Some Thoughts On Training

I found this in a collection of my old text files.  I'm sure it was written in 1992, because of my references to Corey.  At that time, Corey was my 9 month old dog.

Many years ago, I had intended to write a book about dog training and tables, and actually had a friend in Memphis who was involved in publishing.  He was very interested in working with me, and encouraged me to keep writing.  I never really got moving on it.  I really don't think I'm destined to be be an author. 

Below is a small part of what I wrote. 

This was written just before my third table trip to Gene England's, to learn more about table training.  My memory and recall is exceptional.

Before you read this page, I'd like you to seriously consider something.  I'm going to write about dogs that bite - dogs that will actually engage a human, and fight.  They may (by your interpretation) protect you and your family or property from harm or crime.  Try, if you will, to think of a worst-case scenario, where the dog must really, truly fight with a human.

Consider for a moment what would happen if the dog really bites someone.  Would the person (quite likely a criminal) do everything in his power to get the dog off him?  Punch, kick, or choke the dog, and possibly worse?  Beat the dog with anything available to get the dog off?  Would he try to kill the dog?  I feel that's worth a moment of reflection.  



This is a book about some aspects of Tabletop Training.  Much of Tabletop is old, and some of Tabletop is new.  It's a different, but similar, perspective.  Actually, it's a lot of things.

You've probably never read a book like this one before, and you might never read another one like it again.  I don't know the first thing about how to write properly, but I do have a lot of things to say.  You can be sure as you keep reading you're going to see some really strange and unusual things.  Forgive my wandering, excuse my explanations and descriptions, and be patient.  Your patience will be rewarded.  Sooner or later I'll get to the point(s) and maybe then the trip will have been worthwhile.

First of all, let's get the legal warning part out of the way.


To anyone interested in implementing Tabletop Training, may I suggest spending time with someone with considerable experience in the use of tables.  Please do this before building your own tables plus a 1000 sq. ft. training room to put them in.  <really!>  This book is a start, but it's only a start.  There's much more to table training than a book and a few videos.

To the best of my knowledge, Tabletop Training is a style of training that is not associated with, not approved by, and not endorsed by ANY group or organization in the world of dogs.  This includes, but is not limited to, DVG, USPCA, Schutzhund USA, SV, KNPV, American Ring Federation, AKC, or the Waggin' Butts Training Club of Flea Free, Florida.  All this legal stuff is fun!  And now you've been warned!

The only people I know of who endorse Tabletop Training are the people who know it, understand it, and, most of all, are successful with it.  I'm one of those people, as are Gene England, Mike Rankin, Thom Payne, Tom Rose, Tom Brown, and maybe a few dozen others.  All in all, not very many.


Tabletop Training is safe, sane, and intelligent.  It's logical and effective.  Bottom line: IT WORKS.

And that also holds true for many other kinds of training methods and/or training tools.

But Tabletop Training has been called cruel, harsh, and inhumane.  And that's not all - it's just the beginning!  I've heard "table stories" from one end of the U.S. to the other .... Here are a few choice quotes from the "folks who know":

"I'll never put my dog on a table."

"That table stuff either "makes 'em or breaks 'em"."

"Dogs die on the tables."


"Electric shock is very often used to correct the problems caused by tables."

"They're forced to bite on the tables."

"Tables make the dog too aggressive."

"I'm not gonna hang a dog by his throat to make him bite."

"What do you need tables for if you really know how to train?"

Tables this 'n tables that.  People still tell me Dobermans turn on their masters, too.  Most of the "folks who know" haven't ever seen tables, or any training done with them.  They've heard stories, and they embellish them as they perpetuate the fairy tales.

Tables don't make or break anything.  Tables aren't cruel.  Tables don't force, and they're not harsh.  They're just tables.  4x4s, 2x6s, plywood, screws, some pipe, chain or cable.  About $300. if you build them cheap, about $3000. if you build them right.  If you don't want to train dogs on them, they're fine for taking a nap, or just sitting around drinking beer with your dog training friends.

The trainer, doing all of the implementation, is 100% responsible for what he does in training - with the tables or without them.  So let's intelligently stop blaming tables for anything - except being tables.

First, I'll Really Ramble A Little .... And Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

(don't read this if you're in a rush)

I'd like to invite you to come with me.  I don't invite just anybody - so you're special.  We're going on a trip, together. 

I think you'll remember this trip for a long time.

We're leaving Tampa.  It's 5am, and that means we'll be driving all day and part of the evening before we get to see Bowling Green, Kentucky.  750 miles.  I-75 North.  We'll go through all of Florida, up through Atlanta, and just keep on going north to Chattanooga.  Then we'll take I-24 towards Nashville, and I-65 North into Kentucky - exit 22.  The mountains and the scenery and the rest areas are all beautiful, but, pardon my sarcastic yawn, they're just steps along the way.

If there's an Interstate highway somewhere that can keep your interest, I damn sure haven't seen it yet.  If we were into being tourists, we'd have our cameras out, right?  That part of the highway in the mountains by Chattanooga where the road climbs, curves, then drops away at about a 45 degree grade?  Yeah, I damn sure DO pay some attention there!  We want to live through this trip - we're gonna survive!  It's a pretty simple drive starting out early like that.

I think back on some earlier trips to Bowling Green.  Same van, same radar detector, different dogs.  Always anticipation.  Always.  That never changes.

Always Booker T. & the MGs on the tape player, too: Hip Hug Her - the studio cut AND the live one from London.  What a great song to get you rolling down the road at 80 and smiling - even if there ARE 710 miles left to go!  SERIOUSLY - if you're into dogs and training, get ahold of some Booker T.  Try the "Back to Back" live CD with the Mar Keys.  Goes great with table training and bitework!

Corey's with us on this trip, he's my German Shepherd dog, he's about 9 months old, and I've had him about 3 weeks now.  We're headed to Bowling Green to see Gene England and learn more about Tabletop Training. 

For those of you who know Gene, I don't need to say much more.  For those that don't - let me say this: Gene is, without any question, one of the very best trainers in the world.  He thinks, he reasons, he tries, he experiments, and most of all, he solves problems.  He comes up with answers when there are none.  He does what others don't do, won't do, or even try to do.  He does what others can't do. 

He must be part dog himself - a large part.  He understands and feels dogs so well it's awesome.  My respect for Gene began in 1983 and continues to this day.  He's one of the few trainers that has ever given me reason to respect him.  I've made many, many trips to Bowling Green over the years, and always learned more than I planned from Gene.  I even learned to appreciate the powerful effects of "GE Specials" - Evan Williams whiskey and Mello Yello.  Equal quantities.  With or without ice.  Hangovers about the size of Memphis.  Two, or maybe three of everything in sight!  Guilt all over your face at 7:59am as you roll into Gene's driveway for a 7 o'clock training class.  Believe it - GE Specials will kick your butt every time!

In the past, I managed to not take Gene too seriously whenever we talked about training tables, and "somehow" he managed to come up with plenty of excuses when I told him to send me some videos of all this "GE Magic" table training stuff.  I just didn't understand.  I thought Gene lost his mind.  I figured he was crazy - too many GE Specials.  I was picturing a bunch of dogs jumping up and down off a bunch of tables, and thinking "yeah, right - big deal".  So I had a lot of laughs talking to Gene on the phone.  Respect be damned - I never did agree with everything I heard.  They have a saying, "he who laughs last..."

We're on the way!  We're not turning back.  It looks like we're going to arrive about 6pm or so.  Corey's settled in after about 20 minutes, we've got at least 12 great STAX and Atlantic tapes just overflowing with 60s soul music, the van's packed right - the crate, training bags, sleeves, suitcases, water, ice chest, and 250 other "you name its".  Who's the most organized dog-traveler in the world?  You betcha!  I just pack everything and never have to worry about not having what I need.  Tennis balls?  There's at least two dozen back there.

The miles are sliding by.  I'm rewinding Hip Hug Her for the 5th time, and I'm feeling plenty of energy.  Between the MGs and dogs, I don't stand a chance.  "Calm" is a word for somebody else!  I often wonder if other people love to learn new things as much as I do.  The idea of learning something new is enough motivation to send me halfway around the world.  I've done it numerous times, and it doesn't stop in the US, either.

I've been training for years.  After awhile, "burnout" happened - maybe it's inevitable.  You can train just so many handlers how to sit their dogs, and after awhile, you'd much rather be sleeping.  But I got lucky - I became fascinated, curious, and challenged, because of Gene.  If he's ranting and raving about these tables non-stop for months, there's gotta be something to them, right? 

Well, I discovered that on the first trip - and that's why you're along with me now. 

I'm Steve Leigh.  Who Am I?

(don't read this if you're in a rush)

Let me tell you a little about myself, about my own commitment.  You'll get to know me - right here, right now.  This is straight from the shoulder - not a bunch of bullshit suggested or required by a book publisher or editor.  I'm sitting here writing what I want to write, and this book says what I believe.  Maybe you identify with me, maybe you like what I have to say, or maybe not.  It's OK - I'm writing it anyway.

I take dog training absolutely seriously, and I want to do good work.  I have a lot of pride, and plenty of ego.  Because of my desire to "do good" by the dogs, I've set some definite guidelines for myself.  I'm not in it strictly "for the bucks", even though money is a part of working.  It's become a way of life - I can't even imagine having a "job" other than training dogs.

This is what I feel I have to do.  I learned to do this work the right way, and for this, I am truly grateful to several superb trainers.  I owe tremendous gratitude to some fine people whose ideas and techniques I've learned, stolen, and believe in. 

In bitework, as a helper - I'm always the loser.  This is why the dog is always a winner.

I believe - because I have seen the proof - that my way of training bite or solving bite problems is close to the "right" way.  I don't create frantic, hectic dogs.  I work continually to build the dog's ability to withstand greater threat and more pressure.  I don't want to offend anyone, but honestly, I reject the vast majority of what is commonly accepted at the neighborhood "Sch(m)utzhund" clubs, and I continually seek and experiment with new and different methods and ideas.

