Friday, April 21, 2017

The year of the Malinois

I started this blog to document my adventures in living with a Belgian Malinois.

I did a really terrible job of keeping this blog up to date and a big part of that is that malinois ownership was not nearly as chaotic or terrible as I had expected.

I used to think that I could never be enough for a Belgian Malinois. I thought that I would not be able to commit the time or effort to exercise or train such a high energy and high drive breed of dog. I was also extremely concerned about the handler aggression that the breed can be known for.

I met Stuck at a French Ring seminar. My good friend has her full sister who is a very stable and driven dog. At the seminar they handed me her leash and we did some bites and outs. Initially what I liked about her was that she didn't try to eat me. I had to grab her harness a few times and she didn't get weird about it. I can be an impulsive person but I also just had a very good feeling about her. In handling her I felt like her energy was something I could handle.

As it turns out she ended up being perfect for me. Don't get the wrong idea, Malinois are a lifestyle. I feel the same can be said for any other intense breed of dog. I had to make a commitment to this dog to give her proper exercise and mental stimulation.

Stuck has a very solid temperament. She has a good off-switch and can settle on her own. She is generally friendly with new people and I can take her into public places and she will socialize with strangers. She is neutral/submissive with other dogs.

I generally exercise her for at least 30mins everyday of hard exercise which usually consists of throwing the ball or chasing the flirt pole. I also run her on the carpet mill for 10 minutes multiple times a week. I work on obedience 1-2 times a day. Length of time varies depending on what we are working on. I can take a sick day but she does get antsy. Luckily for me she is not destructive and can handle having an 'off' day. As the weather gets nicer I will start taking her for bike rides and letting her play on the spring pole. I have to make time to do these things and she needs exercise and brain stimulation daily.

I have had to change a lot of the ways that I train. I am not one to beat my dogs but I have been heavy handed before. I don't even have to be outwardly mad at her, just a slight spike in my blood pressure and she gets stressed out. I will admit that I have lost control a few times and have been unfair, luckily for me she does recover and forgives me. We may suffer fall-out for a few days after whatever it is happened, but she recovers and moves on. A lot of our stress has revolved around her lack of food drive. I believe a lot of high drive dogs have issues with food drive, but she is particularly strange. If she is stressed she will not eat at all and she is picky about the foods she will work for. We have had a lot of ups and downs and struggles with tracking because of her food drive and I've been spending the last couple of months trying to repair our relationship when it comes to food.

She's really taught me a lot as a handler. I have had to become a lot more patient and think about how I will handle things. I've had to do a lot more problem solving in trying to figure out how to teach things differently. In obedience training I've hardly used any type of correction and she has never worn a prong to work OB. I have started using an e collar in bite work but she works on a low level (12 out of 127) and usually after one or two corrections (usually for losing focus) she doesn't need another one.

I enjoy that I can usually show her how to do something once or twice and she gets it, where other dogs I would need to do multiple reps. But I will say the sensitivity is a major buzz-kill and can be really hard to work around.

A lot has changed in the year that I have had her. When she first arrived she would not come into the house willingly (especially if it meant she had to go back in her crate). She would steal toys and play keep away. I taught her to hold a down-stay on a dog bed in the house. She spent time outside in a dog run when I couldn't supervise her outside.

Stuck willingly comes back into the house after being outside. She doesn't play keep away with her toys. She no longer has to keep a down-stay in the house unless I send her to her bed. She hasn't spent any time in the dog run.

In the year that I have had her she went to two dock diving competitions, she earned one leg towards a rally 1 title with a score of 93, one leg towards a CD with a score of 195, and she got her BH. She also got her UKC conformation championship, she is the first dog I have ever shown in conformation.

I think what I really enjoy about Stuck is that she is my partner. I can always count on her to show up and be there. With Seppel I never really knew what I was going to get. I loved that dog and it breaks my heart that he is gone, but I could not always count on him to be on the same page with me. Stuck never lets me down when it comes to training or doing something.(Well, except maybe tracking. Another post for another day haha).

As a first time Malinois owner Stuck fit into my life perfectly. I couldn't ask for a better dog and feel like she is just enough dog for me. I think for anyone looking at this breed it is important that you find a good breeder who is producing the type of dog you are looking for. If you are looking for more of an active pet I would strongly suggest looking at show lines over working lines. I think it's important to meet dogs that the breeder has produced. In my situation a friend had Stuck's full sister and other friends had half-siblings so I had an idea of temperament in her line. Her dad was brought up here for breeding and I had an opportunity to meet him (he's 10!) and her mom lives locally up here as well so I was able to see what she was like (she's 10 too!). Both of her parents have aged well and her mom had her litter at the age of 7 which I feel is a great accomplishment.

This year has had a lot of struggles for both of us, especially for me because I have had to really grow as handler and trainer. I am also extremely thankful for the dog club that I am in and the training friends I have made. If it weren't for the support of my club I would not have Stuck, and if it weren't for my club and training friends I would definitely not be where I am at now. I have learned so much and still have so much more to learn and I am so thankful for everything that has happened in the last year - good and bad. I am very excited to see the things that we will accomplish this next year and in the years to come.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really glad that things are going so well with Stuck! She's such a neat dog! :D