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Is Your Dog Sick? (You May Not Even Know)

Dog trainingDog Training- Many Dogs are Sick

There is a principle of dog training that I often talk of with our clients.

That concept is of illness vs. symptoms.

When I’m sharing this concept I’ll often tell someone to picture that they’ve got pneumonia.  They’ve got a fever, their nose is running, they’re coughing, and they’ve got pain in their chest and their head.

Now imagine that the doctor sees this person and says, “Alrighty, let’s get you some aspirin.  That will fix you right up!”

What would your thoughts be?

I’m no doctor but a simple google search tells me that pneumonia is caused by bacteria, virus, and even fungi.  If you’ve got a serious case of pneumonia and the doctor sends you home with a bottle of aspirin you may get some temporary relief from a headache or body pain but the underlying illness isn’t touched at all by this regimen.

How does this compare to your dog?

This exact same concept applies to your dog and your dog training efforts.

When you’ve got a dog with aggression problems the aggressive behaviors are simply the symptoms.  The underlying cause is typically a need for leadership that is more clear, a need for better understanding of structure and obedience, and a willingness to work within a system.

When you’re dealing with some serious dog destruction the fact that your dog chewed up your slippers or your couch is the symptom.  The illness hiding beneath the surface is often a lack of supervision, not enough mental or physical stimulation, or other issues.

When you’ve got a ‘dog who doesn’t listen’ what you’ve really got is an underlying disease of you, the dog owner, not knowing how to clearly communicate what you want from your dog.

So what is the best way to treat a disease?  Is it wrong to treat the symptom?  I personally don’t think so.  In the case of pneumonia perhaps you take the aspirin for short term relief AND you take antibiotics to kill the underlying illness.  Herein lies the problem for most dog owners.

The problem for the average dog owner

The problem is that the average dog owner typically wants to treat the symptom.  The questions we get often include:

‘How do I get my dog to stop acting aggressive to other dogs/guests/people/etc.?’

They aren’t asking- ‘How can I help my dog not feel the need to be aggressive?’

People will ask:

‘How do I punish my dog for chewing or digging?’

The question they fail to ask is- ‘What needs of my dogs are going unfulfilled so that he’s being destructive?’

I always encourage our clients to start asking different questions.  The questions need to be asked from a foundation sense; what part of my dog’s foundation is incorrect such that he or she is displaying this behavior?

Instead we’ve trained ourselves as people to look for the quick fix.

‘Tell me what to do to stop the dog from doing this now!’ is the common mindset we get when people email us through our website.

Most people want to hear that super-special word, or look, or thing you can do with your hand so that the dog stops being aggressive RIGHT NOW!

Or they want to know the secret formula of gross sauce they can put on their shoes to stop the dog from chewing TODAY!

The irony is that if you work on treating the root causes of your dog’s ‘training illnesses’ you’ll often overcome your problems much faster than if you tried to treat the symptom.  In nearly every case we come across treating the root causes entail:

  • Solid obedience training.  No, I’m not referring to ‘sit for a cookie’.  I’m talking about a level of training where your dog is obedient in the face of distractions.  Without treats.
  • Good exercise.  Being a member of the animal kingdom and not getting exercise can be a recipe for disaster.
  • Proper supervision.  Dog owners are too quick to want to give their dogs freedom before their dogs have earned that freedom.
  • Common sense.  Not everyone has to be dog savvy.  But do try to think of potential outcomes and prepare for them with every scenario with your dog.

Treat the root cause of the illness and the symptom and your training efforts will be rewarded.

Watch the Full Case Study- Dog Aggression

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How to Train a Dog To Track With Jeff Schettler

How to Train A Dog To Track

I’ve been following Jeff Schettler on Facebook for some time.  He is doing some amazing things with trailing dogs and is the go-to guy in the country and around the world for all things tracking training with dogs.

I had to get him on my show to share some of his years of experience and expertise about how he trains tracking dogs and how you can apply some of the same principles with your own pet dog.

Check out Jeff’s bio-

“Jeff Schettler is a retired police K9 handler who worked for the City of Alameda and County of Amador in California and was attached to the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Teams’ K9
Assistance Program for two years. This program was designed to locate and apprehend high-risk fugitives on the run. Jeff has worked hundreds of trailing cases across the USA and is a specialist in the areas of tactical tracking applications. Schettler is a certified military trainer graduating from the prestigious US Army’s Leadership Academy also known as Drill Sergeant School.

