Naturally: Boxertales

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Head, Meet Wall

It has been a while since an update on what we’ve been up to with Ringo (and what Ringo has been up to with us). That’s not so much for a lack of things to report but because I’ve generally been feeling too frustrated with him. Today, that cup just about flooded at the Boxer Championships.

Shows this year have been generally abysmal in terms of his behaviour. First day of My Dog in January was a disaster with him being super-charged and not very friendly towards other dogs. We even withdrew from the second day. At the local special at the beginning of the summer, he growled at the judge. Last weekend in Sundsvall, he had major issues with other dogs, but showed okay other than that. And today he so crazy the judge disqualified him because she couldn’t judge him. He actually behaved very well towards the other dogs, making me think he was in good balance, but then he just whirled around when she was going to check his teeth and feel over his body. Worst, however, was how he got stuck staring at something (I have no idea what) when I was going to run him. He almost dragged me out of the ring.

And that (well, the summer shows, anyway) followed on 10 weeks of obedience training with a very good trainer and some pretty significant steps forward in terms of obedience. We’ve also seen the trainer’s trainer twice during the summer for some one-on-one consultation. Now, I know it will take a long while to sort things out, but I don’t know if I have the energy for it. If I manage to improve on one thing, a new problem crops up. Right now, I feel like giving up on shows and obedience and forgetting all about Ringo being a working dog. Problem is, he really needs the training, but I find it hard to motivate myself to do it if I can’t have the goal of competing him.

I think someone is getting a lump of coal for his birthday next weekend instead of a stuffed toy. ;P Then again, he’ll be looking at me with a sad, wrinkly face all week…so probably not.

New Class & New Annoyance

I’ve been bad about updating what’s going on with Ringo, but rest assured, he’s going strong the usual way. Which perhaps isn’t all that great. ;P

The cold, snowy winter meant a distinct lack of training outdoors, so a few weeks ago I finally got us signed up for a class at the local boxer club. I wish this one had been offered a year ago, because I am getting some good help both with how to train Ringo for the possibility of a working dog competition and, more importantly, with how to work to calm and balance him. They’ve worked with boxers like him before and its helping a lot so far.

Unfortunately, it did not help one bit yesterday when we finally got around to doing his second mentality evaluation as part of the process called “korning”. It is test for working dogs, which if they pass earns them the title “Korad”, that looks at their mentality and conformation. The conformation went just fine, but he missed passing the mentality evaluation with 10 points. We had all been worried that his fear of fireworks would mean problems with the gun shots (plus, up at the regular club he has had issues with shots, though I have a theory or two about why), but that part he passed with flying colours. However, he missed a huge chunk of the test completely when he was too wound up to actually grip and tug on the test object. Instead, he just kept jumping up on the person handling the test…

In part, I feel he failed this section (which he did poorly during the first mentality evaluation too) because he was allowed to spot the toy used for the next part of the test and ran off to play with that instead. His concentration is poor, so a distraction like that made it so much harder for him to get it right. The more I think about that, the more annoyed I get ... but, oh well. Can’t do anything about that.

Overall, the evaluation showed what we expected: he’s extremely high-intensity and he goes over the edge into stress a lot of the time. I did not agree, however, with the evaluator’s feelings that once he had worn himself out a bit on the initial, quite physical tests, he became more passive out of being a little weighed-down by the following tests which are more about challenging his nerves. No, he became more passive because he was exhausted. He was also given a 3 for whether he approached the scary obstacles on his own or needed help. The 3 is supposed to describe that he needed help several times, but he only needed help once, which should have been a 4.

In conclusion, I will be annoyed about this one for a long while, especially after considering it a bit more. He was never going to get fantastic points, because he has his issues, but I think his chances at the “grip & tug” part were spoiled by him being allowed to spot the other toy and I think that there was one incorrect 3 that should have been 4. So, yeah. Annoying.

