Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Dog/Human Connection

By: Brian Gagye
(Special O.P.S. K-9 Academy & K-9 P.S.I.)

As a K-9 trainer and instructor; I’ve had to deeply think about how to teach people so the information I have taught to students sticks in their minds. The worst thing that can happen is to teach a handler a skill set that they soon forget after our academy. For this reason; I have changed the way I teach K9 teams. I have been specializing in Dog Psychology for over 15 years. However, teaching the information to others in a manner that imprints the brain in a short amount of time is an arduous task. This is why I have decided to finish my degree in psychology, because understanding how humans learn and process information makes for better K9 Handlers. In this article, I’m going to talk about the human brain and how we process information, but will also create a parallel with a dog’s brain. So, let’s dive into this information.
Dogs have been evolving around us humans for 15,000 up to 135,000 years and according to Adam Miklosi “We’ve had such a huge influence on canine evolution that we have seemingly altered dog’s cognitive abilities.” So, with that being said, how have we altered dog’s cognitive abilities? We know that dogs can learn by watching us humans. Like the old drug commercials where the teenage kid tells his addict father, “I learned it by watching you.” This is a fact of dogs’ nature, they do learn how we solve problems. The department of Psychology at the University of Florida states, “Dogs modify their behavior with regard to the intentional state of humans.” This means that dogs will change their behavior per our current behaviors or state of mind. For example; in some cases, dogs will learn how to turn a door knob because they saw their human counterpart do it many times. This also means a stressed-out handler dealing with double shifts, family issues, loads of frustrations, will in fact affect the dog’s behavior. Many handlers are not being taught how to suppress raw emotion in the moment so their work dog remains effective in the field. Let me say this bluntly; Your behavior in the moment will affect your dog! To understand dog, I have found it is imperative to learn our own brains. Now, we are not going to go into every aspect of our brains as that would make this article thousands of pages long. However; I will be focusing on explaining two very important parts, the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. So, let’s get started….
Did you know that your brain can perform an estimated 10,000,000,000,000,000 operations per second without you even knowing it? I know that number has a lot of zeros in it, but that number is 10 quadrillion. We have on 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day and almost all of these 50,000-70,000
thoughts are the same thoughts you had yesterday. Your brain makes your heart beat at just the right tempo to send oxygenated blood to the rest of your body. It tells your diaphragm to move your lungs just right so you can breathe. Your brain does 6,000,000,000 things to your 60,000,000,000 cells every single second without you even thinking about it. Your brain is amazing! As amazing as it is, it can be our best friend or your worst enemy. Our brain has two minds, the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The conscious mind is the part of the brain that lets us choose a particular course of action based on our five senses; what we see, hear, smell, touch and taste. If you think you have free will you are mistaken. In reality, free will is practically an illusion. In fact, Neuroscientist have proven that only 5% of the time you choose an action, 95% of the time you don’t. 95% of the time you’re on auto pilot, your subconscious is choosing what to do based off of previous experiences and memories.
Let me give you a more detailed explanation. If you see something that you have never seen before and it reaches out and hurts you there would be a neuronal firing in your brain which would produce a chemical. If you are afraid of what you experienced due to the hurt, the chemical your brain produces is cortisol, the stress/fear hormone. You then would choose an action like running away, climbing a tree, fighting, etc. Next your body would act out what you chose as a response to the chemical production in your body. This would then be the beginning of programming your subconscious mind. The next time you see that same thing that hurt you, your body would respond as it did before but with less thought. The more you see this harmful thing and the more your body responds the same way, the more your subconscious is being programmed. In no time at all your body will automatically respond to that thing which hurt you without any thought. This, by the way, is also true in animals. I have learned in my psychology classes that learning plus repetition is what programs or re-programs our subconscious mind. Let me say that again, LEARNING + REPETITION = REPROGRAMMING. This same reality is true in animals. When they learn and repeat based on positive or negative reward, they will either continue with the behavior or dis-continue that behavior.
This fact can be a slippery slope for some people. As officers of the law, you sometimes lack empathy for the drug addict who, at the same trailer park, overdoses on a consistent basis. I know this happened to me when I worked as a Sheriff’s Deputy. However; if you look at action repetition and what it does to the subconscious mind, I think you may reconsider. According to Occupational Therapist Gary Kielhoffner’s Model of Human Occupation, addicts usually have a low self-efficiency and perception of personal performance. Therefore, they partake in risky behaviors, like shooting heroin into their veins. They know it can potentially kill them, but they don’t care about their own life enough to choose different coping methods. They typically started using to fit into a select group of people or to make a horrible memory go away. In some cases, it is environmental programming. They saw mom or dad shoot heroin over and over throughout their young life and so the idea of using is planted into the subconscious mind. My point is, they started using for a reason, the more they used, the more it became a habit and their neurological system became dependent. Proving that learning plus repetition creates habits. So, what is a habit? A habit is an idea placed/programmed into the subconscious mind over and over again. We see this in self-sabotaging behavior. A child that is given the idea that they will never amount to anything or that they are a loser, will grow into an adult who believes they are unworthy of success. Had that idea not been planted into the subconscious mind, their life outcome would have likely been very different.
This same ideology holds true in dogs. Just like a person making poor choices to solve a life problem, dogs can do the same. For example; One of my handlers was searching a car on the interstate and a big rig applied the engine brake just as it passed by. The handlers dog had never experienced that before, which caused neuronal firing in the dog’s brain and the brain produced cortisol. The dog, in that moment, consciously chose an action. The chosen action, after jumping in fear, was to pull the handler to the side of the road. The handler didn’t step in and help the dog choose a different action. Therefore, the programming had already begun. In the future, the dog subconsciously thought, “When I was on the interstate something bad happened, I ran to the side of the road and I was safe. I’m alive today to tell my story.” So, the next time the handler tried searching a car on the side of the interstate, this same thought crossed the dogs subconscious mind. The dog tried to get out of harm’s way when it felt cortisol in its body, by doing what it did last time. This is where handlers fail. They get angry or frustrated with their dog and begin to forcefully correct the dog back to the car. No handler wants to look like a fool because of the dog’s unwillingness to search a car on the interstate. Handlers then tend to wear their emotions on their sleeve and the dog begins to modify their behavior accordingly. From here, the Handler/dog dynamic begins to slowly deteriorate. The dog works less and less for the handler as the handler becomes more and more frustrated and angry with his dog. The harsh reality is, dog is the dumber specie. Therefore; it is always our fault for a dog’s poor choices. We should have stepped in and taught the dog a different way of handling the fear. In the previously mentioned case, the handler’s frustrations grew causing his dog to refuse to search any car. The dog associated the handler becoming angry when a car is presented for searching. Therefore; the dog rationalized, “Searching a car is bad.” I told the handler to only do car searches on the interstate and be very happy and patient. Bring the fun back to searching cars on the interstate by showing the dog patience and lots of love and affection. Before long the dog began to think, “I’ve been out here a hundred times and nothing bad happened, so what is there to be afraid of. Searching cars is fun.” This is called Systematic Desensitization and it worked like a charm. Yes, it took the handler extra time and energy but they got their effectiveness back on the interstate.