Sometimes I wonder about the "weekend warriors" who spend their time wrecking dogs, rather than taking the time, seeking great influences, learning logic, and becoming truly fine trainers.  It's very sad, but there are so many people whose minds are welded in place.

I avoid "club" environments, club politics, and the peer pressure that goes with it all.  This leaves me free to find, learn, and develop without permission or approval from anyone.  I can try anything I want, whenever I want, and not have to answer to a club full of weekenders, or anybody else.

I've intentionally created an environment in which the dogs come first.  I've worked long and hard, and invested tens of thousands of dollars, to have a place where we can proudly say, "We Do Things Differently Here".

We sure do.


For me, FRAME OF MIND is everything.  The dog's, ours, it's all Frame Of Mind.  When you know Frame Of Mind, then you use it, you feel it, and you believe in it.

Do you remember the Blues Brothers movie?  Duck Dunn said, "That band had enough power to turn goat piss into gasoline."  That's Frame Of Mind!  It's POWER and CONFIDENCE.

It's CONFIDENCE.  James Brown asked John Belushi, "Do You Believe?"  POWER - pure, raw POWER. 

Let's talk about Frame Of Mind - in fact, if you can stop laughing long enough, let's GET some:

For me, it's the most important ingredient.  It's a firm belief that:

(1)  we won't teach the dog to "xyz" today. ("xyz" can be anything)
(2)  we will make definite progress today.
(3)  the dog will make errors, and we accept that.
(4)  we have reasonable, attainable goals.
(5)  the dog's our friend, not our adversary.
(6)  training is no more or less than building habits in the dog.
(7)  persistent and consistent repetition builds habits.
(8)  we're not angry/upset about previous problems/failures.


Motivation, compulsion - the words change periodically, people expound on the ramifications of pleasant vs. unpleasant, new "inventions" come along to fit the new words.  It seems to never end.  In the 90's, we've been collectively "motivated" to death by all the books, videos, seminars, and emotional thresholds of trainers throughout the country.  There are guys out there preaching "motivation this, drive that."

About SEVENTY YEARS AGO, in 1924, Max v.Stephanitz wrote in his book, "The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture", that the use of force was, in days past, the accepted manner of training.  But NOW, there are better ways.  Now, we all know better.  Now, by some amazing new knowledge imparted to mankind, we can suddenly dispense with force, and train in a more "appealing" way.  This was printed in 1924!

Yet only pages away, he illustrates various forms of "stachel-halsband", or spiked prong collars, and mentions not once, but many, many times in his book, the use of a slingshot and pebbles for longer distances, throw chains, chain collars with odd shaped, spiked balls on them, flat leather collars with nails built in .... items reminiscent of methods we no longer need, use, or want for our dogs.  This was about SEVENTY YEARS AGO.

Herr v.Stephanitz, like dozens of others since, hasn't, didn't, and seemingly can't, clarify Frame Of Mind.  I may be less than successful, but I'll try anyway.  You're welcome to laugh as I fumble around, but try to take this seriously.

Training is nothing more and nothing less than building certain reliable, repeatable habits in the dog.  Via a few important factors, the dog learns and becomes reliable in his tasks through attraction/distraction.  All training is based upon these 3 steps:

(1)  Explain to the dog what is required
(2)  Show the dog he must do what is required
(3)  Show the dog he wants to do what is required

Step 1 is probably the most difficult, since very often, the dog isn't particularly interested in WHAT you want him to learn.  He's interested in that bush, or that Dobe, or those hot dogs in your belly bag.  (Have you been here before?  I have!)  So - is it time for a correction yet, or is training over for the day?  I'll scatter a few thoughts around, and try to tie them together in a moment.

Frame Of Mind Through Motivation:  Yes, this is a new exercise, so I'll just pull out his tennis ball, and - HA! - THAT got his ears up, huh? - show him a few (dozen?) times what "down" (or whatever exercise it may be) means.  This'll be fun, fun, fun.  (Till Daddy takes the T-ball away!  (Thank You, Beach Boys.))

Frame Of Mind Through Compulsion:  Yes, the dog WILL pay attention to me, this is the time we do our training, and I set the training times in this pack.  Maybe tomorrow I'll ask the dog's opinion, but today, RIGHT NOW, we're going to train.  No, I absolutely will NOT "forget it", and yes, the dog definitely WILL do this exercise - and ONLY this exercise - until I've seen some progress.  I will SHOW the dog - but I will not put up with repeated games, refusal, avoidance, or non-compliance.  No problem - he's also going to learn to HOLD the down, so expect some repetitions, a few verbal corrections, and, if they don't seem to be getting through, a few physical corrections, too.

I'll mention right now, that the way training is done here, the dog learns his tasks under immediate attractions and distractions on the FIRST day.  Because I do so much of my training using the tables, what follows is 100% normal around here, but may seem very strange to readers.  Yes, we put a bit of mental (but very little physical) stress on the dog, and yes, he learns very clearly that DOWN MEANS DOWN regardless of tennis balls, hot dogs, gunfire, flashing police lights, etc.  Strange as this may seem, he has generally learned this within 15 minutes.  Kindly note: Young puppies (under 10 months) are very rarely trained in obedience, so the above applies to somewhat more mature dogs.  However, with a "lighter hand", I have started puppies as young as 8 weeks - no, not on the long table - and seen relatively reliable results within 15 minutes.

Linking back to Frame Of Mind Through Compulsion - I must HAVE Frame Of Mind to go with the dog to train.  Without Frame Of Mind, I shouldn't be training.  If my attitude is wrong, I know I can't apply myself to the task of teaching the dog.  I don't have to bore anyone with long, drawn out descriptions of the fact that I like the dog, he's my friend, I don't expect miracles from him, I have plenty of patience, and so on.  These should be established facts, and understood long before picking up a leash.  PLEASE: Go back now and READ Frame Of Mind (above) for a quick reminder of what the handler SHOULD feel like before going with the dog to train.

Compulsion.  Force.  Oh boy.  Sounds pretty bad.  Those words can make some people feel bad - this is what I call the "emotional threshold".

For themselves: "How could I do that to little Klint?"

For the dog: "How could I DO that to poor little Klint?"

Even for the people around them: "How could I do THAT to poor little Klint with EVERYONE WATCHING ME?"

(Smiling yet?)

Correct Frame Of Mind extinguishes all these bad thoughts.  Force is natural.  Force is a natural part of life for dogs.  Humans too!  Reasonable, caring handlers need not concern themselves with excessive force, since they ARE both reasonable and caring.  Force exists within a litter, in the relationship between puppy and bitch, puppy and puppy, and in virtually any relationship in the dog's life.  Force is natural, and is easily interpreted by the dog IF and WHEN applied intelligently and clearly, and in harmony with the DOG'S abilities.

Compulsion:  Force can focus the dog on the handler, and bring Frame Of Mind to the dog. "Time to work.  I must focus, you must focus also."

Motivation:  Motivation (food, ball, happy-happy) can also bring the dog into focus - maybe.  Sometimes.  Under some conditions.  With the very young dog, motivation is a wonderful basis for learning and training, and if applied truly carefully, it might entirely preclude the need for any force whatsoever.  Over the past few years, I've heard some really fascinating stories of dogs trained exclusively in this way.  But unfortunately, I've never SEEN one.  I have seen plenty of motivationally trained dogs that break sits, downs, and stands though!

Motivation PLUS Compulsion:  As far as I'm concerned, this is reality.  It's a combination, a balance.  The ability to maintain a correct Frame Of Mind while doing WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE to help the dog learn the tasks.

Compulsion doesn't frighten me anymore.  At one time, the idea of "force training" was something for somebody ELSE to do - not me.  I've spent a lot of time learning, and a lot of time doing.  Over the years, I've come to believe fully in motivation, accept compulsion, learned how to minimize force, and still get the desired results.  This comes from establishing and controlling Frame Of Mind - in myself and in the dog. 

In hopes of making myself clear - I can sum it up by saying - YES - I truly believe in force, and YES - I truly believe in motivation.  I also believe in being patient.  I have absolute confidence in the way I teach. I'm positive that the dog will learn from me, and we will make progress together.

That's part of Frame of Mind, too.


That's partially what Tabletop Training is .... controlling options.  A new/old approach to an old situation.  In training, we generally have a clear picture of what we want from the dog.  On the other hand, the dog has virtually no idea what we require.  This presents us with the problem of developing various methods (or exercises) in order to make what we require 100% CLEAR to the dog. 

For example, in our work here, we constantly catch ourselves asking the dog, "Was ist platz? (What is down?)" or "Was ist steh? (What is stand?)"  Silly questions - however they cover the exact situation: from the perspective of TEACHING the dog, what IS down, anyway?  If we can make it perfectly clear, and show the dog that this behavior creates reward, we've taught him, and he's ours.

At one time - it feels like a century ago - we trained with the conventional approach: leash, collar, training field, let 'er rip - yank 'n crank, Bubba!  Got your prong collar?  Well, you won't need it - we don't use leash corrections on the tables! 

Now, with tables, we've become much more structured, and have a clearer picture of what the dogs can and will do - long BEFORE they do it.  Also, since the tables limit options, the dogs choose the correct response in a shorter time frame.  This clarifies exactly what the dog needs to understand, and doesn't create the time for confusion on his part.  We put the dog in a position where making the right choice is almost automatic.  And, in this position, there are a limited number of mistakes possible.

Are tables a shortcut?  Definitely not!  Training for reliability takes time, and plenty of it.  We can think of table work as being additional steps, compared to other training styles.  What we've done with the tables in a few years has proven without question that the learning/teaching capacities of dogs and their handlers is far more precise than we ever believed.

In a situation of stress, the dog has only 4 options available:

F L I G H T - F I G H T - A V O I D A N C E - S U B M I S S I O N

read B.F. Skinner and learn

If you think this over, the dog's behaviors are almost all understandable and predictable.  This applies equally to virtually all dogs - yours, mine, all dogs.  By reading and understanding the dog, and constantly adjusting your awareness of him, based on the 4 options available, there will be very few occasions when the dog's behavior causes you to say, "Why did he do that?"

