K9 Talk by a K9 Trainer – Part 4

PUPS

This time I will talk about the pro and cons of starting with a pup.

First the Con’s
There are many unknowns. Is the pup the type of dog that you were hoping for when he or she is matured? Will there be health issues later in time? Can you get through the fear-period’s which might pop up in the pup growing up?

And time.
Starting with an 8 week old pup means that it takes at least 14 months before the dog is ready for some hard working on the street, and is still not matured enough to deal with some stress like a real fight. (for a multipurpose police dog). This is at least 13 months of having a dog in training and taken care of.

Time is money……..

But now the Pro’s.
I am a trainer that likes to reach the 100% level or at least close to it. Not saying that 100 % is the same for every dog, no 100% for that dog in question. Example: If I train a dog tracking I want that the dog does it with everything he or she has. The dogs must want to make the find even more than I do. If the dog finds out that tracking is on the menu then I want to see drive popping up almost beyond control. (not to be confused with hectic).

That is 100% performance for that dog.

To be able to reach that, starting with a pup is almost a must. Or at least if you want to reach that on a regular base and not too much hits and misses. Carefully selecting out of the known genepool’s and raising the little dog in environments the same as the future workplaces is an almost unbeatable start. Here at the beginning of development of the instincts and the drives of the dog we can bend the instincts to our own usefulness. Then let the drive take over and the dog is almost training himself. Yes, I am not talking about sit, down and heel. I talk about tracking, detection and apprehension.

Of course it needs trainers that have endless patience and know how to let the little dog experience no pressure of “have to” on a to early age. Hence if you do it correctly the dog won’t ever feel it as “HAVE TO” but as ”I WANT IT”, “try to stop me if you can”.

Yes, it takes time and money. The dog will be expensive if we look at the age compared with kennel dogs at the same age. But if you look at level of training and age the dog is cheap. Think about how much service life this dog is going to give you. Cheaper than the kennel dog for sure, it’s just a normal calculation.

THE OUT,

Many, many, many questions I get about the out. Or better said does not out.

First of all congratulations you most probably have a dog with possession drive . A sub drive from prey drive.

If we look at nature then it is totally unheard of for a wild dog/wolf to let go what he just conquered or killed or just is about to kill. This is instinct to survive.

And we humans want to fight this against instinct. Even worse we demand it from dogs that are in the upper scale of the ranks and that are bred for their natural extreme high prey drive.

The only way to get a descent out and save the drive is exchange for something better. Like change the sandwich for a steak.

All the rest has drive killing in it. You have to trade the steak for a sandwich or else………. Or I say the word (out) and correct you off the steak and you have to settle for a sandwich. Or I say the word (out) and if you don’t all hell brakes loose on you. Endless combinations we have.

But it’s painful as drive is killed and handlers get bitten.

I am not saying it can’t be done. If there is a good build-up in the exercise on an early stage so the dog doesn’t see it as a conflict then it doesn’t have to be a problem.

But very often you see dogs more worrying about the handler coming towards them then the decoy/steak. While the handler coming in should be a ”Ha my buddy is coming to help me out”.

For me the answer lays in why work against nature. But that is something for next time…

K9 Talk by a K9 Trainer – Part 3

This time I’ll discuss the pros and cons of dogs out of the dog sports. First of all: the whole reason WHY we have the dog sports (with bitework included in them). To begin with, I see them as an absolute plus. With this I mean the origin of the sports, which was to test dogs on their workability on all fronts for breeding purposes , like IPO and Schutzhund (the origin of IPO) and the ringsports. Or as preselection for police dogs in the Netherlands: the KNPV. This provided us with all the nice, high driven dogs. The sports also provided us with out-of the-old-fashioned-box thinking regarding training (a positive vibe).

So that’s all Pro.

Now the Cons.

The sports have point systems. And we humans want to compete, we want to be better than the other one. Some examples:

So a dog that retrieves happy and full of power is not good enough. The dog needs to be fast hold the dumbbell firm without movement in his bite. He needs to hold it this way when he sits in front of us and let go of it when we say so. All very much like a machine. In ring sports and KNPV we ask the same thing but with all objects that need retrieving. To make this happen we totally disregard the natural retrieving skills of the dog. Think of forced retrieve. Think of 4 months of back-chaining to get to a ‘perfect’ retrieving exercise (pure art that is). But it has nothing to do with the dog’s will to retrieve: we made it an obedience exercise.