Jeff’s work has been seen on CNN, ABC, CBS, Unsolved Mysteries, and Mythbusters. He is considered an expert witness in tracking/ trailing. Jeff is the author of four books on K9 Tracking Work published by Alpine Publications and writes for K9 Cop Magazine.”

You can find his books, training courses, and other info at www.GAK9.com and www.JeffSchettler.com.

Trailing Dogs- Listen In

What You’ll Learn About Tracking Dogs

In this interview you’ll learn:

  • Which breeds Jeff likes to use due to their natural drives for hunting and trailing
  • Whether or not one can actually teach the dog how to do this or whether one must simply harness the instinct the dog has
  • A step-by-step process that any pet owner can experiment with to determine whether their dog can be trained to trail people
  • A simple iPhone app that can help you determine just how accurate your dog is at trailing
  • A better understanding of the reality behind the scenes you see in Hollywood movies regarding just how dogs start their track and what terrain they can track on
  • Unique and interesting real world stories of actual trailing Jeff has done

This interview was definitely a lot of fun and I learned a lot about drives, breeds, and just what it takes for a dog to be trained whether it be for search and rescue or for hunting down bad guys.  A definite must-listen.

E-Collar Training- Interview With Robin MacFarlane

E-Collar Training- Robin MacFarlane

Robin MacFarlane is an e-collar training expert and owner of That’s My Dog and The Truth About Shock Collars in Dubuque, Iowa.  She’s been training with electric collars for years and a big part of her work has gone to helping thousands of dogs from around the globe all while debunking various myths and mis-informations about e-collar training.

Dog owners will send their dogs to her from around North America because of her unique systems for helping dogs learn to overcome various issues with this style of training.

E-Collar Training- Listen In

Click ‘Play’ below to listen to the full interview.  It’s a quick half hour and will give you a ton of great information on e-collar training.  Make sure to take notes.

E-Collar Training- What You’ll Learn

In this podcast you’re going to learn:

  • Whether or not e-collar training is humane?  You’ll find out the REAL philosophy and motivations behind e-collar training and how they are not what you’ve heard about from the internet, your vet, and your next-door-neighbor.
  • Little known facts about WHY you just may want to be training with electric collars if your dog is nervous, anxious, shy or otherwise sensitive to outside distractions and stimuli.
  • Whether or not you can use this tool to train aggressive dogs (hint: the answer is likely the OPPOSITE of what you’ve been reading online.)
  • A simple and quick understanding of how the e-collar is used to train a dog to come when called.
  • What tools you need to accompany your electric collar when you first start training (if you’re just starting with the e-collar by itself you are probably doing it wrong).
  • A simple comparison to help dog owners understand how the e-collar actually feels.  Robin has ALL of her clients feel the e-collar before using it with their dogs and you’d be surprised the reaction some of them have.
  • How to figure out which is the right level to set the e-collar on for your training.  This will be new information to many who’ve been hearing wrong information for some time.
  • How far this method of training has come in the last 50 years and why your perception of e-collar training may be based on what USED TO happen decades ago.
  • What ages of dog you can use this tool with.

Our goal at our company is to help as many dogs and as many owners as possible.  We’re huge advocates of proper e-collar training because we know how humane and helpful it is for dogs and dog owners.  We encourage you to get in touch with good trainers like Robin if you are looking for instruction on how to properly use these tools with your dog.  Feel free to check out our e-collar training course as well.

Integration Dog Training- (Video)

Integration Dog Training

At my Salt Lake City dog training company we work with hundreds of dogs per year.  One thing that is almost a universal constant, though, amongst our dog training clients is that they have little time to get their dog trained.  Life tends to get in the way.  Whether it’s work commitments, family projects and activities, hobbies, or other time users it is uncommon that we have a client that has hours a day to devote to their dog training efforts.

What we’ve done over the years is develop a unique, yet simple, system that we call ‘Integration Dog Training’.  Although it’s simple in concept it’s a game changer when it comes to getting the results you want from your training efforts.

