A CANINE PROTECTION TRAINING PRIMER
Jim Engel Copyright 1985
Enhancing the canine protective instinct as preparation for sport or service is very serious business. The hazards include possible injury to a man or a dog and the potential legal consequences of any off the field incident, regardless of whether the protection training as a causative factor is provable or exists at all.
When properly conducted, protection training offers the opportunity for better control, a more reliable companion, as well as a dog whose natural protective instincts have been developed and enhanced. One can come to know how his particular beast is apt to react to a wide variety of stressful circumstances, be able to call on him to protect or call him off as necessary. All of this is well and good, but unfortunately not always realized, for incorrect procedures or the use of an unstable dog can be the cause of an off the field incident with significant legal and medical repercussions. Thus the decision to participate must be well thought out, for you are responsible - both morally and legally - for the consequences of your decision to encourage and enhance his protective instincts.
Many activities in which men engage for sport involve the risk of injury, which is acceptable as long as those participating know and accept the jeopardy in which they place themselves and reasonable and prudent precautions are taken to minimize the likelihood of an accident or the severity should one occur. The protection training of dogs for competitive purposes is, among other things, such a sport.
As in other areas of human endeavor, the training and use of protective dogs is a double edged sword, can on the one hand lead to better dogs and better breeding of dogs, tremendous personal pleasure in the fulfillment of the age old alliance between man and dog. But when those involved are motivated primarily by greed, arrogance, ignorance or the need to bolster the ego then the heritage is in imminent danger of prostitution, and those who would emasculate our utility breeds are provided further ammunition in the form of poorly trained and/or bred dogs.
THE CAST AND THE PROGRAM
Enter the players. Your role is that of the "trainer" or "handler", although both terms are inadequate to describe the real spirit of your proper function. It is no mere accident of language that the German expression translates as "the dog's leader," which is infinitely more descriptive of the proper relationship than the commonly used English terms such as "master" or even "trainer." The second player is of course the dog, the noble canine, about to become the peerless protector of the weak and the good, presumably including you should the need ever arise. Finally, the evil stranger: the "agitator," "decoy" or "helper" who serves as the dog's adversary, plays out the role of the evil men he may meet on the sport field or on the street.
The things the dog must master are in reality quite straight forward. He must be able to search for a hidden adversary under the leader's direction and guard the bad man when he is found. If the man breaks and runs then the dog must stop him by biting. When he ceases the struggle, the dog must at the leader's command let loose and go back to the bark and guard routine. The dog must vigorously defend his leader by biting any person making an attack, and persist when struck across the back or side with the stick. Once engaged he must continue his guard duties, including prisoner escort, until released by the leader. The dog must be willing to go out, away from the leader, and attack a distant aggressor. When he ceases his struggle and stands still, the dog must "out," that is release the bite on command.
That's it. The dog that can execute this perfectly can obtain his Schutzhund I, the II and then go on to the III, each with the full 100 points for the protection exercise. Simple, right?
Not every dog is a suitable candidate for protection training, for many breeds are precluded by limitations of size or inherent, genetically determined character. There are in fact a number of "protective heritage" breeds, drawn largely from among the dogs of the central European farmer and herdsman, that account for most of the best of such dogs. There are also those, particularly among the more robust retrievers, that are not normally thought of as protective but which produce the occasional individual that can get the job done.
But being from the appropriate background does not automatically make the individual suitable, for there are among every breed those who are simply inadequate because of a defective structure or character. A dog may lack courage, responsibility or willingness to accept handler control. Physical limitations include dysplastic hips, other joint problems and allergic reactions that interfere with tracking and the stamina necessary for the obedience and protection. In summary, the candidate for canine protector and sport dog should be an outstanding individual, one:
1. In good health, with no serious physical
problems such as dysplastic hips, an improper bite or heart defects.
2. Sufficient in the moral attributes of courage, intelligence, responsibility and working willingness.
3. Correctly reared and socialized, and in particular having a sound relationship with the human leader.
4. In good over all physical condition, that is, with well developed muscles, cardio vascular system and generally good coordination.
A primary reason for requiring good physical conditioning as a prerequisite to protection training is the safety of the animal, for an out of shape dog is subject to injury just as a poorly conditioned athlete is. Also, a stable relationship with the leader is essential; for the dog with inherent behavior problems or any sort of deviate man/dog relationship must have these things understood and dealt with before protection training can be seriously considered.
Note that good health and strong character are heavily dependent on the genetic heritage of the dog. This means that if he is seriously inadequate for congenital reasons there is no real remedy except a better dog. Such things are of course not black and white, for an animal with an apparent serious character flaw can become, through diligent and well planned and executed training, adequate or even superior. Another dog may deteriorate under similar training, revealing an inherent defect in character.
If one could tell the difference without the effort of training then there would be much less point to the sport. Thus a fundamental purpose is to sort the wheat from the chaff, show which dogs are by their very nature unfit and which are diamonds in the rough, in need of some good human interaction and sound training in order to realize their genetic potential.
A fundamental dilemma for our utility breeds is that many of the same character attributes that make a working dog excellent when well trained make him likely to be perceived as a problem in the hands of those who want only a "pet" or are inept trainers. The good dog has a high energy level, a sense of fun, a drive to be active. He continually seeks out new experiences and is always ready for more. When worked and trained such a dog is a joy beyond compare, but when ignored these same properties cause him to seek his own outlets, and many of these creative activities may be perceived as "bad" behavior by an inadequate owner.
A strong dog is for instance likely to have a pronounced prey instinct, a natural inclination to run down a rabbit or the neighbor's cat. Saying this does not in any way condone killing as sport; it simply means that it is often necessary to teach a dog that such things, while attractive, are forbidden. The prey instinct is simply part of the dog's natural heritage, to be neither glorified nor condemned, but rather directed in positive channels and inhibited where it conflicts with the norms of human society.
The simple fact of the matter is that correct working dogs are not suitable for every person, and to "improve" temperament by breeding for the lowest common denominator is to prostitute the heritage. In many of our more popular utility breeds this process is advanced, and there are entire lines of wimps running around disguised as Dobermans, German Shepherds or Bouviers.
There are dogs that are inherently inadequate, unfit to serve their traditional purposes. Others are simply good dogs in need of sound training in order to realize their potential. It is among the purposes of sport training to separate one from the other and enable those with good dogs to get the most out of them, enjoy them to the fullest. The sad corollary is that one is often forced to face the fact that his dog has been revealed as inadequate and should be replaced or eliminated from a breeding program.
Walking the streets waiting for a mugger to attack would be an inconvenient, time consuming and hazardous way to train the dog. It is thus necessary for someone to act out the role of the dog's adversaries, emulate the actions of the bad men he may meet on the sport field or on the street. In working the dog the agitator utilizes special protective equipment so that the dog can bite without causing injury, as the "disposable agitator" concept has never really caught on.
