Training Tactics

Written By: Jim russell

imagesDogs have been used to help people protect themselves and their property since prehistoric times. Trained dogs have been used by military forces the world over ever since the first military units were organized. From these ancient beginnings, the military working dog (MWD) has progressed to a highly sophisticated and versatile extension of one’s own senses. People have yet to duplicate the effectiveness of MWD’s with even the most complex machines. Below are some training observations i have made and i would like to share them with you in case you were not enlightened to them or maybe you just forgot them if you have any dog experience.

 Extreme obedience – This sounds like a harsh title, but it is extreme to the handler not the dog. The handler will be required to actually put a bit of personal effort into training the dog. The first step is for the dog handler to establish a relationship with the dog through a constant close association that includes feeding, grooming, exercise, and play. Only after such a relationship is built can basic obedience training begin for the dog. Obedience training techniques are not significantly different from those used by civilian trainers for personal pets, except the MWDs training never stops.

Patience by the handler is the most important tool in dog training. the handler must be patient but firm and use constant repetition as well as reward and correction to train the dog. The trainer must never lose patience and become angry or irritated because the dog will get confused and be even more difficult to train.

Dogs do not understand ” right or wrong ” by human standards. The desired response is communicated to the dog through reward and correction. When the animal responds correctly it is rewarded with verbal praise and physical petting. If a wrong response is made the reward is withheld.

For most dogs a firm “NO!” and a  jerk on the leash is sufficient correction for most incorrect responses. That is the only form of correction applied; inflicting pain on a dog is detrimental to training.

The training must be continuous, even for the experienced dog. Proficiency training is an absolute must. Dogs that go 30 or more days without a training session often require a complete retraining.

The dog must be trained on and off leash. The dog will be trained in random acts of obedience, which means that the dog will not just train in a designated area, but anytime the handler thinks the dog is not expecting a command the handler will quickly command the dog to sit, lay down, or stay. The commands will also be used in random areas and not just familiar spots. Some examples might be a mall parking area at night, when walking down a dark alley or perhaps on a busy street corner.

As you can see, this type of attention to training might be a little too extreme for some dog owners to actually commit to, but if you want an extremely well  trained dog , then give it a go.

Total Recall – Went to the beach today and saw a few dogs misbehaving, so thought i would include this here. If you want to be able to walk your dog off  leash in a busy area like a beach without her running away and you chasing after her then this tactic will help.

Having your dog see you as leader is the key to teaching instant recall to her. She will not obey you if she does not see you as leader. When you chase her when she runs away from you, the anger and frustration in your voice will only make her stay away from you. She wants to enjoy her freedom before you catch and scold her. It becomes a game of tag as the dog darts every which way as you get closer ( much to the delight of other beach patrons ).   So before you attempt off-leash at the beach or anywhere else, here is how you train Total Recall ( not the movie, but it sounds cool ).

With dog hooked to end of leash ( i use a 30 to 50 foot line, but a 6 foot is fine if it’s all you have ). Squat down to the dogs level and call her to you. Only call her once and if she does not come immediately, use the leash to reel her in like a big fish on a line. Pull her close until she is where you want her to be when called. Once there give her verbal praise and pet her, this is what she gets every time she comes to you. Eventually you will call her and she will come to you without you having to use the leash to pull her in.

Do this training periodically throughout the day. Soon you will be able to unleash your dog and if she strays too far away you call her once and she comes right away. This training when done at a beach which is buzzing with activity teaches the dog to return to you no matter what the distractions are ( aka Extreme Obedience ). Now when people say ” Wow! you have that dog trained well “,  you can say ” Yes, i have Total Recall.

The Name Game – Here is a really simple technique to use right away, and it is often overlooked by most trainers. All you need to do is use your dogs name every time you feed or pet him, it’s that easy. Using his name when you are doing positive things like playing, will give you the ability to call your dogs name and have his attention right away. Do not use your dogs name for any negative reinforcement. You do not use his name when you scold him, he should only think good things are going to happen when you call him to you. As simple as this sounds, it could be one of the most powerful tactics you can use to speed up your training.

Muzzle Attack - The muzzle is worn to protect people not familiar to the dog from getting bit, like the vet or someone helping administer first aid to animal in the field. We used the muzzle for one more reason, the muzzle attack. Patrol dogs were trained to chase a perpetrator and bite and hold him on the arm. This type of training would make them what we called ” Wrap Reliable “, meaning no matter what, the dog would go for the protected arm that was wearing a pad or wrap. If you were the agitator training with the dog and were told he was ” wrap reliable “, you would relax because this was going to be a piece of cake. Now if the handler told you the dog was not ” wrap reliable ” you would worry, as you now hadto read the dog as he was running toward you, and basically feed him the arm wearing the wrap. You also had to be careful he did not decide at any point to release the wrap and try to go for your legs or face. It is important in this case for the dogs handler to have total recall of the dog so if the agitator got in a bad situation, the handler could call the dog back and leash him. A little training trick we used was to muzzle the dog and have the agitator not where a wrap. This would usually result in one of three responses.

1- The dog would immediately try to rip the muzzle off using his paws, in an attempt to free his mouth, so he could bite the agitator, at this time the handler would leash the dog to protect agitator.

2- The dog would run to agitator and attempt to bite him with muzzle on, the dog would be so excited that it did not care about getting the muzzle off, it just went in for the attack regardless.

3- The dog would run up to agitator and run circles around him but never attempt a bite.

So what were we hoping to achieve with the muzzle attack ?

We wanted to see if the dog would attempt to bite an agitator when no wrap was visible, it was a way to see if dog would bite an unprotected arm. You can also try to find a slim wrap and have a person wear it under a loose shirt, then send the dog unmuzzled to see if he will bite the arm even though he sees no wrap. This test will give you some idea if the dog is capable of attacking a person not displaying an arm protector. This is not an exact science, but i suggest if training in aggression you at least try a muzzle attack as it’s so much fun to watch.

The Choke Out – I explain a version of this in the Principals Of Training lesson, but this is a variation that i have used many times. It is effective when the dog will not release it’s bite when biting a human or another dog during a fight. This is a last resort type of maneuver when the dog will not respond to your command to stop the bite. What you are doing is while standing behind your dog, you will reach around with your hand, grab it by the throat, and squeeze the dog’s windpipe till it either releases its bite on whatever it’s biting or until the dog passes out, at which time you will release your hold on the dog’s throat so it can breath normally again. You must have control of the leash as well, so you can move dog away from it’s target. As an added bonus you can use the choke out on another human who may be trying to do you harm. It ends the altercation pretty quickly.




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