Archive for Police

Mission statement

Posted in Training Theory with tags , , , , , , , on April 2, 2016 by guy2932

I’ve been training Police dogs for 15 years and at the time felt the need to differentiate myself from other, more traditional Police dog training which contained not only a lot of physical corrections but was also structured in such a way (or not structured) that it was causing many of the problems it was trying to resolve or just not making the most efficient use of time and energy, both commodities in limited supply.

ernie face bw

Whilst there has been much progress in our understanding of dogs and their capabilities in that time, the training methodology is lagging behind. There appears to be a wealth of confusion about what is and isn’t true and hot debates about what is or isn’t an acceptable training technique. Whilst the phrases positive trainer and force free trainer are a nod towards a style of training, there are many trying to use semantics to undermine the efforts. I therefore felt it was time to set out my stall. To explain just what I am looking to achieve.

My aim is to train Police dogs to the highest standards possible in the most humane way possible . I will not sacrifice dog welfare for performance but clearly have standards to meet. I am often under time pressure and so need the most efficient way of training I can find. I am also aware that there are no quick fixes or shortcuts and good foundation training is paramount to future success. Attempts to take shortcuts almost always come back to bite you (literally) and often end up taking far more time to rectify than if you had done it properly in the first place.

My aim is to set the dog up for success and to positively reinforce the behaviours I want. I use careful management to prevent the learning of unwanted behaviours. My aim is to get the dog to want to perform the behaviours I want and to perform them reliably on cue (command). That way he is working with me not against me and it is surprising how much easier that makes things. Most knowledgeable trainers work like this these days.

I am not permissive as many seem to believe. In fact, I am probably one of the strictest  trainers I know in that I am so aware of my rules, of the dogs behaviour and where I am in the training process that I very rarely let anything slide.

Where I deviate from many trainers is when to comes to consequences. All behaviour is affected by the consequences and whilst I make my desired behaviours highly reinforcing for the dog, it is my treatment of unwanted behaviours that often causes people concern or that people can’t quite believe is sufficient to have any reliable effect.

I have attempted quite successfully to remove all physical punishments, pain and threats of the aforementioned methods and maintained the desired standards. In some areas I would say I actually exceed the standard attained by some more traditionally trained dogs especially in relation to self control around bite related elements although this is as much a part of the overall big picture as being attributable to the removal of physical punishment.

The reason I even started trying to remove physical corrections (punishment) was because it was obvious to me that it was responsible for creating a lot of stress in the dog. Stress is a block to learning and so slowed up training but it was also at the heart of nearly all incidents of aggression toward the handler. Many of the dogs subject to such treatment folded under the pressure and were washed out of the training programme. huge amounts of time and effort were lost, looking for new dogs and starting the process again. Others fought back causing harm to their handlers and in more than a few cases, resulting in the euthanasia of the dog.

I now find myself in a position where the structure of our training allows me to train the dog in a way whereby the withholding of rewards and time outs communicated through a conditioned negative punisher (quitting signal) is all that is required. So clearly my training is not positive only as anyone who understands the quadrants knows such a scenario is probably not possible even under the strictest laboratory conditions.

I also use force in that I physically hold my dogs, I put them on a lead and clearly if they lunge or pull I will use what could be described as force to hold onto them. Just as the force of gravity is always upon us, it is impossible to touch another being without that touch technically being force. What I don’t do though is deliberately apply force in a manner that would cause pain or discomfort or rely these methods in training. When I write a lesson plan for training (yes, that is what I have to do), nowhere in the lesson plan will anybody ever be asked by me to administer what would generally be known as a physical correction.

The methods used by the handler on their dog are only part of the picture for Police dogs. The role of the agitators (helpers) are also vital. Whilst close inspection of the training would show that some of the training involving the helper would fit within the negative reinforcement quadrant, the manner of the training is such that the aversive is small enough that the dog is never far from it’s comfort zone. The aim after all is to reinforce the behaviour we desire and not to push the dog into avoidance. In the same way that a trained fighter relishes the chance to pit their training against an adversary, so the aim is to produce a dog with the same attitude. Whilst some may not condone fighting or the use of dogs for law enforcement, they should console themselves in the fact that the dogs are selected because they have the required qualities and combined with appropriate training, scenarios that some dogs would find distressing are to the Police dog the eustress inducing situations that adrenaline junkies work so hard to achieve.

