Protection Dog Training

Bite-work & Attack Training

by John Rogerson

John Rogerson wrote this article several years at the request of a dog magazine in India - hence the reference to India specifically but you can translate it to any country of the world that you choose because it is easy to translate. For the USA, Japan etc translate the word Cricket Bat to Baseball Bat!

Personal protection training, bitework training, attack training – the facts!

It seems that, particularly in India, there is an increasing interest in either owning a dog that is ‘protection trained’ or even buying a ready trained dog. Is this a good idea and if so how and when should the training be carried out.

Well before I delve into the world of this type of training – commonly called ‘bitework training’ we should first take a look at WHY it is trained. This type of training is commonly used by police agencies and the military around the world as a dog, in the right hands, can be a useful deterrent and can offer the handler a measure of protection against attack. The dog is also expendable and can be used in a situation that is life threatening for the handler where the dog gives up its own life to save that of a person. There are also various competitions around the world such as Schutzhund and Working Trials which include some aspects of bitework.

Next we need to look at the biggest reason that our friend, the dog, is the most legislated against animal in the whole world. The reason for all of the laws which discriminate against dogs can be answered in one word – aggression. Take a look at other countries and you will see breed bans, laws that outlaw owning certain breeds.

At my home in Durham, England we have ten trained dogs that are used in various types of competition, mainly Working trials and six of these dogs are trained in bitework and can lay claim to being some of the best in the UK. What many people do not realise is that the bitework is only one of the many exercises that the dogs are required to carry out in these tests. Most of the emphasis in these competitions are actually on control and not on the biting aspect. The other thing that is often overlooked is that these dogs are actually only trained to bite on a protective sleeve, they are quite definitely not trained to bite people. Experienced competitiors refer to a dog trained on this type of bitework as being ‘sleeve happy’. This means that the dog is only interested in playing a tugging game with a protective sleeve and has no intention of actually biting anyone! This can be proven in the number of times in these competitions that the person with the sleeve on that the dog is apparently attacking, loses his grip on the sleeve and the dog pulls it off. What happens then? Well in the hundreds of times that I have witnessed this the dog normally takes the sleeve back to the handler. I have never seen any dog thus trained actually let go of the sleeve and go in and bite the person who was wearing it! Of course for a police dog this is no use at all so they go through further training with their dogs to make the dog ‘arm true’ and not ‘sleeve happy’.

So before you ever think about protection training with your dog you really do need to understand what it entails. The first thing to understand is that it is the person wearing the sleeve that trains the dog, not the hander. If you, the owner wear a protective sleeve and attempt to train your own dog to bite then who do you think it will end up wanting to bite??? That’s correct – you of course!

You will need to use lots of experts who will put on a sleeve and train your dog – do you know of twenty people who are good enough to do this? This of course is where the police and military trainers have an advantage! Secondly you will then have to enlist the aid of people that you can continue to train your dog on who are NOT wearing a sleeve. How many do you know who will do this for you? Remember that the police have a supply of criminals that they can continue their dog’s bitework training on who do not wear protective sleeves.

Also, with any form of training, to be any good the dog has to practice at least three times each week. Do you have the facilities to do this and the people to help you? You may also find that once you have started this training, because of the excitement it generates in your dog, it may want to start practicing its bitework several times each week on you, your family and friends who come to visit! Is that what you really want?

So how about sending your dog away to be protection trained? What will probably happen is that your dog will be threatened and intimidated into biting by a trainer who is using a protective sleeve. When you get your dog back you will not only have lost a great deal of money but your dog will be altered forever in his trust of human beings and will never return to the dog that he once was. If you are intent on having your dog protection trained by one of the so called professional trainers then ask for a demonstration of how much control they actually have over their own dog(s) when they are off the lead and someone approaches wearing a protective sleeve. It is likely that once the dog sees the sleeve, they lose all control which should tell you that they are not really dog trainers at all. Now, when their dog is biting the sleeve see how easily they can call the dog off. It should release with just one quietly spoken work of command and still wag it’s tail, without cowering away from the trainer.

One of the easiest things to train a dog to do is bite. That is because nature has equipped them with 42 teeth and, once encouraged, they love nothing better. Ask any of the best trainers in the world what is the hardest thing to train a dog to do and they will answer by saying “being able to control a dog when it is about to bite or when it is biting”. It is so difficult to retain control over a trained biting dog that many trainers resort to using electric shock collars or whips to be able to enforce their control when it is they who have created the problem in the first place.

So congratulations, if your dog is protection trained you will feel safer when you are out in public or someone breaks into your house, right? Err, not exactly because I doubt if the person that tries to attack you will be wearing a protective sleeve. How about if someone tries to break in to your property?? Again I am guessing that your dog would bark if someone tried to break in. If your dog’s bark does not put them off and they still break in then you will probably return home to find a dead dog on the floor. I have trained bitework for competitions for over 40 years and have judged these competitions all over the world. So how many competitors including myself have actually used this training in real life situations when the dog has been required to actually protect their owner. The answer may surprise you because the answer is NEVER. I have never used this training in real life and neither has any competition trainer that I have ever met. So, other than for competition training, it is a complete waste of time and effort and requires constant training at least three times each week throughout the dog’s working life.

So where does that leave us with protection training? If you own one of the breeds that has a reputation for any kind of aggression (GSD, Boxer, Doberman etc.,) then most people (especially in India) will think twice before trying to attack you or break into your property. If you also train your dog to bark (but not bite) when you give it a command then that will take care of almost any other situation that you find yourself in.

Remember that once trained to bite, your dog will be eager to bite on a regular basis and may well want to practice his new found skill on you and your family! Once trained in bitework, it is incredibly common for owners to be bitten by their own dogs while the bad guys rarely, if ever, get bitten.

So if you want more personal protection from all the bad guys that are around you every day then buy a cricket bat – more effective than a dog, requires no training, you don’t have to feed it and it is much cheaper to buy plus most Indian men that I have met know how to use one.

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