Stress situations can generally include any type of training, but are not strictly limited to training situations.  This is based upon the idea that the dog did not freely choose to be in this particular situation, and may not have the freedom to leave the situation. 

For example, walking on a leash, loose line, no corrections, no commands to follow, is still a stress situation, since the dog cannot freely make all choices while leashed, and he is well aware of this, although he may readily accept the situation, and show no outward signs of stress.  This example indicates very mild mental stress, and no physical stress at all.  Put another way, any situation in which the dog is not 100% in control, and is being controlled or influenced, can be a mild stress situation.

Now imagine the attraction of scent, a cat for example, the dog lunges to investigate, the collar tightens, and a leash correction occurs automatically.  Stimulation has been applied to the dog, causing mild mental and physical stress, in order to regain control of his behavior.  Once you begin to consider if the dog is in a stress situation, you will begin to recognize for yourself how the dog unloads the stress - which option he chooses.  Careful, objective observation can show you hundreds of stress situations throughout the course of one day.  Consider, too, I am referring to mild stress, stress the dog can easily and immediately cope with.  "Subtle" stress might be the correct way to describe it.  Possibly a better word would be "environmental stress".

Once again:

In a situation of stress, the dog has only 4 options available:

F L I G H T - F I G H T - A V O I D A N C E - S U B M I S S I O N

read B.F. Skinner and learn

Each of the above has a range of possibilities.

Flight can be full-blown, top-speed, running away from the problem at hand (the stress), or as subtle as one small step back - away from the source of stress.  Think about this - the dog increases the distance between himself and the source of stress.  It doesn't matter if the distance is increased by inches, yards, or miles, it's FLIGHT, and should be recognized as such.  Does your dog ever flight from you?  Typically, yes - under certain circumstances, anyone's dog might choose flight as a viable option to release stress.  (This chapter does not deal with how to remove flight responses from your dog, it only deals with how to recognize the 4 options available to any dog in a stress situation.  See Stabilization later in this book.)

Fight - in the extreme - will cause you to head for the nearest hospital.  Quick.  Working-size dogs can put a working-size hurting on any-size human.  But that's not the only definition of fight.  Lips up, eye contact, growl; and there are many other indications that the dog has chosen fight rather than another option.  Does he dig in and bow up on the leash?  Refuse to be pushed into a down?  Is he challenging and/or testing his leader?  These indicate fight responses, where the dog is actively or passively resisting in response to stress.

Avoidance is simpler to recognize, and doesn't have the wide range of variation that we find in flight and fight. Avoidance is refusal to meet the stress visually.  Therefore, a dog who looks away, hangs his head, won't look at the dumbbell, the handler, the article, etc. is in avoidance.  Avoidance sometimes combines with flight or submission, or both.

Submission - in the extreme - is a dog laying on his back urinating and/or defecating on himself.  They've got words like "inguinal presentation" if you want to be real high-tech, but you get the picture.  Crouching, crawling, licking lips, ears flattened, avoidance (see above), head hanging, etc., all indicate submission.  As above, submission can be quite extreme, but it can be equally as subtle.

A few years ago, I considered compliance as a completely separate 5th option for the dog, because compliance was only available after the dog learned the behavior.  Now I consider compliance to be a form of submission, without any of the associated submissive body postures.  This thinking also makes me believe that when given a command, the dog is faced with momentary mental stress, and can unload this stress through compliance, or in other words, submission.  Think about the dog that would choose to do something else - anything else - at any given second, yet obeys a command from the leader.  Have we all seen happy dogs doing sits, downs, heeling, or recalls?  Certainly.  These are dogs that are happily submitting!  Prior conditioning has shown the dog that submitting brings reward, and/or submitting causes the stress to end.  (see Avoidance Training Chapter)

I suggest you learn to recognize all indications of all of the 4 options.  The easiest way to do this, is to see the behavior, and take your pick!  There's really not that much to choose from, is there?  Start looking for the subtle indicators, and think things out.

The cornerstone of all that follows - and especially bitework on the tables - is the fact that dogs have only these 4 options available when under stress.  Tabletop Training won't make much sense to you if you're not basing everything on the fact that the dog has only 4 options available.  If you're a novice, or you've been training for 20 years, if you train in Florida, New York, or Germany, it's still the same: the dogs have only 4 options available to them, and training of any type is a mild stress situation.

Now, we'll shift gears.  This book is written about tables, and tables encompass obedience and protection, in several different areas.  Let's spend a few minutes thinking about protection training.  The following paragraphs may be worth reading twice.  In fact, they might really shock you.

Instinctively, the dog does not challenge or attack animals larger than himself.  There are exceptions which might include pack hunting, where 2 or more dogs might hunt a larger animal, herding, in which the dog has been conditioned to challenge and dominate a herd of large animals, or possibly a threatening situation where the dog has virtually no other options, and chooses to fight.  But typically, the dog will avoid combat with humans. 

I base this on the fact that human - the tall, vertical animal - has physically dominated the dog ever since birth. 

To the young pup, the imprint is clear - vertical animals can pick me up, control me, make me helpless.  My struggles are useless, they overpower me.  Most puppies learn to submit to humans at a young age.

Let's mentally turn back the dial to the point BEFORE the dog has ever experienced fighting a human.

First, let's consider puppy "fight" as including struggling or resisting types of behavior.  Very, very few puppies will exhibit adult fight behaviors such as snarling, teeth, serious bite, etc.

It's probable that human has done some, probably several, things which imprint his power on the puppy.  His first ride to the vet's office was very likely traumatic.  He, and his siblings, have been separated from their mother and the only world they've ever known.  They're transported in some kind of loud, (to them), alien moving object - stopping, starting, and turning.  Quite likely, they're all in a large box, or possibly an airline crate.  I believe this is total stress for the puppies - and once they arrive at the vet's, the stress increases.  Thermometers in their butts, injections, placed up on a table, examination.  After all this intimidation, it's time to get back in that rocking object for the ride home.  It's no wonder the puppies often vomit, urinate, and defecate all over themselves during their first experiences away from their safety - their nest and - especially - their mother. 

And the intimidation continues.  Humans make the decision to sell the puppies.  At this point, everything familiar to the puppy is removed.  Imagine yourself being forced at a very young and insecure age to go live in a foreign land - everything is new and strange, everything you've always known is gone.  All your previous safety and security has been removed.  And it doesn't stop ....

Average "new puppy owners" bring the puppy home, and EXPECT him to play with the children, perform his cute puppy behaviors for their amusement. 

It's a rare puppy buyer that will bring a puppy home, and LEAVE HIM ALONE, giving him time to stabilize, adjust, and acclimate to this new environment he's been forced into.  It's a rare puppy buyer that can see this new world through the eyes of the puppy, and recognize this must be the worst day of the puppy's life.  

I've seen this myself - several times.  Screaming, excited children all want to hug and love the new puppy, they want him to run and play, they're thrilled with their new, fluffy family member.  The kids pick him up by his front legs, hug and squeeze him - they have yet to learn how to handle a puppy, they simply don't know right from wrong yet.  From the puppy's point of view, I believe it's trauma.  A nightmare.  Soon, more power, dominance and control begin.

Inevitably, on the first day, the puppy will urinate or defecate in the house.  How many new puppy owners will tolerate - and even expect - that?  The puppy will very likely be punished for his mistake.  The power and dominance is so obvious, it's like a 400 foot wide flashing neon sign!  

Introducing him to the leash and collar typically results in some struggling and resistance.  Inspecting ears, mouth, or belly usually brings about some struggling.  Even trimming toenails is a display of power.  Early trips to a vet's office, up on the table, touch, probe, examine - frequently produce the same results in the young dog's mind:  resisting is useless - humans have power. 

Physically removing something from the puppy's mouth - sneakers, carpet, pillow, etc. encompasses the same imprint:  "human equals power".  It should go without saying that any form of discipline or correction imprints power over the puppy.

Based on this thought process, it seems apparent that teaching the young (read: relatively insecure) dog to fight a human is TOTALLY in conflict with what he knows about his environment.

Maybe I've given you something to think about.  We often refer to "tough" or "hard" dogs - and many of us are forever searching for them. 

It's possible we've taken the "tough" out of the dogs even before they lose their baby teeth though, isn't it?


I think of "training" as being no more or less than BUILDING HABITS in the dog.  As we repeat certain exercises, habits are being formed and reinforced.  The various acts which we call training are, in a manner of thinking, "pebbles in the pail". 

Picture, if you will, an empty 5 gallon pail.  No weight, no substance.  It would blow away in a strong wind.  Begin training - any task will do for this example - and we're dropping small, light "pebbles" in the pail with each and every repetition.  Once or twice repeated behaviors are relatively insignificant, but many, many repetitions ultimately add up.  After a day, week, or month of repetition in a specific task, the behavior becomes stronger - a habit has been created and reinforced.  After many hundreds, possibly thousands, of repetitions, that pail is unmovable - without a forklift!  Now we have substance in habit - the repetitions have created certain repeatable, reliable behaviors in the dog.  Please continue ....

Consider too, the pails which are undesirable - behaviors such as handler consciousness, avoidance behaviors, rebites, or others which we prefer to untrain.  As the pebbles go into the pails the habits are reinforced.  Through thoughtful training, we can empty one pail and replace undesirable habits with correct habits.


Basic rules: 

NEVER reward an unwanted behavior.  Reward desirable behaviors. 

Whatever is pleasant for the handler, must be pleasant for the dog.
Whatever is unpleasant for the handler, must be unpleasant for the dog.

It should be understood that the above paragraphs are based on correct and consistent training, for nothing else will do.  The rules must be extremely clear:  to the dog, the handler, the helper, and anyone else involved.  Training goals must be quite attainable, or failure will result.

In many areas, the dog is already (naturally) performing the particular behavior long before we begin to train.  Examples are tracking, sits, downs, and to some degree, recalls.  Possibly included are play retrieves, jumps, heeling, etc.  In fact, the dog outs naturally, too.  I'll explain this later.

