October 23, 2013

In Training

Our Life

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Let me tell you something about German Shorthaired Pointers. They are the most stubborn, high energy dog, wittingly smart, manipulative breed I’ve ever owned. They’re too smart for their own good, but yet the sweetest and cuddliest dogs ever (did I mention they’re manipulative). For years, ours has had us fooled into thinking he was an airhead, and it’s only recently that we’ve come to realize it’s all an act. He’s been playing us since the moment he joined our family. He knows exactly what he wants, and exactly how to make us give it to him. Let me clarify though, for all his hard headedness, we absolutely LOVE him. He’s such a fun breed to have, he keeps us constantly entertained, is so sweet & loving, and we’d totally get another in a heartbeat. We’d just train the next one much better and much earlier.

Until recently, we’ve been able to manage Baxter’s craziness. We don’t leave him unsupervised in the yard, because he jumps the fence. We got used to being pulled around the block at arms length. The only thing we had him well trained on was sit. It got beyond our control though, when we took him swimming a few weeks ago. He swam across the river, ran up the bank on the other side and disappeared into the woods. Kyle ended up having to swim across to search for him. We’d had enough, but we didn’t know what to do.

Last week we photographed a couple with an amazingly trained dog. They gave us some tips on what to do, with one of them being getting him an electronic shock training collar. It’d been suggested to us before, but after seeing proof of how well it works we went out and bought one the next day. I’ll be the first to admit that I thought I’d just snap it on, start shocking him every time he mis-behaved, and he’d learn. Boy was I wrong. Between the sales man in the store, and the training book and video that came with the collar, I realized that we were the ones who needed training not him. We needed to be consistent with him. We needed to take control. We needed to be alpha dog. Not him.

So we’re starting over with Baxter. At 6 1/2 he’s going through training like he’s a puppy. We started small like the book and trainer suggested, and have only introduced him to wearing the collar. We’re making it fun for him. He puts on the collar and gets to go play. Once we’re done playing, we train. We’re practicing sit, heel, come, and wait. Only 5 days into it, and he’s getting the concepts! He’s even been heeling off leash up and down our street! I truly never thought he could even get to this point…and we haven’t even turned the collar on! He’s just wearing it. But that’s part of the training system. They’re supposed to know that when that collar is on they obey.

Once he really masters those skills, we’ll turn it on. I know that sounds backwards, but the point is for the shock to be a reminder when they don’t have the physical tug of the leash…which he totally needs. His breed is a pointing breed, which means he get so locked in on something that it’s extremely hard to break his focus. Which is why no amount of yelling at him as he runs away, or swims across the river, works. He’s zoned in on getting to the other side. He loves to run, and he loves to swim, we just want him to be able to do that safely. Since we don’t have leashes that are 200 feet long to physically tug on him and remind him to turn around, this new shock collar becomes that reminder.

I’m excited for the peace of mind I’m hoping it’ll give us. We still have a long ways to go with training, so I’ll keep you updated. But so far, so good though. The best part, is only 5 days into it, and he’s so much more loving than he was before! He’s enjoying not being in control. He hangs out with us more, snuggles more, and even walks by to nudge me sometimes. We already had an amazing bond, but I can tell it’s getting even stronger. Just the more reason to keep him well trained so he stays safe : )

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  1. Debbie Hlopek Vincent says:

    We have a crazy Jack Russell Terrorist named Baxter. We definitely know all about crazy. Good luck with your Baxter!

  2. Carolyn Dunlap says:

    Can’t wait to see the new Baxter in a month.