Monday, February 6, 2012

A Few Random Thoughts on Boxer Puppies and Training

Boxer Puppies are the cutest puppies!  Just look at those faces!  Who wouldn't want to bring them home?  They are so full of wiggly happy energy and their cute puppy antics are adorable!  I'm smitten.......BUT.......

If left unchecked, that wiggly happy energy can and WILL turn into your worst nightmare.  Especially when you are a fool (like me) and bring two home from the same litter at the same time.  I'm not saying it's impossible to teach and train and love them.  I'm just sayin'.......well, you've got your work to do.

It's pretty common to hear dog trainers say these words and phrases, especially when you are in a dog training class that involves up to 15 people with mostly pretty calm breeds:

Typical Boxer!    ( I actually hate these 2 words used together )
Boxers are puppies a lot longer than most dogs!
Boxers are very stubborn! ......(really?)  :)
That's just Boxer play!

and my favorite....

Control that dog!

My typical response is ..."Uh.  OK.  Um.  That's sort of why I'm here in your dog training class.  Got any suggestions?"

As most of my readers know, I've been training Boxers for about 15 years.  That doesn't mean that I am a dog trainer.  I just train mine and I learn about different techniques and dog personalities as I go.  That's really what this blog is about.  Hopefully, as I learn something, I can pass it on to you and maybe it will help keep these beautiful puppies out of shelters when they get bigger and turn into that nightmare I was referring to. 

So here's the point of my thought today.......Yesterday was McKenzie's regular day to go to the dog club and practice her agility techniques.  Now.  I am fully aware that when taking an agility class, the instructor will be well versed in agility and not necessarily well versed in obedience.  Or, for that matter, they may not know anything particular about breeds other than the ones they own.    Still, there is much to be learned from watching other people train their dogs.  I've found a lot of useful information by observing (both, what TO do and what NOT to do).  My instructor owns and trains Chihuahuas.  That being said, we are there to learn the different obstacles and how to manoeuvre over the course in the correct order using a series of 'ballerina' moves, as I like to call them.  At the end of each weekly session, the instructor will usually give some advice to each handler and let them know what it is they need to work on. 

Puppy Play

Now.  McKenzie is a level of instruction behind her brother Malcolm because she freaked out on the teeter totter very early in the 1st level and wasn't allowed to move on.  When she was able, I put her in the same class I had gone through all ready with Malcolm.  Well.  I thought it would be the same class.  I think she's gotten very confused because she also teaches Malcolm's new class.  (He's in level 3, she's in level 2).  The teacher just leaves the same course set for level  2 as she had set for level 3 and expects the less advanced dogs to do it.  Hummmm.  Problem.  So McKenzie is a fun loving, wiggly bundle of high energy 2 year old Boxer Puppy-dom.  She's in a class with a teeny-tiny toy poodle and 2 very laid back and very focused Border Collies who just amble along with no worries.  Needles to say, we stay away from the toy poodle.  The Border Collies are so laid back that they are really no fun for McKenzie.  She ignores them.  So when it's our turn to go into the agility ring, we want to run.  Fast.  Trouble is, McKenzie hasn't mastered the 'Focus' part yet.  There are a bunch of obstacles in that ring that she knows how to do and she does them no particular order.  Then she usually settles down and actually runs the course with me guiding her.  We both have a great time.  

It's all about running.  Running fast.  And then running some more.

The thing is, she is very smart and she gets bored if she has to do something over and over again.  So she looks for an opening in the gate and bolts out of the ring! After she bounces around the club for a while, she finally realises that no one will play with her.  (Everyone is trained to ignore crazy dog and not to give eye contact so that handler can gain control).  It's only then, that my recall actually gets a response.  Well, I'm probably a bit too forgiving in this situation, because I understand that she's only 2, she's too smart for her own good, she's high energy, she's stubborn and she's very funny.  I also understand that very slowly, she's getting better and better and more and more focused.  With her, it will take some time, but she will be a very good and well behaved dog.  I do work with her every day.  I'm not stressed over the whole deal.  After all, the only reason to go to the dog club is to have an activity to do together and to try a glean a bit more info out of people on training tips.  It's all good.

She's so fast, I can't get her in the camera.

At the end of the session yesterday, the instructor was giving individual 'homework' for each student to practice through the week.  Wanna know what she said to me?  You need to work on the command 'SETTLE' so she'll settle down in the ring.  OK.  Umm.  Are you serious?  You really think she needs to settle down?  :))  I'm glad you told me.  I didn't notice.
(I mean for Pete's sake!  What does she think I've been trying to teach for 2 years?!?)  
So....I just say 'SETTLE' and she'll settle down and focus?  "YES".  Wow.  I wonder if she has a special word that will make Malcolm stop eating parts of his toys?  I had to take him to the emergency vet yesterday for yet another close call.  Maybe 'NO SWALLOW' would do it.  It worked for 'NO BARK'.  :)

Do you think a 'NO RUN' command would work?

I'm going to run this command by my obedience instructor and see what she has to say.  I find it extremely amusing.  Believe me.  I'm not being 'caddie' or trying to belittle the agility instructor at all.  She is really trying to help me.  She probably doesn't know that I've read every book there is, that I exercise my dogs by jogging them along with the bike and that I play all the 'calming' cd's I can get my hands on and that I have a 'personal' trainer that often comes to the house just to help me with these behavioural problems.  And, oh yea, she did tell me I had to put my hand on her head when I say 'SETTLE'.  Well, I have to catch her first....... I just don't think she quite understands......


Donna Pahmeyer said...

interesting bit of insight into training and the difference in the mindset of the agility instructor and the obedience instructor.

Donna Pahmeyer said...

Interesting article about the trials and tribulations of agility training and not only understanding your dog but understanding the mindset of your agility instructor.