So, what we are talking about is rewards. After all, we shape behavior based on the outcome. If the reward is positive, we will continue the behavior because it equaled success to us. If the outcome equaled misery and punishment or something not of positive value then we choose to stay away from that behavior. For example, a child touches a hot stove, the burning sensation and the long pain of healing is the non-positive value causes the child to stay away from the hot stove in the future. Per Neuroscientist Dr. Greg Burns from Emory University, the Caudate Nucleus is the reward center of the brain. This is what triggers emotion based off rewards. Think about what speaks to you emotionally; Food, Money, Success, etc. These are rewards to us and trigger emotion (by the way this holds true in dogs also). What can our emotions do for us? Well, our emotions can cause us to do things like make rash decisions. Have you ever heard of impulse purchases? Our emotions can cause us to snap at someone or even do something to harm ourselves. Our emotions can place us in a position of success or ruin everything we have worked so hard for. We must think about dogs in the
same manner. If a dog learned through play biting that you pulled away in pain when they accidentally bit too hard, they may remember this and use it when they are emotionally driven. If a dog had learned this in play and one day they have their favorite bone, and you say, “Hey, I need that bone so I can vacuum the floor.” The dog may think, “Wait, this is my bone, I am emotionally connected to this bone. How do I make them go away? Oh yeah, when I bit hard in play, they backed away. I wonder if that will work now?” The dog will then try it, like an experiment. If it received success in that action then it will put a check mark by that solution. Now we see all of this coming together in this example: The bone was the outside stimulus the dog could physically see and touch (2 of the 5 senses). The dog’s conscious mind made a choice of what to do or created an idea based on prior experiences. The dog then tested the idea and if it worked it will repeat that over and over, programming the subconscious mind. Before long the dog will automatically bite when you or anyone gets close to that bone, and without any thought. This is the dog-human dynamic and the reason why handlers struggle to maintain their K9’s workability. Unfortunately, there are so many work dog trainers who correct the dog in a negative manner for every unwanted course of action. I agree with giving a hard-headed dog a stiff jolt with the leash but most of the time we must be smarter than that. I tell my handlers, “Sometimes the best training is doing nothing at all.” I will let the dog figure it out on their own, I just reduce the amount of choices the dog has.” If a dog wants to run and hide and I have them on leash, I just become a post and not let the dog have an avenue of escape. The dog will have to problem solve and figure it out. I don’t move until the dog chooses a healthy way of dealing with the issue at hand. Usually, within 10-15 minutes the dog calms down. Sometimes, they calm down from the exhaustion of fighting so hard, but once the mind calms down then and only then can they realize nothing bad is happening. We have been discussing problem solving steps but let’s go a bit deeper. The Department of Psychology at the University of Florida states that dogs solve problems like humans and higher primates. Well, how do we solve problems? We create a mental check list of things to try.
When one of our ideas fail, we cross it off and move onto the next item on our mental list. Eventually, we find a solution to our problem based on a particular course of action. Others may not agree with this action, but if it solved our problem we are content with our decision. Example; An alcoholic military Veteran drinking to make the combat death of a close friend go away for a while. I am a service connected disabled Veteran who did just that. I didn’t know how to deal with the guilt and vivid memory of watching my buddy get his head blown off 10 feet from me. After I got out of the military, I thought to myself, “I know lots of booze allows me to live in the moment and not think about the bills, family issues, the death of my buddy, etc.”. This action was looked down upon by family and people at my church, but for me, it gave me a little bit of peace in my chaotic mind. So, you see, the people around me saw drinking as destructive, but my mind saw it as a reward. It gave me freedom from my broken mind. Yes, I was suppressing because I didn’t know how to change my subconscious thought process. VA was not helping, so self-medicating to forget worked in my mind. Even though it was negative to others it still gave me a bit of peace, which in turn equaled a reward to me. (Just so everyone knows, I have fixed the broken parts of my subconscious mind and have not touched a drop of alcohol for many years). Just because an action appears to others as negative, like smoking meth for example, does not mean it is negative to the person using. Meth users know their usage will likely kill them, but they are looking for reward in the moment of metal torture; Therefore, the act of forgetting by using equals success. Like some of my military brothers and sisters and myself, dogs will do the same thing. Their choice of problem solving action may not be what we feel is right and in an attempt to fix the problem we sometimes use harsh techniques in an already bad situation for the dog. We, in essence, are adding insult to injury and the dog’s behaviors will reflect this toxic solution. The most asked question is, “How do I fix my dog’s choices in the moment when I’m not even expecting it to happen?” I’m not saying you should have telepathy and see it coming. It’s all about identifying problem solving behavior then recreate that behavior when you are mentally prepared to begin to solve the unwanted behavior. For example; Your dog munches on cheese puffs left on the floor of a car that he/she is searching on the road. You just identified a conscious choice your dog has made. I’ve seen K9’s who were trained not to indicate on hidden food during training, but will still eat on the roadside. This is because the dog is not associating indication with eating. These are two separate things to a dog; Therefore, you just learned what you need to do in training. Make food accessible to the dog in training and correct the act of eating. The dog will view eating food on a search is bad and the behavior will cease to exist. This brings me to my next point; How do we correct unwanted behavior? I use Operant Conditioning to change behavior. Operant conditioning was created by
E.L. Thorndike and B.F. Skinner. Operant conditioning is a type of learning in which behavior is strengthened if followed by a re-enforcer or diminished if followed by a punisher. There are four criteria that make up operant conditioning. These criteria are as followed;
1. Positive Punishment - The addition of something to a behavior in hopes to change behavior. If someone has the bad behavior of speeding and you add a ticket to the behavior, we hope it changes behavior.
2. Negative Punishment – The removal of something in hopes to change behavior. If the speeding person doesn’t learn their lesson and they go to court and the judge removes their license.
3. Positive Reinforcement – The addition of something pleasurable to reinforce the behavior.
4. Negative Reinforcement – A response or behavior is strengthened by stopping, removing, or avoiding a negative outcome or aversive stimulus. A mom nagging her child to do the dishes. The child must do the dishes in order for mom to stop nagging. The bell that goes off in your vehicle telling you to put your seatbelt on. It won’t stop until you choose the right/desired behavior.
So, you see we use operant conditioning in every aspect of our lives. Let’s not forget that just as every human is different so are dogs. One method may work for one dog but not another. Point being, some dogs (even tough work dogs) may be sensitive to a handler’s tug on the leash, while others are oblivious to the same tug. We cannot treat every dog the same. We cannot use too heavy of an aversive condition (unpleasant stimulus) and kill the dogs desire to please. A dog working out of fear will eventually become psychologically unsound as they problem solve the over use of aversive conditions. We must have a perfect balance of love/affection and correction. People can also love the dog too much. The dog will problem solves, creating ways to get what they want, when they want it. Others can correct the dog too much. The dog will become frustrated and he/she will feel they cannot do anything right and checks out mentally. It’s much easier to physically show you how to use operant conditioning than to explain all the dynamics and timing in its entirety. I simply want to get your brain juices flowing so you begin to think like a psychologist. After all, you are the therapist for your dogs unwanted behaviors. The reality is, our thoughts create us and the same holds true for dogs and other animals. It’s our job to manipulate the situation and guide our dog to healthier ways of dealing with issues. We have to remember what our mission is. That mission is to intercept the transport of narcotics, track down and apprehend suspects. If your dog is shutting down on the job or is not very effective, you have to take responsibility and be man or woman enough to admit it is our fault. Remember, your dog is just a wild domesticated animal. They are not smarter than we are, so we must step in and find solutions for our four-legged partners. Being a handler is (in my opinion) one of the toughest jobs in law enforcement. You are not just a handler once in a while, you are a handler 24/7 and cannot let the dog slip even at home. You have to care for this animal all the time and do not get a day off. I like to refer to Vince Lombardi about winning, “Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning for some is a habit. Unfortunately, for others so is losing.”