I feel strongly that dogs should be treated with respect and this includes training them in a manner which puts their welfare above performance. This invariably means seeking ways to ensure training methods are as humane as they can be and as such the ethos of all training regimes should be to strip out any training that could be achieved in a less intrusive way. Only by being as professional and ethical as we can be in training dogs for military and law enforcement can we justify placing dogs in harms way whilst they live out their lives in servitude to us.

That’s where I’m at. That’s what I’m trying to achieve. That’s what I’m trying to encourage others to aspire to as well. Ask yourself this question. If you were a dog, would you be happy being YOUR dog?

HierarchyofDogNeeds this one

This great visual by Linda Michaels really captures my approach to living with and training dogs.


Puppy. Week 2

Posted in Training Articles, Training Theory with tags , , , , , , , on March 13, 2016 by guy2932

I had from Thursday evening until Monday morning to get done all the things I usually like to take a week or two to do. Crate train, toilet train, teach isolation, travel and of course bond and get the pup feeling comfortable. Whilst I had less time than usual I know that the early days are the foundations for all future training and development so rather than cut corners I just gave the task in hand my undivided attention. No gym, no out with the boys. Everything was geared around what the pup needed including in the early days letting him out for a wee every 15 minutes and after every play session and whenever the pup wakes.

All this hard work has paid off because we have had only three accidents in the house with the pup now whining if he needs to go out to the toilet. He is sleeping through the night and had my bed not been full of sick kids I could have left him alone sooner than I did.

I needed all this done because once I return to work the routine begins and if the pup can’t travel, can’t be left and isn’t toilet trained it doesn’t take a genius to see the sort of problems I may have to start dealing with (toileting in the crate, anxiety at being left, mat chewing, whining/howling, sickness and drooling, and a general unwillingness to get in the van).


The day starts with the dog going out for a wee as usual. I then scatter fed him whilst I had my shower. I then played tug for a few minutes because he always gets bitey after food. I then smeared some cheese in the dips in the bottom of an egg box. I placed him in the crate with this whilst I sorted out my food and had breakfast. It is all about management and trying to prevent unwanted behaviour. If I don’t occupy himself and you can bet that won’t be a behaviour I want. Barking and biting whilst I try not to wake the rest of the household. This bought me enough time to get ready. Eventually the dog will become more self contained  and I won’t have to bother entertaining him like this. But for now, he is a puppy and needs guidance (benevolent leadership as Linda Michaels calls it in her Hierarchy of dog needs).

As it was everything went well. The journey to work on day one was slightly vocal but soon settled. Arrival back at base obviously reminded the pup of the feelings he had when he arrived there the previous week. He was noticeably subdued but settled within half an hour.  I sat in the back of the van with him on our journey to the training venue and again after some vocalisation he settled. I did give him attention because as I have stated before you can’t reinforce emotions, so if he was scared then the attention would hopefully allay his fears and resolve the problem at root cause. He settled down and I fed him some happen, reinforcing being quiet and hopefully making a good association with the journey. The rest of the week the travel has been absolutely fine and like most of our dogs he will soon start to associate the van with going places and really enjoy it.

Pretty much everything about day 1 was new and so we did very little. It is important to bear this in mind as pups can get easily overwhelmed. I very much try to balance busy days with quiet days to avoid stress trigger stacking and give the pup to regain his composure between exposure. This is how we build resilience.

The week included the first trip to the vets. This is somewhere that it is important the pup have good experience. Later I will teach him to stand and lie for examination as there is no way we will go through life without needing to come to the vets. It is so much easier for the vet and less stressful for the dog if it knows what is expected of it and just as importantly it is comfortable in the environment. Being ill or injured often lowers a dogs tolerance and without training, visits to the vets can become traumatic for all involved. Prevention is better than a cure as Grandma used to say.