As for bitework, in every sport this is based on pure prey drive of the dog. We want full, deep bites without movement (KNPV is an exception, although this is changing too). None of them have any form of aggression in there. In Schutzhund ,IPO and some ringsports it even costs points if the bite is not full.

So what do you think we do? We TRAIN for that.

Nowadays it even goes as far as training a forced retrieve. Feeling bad when the dog is not deep or steady in the bite (pressure on the dog). So there goes the natural deep prey bite caused by proper genetics. Not saying that there are no dogs with this natural deep bite, just saying you need to look really well to see if it’s real or man-made. And yes, the judges want to see a form of aggression these days during the bark and hold. But not too much in de bite (no, then it has to be in prey). So the dog has to be aggressive, yet sitting still not touching the decoy. So we create a ‘looks aggressive’ dog that is not dangerous at all for the decoy. You can see it clearly on the training field were the decoys have no problem with slipping the sleeve and walking away from the dog even when the dog is loose. Not something you want to do with a dog that wants to bite the man and not a dead prey item.

Now about tracking. As I already mentioned in part 1, the difference between sport tracking and the tracking done to find a person or lost article (evidence) is so big that it’s not even comparable.

The training is totally different and the outcome even more so. Sport tracking is about obedience in nose work and far less about the nose work itself. You may disagree but in my way of thinking, if you want success in difficult situations you need a dog to be eager to find instead of an obedient dog. In reality the result is what counts, not the tracking picture.

So is sports bad? No it’s full of nice training mythologies, that show that we can train a dog such a way that we can score the highest points. It’s an art that tells a lot about the trainers. They can make the average dog a winner.

And that’s a problem sometimes as well.

Now the outcome of sport-certification says more about the trainer than the dog. The winner of a competition is not always the dog to choose for your breeding. The winner might as well be an average dog and not the best pool of genetics. Who do you think a lot of breeders choose for their breeding? The winner, or the unknown dog that is too strong to be trained in sports?

So look really carefully at the parents when you choose your pup. Choose for genetics and not for the points if a strong working dog is needed.

Now for the cons of a half trained or fully trained sport dog. A sport dog is not pre-trained to become a good working dog in real life. First of all they all( well most of them) are trained in very controlled manner and always in the same environments (training field or ring). So this says nothing about how the dog will be in the middle of the city or a building, to name just two scenarios.

Yes, you can test that, no problem. The real con is that the dogs are imprinted with the sport training. For example, a good and high in points certified KNPV dog never learned that it’s fun to search for small articles (it was never about the search but about the obedience). So, at the age 2,5 years, we want him to track (which he has never done before) or search with a clear mind. But the dog is imprinted with a bad feeling if ‘search’ is the command.

That hardly ever goes away. The dog is in conflict as soon he knows that he has to search. You see the conflict in the dog by his constant running in circles to nowhere land.

So can these dogs ever track? Yes, it can, but the dog needs time and a good trainer that knows how to deal with this. Does the conflict completely go away? No, it’s imprinted in the dog, you see it rising to the surface when the dog gets in trouble on the track and switches back to his basic behaviour (imprinted behaviour). The handler needs to recognise it and act accordingly.

And there are many more examples like this, were it shows that dogs with an sports history need handlers and trainers that know how to deal with this. Or one has to simply accept that it’s never going to be 100% in times that you need it. But do ALL sportdogs have a problem? No ofcourse not because not all trainers put so much pressure on the dog. If you know the trainer and the dog then the surprises are minimum.

You at least know your starting point.

With all this being said about dogs from sports or from unknown origin, it’s going to be even harder if you don’t know where the dog came from or you don’t know his or her history (sports or big kennel). You are building a house on an unknown foundation. Trial and error, if the foundation is strong enough on the spots that matter.

I guess it’s a matter of taking the risk or not…

Next article will be about Puppy training and high driven dogs and the out problem. One of the most asked questions…

K9 talk by a K9 trainer – Part 2

To understand the loss in not going for a pup but instead for a “green” dog we need to know that first of all that its hard to get a totally green dog.
Green in my book means a dog with no prior training.
We want green because we want to put the odours on the dog so we have control of how we want establish the foundation for detection.