But, we’ll of course push on with the class in hopes of some future competitions if he becomes a little calmer and more balanced. We will also be going to a boxer show next weekend and two or maybe three more of those during the summer. The local one sure, and the Swedish Championships, but the rest depends on how it fits together with vacations and such.

Back to Work

Tonight was the first training session of a course I’ve signed up for at the local boxer club. It appealed to me because the idea is to work on the various exercises that are part of competitive obedience and to do it focused on what each dog already knows, allowing for a group with very mixed experience. Seeing how up and down Ringo can be, it seemed like it could suit him.

My Dog, Bad Dog

Today was supposed to be the second day of MyDog. Or rather, it still is, but not for us. Yesterday didn’t go all that well, resulting in a Linda with a bad back and lots of added stress. And given that I’ve got a paper on Roman curse tablets due soon, I felt I didn’t need another day like that. Of course, it usually goes better the second day, since Ringo tends to be a little more mellow, but I decided against it anyway. Still kicking myself, of course, and thinking about “what ifs”.

Yesterday actually started off okay, since I had had the smart idea of using the less busy entrance and giving Ringo a little walk outside the arena first. So, he was pretty manageable once inside, not really pulling towards dogs much at all. But once we got settled in around the ring, it was really, really crowded (today would have been better in that regard too, since we would have been in a bigger ring with more space around it), and he got really riled up and just wouldn’t calm down. If he wasn’t barking at us for attention, he barked at other dogs, either to get them to play or out of his usual leash fear/aggression. In some cases, he did settle down about particular dogs so that he could be praised for it (and I rather regret not walking him around more down in the exhibit area, to get more of a chance to reward him), but he never really landed fully. We did have his cage along, and he’d occasionally go in, but after a few minutes he’d bark and want to be let out.

And then we got into the ring, and he and a few other dogs took a dislike to each other. I don’t know who started, I know he growled at one that passed nearby, but then the dog in front of us kept turning around to snarl in his face, so I think they were all to blame. But it got kind of stressful (though no one actually touched anyone else), and for a while I even thought the judge had sent us out because he was really a) disorganized and b) quiet when he tried to split the group into two for running the dogs. By then I had a complete dry mouth and arms and legs that felt so weak I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do the individual evaluation at all. As a result, the individual running was not good. Ringo was a bit tried and I was too exhausted to do a good job. The teeth showing went well since I got to do it myself (the judge said he was tried of wrestling boxers), and then Ringo posed ... okayish while I tried to catch my breath and calm down.

Of course, after all that work, we got a 2. Not a huge surprise at a Kennel Club show, he’s just not that kind of boxer, but I am a bit annoyed anyway. The written critique was actually quite good, save for a note about him being a bit hotheaded in the ring. This means that the judge either wrote a critique that doesn’t really seem to reflect a 2 in terms of his conformation, or the judge gave him the 2 because of his temper. But for temper, if the judge feels it is an issue, it should be a 0 and then a code “A” for fearful or aggressive behaviour. If its not judged to be that much of an issue, then my understanding is that it shouldn’t be reflected in the score at all, unless its highly atypical for the breed. But, I’ve had other 2’s that I am pretty sure came because he was too unruly/bouncy/etc, when he really should have had a KEP (Kan ej prisbelönas = Cannot be judged) instead. So, because judges are reluctant to give what they see as the more serious 0 + A or KEP, you get 2’s that aren’t really 2’s instead. In this case, I guess the judge didn’t feel like handing out a bunch of 0 + A, so he handed out a few 2’s instead.

Of course, the reason for the 2 could also be that the judge isn’t very good at writing a critique that sounds well matched to the score he gives out. I know he’s judged a lot of boxer, but he spent a lot of time measuring the younger boxers and consulting a sheet which appeared to have the boxer standard on it. So it may be that we got a bit of a cookie cutter review with some typical catch-phrases thrown in. But, that’s how it is. Its all subjective, and that has to be accepted. Still, doesn’t mean one can’t sigh a bit about it. ;) Anyway, here’s the critique:

Masculine, excellent nose, a bit too much cheek, good eyes and ears. Short neck, strong back, straight croup, good forechest, good length of chest. Good legs and feet. Moves okay, somewhat hotheaded in the ring towards his competitors.