Fighting (prey) is the central instinct in most young dog's lives.  Stalking, pouncing, chasing, biting and fighting urges are obvious in nearly every puppy, and even more pronounced in the working breeds. 

But don't mix up "play fight" behaviors with genuine fight behaviors.  The basis exists in many young dogs, and at this point it is important to get the pebbles into the pail.

Channeling, or directing these natural behaviors thru careful and consistent training, can produce dogs which have pretty substantial "pails" (experience) by the age of 10-20 weeks!

I hope that you're reading between the lines a little - I hope you can see that the manner in which we set up the exercises can do wonders for getting the pebbles into the pail. 

Let's consider this example:  a very young dog, just learning to bite burlap. 

If we train this dog on the grass, tied to his handler with a leash, we have the potential for a lot of rebites, mouthing, and a weak grip.  That's not a rule, but the potential exists.  If we train the same dog on the round table, we can quickly and easily teach him to commit to one grip, and maintain that grip throughout the duration of the fight.  The mechanics of the table allow us to to circumvent several bad habits before they ever become bad habits.  The table also allows us to bypass most of the problems which the inexperienced handler or helper might bring into training.


In 1991, I entered a time to put the old ways behind, and seriously consider something new.  Tables - the actual, physical tables themselves - are only one part of Tabletop Training.  Another part is how we do what we do with the tables, as well as what we do off the tables.  For some - which includes me - it's a new process of thinking combined with some new equipment to work with.  If you've been training for awhile, you probably understand what I'm trying to say.  So many of us have gone through "stages" with the dogs.  We've tried this and tried that, some things worked, others didn't.

In Tabletop Training, we use three different tables - they each serve entirely different purposes.  Following is a brief description of each.

LONG TABLE:  The long table is 16 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 3 feet high.  It has a square steel post at each end, and an overhead cable stretched approximately 37" above the tabletop, with a drop chain attached.  The length of the drop chain is adjustable.  The long table is primarily used as an obedience tool.  On it, we teach downs, stands, sits, and, in a manner of thinking, heeling.  It's also used for teaching the retrieve, proper indication of tracking articles, some drug and/or explosives indication, and some other experimental purposes which are under development. 

Another excellent use of the long table is the stabilization of dog fighters.  The long table can provide a powerful level of intimidating force, and do it instantaneously, which is particularly useful for serious dog fighting problems.  With 2 handlers, the training sessions are completely controlled, and dangerous accidents are nearly impossible.  Compared to using muzzles and working on the ground, the results on the table can be far superior, and infinitely safer for the dogs and the handlers.

ROUND TABLE:  The round table is 6.5 feet in diameter, and 19.5 inches high.  In the center is a round steel post with a spinner attached, which allows the dog to be chained to the post, yet never tangle or tie up the chain.  Various lengths of chain are used for specific exercises.  The round table is used for bitework.  On it, we train various aspects such as building grip, hold and bark, outs, escapes, and many more exercises.  It is usable as a prey oriented tool, as well as a defense or fight oriented tool, depending entirely on the needs of the trainer or helper.

SQUARE TABLE:  The square table is 4 feet square, 40" high.  It has a square steel post in the center, extending approximately 36" above the tabletop.  The post is drilled to facilitate connecting a chain at various heights, as well as bolting a wide leather collar to the post.  The square table is primarily used to add "edge" to a dog's defense or fight behavior.

Under some circumstances, foot shackles are also used, along with the collar, which essentially immobilizes the dog.   This scenario applies very well to dogs with major social and/or fear biting problems.  Antisocial, insecure, or overly defensive dogs can be safely placed on the square table, and preliminary training can be accomplished in a totally controlled environment, while maintaining complete safety for the dog, handler, trainer, and assistants.

Tables are training tools.  That's really all they are.  But they're unique tools, in that very few other training tools control the options available to the dog like the tables can.  Tables are like a microscope.  They are an environment - a place where everything done in training is intensified, focused, and clarified - for the dog, helper, and handler.


At this point, I'd like to discuss some very specific aspects of Tabletop Training, particularly, teaching the out or "aus".


This applies to all dogs that are biting sleeve/burlap/leather.  Any dog from 10 week old puppies, (I don't seriously teach 10 week pups to out, but there's really no reason not to), straight thru to maniacs which bite legs, rebite, circle, and especially - the dogs that refuse to out. 

The dogs that will NOT out are the best challenge of all. 

ALL biters, ANY breed, confident, hacklers, any situation:  strong handler, weak handler, even no handler.  In that case, I just do it myself.  I'll explain in a later chapter why that works fine for me.

Preliminaries & what we need:

(1)  The round table is 6.5 feet in diameter, 19.5" off the floor (approx. knee height), is covered in astroturf, and has a post in the center with a device that spins, allowing the dog to be tied to the post without tangling the chain or cable as the dog moves around the tabletop.  The length of the chain is adjustable, and for this exercise, we need it long enough so the dog's mouth can exactly reach the outside edge of the table. 

A wide leather buckle collar is used on this table.  No other collars or hardware.  No chain collar, no prong, no electric, no harness, and no leash.

(2)  Stabilization to the table.  Some dogs are slightly inhibited when going up on anything for the first time.  These dogs are encouraged on the table, rewarded, praised, etc.  For the timid dog, no work is done at all that session, just stabilization to the table.  In my experience, very few dogs over 2 months have shown the slightest hesitation to go on the table.  And, after 1 or 2 sessions, they all head straight to the table and go up on their own, enthusiastically dragging their handlers along behind.

(3)  A helper that understands the 4 options available to the dog:

F L I G H T - F I G H T - A V O I D A N C E - S U B M I S S I O N

and who can make and break eye contact when/as needed, has the "moves", knows when and how to load (create suspicion) and unload (remove suspicion) the dog, and isn't "running on ego" (the "I can break any dog" type).  The helper must also be aware of the 4 different levels of suspicion, as follows:

(a)  eye contact
(b)  eye contact - mouth closed
(c)  eye contact - growl
(d)  eye contact - bark

(4)  A hiding place.  The helper must be able to go out of the dog's line of sight when needed.

Please note: I can't cover all the possibilities of the dog's temperament (ie; handler conscious, calm, confident, flighty), and, for this exercise they aren't all that important anyway.  Also, I can't cover the degree of expertise in the helper or the handler.  I can try to make obvious what I mean, but we all know not all helpers are created equal.  However, the basis of this chapter isn't on correct helper OR handler work, it's on TABLES, and what we can DO with them, so please bear this in mind.  It is my hope you will be able to consider the use of the ROUND TABLE objectively via this chapter, not the helper/handler.  I'll supply the table info, you supply the rest, OK?

I better add here that I write in a pretty strange way.  I have no valid excuse for this, other than this is the way it comes out, and the way I feel it the clearest.  When you see <VBG>, that stands for "Very Big Grin".  I thought it'd be nice to tell y'all when I'm grinning, 'cause you can't see from over there.

Names have been changed to protect innocent dogs, by the way.

If everything above is agreeable, let's get to work!

First step is to relax.  (Great "job", isn't it?)  Let the dog relax, handler, helper, and everybody else who's nearby.  Save one of those beers for me! 

We're about to do something called "TOTO" and it's a nice, simple little exercise which leads to many more useful things in the future.  "TOTO" stands for "turn on-turn off".  It's also something we'll come back to every once in awhile, just to keep the dog tuned up.  We'll begin ...........

Handler!  Put your dog on the table using the leather collar, go stand near the dog, sit on the table, or whatever.  If the dog totally distracts to the handler, then handler, put some distance between you and your dog.  We're gonna need him to focus on the helper for awhile.

Helper!  Place yourself behind something.  Anything.  Go in the closet.  Hide.  Attract the dog .... hiss, tap a stick against the door, scratch the wall, whatever.  Now show yourself - just a little, sneak your head around the corner .... dog makes eye contact?  Helper, flight into hiding!  Eye contact, mouth closed?  Helper, flight into hiding!  Growl?  Helper, flight into hiding!  Barks?  Helper, flight into hiding!  (Helper?  Please reread the 4 levels of suspicion defined just above.  They're pretty important from this point forward.)

This will be repeated several, maybe several dozen times.  Only when the dog calms after the helper flights (minimal barking or whining), may the helper begin the next approach.  Be patient.  Very persistent and very consistent.  The dog's voice should noticeably change to a higher pitch when he "unloads" (is not suspicious), and at that point he is "telling" us he is on the way to "aus".

In other words, we're gonna let the dog tell us when he knows the "fight" is over, OK?  Take your time, relax, and let the dog benefit from this learning experience.  This applies to any dog - SchHIII workhorses, puppies, police K9s, or your own personal protection dog.  All we're trying to do with TOTO is help define for the dog when it's time to fight, and when it's not time to fight.  That's all - so relax, and let's just do that one thing, and nothing more.

After several reps, we'll bring the helper out in a non-threatening (non-suspicious) manner.

Helper, come out smiling at the dog, talking, walk normally, approach the dog in a friendly manner.  Handler!  CALM YOURSELF.  Now calm your dog.  Helper!  STOP RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE if the dog is fired up, break eye contact, turn your side profile to the dog, and don't move.  Make no moves to attract fight, make no moves to run away.  Handler!  RELAX and help your dog settle down.  Don't jump around and start yelling.  Get a grip on your volume control!  Need to step in front of him and block his vision to the helper?  Then DO IT!  And do it CALMLY!  Relax, everything's just fine.  Don't kick his ass, make NO corrections, just get calm yourself. 


If this takes 2 minutes or 25 minutes, it's OK, we've got all day.  You're PERSISTENT and CONSISTENT, remember? Now we're cookin'!  Is he settled down?  Great, then praise him for it, will ya?  Helper, can you get in here closer to the dog?  Keep smilin', pardner!  Good! 

Now helper, squat down right in front of the dog.  That's right, I want him to see a 2 foot tall helper with a big grin on his face.  But remember, he's got to be calm about this.  In fact, we've all got to be calm. 

