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Puppy. First full day

Posted in Training Articles, Training Theory, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2016 by guy2932

Having awoken in the early hours and settled to sleep with me rather than in the crate, I felt the bond was developing well. The pup who has now been named Vader by his handler to be, was clearly drawing comfort from my presence in stark contrast to the journey home. If you want to read about the journey home and first night click HERE.

As is the case whenever he wakes our first stop was the garden for a wee.  Not after breakfast, or after I have sorted myself out. Immediately. My crocs are by the back door and my jacket on top of his crate. Shoes on, jacket on and out. Reassuringly he went straight to the area of the garden we have been using and started to wee. I took the opportunity to continue to make the association and repeated the phrase “be quick” AS he was weeing. Once finished I praised him and allowed him time to investigate.

05.03.16 exploring garden

To date we have had only one accident in the house and the moral of the story is when he is squeaking constantly, don’t ignore him and carry on reading Facebook, get up and let him out!! Having learned my lesson we have continued our success with toilet training. I give him the opportunity every time he wakes, after eating, after playing and around every 15 minutes from the time we arrived home. This has two benefits. Firstly it prevents unwanted habits like weeing in the house which in turn makes less cleaning and secondly it develops the correct habit and helps to familiarise him with the new environment and routines. The sooner he habituates to the new environment the sooner he will feel more relaxed.

As he gets older and I become more familiar with his habits, I can predict more accurately when he is likely to need to go and will have the advantage of being able to influence to some degree the process, by use of my classically conditioned “be quick”.

I generally like to take a week or two off work so that I can concentrate on getting things right from the start but I am back to work on Monday so have just three days to bond, habituate to the home, toilet train, habituate to my van and travel and teach isolation for around an hour. The ability to get a good nights sleep would be a welcome bonus.

To this end the crate training continues. In the crate, fuss, out the crate and repeat. If he falls asleep somewhere else I scoop him up and place him in the crate. I frequently return to smooth and provide reassurance. This is working well and he is frequently returning to the crate either to sleep or sometimes just to check in (safe haven from which exploration takes place much like the den in a wild animal).

05.03.16 sleeping in crate

He is given an opportunity to investigate the house and garden. At this stage EVERYTHING is new and cautious behaviour is inevitable. Don’t panic. This doesn’t mean your dog is weak or scared. It is perfectly normal, age and situation appropriate behaviour. I let him investigate at his own pace and he merely returns to me if he is unsure (safe attachment figure from where exploration takes place like the mother figure in a wild animal). Each time he ventures slightly further afield.

Now is also a good opportunity to work on recall. He generally follows me everywhere but when he does venture is aware of where I am. When he looks to check in I crouch down, clap and call “Vader come”. I am already adding the cue because I have done this enough to know that his response is pretty predictable. When he arrives I fuss him and then he ventures off. At the moment I don’t really worry about food or toys as a reward. He is responding to being called which at this age is a natural response. I’m not his mother and neither one of us thinks I am but I am his primary care giver and as such can take advantage of this inherent response to my advantage.

As his confidence increases and it is increasing by the hour, he will be less willing to return merely because I call. I will soon need to start thinking about food or when I have got his interest in one a ball or favourite tugger.

He is eating although not huge amounts and I am feeding either in the crate or in the van to make a good association. Remember the van is associated with the trauma of the journey home and so extra work is required to undo this bad association. We are making a trip to the van around every 2 hours and literally spending a few seconds in there or minutes if he is eating.

His first full day at home is about setting up routines, getting to know each other and habituating to the new environment. I have no guests over to see the new arrival. No parties, no day trips, no taking him down town to socialise, no DIY. Everything is about the puppy.  Every minute spent getting it right now will save months of training to rectify faults, ensures the dog recovers from the separation trauma as quickly as possible and prevents further damage when the time comes to leave for work on Monday. Future you will be thankful to the effort you put in now (that’s a Bill and Ted reference for you film spotters).

The first full day was busy but successful. He is actively going in the crate and out to the toilet area. He is bonding well and generally looks much more relaxed. During the morning he was actively investigating but occasionally whining. Even when sat with me he would whine. The afternoon was very different. He was noticeably less vocal, more playful and ventured further afield. Only one toilet training accident and lots of good experiences in both the crate and the van.

By the evening I was tired and got a little slack. Sat down watching a film with my wife I was aware that the pup was sleeping ALL evening. I just couldn’t motivate myself to play with him any more or to take him out other than for his regular wee trips. Whilst he clearly needed the sleep interrupting him occasionally would have set me up better for the night shift.

