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)!
HOW TO CHOOSE AND TRAIN
AN OBEDIENCE BOXER
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 its 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
youve 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 dont 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.
Im 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, youll 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, its 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, thats Harpo in Morgan Spectors 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, dont despair. Get Morgans book, and
it will tell you pretty much all you need to know.
But lets 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,
I feel that we Boxer fanciers
do our wonderful breed a great disservice by disparaging our breeds working ability,
intelligence, and considerable charm by saying that "Boxers dont do
obedience," "they dont work," "theyre 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 AKCs annual records of obedience titles, not just
the 0 - 3 UDs we usually see, but at least 10. And our breed should have at least 1
- 3 UDXs 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!