Many, many times, I've just pulled up a lawn chair, sat down, and waited for the dog to discover that I'm not here to fight.  You can go ahead and praise him a little too.  Clap your hands, tell him whatever his handler's telling him .... "good boy!", "so ist brav", whatever.  Is he calm?  If he is, then we're winnin', folks!  "A pebble in the pail", as we say!

We're going to repeat this till the helper, handler, and dog get their skills together.  This is teamwork and requires coordination.  It requires communication and correct timing, and that requires practice.  We're looking for clarity .... "Hey, this guy's coming out here to fight!" - OR - "Here he is, but he's not fighting this time."

Handler, if you can tell the difference when the helper comes out to fight or comes out peacefully, then help your dog tell the difference, too.  And RELAX, we're doing just fine.  The critical part of this exercise is that the dog turns off when the fight ends.  Once things get rolling, use the commands "pass auf" and "aus" or whatever flavor you prefer, relative to the helper's behavior.  Now relax and drink a beer for me.  Relaxing is a BIG part of table training!  Relaxing is also a big part of Frame Of Mind.  The clearer you are in your mind, the easier this work becomes.

On we go: we've done TOTO for several sessions, days, weeks, whatever the dog requires.  There's really no rush - all we need to see is very consistent behavior in the dog, and we will realize: "He's got it!" 

Now it's about time to "raise the stakes" or the attraction level.

Using exactly the same procedures as above (they're working, so don't change them!) let's get the dog to turn off while the helper is in closer proximity.  Gradually increase defense (suspicion) - (actually, it's called fight) as you see fit for the particular dog .... get the helper crackin' that whip, firing the gun, making a bigger threat, whatever.  Just increase the attraction - GRADUALLY.  Turn the dog on faster too.  Helper, stand about 3-4 feet from the dog, as soon as that handler says "pass auf", make it "come true" instantly.  Quick responses, guy!  This, too, is critical.  The dog is NEVER lied to.  Lying will only create confusion.   

Helper!  Under no circumstances do you re-agitate the dog after an "aus".  As soon as "aus" is spoken THE FIGHT IS OVER, AND REMAINS OVER UNTIL THE NEXT TIME "PASS AUF" IS SPOKEN.  We must make this 100% clear:  no exceptions at all.

If you disobey me, helper, I will choke you until your eyes pop out of your head.

There are a lot of "pebbles in the pail" by now, time for a bite.  Relax.  It's the same as no bite.  Well, almost....

Helper, you're playing a really important part, and I need to see this:

Attraction (suspicion), approach, present bite, move in flight, (to the right if the sleeve's on your left arm), show the side of your body towards dog, and no frontal.  What?  What's frontal?  Frontal is when you show the dog the front of your body, man!  You're bigger, wider, more threatening when you face the dog.  So turn your body sideways, and let the dog see a "skinny" helper, OK?  OK!!

All set? .... let's do a short bite, 5-10 seconds, no big deal.  Fight's done?  Helper! .... Get down to the floor.  Sleeve (or whatever is being bitten) is in the dog's mouth, and he's playing hell with your shoulder, but that's why you're a helper.  Everybody else is standing around watching.  They have brains.  <VBG>

Is the dog in a down?  He ought to be, or pretty close, if you're down where you're supposed to be.  Keep that arm loose and relaxed, don't make any fight, but don't let him drag you across the table, either.  Keep your face out of range, get on your knees or sit on your butt, and make yourself comfortable.  Handler, COOL IT, and get over here by your dog.  DON'T tell him "aus" yet, just relax and watch the show.  Help him get calm, that's your job.  Helper, can you stroke this dog?  If so, pet him - unless you've got an alligator up there. 

Anybody got a watch?  Let's see how long it takes for the dog to realize that the helper isn't fighting anymore.  Oooh, Lordy, Lordy!  Is he still thrashing around?  Watch his mouth carefully, and you'll see him start "jawin'" .... there's the signal.   That's it - he's getting ready to let go.  Handler, give up some praise and NOW tell him "aus".  Maybe you have to say it a few times, maybe even ten times, but what'd I tell you before?  We've got all day, so cool it. 


He's out?  Well where's the praise?  Helper!  Leave the sleeve or burlap on the table, and praise the dog, too.  Anybody else nearby?  Try some "pack support".... Y'ALL praise him!  (Would you look at that tail wag?  This lil' guy's havin' FUN!)

Repeat, repeat, repeat.  We're putting a LOT of pebbles in the pail now, and having a good time, too!  Except for maybe the helper who's going to the chiropractor.  Let's buy him a beer, he really earned it.  (What?  He's already gone?  Hell, I'll drink it!)

So far, clear, precise thought.  Patience, praise, and foundation.  So far, no force, no corrections, no electric shock, and most important, NO INTIMIDATION.

It's really pretty simple, isn't it?  Nothing we've done so far inhibits the dog in any way.  What we're doing is totally in harmony with the dog, utilizing his own natural responses to build our foundation in training.


Please keep in mind, too, that the dog's ability to calm to the helper and the fight is NOT necessarily the ultimate picture.  This is just A STEP IN THE PATH towards building calm, consistent fights and outs. 

You're going to have to trust me a little, and follow this training through to learn how we'll build a much stronger fight.  In the meantime - you want outs?  You'll get them - without any force.

There are other exercises to build more fight and much more suspicion.  You'll notice we're NOT discussing them right now.  That's for a later chapter, so be patient.  Right now, all we're concerned with is building the habit of out.  That's what's being built, and it will remain consistent if you follow the pattern.

At this point, it may be 3 or 25 times on the table, we should see that the dog is making definite progress towards an instant and calm out.  Time to increase the attraction again.  Try bites and outs with the helper vertical, ie; sleeve touches the table, but the helper is definitely standing (not on the floor), and not fighting.  Run into problems?  Helper!  Get back down on the floor .... the dog's not ready for that level of threat.  Go easy, and let him calm his way into the release.  Remember, we've got all day.  We can work another dog or two, then bring him back on the table in an hour, right? 

We're moving towards helper locks up the sleeve, dog outs correctly.  By the way:  police dogs?  Helper!  Keep your hands OFF those dogs (typically).  Only the handler touches the dog.  This, too, is another subject for another chapter.  Young dogs, sport dogs, and especially insecure dogs?  By all means, why shouldn't the helper add some praise at this stage, too?  Builds confidence, makes the dog a little stronger.  This might be a good time to stabilize the dog to the stick or whip as well, if it hasn't been done already.

Helper, stroke him with it, make praise with it.  Get his confidence high until he ignores it.  We're "out", remember? Get down in a crouch, and scratch his chest with it.  He's sure to follow you anywhere!  How about buying him a beer?  <VBG>

Important note on CORRECTIONS:  Handler can correct rebites or particularly "delayed outs" with a finger or two across the muzzle, or simple "pfui!, aus!".  If more force is required, you haven't done enough work in the foregoing calming sessions.  Back up, relax, and be patient.  Read "Frame of Mind" again, and get more feel for being patient. This system really does work, but it can take time.  As long as we're doing it, let's do it right.

And keep something in your mind, too. We WANT the dog to MAKE DISCOVERIES for himself.

If enough work went into the last sessions, the dog is probably not making many mistakes right now.  Just keep those pebbles going into the pail.  Don't cut corners, just RELAX .... the dog's having fun, we're having fun, and we're indoors.  Where's the beer?  Not much heat and humidity, no snow, ice, or sleet, and our helper's shoulders are feeling fine.  <HELPER GRINS!>

If we've gotten this far, and the dog is consistently outing either when the fight ends, or when "aus" is commanded, we'll start doing the bites in split sessions.  But before I describe split sessions - I'll interject this. 

I don't like to teach "automatic" outs.  I can train this way, but choose not to.  To keep from having the dog out prematurely, I keep some fight in the sleeve even though I'm "locked up" or frozen at the end of a fight.  The dogs learn quickly that maybe the fight isn't really over, and will sustain a full, hard grip almost indefinitely.  What I'm describing are small, tiny "twitches" of the arm - just enough to keep the dog aware that "it ain't dead yet!"  Occasionally, I'll just take off and make some more real fight from the "locked up" position, and sometimes it'll just be a straight out.  The dog never knows, the handler never knows, and usually I don't know, either!  It's only done to teach the dog to stay in there and maintain the bite until the "aus" command.  As a side note, most of the dogs I've trained will stand still at the end of the fight, with just as much power in the bite, no mouthing, no thrashing, no insecurity.  Just a very, very deep mouth, and power you have to feel to believe.  (This is why I constantly use softer sleeves.  I need to feel the bite pressure at all times to make correct decisions.)

Split sessions - Simply defined, some on the table, some off.  I like to do this by giving the first couple bites on the table as usual, then having the handler unhook the dog, hang on, then let the dog chase me by leaving the table.  I'll catch him, fight, and run back to the table, where he hops right back up, and we continue as if he were on it all along.  We might both get on the table for awhile - except he's not tied to it anymore.  At this stage, if the owner wants, we're also starting "pass auf" in terms of hold/bark.  We're also using words like "Packen!" directly before the bite.  (Table Hold/Bark comes next, so please be patient, and excuse my reference to it now.  I'm jumping the gun!)

Another attraction:  it's common practice around here that people wander over to the table, praise the dog, handle him, etc.  This is before and after bites .... but especially during bites.  (Sport dogs, yes - NOT police K9s!  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!)  We believe in "pack support", and it works great.  The same people will do "pack support" if "pfui!" is required.  The whole room full of people are telling this dog he's wonderful or he's shameful .... not just his handler.

BUT!  NOBODY touches the dog for any corrections other than the handler, and we've already covered the "finger across the muzzle" correction.  This includes helpers, by the way!  Absolutely no corrections from the helper.


At this point, the outs are pretty well in place, and we can look forward to building them some more outside, on the grass, and in other locations.  A few more pertinent points:

(a)  The same 2 or 3 helpers should be working the dog during this learning phase.  Consistency is a key factor here.  The dog is coming to recognize those keys.  Habits are definitely being formed.  We can't take chances and trust other helpers to confuse the issues at this point.

