The misapplication of force in police dog training
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The misapplication of force in police dog training

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Using compulsion to solve behavior problems in police dogs is a traditional approach, however this approach may get poor results, and in many cases may produce counter-productive results

Using compulsion to solve behavior problems in police dogs is a traditional approach, however this approach may get poor results, and in many cases may produce counter-productive results

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  • 1. The Misapplication of Force in Police Dog Training
    • Jerry Bradshaw
    • Training Director
    • Tarheel Canine Training, Inc.
    • Sanford, NC
    • Las Vegas, NV February 2008
  • 2. How behaviors/responses are learned
    • Observation : Mimicking behaviors (e.g. teaching open stairs in a group).
    • Classical Conditioning : Learning by association, dogs respond to a signal in anticipation of another event. (e.g. They get excited seeing a decoy because they are anticipating biting).
    • Operant Conditioning : Learning by consequence.
        • Reinforcing Consequences (positive & negative)
        • Punishing Consequences (positive & negative)
  • 3. Summary of learning
    • Dogs learn through observation, classical, and operant conditioning.
    • Learning takes place whether we are aware of it or not. The dog’s environment provides myriad consequences.
    • There are constant gains and losses from the dog’s mind during learning.
    • Learning is not a linear process.
  • 4. Applying Force: Two Options
    • Positive Punishment: Application of force after an unwanted behavior occurs as a consequence of that unwanted behavior.
    • Example: Dog Growls at the handler – handler corrects the dog for infringement of handler’s perceived social position.
    • Negative Reinforcement: Applying force in order to remove it when a wanted behavior occurs.
    • Example: Choke chain sit.
  • 5. Misapplication of Force: Dominance Aggression
  • 6. K9 Dominance Issues
    • Can affect both new and experienced handlers.
    • Typical response to dominance is to establish rank by force ( Positive Punishment ). Fight fire with fire.
    • This may work well, or may initiate a cycle of constant struggle for supremacy in the relationship if the punishment is not severe & traumatic.
    • Changing behavior through negative punishment is used less often, and may be seen as less proactive, but may be safer and more effective.
    • Have you ever worked a dog you didn’t think you could win a fight with? One you can’t traumatize with punishment? You behave a lot differently!
  • 7. Canine Dominance Facts…
    • Dominance is a pack-relative social behavior.
    • As pack animals, dogs expect all relationships to be unequal. Somebody has to be in charge.
    • Dominance aggression is usually shown by male dogs (85% of cases) and is most intense as social maturity is approached (2-2.5 yrs). Social maturity takes a lot longer than sexual maturity.
    • Dominance aggression is both genetic and learned.
    • The genetic component is formed while still in the womb when a testosterone surge “masculanizes” the brain. If no testosterone surge occurs, a female brain is created.
    • Therefore, castration has little effect on correcting this behavior. However, since learning is involved, extinction is still possible.
    • Dogs tend to direct their dominance aggression toward those that are threats to their social position (i.e. the K9 handler).
    • Common Triggers:
        • Affection
        • Placing or removing collars/leads which initiate control on the dog.
        • Punishment (staring/discipline).
        • Withholding rewards (e.g. keeping the dog under obedience when he thinks he may do bite work).
        • Grooming (Postural)
        • Classical Conditioning: Can be context driven (e.g. place associated, obedience command associated)
        • Can be psychologically dominant and physically submissive (e.g. allow physical touching/handling).
  • 8. Specific Dominance Perceptions
    • Public vs. Pack Sociability: Many new handlers think dominance applies to the dog they just took out of the crate!
    • “ I want a Tough, Hard Dog with no Rank Issues…”
    • “ I like a dog that comes up the leash…I respect that…”
    • “ if I let him get away with anything, he will lose his respect for me…” leads to constant nagging of the dog about every little thing. Alphas don’t sweat the small stuff. Avoid confrontations you cannot control or are not certain you will win – use retreating reprimands.
    • Try to look at things from the dog’s point of view: If you use a “dutch method” to train the out….you may think you are training an out, but your dog may think you are fighting him for possession of the decoy.
