Written By: Mike Bullock Owner /Trainer Bullocks Professional Canine
When I start young prospects , either sport or police, I begin with a dog that is about 5 to 6 months old to formally start his bite training. Now of course, I always work puppies from younger ages with winning games of tug and chase, because to me this is an essential start. When I start young dogs, I always start with the handler having the puppy on a leash. I give the puppy time to get comfortable on a leash with its handler, which usually takes 1 to 3 sessions. I start the pup on a flat collar to give as little stress as possible when he is pulling and lunging. My first and second sessions are brief, 1 or 2 minutes at the most. These short sessions allows the pup to get exposure but not an overwhelming feeling that a new situation can bring. Once the pup handles the session well with its handler I move on, NOT A MOMENT BEFORE! It is my opinion that when we first start a puppy’s training we must focus on the prey drive only, because this is the foundation where proper bite and channeling of the drive is built. Always remember that the prey drive builds the bite. As the decoy works with the puppy, he must remember to only allow the pup to win when he has a correct full bite, usually a tug or burlap sack is preferred. Starting off the wrong way will lead to problems with the animal later, so developing the animal correctly from the beginning will save you time in the end.
Dogs are creatures of habit, if they never win the reward with a shallow or soft bite, they will always remember to bite it hard and deep to receive their reward and praise. As the pup develops over time I am always thinking about where it is in its training and what I need to do to bring it in to fight more intensely; a good session is intense, quick and always allows the puppy to win. On occasion, I will show the rag to tease the pup and allow the handler to put him away. As a rule, this will bring a level to the next session that has more fire and purpose. After the puppy has gotten the hang of it I slowly move the handler out of the way. It is very important to teach the puppy to win on his own without coaxing from the handler. After the handler is moved out of the way, I start to stake the puppy out on the pole. However, I do let the handler stay with him at first until he has been weaned off of having him present. This will help later when the puppy must be on his own with out the backup of his handler. All the handler must do here is allow the decoy to mold the puppy in the bite and then when it is needed come in and get the rag from the puppy and kick it back to the decoy. I call this my self confidence stage, this will teach the puppy he can win no matter what or where the handler is. As the puppy develops we increase the rag to a puppy tug to a sleeve, this is where the decoy must make sound judgments as to what the puppy needs and how best to develop the bite.
Many times when I work puppies I change the sessions to keep them fresh and exciting for the dog, I have in the past had other more mature dogs staked out in a close area so the puppies can watch them work, you will be surprised what affect this has on a young puppy. Remember that the only important thing about puppies is that he must win in all situations. If this rule is followed you should have a puppy that will work. I hope this brief article brings to light the foundation of puppy bite work. If anyone ever has any questions please feel free to contact me at anytime.
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