What it entails is simply ‘training as you go’.  It means being ready for training moments as they present themselves and being prepared and proactive enough to recognize those moments and train them.  Let me give you an example with a video below:

Integration Dog Training- Video

Integration Dog Training on Youtube

This is just a quick little video but the concept is very meaningful to you as a dog owner.  Let’s examine just a few things that are going on in the video:

  • On the way into the home our trainer, Joe, is working on off leash heeling.  He had taken them out to the bathroom which means they were already outside.  He merely was integrating the training and taking advantage of the short walk back to the house to work on their off leash heeling.
  • Going into the home he took just a quick moment to have the dogs wait.  Why not?  You’re already going through a doorway with your dog.  Take an extra 5 seconds, integrate your dog training efforts, and have them wait before coming in.  It’s an easy time to train and it helps the dogs come in with a calm state of mind.
  • Coming into the house Joe didn’t let the dogs go nuts and run around.  He kept them on point and on task.
  • Finally, before sitting down to eat dinner Joe had the dogs go to their ‘place’ command.  Dinner time is a great time to train because you’re sitting down, you might as well integrate your training and have the dogs stay put while you eat.

Was there anything super-profound in this video?  Not really.  Yet I’ve rarely met the dog owner who has decided on his or her own to start integrating their training.  When you integrate your training into your daily life:

  • Your dog gets trained to a higher level.  Think about it.  Most people picture training as putting the leash on, grabbing the bag of treats, and going to the living room or backyard or park to work on specific skills.  Dogs are smart, though, and soon know your ‘game’.  They’ll likely comply during training but, who cares?  I don’t need my dog to be obedient when nothing is going on.  I need my dog to be obedient when someone rings the doorbell, when we encounter other dogs on the street, or when I’ve got guests over.  By integrating your training you train for real life and the dogs get trained to higher levels.
  • Your life gets easier.  All those hours of training that need to happen in order for your dog to become fully trained just got easier by making them fit in while you watch TV, eat dinner, walk through doors, take your dog out to the bathroom, etc.

So how can you do Integration Dog Training?

Integration Dog Training- Simple Steps

There are a few simple things you can do to for this type of dog training:

  • Leave a leash on your dog.  In the beginning stages of ANY training program I like to leave a leash on the dog even around the house.  This makes it simple to grab the leash were I need to guide or correct.  Most people make the fatal mistake of attempting to train their dogs verbally.  Dogs don’t learn that way.  Leave a leash on your dog so you can teach rather than tell.
  • Always back up your commands.  Fatal mistake #2 is giving commands that you aren’t able or willing to see through.  Your dog will see through you on this and will not obey.
  • Make it easy.  Don’t try to kill yourself getting tons of training done every day.  Simply let your day flow and allow the training to happen around that.

I’m Coming To Birmingham, Alabama- Dog Training

Birmingham, Alabama Dog Training

I wanted to write a quick post to let you folks know that I’ll be coming to Birmingham, Alabama in May of 2013 during the week of May 6th.  I’m honored to be invited by Rick Clark of The Barking Zone.  Rick has come up with some interesting and unique ways of running his dog daycares and even offers Dog Daycare Franchises for those looking to get into the industry.

Rick and I have gotten to know each other over the years as he has been studying from my dog training DVD’s and we’ve talked about dog behavior and training.  I even had the privilege to interview Rick about his business for my marketing radio show for pet business owners. 

I’m excited now to be able to come down to his neck of the woods and work with him on his dog training goals but to also work with the dog owners from Birmingham and the surrounding areas on their most pressing dog training issues.

While I’m in Birmingham we’re going to be setting up group sessions and private sessions for local dog owners.  Space will be very limited.  For those interested please contact us to let us know of your interest and we will update you on availabilities, pricing, schedules, etc.

Use this link to contact us.

