Welcome back, Newbies! It’s been awhile, but as a relative newbie myself, I sometimes run out of relevant information to impart…
Today, though, I wanted to address common myths and misconceptions that newbies might have about IPO.
This will be far from an exhaustive list (honestly, this could probably become its own series), but I’ll do my best. And, as always, if you feel like I’ve skipped something important, feel free to add it in the comments.
1. That your dog must have a minimum level of training before you start looking for a club.
I’ve seen this one a lot – people asking on Facebook groups how to start their IPO prospect in obedience because they want their dog to have the basics before approaching a club.
This is actually the total opposite of what you should do. Find a club immediately! Before you get a puppy, even!
IPO is trained unlike anything you’ve likely encountered and the wrong start will set you back. It may even ruin your dog for the sport entirely. It is very easy to crush a dog’s natural drives, and once that’s been done, it is incredibly difficult to undo.
This is true even if you have previous dog training experience!
Additionally, don’t be hesitant to reach out to clubs just because your dog is reactive or otherwise “difficult”. A good club will be your best resource for solving any behavioral issues, and I absolutely promise you that you will be neither the first or last person to have dealt with whatever problem you are facing.
Go find a club right now!
2. That you can do this on your own.
This is obviously related to Myth #1, but I thought it deserved its own heading because we see this a lot, too – people who think that they can train their dog in IPO (and, more specifically, in Protection), with no prior experience and no help outside of the internet.
This is a dangerous thing to believe.
Leaving aside the difficulties that you will face in tracking in obedience, this is a downright dangerous thing to try to do with protection.
There is much, much more to protection training than meets the eye. Things like grip development, drive development, correct targeting, drive switching, and a number of other things that I can’t even name because I’m not a helper… These are things that you will not be able to do on your own.
You could badly injure your dog, yourself, or other people if you attempt to train your own dog in protection with no prior experience and no physical guidance.
Please, just don’t. Find a club or a trainer. Not an internet group and a DVD.
3. That IPO training will make your dog dangerous.
Dogs that are bred for IPO have all of the drives and instincts they are ever going to have from the time they are born. We are not teaching them to do anything that they are not already genetically predisposed to do.
Rather, we are teaching them to channel, cap, and control those drives and instincts.
This is going to be a terrible metaphor, but hopefully it will get my point across…
Imagine two children, both holding handguns. One has been taught proper gun handling skills by being taken to the gun range since they were very young. The other has not, but is holding a gun none-the-less.
Assuming that neither has bad intentions, which child is more dangerous?
Now imagine two dogs, both born with the instincts and drives for bite-sport. One has been trained since he was puppy to control and channel those instincts and drives. The other has not.
Which dog is more dangerous?
4. That IPO training will teach your dog to protect you in the real world.
While IPO protection and more serious personal protection have some similarities in their foundations, they are not the same thing.
Most IPO dogs will not bite “for real”.
Most dogs, in general, will not bite “for real”.
A real personal protection dog is a rare beast – there’s a reason they cost $$$$$.
A real personal protection dog is also a liability. One that you should really consider the consequences of thoroughly before you decide that you need one in your suburban neighborhood.
5. That any German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Malinois, Doberman, etc… will be successful in IPO.
Quite a few newbies (and, admittedly, I was one of them) get a puppy of a specific working breed and decide, only after obtaining said puppy, that they would like to try IPO.
There is nothing really wrong with this, on it’s face. This is how most people, myself included, come to the sport.
Just because your puppy is a working breed, does not mean it will be a successful IPO dog.
Working-bred dogs are vastly, vastly outnumbered by pet-bred dogs in this country. A random sampling of the thousands of German Shepherds living in my city would reveal that 98% of them have had their working instincts completely bred out in favor of more pet-friendly qualities.
Most dogs will not be able to do IPO successfully. This is just a fact of life.
That doesn’t mean you can’t try. That doesn’t mean that you can’t decide to take your dog as far as it will go in the sport. But it does mean that you need to be realistic about what your dog is capable of.
Not all dogs will be podium dogs. Not all dogs will be trial dogs. And not all dogs can be IPO dogs.
