Can I do bitework with my own dog?
This is a question I often hear debated. The short answer is yes. All the preliminary work with ragging, teaching the rules of engagement around ragging and all the developmental stages of bitework up to and including full running bites can be performed on yourself.
The dog can learn so many things by doing this and it is a perfect way to prepare him for working on the helper. It is also more convenient if you don’t always have access to reliable help. You can expose the dog to new and novel stimuli whilst working on yourself and also branch out into other areas such as person search and standoff.
What you cannot do very well is introduce the dog to any real threat. The dog either won’t perceive you as a threat or if he does, you run the risk that you will damage your relationship and the dogs confidence.
I have always found that a game of rough and tumble is great fun with my dogs, it gets them used to being man handled and so is not a shock to them when they experience it from someone else and it makes them resilient to my voice and actions. This is important because although I try to be a calm, consistent handler, I am human and sometimes lose my rag, shout, get frustrated or act in some other way which is probably not beneficial to dog training. being used to playing games like this makes them resilient to my human failings.
A concern that is often raised is whether this opens the doorway t being bitten by your own dog in confrontations or other high stress situations. As long as the dog is learning the rules of engagement I have found it more to do with the individual dogs genetics. Those of the weaker nerved variety will redirect under pressure and there is nothing you can do to stop that other than prepare them properly for the job in hand and try to maintain an outlet for their stress. stronger nerved dogs are less likely to redirect despite you doing any prey driven bite work on yourself.