The usual practice is to wear a "sleeve" on one arm, which is essentially a hinged at the elbow leather cylinder with a removable jute cover. (Pups and young dogs are usually started on an all jute sleeve.) Hidden sleeves designed to be worn under clothing and padded jackets that provide for a bite anyplace are also used for other kinds of training but play a relatively minor role in Schutzhund trial preparation. A pair of padded leather pants that also provide chest and side protection, shaped much like bib overalls, and a pair of appropriate shoes normally complete the helper's equipment. But all of this is for the relatively advanced dog, for in working the novice, nothing other than a burlap sack for the pup to grab or a puppy tug (essentially a rolled up burlap sack with a handle) is used.
In the beginning the agitator's primary role is to portray an aggressive human being so that the dog can learn that it is acceptable, and indeed praiseworthy, to respond with aggression in return. The young dog is the most challenging aspect of this work, for one must not only arouse the protective instincts, he must at the same time not frighten or intimidate, This of course requires a great deal of perceptiveness and empathy. At this stage the agitator must project a weak and fearful image, which requires a great deal of self confidence and control. The great agitator has a knack, a God given feel for a dog that no amount of experience can totally duplicate.
The agitator is the key element in the training program, and his skill and knowledge to a great extent determine how much of the dog's potential can be fulfilled. It is physically demanding work, for a 120 pound Rottweiler backed up by an enthusiastic handler on the other end of the lead can give you pains in muscles you never knew you had. A premium is put on agility as well as strength, for it is essential that the sleeve be presented properly so that the dog has an opportunity to make a good clean bite. Poor sleeve presentation can cause the dog to sustain an injury and perhaps teach him that it is better to go for a thigh or whatever part of the agitator's body is most convenient. The well trained dog will naturally go to the sleeve because it has always been the easiest target. This should not be an accident, but rather the result of the agitator's skill and sense of timing.
The dog's off the field relationship with the helper is the subject of diverse opinion. Some feel that he should always show aggression, that the helper should always be the bad guy, that to try and introduce another role confuses him and risks reducing hardness. Others feel that the dog should accept playful handling by the agitator immediately after the bite work, although this is certainly an extreme view. Note that these are not minor variations in opinion, but rather reflect profound philosophical differences, fundamentally divergent concepts of what the dog's perception of the process is and should be.
I believe that if a dog can not accept the presence of the agitator in an off the field social situation then one must question the dog's inherent stability and intelligence. A good dog can clearly understand that it is the man's actions that warrant aggression and the ability to adopt a neutral posture in another situation is essential in a practical service situation such as a police dog faces every day and also within the sport concept. On the other hand, it is rather naive to expect the dog to immediately shift gears and accept the agitator as friend, a little reserve and suspicion indicates that the dog takes his work seriously.
The agitator should probably not be expected to be able to handle a dog who has recently seen him in the adversary role, but he should be able to approach the handler and dog earlier in the day, before the protection training, and shake his hand. In this way the dog learns that he can show aggression only in response to threatening action and handler command.
It is generally good practice for the agitator to stay away from the dog and handler immediately after an exercise, in that it is to be expected that it will take the beast time to cool down from the heat of combat. In fact, the ideal conclusion is for the helper to agitate the dog, make him angry, so that he goes off mad and wanting more. If the animal is satisfied and fulfilled at the end, then the training has gone on much too long!
IN THE BEGINNING
Protection training in the formal sense usually begins at ten to fifteen months, always according to the development and needs of the individual. Older dogs are of course also capable of learning, for there are in reality no particular age limitations as long as the dog is in good physical condition and in possession of the requisite moral attributes. Younger dogs are normally preferred mostly because of the longer life expectancy, that is, because they will likely be useful for service, competition or breeding for many years after their initial training is complete.
A possible problem with any older dog is that his previous training and experience may have so inhibited the protective and aggressive instincts that they are severely blunted. If an animal has, for instance, been punished for every manifestation of the protective instinct, slapped down for putting a mouth on a human being even in play, then there are likely to be substantial obstacles to overcome. The long-term prognosis for such an animal depends on the level of damage and his original genetic potential.
Dog training is too often thought of only in the formal sense, those occasions when the animal is taken to class or out in the back yard for a half hour's work. In reality, the dog is trained continually from the moment he comes into your life in that the nature of the relationship you build strongly influences his ultimate potential, or, more accurately, the potential of the team. Now "informal protection training" should not be construed as biting the postman for practice, but it does mean encouraging and rewarding your dog when his natural protective instincts surface in a positive way and only gently correcting him when the particular manifestation is not socially acceptable.
When the pup or youngster barks at the stranger approaching the car, you naturally confirm that he is doing the right thing by means of gentle, low key praise. In this way, he learns that it is appropriate to be on guard at the approach of the stranger until his intentions become clear. Make your dog believe that he is the strongest and most important creature God ever chose to put on the face of the earth, with the possible exception of the leader. Do not fear that this will make him an irresponsible bully, for bullies (human and canine) are weak and insecure rather than strong and confident. And "confident" is the key word, for if the dog believes and you believe in the dog, nothing on earth can stand in your way. Certainly your dog's potential is heavily dependent on his genetic heritage, but its realization must come through his relationship with you and the training and socialization you provide, particularly in the earliest months and years.
Many dogs that fail to do well turn out, upon investigation, to have been subjected to heavy-handed "obedience" training or conformation show preparation. They sometimes have become so fearful of making a mistake and being "corrected" that it is very difficult to draw them out, induce them to show initiative. Note very carefully that this does not imply that obedience is not important, for it is the obligation of everyone with a large and powerful dog to have control over it, and those animals that are cursed with an owner incapable or unwilling to do so usually end up wasting their lives locked in a basement or run - and are of no earthly use to themselves or their people. For if a mugger or a home invader were to strike, the dog would still be safely locked away! No, obedience training is a necessary adjunct to the protection work and truly essential, while the protection training is most desirable but still optional for the companion owner. Protection work is, however, most certainly not optional for a conscientious working dog breeder!
But poorly executed and heavy-handed obedience training is not only likely to result in a poor performance in obedience competition and day by day life, it is likely to make protection training much more difficult and less effective. Many programs put heavy emphasis on destroying fundamental attributes of the correct protective heritage dog, such as courage and initiative. The objective is to produce a mindless little automaton, and the dog learns that even the slightest threat toward a human being, regardless of provocation, is going to be severely reprimanded. The production of a dog who will never, under any circumstance, bite a human being is a proud accomplishment, proof that the training "produces good temperament!" I suppose there is a place for this, that people have a right to choose the kind of dog they want to create, but for me it will always be incredibly sad to see good dogs made into caricatures of their heritage, almost as pathetic as the people inflicting the training.
Many problem dogs are in reality dogs with problem people; and often the root cause is the person's fear that he will not be able to control the dog. It may be that the individual is not suited by temperament and personal philosophy to own a strong utility dog and that he would be much happier and better off with another breed or a different kind of pet. Not everybody is obligated to like or own the kind of dog I prefer, or any dog at all.
