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Build the mind and the body will follow

Discussion in 'Dog Shows & Events' started by Dr. Lector, Feb 11, 2012.

  1. Dr. Lector

    Dr. Lector Big Dog


    I have been an A.D.B.A. conformation judge for longer than is polite to mention. Somewhere along the way, I started watch­ing the weight pulls. I kept thinking, "I'm sure I have a dog that might enjoy that." I did; the dog that became "Gd/Ch"Ace of Ace "Poorboy". What a marvel of a dog. He wanted to please me and would do most anything asked of him with great enthusi­asm. Despite my lack of knowledge and the mistakes I made, you would never hear a complaint from "Poorboy." He was the Happy Warrior we all have in our minds eye when we think about American Pit Bull Terriers.

    "Poorboy" taught me patience, timing and forgiveness. I don't think I ever taught him a thing. He was a natural. He pulled on command, but we worked as a team. I "trained" other dogs, but while they point­ed and became Ace's, none had the willing­ness and desire to please that "Poorboy" possessed. He happily went up the track, tail wagging, excited to have his time in the spotlight. He always did his best and I never asked for more than that. I was so very proud of him, a dog that not only could pull with any dog his size, but walk into a show ring and be competitive there as well. "Poorboy" received his Ace of Ace and Grand Champion title the same year.

    When "Poorboy" retired, and our son was born, I found that we had precious lit­tle time to train a dog for a pull.

    As fate would have it, two very special people came into my life in 1991, Missy and Ricky Villines. We shared the same enthusiasm for a dog that was both train-able and conformationally correct. We all wanted a dog with spirit, a Happy Warrior, but we wanted the dog to be able to do more than lunge at the end of a chain.

    They began to compete in conformation and weight pull in 1988. Ricky became an A.D.B.S.I. Certified Weight Pull judge in 1991, and Missy became an A.D.B.A. Sanctioned Conformation judge in 1996. I have always admired Missy's deep knowl­edge of conformation, and her unwilling­ness to accept anything but the best. While their judging skills are top notch, their training skills are beyond that.

    The Villines' acquired a dog from us about 5 years ago. We managed to have her come home 2 years ago. This dog was a nice pup when she got to the Villines' and returned a wonderful animal. "Summer Haze" was trained. She handles like a dream, she exhibits the "hot" personality that an American Pit Bull Terrier is noted for, but this dog listens. She pulls for our 6 year old son. She is protective of us (espe­cially Jon-Marcel), but not aggressive toward people. We love this creature.

    When we decided to become competi­tive in the pull ring again, we knew that the Villines' needed to train our dog. We picked out a 6 week old pup that showed us that is was indeed intelligent and interested in people. We sent her off at 8 weeks old. Five months later we got back a young dog that was pulling on command, clean in the house and very well socialized. She sits, lies down and waits. She is as hot as a two dollar pistol, but has the training to have a little patience.

    I called the Villines' and asked them how they did it. I thought it might help those wanting to get started in weight pulling to hear from an expert.

    Interviewer: How do you choose a puppy for training?

    M. & R. Villines: We like to choose a pup for training that is average in the litter, size wise. We want one that is not the one always in trouble, looking for fights. We want the one that is somewhere in the mid­dle looking up at you. We handle our pups everyday. We pass them around, we hold them in every way imaginable, getting them used to people. We want them to know that they won't be hurt, and to trust us. We wean them early, so they look to people for food and pleasure. We want them to be secure and relaxed, never stiff or worried.

    You will want a pup from a working background, parents, grandparents, and so on... This will help ensure you of a dog that is eager to please, ready to learn and capa­ble of performing the tasks set out in front of them.

    We feel it is important to have a dog with good conformation. Weight pull is very demanding of a dog's body. If a dog has a structural weakness, the rest of the body must compensate for this by wearing down joints, muscles and bones, making them tire easily, prone to injury or perma­nent damage. This is not to say that a dog with faults won't do well in pulling. You can never under estimate the heart of a bulldog or their willingness to please.

    Everyone has their own preferences when picking a pup. Color should be the least of the things you look at. Look at the litter as a whole. How do they interact with each other and with you? Which ones are confident and curious? A pull pup must be bold, confident, curious and willing to please. Is there one that uses its front feet a-lot in its play and interaction with you? We feel that this is crucial, placing their feet becomes very important. Of the ones possessing these traits which one do you feel an attachment to? It is important to pick out a pup that you have a connection with; this will be your working partner, your teammate. Luckily bulldogs come in all shapes and sizes. Pick one that most suits you.

    Since we believe that a dog that is conformationally correct does the best job at pulling, we find it is important to not have any weaknesses in any area. He cannot per­form at peak level if he is not structurally correct. Most of our dogs are dual titled, meaning they have weight pull titles as well as conformation titles.