About The Author:
Brian Gagye served honorably in the United States Marine Corps; as a Scout Sniper, then pursued a career in Law Enforcement as a Deputy Sheriff for Branch County Sheriff's Department in Michigan, as well as a specialized security company. Brian has also been training dogs for over 20 years. Currently he teaches dog psychology and problem solving seminars for police officers and civilians nationwide and still continues to apply the precision leadership traits taught by the United States Marine Corps. Brian also specializes in teaching mixed martial arts, as well as personal protection, and firearms instruction. Presently he is also working on completing his degree in Psychology to further his knowledge of how dogs process information and co-exist with us humans.
Brian currently owns and operates Special O.P.S K9 Academy, you may read more about them by
visiting their website

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Working Dog Hygiene

By: Tracy Jordan, Certified Professional Dog Groomer

Tracy Jordan with Mason, a Turkish Kangal
My name is Tracy Jordan. I have been a dog groomer for over 30 years and have owned two of my own Grooming Salons and worked for several Veterinarians and groomers. My mother, who was Certified in Poodles, trained me to groom. Over the years I have attended many Groom Expos to expand my education. While working with Veterinarians, I also made a point to learn all I could from them.
When working with German Shepherds, and working dogs in general, grooming is a different approach. It is very important to keep visual on their skin and coat. Best way to do this is daily or at least weekly combing and brushing. You want to comb the dog out completely to find any debris or matting in the coat. When brushing, you have to brush from the skin out. This way you can see the skin and work the coat all the way through.
It is very important to keep your working dog healthy, and a well groomed coat is key. They can pick up all kinds of germs and pests while out in the woods, fields and water. Bathing them after working in the field is important in reducing the chance of getting sick.
If possible, pre-bush the coat to remove all debris and check for open sores or wounds. Then give the dog a thorough bath in a quality shampoo. If not, then at least brush out best you can and use a No Rinse or Waterless shampoo. This will reduce the chance of the dog getting a yeast infection or worse. I recommend Bio Groom Harsh coat for regular and QuickClean Waterless Shampoo for in between quick baths I use a metal Greyhound comb and Slicker brush by Miller Forge. All These Products can be found in Pet Edge Magazine. It is also recommended that the dogs collar is cleaned as often as the dog, if they wear a collar daily. The collar, over time will begin to smell and can also carry bacteria.
Keeping your equipment cleaned is important as well. Harness, collar and crates should be kept clean
to help prevent illness in your working dog. Grooming in general for dogs should include comb/brush out, bath, nail trim, clean ears and check pads of feet. By doing this on at least a monthly basis, you will help prevent hot spots and avoid illness from infection and pests.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Building A Successful K-9 Team

By: Travis Walthall
N.A.P.W.D.A Master Trainer

Let me just get right to the point. Administrators, a large majority of this article will be addressed to you. I’ll be blunt. If you’re easily offended or don’t like being told “You’re doing it wrong”, then stop reading now. Chances are, you’re doing it wrong and I will probably point that out to you in this article. I will tell you up front that I was never, and probably will never be, an administrator. I didn’t say that I was never a leader. Huge difference, as you know. I guess I should clarify. I did a lot of administrative work while working the street and working a dog. It was just never my full time job. So, in the interest of fairness, I will cut you some slack because I realize there are things that you, as an administrator, have to deal with that I never did. But, that’s your job. If you’re doing it correctly, street level guys should never have to worry about your responsibility, especially in the context of the topics this article will address. Let’s get to it.
Recently, I have either dealt directly with departments concerning their canine policies, or I have heard of departments having issues with their policies. Most of the issues I have dealt with, or heard about, have been with the “aggression control”, or use of force, portion of the canine policy. Many times, the problem is that the issue is being made more difficult than it needs to be. What is the landmark use of force case in the United States? Graham v. Connor. Canine policies should follow Graham v. Connor. That’s it. It isn’t rocket science. I recently spoke with a chief of a medium sized police department with a well-established, successful K-9 Team. Their policy had mirrored Graham v. Connor. He told me that they had recently changed the policy so that handlers couldn’t use their dogs to apprehend offenders simply because the offense was nothing more than fleeing. In other words, they could no longer “bite” people simply for running. My response was, “Your policy followed Graham v. Connor, correct?” He responded, “Yeah.” My response, “Well then, you couldn’t have done that in the first place.” He looked at me like I had three heads, then quickly recovered by explaining that they had just changed the wording to make it hook. One of two things had gone wrong here. Either Graham v. Connor was not correctly understood or “the powers that be” within this police department lost their heads because dogs were involved.
Honestly, I’m not entirely sure which is the case because I see both on a regular basis. If you’re a street cop, much less an administrator, and you cannot recite the “three prongs” of Graham v. Connor by heart, you need to learn them, right now! This is THE landmark case for use of force. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about deadly force or using a dog to apprehend suspects, this is the standard. By the way, deadly force and canine apprehension are NOT the same, in spite of what a policy I recently read says. Administrators, you are the people writing policies. You have to understand what your cops on the street, including canine handlers, can and cannot do. Develop a strong canine
K9 Hatto of  the Olathe, KS Police Department
apprehension policy using Graham v. Connor as your guide. If you can do that, you’re fine. If you need help, seek it out. Whatever you do, do not handcuff your canine handlers withpoorly written policies. The mind set of, “I was never a canine handler and I don’t understand it”, is tired and unacceptable. Fix it. The next point will cover a lot of topics. Shortcuts never are. If you already have a canine program and you’re looking for ways to cut corners, STOP! If you are establishing a canine program and you’re looking for ways to cut corners, STOP! This is one area where cutting corners is absolutely unacceptable! This usually has to do with trying to find ways to cut spending. The first thing administrators think of is either a cheap dog or cheap training. Neither one of those things truly exists. If you find either one, walk away and keep walking away. When it comes to dogs, two things are important BEFORE you ever see them, genetics and chemistry. The thing you need to concern yourself with is breeding. I’ve always dealt with European dogs because the Europeans have breeding down to a fine art. Many people ask me why “we” don’t use American dogs instead of spending all of that money. Fair question. The answer is usually something to do with cutting corners. American bloodlines are polluted. Why? Money and cutting corners. People want something for less, or for nothing, so we cheat. It will always come back on us. When it comes to training, two things are important, early experiences for the dog and adult learning. The vendor/trainer you select for your program may not have much to do with the early experiences of the dog, but his supplier does. The vendor/trainer you select should understand what you’re looking for in a dog and be able to supply that to you. If he can’t, find a new vendor/trainer. Your trainer will have everything to do with adult learning. If the trainer doesn’t understand what you need, find a new one. The thing you must understand is the fact that good trainers have spent
K9 Bolt of  the Joplin, MO Police Department 
years gaining knowledge and experience.Good trainers don’t come cheaply and neither do good dogs. If you’re not willing or able to spend the money necessary to start your program off correctly, don’t start it at all. You should understand that you are going to have to spend a lot of money to get your program started from the ground up. Hopefully, there are businesses and organizations within your communities that are strong law enforcement supporters that can help you offset some of the costs.