Don’t know when we will be showing again (possibly not until the local boxer show in May, but that may be too long a wait again), but this spring we really need to make an attempt at getting him ready for a working dog competition, probably tracking. We also want to do the physical & mental evaluation that should be done before age 4. And we’ll probably be booking some private lessons with a trainer to see if we can do anything about his leash aggression.

On the Right Track

Since there won’t be much in the way of shows for a good while, I am going to try to improve my reporting from other activities in Ringo’s life. Given that its so far been next to non-existent, improving it a little bit shouldn’t be so hard. ;)

Today we finally got around to doing some proper tracking for the first time in a good while. In the past, we’ve stuck almost entirely to letting Ringo look for various toys, but now we got some proper wooden markers. We also fixed up some clothespins with ribbons on so we’d know where we had gone, and we put down two tracks. One straight line with one of the markers at the end, and one angled line with one marker before and one marker after the bend.

A little mishap led to Ringo running back and grabbing one of the markers from the second track right off, but at least he grabbed it and came running with it. Then we went off picking mushrooms—or, well, looking for mushrooms, anyway—and returned about an hour and a half later. Ringo was a bit stressed and not very focused, but even so he found the second marker on the track that was supposed to have two (but where he had already nabbed one) quite easily. The best part was that he grabbed it right off, without any prompting from me. Looks like teaching him how to indicate the markers won’t be too hard.

The second track he picked up well on his own, and followed fairly well. He also went right for the marker as he found it, though didn’t pick it up right off. But he marked it clearly, and took it as soon as he was asked to. Overall, I am quite pleased, since its been a while. Someone who knew what they were doing could easily get him ready to compete ... of course, I don’t. ;) But we’ll try to work in a more focused way on both the tracking and obedience this fall.

Blown Away

Last Sunday was the Swedish Championships for Boxers, which we attended with Ringo, for the third year in a row. Fortunately, it was close to where we live this time around, just an hour away instead of four, so the fact that the show didn’t turn out so well didn’t sting quite as much as it could have.

Going into it, we were prepared for a less than stellar result, as the judge was one that had given Ringo just a 2 for quality at a previous show. But that was when he was a junior, and he did not show well at all, so we had thought that might have accounted for some of the evaluation. But, no. He showed very well this time, giving the judge a good chance to look him over, and all that resulted in was another 2 and a longer description of all his faults according to the judge:

Three years old, medium size. A bit flat in skull, not fullfilled enough under eyes, too much developed jaws, the ears are not well carried. Short neck, not dry enough. Needs more angular in front, a bit loose in elbows, chest is not deep enough, could have better topline. A bit feminine. Correct croup and tailset. Good mover. Needs better expression.

Some of those things were clearly due to the judge preferring quite massive male boxers. His winner was very muscular and deep-chested—too much so for my taste, really. Though taken with the previous show, I can’t help but worry a little bit that his head is coming out a little worse with age. But oh well, its just a show, and if we could get him into the working dogs class I think he’d be quite competitive all considered. That’s no small feat, though, with his habit of getting stressed by everything.

And speaking of stress… It was incredibly windy at the show (but despite lots of foreboding dark clouds, we only got 5-10 minutes of light rain), and it blew all sense out of Ringo. He was wild and loud (a poor fellow standing behind us got barked at several times, I suspect for having a beard…), taking only short little naps. I really thought he’d be out of control in the ring, but he was excellent. Now, we if could only work on his escalating issues with other dogs, to improve those as much as his attention to me has improved…

Showing off on Vacation

After two weeks of vacationing, with plenty of walks and visits to the beach, it was time to finish off our time up at my mother’s family home near Sundsvall (on the Baltic coast, pretty much right in the middle of Sweden length-wise) with a visit to this region’s boxer special. We had taken our vacation later than usual to be able to attend this show for once, since its generally one of the smaller breed-specific shows. We were also quite interested in seeing what the judge, a well-known Swedish boxer judge, would have to say about Ringo.

