Sunday, August 11, 2013

Our First Schutzhund

  • If you guys ever bust me making fun of someone who doesn't understand "horse speak," feel free to slap me around, OK?
    Brockle and I had our debut with the Schutzhund group out at HMT's place today.
    Here I was, wading into a whole new experience, with a group of people as dog crazy as we are horsaii. They were laughing and talking about bites and stuff. Yes, bites, not bits. I think. I'm not sure, because it's like I'd been dropped into a foreign country, and didn't bring my translation book. Everybody smiled and was friendly as can be, but I didn't understand a word they were saying.
    I did get that I parked in the wrong spot. I didn't bring my chair, or a crate for Brockle. Of course, I don't have a crate for Brockle. My leash is nylon, not leather, and too short. I am such a geek.
    Nobody actually says anything, they're being nice to the newby after all, but boy, do I flash back to the first time I was hanging out with the wranglers at Mark Reynor Stables.
    I was 12 and newly invited to join the Mark Reynor Stables Drill Team. I was a real cowboy now. I had worked my way through their beginning to advanced riding classes -- you know, walk, walk faster, jog, trot, trot faster-- got my first set of spurs, and was sent to Donna's Brokn' Spoke to buy a bandanna western shirt and a white straw hat. Our drill team would perform at the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo. I had hit the big time!
    I leaned back on the benches, waiting to be assigned my horse. I kicked my legs out, my high water jeans riding high enough to admire my shiny spurs, my boot tops and about 3 inches of white sock. Ah, yeah, this was the good life, if I had a piece of hay, I'd a chewed on it.
    "Did you see that rank old gelding cut loose?" One of the wranglers said to another.
    I felt smug, I knew what a gelding was.
    "Well, if he hadn't a flanked him he wouldn't have gone to pitching."
    "I heard he galled him last ride, that was why he got tossed."
    "Probably that too, but the real problem is that horse is a yellow dun."
    They laughed.
    Say what?
    "You know how those yellow horses are."
    I was floored. I had no idea what those worldly 16-year-old boys were talking about. I knew nothing. Absolutely nothing. I could have crawled into the nearest feed tub and died.
    Now here we were, me and my big, hairy mutt, hanging with the wranglers again. Oh well.
    Brockle had to go into a borrowed wire kennel, which he had no intention of doing.
    "Let him meet everybody," someone said, and immediately the entire group began talking away to him in great big, cheerful voices.
    Brockle hid behind my legs.
    "Wow, he's shy," somebody said.
    "He's afraid of men."
    HMT snorted, but left me hanging. Brockle ran to him and did a cringy kind of happy dance. You'd think I beat him 10 times a day.
    "He's usually pretty outgoing," I managed. Then I immediately wondered if I had said something stupid.
    I asked him to get in the kennel and he braced all four legs hard, rolled his eye at me and looked at me with real horror. Poor Brockle, he was sure he was going to be groomed, or dumped, or fed to dragons...So I shoved him in, shut the door and leaned against the bars. He got a little wild eyed and started to growl. I turned my back and stayed close.
    "Tap the wire when he starts to growl," HMT said.
    I tapped it a little, still feeling sorry for him.
    HMT frowned, "Now tell him to knock it off. Like you mean it!"
    Brockle stopped growling. He's been feeding off my namby pambiness. Dang it.
    The first dog came out with Bianca,the other half of Cool K9's Dog Training, and HMT's wife. This was a serious dog. Heavy boned, good looking, no sense of humor AT ALL, he went through his paces with a lot of encouragement from Bianca. It was clear he thought he was getting gypped practicing obedience instead of getting to bite somebody. Brockle watched him as closely as I did and seemed to appreciate being in the kennel a little more.
    The dogs kept coming, one by one, sometimes leashed and controlled, sometimes loose and social, all of them lit up like it was Christmas at the prospect of protection practice.
    The sequence was pretty much the same, but the levels of technique changed with every dog. First, the dog would hang out with us folks for a few minutes. Everybody would pet on him and admire him. These dogs have class, they don't get all wiggly and start grinning, they know how awesome they are and just absorb the adoration like it's their due.
    Then, their handler -- Bianca, HMT or the owner-- would snap on a long, leather lead attached to a big thick collar. The dog's demeanor would change with each step into the field. Their intent and focus would become very clear and I was suddenly glad I wasn't trying to sneak over the back fence.
    One of the guys that had been playing with the dog just seconds ago, would put on a heavy protective sleeve and head on out. The handler would turn into a post, bracing against the pull of the dog.
    The guy with his arm in the sleeve also had a whip. He turned into OZ's scarecrow on crank, cracking the whip, jumping and dancing, teasing the dog into all kinds of excitement. Pretty soon, he came within range, the dog lunged and ripped the guys arm off.
    The peanut gallery erupted into cheers and shouts of "Good dog!"
    The dog then strutted around, shaking the heavy protective sleeve like a squeaky toy, tail wagging, and letting his hair down like a good shepherd should.
    The bad guy suddenly turns into Mr. Rogers and plopped down in a chair. The GSD turned back into a friendly dog, played with the former bad guy a little, everybody petted the dog and told him/her how great he is and it's "NEXT!"
    The entire time they're talking in that crazy "doggieze," and I don't understand a word of it.
    Brockle did.
    He was amazed. He would watch the dogs work, watch the "bad guy," look at me with complete amazement, then watch some more.
    His nose quivered, his pupils grew like a werewolf moon and he whined, just a little. Not a worried whine, but an eager one. This whole thing made complete sense to him.
    Then, it was his turn. He was getting to work with Jim, one of the best "bad guys" around, a great way for him to get started.
    Brockle came out of the kennel, much more social than the last time, met everybody, they all told him how awesome he was, and Bianca ran him through some of his obedience stuff (I thought he was awesome). He peed on some bushes, everybody cheered for him, He scratched the ground and they all cheered again. Absolutely crazy. I could see him swell up with confidence and fun. He looked up at me, completely stoked and ready.
    I led him out to the field and became a post.
    The bad guy came out with the puppy killer dog training tool, a long, jointed tug,and immediately turned into somebody else. His eyes glowed with malice, his body language screamed "Stranger Danger!" and he snaked that tug like a live thing through the grass. 
    Bad Guy started hissing, OMG, parsel tongue! whipped through my mind, and Brockle ducked behind me. 
    "Dude," Brockle said. 
    I swear, it's the truth, he really said it, I heard him. 
    "Dude. Let's go have a beer and talk this thing out." 
    Brockle stayed behind me, watching Bad Guy, watching the toy, watching me...
    His head going click,click, click.
    Then he feinted just a little at the toy.
    HMT yells, "Praise him!"
    Oops, I thought I was a post ... "Good dog!"
    Bad Guy was already back at work. He tossed that toy, drug it back and forth, teased closer and closer...Brockle finally jumped forward, hit the end of the leash, hard, and cut loose with one, single, pretty impressive BARK! 
    Immediately, Bad Guy turned into the smiling, friendly, open man Brockle had met ten minutes earlier.
    "That's it! Good Dog!" He shouted.
    "Good Dog!" The peanut gallery joined in.
    I even remembered, "Good dog!"
    Brockle looked a little startled, kind of confused, but in short order, was playing with the Bad Guy and running around, peeing on stuff and collecting his praise. Then he went into his kennel, plopped down with a satisfied smirk and settled in to watch the rest of the dogs.
    I got two thumbs up from HMT. I almost wiggled and grinned, but caught myself. We're Schutzhund cool now, me and Brockle, we don't grovel. I gave him a cool Clint Eastwood nod of thanks instead.
    I might not be catching all the names or the language yet, and I spit every time I try one of those German sounding commands, but Brockle gets it, 100%. He never approached another dog, off or on leash, or gave me any cause for concern. He stayed focused, intent and had an absolute blast. He'll get me up to speed. 