As I said earlier, I have always dealt with imported European dogs, which obviously cost more, and for good reason.Right now, the going rate for an imported male, around 12-18 months is somewhere in the neighborhood of $7,000-$8,000. If somebody quotes a price higher than that, they are either selling the dog of dogs or they are trying to take you for a ride. You could find cheaper dogs, but remember, shortcuts rarely work out. If you spend less money on a dog that isn’t up to standard and have to replace it, you just spent more than you would have had you done the right thing in the first place. Once you have the dog, it has to be trained. Right now, a six week basic course is in the range of $5,000-$6,000. That brings the total for just the dog and handler to $12,000-$14,000. Add to that the handler being in training for six weeks and it isn’t difficult to see what a commitment a K-9 program is from the beginning. There is the option of the trainer pre-training the dog, but the handler doesn’t have a chance to gain some very valuable knowledge if he/she isn’t there from the beginning of training the dog. The handler we see firsthand how the dog is trained from the beginning in most areas. The value of that cannot be measured and will help the handler problem solve issues that will arise in the future of the dog. The costs of a vehicle, a kennel for the vehicle, an interior temperature monitor for the vehicle, harnesses, muzzles, leads, an outdoor kennel for the dog to live in when it is not working, a concrete pad and roof for the outdoor kennel, water and food bowls, dog food, and veterinarian costs must also be considered, and that isn’t an exhaustive list. The cost of initial start-up for a canine program can easily exceed $30,000-$40,000. But, once the program is established and going, it pays for itself all other things being equal. Once you understand what you need from your dogs and vendor/trainer, you need to understand what you need from your handlers. First and foremost, canine handlers should be street monsters. What the heck is a street monster? He or she (I will use the term, “he”, from now on. Don’t be offended) is the person that absolutely loves to hunt bad guys. I mean that they love to actively seek out and arrest actual criminals. When a street monster finds a criminal, they also know how to deal with any resistance that criminal may offer. Once a street monster deals with that resistance and puts the bad guy in jail, they also know how to complete the necessary paperwork. Are you seeing a pattern develop? Canine handlers should be the people that are active in their current roles and need little supervision. If you find the person with those qualities, and they also love dogs, you have yourself a canine handler. But, understand something from the beginning. Good canine handlers are difficult to
K9 Hatto of the Olathe, KS Police Department
deal with. They are most likely not the guy that will simply go with the flow and do whatever you say simply because you said it. Nor will they accept mediocrity anywhere within the department without saying something about it. I’ve never met a group of people that care more about “the job” than canine handlers. Because of that, they invest themselves wholeheartedly, like no other group, into their jobs. They will take things personally, they will gripe and complain, they will “give you a piece of their mind” occasionally, and you won’t like them sometimes. See it for what it is. If it is simply a bad attitude, do what needs to be done to correct it. If it is because they care, which is more likely, appreciate it for what it is. I’ve already addressed the money factor in canine programs, but let me say it again, if you find cheap dogs or cheap training, walk away and keep walking. My last point is the fact that dogs learn in two ways, repetition and reinforcement. That reinforcement is either positive, negative, or passive. Passive may as well be positive. Repetition takes time, training time. You can’t shortcut time. The industry standard for training time is 16 hours per month, minimum. Let me repeat, minimum. Minimum equals mediocrity. Mediocrity sucks! Remember how I said earlier that good canine handlers care like nobody else? Well, good canine handlers won’t accept mediocrity. They will complain for more training time, even if they are getting the minimum standard amount. Before you, the administrator, think something like, “There’s no way they need that much time”, ask yourself how many training days you have attended so that you know how much time they need. In 17 years of handling dogs on the street, I can remember one time that anyone above the rank of patrolman showed up for a training day. It was the chief, who happened to drive by our training. To his credit, he stopped to chat. All five handlers had just laid a track for one another and we were standing around talking while the tracks aged a little bit. I knew what the chief was thinking the entire 15 minutes he was there. He proved me right the next day when he called me into his office to inform me that he was cutting our training time in half. When I asked him why, he explained that we weren’t using it efficiently. I explained to him what he thought he saw. He was a reasonable man and to his credit he kept things the way they were. Point being, if you don’t know, find out. Your canines and their handlers must have sufficient training time. If you’re not willing to give it, don’t start a canine program. If you already have one, attend training so you will know for yourself the time it takes to properly train dogs for police work. If you find out that your people aren’t getting enough time, give them what they need. On the other hand, if you see that your people are wasting time, deal with it accordingly.

One last topic. There are a great number of K-9 organizations out there that offer certifications. When looking for a group to obtain certification through, find one that is recognized within the industry and whose standards have been upheld by the courts. Stay away from “fly by night” organizations. Anyone can decide, at any point, to make-up their own organization. What are their certification standards? What does their accreditation process to become a trainer within their organization entail? Did “President” Bob just make them a trainer one day over a drink or did the trainer have to meet a standard? The adage of “short cuts aren’t” especially holds true when it comes to K-9 certifying organizations. I have learned many things over the past 17 years of handling dogs, but nothing as proven more true than one thing my Dad taught me as a young boy. He always told me that anything worth doing was worth doing right the first time. If you, the administrator and the handler, aren’t willing to do what it makes to do things right and repeat that effort every day, then don’t even get involved in the canine world. You will only end up hurting your people, your department, yourself, and the citizens you serve. Shortcuts have no place in law enforcement, especially in the K-9 world. It’s your responsibility to develop good policies and give your people the resources they need and deserve. Perfect effort. Every dog. Every time.
About The Author:
Travis Walthall & K9 Takoa
Travis Walthall is a Certified Master Trainer for North American Police Work Dog Association.
In 2016 Walthall retired from Joplin, Missouri Police Department after 23 years of honorable service to his community and it's citizens.
Walthall has worked and studied under some of the best names in K-9 training and behavior. Currently he takes part in teaching decoy training camps, NAPWDA, POST Certified and K-9 problem solving seminars across the nation.
If you need help writing a K-9 policy for your department that pertains to this article you may contact Patriot K-9 Training at

Thursday, January 19, 2017

K-9 Drive, Fact or Fiction?

