What makes one an "experienced handler"?

If you are wondering what is the right dog for you, this is the place to be. In this introductory forum we talk about topics such as breed vs. mix, size, age, grooming, breeders, shelters, rescues as well as requirements for exercise, space and care. No question is too silly here. This particular forum is for getting and giving helpful, nice advice. It is definitely not a forum for criticizing someone else's opinion, knowledge or advice. This forum is all about tail wagging and learning.

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Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 1:32pm PST 
Do you want me to make a list? laugh out loud

Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 4:11pm PST 
I'm certainly not going to stop you, and I'm sure that anyone else reading would love to hear a breakdown of your thoughts on [any] matter. wink laugh out loud

I did want to comment further on your original post, but I was just walking out the door to the park when I first replied and now I'm just coming in the door and want to scrounge up some food. (And have a husky staring me down and blubbering at me to do something with him.. as if I didn't just!)

If I see more from ya when I'm back this way I'll just reply to both. (:

Whippy- The- Whipador
Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 4:25pm PST 
Good question! way to go Not sure i really know myself to be honest. I don't think i would necessarily consider myself an experienced dog owner/handler. I've had my fair share of challenging issues with Missy and some of her behaviours still have me in a bit of a pickle at times. But you can only gain experience as you go along really.

In some ways i wonder whether i'll be making too big a leap with my next dog. But as has been said already, you have to start somewhere and if all breeders were unwilling to sell to anyone lacking experience in the breed, they'd find themselves at a dead end before long. I think it just comes down to how dedicated you are to making things work regardless of experience and learning as you go along.


bitches love- pantaloons
Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 7:47pm PST 
When I think of experienced handler, I think of someone who has dedicated a significant amount of time to the breed in question OR with similar breeds/temperaments/issues and is successful in dealing with them.
Ember FDX

Go Go Devil- Bunnies!
Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 8:10pm PST 
I think context is important. I've seen terms like "experienced handler" used in a very clear way, provided one reads the entire sentence or paragraph. For example, after a rescue story and personality profile, "Fido needs training and understanding from his new home, and we are only considering applicants who have experience with his breed."

I have also seen them thrown around so that they're ambiguous and basically meaningless, as in "this breed requires and experienced handler" with no set up or follow up.

Honestly, when they're that ambiguous, I think they are meaningless. They become buzzwords that someone is using to sound educated.
Miyu CGC

Bow down to the- Princess Brat!
Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 9:17pm PST 
This is an extremely good topic, as I'd love to hear the others chime in as well! Before I got Miyu I did a lot of research, but you folks here were very kind about things- kind and realistic, and the rescue Miyu is from has been nothing but fantastic. Talk about breed people. Those are people I consider experienced handlers. They see dogs go in and out- dogs that really don't need much done to them before they can go to a good home, to 100lb people AND dog aggressive GSDs. (The one dog I have in mind is now so rehabilitated she recently had 15 of us at her home for a potluck, and happily went around the whole place being people greeter. Truly amazing.)

But anyways, back to the topic. I'm with Nare and some of the others- I think dedication and a willingness to learn matter more, even if you have a lack of real experience to begin with. She's technically my first dog, though I did grow up with a sweet, sweet family terrier. I've been told many times she's too much dog for most people, and yet somehow they picked her for me. And she's perfect.

I also think the level of experience is affected, like Tiller said, with just how forgiving the dog is. A mal will likely rip the place apart if not exercised enough. A lack of exercise can in turn manifest in aggression issues. I mean, read Atlas' thread on his aggression issues! That to me is pure example of why you should never take on more dog than you can handle. Some breeds just have that much more propensity towards certain traits and problems if not handled well. And sadly, few people are willing to take on the work needed to keep those dogs in great shape, and to make sure they are safe, great citizens in society.

It's probably why the GSD is touted to not be a beginning dog. They are pushy, they will test you, they are protective, they need constant training and guidelines and a job to do. Now all this isn't a problem for me and my husband, but it's also the reason why I would NOT let any of my friends watch her if we go on vacation. Talk about ruling terror. They're too soft, and mostly they wouldn't know what to do with her if she tested her boundaries. I could easily see much of the same happening for huskies. Energy, smarts, independence... it's a combination most people wouldn't know what to do with when hit in the gut with it.