Birmingham, Alabama Dog Training Invitation


Dog Training Birmingham, Alabama 

Birmingham, Alabama Dog Training- Courses

I’ve become known over the years for standing out with various skills.  If you are in need of help in one of these areas I invite you to contact us for more information:

  • Puppy training- If you can avoid various pitfalls with raising your puppy the chances are far better you’ll end up with the perfect adult dog.  The majority of the behavior problems we deal with at our training company could have been avoided with doing things right from the beginning with a puppy.
  • Fixing dog aggression- I’ve really been able to make a name for myself with fixing dog aggression.  I’ve traveled the U.S. and to various other countries to work through aggression problems with numerous clients.
  • Big time behavior modification- If you’re dealing with big issues like destruction, separation anxiety, etc. I can help you.
  • Advanced off leash obedience- I have a unique and proprietary system for using an e-collar in a humane fashion to quickly train reliable and high level obedience training.

I invite you to come out and enjoy a workshop, private session, etc.  Contact us for more information!

Interview With JJ Belcher- Scent Work

Scent Work- JJ Belcher

I had the privilege to interview JJ Belcher of Sublime K9 in Tucson, Arizona.  JJ’s company is doing some really cool dog training classes and activities.

One of those classes is scent workScent work (nose work, sniff work, scent training, etc.) is essentially training the dog to use his sense of smell to locate a specific odor amongst other odors.

It can be used to teach a dog to find a scented oil, a cell phone, money, marijuana and other drugs, or a whole variety of other odors.

In this interview you’ll hear from the expert himself on how you can train your own dog at home to learn to use his sense of smell for fun and enjoyable training.

Scent Work- The Interview

Press play below to listen to the interview:

Scent Work- What You’ll Learn

You’re going to learn tons of stuff from this interview.  For example:

  • What kinds of dogs can be trained for nose work (hint: it is highly possible you may have one)
  • What drives or impulses a dog must possess in order to be trained to find things with his or her nose.
  • The different types of odors that your dog can be trained to detect and find and why some of them may be more difficult than others.
  • The benefits to the average pet dog.  If you are dealing with destruction (chewing, digging, etc.), anxiety, hyperactivity or other behaviors this could be of GREAT value to you.
  • Whether or not a young dog of a few months or an old dog past a decade can learn this skill.
  • A step-by-step process where JJ plainly lays out how you can take a dog from not understanding how to use his nose for directed finds all the way to where a dog can find a specific odor or even track a person.
  • How to troubleshoot various training challenges and make this sport and training much more challenging (and rewarding) for your dog.
  • Much, much more.

This was a fun interview and one that I think is really relevant to today’s dog owners.  I find that many dog owners today understand the value of training their dogs to ‘work’ yet most dog owners don’t have dogs that are capable of excelling at herding, agility, protection sports, and other dog related activities that are becoming more popular.  In contrast, scent work can be taught to just about any dog, of any age, in any location, with very low cost of entry.

Enjoy the interview, we had fun with it.

Dog Training Interview With Renowned Trainer, Chad Mackin

Dog Training- Chad Mackin

I’ve been hanging out on a forum recently where I’ve been speaking with dog training expert, Chad Mackin, of Pack To Basics and DePaw University Canine Campus Inc. in Illinois.  I noticed that Chad kept using a term that I hadn’t heard in the dog industry and I wanted to get his take on it.

He kept talking about ‘adrenalized dogs’, ‘dogs in an adrenalized state’, and other terms relating to adrenaline.

Now, I know what adrenaline is, but I hadn’t thought of it’s relation to dog training and dog behavior.  I decided to invite him onto the podcast and he was kind enough to lend me a half hour of his life to explain these terms and how they can benefit the every-day dog owner.

Dog Training- What Will You Learn In This Podcast?

  • Learn how you can tell from your dog’s eyes if he is in an adrenalized state and what that means.
  • Learn to decipher body positions in order to understand what condition your dog is currently in.
  • Find out two KEY DOG TRAINING commands that are easy to do but can help just about any dog lead a happier life.
  • Understand the definition of what an ‘adrenalized dog’ is and if your dog falls into that category.
  • Uncover techniques that you can use that can actually teach your dog to self-regulate whether you are home or not.  (Dealing with destruction or other inappropriate behaviors while you are gone?  You NEED to listen to this.)
  • Discover what is at the root cause of your dog being happy or not and how you can help your pet achieve happiness and satisfaction every day.
  • You’ll learn the right way and the wrong way to properly socialize a dog (he talks about play groups, dog parks, day cares and more.  Hint: some of these are great and others can do serious damage to a dog’s mental state).