So no errors from other trainers( contaminated scents for example)

That the dog has prior bite work foundation seems not to be the problem for most trainers. And yes it gives speed to the bite built-up.
It clearly says that the dog bites and in what manner( deep ,calm ,suite ,sleeve)

Tracking ,rarely any green dog has experience in tracking
As real tracking is not a part of any sport.
You must know that IPO tracking is not what I call real tracking.
IPO tracking is an High obedience scent work exercise with ground disturbance as target scent.
I am not saying its bad ,I am saying that for a real police dog it’s a not the proper foundation for tracking.
But if you live in an area with only nice fields and criminals only run on a walking pace with forging their feet deep in the ground than no problem!!

So lets talk about were the green dogs come from.
Most of them( not all) its either the dog sport or out of kennels that specialise in green dogs.

Small kennels that breed in a proper way and guide the pup towards his adult life in a controlled and purposeful manner are by far my favourite.
You need to know the people that manage the kennel and they for sure point you to the dog you want to test for your purpose.
To bad that most of the kennels are not in environments were you want your dog to work in so environmental there can be surprises but for the rest its up to you as a trainer
And then we have the green dog producing kennels.
Like 400 dogs to choose from.
How do they ever get so many dogs, you must ask yourself.

And how are these dogs being raised if they started their life in such a place. Not saying that every dog that comes from such a place is bad.
But for sure that sometimes you are buying something unknown.
For me its to high volume of dogs to be good.

Big buildings full with kennels with dogs that are only trained (if you can call it that) to be ball happy and bite a sleeve.
The place were frustration gets confused with drive.
Its all up to how well you can test the dog ,no help from anyone that puts you in the right Direction.

This are the places were people go that HAVE TO deliver 10 dogs per month because that’s in the contract , and they cant find any elsewhere.

I understand that its business for some but it starts to lean in the direction of a nasty business.
More like quantity over quality and let the trainers and departments in need for a green dog play some kind of Russian roulette.
A lot of money is just wasted because the dog ( that was maybe even cheap as in price) was not what we thought it was and you can test only so much.
Now you got a dog not fit for the job intended.
Or it can do only 75% of its task ( seen dogs that not even do 50%)
I hear you say ,its about how much time you spend in training.
But a dog scared in a scenario that changes constantly ( police dog) cannot be trained out of the dog.
Its not fair to the dog and to the officer.
The dog cant handle the situations and is in constant stress.
The officer has the feeling of walking around with an empty gun.

Would you want to be in his shoes??
Next time we talk about green dogs out of Sports like IPO,KNPV, Ring sports and so on.

K9 talk by a K9 trainer – Part 1

A series of small articles about K9 training, selecting, breeding and just talk…

I am one of those guys that can’t stop thinking and/or talking about dogs. It’s always on my mind in one way or another. That’s why I think that at some point in time, I saw the big picture about dogs and dog training.

Or at least I thought I did…

It’s very dynamic and sometimes I need to adjust my thinking. No dog is the same and when you think you’ve found the golden rule another dog comes around the corner and throws you of your feet.

So are rules non-existing in dog training? Yes and No.

First of all, let’s call them guidelines. Rules are something you cannot go around. But you need to be able to sidestep or even think completely out of the box. If you can’t then in my eyes dog training is not for you.

So guidelines it is. They give you more freedom to do this and even encourage you to not take a ‘follow the manual’ approach but the ‘think for yourself’ way.

There is one absolute rule by the way!

Inflicting heavy pain to a dog tells more about the so called trainer than about the dog.

The right dog for the job!

This line says it all I would say. Simple and very true.

But how do you get the right dog? That’s the golden question, and it has everything to do with breeding, selecting, raising and/or testing in a proper and planned way with the intended job in mind. It all starts with breeding, but most of the time that’s out of the trainer’s hand.

I say most of the time. Sometimes I am lucky and have some say in in this. Let’s say that if we cannot have any control in this, then the guessing already starts there. Guessing is bad, as it’s a black part of the foundation you are going to build on. NOT saying it’s disaster waiting to happen, not by any means, but it can give nasty surprises. Probably the whole reason most trainers/departments and so on simply decided to skip this completely and start of with the “green” dogs. Dogs that were set aside until the adultness sets in and you can test the gaps in their temperament.

So is this the way to do it? For me no.

But I understand why this is being done on such a large scale. It takes some guessing out of it and because the dog can grow up on someone else’s expense it MIGHT be cheaper.

But there is also a big loss. So big that it’s hard to ignore. To Be Continued…