6. That working titles = working dogs, or that all titles are created equal.
I always encourage newbies to purchase dogs from titled parents because of the reality covered under Myth #5. Purchasing a puppy from titled, health tested parents will stack the deck in your favor if you are looking for an IPO prospect.
Not all dogs with working titles are working dogs.
Without going too in depth into a very real problem facing several breeds, there is such a thing as “fake” titles.
There is such a thing as an “easy” judge or an “easy” trial.
There is a system under which titles can be “purchased”.
A title is only a small piece of information.
I’ve met IPO3-titled dogs that I would never consider to be actually of IPO3 quality. Even if they came by the title honestly!
An IPO3 earned at a small club trial is not equal to an IPO3 earned at a National Championship.
An IPO3 earned with 70-70-70 is not equal to a V IPO3.
And a BH or CGC is certainly not equal to an actual IPO title.
7. A famous trainer said it, so I need to use it with my dog!
Or, that you can snag bits and pieces from each of the famous trainers in our sport and create a superdog.
IPO training requires you to be systematic. If you start out with Ivan’s training system and then suddenly try to switch over to someone else, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Even if they have a lot in common!
You simply must choose a system and stick with it. Or, at the very least, be conscientious of the conflicts you may be creating in your dog by changing systems.
This is why, if I’m planning to visit a neighboring club, or considering trying to obtain a working spot in a seminar, I check with my training director first. Not to ask his permission, but rather to get his input.
Does he think the trainer’s system will fit in with what we are already doing with my dog?
I have a system in place, and I am careful not to stray too far from it. Something newbies need to be more aware of! You can’t change the rules of the game and expect your dog to follow you!
8. That IPO Obedience is “Robotic”
I recently had this one applied to my dog, much to the amusement of everyone that has actually met him.
Flashy, precise IPO obedience can look “robotic” to the untrained eye, I’ll give you that.
However, what you may not be aware of is the fact that for a dog to be capable of that flashy, precise, “robotic” obedience, that dog has to be in the highest of drives. That dog has to bring a ton of “want-to” and energy and enthusiasm to create that “robotic” picture.
Try for that level of precision with a lower-drive dog, and you will not get the same picture, I guarantee it.
Try for that level of flash using too much compulsion, and you will not get the same picture.
Dogs cannot be made to give you that picture. Rather, it is an expression of their enthusiasm for the work. How can that be robotic?
9. That some dogs are “easy”.
Are some dogs easier to train than others?
But I’m going to go ahead and posit that no dog is “easy”.
No handler has had an “easy” time training for IPO.
No matter how good the dog, the handler still put in the hours and the effort.
I’ve yet to meet a dog that has actually sat down, watched a training DVD, and then gone out and titled the next day.
And just because a dog looks “easy” now, doesn’t mean it’s always been that way.
Brody’s secondary obedience is pretty damn flashy, at the moment.
A year ago, he couldn’t even step onto the field with a helper without losing his shit completely. You would never know that or the hours and hours it took to fix this issue by just looking at him now. You might even be fooled into thinking that that flashy secondary obedience came easily to us.
IPO is not an easy sport. It takes hours and hours of dedicated effort to be successful. And there was never a dog born that negated that fact.
10. That any club, helper, or trainer will do.
There are two or three clubs within an hour of me.
I drive three hours every Sunday to train with the club I’m actually a member of.
There is nothing wrong with the clubs closer to me, they just simply aren’t the right fit for my dog or my goals.
Not every trainer can work with every dog. Not every club will be suitable for every dog/handler team. And not every helper will be the right fit to build every dog.
So please, please, please, as a newbie, be open to hunting around for the RIGHT FIT. Don’t just settle for the nearest guy with a sleeve or the nearest dog trainer with a slick website.
You may have to travel a little further, or invest a little more, but it will be worth it in the end. You don’t want to find yourself held back because you chose the wrong people for your team.
There are LOTS more myths and misconceptions out there, but hopefully this was an informative post.
The most important takeaway should be this: throw out all of your preconceived ideas and be open to actually learning. This will stand you in good stead as you begin your IPO adventure.