I would be remiss if I didn’t start this article by giving credit where credit is due.  Everything I talk about in this article, I learned from Dr. Stephen A. Mackenzie, either through discussion with him or having read about it in his book Decoys and Aggression 2nd edition, which is available through Amazon.  I highly recommend reading this book. Dr. Mackenzie is a professor of animal science and a North American Police Work Dog Association, Master Trainer.  I believe that anyone with his credentials is worthy of my attention.
It didn’t take me long to realize that this is a very controversial topic.  Any time somebody offers a differing opinion, other than what has been accepted for decades, there is bound to be some uproar over it.
Each time I have attempted to discuss this topic with handlers or trainers, they look at me like I have three heads and quickly change the topic.  I had the same reaction when I first began discussing this with Doc, but I also had an open mind and realized that I was speaking with not only a veteran, well respected dog trainer, but also someone that holds a PhD in animal behavior.  With that in mind, I must warn you that I will attempt to explain this topic in layman terms and the way which I understand it.  I can, in no way, explain it in the depth and clarity that Dr. Mackenzie can.
The definition of “drive” within a dog is “a dog’s natural reaction to a stimulus”.  That’s a pretty good definition of the word.  So, let’s apply that definition to a human being’s reaction to a stimulus. Let’s say that I walk up to you, the reader, and tell you something like, “I’m going to punch you in the face.” How do you react to that?  This is a fight or flight scenario.  You have a limited number of choices of how to react to that statement.  You can run (flight), punch me (fight), or a third option is for you to try to talk me out of fighting.  Any of the three could be defined as your “drive” in that instance.  The term “drive” is an attempt to define an observable behavior. But, what causes that behavior?  Is there something going on within you, the reader, which influences your reaction to my statement?
Now, let’s apply that same scenario to a dog.  If I present a physical challenge to a dog, like a decoy would, the dog also has a limited number of choices as to how to react to my challenge. The dog
basically has the same choices that you, the reader, has. The dog can either choose to fight me, run away, or bite me out of fear or defense, which is completely different than what we have come to know as “fight drive.” Although dogs can’t talk, the dog in this case could also tell me he doesn’t want to fight by using certain body language, which is also covered in Doc’s book. Those are the possible observable behaviors in this scenario.  But, what is causing those behaviors?
We, as humans, readily accept, for the most part, the explanations of a psychiatrist and other mental health professionals, when they give very technical explanations as to why humans behave the way they do given certain circumstances.  They will talk about things like genetics, chemistry, early childhood experiences, and how/what that human learned in life.  We listen and say, “Ah, that makes perfect sense." If a psychiatrist were to explain a human behavior, no matter what that behavior may be, by simply saying something like, “Bob was just driven to punch Larry” we would ask, “What does that mean? What “drove” Bob to punch Larry?”. We would want to know what was going on in Bob’s mind.
What was Bob thinking? What was going on inside of Bob chemically?  What early experiences did Bob have in life that may have caused him to think hitting Larry was acceptable? What adult experiences did Bob have that may have taught him such behavior was acceptable? We wouldn’t accept the over simplified explanation  that Bob was just “driven” to punch Larry.  Why do we accept it for dog behavior?
Well, guess what?  A dog is not unlike a human when it comes to reacting to stimulus.  If I present myself as a physical challenge to a dog and he chooses to fight me, most handlers and trainers would say that is “fight drive.”  In the accepted dog training world, they would be correct. But, what would they say if we asked them to explain what causes that “fight drive”? Is there some mysterious force pushing the dog into fighting me? Or is there a more scientific explanation for what is happening within the dog’s mind and body when presented with a physical challenge?  Do dogs possess “drives” or do they present observable behaviors? What causes “drives”? Is it a mysterious force pushing the dog into something? Or is it a much more explainable behavior?
In the example given throughout this article, I am presenting myself as a physical challenge to a dog, which is an example of aggression. 
“Aggression, like many other behaviors, is affected by four major factors: genetics, chemistry, early experience, and adult learning.” (Mackenzie, 47).  For handlers and trainers to explain a behavior by simply calling it a “drive” is inadequate. If you’re still reading, I applaud you for having an open mind.  You have come to the same understanding that I have, which is that I don’t know everything there is to know about dogs and their training and I never will.  I have accepted the fact that there are much smarter people out there than me and they know things that I don’t.  When I come across such a person, I want to know what they know.  Again, when somebody with more knowledge and experience than I have, that is willing to share with me, begins speaking, I will choose to listen.  This is the point when I will reiterate that I fall well short of an adequate explanation of this topic. 
I highly recommend that you read Decoys and Aggression 2nd edition. (No, I am not getting a cut of sales).
So, let’s pretend, at least for a moment, that there is much more to a dog’s reaction to stimulus than just it’s “drive”.  A dog’s behavior or reaction is based upon four things.  The first is genetics. We, as handlers and trainers, have really nothing to do with the genetics of our dogs other than the selection process.  That really isn’t anything to do with genetics itself.  We are simply “testing” dogs in an attempt to find one with the proper genetics to be a working dog. So, the best thing we can do is to find a breeder/vendor that understands what we are looking for and that we can trust to provide us with that. We must also develop a solid testing process that will eliminate genetically weak dogs from the possibility of them becoming a part of our training group/LE agencies.  We simply test dogs and look for the dogs that displayed the strongest behaviors we are looking for.
The second thing that dictates a dog’s behavior is chemistry.  Again, read the book because I certainly am not a chemist and will do a poor job explaining this.  However, I do have a very rudimentary grasp on the concept, which I gained through reading the book and speaking with Doc.  So, here goes my attempt at explanation. Like humans, dogs experience a dopamine dump when undergoing something that is pleasurable.  They will repeat whatever behavior they think led to that pleasurable experience.  Adult learning also plays a role in this component of aggression, which is what we are talking about in this article, for the most part. 
An example is a working dog that must be neutered. If the dog has been rewarded in the past for showing aggressive behavior, neutering him will not make that aggression disappear. 
He has experienced pleasurable chemical reactions, has been rewarded for the behavior, and will repeat that behavior in the future even after having been neutered.  Again, we have basically nothing to do with the chemical reactions within a dog. 
Early experience is the next thing that affects a dog’s behavior.  Have you ever had somebody in the public come up to you and say something like, “I have a German Shepherd at home, but it would never bite anyone. Why is that?” Well, that particular animal may not have the genetics necessary to peak it’s curiosity enough so that it will try new things, in this case, biting a human. Another case maybe that the dog was never taught that it was OK to bite a human. As a matter of fact, early in life, they were probably punished for doing so.  So much of what we do is simply operant conditioning.  We reward a desirable behavior with a pleasurable experience for the dog and we punish bad behavior with a negative experience for the dog.  Early in a puppy’s life, from the age of about four weeks to twelve weeks, is known as the socialization period.  It is during this important period that we, as trainers, seek to imprint a puppy with the behaviors we desire in them as adult dogs. We expose them to new experiences that they will deal with as adults.  We teach them that it is acceptable to bite humans under certain conditions. We expose them to new environments. We socialize them with other people.
We should have the younger dogs watch older, more experienced dogs work, especially in bite work.  We do everything we can to expose the dog to new things. We mold and teach them what we want them to learn. We reward good behavior and we correct unwanted behaviors.  There are also all kinds of things chemically going on within the dog. But again, I’m no chemist or animal behaviorist, so read the book.
The last component that affects behavior is adult learning.  I will quote directly from Mackenzie here (52-53). “…when genetics encourage the dog to exhibit a certain behavior and that behavior feels normal due to proper imprinting and socialization, the last factor to contribute is the chemical change, if any, that occurs in the brain.
When the behavior results in the neurotransmitter dopamine being released into the part of the brain known as the mesolimbic reward pathway, it creates such a pleasant feeling that the dog feels rewarded and becomes motivated to repeat whatever behavior he thinks leads to that feeling.  If, on the other hand, the situation results in a release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine into the part of the brain known as the “punishment circuit,” such an unpleasant feeling arises that the dog feels punished and will often try to avoid whatever he thinks led to that sensation. This will often stimulate what is known as the behavior inhibition system, which decreases the occurrence of behaviors that are undesirable in certain situations. This system enables the dog to conform productively to things such as the rules of the pack. …”If you do not start with a dog that has the correct genotype to show aggressive behaviors, you are at a severe disadvantage and should search for a dog with a better genotype. “
So, as you can see, we are a huge influence in the development of our dog’s behaviors.  We start with an adequate testing and selecting process wherein we observe candidates in a variety of settings and conditions.  It is up to us to have the knowledge necessary to interpret the behaviors of the dog in those given environments and conditions.  We then select the dogs that are displaying proper behaviors which were formed through good genetics and chemical make-up for the type of work we are selecting them for. Those solid genetics and chemical make-ups are brought out, first in early experience, which we may not have had anything to do with, and adult learning, which we will have everything to do with. The fact that we don’t have anything to do with the genetics and chemical make-up of the dog, is why it is important to select a breeder with a good reputation for producing the types of dogs that are fit for our type of work. 
Again, we may not have 
that socialization period between four and twelve weeks of age, which is why it is important to develop a solid relationship with good vendors and trainers that have a reputation of understanding the importance of early experience and that know how to properly develop a dog for our type of work. Again, we will have everything to do with adult learning. We must understand that everything we do with our dogs is an act in training.  We have to understand that desirable behaviors must be properly rewarded and that undesirable behaviors must be fairly punished (a topic for a future discussion, perhaps). If the dog has the proper genetics, chemistry, and early experience, we will be off to a good start for a successful working career.
There is much more to a dog’s reaction to stimulus than just it’s “drive”.  It is not simply a matter of verbiage. It is a matter of understanding that behavior, no matter what that behavior may be, is not made up of some mysterious force that is making the dog behave a certain way.  It is a matter of understanding that behavior goes much deeper that just “drive.” The behaviors we are able to observe are made up of many different factors that come together in something we can see and explain.  Don’t accept an oversimplified explanation.  You owe it to the dog, yourself, and your program to delve deeper into the issue and understand what you are seeing.  Every day is a good day to learn and a good day to train!  God bless!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Decoying for the Working K-9