Sure enough bedtime came with whole new vigour for life and I ended up spending an extended period in the garden letting him explore (working at night is on the to do list so another tick in the box). I settled him into his crate and then listened to his vocalisation that seemed to say “I told you so”. A case of past me not looking after future me’s interests!

He did settle after a few minutes but woke at 0100 hrs wanting a wee. I again let him sleep on the sofa with me and we drifted into a peaceful sleep dreaming of catching baddies!



Positive Police Dogs now on twitter

Posted in News, Uncategorized with tags , , on July 15, 2015 by guy2932

At last I’ve joined the modern age. Follow us on twitter @Pospolicedogs

Taliban capture military dog

Posted in News, Uncategorized with tags , , on February 7, 2014 by guy2932

It was originally thought that the dog was an American dog but the latest news suggest it was a British SAS dog, captured in a raid in December. It is not known what has happened to the dog since the video was made public. To view the video, click here.

For the latest story from Sky news click here.

Self control

Posted in Uncategorized on December 7, 2012 by guy2932

Anyone can train a dog to bite. Some people even manage to do it without even trying. What is slightly more difficult is getting them to do it on command. Slightly harder than that is only doing it on command. Slightly up the difficulty scale is only doing it on command and then coming off the bite on command as well.

There are lots of people who do manage this. There are far fewer that manage to do it without using punitive methods as that requires far more knowledge, skill and a very different attitude towards training dogs.

The problem with more traditional methods involving punitive methods is that you have what I call imposed control. The dog only does it because you make it. It stems from the attitude that I am the master and my dog is my slave. Therefore it should do as it is told. This then leads to punitive methods to enforce the command even if punitive methods weren’t used to train the behaviour in the first place.P1000655

My approach is very different. I am not the master but I am in charge. By the very nature of the fact that I control everything about my dog’s life I am in a position of power over the dog. I try very hard not to abuse this power and to build a relationship based on mutual understanding and trust. To use physical force on my dog in any situation other than to defend myself against him would be an abuse of that power and trust. If I have a relationship built on mutual understanding and trust then there is no reason why I would ever need to defend myself and so never need to use force.

If a given behaviour is reinforced (not to be confused with the word enforced in any way) then it will remain a behaviour that occurs. If it is placed under command (cue) control then it should only appear when cued (commanded). If the behaviour is practiced in the face of distractions and the reinforcement value is sufficient then that behaviour will be performed reliably in the face of the distractions to which you have exposed it.

If you don’t train it then don’t expect to get it. There are no shortcuts when it comes to training behaviour in dogs. As long as you reinforce the behaviour you want you will get the behaviour reliably. If your dog doesn’t perform reliably then one of two things has gone wrong. Your dog either doesn’t understand the command (this can include understand it in the context in which you are asking for it – new location for instance) or it has a more rewarding alternative. This could include doing something more fun like bitching instead of searching for property but could also include doing things to relieve an emotional state such as whining to unleash tension.

This brings me on to the point of this article. Teaching a behaviour and reinforcing it to ensure it is reliable is how I get my control. Others will punish failure to comply and that is how they get their control. This is what I call imposed control. It is limited to behaviours where the handler is present to admonish and to behaviours to which the dog has the physical self-control to do anything different.

Placing the dog in the sit at home and asking the dog to wait whilst his food is placed on the floor may be well within the dogs capabilities. If the dog gets up the handler can admonish and withhold the food until they get compliance. Asking that same dog to sit quietly whilst the helper runs away in front of the dog and you shout the challenge and preamble prior to sending him for his favourite task of chase and detain may not be quite so easy. No amount of imposed control can keep the dog in that sit if the dog doesn’t have the self-control it needs to manage its own impulse control. A lead will physically stop him going and shouting, screaming, slapping and checking may go someway to ensuring he doesn’t actually get up but it will come at a cost. The dog will be in conflict between what it wants to do and the fear that doing it will have undesirable consequences. It is this fear that will keep him there. That is the essence of imposed control; fear of the consequences. That fear and conflict will create stress which may lead to hyperactivity, displacement behaviour, stress releasing vocalizations etc.

For me this is unnecessary and is again a breach of trust between dog and handler. Not only that but the act of sitting in those circumstances will only be reliable whilst the handler is there and the threat to the dog is real. You will constantly be battling against your dog over this issue. Exercises that require similar self-control but where the handler isn’t close will never be reliable. Exercises such as the standoff, person search and leaving the bite.

These exercises require not only that the dog understand the command and be reinforced for performing the required action but that he has the self-control to be able to carry them out. Self control is much easier for dogs who are calm and much harder for dogs that are fearful or stressed. For them their emotional state becomes the driving force. So by adopting a positive reinforcement based training regime we can eliminate handler and training induced stress. There are numerous exercises we can do to ensure the dog knows the commands and is tuned in to the right command and not just reacting to environmental cues and starting on any old word you utter.

