Temperament and Protection Dogs

Weight pull, Protection, Agility, Flyball... you name it!

Postby Hundilein » September 17th, 2009, 3:01 pm

So this is a totally random question for those of you who own or train or have an informed opinion about protection dogs.

Someone asked me the other day while I was out walking with Renee if I was training her to be a police dog. I told him no, that she is just a pet. And I silently asked myself how anyone could think that Renee could be a police dog. She's far too squirrelly in my opinion, though she has gotten better, and I realize that this guy was only seeing about 2 minutes of us walking, and she is a German Shepherd mix, which is a breed most people associate with police K9s.

So then I got to thinking, what kind of temperament does a dog need to be a good protection dog? (Or compete in other bite sports...I'm sure I'm committing some kind of faux pas with my wording here, and I apologize for that.) I assume they need to be very stable, like what some people refer to as "bomb-proof" so that they don't get easily spooked by things and decide to bite. I hear all the time that police K9s are great pets when they are off-duty. And that's the way they should be right? A dog trained in bite work should be able to be around visitors and guests even if the guests don't have a lot of dog sense and might do dumb things? I mean, if a dog has issues with things that could easily come up in everyday situations, he wouldn't be a good candidate for protection training, right?
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Postby Malli » September 17th, 2009, 3:43 pm

I think it depends who you ask ;)

Seriously, around here anyway, it varies from club to club and department or organization (we have 2, RCMP and City police) to department.

In this particular city, I've heard positive comments about the City police dogs, and poor comments about the RCMP dogs as far as handling and percieved temperment.

I've also heard that dogs that are too fiery for Schutzhund and the like are often put into service as police dogs - something about needing a dog that will bite without hesitation.

Totally off topic, but the only kind of Shepherd I'd be interested in owning is from a Europe line or one from the line that our local city police dogs are from :) They are beautiful (sable, love that color) and I had the privilage at hospital with working with several of them, who were really good dogs, wich I find impressive given what they are capable of on a daily basis.

I'm sure Katrina will have more valuable input here ;)
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » September 17th, 2009, 4:10 pm

I went to the Dog Sports Open in August and had the fortune to be around dozens of absolutely AMAZING protection dogs. What I loved the most was how friendly these dogs were. After each dog competed, the MC would announce over the loudspeaker that anybody who wanted to pet the dog could do so, and children would crowd around. This dog who maybe 30 seconds earlier was completely mauling a decoy was now being completely loving and calm when crowded by children and adults eager to pet him/her. It really opened my eyes as to how protection dogs should be. At least in my opinion. :wink:
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Postby Dog_Shrink » September 17th, 2009, 4:48 pm

Most dogs that go into bite work are confident, self assured and highly intelligent (I know goes with out saying right). They are taught how to control that instinct to go to mouth where as your average owner who might have a dog like this could just lose their minds. They are HIGH drive, self motivated working dogs that really NEED the work. Some are sharper than your average everyday Shepherd, but that is also why you see a lot of Belgin malanoise doing this now. They have that higher edge... that constant electricity going on that shepherds sometimes tend to lose as they get bored with the same things day in and day out.

My business offers a security companions program but what we do is we take breeds that have that natural instinct to guard like maremma sheepdogs, anatolians, tibetian mastiffs, and refind those drives thru obedience skills to make them realise that the human IS in control. Once you establish that you are a good trustworthy leader then the natural protective instincts can do their job and the dog can stop worrying about vying for leadership position and get down to the business of protecting you and everything that is dear to you.
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Postby DemoDick » September 17th, 2009, 4:52 pm

The three things I look for in a protection dog are what I call the Trifecta...Power, Stability, and Control.

Power is the willingness and ability to courageously stop an attacker when necessary. I'm not overly concerned with what drive the dog is working in at the time. Defensive behaviors (growling, snapping, raised hackles, lowered tail) is usually a sign of insecurity if the dog is young. As he matures however, a little defense is fine.

Stability means the dog is confident and predictable, and can interact with non-threats socially. I have no interest in a non-social dog. Too much liability, and very limited application outside of a junk-yard.

Control means that the dog is able to focus and perform when fully stimulated in drive, and de-escalate when appropriate (has an off-switch). How the dog behaves after the threat is gone tells you a lot about where his head is at.

Take any one of those away from a dog and I wouldn't consider them a candidate for bitework, especially practical biting (Personal Protection or patrol work). The ability to handle opposition from a threat and environmental pressure is really just a matter of training for the dog that brings the Trifecta.
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Postby maberi » September 17th, 2009, 5:00 pm

Maybe someone with more experience in this field can comment but when I had the chance to view some dogs and handlers doing bitework training I found that the police dogs were much less responsive to commands from their handlers.

Once the dogs were sent off and went for the bite they were very not the most responsive dogs when their handlers called them off. Now I can see how this wouldn't be a problem because if an officer has made the decision to release their dog on someone they have made the determination that the individual is a threat.

Is it uncommon for a police officer to send their dog and then call the dog off before a bite? I also heard one of the officers comment that many times when they are yelling stop fighting/resisting when the dog is biting, it is because they can't get their dog to release and are covering their asses. Not sure if this comment was made in jest or there is some truth to it :|
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Postby maberi » September 17th, 2009, 7:40 pm

PS - Sorry for the poor grammar, I posted that on my way out of the office :shock:
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Postby katiek0417 » September 17th, 2009, 8:24 pm

maberi wrote:Maybe someone with more experience in this field can comment but when I had the chance to view some dogs and handlers doing bitework training I found that the police dogs were much less responsive to commands from their handlers.

Once the dogs were sent off and went for the bite they were very not the most responsive dogs when their handlers called them off. Now I can see how this wouldn't be a problem because if an officer has made the decision to release their dog on someone they have made the determination that the individual is a threat.

Is it uncommon for a police officer to send their dog and then call the dog off before a bite? I also heard one of the officers comment that many times when they are yelling stop fighting/resisting when the dog is biting, it is because they can't get their dog to release and are covering their asses. Not sure if this comment was made in jest or there is some truth to it :|


Actually, you tell someone to stop fighting b/c a dog won't out if someone is fighting it. When a person is fighting the dog, it instills the dog's desire to fight (a combination of defense and prey) - dogs aren't trained to out off of a moving decoy...and this training actually goes back to negative punishment, in a way: decoy stops moving which is the same thing as removing something good - therefore the dog is going to be less likely to want to hold on.

As far as temperament...I would MUCH rather have a social dog as a personal protection dog than a dog that couldn't be around people...if my dog can't be around people, and I have ot keep it crated all the time, then what good is it going to do if I'm being attacked?

That being said, however, I also want control over my dog. I like the control I have over Cy...he's semi social...but his level of obedience allows me to have some control over his behavior when he is out and about...so even if he is in an anti-social mood, I know he won't randomly bite someone.
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » September 17th, 2009, 8:35 pm

katiek0417 wrote:Actually, you tell someone to stop fighting b/c a dog won't out if someone is fighting it. When a person is fighting the dog, it instills the dog's desire to fight (a combination of defense and prey) - dogs aren't trained to out off of a moving decoy...


At the DSO (yeah, all my protection dog experience is related to the DSO, or Michelle and Demo's dogs!), at the intermediate (I believe), but definitely at the advanced, the decoys were specifically told to NOT stop moving when the dog was ordered to out. So the decoys were still moving around and struggling and the dog still had to let go - some of them needed some persuasion, but there were a few that immediately did. Blew my mind!
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Postby Malli » September 17th, 2009, 8:51 pm

I would think in the case of the police dog that they might prefer a dog that was less likely to stop biting? Like they'd rather not have a nice out and haul the dog off and ensure instead the dog will bite and hold? :| Correct me if I'm wrong...
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Postby katiek0417 » September 17th, 2009, 9:01 pm

pitbullmamaliz wrote:
katiek0417 wrote:Actually, you tell someone to stop fighting b/c a dog won't out if someone is fighting it. When a person is fighting the dog, it instills the dog's desire to fight (a combination of defense and prey) - dogs aren't trained to out off of a moving decoy...


At the DSO (yeah, all my protection dog experience is related to the DSO, or Michelle and Demo's dogs!), at the intermediate (I believe), but definitely at the advanced, the decoys were specifically told to NOT stop moving when the dog was ordered to out. So the decoys were still moving around and struggling and the dog still had to let go - some of them needed some persuasion, but there were a few that immediately did. Blew my mind!


My only problem with that is why would I want my dog to out on someone still fighting it? In the real world, if my dog outs on a person fighting it, then that person could get the upper hand....why in God's name would I EVER want my PERSONAL PROTECTION dog to lose the upper hand in a fight??? :? (That's JMO, but I just spoke to Greg, and he agreed with me)...
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Postby maberi » September 17th, 2009, 9:12 pm

Totally understand what you are saying Katrina but my natural reaction when being bitten by a dog is to pull away, which I would assume to a dog would equate to fighting (tugging, etc..). How can you expect a person being bitten by a dog to sit still?
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » September 17th, 2009, 9:14 pm

I'm sure if somebody was truly being attacked, they wouldn't tell their dog to out off their attacker if he was still attacking. The dogs were definitely not outing without being told to first. This was just a competition and it was one of the challenges. Quite frankly, I thought it was damned impressive.
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Postby katiek0417 » September 17th, 2009, 9:27 pm

maberi wrote:Totally understand what you are saying Katrina but my natural reaction when being bitten by a dog is to pull away, which I would assume to a dog would equate to fighting (tugging, etc..). How can you expect a person being bitten by a dog to sit still?


The dog is used to subdue a person. To keep the person occupied. If the dog lets go, it gives the person the upper hand. It happens all the time in police work....the dog bites, and the cop will specifically NOT OUT the dog until the person is still because they know the person can then get the upper hand....and guess what? The person takes the orders. Sure, you have tactical liftoffs with police dogs, but they are coming far and few between....

Sure, a person's reaction may be to fight...but, has that person been brutally bitten by a dog...by one that has been taught to bite and hold on? Jue has no teeth, but I've taken a bite from him in a suit jacket, and it was crushing (he left full bruises all over my arm)....if I wasn't wearing a suit, I'd listen to whatever the owner (Greg) was telling me just to get Jue off of me....I know, I've been there...I've been bit without a suit by a dog that was trained to do bitework...

pitbullmamaliz wrote:I'm sure if somebody was truly being attacked, they wouldn't tell their dog to out off their attacker if he was still attacking. The dogs were definitely not outing without being told to first. This was just a competition and it was one of the challenges. Quite frankly, I thought it was damned impressive.


Trust me, Cy will out off a fighting decoy. I trained him to do it...but I trained him to do it more for the control aspect...it's not something I work often...
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Postby furever_pit » September 17th, 2009, 10:36 pm

I've only just started in Schutzhund training, but this is my take on it at this point:
Strong nerves, drive, and control are what I look at in a dog.

I want a dog that wants to bite - and I do like to see both prey and defense drives being worked on the field - and I want a dog that can take whatever pressure is thrown at them. But at the same time I need that dog to be clear-headed so that the obedience doesn't falter when the dog is doing bite work.

Of those three things, nerves are not something I am willing to budge on - I like my dogs bomb proof and won't work them any other way. You can always build drive and train control.
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Postby DemoDick » September 17th, 2009, 11:32 pm

This:

My only problem with that is why would I want my dog to out on someone still fighting it? In the real world, if my dog outs on a person fighting it, then that person could get the upper hand....why in God's name would I EVER want my PERSONAL PROTECTION dog to lose the upper hand in a fight??? (That's JMO, but I just spoke to Greg, and he agreed with me)...


Lies in direct contrast with this:

Trust me, Cy will out off a fighting decoy. I trained him to do it...but I trained him to do it more for the control aspect...it's not something I work often...


So which is it?

Outing a dog on an active decoy does not give the decoy the "upper hand". Unless the decoy is armed he will never have the upper hand. He's going to get another bite real quick if he does something stupid. And no one is able to freeze like a suited or sleeved decoy in a real scanrio. Pain hurts.

I could provide a number of scenarios in which it is necessary for a dog to out cleanly on an active decoy. Some of which are dangerous for the handler should the dog fail to comply. Out means out.

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Postby Malli » September 18th, 2009, 1:17 am

Malli wrote:I would think in the case of the police dog that they might prefer a dog that was less likely to stop biting? Like they'd rather not have a nice out and haul the dog off and ensure instead the dog will bite and hold? :| Correct me if I'm wrong...



*ahem* anyone :|
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Postby katiek0417 » September 18th, 2009, 6:25 am

DemoDick wrote:This:

My only problem with that is why would I want my dog to out on someone still fighting it? In the real world, if my dog outs on a person fighting it, then that person could get the upper hand....why in God's name would I EVER want my PERSONAL PROTECTION dog to lose the upper hand in a fight??? (That's JMO, but I just spoke to Greg, and he agreed with me)...


Lies in direct contrast with this:

Trust me, Cy will out off a fighting decoy. I trained him to do it...but I trained him to do it more for the control aspect...it's not something I work often...


So which is it?