The work routine is now well established and I couldn’t be happier at this stage.

A lovely day for training!!





Pup, now renamed as Kylo is very confident. I had an industrial team of tree surgeons working in my garden on Friday and was careful to take him to the front of the house for a wee etc so as to not spook him. He wasn’t bothered though and scratched at the back door to get to them. I let him out and he approached them (chainsaws only going in the trees so no danger). He was not bothered at all.


That being said, all things come at a cost and so we remained home that day and did very little. I entertained him by trying to encourage him to retrieve a ball. He will happily chase anything but only really likes the feel of tennis balls at the moment. I assume this is a texture thing, it is then strange to see him pick up metal objects and carry them. Either way, no concern.

We also spent more time locked in the crate than usual whilst not tired. This is a fundamental change needs to be given some time and attention. Perfect timing as I was home making coffee for the army of tree men anyway. There was some vocalisation but it very much felt like protesting at being locked in. Combined with pushing at the door it was very different from his initial cries when he was distressed at being away from his siblings and then in the next phase, away from me. This is the time to be aware of reinforcing unwanted behaviour.

I know the pup is watered, fed, can cope with being alone for small periods, is familiar with the crate and so wanting to get out of the crate is the most likely explanation. Whilst I am trying not to create a situation where he does this, it is almost inevitable at some point. What was nice is that it lasted only seconds before he settled down quietly watching me. So I let him out. Then a few minutes later I put him back and he lay down straight away. I threw him some ham.

This process has continued over the weekend and I can now confidently leave him locked in the crate whilst wide awake for short periods of time. I will still give him things to occupy him from time to time, especially if he hasn’t done much and is likely to be a bit more energetic (it is still early days and preventing unwanted behaviour is still at the forefront of my mind).

So with the settling in period done successfully and the working week routine established, what a fitting end to the week than a last minute call to go and work the stand at Crufts. Being such a confident little thing I knew he would cope with the crowds but peoples love to tickle a puppy rapidly became too much even for him and when I saw him give a little yawn which can often be a stress signal I rather abruptly announced my departure. It is often necessary to be abrupt when protecting a puppy as people often oblivious to the pups body language and their desires to greet the little furry thing are often strong. Your loyalty is to the welfare of the pup though.

We managed three short visits of around 5 minutes where he coped well, even wanting to get down and explore. As always though, a busy day is followed by a quiet day and today has been a day in the garden biting the kids. Fun for the puppy but not so much for the kids. More on that next time.


Puppy. Day 3. Brothers reunited.

Posted in Training Articles, Training Theory with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2016 by guy2932

Following our 0400hrs wee, the day started in earnest at 0600hrs. Up and out for a wee in the usual spot. This works for me at the moment because I am trying to get into a routine ready for work on Monday. I am aware however that he is always toileting on the same type of surface. In this case it is a pile of leaves/mud under a laurel tree. It is sheltered when raining and he has been using that spot from day 1. I will soon give him the opportunity to toilet in different locations and can encourage this with my classically conditioned “be quick” which if he is able, will help him go. It is easy not to realize that your pup only toilets on concrete or grass, or will only do it at home. Most people don’t give this a thought until they have a problem so I thought I would give it a mention. Police work is all about generalization in terms of dog training and toilet training is no exception.

Breakfast was served at 0620hrs today, in the van as making a good association is still a priority. Slightly earlier again today because I will want him to have his first feed before I leave for work. My trip to work is often shorter than my journey to the training venue and I can use my arrival at work to socialise with the horses, other trainers dogs and all the other novel stimuli that can be found there. After breakfast he explored and I encouraged him to play with a ball of screwed up paper rather than bite my trouser leg. Biting will be an important part of his life and so I do not want to punish or discourage biting at all. I will teach rules later but for now I simply distract and divert onto something more appropriate. This is in essence the ‘dead for live’ routine which we will look at later and is how I will progress the biting but just as importantly the ‘out’. For now though, I simply keep still and make the other item more interesting. Pups are easily distracted at this stage.

