Can I Train My Own Dog in Bite Work?
Understanding the Drives of Protection Training
By Ed Frawley
I have studied the art of protection training dogs since 1974. I have bred over 350 litters of protection dogs and produced over 120 dog training videos, many of them on protection dog training.
Protection training (when it is done properly) is one of the most demanding and difficult dog training tasks that there is. Most dogs can learn obedience, scent work or agility, but few dogs can be trained in handler protection.
I often hear people say,”My dog has not been trained in protection but I know that if someone came after me he would protect me.” In 99% of the cases this is wishful thinking. In actual fact, most dogs, when threatened, will show avoidance and run away, leaving their handler to fend for themselves.
The reason for this is based in the temperament of the dogs. In its simplest sense, bite training is founded on the ability of a dog to deal with stress. A good protection dog is taught from a young age to act in an appropriate way when threatened. He is taught that to show avoidance and run away does not solve his problem.
To be successful in this training, handlers need to have a thorough understanding of the drives that govern a dog’s temperament in protection work. They are:
1. Prey drive
2. Defensive Drive
3. Fight Drive
If your goal is to learn how to train a dog in protection work, your job begins by understanding these drives and how they relate to each other. If a trainer does not fully understand drive development he may as well not even start this work because he is never going to accomplish anything in protection training.
If you are new to this sport, you need to listen to what I am about to say about drives and then either watch my video on the subject (The First Steps of Bite Work - Video 101-B) or go to an experienced trainer and learn from them. Every time you watch a dog doing bite work you should be thinking “What drive is this dog in and why?”
If you can watch an experienced helper work a dog you need to be thinking “What drive does the helper have the dog in?” When he switches drives you need to try and recognize when that happens and why.
In my video I will define and demonstrate drives by showing you dogs that have good drives and dogs that lack drive. I want the viewer to recognize when a dog has the potential for protection work.
Probably just as important, I want them to understand when a dog has not inherited the necessary drive and therefore cannot be trained in protection work.
Right from the beginning, everyone needs to understand that dogs inherit the drives for protection work. It is a genetic factor and neither a factor of training nor a factor of breed. In other words, if a dog does not have the genes for protection work you are not going to train the drives into the dog. Just because a dog is a German shepherd does not mean that it can be trained in bite work. That would be like saying just because I have a horse I think it can run in the Kentucky Derby.
The first part of the video deals with defining the drives a dog uses in protection work. We then go into the training steps for the dog, the handler and the helper. To be effective in protection training the handler and helper must work as a team.