Two styles of Decoying;

Decoying for Certification & Decoying for Real life (Street Training)
For certification, it's pretty simple, train for your routine (False start, Recall, Verbal out, Handler protection etc).  It doesn’t matter what certification standards you follow, many have the same aspects with small variances.  Whether people want to say it or not, certification training and decoying for certification is a rehearsed "dance" that the K9 becomes accustomed too.  The downfall of many handlers, is when the "dance" changes during the routine.  Different stress, accidental movement from decoys, the clinching/anxiety of the handler can all cause the K9 to react different than what is expected.
I train to let my K9 partner know, if they listen to my commands and respond correctly, I will be pleased with them and they will always get another chance to apprehend the decoy.  It may be in 30 seconds, 2 minutes or 2 days from now, but they will get another chance, but it is at "My" (the handlers) discretion, not the K9’s.
As the training continues for certification, and again, many people will only quietly agree, the K9 learns a routine and is rewarded when they  satisfactorily complete the commanded task.   Most handlers will train this way, but few will push the limits after the routine has been learned.
Once they have their routine performed correctly, many handlers will stop at this point.  But this is where K9 teams fail to certify.  They need to add in additional stressors and make it part of their routine. If they fail to do this, on certification day, the K9 will break a command and apprehend the decoy when they are not supposed to.
An example of this is when a verbal call off is made, the K9 is brought back to the handler and placed in a sit/down command.  The decoy, who has practiced this over and over with the K9 team, mistakenly reaches up and wipes the sweat from his eyes. At that moment, the routine has changed and the K9 breaks from his position and re bites.  That is one simple example of what usually happens.  
Another example is the location of where the handler stops to give the verbal release commands.  If they practice running up to the decoy, once their K9 has bitten the decoy, and stops at 20 feet away every time directly behind the K9, the K9 learns and expects the handler to "call them off" from that position.  In certification if the handler forgets the 20 foot distance mark, or the decoy spins the K9 around facing in the direction of the handler, they will more than likely not comply with the verbal call off.
Practice the routine for certification, then add variables (distance/ positioning/ coughing/ sound/ erratic movement etc..) from the handler, decoy or trainers standing around to make sure the K9 understands to listen to the handlers commands, no matter what variables they are faced with. Push the limits once they successfully complete each  task and praise the hell out of them when they do it correctly.
Street Decoying
Sam Edmonds of  Kennel VanMayhem
Once certification is complete, stop all routines!  Begin real life training.  This is by far the most important training you will ever do.  If you are not making the K9 feel that this is the real thing, then don’t expect any more when you have that life threatening call.  Many times on real life calls, K9’s have failed because they were never trained under stress.  This is where a great decoy is invaluable.
The most important part of a decoy is their TIMING.
The decoy has to “mark" the correct behavior of each individual K9 and their timing has to be perfect.
They need to replicate real life when they can, push the limits to strengthen them and back off of pressure when they are close to shutting a K9 down.  Once a K9 has faced and worked with this type of decoy (like Sam Edmonds- Kennel VanMayhem) when they confront real life encounters, they are on a different level, ready for anything.
Depending on the situational training we are performing, sometimes we can get away from an advanced decoy and use a decoy for the simple purpose of "Meat in a bag". To explain,  I will use static decoys or non animated decoys that will not respond at all to an apprehension by a K9.  They are not to move whatsoever.  The K9 is commanded to apprehend and once they are on the decoy, the handler commands the K9 to hold the decoy. Many times if handlers have not practiced this exercise, the K9 will hold for a few seconds, then let go and try to re bite to make the decoy come alive.  This has happened to me in real life on the street when a suspect on PCP (or other unknown substances) felt no pain and didn't move at all during the apprehension.  This can be confusing for a K9 if they have not experienced it. A more advanced decoy is what I favor in training to build up the "punch in" or deep bite/pain compliance apprehension.
Avoid teaching or allowing "Escape Bites'.   An escape bite is a bite where a K9 grips a decoy on an extremity  (lower leg, lower arm) and begins pulling and tugging.  
Many times they will only have material from the bite suit or sleeve and continue pulling away.   If the decoy "Marks" this behavior by reacting, this will continue to teach the K9 that this bite is acceptable.  Most K9's like this type of bite, because they can easily get away if the decoy becomes aggressive towards them.  This is very obvious behavior to look for.  If a K9 has a bite on the wrist area and the K9 is pulling, have the decoy rush towards the K9, the K9 will seem to retreat, keep pulling and moving away form the decoy while keeping the farthest distance from the decoy they can. We want to train the opposite, the K9 will stop the  aggression of the decoy if he punches into the decoy and bites with pressure.   
With the correct decoy and timing, the K9 learns if they punch in, similar to a Toe to Toe flat footed boxer, they get rewarded by the pain/pressure they give to the decoy, the decoys 'mark" of the  punch in, and the praise simultaneously  received from the handler.   Repeated enough times, this eliminates the shallow, tearing clothing bites.   And even though people think a K9 that bites clothing is less of a liability for their department than a deep biting K9, well.. they are simply wrong! A shallow biting K9 usually re-bites in several different places, instead of one location, the bites are shallow and in multiple locations and they usually do more damage with tearing and ripping than puncturing from a solid deep bite.   A deep full pressure pain compliance bite usually stays in one location and makes punctures.  It also avoids the K9 wanting to fall back into an "escape bite" where they are satisfied playing "tug of war" with a suspects clothing. During that tug of war, there is absolute And in situations where a real life suspect is fighting with no fear of a K9, the escape biting K9 will be seen running around the suspect barely engaging.  Many times on and off, re biting and circling a suspect. This is EXTREMELY dangerous to the handler and back up officers.   
Muzzle fighting
The same philosophy exists with Muzzle training.  Mark their correct behavior. When the K9 initiates a punch in with the muzzle,  the decoy must react as if  they are getting shocked at the point where the muzzle strikes them.  I use a long line and give them enough slack to strike the decoy, but immediately after the strike, I add back pressure to the long line and make them "sled dog" (pulling hard, back into the decoy for an additional strike).  The K9 will learn quickly that once they punch in, they will continue to punch in causing reaction and animation from the decoy.  The mistake I see many handlers make is they leave slack in the line and the K9 runs around openly, sometimes punching in on the decoy but then running around the decoy and not engaging.   Back pressure will help keep the target acquisition, the K9 focused and teach them to drive into the bite. Last thing to remember, While the decoy is working their magic, join the fight with your K9. 
Make sure they know who is on their side during an apprehension.  Backup officers will tackle a suspect with your K9 during an arrest when they have tunnel vision.  Get your K9 accustomed to others approaching during handcuffing etc.  The deep gripping/pain compliance apprehension is something all Law Enforcement should work to have with their K9 partner.  
Make sure you take care of your decoys!  Without them, you would only have a great Article Search/Evidence Recovery K9.  