I think it boils down to how committed you are to making sure that dog stays healthy and happy, and is able to interact and live normally. Really like what Mulder said. It does, of course, help HUGELY to have great mentors and friends you can turn to, when in need. I still wouldn't call myself experienced in the least bit. But that's why I love Dogster. There are folks on here that know so much I could probably plumb their brains all day on our favorite topic- Dogs!

Now here's my turn to hijack the thread. Mulder, Tiller, those of you that HAVE had those hard core working dogs. What is the difference between them, and say... your average run of the mill soft family GSD? Are they sharper? More stubborn? What are they like to live with? I know the exercise needs are probably much higher, but beyond that... it's all a bit of this vague nebulous 'too much to handle' category in the distant fog. We know they need "experienced handlers", but as Mulder said... there are different types of experience. Frankly, the more time I spend with Miyu the more I think I couldn't have Akitas or Huskies (so Nikolai, my hat's off to you!) So is it like that? They're just such a different bag though. I guess this also ties back to the thread Doc Wat set up about breed traits. I mean, being experienced handling BCs doesn't mean you'd be great at handling Huskies, you know?

Woo-woo- whineybutt
Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 10:48pm PST 
Miyu.. I feel like a lot of what is needed for a working dog is someone who can read their dog very well.. They can look at their dog and tell what they need, like to work. They can predict their dogs reaction, won't set them up to fail and can provide everything they need. I think working dogs create an unmatchable bond with their handlers, nothing a pet dog could ever accomplish. Some of the dogs and people I have seen.. Its like they are 'one', you know? They're just totally in-tune to each other and a lot of this is from successfully reading their dogs and communicating their desires, as well as giving the dog exactly what they need.
An example would be.. Nare HATES being 'on stage'. He hates going to trials. He also isn't that into obedience. I couldn't read him so well at first, so I thought he liked it because.. well.. he did it! But he was doing it for me, not for himself. When I caught onto this we moved more onto things he wanted to do. I can look at him and tell what he wants, whether it be to go herding, to play a good game or tug, go scenting or just lay in bed and relax.. When we go places and do stuff, I can read his mood and willingness. Like, I look at him and I KNOW he is going to be a butthead today. Or we can smile proudly at each other as we tackle on a task.

Atleast.. Thats how I view it..

Spooky Mulder
Barked: Wed Nov 28, '12 5:33am PST 
I'm probably not the best to comment on that Miyu, as I've never actually had to raise a "soft" GSD (the one I grew up with was not raised by me, I was still a child through most of her adolescence).

I've got a range, Ridley is softER than Mulder, but not "soft" by traditional standards. And I do not consider Mulder "hard" buy GSD/working dog standards, though again, he is certainly hardER than most dogs would be considered.

I guess my opinion is different that most because I literally don't know any other way to live laugh out loud I've never claimed GSDs were "easy" dogs, but then again, what truly exceptional dog is?

Most people would be pretty surprised with how I live with mine. I'm strict where it matters, I never skimp on training or putting work into areas that need it... but I'm also not a nazi with them. Do I let them get away with stuff? Yes. Have I eaten a meal in the last 4 years that they DIDN'T get a piece of? No. Do I let them jump on my furniture and sleep on my bed and steal my good pillows to nap on? Ok, I admit it. NILF you say, what the heck is that??? shh

But I recognize their potential. I'm not a fool to it. If one of them started giving me lip over something, say, not wanting to get down off the bed... sorry sucker, no more bed privileged for you. In 4 years its never happened, and I don't really anticipate it to, but understanding how to handle these problems if they SHOULD arise is important and I think goes more along with what Tiller was saying about really understand your breed before you get them. Like her Am Bulldog stories on the B&T... having a 100lb bully on your bed growling at you because he doesn't want to get down can be earth staking for someone who isn't prepared for it... where as if you KNOW, you grab that collar and make him get down and don't let him back up until he's learned better, then problem solved. No relationship ruined, no dogs euthanized, so on and so forth.