At 0730hrs I placed him in the crate and shut the door (the crate in the photo is too small and belongs to my mums dog). He was quite aroused (stimulated not horny) due to his energy burst from food and the games we had been playing. He whined a few times and pushed the door with his paw. He then turned and circled before lying down. I immediately went and opened the door and smoothed him. After a minute I returned him to the crate and shut the door again. He immediately lay down.


When he first arrived home he was in the middle of a trauma and my aim was to do whatever I could to ease his pain. His cries were desperate and answering them was the only course of action that would help. Allowing him to cry himself out would eventually see him be quiet but for all the wrong reasons. Nobody could predict accurately exactly what or how much damage would be done but it is best not to find out. He is now much more settled, sees me as a safe attachment figure and has his crate as a safe haven. He is also looking very comfortable around my kids and in the house generally. He has been very slowly exposed to small but increasing amounts of isolation and so his vocalisation in the crate when I shut the door now was very different. It was short, quiet and nothing like as intense. The crate is his safe haven and on occasions he has voluntarily gone in there and lay down. When I shut the door he gets up and whines.  I see this as being more about the loss of options and choice than an isolation issue as clearly I am right next to him. Whilst I also don’t want to rush this phase or create undue distress by simply locking him in, it is something which I have put time and effort into and is a valuable step. He likes the crate, finds it a safe place and appears to be content in there when he is tired and to sleep in there.

Being placed in there when he is slightly more lively is a similar process but different. I clearly can’t be around to supervise him 24/7 and so need to be able to put him somewhere safe when I can’t even if he isn’t due for a sleep. At this stage the process is quite easy because after about half an hour of adventure he is generally tired if not sleepy. This makes the process of placing him in the crate easier and which is why I like to do it now, as soon as we are past the initial separation trauma.

If you leave it later the puppy will be less easily tired, will have developed the habit of sleeping in other places around the house and will be more wilful and may fight against the process more than he will now.

Just as I initially gave attention in the crate just for going in there, I am now going to repeat the process with the door closed. The intention is to place him in the crate when is tired, after exercise and is less active or with something enjoyable to do. I don’t want him to cry and vocalise or attempt to escape. I want him to want to be in the crate and to enjoy it.P1020004

I will start with just a few seconds if required and build up systematically but as rapidly as I can get away with (remember I am under tremendous time pressure) but never cutting corners. That is a mistake that will cost either you or the puppy at some stage.

Place the dog in the crate, shut the door and wait. If he is quiet and relaxed open the door and fuss him. You can give treats or toys or whatever works. If he is eating his food you can lock the door. Open it before he finishes initially but you can wait until after he has finished but before he makes any attempts to get out.

It is like all other things I have done, I am looking to make the desired habit before any bad habits have a chance to develop.  Whilst this sounds time consuming, I have done it a few times on day 2 and 20+ times on day 3 and the pup is as happy in there now when awake with the door open as he is when he is tired. If I become complacent and leave it too long etc then I am asking for trouble but with the foundation work done, progress is straightforward.

Initially I was in sight and sound of the pup but as I see progress I can move out of sight (even for just a second) bearing in mind I am trying not to create bad habits which in this case would be vocalising or scratching the cage. Initially progress may be in very small increments of seconds and minutes but once you have good foundations, as with house building, progress can then be rapid.

It is worth remembering that dogs are good at learning things in context. Therefore being comfortable and sleeping quietly through the night in the crate doesn’t mean the pup will be happy to spend 8 hours in the crate during the day. The context is different. At night the pup is sleepy. In the day not so much. At night it is dark, quieter and there are less interesting things happening. Being in the crate in the day is a very different context and needs treating as a separate exercise.  Likewise with the vehicle. Whilst the process should get quicker in each new situation, you may need to go through this process in numerous situations before the dog generalises that being left in the crate is a safe and tolerable experience.

Our routine of in the crate, out for a wee, in the van, out for a wee, sleep, out for  a wee continued until 1040hrs when it was time to go on a road trip. We were off to see Paul the handler with Vaders brother to see how he was getting on and it was a chance for the brothers to renew their bonds.