But it may be that the person's fear of an inability to deal with the dog is not the least bit irrational, that the dog in question is dangerous and would become more so if trained so as to enhance the aggressive tendencies.
Stability is tremendously important, for what we are teaching the dog is, in essence, as follows: "It is your prerogative to decide that a particular human is a threat and then attack and injure him. I accept responsibility for your actions." This is, of course, essentially a blank check, and the consequence of issuing it to the wrong dog can be disastrous. Perhaps the words are overly dramatic - but I would spare no effort to make you fully understand the seriousness of this kind of training.
The person who cannot develop enough confidence in his dog to believe that he is only going to attack a true aggressor rather than a child who waves his arms or the jogger going past the house is not going to get very far. And this is in many instances a very good thing, for there are those dogs not worthy of such trust and it is inappropriate to train them to be more aggressive. The proper purpose of sport training is to identify and eliminate such dogs and, hopefully, to ensure that they are never bred.
But you have a good dog, then success is dependant on developing confidence in him. Much of this comes from spending long hours in building a strong personal bond, really getting to know the dog. The fact that successful competition requires mutual respect, trust, and affection between dog and man is one of the sport's fundamental satisfactions.
ON THE FIELD
Obedience and tracking are essentially a matter of he leader and the dog working together, for while others may give instruction and guidance the actual training is done mostly one on one. In the protection work the agitator is also an active participant and there is often a third human party who acts as director and assists in handling the dog. If the training is to progress smoothly and progress is to be made it is essential that the people on the field cooperate and understand what is to be done. In general the agitator or instructor directs the training process and the handler's role is to understand what is to be done and carry out his part of the plan, particularly in the case of a novice handler. Thus each lesson should begin with a brief planning session where the objectives are laid out and the procedure agreed upon. It is often best that the dog not be brought out until this is complete, for it is desirable that he consistently see the agitator in a the role of adversary, at least in the initial phases of training. At first it may take several minutes to explain the day's procedure, but as you become more experienced a couple of brief comments will usually suffice.
If you do not understand or agree with what is going on, then by all means call a time out and straighten things out. It is possible that your instructor has forgotten something about your dog, or that you have a better idea of how to proceed. He will normally either explain what he is doing or revise the process to incorporate your suggestion. But if you simply elect on your own to do something unexpected he is apt to become quite angry, and rightly so, for he is the person most likely to suffer an injury as a consequence of your actions.
Every agitator understands that he accepts risk of injury each time he steps on the field. Although this becomes an accepted part of his life, he does not relish the prospect of being bitten and seeks through the use of good equipment and correct procedure to minimize his risk. You of course have a most serious obligation to do everything in your power to avoid an accident. The first step is to thoroughly study the procedures and guidelines suggested here or whatever other material your instructor indicates, for ignorance is no excused for an incorrect action. Your other obligations include always coming on the field with proper equipment, close attention to what is going on and the use of a little simple commons sense. Note that your dog is also in jeopardy, could be injured as a consequence of poor technique or faulty procedure. Believe me, a broken canine tooth is no laughing matter!
When the training commences it is vital to the safety of dog and agitator to have the appropriate equipment, which at a minimum means a correct collar and a strong leather lead, appropriate for the size of the beast. Your instructor may also require a 'tie out' line so that the dog can be 'staked out' or 'put on the fence', that is, attached to a stationary object so that he can not possibly pull loose from a careless or physically over matched handler and thus bite the agitator.
The tie out may be a chain, cable, or heavy nylon rope. In most instances a spring should be incorporated so that the dog is not pulled up short when he hits the end of the line; six to ten inches of travel is generally appropriate. The nylon line has a certain amount of natural give, which may be adequate if it is long enough. The dog can never be left on the nylon line because he can chew through it. Also note that a dog should never be left tied or staked out on a leather lead, because he can not only chew it he can probably break it. (The chief advantage of leather is its pliability and secure grip that helps head off a 'rope burn' if pulled through the hand.) It is good practice to wear a pair of light weight leather gloves when handling any non-leather line.
Common practice is to begin the protection training on a wide leather collar, preferably with a chain collar also attached by the live ring to the snap on the lead. (This is to prevent the dog from slipping the leather collar and getting away.)
An alternative giving excellent success with many dogs is working them on a heavy duty leather harness rather than a collar. There are several situations where this is advantageous, one example being a very strong, powerful dog such as a Rottweiler who can pull so hard into the collar that his breathing is restricted, making it difficult to get him to bark and reducing the intensity of the bite because of simple physical exhaustion. Another place where the harness is most helpful is in training an agile, energetic dog inclined to lay back and then lunge high at the agitator. When the lead is attached to the collar the dog is often jerked around, which can easily seem like a correction and is in any event quite unpleasant. I have found the harness very effective in solving this problem with a number of energetic, athletic Bouvier bitches. Although harnesses are made specifically for the agitation work, the good quality, heavy duty nonrestrictive leather tracking harnesses are well suited to the purpose and in general I prefer them.
The dog to be worked on the harness should come onto the field with the lead attached to another collar, which remains on the dog throughout the session. A wide leather collar is good in the beginning as it provides a convenient hand hold. Later the collar can be a prong collar if the instructor gives his permission.
A list of required and optional equipment is included at the end of this manual.
ELEMENTARY AGITATION PROCEDURES
The first few times out, the novice dog is usually allowed to watch the slightly more advanced dogs without getting directly involved himself. There are significant differences of opinion on the age at which this should start, with some adamantly opposed to any exposure at all before ten months or a year and others believing that six to eight months is adequate. I believe that it is best to err on the conservative side, that being a couple months late can do no real long term harm but that even a few weeks too soon can cause significant problems. There seem to be significant differences among breeds, with the Bouviers and Rottweilers being slow to mature as compared to the Shepherd for instance. At any age, the important thing is to watch the pup's reactions very closely and back off if he does not seem to be doing well, that is, shows reluctance.
The novice is usually put next to one or two intermediate dogs who know the ropes, that is will bark and show aggression when the agitator appears. Groups of three or four work best, because with more there is a tendency for the individual to tire and/or become bored before each dog has received adequate attention.
The youngster is not directly approached at first, but when he seems confident the agitator may stand back and make eye contact and then take a tentative step or two forward. At the slightest sign of aggression from the pup he turns and runs, showing great fear. The pup has just won his first victory and is lavishly praised.
The reactions of beginning dogs vary widely and one should not become overly concerned if his pup does not immediately draw blood or act like he wants to. Many will stand there with a quizzical expression, apparently wondering what's wrong with the peculiar specimen of Homo Sapiens running around, jumping up and down and making strange noises. It is not at all unusual for the young dog to not react much and if this persists he might benefit from waiting a few more weeks and trying again. Pups mature at their own pace and the owner who pushes to fulfill his own psychological needs can easily damage a good young dog. Remember, this is supposed to be fun!
