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The BU Feature Boxer

BU is very proud to feature a truly exceptional Obedience boxer in this issue - a dog who is, according to his owner and trainer, Karla Spitzer, Charmingly Obnoxious, Aggressively Friendly, and Too Smart for His Own Good; and according to FRONT AND FINISH (1998 rankings for Open and Utility dogs), ranks #3 nationally!! Please meet...

Harpo the Marker, UD ( + 5 UDX legs!)

Harpo - Jump!

...and Karla Spitzer

In 1991, a little, flashy, red brindle puppy dog became our fourth Boxer. He was only a year younger than Cleo, who was the "puppy from hell," so when it seemed right to get another puppy, I sought out "official" obedience classes. Since I had been in a very bad auto accident, I knew that it was important to have control over the good little puppy, whom I knew instantly was a "Harpo." Like his namesake, Harpo Marx of the Marx Brothers, my little Boxer puppy was the funniest, the smartest, the sweetest, and the best, and deserved to be acknowledged as such. I still didn’t have the use of my right hand at the point, and it wasn’t clear how much control I’d be able to regain. (So I wisely went out and got an attention deficit Boxer puppy...I know...I know...:-)

When little Harpo was only 3+ months old, I found a puppy class with veteran obedience judge and trainer, Shirley Indelicato - "Obedience Preferred." Harpo and I attended puppy class, and Cleo and my husband Scott went to the basic obedience class.

Along about three weeks into things, we learned the long down, during which, to my embarrassment, Harpo lay on his back, snorting, snuffling, and waving his paws in the air with great glee and enthusiasm. He was quite unlike the polite little Belgian Tervueren or the little Rottweiler, who lay on their tummies and looked at their owners demurely and respectfully. Shirley took a long look at Harpo, and said quietly to me, "You know, he could be a good obedience dog." To this day, I don’t know if she was kidding or not, but I took her at her word, and well, here we are, so to speak...

To be fair to Harpo, while I had had a lot of experience with dogs, the specifics of obedience competition lay outside of any other sort of experience I had had. In other words, I had NO experience with dogs and performance. But with Shirley’s suggestion that he could be "good," Harpo and I endured basic obedience, then competition obedience, then open classes, then utility classes, and well, ultimately he got his UD...a very rare title for dogs in general, to say nothing of Boxers. Perhaps rather than "endured", you might say we thrived.

Karla & Harpl

I’d like to say that our experience was very straightforward and easy, but it wasn’t. Well, the CD (Companion Dog) title was easy, the CDX (Companion Dog Excellent) was pretty easy, but WOW!, the UD (Utility Dog) title was NOT easy - nor is grinding out our UDX legs. An explanation of the requirements for the various obedience title will show "non-obedience-oriented" Boxer fanciers [like BU’s editor...] why the advanced titles are such a challenge:

CD, or Companion Dog - For this one, you need three legs, or qualifying scores, under three different judges. The dog must heel on and off-leash, do a figure 8, a stand for examination, a recall, and the group sit and stay with other dogs. Trust me on this one - any dog who has made it through five or six conformation shows and has basic house manners should be able to complete this title in about three to six months of consistent training.

Karla & Harpo - High Combined

CDX, or Companion Dog Excellent - You need three qualifying scores under three different judges. Here the "ante" is upped. The dog must do all heeling off-lead, do a drop on recall, retrieve on the flat and over the high jump, and do a broad jump. The group exercises are done with the owner out of sight of the dog. If the dog was well-trained for the CD, this title should take another three to six months of training.

UD, or Utility Dog - You need three qualifying scores under three different judges, and here things get WAY tough. The dog must heel to hand signals only, and do a down, sit, and come on hand signals from a distance. Next, the dog must be able to discriminate his owner’s scent out of a pile of nine articles. Half are metal and half are leather. I use and recommend five-inch triple bars - triangles with three five-inch bars connecting them. I use them because they collect the scent rather than dispersing it, making it easier for that squished Boxer nose to find the one I have scented in the pile. The dog must identify both the metal and the leather articles correctly in order to pass this exercise. Then the dog must do a directed retrieve of gloves, which are all laid out in a row. Taking the wrong glove constitutes failure.

Karla & Harpo - High in Trial

Next, the dog must do a moving stand for examination, and finally, the guaranteed- you’ll-lose-at-least-ten-pounds-if-you-incorporate-this-into-your-weight-loss-program, the directed jumping exercises. Consider that for the dog’s whole life, you’ve been teaching him to come to you. Now all of a sudden, you’re telling the dog to leave you, preferably in a straight line, to go to a random point in the distance, at which time you will tell him to turn and sit. Any wonder why this one is hard?! And why most dogs figure their owners have just flat out lost their minds when you get to this? You can teach "go-outs" with food on the ground, on a pole, etc., but I think the cleanest and best go-out is one in which you train by running out with the dog about a hundred and sixty bazillion times (that’s where the weight loss comes in :-), until lo and behold, one day your dog finally "gets it"! Remember, even though they are Boxers and way smart, they are still dogs, and this is an odd concept for them.

Harpo does it again!

But you’re still not done. From the "turn and sit" position on the go-out, you must, with hand signals, direct the dog to the high jump and the bar jump, and the jumps will be either on the right or the left at the judge’s discretion. The dog must do both, so he must "get" the go-out twice. When and only when he has done all this correctly, can you possibly attain a leg towards a UD. At the least, this title will take about a year of training, and then your team will still be really green.

UDX, or Utility Dog Excellent - For this title, you need TEN legs, and each leg means qualifying in both the Open and Utility B classes on the same day! Any dog that has even one UDX leg is truly a cut above the rest. ONLY TWO BOXERS IN THE U.S. HAVE EARNED THIS TITLE TO DATE.

OTCH, or Obedience Trial Champion - Your dog must be in first or second place in BOTH Open and Utility B in order to get points toward the OTCH, based upon a sliding scale of how many dogs he defeats in those classes. An OTCH requires 100 points. Again, any dog competing at this level with OTCH points is a cut WAY above the rest. Only one Boxer in the U.S. has earned this title to date, and she was one of our UDX’s - OTCH Marilyn’s Tinamarie of Bropat, UDX, TD. We are exceptionally proud of Harpo’s one OTCH point to date.

However, lest the above discourage anyone, if I could do it with my intact male while going through years of physical therapy, I figure almost any other Boxer with a sense of humor and a reasonable temperament should be able to do it, too - given an owner who will go along, of course. I can think of few things I’ve done in my life that meant as much to me as that third UD leg, which meant the title of "UD" after Harpo’s registered name. The UDX legs and OTCH point gave me a great feeling of accomplishment, too.

It has taken us a long time, though it takes most dogs of all breeds a long time to get to the UD and beyond. Harpo turned eight in June, and although he hasn’t slowed down much, my boy is getting gray (of course, so am I :-). Going slow with the titles isn’t Harpo’s fault, though - a second auto accident at the end of 1994 put a dent in what I could do during most of 1995 and into ‘96, so we would probably have gone farther faster had I been able to stay away from drunk and bad drivers...

Watch for Karla’s article on how to choose and train an Obedience Boxer coming in the October/November issue of BU!


Bobtail Update
Aortic Stenosis
Handout on Boxer Heart Murmur
The UK Boxer
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Musings & Idle Thoughts
How to Purchase a Show Prospect
Karla & Harpo

Editor: Virginia Zurflieh
Webmaster: Pat Mullen

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