Overall, this is just under a half hour of a podcast jam-packed with information and tips for dog training, fixing dog destruction, fixing anti-social behaviors, aggression, and more.

If you’re dealing with any of these issues I recommend you listen with a pen and paper because you will definitely walk away with a few critical changes that you can start making today in order to see more success with your dog tomorrow.

Dog Training- Listen to the Podcast Below

Press play below to listen in.  Enjoy!

Dog Fear- Where Does It Come From?

Dog Fear- Reader Question

The following question comes from a reader of our site:

Why are some dogs just flat out scared of men?  I have a 2 year old husky and he’s scared of men.  I don’t believe there’s any history of abuse.   He’ll run away or refuses to come to men and paces back and forth frustrated.
Rachel, Utah.

Thanks for this question, Rachel.  Dog fear is one of the biggest things I deal with in my company simply because it’s at the root of so many behavior problems.  Issues like dog aggression, some destruction, anxiety behaviors, and others all find their root in fear.  In order to solve these issues it’s important to understand where these issues come from.

Dog Fear- What Causes It?

The reality is that there are only two places that dog fear comes from:

  1. Genetics
  2. Upbringing

It’s the old Nature Vs. Nurture argument that has been waging in the halls of academia forever.  In fact, I find it unfortunate that many people these days are ignoring the science when it comes to dog behavior.

These days you don’t have to go far to find certain ‘breed apologists’.  Just log on to your Facebook account and you’ll see your dog loving friends posting graphics about how awesome Pit Bulls are and how any aggressive Pit Bull is simply that way because the owner trained it to be that way.

This type of thinking completely ignores basic tenets of dog behavior.

Nearly everyone will agree that both nature and nurture compose the makeup behind temperament, personality, and character.  Yet in the case of Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Dobermans, etc. people suspend this understanding in their attempts to protect their favorite breed.

Now, let me set the record straight first of all.  I’m a big fan of Pit Bulls, Rottweilers (I own one), German Shepherds (I’ve owned a few) and Dobermans.  And I’m not trying to tell you that ANY of these BREEDS are more prone to fear, aggression, or any other sort of behavior.  But I will tell you that certain representatives of those breeds (and ALL breeds for that matter) can have larger propensities than others for fear, aggression, and other related behaviors.

I know I’m on my soapbox right now.  You may be wondering why I’m off on a tangent about Pit Bulls and other powerful breeds when the question was about a Husky and fear.  The reason is that people seem to be willing to accept that fear can cause bad behavior, and many of those same people are willing to accept that a Husky or a Beagle or a Labrador MAY have been born with a greater propensity for fear and that MAY be why they are acting inappropriately.  But many of those same people are unwilling to accept that a Pit Bull was born with a fear issue and that is why she is acting aggressively…they seem bound and determined to blame aggression in these powerful breeds on bad owners.

This is a damaging style of thinking, though.  Many of our clients own these breeds and we deal with a lot of aggression.  Based on what these folks have heard many are convinced that they are awful owners and somehow ‘trained’ their Pit Bull or Rottweiler to be aggressive.  The reality is, though, that they’ve been good dog owners (everyone can be better) and they did NOTHING to cause their dog’s fear or aggression.  The dog was born with a greater tendency towards aggressive behavior.

The majority of the dog fear that I see for genetic reasons comes from poor breeding.  Most breeders these days have no clue how to make pairings that will result in mentally sound puppies.  It may be that they are breeding for looks and not temperament, it may be that they are pushing out puppies just to make a buck, or it may be that they are incompetent but these bad breeders have flooded the country with dogs who have weak nervous systems and low thresholds for dealing with stress.  And, unfortunately, it is the public who is supporting their efforts by always looking for the best deal.

As I mentioned, though, genetics are just one piece of the puzzle.

Upbringing is also very important.  When I’m referring to upbringing I’m typically talking about socialization.

