Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with Brian Harvey of Der Michigan Schutzhund Verein. He has been training police dogs for 34 years and doing competitive schutzhund for about the same length of time. His credentials are awesome - he trains, competes, and judges on a national level.
I described Bugs' temperament to him and he thinks she would be a good candidate, even for bitework! I like this guy because they do NOT start out with prong collars, e-collars, etc. They start out with flat collars and work up as needed, but since Bugs is very biddable and loves to take direction, he doesn't think she'll need any harsh treatment. (I just could not put her through that - it's too much for both of us!)
I was very up-front about Bugs' issues with other dogs. She does great sometimes, and other times she gets all wild and crazy and is difficult for me to control. He wasn't fazed - he said most of the dogs act like that at first. I also told him about the behaviorist who diagnosed it as frustration and he said that's fantastic because we don't want true aggression for a sport. Maybe if she was training for hard-core police work, we might want more aggression, but he said frustration is an indication of drive and that she needs to be taught, through training, what is expected of her.
Bugs doesn't go after people, but here is the way he described IPO to me:
Let's say your dog goes after the mail man, the meter reader, and other dogs. It's in this breed's genetics to be watchful and protective, but without training them what to do with that protective instinct, they can get out of control. So we teach them exactly who and what to bite (the sleeve), and a command to do so. Now they know what to do and that their handler (me) is in control of the situation and that they only need to go nuts when their handler instructs them to.
Bugs isn't well-bred; she originally came from a BYB (backyard breeder) but her first owners didn't realize the dangers of buying a dog from such a breeder, which is a very common mistake. They should not be faulted for this; when you know better, you do better and I'm 100% certain that their future dogs will come from better breeders.
Bugs' sire is Mamut del Nasi, a cast-off from del Nasi kennels in Serbia. Her grand-sire is CAC CACIB Prinz Paris von Jahrestal, and her great grand-sire is the famous IDC SIEGER Fedor Del Nasi.
I have no information about her dam's side of the pedigree, but with her European working blood, she may very well be a good candidate for IPO. I can tell that she needs a job and an outlet, but so far I haven't found the right thing for us. IPO may not be right for either of us, but you never know until you try, so this Sunday we're leaving bright and early for the drive to Hudson to meet with Brian at DMSV. He's going to evaluate her, and we're going to get a chance to see how the dogs at this club are trained. Club fees are reasonable - $150 a month, which includes 8 training sessions a month. That's about what you'd pay for obedience classes and is affordable. I like the fact that I work with her, under supervision of the trainer (some clubs I talked to wanted me to leave her there for a month and they do all the training - that's not going to happen!)
Meanwhile, I am also reading up on various AKC sanctioned sports, in case this isn't right for us. I will not force Bugs to do something that she isn't cut out to do, and if it isn't enjoyable and rewarding for us, then there's no point in doing it. We may very well end up doing something like canine freestyle, since we both really enjoy doing snazzy tricks, but only time will tell.
I am excited to have Bugs evaluated and to see how IPO works, in person. All the reading and youtube in the world still doesn't show me exactly what a training session looks like, and that's what matters most. I will not put my girl in a situation where she will be hurt, mentally or physically.
If Brian thinks Bugs is a good candidate, we're going to make a special vet appointment to make sure her joints and muscles can handle the physical exercise. Her growth plates won't close for another 6 months, so we won't force vigorous exercise, but I think, if this works out, that it will be an awesome opportunity for both of us.