Zar

Kennel Club – Reinhund Coal

With a competitive outlook and wanting to learn about working dogs, I bought a Czech working line, high drive pup from the Reinhund Kennels in Leicester. He was released to me at 7.5 weeks due to the nature of the breed, given a headstrong, very confident and hard playing pup. This reduces any fighting between the sibling pups so they go to homes unscathed but with Mums guidance implanted.

The journey began!

My aim was to compete in Schutzhund IGP, effectively a 3 day event for dogs which involves footprint tracking with article identification, Obedience and Protection, each element is very hard work and takes a lot of dedication too perfect.

It’s important with any dog, not least this type, to develop a high level of engagement as without this, the dog won’t focus and have the desire to perform work. I spent the first 6-7 months, hand feeding him through working in my local park, if he failed to work, I didn’t feed him! Of course, this hardly ever happened!! Positive reinforcement came in the way of his food (rather than treats) & I was in the park 3-4 times a day with him.

His play drive outweighed his food drive around 6.5 months, such that the tug ball I’d introduced to him was more valuable to him than the food, this was the catalyst for starting to bowl feed him, his reinforcer had become the ball, it’s stayed that way ever since.

Aged 3 months old.

Aged 4½ months old.

Always looking at putting things in his way to see how he reacts, this time cows! Habitualisation is crucial in a dog like this.

Zar’s development was excellent, he became very focused on me, working hard every time we’d be in the park, never wanting to run off or be distracted with other dogs, even when they came over, he simply ignored them!

I started exposing him to tracking when he was around 3.5 months, starting with scent pads, leading to foot prints and connecting scent pads together, at the same time, getting him to lie down to mark an article.

I then had the great fortune to be introduced to Chris Bows, a specialised trainer in the dog sport, having been competing for over 30 years and having attended several World Championships with his dogs. We then started the protection phase, teaching Zar the art of proper biting, control, barking on command, all of this has to be completely under control, that’s been the hard part due to Zar’s insane drive!

The obedience work involves not only close heal-work and full attention on the handler, but also a “down & stay” which can be for up to 10 minutes, with distractions of 2 starting pistol shots and someone doing their obedience pattern right next to where the dog lies! Furthermore, the dog has to retrieve a wooden dumbbell over a 1m high hurdle and then over a 2m high “A” frame, both of these are an art in themselves! All this work is something I do in the park and is checked by Chris twice a week to make sure I’m not missing anything out from the sports point of view – its not just the dog but the handler can be deducted points.

At the time of writing this, Zar is now 22 months old and has successfully completed his BH, the first of four levels.

I aim to the IGP 1 with him over the next month, and hopefully both IGP 2 & 3 next year, after that, hopefully the World Championships!

I’ve learnt an awful lot doing this training.

Working line dogs are completely different to show / pet dogs.

Zar’s drive, power and confidence along with his ability to learn have been a revelation to me, he’s completely different to my other two shepherds, in fact, he could be a different breed, that’s how much there is between them.

Extremely hard work but very rewarding. I have a beautiful bond with Zar which will only get stronger as he matures.