The aim with this method of training is to get the dog to want to do the things you want him to do. That way he will be working with you and not against you. The self-control exercise that I run to help dogs with their self-control during bitework has numerous other benefits too. It ensures the dog understands the rules of engagement, it really helps to tune the dog in to the bite command but most importantly it teaches and rewards the dog for showing self-control around bite exercises. The difficulty level is increased gradually in line with the dogs self-control.

Only by using methods like this can you achieve full control of your dog because he is 50% of the team and if he has no self-control, you don’t have full control.

A more detailed explanation of the drills mentioned in this article can be found in Positive Police Dogs: Patrol Dog 2. Check out Positive Police Dogs: Philosophy too to make sure you understand the principles involved.

My dog won’t leave his ball!

Posted in Training Articles, Uncategorized on November 5, 2012 by guy2932

You chose your dog because it has high prey drive. You do everything you can to bring that drive to the fore during every exercise so that like the ‘Ever Ready’ bunny, your dog will keep going and going with a real intensity.  You train using primarily motivational methods and use a ball to reward but there is an infuriating problem. Your dog won’t give up the ball on command.

This is a surprisingly common problem and ranges from the dog that will run off and not come back to the dog that gives up most of the time but seems to forget the command when the excitement level rises making the “out” unreliable.  This doesn’t always extend to bitework but is generally a sign that there is a chink in your armour that may well start to appear under pressure if left untreated for a prolonged period of time.

This article looks at the issue and one solution to it – the two ball routine. To understand the principles in more detail you can purchase Positive Police Dogs – Philosophy.


To get the dog to want to give the ball up to you

The issue

The dog wants to play tug/chase/retain possession. Any conflict from you, attempts to snatch the ball, physically remove or fight the dog to get the ball are examples of you playing the dogs game. Any examples of the dog dropping the ball or swapping one for another are examples of the dog playing your game.

Avoid conflict. This will work against your aim of getting the dog to want to give the ball to you by reinforcing his game of tug. The ball is valuable to the dog because we use it to stimulate his prey drive. Prey drive is a life-preserving trait and this is why this issue is more prevalent in high drive dogs. Threats and violence have to be extreme to overcome a life-preserving trait and may need to be life threatening to be effective. This clearly goes against our ethos of dog training and would invariably have serious detrimental consequences to your relationship with your dog.

1st things 1st

The dog must understand the rule that it cannot take the ball from you unless it is given permission. Hold the ball in sight of the dog. Any attempts by the dog to take it should be met with your “aagghh” command and the ball removed from the dogs reach. Eventually the dog will give up attempting to snatch the ball from you. Consistency is paramount to permanence in establishing this rule. When you first see the dog resign himself to not snatching you will see him sit, lie down or just stand there staring at you. Reward this behaviour. It is the behaviour you want.

Setting up the “aagghh”

Hold your hand out towards the dog with a piece of food. When he goes to take it say “aagghh” and withdraw your hand so he doesn’t get the food. Repeat until you see the dog resign himself to not taking the food. Then offer the food and give your end command. Repeat several sessions of this exercise until the dog understands the concept.

Repeat at doorways. Open the door slightly and as the dog goes to charge through say “aagghh” and close the door (be careful not to trap noses or paws). Repeat as above until your dog resigns himself to the situation. Then reward with food or by allowing him through the doorway.

Repeat the above drill with the ball.

Two ball routine step 1

Throw the ball for the dog. As he is on his way back show, move, prepare to throw the second ball. When the dog spits out the first ball, throw the second – rewarding the act of giving up the ball. Pick up the dropped ball and repeat. You are looking to get a good rhythm of throw- fetch-prepare to throw – spit -throw – fetch etc.

Warning!  Most problems arise when trying to end the routine and they then creep into the routine its self.

Dummying (pretending to throw) and then picking up both balls to end creates suspicion in the dog and reluctance to spit out on return or to pick up the dropped ball immediately.

Standing on the dropped ball and attempting to pick it up can lead to mugging, foot scratching and digging at your feet and the grabbing of the string which then leads to an issue leaving the ball if the dog has hold of the string.

Some people try to end the game by saying “leave” and trying to take the ball. If the dog would leave on command then you wouldn’t be doing the two ball routine. This simply dirties your leave command and goes against your aim by playing the dogs game.

How to end

Food – some dogs will give up the ball for a tasty treat (not their everyday food)This rewards the dog for leaving the whole aim of the routine) and ends the routine cleanly. Not all dogs will go for this though.