Even when the novice dog starts out by being tied to a fence or other stationery object, he is eventually promoted to working directly on the hand held lead. Perhaps the most common handler error at this point is to move when expected to stand still and restrain the dog by the leash or the long line. When you are told to hold your ground, then it is absolutely essential that you stay put, not shift your feet even six inches!
When the agitator is working up the dog, and particularly when he is not wearing a sleeve, never give the beast more line, for the man will gauge exactly how far the dog can advance and then work very close in order to arouse the dog to the maximum. Do not even lean forward once the exercise is in progress, for even that much more lead can allow the dog close enough to bite a bare arm or leg.
The agitator will very often draw back and tighten the line once a dog is on the sleeve, so as to build the strength of the bite and the dog's determination to hold on. You of course hold your ground and let the agitator decide how much pressure to apply.
Once a dog has grabbed the sleeve he may at some point let go, which is most faulty. The natural reaction is to give him the slack in the line to allow another bite, which is exactly the wrong thing to do! The dog should usually be denied the further pleasure of biting as the price of incorrect action, that is, dropping the sleeve. The agitator will often move off and have you put the beast away to reinforce the lesson that the dog must bite and persist, hang on in the face of the fight. Given the opportunity, he will also pull the sleeve away from a dog making an insincere bite, so as to drive home the same lesson.
In correct agitation, the fight is brief and intense so that the dog does not let go out of boredom. When the man stops fighting and holds absolutely still the dog is to release the sleeve, either on his own or at handler command. Thus in correct agitation there is an abrupt change from the hard fight to an absolutely passive posture so that the dog knows clearly when he must fight and when he must release and guard.
If a weak bite occurs only late in the training session, then either the dog is being worked much too long or he is simply not in good enough physical condition for the work. You should always quit while ahead, stop when the dog still has a strong desire to attack. In a sound program the training sessions last only a few minutes, as does the actual trial procedure itself. It is generally a good idea to work a dog and then put him away and get him out later, so that each dog receives two or three brief turns rather than one long one.
A fundamental principle is that one must never drop the line unless there is a specific arrangement to allow for this, since to do so would leave the agitator vulnerable in a way he does not expect and can not be prepared for. In particular, he will often slide his arm out of the sleeve in order to let the dog have the sense of winning or to end the session with one who has not yet learned the release on command. When he does so it is your responsibility to hang on even if it means taking a dive and ending up with your face in the mud, and this is meant literally!
Sometimes the instructions given the novice seem contradictory and confusing. As a case in point, great pains have just been taken to make you understand your obligation to hold on to the line so as to avoid an injury to the agitator. Now you are going to learn that you must sometimes loosen or even drop the lead in order to avoid improperly correcting your dog.
The problem arises when, in the act of biting, the dog takes up the slack in the line. If you hang on then he will receive a jerk on the lead, which has always been a correction. In this way the dog will receive a reprimand just as he is in the act of doing what you most want him to do, which can substantially set back the training process. In such a situation, you should give more slack or if necessary drop the lead when these conditions are met:
1. The dog would otherwise receive an
2. The man is wearing a sleeve.
3. The agitator expects and is prepared for a bite.
4. You have permission to make the release the line decision.
Note carefully that this applies specifically to the dog in danger of a correction when in the act of biting, for the risk is in the application of the tight lead as the bite takes place, not biting when pulling into the lead. The dog is in fact often offered the sleeve when pulling against the lead and there is no need to give more slack in such instances. Many times the sleeve will be offered but then withdrawn so as to tease the dog and build up the desire through frustration.
One of the ways in which the beast is tested in the trial is with a stick, which in reality is a twenty six to thirty inch length of bamboo, or a padded rod, perhaps a half inch in diameter. The dog must accept blows to demonstrate correct temperament and courage. Properly applied there is little danger of injury to the dog, but in the hands of an inept or dishonest person the stick can inflict a severe injury, often with a jab from either end rather than a normal broadside blow.
Preparing the dog to accept the stick is an important but not especially difficult part of the training process. Often the first step is to make overhand motions with the bare hand when the dog is on the sleeve, so as to acclimate him to the normal stick threatening motion. The dog may be more prone to drop off (which is faulty) when threatened with a high stick than when actually struck, since the label of pain involved is minor. It is good practice to cease threatening once the dog has been struck, so that he comes to realize that once the hits occur there will be no more. In a trial, the agitator will in every instance strike the dog twice, two to four seconds apart. In training a good agitator will only stick a dog who is taking a good hard bite and will time the blows for the most intense fight so that he hardly notices them.
Most strong dogs attack even more vigorously when the stick is applied, respond to the increased level of pressure with an increase in their own aggressive drive. With such dogs it is important that they only be struck when taking a good bite for a different reason than with the less sure dog, and that reason is to head off any tendency to go after the hand with the stick, which is of course a perfectly reasonable thing to do from the dog's point of view.
Although the agitator may carry the stick and make threatening motions relatively early in the training, there is no particular need to be in a hurry. The primary emphasis should be on building a strong and aggressive bite and acclimating the dog to the agitator's fight, for most solid dogs won't even pay any attention to the stick and weaker dogs will respond better once they have been built up and gained confidence.
When a dog is properly introduced to the stick and still shows persistent reluctance to fight back one should give serious consideration to discarding the animal, and in particular should be wary of breeding it, for such reactions are not indications of minor weakness but fundamental flaws in character which are likely to reoccur in the progeny.
THE COURAGE TEST
Some dogs who will readily bite in close to the handler are more reluctant to go on the offensive, go after a remote antagonist. Some of this is reliance on the presence of the leader for encouragement and confidence, and some of it is simply that when on a short lead the dog is more or less cornered and has no real alternative to meeting the threat or cowering behind the handler.
Thus an important phase of the training process is building up the dog so that he will go out away from the leader to make an attack. This is a most crucial juncture in the training process, for many dogs who ultimately fail do so because they can not or will not work effectively away from the handler. During this important training phase it is particularly important not to be anxious for rapid progress. Some dogs are so strong and sure that they will pursue the agitator almost from the beginning, and some are so week that no training process on earth could help them pass an honest Schutzhund trial. But most dogs are someplace in the middle and with these one must be very careful not to push an inexperienced or immature dog over the edge by too much pressure too early.
The Schutzhund test of courage is always the final exercise in the trial and is in many ways the most demanding of the dog. After many months of preparation and training, the title is on the line, to be won or lost in twenty to forty brief seconds. The trial agitator will threaten dog and handler and then turn and run. The judge will motion you to send your dog (who you have by the collar) and as he catches up with the fleeing man the judge will command him to turn and charge to dog, stick and sleeve high. The moment of truth is at hand, for the dog must drive in and bite in order to pass the test and win the title.
