Updated: Jan 18
Protection for beginners? Well this is a little tougher since it not only involves you but also a helper. Let’s talk FIRST about what you can do to help your dog.
First, take our free play course so you understand fighting on the grip and engaging the dog with a tug. These skills transfer when your dog is biting on a sleeve and help build strength in areas your dog needs it.
Second, begin teaching your dog the technical skills he will later need in protection. Skills like looking straight at a target (instead of up at you) will transfer to your “transport” command later. You’ll want to thoroughly teach this skill before ever doing it with a helper.
The out command is another area that needs special attention. The most important thing you can do is teach your dog that outing is the way to continue the game. If you teach it by making a fight, expect to have out problems later on. Be sure to use a separate cue for outing during obedience with a ball or tug than the command you’re practicing to use in trial. The formal out should always be immediately rewarded in the beginning where the informal one can be slower and therefor not rewarded as obsessively.
Don’t ruin your Out command!!! If you’re fighting with your dog, you are teaching that reaction to the word.
Now, when it comes to actual helper work, there are some basic principles that are often never taught to young helpers and this is where it can be problematic.
First and foremost, Prey and aggression should be separated!
What is prey? Prey behavior is when your dog chases a ball or gets excited when a cat runs across the road. When you hold them back, they can get frustrated and bark but if allowed to go chase it, they will be very quiet. Prey behavior is basically hunting behavior.
What is aggression? Aggression is the act a dog puts on when he wants to dominate or defend. He might defend his pack against a threat or show aggressive behavior towards an intruder, like barking. We need BOTH prey and aggression in schutzhund, depending on the situation. He’s in prey on the escape, but aggression during the guarding. If you’re asking for barking but moving and twitching like a rabbit, you’re not going to get clear barking. Or you may even kill the dog’s natural prey behavior because you’re showing the prey while also being a threat. So the dog can learn to ignore the prey because you’re being too scary and he has to defend himself.
Don’t do that. Stay still when asking for barking. Hide the toy if you need to. Then when you switch to prey, make it very clear. This means they quiet down immediately and put all their energy into prey behavior which is catching the object. A dog who doesn’t go into prey will not want to carry or even bite in severe cases.
So separate them, don’t mix them together.
Understand the different natural goals of the dog when they are in each drive.
First with prey, the goal is to catch and carry, not bark.
The goal when the dog is barking in defense (you know, where the teeth show and the dog looks very serious) is to get you to LEAVE. That’s the goal of the dog so don’t give the bite from there. If you’re getting defense, reward the dog at first by running away. Then you can switch the dog to prey with very clear movement. But they need to be separated. Running around, cracking a whip, yelling angrily…you don’t want to mix everything together like that.
Now, what about that rhythmic barking that we see in trial?
Rough, rough, rough, rough…the teeth aren’t bared here and the dog looks really strong and happy to be there. That’s the end goal because that rhythmic barking shows the dog is actively seeking that guarding out. They like it. Unlike defense, where they want you to leave, here they enjoy that emotion so much, they don’t want you to go anywhere. They want to dominate you.
A very good beginning for understanding the different drives is Helmut Raiser’s book, Der Schutzhund…not the training part, which is from a very long time ago, but the theory portion in the beginning of the book which still holds true today.
The first lesson of Marko's Protection Fundamentals course will also be posted for FREE within the next couple day, so take advantage of his expertise :)
Now go train!