August 30, 2008

A nice day

I spent most of the day today at the Mideast Schutzhund Regional competition. I didn't know much about the sport (other than what I have read) before I got there, but found the people friendly and helpful. So I definitely know more now about what is expected during a competition. This allows me to know what my training plan needs to be and I can visualize the end goal. I watched the obedience phase and protection phase for several Sch III and Sch II dogs and I tried out my brand new "flip" video camera to capture the only Sch I team for later review. I also included the judge's comments so I can learn from those.

I purchased a puppy sleeve and a puppy rag toy from a vendor I had contacted before the event to let him know what I wanted him to bring with him for me to buy. Of course I also had to buy a nice ball cap that advertized the "mideastern regionals 2008" in red white and blue :-)

I was at that competition in KY from 9a to about 2pm. Since I wasn't that far from Lexington, I went down to the Blue Grass Classic conformation dog show because I knew they would have LOTS of vendors of all kinds of dog things. I wasn't dissapointed. I ended up buying a fleece tug and small squeak toy that I thought the pup might like to use while he's still young.

I spoke with many people about Mals and training and dogs in general and had a great time! As an added bonus, I met the owner of one of the dogs from one of the breeders former litters. I didn't get to meet his dog though because she wasn't competing that day, but she did get a 97 (out of 100) on her tracking which is very good. He was very nice and I found out he's also getting a male puppy from the current litter. He sounds just as excited about it as I am. :-) He said he is going to stop by the breeder's house on his way home to Michigan on Sunday (tomorrow) instead of on Monday to see the pups.

I did just get an email from the breeder saying the get-together on Monday WILL be happening but no photos/video allowed. Not sure what's up with that, but whatever. I'll be happy just to see the pups in person! Those of you who have gotten the link to the puppy photos page can see some photos and video added today.

The pups are still growing strong and have gotten more stuff to play with and on. Photos and video show a tunnel, wobble disk, swinging disk, hanging obstructions, various toys and different surfaces for them to explore. They are having lots of fun!

August 28, 2008

Puppy "names"

I was just checking the puppy webpage and noticed a few new photos in the week 3 section. The last three photos are individual photos of the boys with nicknames: Smokey, Moose and Stumpy.

It says stumpy is missing part of his tail, but doesn't say if it is a natural defect or if mom got hungry! (Update: I found out he was born with it broken so the breeder had the broken part removed.)

I'm still not able to tell who is who in most of the photos, but at least there are some identifying photos and one trait that will be easy to spot if the tails are visible. :-)

No more word yet on the Labor Day get-together.

A day in the life of a puppy

Ok, so it wasn't MY puppy, but I spent the day with Chad and Sarah and their new Mal puppy Cynic. He is just too cute!! It's clear they have put a lot of time into him and he was so much fun to watch and interact with. Only a few scratches on my hands from the puppy teeth, but I'll have to get used to THAT! :-) He's doing great with his training- eye contact, sit, down, heel with attention/distraction (though that darn "duck" was a bit too hard to ignore!) and more.

We spent the entire day "talking dog" and discussing training, behavior modification and plans. I'm really looking forward to getting together with them on a regular basis to train using positive methods. We borrowed a bunch of books and videos from each other and they were fantastic enough to let me borrow some really nice, small crates for when Dazzle arrives (since most of mine are too big and I only had one small one I had planned to use for day time, night time and travel.) Having multiple crates will make it SO much easier so I can leave one in the van, one on the office and one in the bedroom.

Well it's late and it's been a very full day, so I'm going to bed!

Oh yeah, the breeder sent out an email saying there might be a picnic/potluck get-together for buyers to see the pups on Labor Day (just a few days away!) so I'm really hoping that goes through and I can spend the day with them. I'll let you know.

August 24, 2008

Week 3 puppy update

A little news from the puppy page...

The pups are growing fast and already have their eyes open and are responding to sounds. They have been started on Wellness meats dog food with some additions of fish, broth and tomato sauce. Based on the photos, they are really lovin' it! They are eating out of what looks like a frisbee, so a good first positive association with the disk. :-)

They are climbing out of the whelping box to find their mom when she leaves to take a break, poor mom! and are wrestling and playing with each other. The breeder will really have her hands full! They seem to be a pretty vocal bunch. My dogs started barking when they heard all the pup sounds (but they usually do bark if they hear a dog on TV or the computer, then they have to run outside to make sure the dog isn't out there :-)

There are 6 females and only 3 males. The breeder hasn't put collars on them, so it's a guess as to which pup is which at this point, but they are all adorable! She has the names picked out as you can see on the photo page, but hasn't assigned them to the pups yet. From what I understand, she has paired the names with the buyers, but doesn't yet know which buyer gets which pup. So it might not be till 8 weeks that the names get assigned.