The initial step in building the dog up for the distant attack is for the agitator to run past the dog just out of reach, perhaps several times, in order to build up the frustration and desire. Finally he will have you follow him, run behind and allow the dog to take a bite on the extended sleeve. In this exercise the dog's natural instinct to chase anything that flees is used to build up his drive. Flight shows great weakness on the part of the agitator, and it is psychologically much easier for the dog to attack a person running away than someone charging him in an aggressive manner or even standing still and staring at him. (The fact that the courage test starts with a fleeing man who turns and then charges of course puts maximum pressure on the dog, as it is intended to do.)
As the training progresses the agitator runs further and faster and the handler begins to lag behind the dog, until he finally just drops the lead and the dog pursues and bites on his own, ending up twenty to sixty yards out. If the dog does not know the on command release of the sleeve (and normally he will not) the handler should move up rapidly but calmly and pick up the lead so the fight can end, usually with the agitator slipping the sleeve and fleeing. The desirable reaction of the dog is to go after the man, but you, of course, see that he does not succeed in getting him.
When you send your dog, you yell your encouragement so that he will know that you support him and so that he will not have to look back to know where you are. As you move in to pick up the lead, you are smooth and confident and never run up on the dog unless the agitator is in real trouble, that is has been bitten or is down.
During the entire process, it is of the utmost importance not to do anything that would divert the dog's attention away from his work. Pressure from the handler at this point can do a lot of damage, for a dog who gets in the habit of looking back or even worse moving back is severely faulty and is going to lose big points come trial day.
A method that we have found extremely effective in building the dog up is working the courage test with the animal on a tracking harness (a good quality leather one) and twenty to thirty feet of stout nylon line. The handler wears a pair of leather gloves and the dog literally pulls him out after the agitator. The line is allowed to slip through the hands, so that the dog goes further and further out but still must pull against resistance and knows where the handler is. I often drop the line as the dog bites, but this method still builds drive but the bite takes place at reduced speed, reducing the chance of an injury to an inexperienced dog.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN, COMMAND AND CONTROL
The savage, uncontrollable attack machine is a popular stereotype of the protective dog, and there are numerous breeders, importers and trainers who pander to this because there is money to be make. But the truly useful working dog must exhibit discretion and acceptance of handler control as well as the protective willingness in order to earn a place on a police force or serve as a personal companion and protector.
Much of the negative publicity suffered by service dogs, the Schutzhund sport and other legitimate protection applications is due to the fly by night "guard dog" trainers who will take a basically fearful and insecure dog and enhance the fear biting tendency to produce a guard dog or a personal protection dog. Such animals are inherently dangerous in that they are unpredictable and may just as soon bite an innocent person or the new owner as an intruder or mugger. In reality they may not be much protection at all in that they could be inclined to tuck tail and run at the first appearance of a really aggressive, determined foe. Often such dogs have all of their training done close in, on lead. They learn to bite because they have no alternative, no other way out. But in confronting a practical situation they might very well take the first opportunity to head for the hills.
A truly effective canine protector must be strong and confident rather than fearful and high strung, and a primary purpose of the sport training is to help each of us to develop the capability of identifying correct character and then enhancing stability and control along with the aggressive potential.
A major portion of the Schutzhund training is thus devoted to establishing and enhancing the dog's stability and identifying and eliminating the inherently inadequate and simply vicious or fear driven animals. A fundamental objective of the training program is that the dog grow in the ability to distinguish a real threat from innocent activity and act accordingly.
To this end good communication between you and the instructor is essential, for it is your duty to candidly inform him of any off the field behavior problems or physical afflictions that might be relevant to the dog's performance and development. If your dog thinks that joggers are agitators or the neighborhood children are ripe candidates for a little informal protection training, you are taking a very foolish risk if you fail to so inform your instructor and let the training go on!
The objective must always be to develop good canine citizens and identify those animals worthy to be bred, not simply to pass a Schutzhund trial or impress the neighbors with one's macho dog. Animals exhibiting questionable behavior or stability in the home environment or out in public must be evaluated in detail before the protection training commences. Ultimately this responsibility lies with the owner of the dog, but it is also important that instructors and others more senior in terms of experience or position make the less experienced aware of potential instability in their dogs and the possible consequences of ignoring it.
During the entire Schutzhund trial, starting with the tracking, the judge is obligated to conduct whatever temperament tests he feels are necessary in order to fully establish the stability of the dog and the existence of handler control. The dog who falls short is to be dismissed, and this is a not uncommon occurrence. As you report for tracking, the judge may walk between you and your dog, push him with his knee. An inappropriate show of aggression or shyness will result in the dog's being dismissed before he ever gets the chance to show how well he can bite.
In order to develop the necessary stability, a continuous aspect of the training should be reinforcement of the principle that only aggressive action merits aggressive response, that the mere presence of a man wearing a sleeve or leather pants does not justify an attack. The agitator, when working a more advanced dog, will at times begin by walking up to the team and shaking the leader's hand. The dog must not show inappropriate aggression, that is, should not attempt to bite because the man's actions are innocent even if his garb is associated with the protection work. It is also common and good practice to have someone walk through an obedience class wearing the sleeve - the dog that shows aggression is reprimanded. When sound training procedures are utilized, it is unusual for a dog to break ranks and go after the sleeve.
During the protection phase of the Schutzhund trial, each time a dog bites he must at the handler's command "out,", that is release the sleeve and guard the man. Note that the second part, the guard, is essential; for it is just as faulty to return toward the handler as it is to refuse the command, that is to continue to attack after being given the release command.
An early introduction of the "out" procedure and a great deal of stress on its precision and quick response are taken as indications of "responsible training" on the part of many self appointed observers of the Schutzhund scene and protection training in general. On the other hand, some trainers and spectators seem to consider the out a concession to the sissies and do gooders, believe that a real man gauges his dog by how hard he bites and his aggressive pretense. The temptation is to comment that the truth lies someplace in the middle, but that is simply using a tired old cliche to avoid meaningful discussion of an important, emotional and complex subject.
The timing and methodology of the introduction of the on command release of the sleeve must suit the temperament and maturity of the dog in question, with the good, hard dog progressing relatively rapidly to the control aspects of the protection training and the lesser dog undergoing a more lengthy building up phase. In many instances the tendency is to start too early, before the dog is totally confident that it is indeed all right and in fact commendable to bite the bad guy when he misbehaves. This can lead to a failure when under the extra pressure of a trial - it's much easier to do it right in the first place than to repair the damage of too much pressure too early.
The critic will of course climb up on his soap box and comment that it is irresponsible to teach any attack procedure while not beating in a lot of obedience and control along with the aggression enhancement. But telling the judge "Yes, I know my dog bit this guy walking down the street, but you should have seen the snappy, clean out!" is simply not going to cut the mustard. The fact that the dog bit in the first place is what is going to get you in trouble if the judge decides that it was inappropriate. Stability and predictability are much more important than responding to the out command, important as this latter capability is.
