because it makes a loud noise when it crashes back down to the ground.  She is very sound sensitive, but we are working through it and she is making progress.  She is fast and bright and loves running, jumping and going in the tunnels.  And jumping at Petunia the pit bull.  Ok.  So I know who will win that dog fight when it happens.  Why do my dogs jump on other dogs?  HELP!

So I found a book that might help.  I've only just started it but it promises to help me and my dog be good calm examples of stress free energy.  I'ts called Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash-Reactive DogIn it, Patricia McConnell starts with the basics and recommends you have the proper equipment.  I didn't know this, but apparently there is a NO PULL Harness you can get.  I always thought harnesses made the dog able to pull harder (like a sled dog), but these are specially designed so that they don't pull.  I'm ordering one and will let you know.  Here are the two kinds she recommends in the book.

I'll let you know about it soon.  I still have not decided which to buy.  There is another out there that I'm looking at called FREEDOM No Pull Harness.  Amazon has one named Freedom, but it's not the same as this one.  I'll order something today and when I try it, I'll let you know.

I also got another book called On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming SignalsI haven't started it yet, but will soon.  I'll keep you posted.

As for Agility and my crazy dogs..................Well, At least I'm TRYING to train them!

If you have tried any of these books or harnesses, please leave comments on how you liked them or email me to tell me what you think.

No comments: