Bite Work Part 2 by Jerry Cudahy
To work a dog in the defence drive has only one purpose and that is to bite a human being. The only dogs that can be worked with success in this drive are the dogs that exhibited strong defence as pre-imprint pups and were then over-socialized and stabilized through prey/play bite work. If the dog you wish to train or condition for the real deal so to speak has little or no prey drive, yet shows a willingness to defend, his/her motivation is totally incorrect and this type of dog should be put down. A dog that defends must be defending out of loyalty and not fear. The unapproachable attack dog is not a candidate for defence training. This type of dog has no place in society and cannot be tested for stability. If a dog is not able to be around strange or familiar people without going into a chemically imbalanced fit of aggression, do your dog and your legal bills a huge favour and destroy this animal before it has the chance to destroy you or someone else's life.
For the record, defence bite work must only be trained when the dog has mastered the control of its emotions, and is 100% on top of its obedience with full off leash response to commands. This work is mastered in the prey/play phase of training.
The work of defense will require you to enlist the help of a qualified professional decoy, who understands how to work in a full body suit. Do not be fooled into believing that by using a protective sleeve, as a cheaper alternative to the body suit, will put you ahead of the game. That arm sleeve is a prey, play toy. A dog that is working in defense has no desire to grab a sleeve and run happily away with its reward. The reward that a dog working in defense receives is victory over its adversary, raw down to earth dominance that will require a handler with advanced skills themselves, to direct the dog when needed.
The equipment needed is extensive and expensive. Do not scrimp on gear. You will need a long line that is at least thirty feet long and one inch wide. All your leather gear must be custom made, the store bought variety simply will not stand up to the demands you and your dog will put on the leather. The bonus of purchasing the custom leather is that it will last your lifetime and will cost less than the store bought variety that was designed to break and be replaced. Latigo leather is OK but harness leather, double thick, double stitched and flat riveted, treated with a leather preservative will outlast you and your next five dogs.
You will need several leather leads. A one foot, three foot and six foot, (all three quarters on an inch wide) double thick, double stitched and riveted, treated with a quality preservative. All the hardware should be brass and all clasps be able to swivel. I suggest you have both an "attack" collar and an "attack" harness with the double, double, riveted rule applied. The collar must be two inches wide and the harness be padded in the chest plate and shoulder straps. The harness can also do double duty as a tracking harness. Your equipment bag should also include a half inch or better bungy cord twenty-five or thirty feet long.
One of the most important items you will need and must have, is a high quality fighting leather muzzle with a built in bite bar and mouth guard for the dog. This muzzle must be ventilated so the dog can get air flow yet not be able to allow the smallest of fingers to push through. A good muzzle will cost as much as three hundred dollars and I would not spend less than one hundred and fifty. Custom made is the name in this area and there are specialists right here in Canada that can do excellent work.
Buy several mini tugs to enhance attack recalls, also medium and large tugs (four inches to nine inches in diameter) to maintain your prey/play control work along with a tear away short and long leg sleeve. Do not buy any tug or tear away sleeve that is made of leather or jute/burlap. These materials do not hold up to the dog's bite, saliva, or the dirt and grime of a training area. Seek out only a French Linen that has a cotton nylon blend. This is hard to find but will outlast jute six to one and costs the same if not less than the inferior materials mentioned.
The most expensive item is the protection suit (approximate value $1,500.00) and again only a linen/nylon suit will do. There are many pretenders to the suit world. I would not recommend any North American manufacturers at all. Most offer very little in safety for the dog or decoy. You need to have a suit custom made to fit the body of the person helping you. This is crucial to the training of the dog and again cheaper than the off the rack spin-offs that are available in North America, if you need assistance to obtain a suit or any of the gear I have described to you, please feel free to contact me at (905) 472-5334. You will need three suits of the French Ring type, first a full training suit with padded covers for the legs along with a Kimono jacket. This jacket is designed to direct a dog to the most appropriate bite location to immediately control an assailant. The objective is to subdue, not maul a person and this suit on the right decoy does just that while providing maximum protection and bite surface for the dog and the decoy. This suit can weigh upwards of forty pounds, as compared to a sixteen pound desensitizing suit that is next on the list. This suit can only be worn by the most experienced decoys. This suit along with the hidden de-conditioning suit, which can weigh as little as ten pounds are very dangerous to be worn by anyone with less than five years of solid suit work as a professional. Hidden sleeves can be used instead of the hidden suit, but my experience says that you are risking a real bite. Avoid at all costs any hidden sleeve or suit that is made of ballistic nylon. This material is made to stop bullets and break dogs teeth. A trip to a good dog dentist can cost upwards of six to eight thousand dollars.
A dog that is trained to protect for real has no place in the hands of an amateur. These type of dogs are for professional applications only. It takes many years to understand protection dogs and no matter how well trained a dog is, if the person operating the dog is not more advanced than the dog, the results will be many inappropriate people being bitten.
There are not very many good reasons to train a dog in true defensive work. Most of us can get by with a good alarm dog, one that puts on a good show of barking behind a fence or door. To train in defense correctly requires 24 hour a day, 365 days a year supervision of such a dog. A true dog of defense must believe in its own mind that it can take on all comers including its owner/handler. A dog that will not defend itself from abuse or over correction from its handler will definitely not perform as a working dog of defense on the street.
A dog's defense drive is activated through stimulation of aggression and conditioned response through training. This type of training can not be done at the hands of sport/prey amateurs. Only a professional can see this type of dog through the delicate paths of training and even then disaster looms. The questions you must ask yourself is: Why you will need a dog of this type? Can you handle and read this kind of a dog, and will you have the support of professional help? Another consideration, will your friends, neighbours, and relatives be able to understand and respect your need of such a dog? Even more important, will they respect your dog!!!
As I mentioned in the earlier article, prey/play work can be a superb barometer of your breeding program in respect to emotional, physical and breed specific stability, ability and endurance. My philosophy has always been that form follows function. A functional working dog is put together correctly. Correct protection dogs come from breeding programs that focus on prey drive, and not from programs that focus on aggression based decisions for breeding.
®2001 Jerry Cudahy
originally written for the Bouvier
Club of Canada Newsletter for the then president Robin Carver.
About Jerry Cudahy...
Jerry is published worldwide and is a journalist, he writes a weekly column for
the Toronto Sun's Internet Version FYI, called Ask Jerry About Dogs.
Over 25 years experience as a pro trainer, breeder of best in show conformation
Dobes, Breeder and trainer Malinois for Police Work, including certified
Cadaver, Bomb and Drug Dogs. 1992 North American Ring III Grand Champion and
1994 and 1995 Vice Grand Champion North American Ring III and Three time top
Ring III in Canada.
Current all time record holder of the highest Ring III score on a North
American Bred and trained Ring III ( Axel De Lison Ring III, CGC, TT, 94&95
Nara Vice Grand Champion Ring III.