Vader needed no invitation to enter the house and investigate and showed no concerns about meeting Paul’s pet dog. Marshy (his brother) appeared and as you can imagine the reunion was energetic and involved plenty of chasing and biting. So much so that we intervened and took them into the garden. Here he met guinea pigs (already met them) chickens which provided not much more than mild interest and Paul’s work dogs. Vader was pretty much unphased and play soon recommenced with Marshy. Both pups are confident and tenacious and again we called time on their play as they were becoming over aroused and playing in a manner that you will probably only get away with towards your own brother. Whilst this is good experience and they learned a lot about pain (how it feels and how to dish it out) and other communication skills, I am always cautious not to allow it to escalate too far or too often as I don’t want that level of enthusiastic play transferring onto all dogs but more importantly, I don’t want the pup thinking that the most fun in the world can be had with other dogs. His life is now a balancing act between socialising in order for him to be a stable, confident individual around other dogs and being able to work despite the presence of other dogs. Get the balance wrong and he may well prefer to play with dogs if you over socialise or be fearful if you under do it. Get the balance right and the he will be what we call dog neutral which is our goal. Social and able to interact appropriately with other dogs but neither overly excited nor worried by their presence and preferring to work.


Being Mothers day the trip to Paul’s was not our only destination. The car journey from Paul’s to my mums was unsurprisingly a quiet one as the tired pup caught up on some well-earned sleep. Having been fed and toileted in my mums garden it was time to meet yet another new dog. My mums Cavalier is about the same size as the pup and the initial caution on both sides was soon replaced with chase albeit a much more subdued version than with Marshy. No ear biting here which was good.  Some time in the crate with us in the front room was chance for the cat to investigate. Being a Maine coon he was considerably bigger than the pup and a good cat to meet first to instil that ‘don’t chase cats’ attitude. Whilst he didn’t look like he would try, I didn’t give Vader the chance to chase the cat and they respectfully sniffed each other as I held him. I don’t want bad habits developing or eyes being sliced by claws so our initial meeting with the age old rivals was calm and mutually respectful.

maine coon

Having stayed longer than expected Vader came home tired and whilst I made sure he still had some evening activity, by 2330hrs he was more than ready for sleep. So much so that I didn’t hear a peep until 0400hrs when he needed a pooh. Once again he went back in the crate until I got up at 0545hrs ready for work.

It has been a very labour intensive weekend. From the long trip up and back to collect him last Thursday my life has been puppy 24/7. Whilst not everyone will have the time, patience or desire to put this much effort into the first few days, hopefully it shows two things. Firstly that if you do you can achieve results very quickly and secondly it has hopefully highlighted that even if you can’t dedicate your entire life to doing it the way I have, many of the things I have done are required in order to produce a well rounded individual. Whilst it may take more time, there are no corners to be cut. Cutting corners is taking risks and may have consequences for the pups future development and if this pup is to be your future working dog then you are setting yourself up for potential problems for the next 8 years.

One weekend of hard work has seen the pup recover from a major trauma, bond with me and my family, settle in to our home and develop the safe haven of the crate where he can sleep happily and be left for short periods alone. He is toilet trained and is well on his way to being a good traveller. He has met numerous species and encountered an endless list of novel stimuli all of which have been encountered in positive, confidence building way. I have the beginnings of a recall and have started to encourage his interest in ragging various items and chasing and retrieving. We have developed toileting, feeding and bedtime routines.

I have also so far prevented the unwanted habits of toileting in the house, crate and van. I have prevented the separation anxiety from his removal from the litter transferring into his new home. I have prevented him developing the habit of biting me and the kids and diverted his attention onto toys. I have prevented mat chewing, vocalisation and destructive behaviours when left and have prevented the neural pathways to anxiety and stress from forming.

I am now set up for training in earnest with a dog that is confident, secure, is mobile and able to be left for short periods. My priorities are now in shaping the dogs attitudes and behaviour toward becoming people neutral, dog neutral and environmentally neutral.