  • 9. Techniques for Changing Behavior
    • Remove the Stimulus
    • Punish the Behavior (Positive or Negative Punishment)
        • Extinction: If a learned response is not rewarded any longer, the behavior is gradually lost and the frequency of the behavior will return to naturally occurring levels. If naturally recurring levels are high, no noticeable change will have occurred. (e.g. proofing off plastic bags and reward toys in detection training).
    • Modify the Behavior
        • Re-Direct the Behavior
        • Train Mutually Exclusive Behaviors
        • Habituation: Constantly exposing a dog to a neutral (non-harmful or non-rewarding) stimulus.
        • Flooding: Habituation through constant heavy exposure to a non-neutral stimulus.
        • Systematic Desensitization: Habituation through gradual exposure.
  • 10. Addressing Dominance ( Judo for K9 Handlers)
    • Key: Gain the dog’s respect using your brain, not your hands. Imagine you are training a grizzly bear and not a dog. What would you do?
    • Reject model of Alpha for that of “Super-Alpha”
    • Dogs don’t expect equality, so put all the odds in your favor.
  • 11. Judo Continued……..
    • Specific Techniques of the No Free Lunch Program (Bill Campbell).
        • Disorient his expectations, and set the dog up to have to show deference to get anything he desires, including affection, rewards, food, etc. (including toys, bite sessions).
        • Use obedience as a pre-cursor to his favorite activities or those where he gives you problems (e.g. obedience for bites).
        • Keep a level head – leaders do not explode with anger. Be results oriented, and do not become upset if you need a few trials to get the desired behaviors.
        • Regiment his life. He makes no decisions, and he makes no choices on his own. Use negative punishment to reduce unwanted behaviors (dominance behaviors). Positively reinforce appropriate behaviors.
        • Use rewards in obedience (food rewards work well – little chance of fighting over possession of the reward).
        • Focus on the pre-cursors to aggressive responses, and plan your training to set yourself up to win any possible confrontations. (e.g. You know he gets frustrated and impulsive prior to bite work, and challenges your authority to control him).
        • Desensitize the dog to triggers (e.g. corrections, by focusing the dog outwardly during the use of physical correction, and planning ahead).
  • 12. Examples & Personal Experience
    • Handler's Mindset:
          • Jadi – Dutch Shepherd
    • Context Driven Reactivity:
    • - Racky – Malinois
    • - Freddy - Malinois
    • The Bear:
          • Ricardo PH I PSA 3 – Malinois
    • Nagging a Dominant Dog:
          • Britt – GSD Single Purpose.
  • 13. Misapplication of Force: Obedience Training
  • 14. Typical Training Methodologies
    • Obedience training philosophies run the gamut from motivational to compulsive, and a mixture of the two.
    • Purely Motivational: Positively Reinforce new behaviors by rewarding them and ignore incorrect responses (extinction) applying negative punishment.
    • Advantage: low stress learning. Problem : competing motivations.
    • Purely Compulsive: Use negative reinforcement to teach new behaviors, and maintain the learned response by correcting unwanted behaviors (positive punishment), and rewarding correct ones with praise (positive reinforcement).
    • Advantage: Preserves Alpha Model. Problem : stress/confusion can trigger aggression in dominant dogs, and shut down softer dogs.
    • Eclectic Method: Teach new cues & behaviors motivationally (positive reinforcement & negative punishment), and once behaviors are learned to a certain level of competency, variably reinforce correct responses, and positively punish (e.g. leash corrections) incorrect responses to commands.
    • Key: Striking Balance of method and temperament and not applying the same cookie cutter approach to every dog.
  • 15. Some Key Issues
    • Hardness vs. Softness: Tough dogs can be handler soft.
    • Pack Sociability: Dominant vs. Submissive.
    • All dogs seek to resolve conflict.
  • 16. Crossover Effects: Safety Seeking Behavior
    • Middle pack dogs and handler soft dogs
    • Resolve Conflict by seeking safety: Dogs that are too worried about the handler – the dog worries about positional obedience or potential punishments when he is “supposed” to be working independently.