(b)  It's been clearly stated - under no circumstances should any "re-agitation" take place after an out during this phase.  We're after absolute clarity.  Out is out, the fight is over.  The dogs that are weak after releasing (flight to handler, etc.) will be doing some other exercises to clean up that particular situation.  Meanwhile, we all play by the rules.

(c)  Make intelligent decisions regarding how much "more" to attempt at each session.  30-50 bites are fine for some dogs, but way too much for others.  You have to read this yourself, I can't offer anything via a book.

(d)  DON'T confuse the dog with other bites at other clubs or on other helpers.  Stick with the table long enough to get the results we're after, then gradually move along to more and more difficult scenarios.  It's really not worth blowing 5 weeks worth of work just to take him down the road and show off his newly-found "outing" skills on "Henry-the-famous-helper".

This pretty well covers outing.  Each step equals pebbles in the pail.  Lots of patience, good Frame of Mind, a decent helper, and plenty of beer.  We're only a few steps away from more demanding and difficult outs, and using this foundation, there's no problem getting there.  Does the table seem like a productive place yet?  With your open mind, and plenty of time, I'll explain why table training might be better than any other way of doing certain things.

Now, let me show you graphically what the next step is:

[turn on] ... [bite] ... [turn off] (praise) .................................. repeat

See all those dots after the turn off?  Each dot represents several seconds.  Let's cut down the time (GRADUALLY! - we have patience, remember?) after the turn off, and turn him back on a little sooner.  Like this:

[turn on] .. [bite] ... [turn off] (praise) ............................ [turn on]

[turn on] .. [bite] ... [turn off] (praise) .................. [turn on]

[turn on] .. [bite] ... [turn off] (praise) ....... [turn on]

We're pulling the two stages (exercises) closer and closer together, as shown above.  Pretty soon, "aus" and "pass auf" (or "out" and "watch him") become one command!  But that comes in the next chapter, under Hold and Bark, so stay tuned.


I've been pretty serious here for at least a few pages, so let's relax a little.  Pop open a beer, and read this.  Here's a story - every word is the gospel truth!

Sometimes I load up a dog or two in the van, and drive north on the Interstate to the next rest stop, about 10 miles away.  I have a couple of friends who work there as Security Guards at night, and they're both interested in the dogs and especially in bite training.  They also like to do bitework.  Strange fellas, but as nice as can be.

One night, about midnight, I went to the rest stop with Corey.  I parked the van, got Corey and the sleeve out, and put him in a down while I discussed an escape exercise with Jim, the Security Guard/sometimes-helper.  We walked alongside one of the buildings, and he hid in the bushes.  As I returned to Corey, he broke the down, and started towards the helper.  I corrected him verbally, plus picked him up by his neck and butt, placed him back down where he was supposed to be, and stepped away from him. 

At that very moment, a lady, probably about 40 years old, appeared, yelling and hollering about "animal cruelty" and how she's had German Shepherds for 25 years, and her father raised Shepherds, and her mother has a Shepherd, and how could I possibly treat a dog this way, and don't I know that dogs will turn on you if you do that ..... on and on and on.

She was pointing her finger, waving it in my face .... this crazy lady was on a roll, man!  She was rockin'! 

Pretty soon, Jim charged out of the bushes running, Corey took off on "Packen", and a fight was in progress.  Jim froze, I outed Corey, and transported my "prisoner" back towards the van, Corey at "fuss" (heel).  I downed him about 100' from the pavement, on the grass.

Now the woman was simply petrified.  She was about to lose her mind, for God's sake!  "Keep that vicious thing away from me!"  "Don't you dare come any closer!"  "Stay away!  Stay away!"  (To herself: "Oh my God, why did I ever stop the car?  Why?  Why?  Why?")  <<  This is word-for-word verbatim, y'all!

She tried to get the key into the door, and in her excitement, she broke it off in the lock.  Then, she ran around to the passenger's side, started fighting with that door, but it was locked, too.  She was moaning, groaning, and talking a mile a minute - "Please, Officer, don't let that dog anywhere near me.  Please!  Oh, please, don't come any closer, please keep him away!". 

Jim and I just stood there in total amazement - absolutely flabbergasted!  Corey was in a down, minding his own business, at least 100 feet - probably twice that - away from the lady, and she was acting like an escapee from a mental ward!  We couldn't get a word in there edgewise if we tried!  There was no talking to this one, y'all!  Xanax is not just for breakfast anymore.

Jim called AAA for the lady, and asked for a locksmith or a tow truck.  Of course, it didn't arrive for about 2 hours, so she spent that time talking to herself, waving her arms, pointing her fingers, wandering around her car, always keeping the car between herself and Corey, locking herself in the ladies room, and moaning and groaning to anyone else who stopped at the rest area. 

I left after a few more bites, and Jim was stuck listening to her.  He filled me in on the details the next day.

It was really pretty funny, and I'm surprised she didn't try to file some kind of charges for animal cruelty, or call the FBI, NAACP, the Governor of Florida, or something like that.  There's a lot of crazy people at rest stops at 1 or 2 in the morning!


We've done a lot of work so far.  Our dogs are outing pretty consistently, and we don't have to correct "delayed" outs very often.  Pebbles are going in the pail by the handful - and that's something to be proud of!  Give your dog some "loben" (praise) 'cause he's earned it.  And might as well buy the helper a beer, too .... he's earned it!

I'd think that most of us wouldn't want our dogs to bite a stationary, non-threatening person.  Of course, there might be some exceptions to this, but generally speaking, hold and bark is a viable exercise.  I'm not writing for or against hold and bark - that's for you or your department to decide.  It's actually mandatory in some police organizations and by the rules of some sports.  Let's "Have A Look" (thank you, Heiner) at how we can accomplish this.

Hold and bark is defined as the dog exhibiting self control and not biting that which is within reach, yet at the same time, keeping himself ready and intense to the situation - prepared to bite. 

This may - and typically does - include barking, depending entirely on what you want.  (There are some agencies which require silence from the dog, for example SEK in Germany.)  However, the key here is that the dog can bite, but doesn't.  He waits for the helper to flight, attack, or for the handler to tell him to bite.

This applies to all dogs that are biting and outing.  Again, strong handler, weak handler, even no handler.  In this exercise, the dog will teach himself, and the handler plays a very small, but vital, role.

Preliminaries & what we need:

(1)  The round table and wide leather collar.  For this exercise, the chain is approximately 12" longer than it is for bitework and outs.  The means the dog can step off the edge of the table - and, in fact, we want him to.

(2)  A helper that understands the 4 options available to the dog:

F L I G H T - F I G H T - A V O I D A N C E - S U B M I S S I O N

and who can make and break eye contact when/as needed, has the "moves", knows when and how to load (create suspicion) and unload (remove suspicion) the dog, and isn't "running on ego" (the "I can break any dog" type).

Let's get to work.  (Who's going for the beer?)  Since the chain is longer, the dog can actually step off the table.  We can stabilize him to this by attraction. 

Handler, go to your dog and praise him, walk around the table a little and give the dog the opportunity to step off the table.  Don't call him off the table, just present the opportunity. 

If he goes off, that's OK - he can step back up without any help.  Pretend it never happened.  Actually, I'd like to see a few repetitions of this - the dog steps off the table, and decides on his own to get back on the table.  And let's be cool about this - the table is only 19.5" high. 


Now, handler, sit down on the table, facing the direction your helper will be coming from.  Turn your dog on - "pass auf!" 

Helper!  C'mon out with some threat.  The dog should be barking his ass off about now .... Helper, come closer .... a drop closer.  We're talking inches here, not yards!  The dog should be barking and staring right into the helper's eyes.  He shouldn't be barking at the sleeve.  If he's focused on the sleeve, read the chapter dealing with intensity.  We don't want a sleeve freak - we want the dog actively seeking fight with the man, not the equipment.  (What?  You didn't find the chapter on intensity?  That's cause I haven't written it yet!  Sure I have - it's located below.)

Handler, you ought to be telling your dog, "Good pass auf!  Fein ist pass auf!", and using the command words in your praise.  Helper, make a slight move similar to "popping" the sleeve into position for the bite .... POW!

The dog stepped off the table?  He can't levitate!  Of course not ....

Handler!  Fast - get your dog right back up here - quick, quick, QUICK - then get your hands off him, and instantly tell him "pass auf!" again.  Helper!  Hiss, crack that whip, whatever, just get this dog instantly tuned into you again.  Try and get him to step off again.  Don't wait for anything - do your work as if the dog never went off the table.  Act like it never happened.  We want the dog to learn something here - we want him to learn to WAIT.

Handler!  Helper!  In the above paragraph I am telling you - I am not asking - to get some things done FAST.  There is no time to play games here - we've got to make the point while the dog is hot.  There isn't a moment to spare.  If either of you do not obey me, I will beat you both with the whip.  You can drag your lazy asses around in slow motion after training - you're not doing it in my training class.

Let's get in a drop closer now .... Barking?  Full of fire?  OK - Helper, pay attention - give him a bite but DON'T PULL! Whatever you do, don't yank him off the table, or pull the sleeve out of his mouth!  Helper, I will strangle you if you do.  Step right into his area, knees touching the table, move a little, and slip the sleeve.  Y'all PRAISE the dog!  We're not working on outs right now!  We're working on Hold/Bark, OK?

Repeat this - and then repeat it some more.  Helper!  DON'T go too fast, but let the dog make a few mistakes and step off the table if he wants to.  You can easily get him to go off the table by increasing your attraction.  It all depends on how you move.

If you want to learn some really good moves, just call Gene in Kentucky.  He's got a great videotape in which he pretends he's a dancer - it's called "Gene England's Moves - Kentucky Disco!".  [This is a joke, y'all.]

