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Protection Training by Randall Hoadley

The purpose of this article is to gain an understanding of how a training director sees the dogs' attributes and his philosophy for training protection. He is looking at a dog that is ready to start formal training with blinds, escapes and call outs. This article expects that the dog already knows to bite, guard and out. This article should help to explain what he expects from the handlers and why he trains each part of the protection routine in a certain way.

Before we start talking about dogs and drives let me explain how I see the three drives that I believe and train with at our club;

I believe in only three drives, "prey, defense and social," and the rest are just manifested from there.


Prey drive A reactive drive that is stimulus specific and can be satisfied. Behaviors include the urge to chase a moving object, pull it down, kill and eat it. Biting or eating can satisfy this drive.

Defense drive A reactive drive that is not stimulus specific and can be stimulated at any time. Behaviors include the desire for self-preservation - fight or flight, growling or barking or running away. While in defense the dog can move forward as well as backwards from the threat. Both actions can be defense; we just prefer one to the other. The adversary running away satisfies this drive.

Social drive The desire to stay with and obey orders from members of the pack. This also includes interactive behaviors between pack members such as play, dominance and breeding rights.


Aggression/fight drives are just a behavior for me, not a drive in itself. I believe that aggression comes from the defense-prey mixture and/or social. These drives are innate to the dog. It cannot be removed from the dog and all dogs have them. These drives can be high or low depending on the type and nerve of the dog.

To get a "V" in protection we need excellent control, excellent guarding and excellent biting behaviors and very good genetics. This means that the dog has to have the potential to move from social drive to defense drive to prey drive quickly and smoothly.

What the dog goes through in the front part of a Schutzhund / IPO three routine:

The dog must run all blinds in social drive. The dog goes in to the Hold and Bark blind and sits in front of the decoy for the hold and bark in aggression. He must continue barking until the handler calls the dog back to heel position where he must sit in basic position in social drive. He must control his drive (excitement to bite/bark/get to the decoy) while in social drive, this also includes the time the helper is moving. He must go into prey for the escape and go straight to the sleeve and grip the sleeve while attempting to prevent the helper from fleeing. He must out when told to, social drive. He must go back into aggression and stay attentive in front of decoy while guarding. He must grip under the first sign of aggression from the decoy. He must grip the sleeve and grip full and calm while also fighting the decoy. He must go back into social drive for the out. He must go into aggression behavior for the guarding and social drive for the heeling for the back transport. He must go back into aggression for the attack and grip the sleeve full and calm. He must go back into social drive for the out and back to aggression for the attentive guarding while the handler walks up. From there he must go back into social drive for the disarming of the decoy and transporting of the decoy to the judge.

From here you see what I see when I work dogs. I look at all the drives of the dogs and use them when training.

If at any time the dog does not switch from a drive, then more training is required in this area. For instance, dog breaks the blind search to get to the decoy, and then we do more blind work.



To train genetically good dogs, most of the work is pretty easy. You do not have to worry about courage and hardness and trainability. They have all of the above. The main things to work on are the little things. In my opinion, good dogs give you the first 270 points; the rest is up to you as a trainer and a handler.

When I work good dogs I do not raise the drives, but instead focus on control. Most dogs and handlers do not understand their jobs. This leads to dogs looking out of control rather than really being out of control. They are not sure where and what they are supposed to do at that moment.

For instance, if after the out command the handler walks up and says sit, helper step back, this would be creating a later problem in the training. The handler should walk up and let the dog bark, perhaps praise the dog, pat the dog on ribs and then wait three seconds and then say sit. This way, when the handler walks up the dog thinks drive not control. For good dogs, after a few seconds the dog knows control is coming and is more willing to go into social drive. For weaker dogs or those with more social drive, they need this clarity so they can understand the working aspect and do not spend their time focused on the handler. In the trial the dog continues barking even as the handler walks up and does not stop until the handler commands it. This looks good, as it shows off the dog's drive and control and training. Think of it as this; in training for the sit in motion we go 15 to 20 paces in training but for trial we go 12 paces. We know he understands to sit when we say sit but we stop the dog from anticipating at the trial, by making him continue longer in training than he will have to in the trial.


So let's start from the beginning:

The dog and handler walk onto the field. It does not matter how they get there. What is important is that once the handler gives command and the dog hears the command that it is absolute from then on. That means the same person handles the tool (long line/electric remote etc) for heeling until that dog leaves the field and goes home. If possible, that same person would handle it in obedience also. We must train the same work for the same dog with the same people. This is how consistency starts and this is where the drive will come up on its own when the dog understands his job. When he really starts to understand his job, then he will show drive when needed and calm when needed. When the dog runs around like a nut this is wasted drive /energy / training. I hear all the time that I have to heel my dog about fifty paces to get my dog under control. If you cannot get control in three paces then your dog does not go into social drive very well. You must work on this because if you cannot get in your dog's head in three paces, then do not heel fifty.


Hold and Bark

The dog must come into the blind in defense and come into aggression when it comes directly into the confrontation zone of the decoy. I like to see a dog bark just before it comes into the blind. This is taking that dog to the edge and getting the most out of the dog. When the dog first comes into the blind I will show some aggression in the beginning of training to show there is a fight in the blind. As the dog comes down in defense and comes into aggression then the decoy should show less aggression towards the dog. If the dog does not show aggression than I will put him in a higher level of defense so he knows to bark when in this exercise. With the higher levels of defense then we must pay special attention for the grip in this learning phase. When the dog first starts coming into the blind, there is some movement from the decoy at the beginning and then he must stop moving and give grip. After ten or so sessions, then the decoy is very still in the beginning, when the dog first comes around the blind and then after a few barks he can move. Then the decoy must alternate that between one bark and fifty barks.