Dogs have what I like to call a ‘socialization window’ between about 8 weeks and 6 months of age where it’s important that the dog receives the correct doses of the correct type of socialization.  Errors that lead to the type of fear being described with this Husky typically fall into two categories:

  • Under-socializing.  Dogs need to meet a LOT of people, places, and things.  They need to meet lots of men, women, dogs, cats, children, bicycles, floor surfaces, sounds, textures, etc.  Many dogs simply don’t get a lot of exposure.  As they grow older they fall into the old adage of ‘we fear the unknown’.  It’s possible that your Husky didn’t receive enough exposure to men and now finds the fact that they are bigger, deeper voices, etc. as off-putting and cause for fear.
  • Improper socialization.  I can’t tell you how much dog fear I can trace directly to dog parks.  Dog parks are the worst place to socialize a dog yet they are so often used and they often inject fear into a dog.  Aside from dog parks bad socialization occurs when the owner doesn’t control encounters the young dog has with kids, strangers, etc.  I have had numerous cases where a dog has ONE bad experience with a kid, person, dog, etc. during this socialization window and it taints their whole life experience from that day forward.  In your dog’s case, it’s possible the dog simply was handled roughly by a man at a young age and that’s the experience that stuck.

Dog Fear- How To Solve It

Dog fear comes from what I call a ‘chaos mindset’.  That means that the dog isn’t thinking when she’s reacting fearfully, she’s simply giving in to her surroundings.

The opposite of chaos in the natural world is structure, control, etc.  With our clients we immediately start on a healthy diet of obedience training to overcome these fear issues.  As the dog’s mind learns to focus on structure it can’t also be focusing on the subject of her fear.

Here’s the catch, though.  Treat based obedience training or other such ineffective methods don’t get the job done.  The only way to overcome big-time fear issues is through advanced obedience training and that simply doesn’t occur with treat training.  You need a style of training that properly balances correction with motivation to show the dog that obedience is the rule but it’s also enjoyable.

How To Train A Protection Dog

How To Train A Protection Dog- Case Study

I’ve recently started working with a dog here in Costa Rica for protection training.  The owner wants the dog to be able to protect the family and home in case of a burglary or other invasion.

With a lot of frequency I’m asked how to train a protection dog.  At our Salt Lake City dog training company we get several calls a month from people looking to have a guard dog or protection dog.  Many might also know that we run a protection dogs for sale company.

The short answer I give most people is, ‘You can’t’.

I don’t say that to be rude or elitist.  It’s just a simple reality that nearly every dog out there can not be trained to be a protection dog.

When people call our company looking for this type of training and I tell them the reality I often hear the protests:

– But my dog is really smart.

– My dog is already aggressive.

– My dog wants to please me.  He’ll protect me if I’m in danger.  If push comes to shove I know he’d protect me.

-He barks at people already so I think he has what it takes.

– I just know that he’s capable.

Again, not to sound like a jerk, but none of these things have any bearing.  Let me go through them really quick.

How To Train A Protection Dog- What Doesn’t Matter

– It doesn’t matter how smart your dog is.  Some of our most effective soldiers aren’t terribly bright.  (Don’t take offense here.  I love our military and am grateful for the men and women who serve.  It’s just reality, though, that in any given group there are those who aren’t intelligent.)  But they have other drives and capabilities that allow them to be very smart.  Don’t get me wrong, if a dog is smart I see that as a good thing but intelligence is very far down on the priority list in how to train a protection dog.  It just doesn’t matter that much.

– It never fails that ever month or so we’ll get a call from a certain kind of dog owner.  Unfortunately, the modus operandi is often the same.  It’s a young guy, he’s got a pit bull or a Rottweiler, and he wants to train his dog to attack on command and brags about the dog ‘already being aggressive.’  This type of dog isn’t capable of being a protection dog.  Most of these dogs who belong to these knuckle-heads are poorly socialized, lack confidence, and are acting aggressive out of fear or misplaced territorial-ness.  Not the recipe for a loyal defender.   Unfortunately, I’ve had very little success in convincing owners of these dogs that they are looking at things all wrong and are better suited for stuffed animal ownership than live animal ownership.

– The BIGGEST myth I’ve seen in protection dog training is that, if a dog loves you, he’ll protect you.  You can find message boards all over the internet with this fallacious principle.  Does it happen?  Do dogs protect their owners out of love?  Sure, it happens.  I’ve seen news stories here and there of a dog protecting against a home invasion, a robbery, a kidnapping.  The truth is, though, that for every one of those stories you show me I can give you a dozen instances of someone breaking into a home and the dog doing nothing.  In fact, I’ve even seen a few news stories debunking this entire myth.  And while I’m not the type of guy that says ‘well, if it’s on the news it must be true’ I can tell you from personal experience that these experiences are accurate.

