Having a dog that bites well is paramount to having a good protection dog or Police K9. We want dogs that bite the man, not clothes or other distractions that may be present. We want dogs that hit hard without fear. Building a solid bite foundation helps the dog become the dog that we want.
Here are 5 tips you can use that will help your dog bite better, whether you are in the bite suit, wearing a sleeve or working with a tug toy. These are tips that I’ve learned along the way and I am sure some of you will find some good information here. To the others that don’t agree they will find anything just skip to number 5, you’ll love that tip!
Tip 1: Use The Right Equipment
I don’t think there is enough emphasis put on the equipment trainers use. I consistently see trainers using old worn out, ineffective and even the wrong equipment. For example trainers who utilize a bite suit that is too big for them, or those using a hard sleeve to work with a young puppy.
A bite suit should fit to your body allowing free movement, and allowing the dog to actually bite the man, not the suit. A young dog should be worked on a soft sleeve to minimize any discomfort while biting. Both of these scenarios play out in the dog when it is time to work for real. A dog that bites only the suit and hasn’t bit the man in the suit will sometimes freak out when biting a real suspect or intruder, they’ve never experienced the “man”. A young dog that bites a hard sleeve and is caused discomfort at a young age will be hesitant to bite, as it’s learned that biting is painful.
Tip 2: Be A “Prey Master”
This tip comes from Cody Tallent and the recent decoy seminar he put on with Complete Canine Training. Our dogs are all prey driven, to some degree, it’s inherent through genetics. As decoys, being masters of prey will help produce the best biting and most confident dogs. I will break this down in 2 parts for simplicity.
First, being a master of prey taps into the primal instinct of the dogs to chase bite and shake things. Weird that bite work is pretty much just that. When you are in the bite suit you are a prey object, at least in the early stages of training. By allowing the dog to win and bite the prey object (aka you) you are helping to build the dog’s confidence.
Second, prey moves and evades the predator. By making a dog miss you increase his drive to bite you, when you have the handler pull the dog off you increase the dog’s desire to win. This will cause the dog’s bite to become stronger and he will not want to let go. Using these two concepts together both increase the dog’s confidence and his bite strength. Let him win make him miss, make him work for it. This is some of what helps create a confident and hard biting dog.
Tip 3: Listen To The Dog
If you’re thinking dog’s can’t talk right about now, it’s time to stop reading and stop training dogs. Dogs speak volumes to us through their body language. They literally will tell you everything you, as a decoy, need to know. Pay attention to the dog’s bark, tail position, eye contact or lack of, jaw pressure, and overall body position. By listening to the dog you can see the weaknesses and strengths of the dog.
For example a dog that is pulling on the bite, and is looking everywhere for his handler, is lacking confidence. That dog is only staying on the bite because there isn’t any additional pressures from the decoy. A good decoy will at this moment let the dog win and take him to the ground. Letting the dog win when it is unsure of itself is building the dog’s bite and confidence. You are rewarding the dog for sticking in the fight. Next time the dog will know it can win in that situation and you can begin to add other pressures to the dog.. By listening to the dog you can build their weaknesses and increase their strengths.
Tip 4: Slow Down & Adapt
More of an overall training tip but it absolutely applies to bite work. We all want our dogs trained and biting people with “teeth-of-fury” as soon as we can get it. Well, what we want we don’t always get. Just like people, every dog is different. A good personal protection dog, may have never been able to be a Police K9. 2 dogs from the same litter will need different training techniques used and will progress at a different pace. As trainers and decoys we need to be aware of this.
Stop rushing training, take your time and move at the dog’s pace. You can’t force training and produce high quality dogs. A lot of K9 vendors bitch about agencies failing their dogs or not accepting them in the first place. The vendors typically rush the training. I wouldn’t take a dog from them either. But this is an industry issue that’s much deeper.
Ok, back on track. As trainers we have to adapt our training to the dog’s needs. It’s as simple as that. Rushing training will stress the dog, stress you out and will have detrimental effects on everyone involved with that dog. So just slow down.
Tip 5: Put Your Ego Away
This is more of a personal note and you won’t find it in any dog training books. Egos in dog training KILL the training, give the industry a bad reputation, and is the main reason why you can’t put 3 dog trainers in the same room without an argument ensuing. It’s also why dogs with great potential are often shorted of reaching it.
Joe Schmo decoy is a badass with a new Demanet bite suit and has a “hard” dog to work. So he pushes that dog to showboat to his friends. Sound familiar? I’ll admit, I’ve been that guy. I am no longer that guy though because it does absolutely NOTHING for our industry or the dogs we train. That type of attitude and mentality is what leads to injuries, for both us and the dog. It doesn’t allow the dog to learn, grow or overcome anything. The decoy beats the dog, and the dog doesn’t win. This type of decoy will hurt your dog, physically or worse mentally. In short don’t be “Billy Badass in a bite suit”, work the dogs and accomplish the goals for the dogs, not your ego.