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Editor’s note: In her last BU article, Karla described the U.S. obedience scene, and the difficulty of reaching the UD with Harpo in the face of her two serious auto accidents and years of recovery in physical therapy. In this issue, Karla explains how to pick and train a Boxer puppy to achieve maximum success in the obedience ring. Congratulations to Karla and Harpo on ANOTHER UDX leg - his 6th (only 4 more to go)!

By Karla Spitzer, with the assistance of
HARPO THE MARKER, UD (now with his 6th UDX leg!!!)

SOOOOOOO, if I were going to encourage anyone to do obedience (and I think it’s plain that I encourage EVERYONE to do obedience), what kind of dog would I choose? Within the Boxer breed, of course...:-)

As I have told breeders, I want the liveliest, rowdiest, smartest, happiest, most energetic and biddable puppy you’ve got - the one that will make your basic pet owner nuts and run shrieking to rescue. I want the one you are SO glad you don’t have to raise. Yep, that is my ideal obedience dog - my ideal performance dog. Oh yeah, a stable, non-aggressive temperament and a willingness to please are kind of essential, too.

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I’m sure that sounds like an odd prescription, but remember that to get to the UD level, the dog will have to do hundreds, if not thousands, of repetitions (yes, EVEN Boxers) to get it right and to be competitive. So the dog has to have a high level of energy, and a high drive - high prey and pack drive. He has to want to please you, and hopefully, you’ll train with enough fun and motivation so that eventually, the exercises will become self-rewarding to the dog. This is the essence of a great dog and a great trainer, IMHO. The dog must have the temperament to be willing to get through the boredom of "been there, done that." The trainer must love what he or she is doing enough so that this remains fun and rewarding for the HUMAN involved, too, remembering that a Boxer with a CDX and above is a very rare and special Boxer, indeed.

Actually, it’s easier than it looks. As I always tell people, ten minutes a day will do it. I have used a combination of clicker training (yes, that’s Harpo in Morgan Spector’s new book, CLICKER TRAINING FOR OBEDIENCE); but I also train regularly with Janice DeMello, who is one of the premier obedience trainers in the United States. However, if you do not have access to a top-notch obedience trainer, don’t despair. Get Morgan’s book, and it will tell you pretty much all you need to know.

But let’s say you do find an instructor...A word of warning here...I get a lot of people asking me how to find a good obedience instructor, and I always say the same thing: First of all, YOU should feel good about the person, and so should your Boxer. Second, the methods should preferably be motivational, NOT initially punitive. That does not mean that you will never use a correction, but that the correction should only be done in a humane, intelligent, and educational fashion. One that you might not mind being used on YOU, when you are learning a new skill set. Also, if the trainer you are considering tells you that Boxers are stubborn, find someone else. In my experience, which includes training a lot of breeds of dogs, Boxers are no more stubborn than any other breed. They may have a different learning curve, and they do not have the extreme "retrieve drive" that defines so much of AKC obedience, but that is a different matter. Boxers can be excellent workers, nonetheless.

I feel that we Boxer fanciers do our wonderful breed a great disservice by disparaging our breed’s working ability, intelligence, and considerable charm by saying that "Boxers don’t do obedience," "they don’t work," "they’re stubborn," and so on. Boxers work well, they think well, and they can perform VERY well, given half a chance. The relationship you will build with your Boxer while training for obedience will be quite remarkable.

As a challenge, by the year 2002, I would like to see in the AKC’s annual records of obedience titles, not just the 0 - 3 UD’s we usually see, but at least 10. And our breed should have at least 1 - 3 UDX’s per year.

As for the CD - that should be a "given." No Boxer, anywhere, CH or not, "pet" or not, should be without one. Oh yeah, a CD on the dog...and a smile on the face of its owner!


Feature Boxer
Karla & Harpo part 2
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Editor: Virginia Zurflieh
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