Impact time again

Posted in News, Training Theory with tags , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2016 by guy2932

It’s that time gain, so smash open your piggy banks and book your spaces now.

Problem solving

Posted in Training Theory with tags , , , , , , , on January 22, 2016 by guy2932

I recently saw a student trying to jump a small ravine by leaving the dog on one side, jumping themselves and then calling the dog over. It didn’t go right and every time the student jumped, the dog jumped. This was repeated about 6 times before I intervened. This isn’t a debate about whether I should have stepped in sooner. This was an experienced handler and I was curious to see if they would break the situation down to problem solve and gain success. At the point it became obvious they wouldn’t I intervened.Image result for dog jumping

I started by asking for the handlers understanding of the situation and expectations in case I had misread the situation. The intention was as I had assumed, to leave the dog on one side, jump and then call the dog over.

Whilst the handler is experienced this is their first contact with me and like any alien encounter there is a degree of fear, suspicion and intrigue and I tried hard to evoke the latter whilst simultaneously subdue the two former. This is vital in my experience in helping handlers crossover from old school handing methods to a new way of thinking. It is hard changing your thoughts and processes when you have been doing things for a long time and what you don’t need is some patronising know it all chipping in from the side lines. Taking that risk though, I waded in.

First we talked about the commands being used and whether the dog understands them. I was assured that the dog ‘knows’ the “wait” command that was being used. We discussed the idea that if dogs don’t perform a command they either don’t understand them or have a more rewarding alternative. From here we established that the dog was quite willing to jump and obviously enjoyed jumping because she was happily jumping from one side to the other as we spoke. The act of jumping needed neither teaching nor rewarding as it was rewarding in and of its self for this dog.

Therefore the issue was connected with the “wait” command. The more rewarding alternative to waiting appeared to be jumping. So does the dog understand the “wait” command? We talked about how that command had been taught and was used. The handler believed it to mean simply ‘don’t do anything yet’. That is quite an abstract concept for a dog to understand and would take a degree of generalisation if the dog stood any chance of getting it. I use a similar command to discourage the dog from taking action but it is limited to certain contexts. My dogs are free to get in or out of the vehicle when the door is open unless I say “wait”. They were initially clicked and rewarded for waiting and then allowed to continue with getting in or out the vehicle. Once understood getting in or out is the reward. I also use it at doorways or gates if I simply don’t want the dog to follow me. The wait is then ended by the (universal) end command. The dog understands this in the few specific contexts that I use it but would probably struggle to understand the concept if I suddenly used it whilst heeling for instance.

In the case of this handler the command was used in a similar way but there had been no real effort to reward the act of waiting and it wasn’t particularly reliable. The dog would often have to be physically blocked from moving forward. This in its self suggests the dog doesn’t understand the command.

The handler also believed that the dog learned the command in static positions where a down or sit command would be followed by a “wait”. I explained that we had taught the dog the concept of down means down until it is given the end command or another command and that this is the concept that the dog understands. The “wait” is obsolete and is a hangover from previous training where there was no end command and no clear way for the dog to know when the exercise was over. In that context the repeated use of wait probably served to help the dog understand not to move and it may have gained a wider understanding of its intended use. With the way we now train the dog isn’t learning any particular meaning to the use of the word wait and if anything it may actually be more likely to be a tertiary reinforcer as it may often be followed by the end command (a secondary reinforcer) even though handlers are not taught and actively discouraged from using “wait” as a command on control positions.

Image result for thoughtful german shepherd

In our scenario of jumping the ravine the dog clearly didn’t understand the use of the wait command AND had a more rewarding alternative therefore repeated attempts were doomed to failure. My solution was to simply use a control position followed by the end command as the dog understands the control positions and the handler jumping the ravine is simply a distraction which should be well within the dogs abilities to ignore. Once safely over the end command would release the dog and the reward would be the chance to jump and join the handler.