And as for are they sharper, more suborn, etc. Yes and no, depends laugh out loud
Mulder is suborn like an ox and WILL blow you off unless you stick with him and see things through... you need to make it worth his while else he's just not into it. Fortunately he is very biddable, easy to motivate with the right things, and just has a love for work period... get him on something he likes, and he'll do it til the cows come home. Mulder isn't sharp at all. VERY stable, very responsible, and very social for a dog of his breeding and training. Loves kids, loves other dogs, totally tolerant of people. Will nail the crap out of anyone who tries any funny business with his handler wink

Ridley doesn't have that same stubborn streak... he's a GSD and an adolescent so its THERE, but he just doesn't have that innate will to be a butthead like Mulder does. He WANTS to please, wants to work with you, offers himself gladly to training. Easy to motivate, easy to handle, doesn't offer up much if any opposition. Sharper? Yes. Ridley's threshold for reactions is waaaaaaay lower than Mulder's, much more suspicious of people and other dogs, though is fine if introduced properly.

Barked: Wed Nov 28, '12 6:10am PST 
Love all the replies to this, thank you everyone for sharing.

My idea of an 'experienced handler' is someone with a combination of knowledge: Actual literal experience with a type of dog, and a more general understanding of how to read and shape dogs.
For my own examples, I'd consider all of those people experienced. I do think it gets used as a buzzword and loses its meaning, like Ember said. I also think we'd all like to believe we have a very tough and special breed that only a select few could turn into the wonderful dogs we own. laugh out loud wink

Nare- I love your re to Miyu. The understanding you're talking about is what I mean with the second half of my idea of experienced.

I've always been very business with dogs- Had wild success in rehabilitating, had wild success managing the packs of dogs at the free-run "every dog allowed" kennel I worked at (The waivers on their daycare were a sight to behold!), my own dogs were obedient and flawless, etc. My boyfriend, when I met him, had never trained a dog beyond sit and in my opinion at the time was well-intended but just completely ignorant about dogs! He introduced to me this whole chunk of the bond I'd been overlooking, though, and made me realize that in my focus on training I was missing out on the depth of emotion dogs had to offer (and making myself a very BORING human, to them).
Embracing that is what repaired the break in my relationship with my husky. We did NOT get along. He thought I was terribly boring and kind've a jerk, I thought he was an un-affectionate impulsive spaz.

Once it clicked with me, 'HEY, it's not the dog's job to adapt to training, it's the trainer's job to adapt to the dog, stop pushing him away!', once I took the time to listen to him and work WITH him instead of ON him, suddenly he just bloomed into this eager, delighted, clingy, perfect dog.
If he had been a less forgiving dog, I would have ruined him. That understanding fell on me one day like a ton of bricks, and the guilt was just immense. I had been doing such an injustice to this dog, who it turned out was a dream, I was just too inexperienced to see it.
Lesson learned.

My Akita on the other hand.. easiest dog ever, right from the start. Sure, he had a window in there where he wanted to destroy stranger dogs (Ok, not even that, it was B/W huskies with distinct masks. He still distrusts them, but tells me about it instead of them! shh), but that's where my experience is. We worked through it as soon as it started and now he's beautiful with other dogs again. I'm certain he'll find more windows where his genetic DA wants to slip through, and I know how to handle it.

Tiller- I'm looking for those horror stories in relation to the Malinois! I can't seem to find any. The worst Mal I've met was the little show-bred girl recently who was shy with strangers.. and she was still less skittish than the average (I assume byb) shepherd I run into. shrug
I've been back-seating Mals (along with BC's) as 'some day, when I'm ready' for years, trying to build up the knowledge to be experienced enough for one. I don't feel ready yet, but I do feel like it's in the foreseeable future! A big sign that I wasn't ready was my lack of understanding for my super-energy eager husky. I took a moment and thought about that and said to myself, 'if I can't harness THAT energy, what makes me think I want to have a dog with MORE of it?!'. The more I learn with Niko, the better equipped I feel to begin considering life with a Mal. The more patience and maturity I learn overall, the better equipped I feel to begin considering life with a Mal. wink

Spooky Mulder
Barked: Wed Nov 28, '12 6:32am PST 
Well if you WANT a Mal stories...

Club I was going to for Sch, the helper had a very old-school style Mal... not these delicate, pen-headed dogs you often see, this dog almost looked like a friggin pit with how big his head was and how toned he was.

Anyway, never once saw the helper leave the field with that dog where he WASN'T bloodied up. Dog was SO high drive that he'd just about take the helpers hand off playing tug or taking a reward. He was dead serious, if he missed the ball he'd take your hand and he wasn't at all turned off by that.

Don't think that's too terribly uncommon with them laugh out loud
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