Time – allow the dog to keep hold of the ball. Let him have a wander, lie down or carry for a while. This is often all it takes for some dogs to either give the ball to you if you try to take it or some will proactively come and drop it at your feet. Allowing things to calm down often opens up other options such as food as stated above.

Another command – If you have a strong “down” command then you may be able to take hold of the rope on the ball as you give the command. The dog has to let go in order to carry out the command. When he does, praise, give your end command and reward.

Put the dog back in the van – Allow the dog to carry the ball back to the van. Many will simply give it up and get back in the van. If not then use your command to tell the dog to get in the van as you hold the rope. The dog will have to let go to comply with the command. If you don’t have a command to get in the van then make one. Make it rewarding and ensure you reward the dog immediately if he does let go and get in the van.

Alternatively allow the dog to get into the van with the ball. After a few minutes allow him out to play some more. If the dog left the ball in the van, that’s fine. If he picks it up the simply hold the rope and invite him out, ensuring the ball stays in your hand in the van. If he needs more enticement to come out the verbally encourage him, use food or throw another ball. Getting in and out of the van by giving and receiving balls could become a fun routine for your dog. When it is a strong behaviour you can use your “in the van” command if the dog refuses to let go of the ball in future. As the command gets stronger you can use it further and further away from the van. Practice it in different locations.

Step 2

Increasing the time gap and reducing the ‘lure’ of the second ball. Keeping the same rhythm you need to make less obvious gestures with the second ball and increase the time gap between the spit and the throw until you have no obvious movement to entice the spit and a 2 second gap between the spit and the throw.

Step 3

Make moves to get the dropped ball. Make slight movement towards the dropped ball and throw the 2nd ball as you do. If the dog goes for the dropped ball you have gone too far too fast. Keep making greater movements until you can touch the dropped ball. Bend throw, bend throw etc.

Step 4

As soon as you can pick up the dropped ball, throw it immediately. Protect the dropped ball with your “aagghh” command if they make an attempt to grab it and distract by throwing the other ball. It should soon be the norm for you to pick up and throw the dropped ball.

Warning! Keep the second ball handy at all times and use it if ever things show signs of slowing up, ball retention etc. Progress is generally in a two steps forward, one step back approach. Progress too fast and you will develop a fault. Get the timing wrong and you will develop a fault. Once faults become habits you have increased the time it will take to cure the problem.

If you are confident in your abilities then make the association and add your “leave” command as you go. Otherwise it is best to do the above routines with the “games, no names” philosophy. Do the above routine until you have it consistent. Then go back to the beginning and add the command word as the dog leaves (and you make your actions) to make the association (step 1). Then say it before the dog spits (and before you make any actions) and look for compliance (step 2). You are looking for the dog spitting out upon hearing the command rather than doing your actions. This shows the dog understands the command. Open the time gap between command and actions until it is the word alone that causes the spit. You should already be able to pick up and end the routine.

If the dog ever refuses to give up the ball from this point then end the session. Do not get drawn into conflict – this will undermine all your hard work. Do not assume that understanding a command equates to a willingness to comply. This is connected to your reward schedule/level. Perform the two ball routine as a maintenance routine to keep your leave command fast and strong. More importantly, if it is consistently going wrong seek help sooner rather than later. It may be a simple problem. Even simple problems that have a long history of reinforcement can be difficult and time-consuming to address. A stitch in time saves nine as Granny used to say.

Belgian Malinois. try before you buy.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2011 by guy2932

I just spotted this great article called Belgian Malinois. Look but don’t touch. It is aimed at dissuading the general public from buying them as pets and i would whole heartedly agree but would also go further. They are also becoming popular in law enforcement circles too but they aren’t for everyone.

 It seems the higher the drive of the dog, the more handler sensitive the dog is. This certainly seems to be borne out by the mali’s I have seen. They don’t cope well with harsh methods and can become flighty and snappy. They struggle with self-control issues and can get confused very easily. They are best suited to calm, consistent handlers who understand the positive/scientific methods. There are no short cuts to training these dogs and they don’t generalise as well as the German shepherd. The flip side is they are able to discriminate very well and can be single-minded when it comes to the job in hand. My current dog is as sociable as you could hope for a police dog to be but can be switched on and off again in a split second. This is great when you are used to this style of working but most shepherd handlers will be used to a dog that reacts more spontaneously. It is a case of horses for courses and my advice would be to get as much experience of the breed before you commit to 8yrs on the street with one.

Check out this link to see what they can be like from puppy hood.

‘Positive Police Dogs: Philosophy’ now available

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 9, 2010 by guy2932

At last you can get your hands on the long awaited book ‘Philosophy’, the first in the Positive Police Dogs series. Click Hereto go to the shop.