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An IPO Progress Update, July 26, 2015

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It’s been about 3 months or so since I posted an update regarding the progress my Rottweiler Zeus and I are making in Shutzhund/IPO.  We started in January of this year, and I’m both pleased and proud to say that we’re making steady progress.  There have also been some minor setbacks – at least they seem minor now, but at the time seemed like game enders.  The biggest issue we’ve had is that Zeus was showing aggression toward our helpers while doing bite work.  He never bit any of the helpers, but made some motions like he was going for their legs.  Zeus is a 131 lb. Rottweiler which is imposing enough.  But after a couple of incidents like this, our club helpers had serious concerns about working with him.  Before pulling the plug on Zeus’s protection work training, I decided to consult Jane Mitchelmore of TOTAL ROTTWEILER MAGAZINE (and working on IPO 3 titling her 5th Rottweiler) regarding the challenges we were facing with Zeus.   The club I joined is a USCA member club, and is comprised primarily of German Shepherds (GSD), and as it turns out, the way our club’s helpers had been approaching protection/bite work was more appropriate for a GSD than it was a Rottweiler.  Most working German Shepherds have tons of “prey drive” which is relatively simple to tap into, and the helper usually has to work to bring out the aggression needed for bit work and protection in IPO in a GSD.  As it turns out, the opposite is true of most Rottweilers.  As Jane Mitchelmore explained, “ training is supposed to be fun – for the dog and the handler. If a dog is feeling cornered such that it needs to strike out then that training is all wrong for the dog and the handler has to take over the helper work and teach the dog that the sleeve is a toy.”  This was the key – our club’s helpers were approaching  Zeus’s bite work just like they would a GSD which was triggering Zeus’s defensive instincts.  We sort of went back to “square 1” with just working with Zeus and a jolly ball on a rope, then transitioned to a tug.  Once Zeus is comfortable with “the game” we won’t trigger his defensive instincts and we can progress.  Here’s a couple of photos from a recent training session:

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Of course, IPO is more than just protection.  In fact, I’m actually focusing on obedience quite a bit more given that I’m less than 3 months away from trying for a BH title.  In this photo, as part of the BH routine, I’ve just recalled Zeus from a long down at about 35 paces.  Note the great engagement he’s giving me:

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Here’s some video footage of me doing the kind of heeling with Zeus he’ll need to to in a BH test, as well as footage of Zeus performing one of the more challenging aspects of the BH test – the recall from the down:

The assumption is of course that we’ll pass the BH and want to move forward with getting an IPO 1.  So we’ve started doing tracking, and we’ve also started practicing some of the things that are a part of obedience in an IPO 1 trial – going up and down an “A” frame and going over a high hurdle.  In a trial, Zeus would have to retrieve a dumbbell while doing these tasks, but for right now, I just want to get him comfortable with the apparatus.  Here’s a brief video with some recent footage:

For being as large as he is, Zeus is surprisingly agile.

The IPO obedience work we’ve been doing has been great for Zeus.  We needed to complete two final legs of Zeus’s AKC Rally Obedience title (RN) which we recently did at a local trial.  We barely even practiced it for it (given all the obedience work we’re doing at the club) and scored a 95 out of 100 on Friday (1st place) and a 94 on Sunday (4th place), completing the three legs needed for the RN.

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Personally, I’m feeling more and more comfortable as I get a greater understanding of IPO as a whole, and the little pieces which fit together along with the training needed to get there.  Once the time changed and the days got longer, our club started training twice a week (Wednesday night and Sunday morning) which has certainly accelerated both training and learning.  I’ve also been doing private lessons with our club’s Training Director (Tammy Molner) who is fantastic. It’s been several very time-consuming months, but it’s also been very personally rewarding.

Hopefully my next update will be to talk about our BH testing experience!

About John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.

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