The “out” in bite work is one of the most misunderstood and most improperly taught things in dog training. One big reason is most handlers and even most trainers, have not and or do not ever work with young dogs from puppy hood on and teach the beginnings of bite work. They either attend a class and someone else worked with the dog, as far as deciding what is done and how. Or they buy “green dogs” or “titled dogs” which probably has this already taught for the most part or just needs remind of what you want it to do. These things are vastly different then teaching a young dog from total scratch or the beginnings. Plus many times trainers or handlers have been shown the incorrect way/s by someone prior, be it a trainer, supervisor or even breeders and schools. Unless you work with these things everyday and not as a hobby, you unlikely encounter enough dogs to really see what works and what doesn’t, or the messes some trainers make of a dog not really knowing what they are doing Or knowing they are even maybe doing it in a way which only makes the situation worse.
Let’s look at some of the ways guys typically work on “outing” their dog, or students dogs.
First the most common way is simply some up, and pull the dog off the decoy after they have yelled at the dog numerous commands and the dog has basically blew them off and not respected any of them. So they then grab the dog and pull on him trying to get him to let go of the sleeve. Of course the dog normally doesn’t so they go to the next idea.
Second idea is they will go beside the dog and since pulling off, they lift him up, and call it a “hard out”, but basically they are trying to choke the dog off. Now I have heard every excuse imaginable for why they do this. From we work in a hard area, and we don’t out our dogs (yeah OK, the Courts do not agree with that philosophy at all, and choke offs are NOT control, and the courts have even spelled that out). To my dog is a hard dog, and that’s what we do (again right !).
Third way: They will put an “e” collar on the dog and blast him or try to blast him off. Anyone who has worked with me knows my feelings on that as well. That is not control regardless of what anyone may tell you or claim. Anybody can push a button, but is he really under control? What happens when he accidently bites someone and doesn’t have the collar on? Now what? It does happen to the best of teams, accidents can happen. The other problem here is what happens if it is a really hard dog which will take the shock and keep going? Or the dog becomes conditioned to the shock and learns to work through it over time? Don’t get me wrong I have used “e” collars, but not as a first option, and only in the right situations, and they are very limited.
There are more issues I am sure, but these are the big ones, and really they all fall into one group in the end and so rather than go on and on, I will start at the beginning and explain my philosophy and what we do.
As I covered above, the reality is you should have total control over your dog at all times. Again if you question this thinking I would encourage you to read the latest case law on these issues and you will soon see the courts position on control of your dog.
In the beginning the old saying of obedience is the foundation of everything. If your dog doesn’t sit or down when you tell him, what makes you think he will out, when he doesn’t respect you enough to do the basic things. It won’t happen. Especially a high drive, equipment conditioned dog. So you have to get the basics down first. Once he stays when you tell him, he stays when the decoy moves suddenly, stays as decoy runs a way or agitates the dog, then your odds of the out go up dramatically. Until you have some of these basic controls like I listed, don’t bother working on the out. Wait it will save you entrenching more of a problem into the dog. So until the obedience is somewhat in the dog and the respect is there, let the dog win the sleeve each time when doing sleeve work. You can out him later as the other things progress.
If you understand the basic idea of young dog bite work training, from a puppy on, you will know that the basic idea, in building the bite quality, is to play tug of war (pull on the dog each way decoy and handler) which in reality it is the same thing you are doing when you try to pull the dog off a decoy. It is a natural thing to attempt, but again wrong. You are just making the matter worse. Same idea applies if you are doing bungee work as well, all tug of war in reality. So we don’t want to do that. Every time you try pulling or lifting the dog off, and fail you just intensified the dogs thinking he can win if he holds on hard enough or long enough. If he does in his mind he gets to keep it and that’s all he cares about in reality. Not letting that prey get away. So what do you do?
The answer to that with 99% of the dogs is to the exact opposite you are doing pulling or choking the dog off. That is, we want to correct the dog into the sleeve. This way he receives the correction into his mouth in away and it causes somewhat of a choke reflex, and at the same time, he is shock because he is expecting the tug or fight. Now all of a sudden he gets corrected at the sleeve and he doesn’t have that desire to fight back nearly as much. So how do you do this or teach it?
