Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Are min pins hard to train?

A question that comes up often on the min pin agility yahoo list regards people's perceived ideas about min pins and whether or not they are hard to train.

I don't know if they are. For one thing, our first min pin was untrainable in that he had no real motivation to do much and not a lot of energy with his chronic heart failure. If you put a wee-wee pad down, he would generally at least pee near it. Usually on whatever upright surface was closest.

DJ has been a breeze to train. He's smart, fast and loves to play games. He can be a little bit distractible.

When we got him from the shelter, he may or may not have been fully housetrained. He had been returned to the shelter at least once for marking inside. But save for one incident when he first arrived he hasn't had any mistakes except for one time when he was not taken out in time and had to pee on the door to the outside. He did the best he could.

Besides that he wasn't allowed to make any mistakes and was taken out on a regular schedule and not allowed full run of the house for a couple of weeks.

His main problem was being crazy reactive to other dogs – besides biting and resource guarding.

Because of the reactivity, I tried to do a lot of impulse control and attention work as well as counter conditioning his reactions to other dogs. Agility classes were a nightmare for a while because he would go nuts whenever someone entered his space.

And then I found the book "Control Unleashed" and things really started changing. One of our instructors even commented on how much he's improved, for instance not barking at her! And other people! This past weekend he let people pet him and took treats, its freaking amazing.

I don’t expect to always be perfect from this point on but its just so gratifying that I feel like I can take him in public and not worry so much. Worry some, but just feel more confident that he has the tools to control himself and isn't as worried about his environment.

To my mind, we've been tremendously successful at agility so far, especially in trials he's learned to handle waiting at the gate for his turn around people and dogs without getting bothered and he not only stays in the ring with me but runs the courses!

This long rambling preamble was just to say that some people have said to me that min pins are difficult or DJ is the best min pin they've ever seen because they are so distractible and hard to work with. And yes he is awesome, that's true but I don't think he's that far from the normal min pin character and I'm not a super awesome trainer with l33t skillz.

I think that his behavior problems actually helped us in agility. (I'm talking like we're doing so awesome but hey I think we are!) Even though in the back of my mind I was kind of thinking he'll be great at agility, I didn't know and my first goals weren't foundation training for agility they were walk out of the house without a major meltdown, be able to take something from him without getting my arm chewed off.

A lot of little things that ended up being important to building a relationship and confidence but also impulse control and attention. I think if you don't have to go through a bunch of problems then focusing on focus and control isn't as much a priority.

And I think as they are busy little dogs who don't sit still for 3 seconds if there is something more interesting happening somewhere, impulse control, focus and attention are incredibly important and somewhat overlooked especially by people who are used to dogs with an off-switch.


  1. My obedience instructor thinks MinPins are the untapped training dog. They could rival border collies if people would just give them a chance. She has helped me with a ton of rescue MinPins and done wonders with them, teaching them all sorts of obedience work all they way up through the utility exercises. Trouble is people don't want to deal with the high energy and housetraining troubles many have.

    But, like you said it's just common sense and you let them out often and don't let them have full run of the house until they get it. Plain and simple, it isn't rocket science. All my dogs are fantastic obedience and agility dogs!!! Trained through utility and competing in Master's Agility! They are awesome working dogs. Some day attend a MinPin Specialty and you will see some fantasticly trained MinPins!!!

  2. They are fantastic aren't they!?

  3. That is fantastic how you managed to completely reveal the subject which you have picked out for this exact entry of yours. By the way did you turn to some alike blog articles as a source of data to complete the entire situation that you have revealed in this blog post?