Freckle goes to boot camp

We are already at the two month mark with Freckle! And … we just finished our third dog training session last Wednesday morning. Although we’ve been working with Freckle with the training techniques we’ve learned over the years, there are always new wrinkles to address. We’re working with Shannon Malmberg, owner of Zen Dog Training ( She is a wonderful trainer. Mary Doug interviewed many trainers over the telephone and we decided to go with Shannon and we’re very happy we did. We’ve been “around the block” with Boxers and their “determined” personalities—as loveable as they are… most of the time. What I like about Shannon is that she has a wholistic approach. She really seems to be in tune with what Freckle is thinking and feeling and her recommendations really work! I also really like that she is realistic about human behaviour—that is to say she hasn’t once been nasty about correcting the short-comings of the handler (me!). She obviously loves dogs and her dog, Saint, is an extraordinarily beautiful, well-trained guy. The training plan consists of three one-on-one (really three-on-one) sessions with Shannon at different locations in Kits and then we begin working with the weekly drop-in classes (and other dogs). Amazingly, after all of these years of dog trainers, I actually look forward to our sessions with Shannon.

I’ve always thought that dog training is never really much fun for the dog. It pretty much demands submission on their part and giving up some independence to their two-legged family members. I think the submission part is what troubles me … on some level, I think that I’m an incurable … democrat … or whatever it would be where all creatures were able to do what it was that made us feel happy (without impinging on others’ rights). This particular bent is also probably why I’m so attracted to breeds in the Mastiff family like Boxers and Pugs—they are at least as stubborn as I am!

But the extraordinary thing is, at our last training session with Shannon, Freckle had a blast! There was none of the pouting with her ears slicked back and her jaw stuck out like in training session #2. She performed very well and was surprisingly responsive and well behaved on a 20 minute walk through the park. She was bopping around like a bronco, trying to get Saint to play with her. She was smiling—if not laughing—for much of the time. [Email me if you want to know how to tell if a Boxer is laughing. 🙂 ] Near the end of our training session Freckle was successful in egging Saint on and the two of them had a wild play session where after a few minutes, Saint gave in and pretended that he was a Boxer too. Personally, I thought this was very gracious of him and I have no doubt that Shannon is responsible for teaching him such impressive manners.

For people who have never seen two Boxers play (a spectator sport I highly recommend), they do much of it on their back legs with their front feet literally boxing at each other. They also do a lot of shoulder checking and bouncing off of one another. Often two Boxers playing can make a racket that sounds as if someone will never walk away in one piece—they can become extremely vocal. To see some awesome (updated daily) photographs of Boxers Emily and Louis playing, visit Dale Ulmer’s website at

Tomorrow morning we attend our first group class with people and dogs who’ve been “in training” for a lot longer than we have. I’m nervous but have sworn to be brave for Freckle. I wonder if she has sworn to be brave for me. More later…


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