The concept of “conflict training” is something that typically is neglected or forgotten in police K-9 training. I am asked for advice allot by handlers about problems they are having with their dogs. These questions range from,” My dog won’t bite a passive person”, or “ My dog works great in training but when I go to use him/her for real they won’t work and/or shut down”. The range of complaints/questions can be quite lengthy, and certainly we have all heard one or another over the years.
Recently I was teaching at a couple national seminars and saw the same issues arise with many teams, from across the country. These problems are not confined to any one training group, organization, breed of dog or even one training method. They can arise across the board, regardless of age, experience, training philosophy, or even type of dogs.
The term “Conflict Training” in simple definition means- Constantly Changing Certain Aspects of Training as to not to Pattern the Dog into an Incorrect Response. This is pretty self explanatory, but let me explain a little of why this is important and how we keep it from developing into a problem.
We are all guilty of meeting in regular training groups. Once we are done” discussing” many issues we get around to training. Typically this happens on the same day of the week, many times the same location each time, and the same time of day, along with the same handlers and their dogs. This leads the dog to know it is training and this is a fun time normally with the handler, and not the same people and stress level you typically run into on the street.
Along with this here is a list of just some of the things that lead to patterning the dogs into a training mode, and things we should constantly change to keep it from happening:
1) Training in the same location each week
2) Training with same handler’s and dogs each time
3) Developing a routine at training of doing the same things in the same way each time you train.
4) Training at the same time of day each week
5) Never training in adverse weather conditions
6) Never training in uniform you wear on the street
7) Never changing decoy’s to have unknown people constantly as bad guys
8) Never training at the times of day you actually work, like midnight’s for example
9) Too much or too little hidden sleeve, exposed sleeve, muzzle work, or suite work.
10) Never training for the issues you encounter
11) Never changing detection hides, amounts, and training scenarios or running blind hides, or conflict items such as food, tape etc
12) Not training on passive decoys, passive bites
13) Not training in real gunfire situations, environments, passive bites in total dark settings
14) Not progressing your dog in difficulty of task, be it tracking, detector work etc
The list is endless really, but I will share some examples I have encountered.
“My dog won’t bite a passive person”- This is a very common situation today, and shared by most new teams especially. You have to remember first that most dogs today are very young when they hit the street. This complicates the situation, as most of their life so far all bite work has been done in a “prey drive” mode, not a defensive or civil type mode. The idea of going passive to avoid being bit came from our prison system, and their encounters with our dogs or the institutions dogs and learning they wouldn’t engage many times if they went passive. The word spread and soon we started encountering it often on the street. So what do we do to counter this problem?
The solution to this type problem is 2 fold. You must practice in many different settings, with many different decoys (experienced ones), with hidden sleeve, exposed sleeve, and bite suite as well as muzzle. The dog must be set up to win no matter what and you work your way progressively by steps through the problem. This means enough movement by the decoy to get the dog to engage and gradually fade out that movement to none. It, like many problems normally is not solved in one day or one session or maybe even one month. All problems take time, and consistency to overcome. There are no short cuts when it comes to problem solving. You have to train as you work. This means, in aggression work, you have to work with live fire once in awhile, work with the swat team, work with other dog teams, work in different weather conditions and again the list of combinations is endless. Most all problems can be traced back to training issues or patterning of the behavior by the handler.
Conflict Training (Scenarios) Are Infinite! Only Thing Constant is the Trained Response!
Train Hard, Stay Safe,
– Al Gill
Master Trainer- Patrol/Explosives/Narcotics/Cadaver/ Accelerant and serves on the Executive Board of NAPCH in charge of Accreditation. He also serves on the Accreditation Board of APCA for Explosives.
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Copyright © Al Gill 2020