When I give grip nowadays from the blind, I have the handler run their dog in a circle and stop where the call out is going to be for a trial. From there the handler calms the dog on the sleeve and then makes "obedience position" - out - "obedience position". For most handlers, the "obedience position" is a sit or down. The handler will either:


Tell decoy to pick up their sleeve and then tell dog "Helper step back, Heel" The first part is nothing more than a primary stimulation for the dog to prepare for the Heel command. The Heel command is the second stimulation. I make absolute Heel after I have said heel. If the handler does anything after he says heel and the dog does not pay attention, such as when the handler is grabbing lines, then the third person should stimulate the dog for lack of focus. The dog will make noise due to loading of the stimulus. The handler must know whether the noise is from stimulation or drive. IF IT IS FROM THE STIMULATION THEN THE HANDLER DOES NOTHING, IF FROM DRIVE THEN THE HANDLER WILL HELP THE DOG TO BE QUIETER. Do not use electric to make the dog quieter, he will get confused if the training is just starting. We normally discipline our dogs under the mouth with a hat or something like that. This has two desirable effects; the dog becomes quiet and usually looks up.

If the dog knows the call out already or the handler is preparing him for the call out. Tell the dog sit - out - sit and hand the sleeve back to the decoy and the handler will step a couple of paces behind the dog and call him to basic position. Once the handler calls him to basic position then the dog must be ready to pay attention. This way I can bleed into the second part of the call out from the blind. This works really well if the dog knows the call out already.


If I do not care whether the dog stays focused on the handler when I call the helper out of the blind, in training I will say, "sit." I do this so my dog knows that he can look at the decoy and I will not correct him to hold his focus on me. If I do not reinforce Fuß, and let him look around at the decoy, at this position than Fuß becomes two different behaviors. One means pay attention and one means look at the decoy. Fuß means pay attention to the handler and stay beside the handler and sit when the handler stops, attention must be held at all times. Sit means butt must be on the ground and quiet, nothing more, and nothing less.

From the basic position, after the decoy has walked to his position for the escape, the dog must stay focused from beginning to end of the exercise. This is nothing more than obedience once I say Fuß. Sometimes I heel straight to the escape position, sometimes to the right and sometimes to the left. The bottom line is to pay attention in the learning phase. Then I will get into position to set the dog up for the escape.

Escape Grip

I am looking for the dog to hit the helper at an angle where the dog can impede the movement of the helper. The more the decoy runs away in a straight line from the dog the more potential for the dog to get bad grips and the decoy placing the grip instead of the dog learning where to grip. The key is the dog learning where and "where not" to grip the sleeve. If the grip is in the wrong place I just slip the sleeve and do it again until the dog gets it right. When he does it correctly I praise the dog both as a handler and as a decoy. As the dog bites in the escape, decoy can pop the dog with the whip or stick once during the escape to help with the guarding and to show the dog he can fight the decoy while doing the escape. I do not want the dog to look at the escape as a place to grip and hang onto the sleeve and run along. He must show assertiveness to stop the decoy. As a helper, I finish the escape ending in the position for the out. The dog must learn these behaviors in a lower drive and then gradually raise their drive in training to a level where it becomes more difficult to go back into social drive and obedience, this conflict will bring aggression after the out.


Defense Grip

After the out, I like to count to five or ten for the re-attack. Remember, he must go to social and then back to aggression for the holds. I give him that time right now in the learning phase. Later, if we need aggression, I will put conflict there. I would wait maybe a half second and then attack and drive him three paces and then out him quicker with the hopes of a fight for the out between the handler and dog. The anger from the dog with the handler will redirect to the decoy with aggression. The dog must be clear and must be able to understand its job at the lower levels first and then bring his drives higher as training progresses.


Back Transport

Here is the easiest of all the points and the hardest exercise to train. I do look at this exercise as nothing but obedience for the grip. But he must be correct for the trial and for training. On any grip with pressure from the handler in the heeling phases, the handler does give bite command and the decoy must run away like an escape exercise. No matter what, one out of ten I will do a full attack whether I put pressure (stick hit/threatening attack) or not.The dog must understand no matter what state of mind he is in to go to the decoy with speed and power.

Remember, if this is obedience for the grip then it must be treated as so. I am implying and saying, the decoy must keep it fun for the dog in this exercise when he is on the sleeve. Before he hits the sleeve the decoy can show aggression, but once the dog is on the sleeve the decoy should make the dog feel comfortable. The handler would need to just come up and praise the dog and let him enjoy this time the most. Most dogs are very comfortable in the biting exercises so let them enjoy the obedience for the grip.


Long Bite

When walking down the field for the long bite/grip, just train. Maybe you do a sit in motion or a down in motion or you can just come to a stop for basic heel position. The point is that he is heeling and paying attention. Don't forget in the trial, you will be going to the middle of the field and will stop with the dog in basic position and wait for the judge to motion you to send the dog for the long bite.

As a decoy, to be honest, I would be careful here. With my dogs I practice the same things. Less is better and runaways are the best for everyone. When doing a runaway make sure the sleeve is out to the side so the dog can go all the way through the grip. If the sleeve is next to the body then the dog will crash into the decoy and this is not always fun for the dog.

When the dog hits on the long grip swing him around a couple of time just to set the grip of the dog. Mouthy grips are just lost points.

This is a basic overview of what I do and how I look at protection and the obedience in the protection. The key is to keep it simple and you will see the results. Then you will have to teach the dog how to come up in drive and then control himself in drive.


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