Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Website Name Change and Move - Belgian Malinois Tails

We have decided to upgrade and get our own domain name. All the content here is on the new site and hopefully easier for you to use. Please stop by: Belgian Malinois Tails.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Belgian Malinois: What Happens When They Fail Police Training?

I recently read an article in the Washington Post about the use of Belgian Malinois at the White House. It is about two years old, you can read it here.

What caught my attention was the part about training and when they remove the puppies from their mothers. “The training begins three days after birth. It starts with “biosensor stressing”: stimulating the puppy’s toes with Q-tips, breathing in its face, exposing it to a variety of people and stressful sounds: gunfire, thunder, sirens, motorcycles.” I have read that puppies can be taken from 6-8 weeks, but also that proper police training should not begin until about 12-15 months. I do not know. What is the typical process?

The trainer the Washington Post article uses says the puppies are removed early in order to form a bond with the human. I get that and understand that the momentum is important to start developing all the required working dog traits and habits. But what happens when the puppy fails and is put up for adoption? It seems that its sense of bonding/attachment may get pretty jacked up.

I mention this because I believe this likely happened to our Malinois. She is nearly 3 years old now and we have had her for 6 ½ months. She has adjusted well to “family” life. One odd thing, to us anyway, is how super affectionate she has become.

By our observations, it seems like she never received much nurturing and attention before - and now she constantly craves more of it. She jumps into my wife’s lap and curls up like a puppy. She also plays like a puppy. All the time. Non-stop. It’s like she is reliving her puppyhood all over again. She loves all the baby talk and affection towards her.

This is not bad or unwanted behavior. We do keep her enthusiasm in check. But it made me think of what she, and other “failed” pups, missed in their early development. I frequently wonder what she was like and what her life was like when she was a pup. I believe it is very similar to children who do not get the nurturing and attention they need and later develop attachment disorders and other psychological issues.

It has been interesting and warming to see her develop this way. I believe it shows that these dogs can be re-trained for family life but it takes some extra work and care. Here are some recent pictures of our Malinois doing this and enjoying the attention. Do you have similar experiences?


Monday, September 5, 2016

Beligan Malinois Destructiveness and Toys

Any dog can be destructive if it is bored. This destructiveness manifests from not having good training, a job, proper socialization, etc. This can be chewing the leg off of your sofa or table, digging unwanted holes in your yard, or your mattress. We're not talking about puppies who chew up your favorite shoe or some speaker wires. Imagine a minimum 60lb dog with steel-trap jaws being bored in your home.

As we said in the first post, a Belgian Malinois needs to have a job. Destructiveness bred from boredom is just one consequence if you do not give a Malinois a job. This is not a training guide - we are not professional trainers or claim to be one; these are things that work for us. The job can be anything that keeps the Malinois' mind occupied and focused.

The job can be something as simple as repeating and executing commands, such as Sit, Down, Sit. You can mix them up and add others (place, extended sit, extended down, crawl, etc.)  They never get bored of doing them. They may get stubborn about it, but that helps you work on being the pack leader/boss and getting compliance.

The job for your Malinois can also be playing tug, carrying a stick or toy while on a walk, socialization in your home or in public places. Keeping their minds focused is the key. What if they don't have a job or I can't training/play with the Malinois for a period of time?  Again, we're not trainers, but we have found that putting our Malinois in her crate during such situations works well. The dog can rest, chew on a toy, or crash - which happens more often than you would think.  For example, we have a crate in the living room, which is always open, except for these rest periods - it is a safe haven for our Malinois; and one upstairs which is her "bed".

For those who don't like crate training - our dog practically lived in a crate the first two years of her life as an LEO dog in training. She is used to it and likes it. We did crate train our dachshunds and they also feel this way.

Getting back to toys. Malinois love toys. They love to chew them, rip them, and eat them. This is good because it is a relatively inexpensive way to keep them focused. They will destroy something in your home. It is better if it is a cheap toy than something valuable. No toy we have bought has lasted more than a month except for bones. The "indestructible" ones were obviously never tested with a Malinois. We have found that the cheap rubber/latex toys do OK. Anything plastic just begs to be chewed up quickly - frisbees, plastic tires, etc. The latex ones do not last long but they are kinda chewy like gum, at least for our Mal. They are a bit like pacifiers, but not for long.

Here is a picture of our current used toys, with new ones for reference. The new toys are the purple rubber chicken (she's gone through two of these recently but they seem to last the longest), the green alligator, and the green Frisbee.