Certainly each of us want to avoid legal entanglements and the risk of injury to an innocent person. To this end we must select a stable as well as a strong dog and then properly socialize him and conduct a protection training program in which the animal learns to respond only to specific aggressive actions. From the beginning the dog learns that a passive, unaggressive man wearing a pair of leather pants and a padded sleeve can not be attacked merely because of his mode of dress. In off the field situations the dog is gently but firmly reprimanded for any inappropriate show of aggression. If this is not sufficient, then even more severe measures become appropriate, but the basic stability of the dog must be carefully evaluated in such an instance. It should not be difficult to teach a dog when not to bite, for the natural ability to discriminate is an essential reason for the use of protective dogs, and the one that does not exhibit it when properly socialized is seriously flawed.
Thus precise obedience, the ability to do a call off (not required at all in the Schutzhund scheme of things) and a clean release of the sleeve on command are not directly linked to the responsibility and discriminatory power that are essential from the beginning in every protection enhanced dog. Sure, these manifestations of control and responsibility are most necessary and desirable in the end product, but they are properly introduced after the aggressive capability is relatively fully developed. With the hardest and strongest dogs this is relatively early in the program, but with the typical dog the formal control training comes late in the program.
Whenever it is introduced, the training of the release is truly a matter of double jeopardy in that there is a very fine line between making the dog understand that he must drop the sleeve on command and causing him to believe that he is being punished for biting in the first place. The novice, and many of us with more experience, have more difficulty with this (and lose more points in the trial) than any other aspect of the protection work.
The dog is ready for the beginning of the control aspects of the training once he is hard and confident in the basic attack work. This point may come in only a few weeks with a strong, inherently aggressive dog who begins as a relatively mature animal. Others will take proportionally longer to build up to this point and some will never get there at all, never get to the point where they are really strong and confident in the bite work. Such dogs should usually be withdrawn from the training, since continued pressure is only going to intimidate them and perhaps intensify any tendency toward fearful aggressive reactions.
As a general guide, any dog not enthusiastic about the protection training should probably be dropped from the program for his own good, and also because the handler will sooner or later become discouraged and perhaps drop our of the sport rather than seek a truly capable dog. (A thorough physical examination is in order here and a young dog should be given a few weeks off and tried again.) As in many other things, knowing when to quit, when you have taken a particular dog as far as he can go, is difficult but essential to long term success. Dogs are not born with the same potential and eventually you are going to reach any individual's limits.
In teaching the release of the sleeve, the object is not only to get the animal to let loose of the agitator on command, but also to go directly into the guard action, that is keep his attention on the man and be prepared to reattack if he does not stand quiet and still. Since the "out" command requires two separate actions for correct response, to let loose of the sleeve and then to guard the man, there is much wisdom in teaching the bark in the blind routine before the release of the sleeve is introduced, so that the guard and bark part of the "out" procedure is already familiar to the dog and so that he can be properly corrected if he does not execute it in a satisfactory manner.
THE BARK AND GUARD ROUTINE
The bark in the blind is the most elementary protection exercise requiring that the dog refrain from biting and is thus the natural place to begin the introduction of the control aspects of the protection training. In this exercise the dog must search for and find a man hidden from view, usually in a wood or canvas "blind" constructed for the purpose. When the agitator is found, he must be guarded, that is, the dog must bark at him and hold him at bay. For full points he should not touch the agitator but show drive and desire, that is stay close and bark vigorously. The agitator must stand still and not threaten the dog in any way. The position of the sleeve is at the side or in front of the agitator's body at the option of the judge.
The routine can be introduced by having the agitator stand motionless in the blind for the naturally enthusiastic dog or by having him agitate mildly from a distance and then go into the blind for a less confident dog. The handler runs up rapidly on the blind, with the dog on a short lead, and stops just out of reach so that the lead prevents the dog from taking a bite. The dog is placed in the sit position and encouraged to bark. The agitator may if necessary slightly encourage the dog with noises or stick sounds, that is by beating the stick on his pant leg or the blind behind him. The agitator should always wear a heavy pair of pants because a minimum correction is desirable if the dog should get an inadvertent bite. The dog is usually on the leather protection collar or harness.
After only a few moments of barking the dog is given a bite and a vigorous fight as a reward for correct action. The bite should be timed for a strong bark from the dog so that the animal comes to believe that by barking he may be able to make the man move and thus merit a bite and fight.
As the exercise is repeated from lesson to lesson, the time the dog must bark for his bite becomes longer and the tight lead is gradually replaced by a loose lead that is jerked whenever the dog lunges. The instructor may at some point decide that the dog is sufficiently advanced to work on the prong collar so as to more effectively keep the dog out. In the ideal the dog is never allowed to bite a motionless man, but usually he is able to catch you by surprise once in a while and make an inadvertent bite. When this happens the agitator should react as little as possible and drop the sleeve if confident that the handler can manage the situation, so that the dog is not rewarded for his inappropriate action.
As the beast begins to perceive what is expected, the lead should be loose except when he lunges and a sharp correction applied to keep him from biting when he does. Since the dog must learn to run up to the agitator and stop and bark on his own, longer lines replace the lead and the dog is sent from further back. It is most desirable to have a third party handle the line after the introductory phase so that the handler is free to move about and encourage and/or correct the dog.
With many dogs it is useful for the handler to move up beside the agitator and pound on the sleeve and verbally encourage the dog to bark. In this way there no danger of the handler's words and actions diverting the dog's attention away from the agitator. In the initial phases of this training all corrections come from the neutral third party through the line and (usually) the pinch collar. The exercise continues to end with the agitator giving the dog a bite as a reward for a strong bark. Once the dog is on the sleeve it is desirable for the handler to grab a separate lead attached to the leather collar (if the dog is on the pinch collar) so that the agitator can slip the sleeve and flee.
In the beginning, and always with marginal dogs, there is no verbal or physical correction from the handler for lunging or biting. That is, all correction comes through the lead, whether held by the handler or the third party. At this stage it is much better for the dog to bump the agitator or nip the sleeve than to show disinterest.
With the stronger and more experienced dog, the handler can stand close to the agitator and verbally correct the dog for lunging and perhaps swat him on the nose to make him cut it out. The handler immediately comes back with a "Watch him!" and pounds on the sleeve, so that the dog learns that the "No" means don't bite the sleeve of a motionless man, but that he is not being punished for barking and watching.
The judgement necessary to apply the right amount of pressure requires that the handler develop a strong rapport with his dog so that he can correctly "read" him. Indeed, the long term success in the sport for all of us is largely dependent on our ability to develop such a strong relationship with our own dogs. Individuals vary in their ability to do this and much of the variation in their success is due to this. A person who has established a strong bond with his dog can much more effectively correct without cowering him than one who has been unable to develop such a relationship.