If you look at the photos at the bottom of the puppy page, they are separated into groups by week. You have to click on the first photo in each group separately to see the photos in that group.

That's all I know for now, check back often (at least once a week) for updates. I'm going to be visiting Sarah and her new pup on Wednesday and I can't wait!

Puppy Photos!!!

I finally have the link to the puppy photos and video clips and they are TOO CUTE for words! Since it's a private webpage, I won't put the link to it here, but you can email me if you want to see them and I'll email you the link.

Very happy mom today!

August 23, 2008

Keeping busy

The waiting has been really hard. I was prepared to wait till next January (or actually next Spring when the other litter would have been ready to go home), but now that I know the pup will be ready to come home in just 40 days (who's counting?) the anticipation has been getting harder and harder to control.

I have been trying to prepare for the pup's arrival in between doing what I SHOULD be doing :-) I just finished reading Brenda Aloff's new book - Get Connected With Your Dog. I saw her doing the techniques from the book during her presentations at the 3 Dog Scout camps this year. It's a really interesting way of working with the dog, using your body movement/direction as a cue to the dog, similar to how a horse person might cue a horse when doing ground work. Because you can use your body movement as a cue for certain behaviors and also to reward the dog, the leash is not used as a cue but instead as a safety line (as it should be.) She also stresses lots of calm handling to get the dog desensitized to touch by humans so the dog can use that touch as a relax cue. I'll be using several of the exercises in the book with the pup, some I have used with my dogs without realizing it but others are new.

I also reviewed Brenda's "Fundamentals" DVD. In that video she works with several puppies to teach them to accept touch and restraint without fear or tension as well as eye contact, sit, down, stay, leave it and walking nicely on a leash. She teaches the walk nicely by teaching the dog to move WITH collar pressure instead of the instinctive reaction to pull or push against pressure (opposition reflex.)

I just got the Leerburg "Preparing Your Dog for the Helper" DVD. I watched it twice. The first time I was really tired and kept falling asleep, so I watched it again and took some notes. I was disappointed that it's not much new stuff. It says "you HAVE to watch the "Focus and Drive" DVD or you'll be lost", but then it just about fully repeats everything that is on that DVD. Only about the last 1/2 hour was really new stuff.

I have created an extensive training check list and weekly record keeping forms so I can keep myself on track and keep a record of progress. I have found this helps a great deal when I think the dog hasn't made much progress. I can then look back and see how far he has come. This blog, if I can keep myself on track to keep it updated, will help with that as well (and cut down on the number of emails I have to send about his progress :-). I plan to buy a digital camcorder soon so I can share training and progress clips. That means I'll probably have to get an external hard drive to give myself enough computer space though :-)

Given that the pup's parents have excelled in ring sport, I'm guessing the pup will enjoy that, so I have been learning about Schutzhund and working on positive training plans for the stuff he will need to know. The Leerburg videos have shown me what is needed and between my training knowledge and that of a group of friends I have (that are interested in training without compulsion) I think I'll be able to do it. For some reason, no one thinks it's possible to get high level titles without a shock collar. One of my goals is to prove them wrong. If the pup turns out to be suited to that, I'll just have to find the time and money to pursue those titles! :-)

I have an extensive training library and I'm looking that over to see what I need to review. I plan to read over the "Control Unleashed" book and maybe "The Culture Clash" again. I also have many notes from seminars and books I have borrowed. My guess is that I won't have much time to be reading once the pup arrives. I plan to do my best to wear him out by working his brain as much as his body though, so at least till he builds some stamina, I can hope he will sleep regularly so I can keep my work caught up. :-)

I just ordered a few new books, so that will keep me busy on some trips I have next month.

August 13, 2008

The saga begins...

I started looking into the Malinois breed as my current dogs got older and I knew I’d be ready for a puppy. My Rottweiler, Hunter, was my oldest dog and I knew he would not do well with a young wild pup in the house. So I decided I would wait till he crossed the bridge before I got serious about finding a breeder. I didn’t want to find the right litter and fall in love and be tempted to bring in a pup before I was ready.

In November of 2007, Hunter had a stroke 2 days after his 14th birthday. He was not ready to go and fought it, but ultimately his body just couldn’t hold on. He was the first dog I owned on my own and I had picked him out of a litter at 8 weeks of age. Losing him was like ripping my heart out of my chest. He won’t be forgotten. Throwing myself fully into finding a Malinois breeder was healing for me.