    • Example: Elon and the building search.
    • Example: Detection dog walks around the car in obedience instead of actively searching.
    • Example: Dog over anticipates control commands during controlled aggression.
  • 17. Crossover Effects: Reactive Responses
    • Dominant Dogs
    • Resolves Conflict by attacking the source of the conflict, the handler.
    • Reactivity becomes a learned response that is context driven.
    • Handlers are taught to punish the reactivity, creating a cycle of conflict.
  • 18. Resolving Conflict over Obedience
    • Choose a model of training that fits the temperament of the dog.
    • The pure compulsion method has drawbacks for high drive, reactive, dominant dogs as well as for softer dogs.
    • Hard dogs do not learn from compulsion as easily as softer dogs.
    • Example: Rocky vs. Ricardo.
  • 19. Misapplication of Force: Aggression Control
  • 20. Methods for controlling aggression
    • Out & Guard (sit, lie down, bark)
    • Redirect
    • Corollary: Out & Return to cover
    • “ Call-off” aka: Recall, Stopped Attack – dog can return or lay down and watch suspect.
  • 21. Training the Out & Guard
    • Inherently conflict ridden: dogs are taught to bite without control first, then we teach them to release in a high state of drive.
    • Prerequisite: Dog must be able to channel his drives (prey & defense) seamlessly before training the out. This gets short shrift in most police dog training.
  • 22. Out: Setting up for success
    • Plan for what can go wrong: Back-tie & 2 Lines
    • Eliminates redirected aggression and eliminates dirty grips – this is something you do not want the dog to learn, so don’t let him learn it! (negative punishment).
    • Correction & Reward must balance – otherwise the dog views exercise as a net loss every time, and if you selected a strongly driven, possessive dog, you are working against his natural instincts instead of with them.
    • Force the out & balance with Re-bite: Correction comes into grip when the dog channels into prey, release is immediately rewarded with another bite. This resolves the conflict.
    • Successively approximate the guard behavior once you achieve the idea of “release generates the reward.”
    • Pick a command that will mean “release and stay” – “OUT”
  • 23. Forcing the out: Techniques
    • Positive punishment: Correct the dog for biting after the out command is given.
    • Negative reinforcement: Constant pressure is applied, and once the dog releases, release the pressure (reinforcing consequence), and immediately reward with another grip (positive reinforcement).
  • 24. Out Training Progression
    • Vary the out from sleeves, to suit, to hidden sleeves.
    • Move from 2 lines on the back-tie to 2 lines in the field.
    • Vary the environmental context: Field, buildings, woods, tight spaces, decoy position.
    • Move from 2 lines to one line on correction collar, handler initiating the corrections.
    • Incorporate e-collar (helpful for distance work later in recalls).
  • 25. Redirected bites: Set up for success
    • Redirects are the foundation for the out and return and the call off.
    • Prerequisites: Dog must have a good motivational recall, and understand being forced to out for a reward.
    • Equipment: Long line on flat collar, and a short line on correction collar.
  • 26. Re-directed bites: Technique
    • Start purely motivationally
    • Maintain proper line handling to set the grip when the dog is in the grip (tight line), and loose line when you are ready for the dog to come back.
    • Pick a command that means come back to me – I use the dog’s name. Do not use the same word that is to mean release and stay!
    • Once dog is on decoy #1, that decoy picks up the correction line to be ready.
    • signal (non-verbal) for the decoy to stop the fight, call the dog’s name, and immediately, decoy #2 agitates to draw the dog back.
  • 27. Three Possible Outcomes
    • Dog releases and heads for the agitating decoy, and receives a reward for returning.
    • Dog releases and does what he knows contextually: starts to fall into a guard. Handler must be ready to encourage the dog with long line back to (agitating) decoy #2, and not allow a dirty grip (common).
    • Dog does not react to name/agitation of decoy #2. Decoy #1 gives correction to force the release, and handler immediately guides the dog back to decoy #2 for a grip.
