King (a.k.a. King Man, a.k.a. The King Man, a.k.a. some other things if he’s lost his mind) is a 4 1/2 year old Belgian Malinois mix. The “mix” part was intentional since he was bred to be a working dog, and is most likely mixed with either a Dutch Shepherd or German Shepherd, but most of the time people passing on the street think he’s a German Shepherd puppy, and there are certainly similarities between the two breeds. One of three different types of Belgian Shepherd, the Malinois can be differentiated by its leaner frame and different coloring, i.e. they don’t have the black saddle many German Shepherd Dogs are known for and most Mals have a very dark mask.
Malinois are known for being high drive, intelligent dogs that are very trainable and a very capable working dog. They are increasing in popularity for both police and military work as well as in many of the dog sports, such as Schutzhund/IPO, PSA, French Ring, and Mondioring. King is himself from working lines, and was imported originally into the U.S. to be a detection dog for a law enforcement agency. While it’s not entirely clear why he didn’t complete the training there, it very well could be that he definitely likes to play a lot, and I consider myself fortunate to have been able to adopt him in the Spring of 2013.
After a lot of research and working with him, we’ve channeled that play into getting him working toward competing in one of the dog sports I mentioned earlier, specifically PSA, which stands for Protection Sports Association. Much more detail can be found at the PSA website, but in short it’s a dog sport created in the U.S. that combines elements of obedience and protection work for the dogs. Some dog sport traditionalists remain skeptical of the sport because of its relative youth, but it has gained in popularity and does work to create realistic scenarios that are challenging for both the dog and handler to complete.
While I was able to teach King his basic obedience (and think I did a decent job for a first-time amateur…), I knew he was capable of doing much more given his background, and that I would need professional assistance in getting there. After a lot of research, I decided to pursue PSA training and was fortunate to find a good trainer in the area named Greg Williams out of Metropolitan K-9. Greg also helps with pet training, but has an excellent resume in PSA training and competition. If you are thinking of a trainer in this area, whether for a house pet or a competition dog, I would recommend him. Regardless of who you use, it is worthwhile to research the individual.
Back to King- he has come a long way from when I first got him and when we first started competition training. There’s been trial and error, but I do feel like we’ve found a good rhythm, and the foundation we already have has helped speed along learning new things. There’s a lot of information out there, but I do believe there is validity to marker training dogs, and is worth anyone considering for even basic obedience training. A lot of training credit is due to many hours of DVD instruction by Michael Ellis, who may actually speak “dog.” I wouldn’t have gotten this far without his help as well as Greg’s.