If the handler really wanted the dog to understand a “wait” command then it could be done but there was definitely some work to be done before it could be used in that scenario. Whilst this may sound really obvious to some trainers, to others this way of thinking is new. Old school training used to rely on threats and intimidation and an assumption that if you were assertive enough then the dog would just do it. Whilst I’m not saying this handler was using threats or intimidation the concept of breaking behaviours down into small achievable parts and rewarding those before asking for more complex versions is still alien to many handlers. I am constantly encouraging handlers to reward sooner and more frequently. I find younger handlers much more willing to accept this idea and wonder if in some way it is because the old dominance theories of dog ownership and training are starting to finally die out in favour of a better understanding of the relationship between man (kind) and dog. I can but hope.

Can I do bitework with my own dog?

Posted in Training Theory with tags , , , , , , on March 2, 2013 by guy2932

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.get down

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.


If you are not happy with your dog biting you then don’t do it. I am happy and think it is too valuable to not do.

Is biting metal really a good measure of a dogs drive?

Posted in Training Articles with tags , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2012 by guy2932

I am just testing the demand for this article. Please check back soon to see if it has been written.

Differences between a Malinois and a German Shepherd

Posted in Training Articles with tags , , , , , , on August 8, 2012 by guy2932

I am just testing the demand for this article. Please check back soon to see if it has been written.

Retired Police dogs put to sleep

Posted in News with tags , , , on July 8, 2012 by guy2932

There are always myths and fables about Police dogs and what they can or can’t do. It never fails to amaze me when I’m asked if its’s true that drugs detection dogs are addicts. Clearly the substances they are looking for are toxic to them and their health would be severely compromised should they ingest them. Or is the suggestion that we help them to jack up? After all, having no opposable thumbs would mean they need help.

There is always a Police officer somewhere who can’t help but do something to bring everyone else into disrepute and life is no different with dog handlers. There have been numerous incidents over the years that serve to make life harder for those decent handlers. There is also no shortage of people who are unable to see any Police officer as an individual and tar everyone with the same brush.

The fate of retired Police and military dogs has recently come into the media spotlight and so I thought I would add my two penneth to the mix. Check out these two links for starters. Police dogs. Military dogs.

In the UK and certainly in my force area, Police dogs live at home with their handlers. After working so closely with the dogs for 8 years or so you invariably form a close bond. Most handlers tend to keep their retired dogs but there are always reasons why this doesn’t happen.

Search dogs are usually no problem but patrol dogs are a different kettle of fish. It isn’t just about the ‘tricks’ they have been taught. The job requires a certain type of dog and they are are generally high drive, very confident dogs for whom the use of aggression to solve their problems is part of everyday life. These dogs need experienced handling  but there is a lot of differentiation between dogs.

Dogs bred and prepared for life as a working dog are often easier to rehome as they tend to be much more stable. Many of the dogs that become Police or military dogs are gifted from pet homes. They have become too much for their owners or are showing unwarranted aggression. For some, euthanasia is on the cards when they come to the working environment and that is their salvation. The trouble with many of these dogs is that due to their genetic make up they can be switched on but switching them off is not so easy. These dogs are very difficult to rehome because they are often less stable. if the handler can’t keep the dog for some reason then there are few options for such a dog.

Life is often cruel and in some cases there is no happy ending. The best way to rationalize the fate of dogs like these is that they were potentially facing euthanasia  anyway and that they have had a good few years reprieve.

Life for most working dogs is good. They spend their lives doing the things they were bred to do. Using their genetic drives to hunt and chase and spending far more time exercising and being with their handlers than most pet dogs could dream of. You could argue that a premature death after a fantastic life is better than a long drawn out life as a couch potato, where the highlight of your day is a 20 minute trot around the local park.

The figures in the articles in the links fail to give an accurate picture. Without knowing the exact circumstances, then none of us is in a position to make a moral judgement or intelligent statement. From my experience I would say that the majority of dogs are kept by their handlers. Those that need to be are rehomed to game keepers or anyone looking for a dog that is slightly more useful than your average Shepherd. There seems to be no shortage of willing volunteers. There are also occasionally dogs for whom in order to protect everybody involved, euthanasia is the safest option.

If you have a working dog that is due to retire then perhaps this link will be of interest. It is for the Bravo working dog rescue.

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.