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Battle of the Breeds

Who is your K9 Partner and Do you know why?

The world around us is full of stereotypes and the ongoing battle of “My breed of choice is better than your Breed of choice”. Unfortunately, this mentality has slowly found its way into the working dog world, creating The Battle of  the Breeds. The American Kennel Club currently registers 189 dog breeds which is just a drop in the “Breed Bucket” when compared to the United Kennel Club which is an international registry that currently recognizes over 300 separate dog breeds. When it comes to choosing our K9 partner(s) we need to be honest with ourselves and think about a few things before looking at dogs: What is going to be the Dog’s main area of expertise (Detection/Dual Purpose, Tracking, Search and Rescue...etc), The area in which you work, Your level of knowledge and expertise in dog handling in your profession (If this is going to be your first K9 partner an imported Belgian Malinois or extreme working line German Shepherd might not be for you.) “ My personal experience has taught me there is no such thing as the Best working Dog Breed! ” says Retired U.S Naval Chief Master At Arms/Kennel Master Ron Barton. “ Yes, there are basic ‘breed specific’ characteristics to go by when determining which breed you want for your specific mission, but there is always an exception to the rule. Not every single pure bred German Shephard or Belgian Malinois is going to be suited for Law Enforcement or Military work. For example: If  you come from a long line of  firefighters, it does not  mean that  you  have got  what  it takes to be one yourself!  We, of course can not for get about the cross breeds or mutts! Pedigree is important in certain aspects, but for me what’s important is what’s in the dog. Not what he / she is.” Barton has trained hundreds of dogs during his military career and has guarded some of the Nation's highest ranking officials with the help of his K9 partners. “ I, like most people, do have my favorite breed; the German Shepherd Dog, but it is my personal preference. However, I will not dismiss a dog’s possibility just because of its breed or pedigree (or lack of ). Many have fallen in to “ the working dog of  the era ” fad and will only use a specific breed with a particular line and/or pedigree, no matter how good your argument is. I have always held true to the saying, 'It’s not the dog in the fight, it’s the fight in the dog!' ” Barton has trained, handled and used on the real world streets several different types of dogs; he was candid enough to share stories about some of his most unusual K9 Partners. 
“ While in Guam we had one of  the best DDD (Drug Detection Dog) it was a Cairn Terrier. When he found the odor, he would work it back to its source and sit. He was so sure that you could pull him around on a slick surface while he maintained his ‘alert’. He would not break that sit response, until he got his reward. He was good for small ships, subs, and other restrictive areas. Yet most departments (the military included ) prefer a dual purpose dog. This way you get the detection and the patrol side in one dog, unfortunately small dogs are not very intimidating as a patrol dog. One story that defines the guide lines of “ breed abilities and stereo types ", is while I was stationed in Puerto Rico we were able to acquire an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) wash out and bring her in to the U.S. Navy for an EDD (Explosive Detection Dog) . 
One of the 'breed stereotypes' alot of people go by is that ‘if  you are going to have just a straight detector dog, use a hunting breed. They have better noses, this why they are used as hunting dogs.' While I do not disagree with this, it is not a hard fast rule. This particular dog was a German Shorthair Pointer with an out standing nose. Ginger was washed out of FAA, because they could not get her to go against her instinctual genetics, and ignore the birds. When she found the source of the odor she would respond with her infamous 'bird dog point' instead of the passive sit response that was required. We worked diligently with her and soon enough desensitized her to the distraction of the birds. Now when she would get distracted by the birds, her handler could get her to refocus back on her task. And as far as the infamous 'bird dog point', we got with our MWD (military working dog) LEPS Team (Law Enforcement Physical Security, K9 team certifying officials) and certified her as an EDD. Her final response was the infamous 'bird dog point'. We had an excess of EDD’s and LEPS had a slot on the west coast where her area of expertise was needed. Ginger went on to be come the #1 EDD on the west coast for the U.S. Navy.” Barton had more than 21 years handling and training dogs in the U.S Navy, before he retired and started his 13+ year career as a Law Enforcement K9 Trainer and Handler. “ My personal favorite is the German Shepherd. They are in general an intelligent breed, and one of the most versatile in the irability to be trained for a wide variety of jobs. Although, Iam not closed minded to the notion that German Shepherds are the best, and/or only breed for the job. One of my very favorite past K9 partners was a solid black Czech Shepherd, named Bond. He was sleek, beautiful, even tempered with a built in switch to go back and forth between his work mode and off duty mode with just a command. He was a DDD / PD and the perfect partner. 
My current partner in training is to be a DDD/PD, a male Black Russian
Terrier/Belgian Malinois; Gabriel is confident with a great stable temperament, observant, energetic and courageous, only to top it all off with a great nose. He is the first of this type of cross for me and I am enjoying what both breeds brought to the table for this working combination." Barton also points out that Russia developed the Black Russian Terrier breed for use as military/working dogs in the 1940’s. During his time in the U.S Military Barton worked and studied with many world renowned animal behaviorists and psychologists. “ If you were to ask what breed is the best for tracking/ trailing, most thoughts would turn to the breed with the most notorious nose, and of course I am speaking of the Bloodhound! They do, as a general rule, have the best ‘nose’. However that does not mean they all do. I was privy to an off the books experiment just for K9 fun. A Bloodhound competed against a German Shepherd in a tracking exercise. Needless to say the German Shepherd put that particular Bloodhound to shame. His tracking pace was also quite a bit quicker. In the same respect I have also seen German Shepherds that could not smell a pound of hamburger at nose level if they walked right past it.” Barton also tells us that one of the first recorded attempts to use dogs to aid Law Enforcement in the apprehension of a criminal was made in 1869 by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police of London, Sir Charles Warren. The Commissioner had repeatedly failed at identifying and locating the legendary serial killer “Jack the Ripper”, he had even been denounced for not using bloodhounds to track the notorious killer. The commissioner quickly acquired two bloodhounds that had proven performance of simple tracking from the scene of another killer’s crimes to his location. However, the results were far from satisfactory for the Commissioner, with one of the hounds biting him and both dogs later running off, requiring a Law Enforcement area search to find them. Barton uses this story to teach people that choosing our K9 partner should be a lengthy process. Testing and evaluating the dog properly should be the first priority, along with making sure YOU will be able to work TOGETHER as a TEAM. " Choose the right dog for the job and never set your 4 legged partner up for failure. Continually and proficiently train and never stop learning. That is how you will be successful on the real streets." - Ron Barton