Disaster Puppy

Yesterday’s show was a minor disaster. I was very nervous in advance (not helped along by all sorts of bad omens ;P), because last time we had had this judge Ringo had been such a monster towards me that she had been concerned she had to report him for aggression. Still, she really liked his type, and I wanted to see what she’d think now that he appears to have grown out of the few faults she pointed out last time. Given how nicely he behaved last weekend, I thought we stood a good chance of a fine performance.


A Hot Day in the Ring

We have now been at home for a few hours (watching harness racing on and off) after getting up at 6 am in order to be comfortably early at the boxer show arranged by the regional boxer club. During the summer, each region within the country-wide boxer club arranges their own show for just boxers, and these are generally the most prestigious shows for boxer owners. So far, throughout the last two years, we’ve had mixed results, with the best being a victory in his group when he was a junior and a reserve (fifth, basically) placement in the young dog group at the Swedish boxer championships last year. No CKs (championship quality) at boxer shows so far, though, and I would certainly love to get one this year. But, it does take finding a judge that likes Ringo’s type, as I’d say he’s pretty good, but not stellar enough to wow just any judge regardless of their preferences.

I knew the judge for today probably preferred a somewhat different boxer judging by the dogs he had liked at previous shows in Sweden (there’s a database on-line where its possible to check the results for any official Swedish show), so my hopes were for good behaviour from Ringo and a red ribbon (for quality 1) in the individual evaluation. And that is pretty much what I got. In fact, Ringo surprised me by being both very well behaved and alert, which is something we don’t always manage to get at the same time. He bounced up once when the judge held up a pen to check alertness, and did one little jump when we started running, but otherwise he had his feet on the ground all the time and stood quite well too. I felt pretty confident that we’d get our red ribbon, and we did. However, when the time came for the comparative evaluation, we were the second pair to be sent out of the ring. The critique, however, sounds pretty good from what I have been able to make out of it (its in German, and hand-written):

Medium-sized, red-golden brindle. Good head and a suitable nose. Brown eyes, somewhat small incisors. Very good neck. Deep chest. The angulation is good in the front and very good in the back. Free movements.

The winner of Ringo’s class (the open class, which is where all males over 2 years go unless they go into the working dog group or the champion group) was a dog from the same litter that we had actually considered a dog from before settling on Ringo. They’ve had an informal rivalry ever since facing off at the first ever show for both of them when they were puppies (Ringo won that time), though we’ve ended up showing Ringo rather more. Kingston, as he is called,  is a bit taller and lighter than Ringo, and I had suspected that he would do well for this judge as a litter mate of his had done well for him. So, he won, with a CK, and then he ended up missing out on best male very narrowly, placing second in that class after a lengthy deliberation by the judge.

We’ll have to tell Ringo he now has some catching up to do, to see if it might spur him to be a little extra pretty for the other boxer shows this year. ;) We’re hoping for at least two, possibly three more, though it really is no fun to get up at 3 or 4 am, so we’ll see. Either way, he was a very good dog today, and that sort of progress matters the most.

A Glutton for Punishment

The time had come today for the first show of the summer season. Not of the year, though, since we had the two indoor shows in January. But that was a good while ago, so of course I was nervous that Ringo would act up. Unfortunately, he did not disappoint. ;P

Ups and Downs

It has been a while since the last Ringo update, mostly because I only manage to get myself to post after shows and there haven’t been any of those since September. We have, however, been training weekly up at the local working dog club, and some improvements have occurred. Though, some things have gotten worse, too, like Ringo’s attitude about other male dogs. Its definitely turning into a little bit of an issue, and I had my hands full at the MyDog show in Gothenburg on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

On the first day, Ringo was a little hellion. Not as bad as last year on the first day, but bad enough that the rather strict British judge gave us a 2 even though he also gave him a pretty good critique. Properly speaking, I don’t think it was quite proper to have him get a 2, since it seemed to be based rather heavily on the judge feeling he wasn’t handled well. However, it is pretty common to get a 2 for that even though the rules technically don’t leave room for it.