Meanwhile, helper, just be quick - and don't let him get those bad bites when he tries for them.  You've got to move back a few inches so he can't connect when he's wrong.  Handler!  You and the helper need to coordinate at this point.  The dog needs to hear "Packen!" (or whatever command you use for "bite him!").  So let's get together on this, and make sure that the dog is told to bite exactly before the bite is given.  Sometimes, I help my handlers a little, and I tell the dog to "Packen!" just before I make the bite available to the dog.  The handlers pick up on the timing pretty quickly, and then they take over.  Also, while he's in the bite, praise him - again, with the command in the praise. "Gut Packen!"  "Fein is Packen!"  "Packen gut!"

Let the dog hear and learn these important words, don't just stand there drinkin' beer!  And if you've got one, why haven't you offered me one yet?  <VBG>  Sheeeeiiit!  Is that Mike Rankin over there?  How about a beer, Bubba?

Once again, patience is important.  Go back and see "Frame of Mind" and convince yourself that we won't teach this exercise today.  In fact, let me repeat it - because it's so important, I really want you to read it again:

(1)  we won't teach the dog to "xyz" today. ("xyz" can be anything)
(2)  we will make definite progress today.
(3)  the dog will make errors, and we accept that.
(4)  we have reasonable, attainable goals.
(5)  the dog's our friend, not our adversary.
(6)  training is no more or less than building habits in the dog.
(7)  persistent and consistent repetition builds habits.
(8)  we're not angry/upset about previous problems/failures.

Yes, we will make some progress today.  You can bet your TriTronics on that.  Plus, we'll all have a good time, drink some beer, and we'll have a lot more "pebbles in the pail".  Don't even try to accomplish too much in any training session - you'll probably become frustrated, and start reacting from your own frustration.  Just relax, and let it wait for the next session, or the ones following.  Keep your goals reasonable and attainable at all times.

If you don't ask for too much, you can't be disappointed with a little!

Helper!  Handler!  It's break time.  C'mon in the office.  You guys are doing great!  Let's have a cold beer, and discuss all the little details of what we've done so far, what it means, and what our next plans are.  If I wasn't such a macho badass, I'd hug both of you - that's how proud I am with your work.

In the following sessions, the helper will be able to move in closer and closer to the dog.  Pretty soon, the sleeve will be just under the dog's chin, and the dog should be barking directly up into the helper's face, on a slack chain.  He should be ignoring the sleeve entirely, and the helper's face probably has dog spit all over it.  Who said being a helper is fun, anyway?  The handler can correct bumping and/or dirty bites with a couple of fingers across the muzzle, and if you've done enough preliminary work, the corrections should be very few.

WARNING!!  A point to consider:  The helper can easily get bitten in the face right about now, so let's be sure we're ultra-cautious.  I wouldn't suggest the helper go in close enough to chance being injured, but rather just enough to accomplish the goals, and still avoid bodily damage.  What I'm saying here requires perception and feeling - the helper needs to know the dog he's working with.  Some dogs will be calm and stable enough for this, others won't.  You have the options of either calming the dog more, (TOTO and "aus" will increase calmness) or determining if a very close hold/bark is truly necessary.  For some dogs, it will be sufficient or acceptable to do the hold/bark at a slightly greater distance.  For others, we can bring the dog directly into the helper's face without worry.  I can't tell you what to do in a book - so please be ultra-careful, and use good judgment.  And if you or your helper happens to get bit, don't send me a hospital bill!

As Hold/Bark training progresses, the helper can increase the close proximity.  Sometimes I call it "Tighten Up"  (Thank you, Archie Bell and the Drells).

Helper!  The dog is at the edge of the table, barking his brains out .... if the sleeve is on your left arm, take a small, tiny step to your right.  If you're left-handed (sleeve on right arm) just reverse this.  You should be relatively close to the dog, the dog should be able to contact the sleeve, but your movement should be less than what is typical for a bite.  The dog should follow - and the helper should take another tiny step away from the dog.  The dog is now backing the helper down - he's making the helper back away, and the helper is making no moves to actually commence fight.  I generally do this with my knees touching the edge of the table, to give you an idea of how close I am to the dog.  This should be done very gradually - patience, remember? - and the dog should get a bite after a few seconds of hold/bark.  Gradually, the hold/bark can be lengthened, and the bite can be given less frequently.  In early training, the bite is always given after a "clean" hold/bark.  Later in training, the dog can "back me" all the way around the table.  By then, I need to wash all the spit off my face.

Once the dog has learned to out and hold/bark on the table, we can begin split sessions.  Very often, I mix things for the dog, for example, giving him prey (running) bites off the table, hold/bark (either with or without bites) in closets, bathroom, outside, in the office, etc.  The point I want to make is that I train on the table until I have very good consistency in each behavior.  Only then do I begin to increase complexity by taking the dog off the table.  My goal is
building reliable behaviors in an environment which I can control (the table), before moving on to other environments which I can't control as well.  If this takes 4 days or 4 weeks, it's OK - as long as those pebbles keep going in the pail.


For a moment, let's concern ourselves with something which should be very simple.  WHY does the dog bite at all?


Prey behavior can be defined as the dog's behavior to chase and seize something which is trying to escape.  Prey moves away, but prey moves.  Motion, movement - these are key factors in prey behavior.  Prey training can make a dog frantic or hectic very easily.  Also, "prey goes away" .... literally.  The dog's motivation will, after a certain period, diminish.  He'll lose interest in prey.  Ever throw a ball for your dog?  Of course: that's prey behavior.  Ever seen the dog that's tired of chasing the ball?  At a certain point - it may take a couple of hours - he just lays down and doesn't bother.  He's tired and bored with it.  This doesn't necessarily apply to all dogs.  Some dogs will play ball all day!

Within a very short time, the dog will become conditioned to the burlap or sleeve, and it signifies his prey, not the helper wearing the sleeve.  This is especially true if the sleeve is dropped, or slipped off, and the dog is allowed to maul it or run with it.  As training repetitions continue, just the sight of the burlap or sleeve immediately puts the dog into high drive.  Consider this carefully, please.  There should be absolutely no question that if the man (helper) was the prey, repeated slipping of the sleeve will transfer the dog's focus to the sleeve.  If you doubt this, visit any Schutzhund club.

Prey oriented dogs (in bitework) have learned to be prey dogs.  It didn't come along by accident, and it isn't instinctive.  Somebody, somewhere presented the dog with a bite, and dropped the burlap or slipped the sleeve.  And, this didn't happen once or twice, either!  Is this wrong?  No - it's fine!  But we have more - much more - to consider.


In America, especially at a lot of Schutzhund clubs, members and helpers alike have become pretty well educated, and can talk your ear off about "Prey and Defense" attractions.  For many years, I thought prey behavior should be balanced with defense, and I tried to train accordingly.  Now, I realize that defense isn't what I want at all!  Boy, was I wrong!  And right about now, you're probably saying to yourself, "this guy is crazy!"  No, I'm not - just hang on a minute and let's look a little deeper.

"DEFEND (vt) to guard or protect from harm or violence" is what I found in my dictionary.

This may seem to be nothing but semantics to some of you, but please try to stick with me, and let's see if we can get a clear picture together.

Let's imagine this scenario for a minute.  We're sitting in your local bar, minding our own business, having a beer, talking about dogs.  Up struts a 220 pound guy - he looks like a gorilla - and whacks one of us in the head with a beer bottle.  If this isn't "harm or violence", what is?  If this isn't time to DEFEND, when is?  (Or run like hell!)  But before we do, let's determine how and what we're feeling.

Just for this scenario, I'm going to pretend that you're a pretty big guy - 6 foot plus, 200 pounds.  You have extensive training in some form of combat:  possibly martial arts, maybe you're a trained police officer, or an ex-Green Beret.  In that case, I'd think your response to getting whacked in the head with a beer bottle could be a whole lot different than mine.  Keep reading, I'm going to tie this together right now.


If you have the experience, background, and training as a fighter, I believe you'd handle the barroom scene a lot better than I could.  I'm not particularly confident as a fighter.  In fact, I'm an absolute chicken!  Maybe that's what comes of being 5' 6" and weighing about 120.  I think I'd do a lot better with a .45 in each hand.  You'd probably spin around, get yourself organized right quick, and slam about 7 lefts into this gorilla before he could figure out what was happening.  Well, Muhammad Ali might, anyway!  <VBG>  The point I'd like to make is pretty simple: ONE of us might have confidence enough to tackle the problem (stress), and the other might not.  The one with the confidence would almost certainly deal with the situation differently than the one without the confidence.  And the reason for that confidence comes from training, experience, background, and how the confidence was built.  Man!  That was difficult - now I need a beer, but not in that bar!  <VBG>



There's a major difference between prey behavior, defense behavior, and fight behavior.

PREY BEHAVIOR is based in play and chase.

DEFENSE BEHAVIOR is based in insecurity.

FIGHT BEHAVIOR is based in confidence.

The dog that bites from prey behavior does not want to fight, he wants to bite the burlap/sleeve, etc. and does not feel particularly defensive, nor driven to actually fight.  However, if the "going gets tough" the prey trained dog will often "get going" ..... somewhere else!

The dog that bites from defense behavior feels threatened.  He's in a position where he's got to react or something bad is liable to happen to him.  There are varying degrees of defense behavior, but the really defensive dogs are also known as fear biters.  The real fear biters give me fear!  Their eyes light up, and they just go completely insane if you get too close.  Some of the worst bites I've ever had came from fear biting dogs.  And, some of the most satisfying training I've ever done was to stabilize fear biters into more calm and confident dogs.  (Regardless, those dogs were never anywhere near as calm and confident as they should have been.)

Sometimes, these dogs can fool you, unless you're looking (and training) carefully to notice the signals.  Defense behavior can be seen in the dog in many ways - for example:

Lips up - display of teeth
Killing (excessive shaking head, trying to kill sleeve/burlap)
Posture - dog stands "behind" his front feet and/or crouches
Vocalization - barks can be high pitched, frantic and/or high speed, incessant nervous barking
Unable to out - extreme levels of suspicion in non-threatening situations, dog cannot calm himself or stabilize

The dog that bites from fight behavior is completely sure of himself - he's confident.  This dog knows he can handle the fight, any fight, and is more than willing to commit himself to it.  If he could talk, I bet he'd say, "Step right up, Bubba! I'm fittin' to put a hurtin' on your ass!", and promptly do it.