The first step is you don’t until the dog is developed in basic bite work training and on a sleeve correctly etc. Once you are at that point in training and you have some basic control, then you set up the scenario to correct the dog. The timing and way it is done is critical, and must be done correctly or you won’t be successful. It takes 3 people to set this up and do it. You also must make sure the decoy is protected, such as scratch pants, bite suite pants etc. Something as the decoy will be very vulnerable when this is done. The decoy could get hurt very seriously if the proper precautions are not used and the action performed in a correct manner.
The decoy’s only job is to catch the dog. He does NO correcting. If he does it what happens is many times the dog starts realizing when the decoy’s hand goes down to grab the lead to correct with, he knows it is coming so the dog will back off as soon as he sees the hand. So you can’t really do that. Same if the handler comes up and does the correcting. The dog will learn when the handler comes up and grabs the lead he is going to get corrected so he starts letting go as soon as he sees the handler. Or he starts watching out the corner of his eye for the handler to approach. So that doesn’t really work either.
So what we do is there is a third person helping. He has the 15 or 30’ lead, and it is fed up under the sleeve arm of the decoy. This third person stands directly behind the decoy, so the dog really isn’t aware he is back there, and never sees anything he is doing or where it came from. Timing is crucial as I said. So this means the handler, decoy and person correcting must be on the same page. The handler needs to make sure decoy and third person is ready. The handler also has a 15-30’ lead on the dog as well so he can stand back when giving the commands. I have the handler give a preparatory command in the beginning. Later they don’t, but at first this allows the decoy and third person to know what is coming and when. This can be such as “Suspect stop fighting the dog”. Once this or something like is said everyone knows the next will be the out command. Be it “out”, “ous”, “pust” or whatever you want to tell the dog. Even no or phooey is OK. As soon as the handler starts saying this command the decoy has stopped fighting the dog, and the third person immediately corrects the dog hard into the sleeve and decoy, causing this reflex, and the dog/s normally will let go right away. This correction must be timed so it is given when the handler yells the out or no command. The handler then who has the second line on the dog must then get the dog away from the decoy as soon as he releases so the decoy doesn’t get bit and the dog doesn’t get the chance to re-bite. So timing is everything. It may take several sessions, but this method works extremely successful with dogs regardless of how hard they are. Of course not every dog, but 99% it will work, and work quickly. You just have to keep reinforcing it over several training sessions.
At the same time you are teaching the out you are also teaching the dog to return to you the handler. This is another reason why the handler doesn’t approach the decoy, just as you wouldn’t approach up close to a bad guy the dog is fighting, at least not right away. So when the dog releases, the handler uses his lead and pulls the dog away and at the same time, he is giving the “heel” or “here” command which ever you wish to do. Even if you feel the dog shouldn’t return to the handler, you use the same principle and when the dog releases get him away with the lead, and then order the dog down and stay or watch etc. This is personal preference and can be done either way.
We have used this method on hundreds of dogs and I have taught it to many trainers, and handlers. It works very well regardless of the dog. We save the “e” collar for that 1% which won’t out any other way, we will try that. But it is last option and seldom needed. Even on malinois’s or dutch shepherds it will work. Some malinois which have had a huge amount of KNPV training, they have been so conditioned on sleeve material, and pushed so crazy that with these dogs your quick success rate falls way off. If they haven’t been driven crazy and they are raised and trained correctly, they are just as easy to teach as a German Shepherd.
Next time you train if you are having “out” problems or consistency give it a try. Try to make sure you have help who understands what you are attempting to do, and experienced, so no one gets hurt, but it is an option to try. It may take time and repetition, but all correct training takes time. Stay Safe and Keep training!
– Al Gill
Al is a Master Trainer with NAPCH and serves as the accreditation chairman on the executive board, and a Master Trainer with APCA and serves as education and training officer, Explosives accreditation. He was one of the original evaluators for the Ohio Peace Officers Training Council for K-9. Also he is the past director of explosives training for OLEKA.
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