The reality is that dogs are like people.  We’re interested in self preservation.  When push comes to shove, some of us will stand up to danger.  Most of us won’t.  And of those who are willing to stand up to danger most have no training in personal defense and are therefore ineffective against a real threat.

Dogs are no different.  Very few dogs have the natural drives for real protection and very few dogs have actually been trained to deal with a threat.  The absence of those things means that, most of the time, a dog won’t try to defend it’s owner in any meaningful way.  Notice I said ‘meaningful’.  I say that because many dog owners attempt to call me on this.  They’ll tell me how their dog barks at ‘threats’ and acts aggressive.  There is a big difference between barking at a problem and offering viable protection.

– Speaking of barking at people, let me address this one.  Many dog owners believe that, because their dog barks through the window or gate, that they are protective and will defend if necessary.  Not so.  The most neurotic, terrified, hide-under-the-bed dogs will bark behind a gate.  That isn’t very meaningful in gaging a protection dog candidate.

– ‘I just know that he’s capable’.  I’ve heard this one a lot from dog owners who absolutely love their dog and think their dog capable of anything and everything.  I love my dogs as well.  But I’m realistic in realizing that one is trained for protection and one is trained for getting her ears pulled on by my daughters.

So that leaves the obvious question.  What is the reality on how to train a protection dog?

How To Train A Protection Dog- What Kind Of Training Do You Need?

Whenever I sit down with a prospective client and the topic is how to train a protection dog, I always give the example of ‘Karate vs.  Military’.  Allow me to explain more.

I’ve got a six year old daughter.  When she was five she was in karate.  It turned out she didn’t like it and she stopped doing it but that is beside the point.  She learned in karate how to block, kick, punch and more.  She learned angles for how to fall, how to defend, and techniques for various types of attacks.

Was any of it real?  Of course not.  It was all a game.  It was fun and she in no way thought she was in danger.

Now, let’s say she stuck with karate until she was 18.  It’s all studio work, mind you, but by that time she’s become very good at Karate.  But is it real defense or protection?  More than likely it’s not.  Put my 18 year old daughter in a dangerous situation and she’s BETTER equipped, had she done Karate for years, than most but it’s still just ‘theoretical’ training at that point that has never been really tested.

Now say, at 18, she goes into the military.  Now all that training she has gives her a leg up but now they start putting her in scenarios that are more ‘true to life’.  Her training can now hurt her and her self-defense training now takes on whole new layers.  Through the reality of the scenarios her background in Karate now gives her viable protection.

We train the same way for protection dogs.  In the beginning we employ what is called prey drive.  That is the dog’s desire to chase, grab, hunt, etc.  We use that to teach the dog how to properly target, bite, and hold onto a towel or sack.  From that towel we graduate to a larger bite tug.  From the tug we graduate to a leg or arm sleeve.  From there we graduate to a body bite suit.

For most dogs, at this point, they ‘appear’ to be protection dogs.  In fact, many unscrupulous dog trainers sell dogs like this claiming they are protection dogs when in reality they are dogs that know Karate.

True protection training happens when we take the dog who has learned ‘Karate’ and bring in what is called defense drive.  That is the dog’s desire to defend himself, his property, his family, etc.  At this stage in the training we make it more real.

This is the reason why most dogs can’t be trained as protection dogs.  Very few dogs have the right balance of enough, but not too much, of prey drive and defense drive.  Not too many dogs can learn to work with clear heads utilizing those drives in various scenarios.

It’s not likely to find a dog off the street that is capable.

This is what I normally tell most people.  In fact, I gave a variation of this same speech when approached by a new friend here in Costa Rica about training his dog for protection.

I told him that it likely wasn’t possible but that we’d give it a try.  I was very shocked.  He tested great and I’ll be keeping you posted on his progress as he goes along.

The video below shows some of our initial training.  It’s in Spanish, so unless you speak it you’ll be left to just the visuals.  Enjoy.

How To Train A Protection Dog On Youtube

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