Outing a dog on an active decoy does not give the decoy the "upper hand". Unless the decoy is armed he will never have the upper hand. He's going to get another bite real quick if he does something stupid. And no one is able to freeze like a suited or sleeved decoy in a real scanrio. Pain hurts.

I could provide a number of scenarios in which it is necessary for a dog to out cleanly on an active decoy. Some of which are dangerous for the handler should the dog fail to comply. Out means out.

Demo Dick


Demo, the reason I trained him to do it is b/c I've seen decoys screw up in trials. The dog bites when it's not supposed to, and decoy (out of habit) starts driving the dog, anyway (a perfect example is in the PSA level 2 call-off - if the dog bites or anticipates and takes the return bite, the decoy starts working the dog, which is a reward for the dog)...so, I trained Cy to out off a fighting decoy because of that very reason - we do sport as well...and decoys screw up...and I don't want him to have the reward of remaining in a drive when he wasn't supposed to bite to begin with...

You're right, out means out...but I can think of just as many reasons why you wouldn't want your dog to out off of someone who is fighting it.
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Postby mnp13 » September 18th, 2009, 8:34 am

Malli wrote:
Malli wrote:I would think in the case of the police dog that they might prefer a dog that was less likely to stop biting? Like they'd rather not have a nice out and haul the dog off and ensure instead the dog will bite and hold? :| Correct me if I'm wrong...



*ahem* anyone :|


I am not an officer. However, I will say that I have spoken to one or two and as I understand it, it is generally preferred that the dogs not out using a verbal command. Officers say "stop fighting the dog" or "stop resisting" so that bystanders hear them telling the suspect to do so - yes they really do want the person to comply, but that doesn't mean that the person really "can" comply in the case that they are being bitten by a dog. In the case of outing the dog once it is biting a suspect, a "tactical out" is preferred because if a verbal command is given and the dog does not immediately comply (for whatever reason) then it gives the impression that the officer does not have full control over the dog.
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Postby mnp13 » September 18th, 2009, 9:22 am

My take on temperament and protection dog (or dogs taught any bite sports) : first, let me say that many, if not most, "protection dog people" disagree with me on my opinion. However, I strongly believe the following.

Any dog taught to bite people should have the obedience necessary to be handled by anyone at anytime under the supervision/direction of the owner. Now, what defines "handled"? I think the CGC is a solid baseline - the dog should be able to be touched on the head, and various parts of the body, and safely left with someone else holding the leash for a short period of time if necessary.

Does that mean cuddle on the couch? No, of course not, but I don't think basic manners are too much to ask of a dog that is trained to assess threats. Basic manners are basic obedience, and even the nastiest dog should be able to control itself for someone to touch its head.

Schutzhund used to have judges touch the dog as part of the test, but have dropped that which I think is unfortunate.

Riggs and Connor are both protection trained. I handle Riggs and Demo handles Connor. To an extent we can switch dogs, but I'll just speak for myself.

If I point Riggs at someone and tell him to bite, he will. If that person has a sleeve on, he will bite the sleeve because he understands what a sleeve is - that is the only piece of equipment he "knows". He doesn't look for it, if he sees it he he'll bite it.

If the person doesn't have a sleeve on, and has a bite suit, a partial bite suit, leg sleeve, hidden sleeve, or nothing... well, he'll bite whatever he wants to. We learned this the hard way with an inattentive decoy - Riggs will bite, and he will bite for real. Riggs will also bite if he perceives that I am being threatened, however, he also understands what a threat is. Though Demo and I have never ever had an argument that included any physical contact, if we even raise our voices we both have the presence of mind to put the boys up because whomever is out immediately alerts to the other person.

Case in point: two weeks ago we did the calendar shoot at my house. There were six of us at the house having pizza and beer, being loud and silly. Erin was sitting on the floor with her dinner. Riggs decided to attempt to help himself. Erin planted her foot on his side and shoved him across the floor. He came back. She did it again... it took a few times for him to get the hint and I dare say that each shove got a "little" more forceful, and eventually she just booted him once (or twice)* I don't mind when people correct my dogs for basic manners issues. This is a dog that is trained to bite, and bite through stick hits, whip work, etc. We laugh about Riggs being a jerk, and most of the time he is, but he's clear headed enough to know when he's supposed to bite and when he isn't. I dare say that most of the Schutzhund and other biteing dogs that I have met would not have let someone they know shove them like that, let alone someone they met the day before.

A clear head is a clear head. :| I think solid obedience is part of any bitework, whether it's protection or sport. (Yes, the out is obedience, different discussion. Fooey, leave it.)



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