    Interviewer: It has been my experience that it takes a while for the dog to figure out that he is pulling something on pur­pose. How do you start an older dog?

    M. & R. Villines: You must start an older dog out slow. What does it weigh? What is his physical condition like...is he really ready to start dragging weight yet? What type of terrain are you dragging on grass (short or tall)? Is it level or up hill?

    You must provide your dog with the proper nutrition and shelter in order to keep him at his/her optimal health and perfor­mance level. This includes being free of parasites and up to date on vaccinations.

    The most important thing is PRAISE HIM!! It must be a positive experience for him... you can't just dump a lot of weight on him and say, lets go! If it's a 501b dog you might start him out with maybe 10-15 Ibs. Tell him to work (or whatever word you are going to use... but it must be the same word every time) as soon as he starts tell him "good dog" we talk to them the whole time they are working, (you are their cheerleader!) Go 15-20ft tell them whoa, and PRAISE them like they are the BEST DOG IN THE WORLD!! Repeat this the whole distance...you must have patience. Then start doing fewer stops after he understands the concept after a week or two.

    Next step, add a few more pounds, 4 or 5 lbs. We also don't tell pull dogs "NO" when they are in training, (they are still learning what you mean) Example: (We stand in front of the dog) You tell the dog to work (firm tone, not mean or gruff... you are telling, not asking) dog stands there... repeat the command, then give a small tug (Do Not Jerk The Dog - remember pulling must be a positive experience for them) on collar with leash as soon as dog starts... PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE repeating the command to work, go a small distance then stop... PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE - even a small reward of their favorite treat!! Repeat this as needed. If you keep training posi­tive... it will not need to be repeated much at all.

    Do not try to rush your increases or add too much weight at a time, you will destroy your dogs confidence that way. Gradually, slowly, build up the weight and you will be rewarded with a dog that is confident and pulls, because it enjoys the experience and spending time with you. You must also remember, that not all dogs will have the same physical or mental abilities. Just remember, go slow.... weight pull is not a race... it is a test of physical and mental strength.

    Interviewer: How and why do you use drag weights?"

    The Villines: The amount of weight they drag, is just as important as the distance they go. We have been doing this a long time and drag weighting does many things; it builds endurance & stamina, strengthens your role as the coach, (cheerleader if you will) in your relationship with your dog, enforces your pulling commands and builds strength in their body and mind, (if done correctly) They have to believe, YOU believe they CAN DO IT!

    Our drag path is 1/2 mile long when dogs are in training for show season they are worked up to dragging their body weight for this distance. The path is NOT easy, there are rocks, grass and an uphill slope along they way.

    We also alternate the workouts. Dogs are worked 3 times during the week. Tuesday they will run the mill, Wednesday they will do their regular drag weight, Thursday... we might add a little extra weight and shorten the distance a little. You have to break down muscle in order to build it up stronger. Any time you give your dog a very hard workout, it MUST have the next day off. (to build muscle back up) Then, they get to pull on the track on the weekend.

    Our philosophy is pretty simple... Build the mind and the body will follow.

    Interviewer: What do you think about the disparity in size of our breed?

    The Villines: We want our dogs to be struc­turally correct, regardless of their size.

    Interviewer: A lot of trainers find that this breed is "handler sensitive." That is, this breed can not take corrections as well as some other breeds. What do you feel about that?

    The Villines: Yes, they are. It is very hard to explain. They seem to take corrections personally. They don't want to fail you and you can ruin their soul. They won't be a "Happy Warrior" anymore. We do not use choke chains, pinch collars or any other means of forced punishment.

    Interviewer: It's hard to get the breeds attention. What do you do to combat that?

    The Villines: Yes, it is hard to get some dogs attention. Ricky and I go about it another way. We make the dogs feel as if they are the one and only. They become very jealous of each other. They give us their full attention when we work with them, because we have built up a relation­ship with them, not through correction.

    Interviewer: Do you have any final advice to the newcomer?

    The Villines: Don't jump into anything. You are signing yourself up, to a ten plus year contract for food, housing and train­ing. Sit back and watch, find a type of dog that is good for you, one that is a size you can handle. Watch the handlers, see what you like. Treat your dog with respect, sim­ply by the breed they are, they have earned it. They are the ultimate canine athlete. Treat them with respect and handle them with respect. They are extremely loyal and will do anything you ask them to.

    Interviewer: Thank you Missy and Ricky. Looking forward to seeing you and your dogs at the next show!

    ~ Joanie Winchester ( 2005 )


  2. MoPulldogs

    MoPulldogs Big Dog

    We have always enjoyed outg bulldogs & working with Joanie & her dogs too. Thanks for posting this article back up ;-)

    M. Villines

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