The critique was: Very well made square brindle. Well balanced in outline. Good mover. Head is typie, just a touch over done. Handler must learn to show and move him better for the judge.

On the second day, Ringo behaved a lot better overall, and especially in the ring. He posed nicely in the first lineup, ran well with the rest, ran well on his own and posed fairly well on his own too. We got a 1, and then we ended up placed 4th. Dogs 1 through 3 got CKs, and I think the judge may have considered Ringo for one as he gave him a close look before deciding the placements. Then again, he seemed pretty set on 1 through 3.

The critique this time was: Correct size. Typical head. Correct topline, deep chest, correct front angulation. Good coat. Good movement.

There won’t be any more shows for a while again, I expect (not until the outdoor ones start, most likely), but we are looking at signing up for a class to prepare for working dog competitions. Its not going to be easy to start with him at this age, but maybe we can manage to compete in a year or so and perhaps have his working dog merits by next summer. For now, though, he just needs more training to be less hyper-active.

Showing Off Again

Yesterday we were at a show at a working dog club not too far away from here, for Ringos début in the open class since he is now past 2 years of age. Boxers were, for once, not the first breed to be judged in their ring, so we only had to get up at 7 am to be there at 9 am. Quite a difference from getting up at 3 am for the last show.

Ringo started the morning by being very lively. He clearly knows that early mornings with the whole family getting ready means a dog show. Didn’t help my nerves, of course, that he decided to be pretty feisty. The judge for the show would be one that previously had given him a 2 for quality, in large parts because he really misbehaved. So, I was not expecting more than a 1 today and that only if he managed to behave.

Ringo’s X-Ray

After an agonizingly long wait (okay, two and a half weeks, but it felt like years ;P) we finally got Ringo’s X-ray results today. And he’s got excellent hips and knees, whee!

Fingers Crossed

Today Ringo finally had his knees and his hips x-rayed (a bit late, as its usually done between 12 and 18 months, but we wanted to make sure he’d finished developing). This is a standard procedure for boxers, as the breed has some minor issues with their knees and some more major issues with their hips (hip dysplasia). Knees without any negative remarks and hips of at least type A or B are required for any dog used for breeding. You also need the same result to be allowed to get the title of KORAD which is given to dogs who pass a mental evaluation and a conformation evaluation done between the ages of two and four.

So, now we’re in for a nervous couple of weeks as we wait for the results (the x-rays are sent off to be analysed by the Swedish Kennel Club), though the vet who did the x-rays seemed to think it looked pretty good. That is, she first did a set she wasn’t happy with (the positioning of the dog is very important, and small deviations can change the final result), but when they redid them she seemed to think they came out fine. However, that’s far from a guarantee of anything, so I am telling myself not to take anything for granted.

Birthday Boxer

Today is Ringo’s 2nd birthday. We got him some ice-cream cake (well, he didn’t get the whole to himself) and a new toy. The cake was served at the kitchen table (he loves sitting on the chair there) and he managed to eat off a plate without making too much of a mess. The new toy, a long-legged turtle with two squeaky and two rattly legs, proved an instant success. Which, of course, meant it wasn’t likely to be long-lived. In fact, he tore up one leg and cracked open one rattle within about 5-10 minutes. Hopefully, the little monster didn’t swallow too many of the tiny little steel balls in the rattle.

I think I am going to start a business making boxer-proof toys. From kevlar. That might do it.

But he sure had fun, at least.