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Start with training only after the teeth are changed
“When it comes to defence which takes place in an organized way in a cynological organization or with the supervision of an expert, there’s no better funny activity for a boxer dog. I, myself, regularly go for trainings with my dogs approximately from three months of age. At first, it’s only about observing, and later, based on the dog’s behaviour, I continue with defence training, if possible. You need to wait for the active participation of the dog until the dog’s teeth change which is at around five months of age,” describes the beginning of a boxer’s defence training long-time breeder and trainer Michaela Martinů.
The ground rules of training
Even though any generalization, even when focusing only on one breed, is tricky, some tips and tricks for defence training and what to avoid can be summarized.
Precise performance of tasks
The first very important aspect is that you should pay attention to properly and precisely performed tasks from the beginning, because any mistakes will be worse over time in boxers and it will be very difficult to correct and remove them later.
A firm bite
“I recommend paying particular attention to developing a full, firm bite. It means getting to the level of the training when a dog is able to do a few perfect bites during a short intense defence session on a leash, and only then you can start with bites without the leash. It’s necessary to realize that it is physically demanding for the dog when the muzzle is blocked with the sleeve which leads to more difficult breathing and thermoregulation” says Michaela Martinů. Focusing on a full bite is also important because when it is not done properly, boxers have a problem to hold on to the sleeve and they only use a part of their short jaws.
Appropriate demands for the dog
You cannot have extensive demands, which means demands that are not appropriate for the dog’s age, physical and mental maturity. This applies generally to all breeds, dogs develop over time and so do their muscles and bones and extensive demands can cause harm (even physical) to the puppy it will have to deal with for its whole life and these changes cannot be reversed.
A step-by-step approach
With defence, as well as with any other discipline, it’s important to always take one step at a time, not to add 2 or more new things to the training. This applies even to a new training space, a new decoy, people present during the training, a new sleeve and similar things. Every change is demanding for the dog’s psyche, especially for young animals. Older and more experienced ones usually handle them better.
The responsibility is on us
It is always necessary to remember that we are the ones responsible if the dog doesn’t succeed. It’s not the decoy’s fault because it is always up to us who we invite to our training. We should agree on the course of the training in advance and set it up depending on the current condition, preparedness, experience and physical maturity of the trained dog. If we don’t know how the decoy works, we should at first watch his/her training and then we should decide if we want to cooperate or not. The dog cannot be blamed for our mistakes, its mistakes are always our mistakes.
The success of the defence training is also greatly influenced by the regularity of the training and sensitive working with burdens. Boxers generally have worse thermoregulation, something is therefore more demanding for them to perform and you need to take it into account when guiding the training, especially in summer. On the contrary, in winter, you need to warm the dog up before the defence training, so its muscles cannot get hurt which is common for all athletes.
A necessary part of defence training should be the controllability training. “Controllability can be trained without getting into conflict with the dog. The dog’s aim is to catch the prey in a way we taught it to do that. We should make it clear and comprehensible that it will get this only when it’s controllable. With this, it won’t take long and the dog will fulfill the task happily. And I would like to paraphrase an older quote: every stable dog is a result of a stable owner – and that’s the key” concludes Ing. Michaela Martinů.
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