*a message now being sent to prospective club members/malinois owners in general* ---
To those interested in living and working with a high drive dog,
Right off the bat, if a working dog is new to you, assume this lifestyle will be different than what owning pet dogs has taught you thus far. These dogs are not for weekend warriors. Treat working with this dog as a commitment that requires a daily training plan that leads to weekly goals building to a quarterly skill bucket list. Do that enough and years of work may lead to competition.
Simply put, day to day, if you are not training a driven dog…they are training themselves. If you are not ok with the self education they are giving themselves either direct them with training or use a crate to manage the time you cannot direct. That being said their life should not exist in a crate. Out of crate time must be mentally enriching and stimulating. Crate time should be resting and recharging before the next stimulating session with you.
This dog will be constantly on the hunt to better their situation. Communicate fairly and make it clear how the dog can find their advantage. If you fail to do this they will self reward and start learning you are merely an annoying obstacle for them to overcome. And make no mistake - the dog is stronger and smarter than you. You will lose that battle.
Avoid the battle. You do not dominate these dogs, you finesse them. You make what you want them to do be their idea. As a handler your job is to create a training culture that develops enriching outlets for your dog’s intensity and fun pathways to channel drive. It takes work. It takes patience. It takes bandaids.
These dogs are not robots. They will have up days and down days. Their path to maturity might throw some interesting variables at your training plan. As their teammate you will meet them where they are at that day, take steps back as needed and stay humble - for you will forever be a student of the dog in front of you. You must analyze your own faults as a com
municator, ask poignant questions to those with more experience than you and rebuild approaches as needed.
Training ego is your enemy, kill it now. Your dog will thank you.
At the end of the day YOU should be their primary vessel of interest. Chewing on a stick, playing with (or reacting to) another dog should pale in comparison to how awesome doing stuff with you is. Indirect socialization (meaning dog ignores X because they are doing stuff with you) should become somewhat of a lifestyle.
Working with a dog of this caliber is a privilege. Your goal should be a symbiotic relationship. Your dog should get as much (if not more) out of the process than you do. You do not force this animal to exist flawlessly in your lifestyle…you amend your lifestyle and training culture so the dog and you coexist together.
Put in consistent patient work (and for god’s sake have fun doing it) for over 2 -3 years and you MIGHT
just have the opportunity to put it all on display at a trial. That being said, don’t work with a dog like this with the only azimuth a competition. Work with them to enjoy the journey of r
eaching and working towards those goals and let the competitions/trials be the cherry.
Lastly, don’t take yourself too seriously…you are about to spend a ton of time, money and energy doing something 99% of the population won’t understand or be able to relate to while get
ting bit, chewed up and shit on. Just smile, take your licks (literally/figuratively/emotionally) and fail forward.
Have fun. Trust hard work. Respect the dog.