This wasn’t the first time I had “prepared” myself for his passing. When he was 6, I knew of Rotties typically short life span so I was casually looking for another pup when we saw Coyote. But Coyote is now 8 (who knew Hunter would have such a long, wonderful life!) and Coyote has PRA and his vision issues are slowing him down. He has also had a very active life and being my first all positively trained dog, he has taught me LOADS and helped me perfect my skills as we learned new things. He also helped me learn how to deal with a wild young dog that needed LOTS of exercise both mental and physical. He still ramps up very easily, but has learned an off switch that lets him calm down just as fast.

Also in the house at the time of Hunter’s passing is Buster, King and Bear. Buster was my second dog and fate truly brought us together. He had debilitating fear issues due to absolutely no socialization for the first 8 months of his life. He has also taught me more than I’ll ever know about behavior modification and training. It is because of him that I attended a seminar about clicker training and opened that door to me. That was also where I met my first Dog Scout. Little did I know Dog Scouts would later take over my life!

Because Buster was supposed to be Mike’s dog, but due to his issues that didn’t work out, Mike was set on getting a beagle. No matter what I said, I couldn’t discourage him. So along came 8 week old Lil King. The two of them are inseparable and they think the world of each other.

In Nov of 2004, Mike was coming home and saw a small beagle running toward his truck on our road. Long story short, the little stray has worked his way into our hearts- even after all his marking on everything, daily fights with the other dogs and strong stubborn streak; he is now a wonderful companion. He has learned so much! He’s even the star of a kid’s book! “Dog Scouts of America” by Bearport publishing.

So, in my search to meet more Malinois I joined a few Yahoo talk lists and started conversing with people. I got a few recurring recommendations of breeders in CA and OR. I was really hoping to find a breeder that was within driving distance to avoid flying the young pup. I continued my search. On the internet, I found a breeder in Cincinnati, Ohio. I contacted her and met her at a Schutzhund training session to meet her male. He wasn’t quite what I was looking for, but a nice dog and the breeder was nice.

I posted about what I saw at the Schutzhund training on the Clicker Expo list and was contacted by Sarah who is interested in all positive bite work training. I have since developed a friendship with her and Chad and plan to stay in touch. Sarah told me about a breeder she knew who had some wonderful dogs. I met them at a Bernard Flinks training seminar in March of 2008 and really fell in love with his dogs. They had fantastic temperaments! I thought I had found my pair. The breeder did minimal health testing, something I was hoping would change with persuasion, but he did do a hip X-ray on the female. This did not come back as he had hoped, so I was once again on the search.

Another internet search turned up another breeder that was within driving distance and we started communicating by email. I set-up a face to face meeting in April of 2008 and I found the breeder to be nice and knowledgeable.

I had originally been interested in the breeding planned for the Spring of 2008. I met both of those dogs and was really impressed. I liked them a lot. Then I met the breeder’s other female. The first thing she did was jump in my lap and give me big wet kisses. Then she found a toy and offered it for some tug. In learning about this dog and her temperament, liking what I saw in person and hearing about the male, I thought I had found my pair.

Then another disappointment… The breeder sent an email saying plans to breed the female I liked were cancelled indefinitely- no reason given.

DRAT!! Looking again…

On 8-6-08 I emailed the breeder of the female’s parents. But I never heard back from them.

Emails on 8-10 and 8-11 from the breeder saying there was still a male from the original pair I had looked at (and really liked) convinced me to “take the plunge” and make the commitment. They had only recently been born and she gave me a date the pup would be ready to go home at 9 weeks old.

8-11-08 I put a deposit in the mail this evening. I’m waiting on the contract to sign, then hopefully I’ll get to meet the pups soon (as they get older and start to move around more.) The breeder has a password protected web page set-up, but needs my deposit and signed contract before I can see it.