During the entire bark in the blind training, it is most desirable that any corrections other than through the line come from the handler (or perhaps a third party) standing beside the agitator so that the dog's attention is never directed behind him, away from the agitator. Only when a dog is really confident and solid in the bark in the blind should the handler attempt to omit the control line or stand at a distance behind the dog. At this point, if the dog makes an attempt to bite a motionless agitator, the handler gives him a firm "No!" but if one is not sufficient the dog should immediately go back on the line.
A light line and a sharpened pinch collar can serve as a transition in that the dog should not be aware of the presence of the line, at least for the first couple of times. Again, don't push it, don't try and make the dog do it by shouting at him from a distance after only a few lessons, for each time the dog finds out he can bite and get away with it he harder the problem is going to be to correct.
THE RELEASE OF THE SLEEVE
Once a dog is doing the guard in the blind he has learned the fundamental lesson that he must watch and bark at but not attack a stationary, passive agitator. This provides a solid foundation for the introduction of the release command, which becomes a simple extension of previous training.
The tendency is to give the command and then jerk on the lead and yell at the dog, but teaching the out procedure from behind has the disadvantage that whatever the handler does or says to enforce the command diverts the dog's attention away from the agitator. For this reason there is great advantage to introducing the release by having a neutral third party, who the dog is familiar with so as to avoid an accident, handle the line just as was done for the bark in the blind.
To begin the release exercise, a training collar with a line and a tab is placed on the dog. The agitator works the beast up only enough to produce a firm bite. After a brief struggle he stands as nearly motionless as possible with the sleeve relatively high.
The handler waits a few moments, so that the dog perceives that the agitator is no longer resisting, and then gives a firm but gentle "Out!" and a sharp, quick upward correction with the tab. It is particularly important to be gentle here, to be careful to not intimidate the dog. Note that the handler is close to the agitator, in view of the dog.
When the dog releases the sleeve, he is immediately praised and encouraged to direct his attention back to the agitator, perhaps by pounding on the sleeve and saying "Watch him!" in an excited voice. The agitator can make a low sound or slightly threatening motion to keep the dog's attention.
The person with the lead prevents the dog from biting again by correcting with the line whenever the dog lunges forward, but otherwise keeps the line slack. If the dog is really solid on the bark in the blind there should not be much of this, and if a dog does persist it is worthwhile to do a bark and guard in the middle of the field, that is, away from the blind. Never be afraid to take a small step backwards when things do not go quite as planned, and be assured two steps forward for each one back is making damn good progress!
When the dog comes off the sleeve, the agitator waits only a few seconds and then attacks the dog so that he comes to understand that the out is likely going to be followed by another opportunity to bite. It is good to have the agitator slip the sleeve and run after the reattack, since in this way the dog does not end up in an out, that is every release is followed by another bite.
The most important thing in teaching the release, as in most facets of training, is to never let the dog get away with refusing. For this reason the initial introduction should always be under the direction of an experienced instructor, who will be able to step in and solve any problems that may surface. If not normally used, a prong collar must be available so that an uncooperative dog can be dealt with effectively.
It is vital to avoid "nagging" corrections, and a dog who shows initial reluctance to release must be dealt with firmly but gently. As always, a series of escalating, inadequate corrections merely builds the dogs pain tolerance and resistance. And letting him win, that is, not out, would mean that the next session is going to be much more difficult.
If a dog cannot be induced to release promptly, the handler can use the prong collar. One must be very careful to always wait a second after the agitator has become absolutely still and, if in doubt, count slowly to perhaps three before giving the command. This gives the dog time to cool down and should help head off an unnecessary confrontation. If the prong collar is used to enforce the out command, it should be used with a quick, sharp motion and then released, not used to try and pull the dog off the sleeve.
As we noted in the section on building a strong bite, pulling steadily against the dog generally makes him even more determined to hold on, while the sharp pain of the correctly applied prong collar correction should divert his attention momentarily from the agitator to you. For this reason you repeat the command as you apply the correction. There are those who use an electric shock collar but this should be reserved as a last resort, as it can be too much for many dogs. Usually the use of this device in elementary training means that someone has screwed up someplace.
I own and use a radio controlled collar, but reserve it mostly for special situations like car chasing and barking in a crate . If I wanted to teach a dog to go after some cars under specific conditions, I would not be so quick to use the shock collar in that situation either.
As the training progresses the handler may heel the dog away after the out or go into the next part of the lesson such as the escape routine. At this point the dog should not need the gratification of an immediate reattack every time he releases. But it is a good idea for the agitator to reattack on unpredictable occasions, so that the dog continues to understand that the release command does not end the exercise, that he is still to nail the man if he renews his aggression.
In general the agitator should stage an impromptu attack any time a dog turns back to the handler or in any other way shows disinterest. If the dog finds out that the bad man may make his move at any moment he will become attentive from the moment he steps on the field, never let down his guard. As handler you should always be alert, prepared for the unexpected so that you will be sure to properly encourage the beast and praise him when he responds well.
Any time the dog shows more than momentary disinterest, something is wrong someplace. Likely you are making the training sessions much, much too long - it is much better to work a dog a few minutes and put him away while other dogs are worked and then bring him out again. Also, the dog may simply be out of shape and a little bit of regular road work might improve his endurance and performance. Finally, gradually mix in the control work, the bark in the blind and the release of the sleeve. Make sure that there is still a lot of aggression building, that is agitating the dog and giving him a good hard fight. I like to end a session with the agitator working the dog up to a maximum level and then running off the field, leaving the dog frustrated and with a strong desire to bite.
Teaching the sleeve release calls for a great deal of skill and patience; perhaps the most common error is being too harsh or too much in a hurry, which can result in the dog becoming indecisive in his attack or releasing early because he is afraid of a handler correction. The most important step to avoid this is always allowing a short time period when the agitator has frozen so that the dog comes to understand that he is never to release the sleeve when the fight is going on and to always give the release command from up close in the beginning, preferably from a position beside the agitator so that the dog is never tempted to look over his shoulder because he thinks he "hears footsteps."
The next phase is the so called "sit stabilization" exercise. The dog is equipped with a harness or leather collar and a long line, which is often run around a post and held by an assistant. A second leash is attached to a correction collar and a second assistant, who positions himself beside or slightly to the front of the dog. The handler is in the background in this exercise, and only gives commands, no corrections. The dog is given a sit command, which is reinforced with a correction by the assistant on the correction lead as necessary. The agitator approaches from a distance, moving slowly and not in a threatening manner. The dog is required to maintain his sit position.
The agitator comes to a stationary position about eighteen inches from the dog. If the dog is still stable, he is given a bite and a sharp fight. When the agitator freezes, the handler gives the out command and the second assistant applies a correction as required. The assistant on the line attached to the harness insures that the dog can't reach the agitator, but it is the correction from the side or the front that induces the sit. This is repeated once or twice, and the exercise concludes with the agitator slipping his arm out of the sleeve and running away.