  • "You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does -- but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you'll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it's the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so; it's the sickening grammar they use." - Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad


  1. Do your new "cool" friends have any tips on how to get a wiggle out of a dog?

    I mean, it's not a bad thing, but... I want Artemis to greet people with class, too. Instead, she flips back her ears and does her seal impersonation, noodling around with excitement.

    That was an awesome read.

  2. Fun and funny post that brings back memories of me (then 14) training my first dog (my only non-rescue, a GSD). So they use German commands? While, get this, here in Germany they've started using English commands: sit is cooler than sitz, down is cooler than platz, I guess. Humans don't know how lucky they are that their dogs don't judge them! ;-)
    Have fun getting to know Brockle and making her your heart dog!

  3. @ Becky - Get the "wiggle" out of your and your friends'/guests' voice and demeanor first: Greet each other in a calm, "classy" way, everybody *completely ignoring* Artemis (no eye contact, no touch, no greeting!) until her excitement and uber-joyed state have simmered down. As soon as Artemis relaxes into the desired calm state (timing!), reward = reinforce desired behavior with (calm!) praise / treat / toy...

  4. Apologies for not resisting a third comment, but one excellent book, and blog of the same name, is "The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia McConnell. Also, just yesterday I happened to watch a "Dog Whisperer" episode with both Cesar Milan and Pat Parelli. It's always the same: ***Know your horse's/dog's nature***, earn its trust by being fair and consistent, and be a calm and assertive leader. We all know this to be true, no? - Over and out!!

  5. Sundog- thanks for the info. So my English commands are cooler than their German ones?
    Ha! I say, Ha!
    I'm not saying a word. They'll find out on their own.
    Although K would raise an eyebrow and say, "Oooooh, Mugs is all trendy," and completely deflate my tires.
    All good info is appreciated, BTW.

  6. I've been lurking here for ages but have to come out from the dark for this. I've done schutzhund for years. It is the Best Sport and I'm so glad you are enjoying it.

  7. I can so picture you doing the little up nod instead of the down nod.

  8. KD - huh? Remember, I'm ignorant.

  9. Nothing to do with the dogs... Just how you nod. You can tip your head down or you can tip your head up as a nod. I always thought out was a little cooler to nod up... Your hat brim doesn't block your view. :-).

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Way cooler than the two finger salute. I hate that one. The only thing worse is a wink.

  12. @shadowlake... You must not be a Harry Potter fan. :-)

  13. Parsel tongue! I almost spit out my morning tea. I never made that connection. That is why I read this blog every day. I’m always learning. Congratulations on your (and Brockle’s) first Schutzhund experience! Hang in there. It doesn't take long to become fluent.

  14. P.S. If you want some thought provoking lectures, check out Michael Ellis. He has some free video lectures online at his website (you will have to Google.) They will help you learn the language of protection sports. I listen to them while I work. Some of them I've heard 10 times and I'm still getting the nuances.

  15. Mugwump (I had to look this word up!), "Ha!" is right!! English commands ARE 'cooler': cool in the sense of trendy, when used in Germany (some say); cool in the sense of brilliantly sensible, when used in USA. IMO! So, I have zero worries about you maintaining the perfect air pressure in your tires...
    PS -Found you recently, have done some catching up now, need to correct myself: You're *way* past the "getting to know" Brockle stage! I love your horse&dog mind!

  16. Thanks Marsha! New listening pleasure to help ease the pain of folding laundry.

  17. Busted! I know, it's a character flaw, what can I say?


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