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K9 Patrol: Keys To Street Readiness


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In this training article Jerry Bradshaw discusses 5 keys to street readiness, from training the dog to alert to passivity, defense training aspects, control training processes, and the environment in which the handler expects his dog to live. Muzzle work, civil aggression and creating habits in engagement are also discussed.

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K9 Patrol: Keys To Street Readiness

  1. 1. S U M M E R 2 0 1 9 THE JOURNAL 89 • Proper Selection. Too often I see departments come to test dogs, and they are looking to match a dog with a particular handler. The problem is, sometimes these handlers are new to K9, and we don’t even know if they will stay in the program. Because they are new, selection devolves to picking a dog suitable to that handler (low experience, not ready for a strong dog) instead of one suitable for the job at hand. This is a huge mistake. We must judge the success of a dog selection on the quality of the dog to be able to do the job. The handler must be able to rise to the quality of the dog we are selecting, not lower the potential quality of the dog to suit someone who probably has never held the leash of a working dog before. Dogs that are expected to apprehend a violent felon need to have high horsepower and intensity, often referred to in such instances as “too much dog” for a new handler. However, the real issue isn’t the dog, its “too little handler” but that should be able to be addressed by proper training of the handler and coaching to be able to handle a dog that is equal to the task. So the moral of this key is, “don’t select a dog for a particular handler’s situation, select a dog equal to the task he is going to perform the rest of his career.”
  2. 2. 90 The Journal S U M M E R 2 0 1 9 • Train Self-Loading and a Reliable Alert. In the beginning stages of protection training of many K9 sports such as IPG (where a lot of police dogs originate their early careers) the dogs are taught to react to the decoy’s agitation and become aggressive as a reaction to the decoy. Too often this one thing carries over into police dog training where the dogs are worked by the decoys in the unit “reactively” rather than teaching the dogs to “load” themselves based on command (alert command, announcement) or context (tactical positioning by a building door, engine block, etc.). Police dogs need to be in the right frame of mind to apprehend a violent felon who may likely be hiding (tracking situation, building or area search) and this presents a passive picture to the K9 upon locating the suspect. The dog must already be in the frame of mind to execute an apprehension as the suspect is unlikely to assist the dog with being in the right frame of mind. A police dog must understand that passivity, rather than activity on the part of a decoy and thus a suspect, is the threat. Biting the passive subject will bring them “alive.” Barking and showing aggression to passivity, and thus be willing to engage passivity, is a huge key that starts at the outset of training a green dog. The dog’s barking aggressively should bring the decoy alive, bring the decoy in for a bite, and thus the dog is in control of all apprehension situations. The dog acts now, proactively alerting in situations when they see a passive subject, and even when they don’t (search situation) they self-load. • Train Targeting. Reliable engagement is a matter of habit. When dogs are not taught how to target the human form in a reliable and habitual manner, they can suffer from a choice paralysis in situations where the dog has to decide where to bite. If we teach them to engage without having to think, by having them engage the passive human form in a small number of target areas, we remove the choice element from the dog. The dogs are taught primary targets (say, forearms (in and outside), triceps, and biceps) as well as secondary targets in the legs (shin in front, and calf and hamstring in the back). We use blocking (fended) strategies to teach the dog to take the secondary target if the primary is removed (bathroom stall apprehension) or unavailable. After practicing these target areas, the dog will not have so many choices and will make entry without thinking. Dogs that know their target areas, do not have to slow and gather themselves before hitting the subject, they run through them violently and that hard strike which takes them down provides shock value and allows the dog to secure pain compliance (the target areas are limbs which can be gripped fully and thus pain compliance can be achieved). When the dogs in training learn the habit of engagement in all manner of passive subject encounters, on both bite suits and hidden bite suits (competition weight suits covered with street clothing, we reduce the likelihood the dog is looking for any equipment cue, and get a swift and violent engagement.
  3. 3. S U M M E R 2 0 1 9 THE JOURNAL 91 Jerry Bradshaw is Training Director & President of Tarheel Canine Training, Inc. in Sanford, North Carolina. Jerry has been training dogs for competitive protection sports since 1991, and has competed in National Championship trials in both Schutzhund and PSA, winning the PSA National Championships in 2003 with his dog Ricardo v.d. Natuurzicht PSA 3. Jerry has trained many Belgian Malinois to the highest titles in the sports in which he competed including Arrow of Tigerpaws , SchH 3, BH; Ben von Lowenfels, SchH 2, BH; Rocky de la Maison Des Lions PSA 3; and Ricardo v.d. Natuurzicht PH 1, PSA 3. Tarheel Canine Training Inc. is a nationally renowned training facility for police service dogs, and has placed trained police dogs at federal, state and local law enforcement agencies nationally and internationally since 1993. Jerry is often a featured speaker at national police K9 conferences, and travels extensively giving seminars to police departments, the US Military, and sport trainers across the United States. Jerry has written a book, Controlled Aggression, which is rapidly becoming the standard text for understanding the fundamentals of canine aggression training for police service, personal protection, and competitive dog sports. Jerry also maintains a free blog at Many of the training concepts mentioned in this article are covered in depth in published articles available on the Tarheel Canine website at area/training-articles/ Please feel free to make your handlers, trainers, and training groups aware of this resource. For more information on this topic as well as other current police dog topics go to Jerry’s podcast website: . • Proof with muzzle, civil aggression and fake limbs. Contrary to popular thought, muzzle work does not teach dogs to “bite for real.” In fact muzzle does not teach dogs to bite at all because a muzzled dog cannot bite! Biting behavior is taught with equipment that is faded to hidden equipment, and targeting that creates habits. Good muzzle work also preserves targeting. Dogs must be encouraged to go to their target areas as much as possible when being worked in muzzle (decoying for muzzle fighting is an art in itself). The reason is that most muzzle work degrades the targeting if it’s not being worked actively. Dogs that knock decoys to the ground, off leash, will often migrate around to the head and neck area of the grounded decoys because that is where the dog gets the most reaction from unskilled decoys working in muzzle. This presents a number of issues the least of which is making the dog unsure about where to go when a real bite situation occurs and can create hesitation, and worst of all, teaches them to be careless in targeting vital areas. The real value in muzzle work is to make the dog reliable to engage the civil human form. The biting behavior and targeting habits that follows engagement needs to have been well developed prior to that. Other techniques such as working the dog in civil aggression situations that are close to a real bite but end in frustration and visible commitment (jaw clacking) are very useful for proofing. Civil aggression must be trained by experienced decoys who understand proper manipulation of aggression and drive channeling. Fake limbs are also used by some to discipline the dog to the civil human form as well. These have the additional advantage to preserve the target areas of arm and leg. Remember engagement doesn’t result from any one magic bullet, it is a layered approach of techniques from grip development through targeting to hidden equipment to proofing techniques as just discussed. • Give proper structure to handlers. Lastly, handlers need to understand their dog is being prepared to do a seriously difficult job, engaging and apprehending violent felons. This means they must be a little on the “sharp” side to threats. Making the dogs into a house pet, or allowing them to be petted by community members when they get out of the vehicle makes the dog softer to threats because the majority of their interactions when coming out of the car are friendly encounters. We need our dogs to be a little edgier, which means proper management of them as tools of law enforcement rather than as ambassadors of PR. The dogs should reside in kennels or crates overnight, not be handled by anyone other than the assigned handler or a back-up handler (usually another K9 officer), and be “looking for trouble” when they come out of the vehicle. Handlers who make their K9 partners into house pets may regret it when they really need their dog to process a threat quickly, and without warning.