The sire:
Has a FR1 title
Was whelped Oct. 28, 2005
27” tall and 75 pounds
AKC / LOSH / FCI registered, Dutch bred

OFA Hips- Good, Elbows-Normal PenHIP certified
CERF (eyes clear)
CHIC certified

French Ring Achievements:
May 07, French Ring Brevet, 95.5 points, 2nd place
Sept 07, French Ring 1 (1st leg), 197.3 points, 1st place
Oct 07, French Ring 1 (2nd leg), 196.1 points, 1st place

The sire's pedegree:

The Dam:

Has a FR3 title
Was whelped April 10, 2004
24” tall and 60 pounds
AKC Registered, American Bred
OFA Hip-Good, Elbows-Normal
PennHIP Certified
CERF (eyes clear)
CHIC certified
WCVM certified Good Hips/ Normal Elbows at 42 months

Her achievements in French Ring:

May 06, FR Brevet, 93.5 points, 1st place
June 06, FR 1 (1st leg), 182.4 points, 1st place
July 06, FR1 (2nd leg), 194.5 points, 1st place
Oct. 06, FR2 (1st leg), 257.7 points, 1st place
Nov. 06, FR2 (2nd leg), 271.2 points, High in Trial
May 07, FR3 (1st leg), 328.35 points, High in Trial
Sept. 07, FR3 (2nd leg), 378.675 points, High in Trial

Dam's Pedigree:

8-12-08 I sent emails to a few talk lists announcing the pup and when it would be due to go home. The very private breeder was upset that I posted her private info to the web (meaning when the pups were born and due to go home.)
Her sensitivity to her info being posted on the web has made me very "gun shy" about posting anything so that is why I haven’t mentioned her name, her kennel name or her dog’s names just to be on the safe side. If you know me and are interested in that info, I'm happy to share it privately.

8-20-08 I got the contract, signed it and sent it back today. Hopefully as soon as it is recieved, I'll get to see the puppy page and the litter's progress. They are almost 3 weeks old.

Note: Sarah and Chad in Columbus OH recently got a Mal pup from a breeder in CA, so I'm hoping our puppies will be able to get together to play and train often. They will be about 9 weeks in age difference. Chad and Sarah are going to start a tracking group and a positive training bite work group that I want to join with Dazzle. I'm going to go see them and their pup on the 27th. I really need a "puppy fix" right now. The waiting is driving me crazy!

August 12, 2008

Why a Mal?

I did not decide on this breed of dog without research. In fact, quite the opposite is true! I researched heavily, met Malinois in person, talked with Mal owners and joined Mal talk lists. I have been training dogs for the past 25 years and I felt I was ready for a high drive and versatile dog. I wanted a dog that can "do it all" and excell. The Mal fit this to a T.

Like all Belgian Shepherds, the Malinois is a medium-sized, hard-working, square-proportioned dog in the sheepdog family. The Malinois is recognized by its short brownish yellow coat and its black muzzle and "mask" and ears that stick straight up.

Coat and color
Due to their history as a working dog (i.e. being bred for function over form) Malinois can vary greatly in appearance. The acceptable colors of pure-bred Malinois are a base color of grey to fawn to mahogany with a black mask and ears, and with some degree of black tipping on the hairs, giving an overlay appearance. The color tends to be lighter with less black agouti or overlay on the dog's underside, breeching, and inside the legs.

The other varieties of Belgian Shepherd are distinguished by their coat and color: the Tervuren is the same color as the Malinois with long hair, the Laekenois is the same color, only it may lack the black mask & ears, and has wirehair, the Groenendael (registered as Belgian Sheepdog by the American Kennel Club) has long hair and is solid black. There are (occasionally and historically) solid black, black-and-tan (as in a Doberman), or other colored short-haired Belgian Shepherds, but these are not technically Malinois.

A Malinois puppy
If a dog represented as a Malinios is brindle (clear stripes of different colored hair) it is probably a Dutch Shepherd Dog or a mixed breed, although the possibility exists that it is a "throwback" to a common continental shepherd ancestor.

Male Malinois are about 24-26 in. (61-66 cm), while females are about 22-24 in. (56-61 cm) at the whithers. Female Malinois are said to average 55-65 lbs.), while males are heavier at 65-75 lbs). Malinois can range from stocky to slender, but are always squarely built.

Working Dog
In Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and other European countries, as well as in the United States, the Malinois is bred primarily as a working dog for personal protection, detection, police work, search and rescue, and sport work (Belgian Ring, Schutzhund, French Ring, Mondio Ring.) The United States Secret Service exclusively uses the breed. The dog is also used extensively by Unit Oketz of the Isreal Defense Forces. Oketz favors the more slight build of the Malinois to the German Shepherd and Rottweiler, which were employed formerly.

The lifespan of the Belgian Malinois is 10-14 years, and there are a number of health problems and disorders that are associated with the breed. This includes cataracts, epilepsy, thyroid problems, PRA, Hip Displasia, and pannus but testing of the parents and grandparents can help rule it out and reduces the chances.