  • 28. Progression
    • Once the dog will release on name and return multiple times, add in out and guard on a variable basis.
    • Example: Redirect -> out/guard ->rebite -> redirect -> redirect -> out/guard -> rebite -> out/guard -> pick-up.
    • Out & Return: Make the dog stop on the way back and down next to you, pause, and send the dog along. Work your way to getting the dog to come to heel, and resend the dog from heel on to the next decoy.
    • Put the decoys in hiding, and make it a tactical scenario (area search, extraction), starting from cover, and have reward bite for the return come from a hiding place. The dog will think a reward bite is coming if he comes to heel. Variably reward the redirect behavior.
    • Vary the equipment, from sleeves, to suits to hidden sleeves, to muzzle.
  • 29. Call-off
    • Call-off creates the most conflict of all controlled aggression exercises in police work.
    • Call-off is simply a redirect before getting the grip.
    • Key: Start on slick floors – this removes the need for a strong compulsive correction and slows it down for the handler to develop his timing – I like school hallways as they funnel the dog where you want him to go.
    • Same equipment set up as the redirect.
  • 30. Call Off: Technique
    • Focus the dog on decoy #1
    • Send dog, and call his name after about 10 feet into the send. Decoy #2 immediately agitates after the name to draw the dog.
    • If he returns, send him directly to a reward bite.
    • If he doesn’t return immediately, clamp the long line and make some pops toward your body until he turns, and send him to decoy #2.
    • Reward it even if you had to help him.
  • 31. Call Off Technique Continued…
    • Mix up the dog’s orientation constantly, with decoys changing ends of the hallway, and/or sending the dog for a bite and slip, so he doesn’t anticipate anything.
    • Disorienting the contextual cues keeps the dog from acting on context rather than your commands.
    • Vary the depth of the call off, and the distance of the decoys from you.
    • Condition the responses – don’t rush the process.
    • Incorporate e-collar prior to moving to grass if so desired.
    • Once on grass everything speeds up! Wear gloves, and double hook pinch collar. Start with short call offs.
    • Incorporate all your disengage techniques into multiple decoy scenarios.
    • Ex: send to bite -> redirect -> redirect -> call-off -> redirect -> out and guard -> rebite -> redirect -> Tactical removal.
  • 32. Question & Answer
  • 33. Reinforcement
    • Positive Reinforcement is providing a desirable consequence to increase the likelihood of a behavior.
    • Negative Reinforcement is removing an undesirable consequence to increase the likelihood of a behavior.
    • Timing, intensity, and intervals of reinforcement shape learned behaviors.
  • 34. Reinforcement Continued….
    • Timing: Rewarding a dog at the end of a routine is pointless. You must reward individual behaviors immediately after they are performed.
    • Intensity: Rewards can be too big, and thus distracting, or too small, and as such inconsequential. Reward intensity should fit the behavior, circumstance and achievement.
    • Interval: Initially, continuous reinforcement by which a dog is rewarded every time for a correct behavior leads to rapid learning. Continuously reinforced behaviors are the easiest to extinguish. However, Intermittent (Variable) reinforcement schedules create the strongest learned behaviors, and as such are the hardest to extinguish.
    • E.G. For our discussion, suppose the handler positively reinforces the dog’s dominance behaviors on a variable schedule (inconsistently dealing with the dog’s dominance plays). This makes for a behavior problem that is difficult to extinguish.
  • 35. Punishment
    • Positive Punishment: providing an undesirable consequence to reduce the likelihood of a behavior.
    • Negative Punishment: withholding a desirable consequence to reduce the likelihood of a behavior.
    • Timing, Intensity and Intervals also impact the effectiveness of punishment.
    • Timing must be immediate & consistently applied for punishment to be properly interpreted. Inconsistently applied punishment can create a neurotic condition called learned helplessness.
    • Positive punishment must be perceived as serious and be somewhat traumatic to register. Nagging punishments should be avoided. The consequence must be undesirable as perceived by the dog in question.