Progressive Exposure

"The more you challenge your K9, the better they will be when you need it the most."- Paul Ludwig

Finding the correct balance and maintaining it while you expose the K9 to new environmentals is KEY to the success and performance of your K9 Partner. Too many trainers and handlers go from A to Z too quickly, while others begin way below what their K9's can handle. While training and exposing your K9 to new environmental challenges, focus on the K9's success, not tactics, until they establish their confidence. Always consider your venues: where you work and the surrounding agencies you may get called to assist. Think about noises and ultimate hiding places that are prominent in those areas; subway stations, airports, escalators, elevators, drainage tunnels, sewers...etc. If you had to find a suspect bedded down near a train track and your
K9 never has been exposed to a passing locomotive you may be in for a sad surprise. Progressively expose, by taking small steps during exercises and training, to build their confidence. For instance, if you want to expose your K9 to metal grate stairs, work on that first. Let them get the exposure and climb a few times before you set up a barricade of boxes to have them push through or start firing a gun as they try to ascend the stairs. Work on multiple exposures ONLY AFTER they have had gunfire, stairs, and barricades. Not all at the same time when they first are sent out. Push the limits of what they can handle, then back off and keep it positive .

Water: I do not know of many places where water exposure will not happen. Please do not misunderstand me, I Do Not condone sending a K9 into water to have them drowned by a suspect.
But when you have seen in person, a K9 in pursuit of a suspect that crosses a creek, then the K9 stops dead in his tracks at the edge of the creek (which is less then a foot deep) and the suspect runs away never to be caught, it is infuriating. While the officer scratches their head and thinks, "What in the world just happened?", the suspect is headed to the next county. Build on their exposure of water so that if it ever happens, the K9 will not fail.
Gunfire: Train the K9 to be gunfire Neutral . NOT to go after gunfire, but develop target acquisition during gun fire. Again, incremental steps to success. Start at a distance and with a whip/ .209 primer/ starter pistol/ 38 rounds, while having the handler working on obedience. Move in closer as you fire. If the K9 reacts negatively to the gunfire, correct the behavior by giving them the command to "Heel". Keep them moving and make sure you praise them when they are following your command and start realizing that gunfire is just another noise. Short sessions, only for a few minutes at a time. After a few sessions, you will see the difference.
Muzzle Work: Not just muzzling when its Vet visit time or muzzle fighting time. Muzzle Neutral is what you want. I suggest putting the muzzle on for any reason, for a few minutes at a time, obedience, riding in the car for short periods, agility, etc... Once the K9 cares less and less about the muzzle, then you can progress into advanced training. The "Z" part of this training is when my K9s, while wearing a muzzle, will strike on command a decoy wearing nothing but his undergarments and continue punching in on the decoy until commanded otherwise. They will apprehend with out the help of equipment drawing them in. We have found that this is also a fantastic way to teach the beginnings of a verbal out command.
Stressors / Distractions: Train under stress, have officers yell commands like they would during an arrest, have them run up and go hands on, onto the decoy while the K9 is engaged. (Slowly bring in
the officers to crowd the K9 while on the decoy, remember the A-Z applies to everything). Judge the comfort of the K9 by their "Floating Eyes". If they are on an apprehension on a decoy, and as the handler and other officers approach, if the K9 is moving his rear away from approaching units, and you can see the K9's eyes floating around and looking at everyone, back off a little until you see the K 9 relax. Move officers in and out little by little. Slowly put hands on and bump the K9 and slap hands on the decoy until the K9 realizes that the back ups are part of "Their Team". After a few sessions, the K9 will become more relaxed and there will be less of a chance of a transfer bite onto another part of the decoy, or back up officer. Add specific details to your training, smoke to a car jacking bail out scenario, let the dog experience it like it is really happening. Many times during small apartment searches, a total ruckus is going on in the neighboring apartments, which can break the attention and distract your K9. Make sure to add distractions such as a crying baby, barking dogs, people yelling and moving around. Train for article searches in the dog park where the dogs' elimination area is, so your K9 gets used to searching for evidence where there are tons of scent and keep them on task. I have found with what I have mentioned above, if you train this way, and expose your partner progressively to as much as possible, you will have a higher success rate in the REAL world.

This article was written Exclusively for the K9 Chronicle 
by U.S.P .C.A Certified K9 Trainer, PaulLudwig

About the Author:

Paul Ludwig is not just another "Dog Trainer". He is a District of Columbia Council of Governments K9 SWAT integration Trainer, Fairfax County Virginia. In 2011 Paul received the Meritorious Service award for the K9 apprehension of a suspect wanted for Assault on a Police Officer in which the suspect disarmed the officer of his weapon and was in possession of two additional handguns. Paul Ludwig is a second generation Law Enforcement Officer that embarked on a mission to make the streets of the Washington D.C Metropolitan area safer and his dedication could not go unnoticed, Paul was honored with the Meritorious Service Awards in 1991, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2011 Paul has also received commendations from the A.T.F. for aiding in the recovery of dozens of stolen handguns after a local  gun store burglary. The District of Columbia’s U.S. Attorney’s Office awarded Paul with commendation for apprehending three Attempted Murder / serial sexual assault suspects. Paul and his K9 Partner received commendations from Prince Georges County Police Department for utilizing his patrol canine to locate / recover a handgun which was used in the attempted murder of a Prince Georges County Police Officer. Paul has since retired after 25 years as
a Law Enforcement Officer and now teaches K9 handlers how to prepare themselves and their dog for the REAL Streets of America. You can visit: to read more about Paul Ludwig and his K9 Partners. Pick up a copy of Paul's video "K9 Guardians" and find out how the night of December 9th, 1999 changed his life and the way he trains K9s forever.