Examples of current toys - surviving and not so:
  • 3 Knotted nylon "tug" toys - the purple one used to have a tennis ball in it. Destroyed after a day of playing
  • Plastic Frog - chewed up after a couple of hours.
  • Black Frisbee - still holding up but chewed-up around the sides
  • Purple latex dog - ear has been chewed in less than an hour
  • Red bone "for large dogs" - it lasted one day
Malinois Toys
Malinois Toys

Again this is something that has worked for us. If you have and suggestions or questions, please comment below. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

In the Beginning there was 1 Mighty Dachshund

We lost him around Christmas. It was very sudden and quick. He was old and his kidneys gave out after he ate something outside during a walk. We were all crushed as this dachshund had a personality bigger than a house, was loyal and protective of his family and punched way above his weight with other dogs. We think he was convinced that he was a big dog trapped in a dachshund body as he was brave and fearless. He was also a sweet dog who nurtured his human brother since he was a toddler and was affectionate with his step-sibling doxies. It was the most depressing holiday season for the entire family.

Many say to get a puppy to help cope with grief after your dog dies. We had two surviving sibling dachshunds. They are not as mighty and charismatic however. We always knew that their big brother was the pack leader to them who led by example and took care of business when needed. With him gone the "pups" appeared lost and confused and spent most of their time sleeping and hiding. We do not know for sure if dogs grieve when one of them crosses the rainbow bridge but it sure appeared as if they did to us. Anyway things were just too quiet and boring. The house felt empty and dull without his presence and energy.

We had talked hypothetically about getting a bigger dog, maybe a German Shepherd or Boxer as we are both active and enjoy training and playing with our dogs. We also saw a cool dog actor on the ‘Person of Interest’ TV show and began learning about the Belgian Malinois breed. We were weary however of the fact that the dog can be intense and has high drive and energy levels.

As it happened we were given the opportunity to re-home a young Belgian Malinois in February. The story was that she was being trained for an LEO but was too skittish and afraid to do the job. We do not know for how long or what kind of training was given or what her early years were like.

We researched the breed, including the article from the first post, talked with trainers and tried to prepare to make a good decision. We knew it would not be easy. What we did not know was that we would have to "untrain" some things that were not best suited for civilians. Knowing what we know now, we can only think how much easier it may have been if we had her as a puppy.

One thing we knew was that you just cannot leave these dogs alone for long periods or keep them crated for long periods. They need socialization, training and jobs; and keeping them like this would just cause bad behaviors. Luckily one of us works from home, plus we reckoned the older dogs would be able to help her get acclimated in our household.

We got her and it has been a great experience for us and our new Belgian Malinois. It has not been a bed of roses and there will always be bumps and bruises (mostly from the dog running into us) in the road. She has progressed immensely over the course of six months, has learned and taught us a lot. So far this has been one of the most rewarding experiences in our lives. More to come.

Please comment below with your thoughts.  Thanks.

Are Belgian Malinois only for the 1%?

Belgian Malinois (also known as mals, maligators, hair missiles, etc.) are a special breed of dog: They need constant training, jobs and work. We are not recommending Malinois ownership, especially to the casual pet owner, which is 99% of all pet owners. For the casual dog owner, we suggest you read the following article on Malinois ownership before continuing in this blog. You can read and learn, but do not go buy one. 

This Belgian Malinois blog is intended to share our experiences and to help others in the 99% who already have Mals. Some of you may have gotten them as puppies, some are former LEO dogs (Law Enforcement Officer - (Police, Marines, etc.), or you got one from a rescue group or shelter.

Before we begin with our expereinces, we would like to share this short, general list of our observations why you should not get a Mal as a pet. It is not all-inclusive, or apply to all Mals, but like most stereotypes many of these are based in truths. You will find similar lists on respected Belgian Malinois sites.

  • They are energizer bunnies. They do not get tired
  • You have to commit to spend a lot of supervised time exercising and training them. 2-4 hours a day.
  • They get bored easily, when bored they get destructive
  • They must have jobs, see above bullet. They are working dogs, they need to be busy.
  • They go through toys like a hurricane. Budget a considerable amount of money for toys that will be destroyed shortly. It is better than having your furniture or anything else destroyed.
  • Consider investing in good strong leashes, a harness, and a muzzle (more on muzzles later,  they are actually for the Mal's protection). We will recommend some as well.
  • Be prepared for a very smart, easily motivated, and stubborn dog. Much like a Dachshund or German Shepherd, but on steroids.
  • They love to eat. And a lot. You will need to budget for good, quality dog food and treats at a minimum. You will want to give them some vegetables and meat occasionally to help them stay healthy.
Now that that is out of the way, we will begin at the beginning.

Please comment below with your thoughts.  Thanks.