The beauty of this is that when properly done the dog just simply can't do the wrong thing! While the harness line prevents the dog from biting at the wrong time, the dog is not pulling into it or corrected by it. As we have seen, methods that involve the dog pulling into a line are generally counter productive, and in fact are the primary method by which the aggressive drive is built up.
Once the dog understands the out command and is reliable when the leader is close by, the command is given from increasing distances, always on line so a correction can be made. Often the dog will decide that since the old man is not right there a little extra nip might not hurt. One way to deal with this is a pinch collar and a long, light line - but many beasts soon become wise to this. A throw chain is also effective if your aim and timing are good enough. Never let the dog get into the habit of delaying the out or taking extra bites, if he repeats these things more than once then immediately go back to the line and pinch collar and giving the command from up close. Believe me, it is much better to take many steps backward in the training than let a strong dog learn that he can get away with ignoring the release command.
THE CLASSIC ERRORS
Dog training is a team sport, and the team is a man and his dog. If you don't do your part then the dog can't be expected to do his - many team failures occur at the upper end of the lead. Protection training is largely a matter of acting out a situation in which the agitator plays the part of the "bad guy" and you must play the part of his potential victim in order for the dog to understand and play out his proper role as protector. If you just stand there and say "Get him Fido... " as if you were ordering a cup of coffee you can't really expect the dog to take things very seriously. Verbal encouragement can make a tremendous difference, for if you can't show some emotion and get mad at the agitator then the dog is much less likely to react with intensity. Most beginners are much too self conscious and inhibited, afraid to let loose and really support their canine protector. Let it all hang out!
If the protection training, a strong candidate for the most common sin of novice and veteran alike is being too much in a hurry. Many good dogs take numerous sessions to build confidence, to understand that it is really all right to bite that obnoxious bastard with his silly burlap sack. Sometimes they seem to take forever (despair is not unknown to Schutzhund trainers) and then all of a sudden come on like gang busters.
The danger in pushing the protection work too fast is that apparent success and the resulting over confidence may cause the young dog to break and run when pushed too far too fast. The youngster can show tremendous confidence and strength in one location and working with a particular agitator and falter in another place or when facing a different adversary. Over confidence on the leader's part is an ever present danger. He who pushes his pup can do damage that will take months to repair and may in fact diminish the ultimate potential. Facing a large and aggressive man with a stick is meant to be a test of the courage and confidence of the adult dog - it takes time and maturity to build up the youngster to face the hard protection work.
The general tendency is to work the dog much too long, let him bite so often that it becomes boring and common place. A complete training session can be over in four or five minutes - after all that is as long as the Schutzhund protection test takes and an on the street confrontation is likely to last but a moment. The beginner wants as much time for his dog as possible, is impatient to see progress, but this can easily burn out a dog. Several brief sessions are generally much better than a single longer one. Also, top physical condition is essential, for a tired dog will simply not respond with courage and a negative experience can take much time to repair.
There is a natural sequence of training steps that should be mastered one at a time, so that the dog is not subjected to undue stress. There is of course overlap and it is often necessary to go back and reinforce a lesson that had seemed to be mastered. The following sequence is of a general nature and many variations are possible.
The dog will ....
1. Bark and lunge without evidence of fear.
2. Grab a sack or puppy tug and fight with enthusiasm.
3. Grab a puppy sleeve held by the ends.
4. Bit a puppy sleeve on the arm, and fight with vigor.
5. Run after the agitator, on line, and bite sleeve.
6. Show confidence when threatened by a stick.
7. Go after a fleeing agitator, on line, when the handler remains behind.
8. Bark in the blind on the leather collar or harness.
9. Take an adult sleeve and fight hard.
10. Bark in the blind on a loose lead.
11. Accept a blow by the stick.
12. Do a courage test with the agitator backing up.
13. Out with the handler beside agitator.
14. Bark in the blind off lead.
15. "Out" with the handler about ten feet away.
16. Go to heal after barking in the blind.
17. Aggressively respond to an attack out of the blind.
18. Heel off lead approaching the blind with a hidden agitator.
19. Release on command off lead and with the handler at a distance.
20. Do the full Schutzhund I courage test and release.
At this point the dog is Schutzhund I ready, and if really solid the II and the III are relatively straight forward extensions!
There is a quite a bit of expensive equipment used in the protection training. A sleeve runs from $100 on up and the covers ire in the $20 range. A good pair of leather pants is at least $250 and often more. This does not impose a large direct burden on the individual in that most of it is used by the agitator and provided by the club or the agitator himself. The things you must have, while not cheap, are relatively minimal. Note that top quality is essential, for a broken lead or collar can result in a very serious injury. It is grossly irresponsible for you to take a dog on the training field with equipment that is not first rate in quality and condition.
The following items are essential:
1. A heavy duty leather collar, at least one and a
fourth inches wide.
2. A heavy duty chain slip collar.
3. A strong leather leash, six feet long and at least 3.4 inch wide, and one inch for dogs over eighty pounds.
4. A long line, 20 to 30 feet. One inch webbing or 1/2 inch round nylon braid are good. Should have heavy brass snap at one end, loop at other.
The following items are often useful or essential for certain dogs:
1. A heavy duty tracking harness or agitation
2. A pair of heavy leather gloves.
3. A pair of athletic shoes, such as football or soccer shoes.
4. A prong collar.
5. A tie out chain, with spring.
The dog normally should report with both the leather collar and the chain collar in place, with the snap of the leash attached to both. The dog worked on the harness should go on and off the field on another collar, which remains in place during the work. All snaps re to be heavy duty steel, or preferably brass.
While you may not think of them as equipment, your shoes are very important. They should be comfortable and enable you to hold a lunging, powerful dog without slipping or tuning an ankle. As an agitator I prefer a pair of leather football shoes, and often use them when handling my own dogs. Running and other athletic shoes are commonly used, but anything with a smooth leather sole is dangerous.
There are a number of common sense guidelines that help prevent accidents and insure each dog a full opportunity to be trained. These include:
1. Be absolutely certain to have your dog under
physical control when he is not being trained. (A lose dog presents an obvious
danger to the agitator on the field!)
2. Never take a bitch in season anywhere near the training field without permission of the training director or instructor.
3. When you take your beast off the field after his work, keep him well out of range of other people and dogs, at least until he has had a few minutes to wind down.
4. There is often a lot of equipment, such as the blinds, to haul and set up. Be there to do more than your share without being asked. Do not leave just because your dog has been worked, stay and help clean up.
5. If a guest with another group and there is not a charge, a donation to the equipment fund is appropriate, since sleeves and covers are constantly replaced and are expensive.
6. If your dog has "an accident" clean it up.
7. In warm weather, have enough water on hand (5 gallons) to thoroughly douse an over heated dog. (This may save a life.)
8. Offer the dog water ten to fifteen minutes after he is done working.
9. Constantly monitor dogs in vehicles, as only a few minutes is enough to kill a dog on a warm day.