This dog will out calmly, consistently, and sit or stand quietly, but absolutely alert for another "round".  He'll bite with a hard, full, confident grip.  His willingness to commit to a fight is obvious, and he hits hard when he hits.  Sometimes, he bites right thru you!  (Maybe I'll write about the exercise to train a dog to drive straight through the helper.)

So - what do we really want to see?  Absolute calmness in "aus" with the willingness to fight in "pass auf" and "packen"?  Or the frantic dog, trying like hell to get to that sleeve, being strung up to get a release .... and then going nuts to get to the sleeve again?  Do we really WANT this?  From some of the above, you should be able to see a big difference in why the dogs bite.


Day in and day out I hear and read about "carrying" the sleeve.  It's gone beyond a method - it's an absolute fixation with some people.  Let's think about that a little.

People (mostly sport people) think that carrying "unloads" the stress of fighting for the dog. 

Recently, I sat in Helmut Raiser's clubhouse in Germany, von Stephanitz Heim, he looked me directly in the eyes, and explained this entire method to me clearly.  (As we talked, he asked me how I train.  The instant I mentioned "round table", Helmut said, "Ah!  You train with Gene England."  It seems the word gets around.)   

Maybe this is partially true, but why? 

I feel the answer is clear:  due to insensitive helpers, rushing things too fast - the dog is stressed in the fight.  He escapes the confrontation - the helper - the person he's fighting with.  So, in order to "carry", and "unload", the dog leaves the helper behind, and runs around for awhile with his "reward" - which is the sleeve - hanging out of his mouth. 

While running, his handler is praising and maybe stroking him, and certainly building a habit in the dog.  One good point in running is the dog can't "mouth" the sleeve.  It's a good point, but I think this is absurd.

In plain and simple English, this is flight - the handler is forcing the dog to do it - and rewarding him for it, too!

But hold on:  WHY is the dog so stressed?  I can't understand why the dog should be so stressed if he's fighting and winning!  What the hell is so bad about fighting? 

Could the dog be stressed because his confidence in fighting is low, and he hasn't had enough experience (training) as a winner? 

From what I've witnessed, hundreds of times, with my own eyes, the dog has been pushed too fast, and never had the opportunity to feel calm with fighting.  No wonder the dog is stressed!  He's never had the opportunity to stabilize and spend calm time with the helper - that's why he's "loaded" with stress.

If these same dogs had 2 weeks of TOTO on the round table,

in a consistent atmosphere, there would be no stress.

There would be nothing to "unload", and there would be no "mouthing", either.

Done enough times, the dog becomes a sleeve freak, and doesn't even remember that it's the helper - not the sleeve - that he needs to concern himself with.  This is exactly the junction point where a lot of frantic, hectic dogs are created.  Later in this book, I'll hook up why this particular "technique" causes more trouble than it's worth.  It builds undesirable habits.  Look under a section called "Problems".  [note:  I didn't get around to completing that section.]

But for now, let me say this:  If I'm in New York, and I want to go to Miami, what's the sense in going through Los Angeles to get there?  For most of us, it's just not sensible.  (But if it's sensible for you, then you do it.) 

If I do go that way, one thing's for sure - it will cost me.  Hours, days, gas, hotels, phone, thousands of miles, maybe a few van repairs, who knows?  All those extra miles will cost - in one way or another.  And I bought into it myself - by not clearly thinking of the long term goals.  Bitework can be a lot like that, too.  A lot of times, stuff sort of "sneaks in", and comes along as a "bonus" when you don't expect it to.


How about if we build a dog that isn't stressed in a fight?  A dog that knows he can handle whatever comes in the fight?  By now, if you've been reading, you might realize it's a lot easier than it seemed 15 pages ago.

The dog always wins.  The dog never loses.  It's the law if you're a helper.

OK, we given some thought to why the dog bites, so we've got to set up a plan to get what we're looking for out of the dog.  If our heads are together up to this point, we don't want a prey dog, we don't want a defense dog, we want a dog who works from fight behavior.  So how the hell do we get one of these dogs?  It's really easy - we make one!

Your helper is the most critical ingredient.  This is the guy who literally creates the dog in bitework.  The handler is important, too, but he could go to a movie, or cruise around in his car.  The helper alone is responsible for how the dog feels in bitework.

Not everybody can do helper work.  Believe that.

I've seen far too many guys that were simply too powerful right up front, and wrecked every dog they faced.  These same guys might have done just fine with the older, more experienced dogs, BUT - they weren't training the older, experienced dogs at the time.  They were dealing with younger, inexperienced dogs.

I've seen guys who have one perception of bitework, and they'll run in there, do their "show", zoom back out - and never even look at the dog!  It's as if they have a pre-programmed dance routine, and that's what they're gonna do, come hell or high water.

The best helpers are the guys who care enough to read the dogs.  READ.

In his own way, the dog is like a book, and he most definitely can be read.  He tells us things all the time, and in bitework, he's talking a mile a minute .... if you can just hear him. 

I've got artwork on my wall which says, "Any dog can say more with his tail in seconds .... Than his handler can say with his tongue in hours."  Where do you think I learned that from?  Gene England. 

(Thank you, Gene England, and no, you can't have it - it's staying on my wall.)

Here's the key:  The drive to fight is brought on by suspicion.  Use yourself as an example, and I think you'll agree:  The drive to fight is brought on by suspicion.

Imagine - you're at home, watching the late news on TV.  It's about 11:30, and you're almost ready to go to sleep.  You hear something outside your living room window, look out there, and see the bushes moving around over by the garage.  There's just barely enough light to see, but those bushes are moving.  You know there's somebody in those bushes.  That ain't no cat, and it ain't no dog.  It's a somebody!

Do you have a 12 gauge in your hands?  Is your suspicion aroused yet?  <VBG>

If the dog's suspicion is sufficiently aroused, he wants to fight, assuming he has enough nervous system to allow him to fight.  Here's a breakdown of 4 levels of suspicion that we can recognize instantly:

(a)  eye contact
(b)  eye contact - mouth closed
(c)  eye contact - growl
(d)  eye contact - bark

Now let's clarify that last one a little.  I'm not talking about the little "yip-yap" barks like a "throw the ball" bark, or a "when you come home from the office" bark.  I'm not talking about frantic, 300 barks per minute.  Nope - I'm talking about the kind of bark that comes from down by his testicles somewhere.  From way down there.  The kind of bark that says he's suspicious.  I hope you know what I mean.  Discard any kind of bark which is happy, frantic, or anything except suspicious.

Here is the very first step in wanting to fight.  And it's unbelievably easy to do, too.

Handler!  Put your dog back in your vehicle until I want him in the training room.  I don't want him to see a damn thing we're about to do.  You come back in - but the dog stays out for now.  

Helper!  Handler!  Grab a beer, c'mon over here, and listen to this ....

Today you're going to arouse some serious suspicion.  And today, we're not gonna turn the dog off, which means the helper is not coming anywhere NEAR the dog.  This is not TOTO - we'll go back to that soon, but our job today is to increase suspicion. 

Here's today's plan.  We're gonna do something really crazy.  Look - I found this old bed sheet.  Throw it over your head, helper, and we'll cut some holes in it so you can see.  Here - wear this cowboy hat, too, so your head looks real strange.  We'll tie a string lightly around your neck, so the sheet stays in place. 

Damn!  You look weird, man.  Walk out in the street like that, and you'll be arrested in 3 minutes! 

Helper, first you're gonna hide in the tool room, door almost closed.  In a few minutes, we'll bring the dog in, and put him on the round table, but on a shorter (about 10") chain.  Helper!  Don't you make a sound until I want you to.  You just hide behind that door.  The dog is gonna stay on the table - nothing happening - for about 10 minutes.  He's gonna be bored.  That's exactly what I want. 

The rest of us are going to sit around, and we'll leave the dog alone - ignored - on the table.  His handler is not with him, therefore no distraction, and no support.  The shorter chain is used to further limit his range of motion.  Since the dog has less area in which to move and function, his level of mental stress increases somewhat - exactly what we want for this exercise. 

And this exercise is a little different: no sleeve, no burlap, no bite object at all.  Just the dog and the helper, and maybe a whip.  This exercise is done without any bite equipment at all.  

Helper, you're gonna arouse some real suspicion.

I know, I know - your whole family is suspicious of you - and probably with good reason.  But that doesn't count right now.  We have work to do. 

OK - it's time to start the show.  Handler!  Quietly tell your dog "pass auf!"  Helper!  Scratch on the door ONCE, and sneak your eyes - JUST your eyes - around the corner.  Is the dog focused on you?  He sure is.  He's staring at you, sniffing the air, his mouth is closed!  He's trying to get your scent - this is great! 

Helper!  Stare right into his eyes, and think bad things in your mind - very bad things.  Now try to make your eyes say those bad things to the dog.  That's right - I'm telling you to speak with your eyes.  He's never seen anything like this before.  If he hasn't already done it, he's going to blow up.  Immediately get back behind that door - FAST!  When he shows suspicion, you flight, OK?  Handler!  Get over there and praise your dog - NOW - not later.  20-30 seconds of praise, then get away from the dog again.

Repeat.  Repeat.  OK - about 5 reps, and he's done.  Handler!  Take him off the table, and get him out of here for now.  Put him in one of my empty kennels or something, then you get back in here.

Now listen to me.  It's about 6pm.  In about an hour it will be dark outside.  We're going to repeat this - with all the lights out, in the dark.  That dog is going to go absolutely berserk when we do this in a dark room!  You just wait and see. 

Also, you see that red light switch on the wall?  That's the one that turns on the police lights.  Did you notice them on the ceiling?  Look - four rotating flashers, and four strobes.  We're gonna use them tonight, too.  This room is gonna be a madhouse, lights flashing, stereo blasting, and the dog is going to react like a nuclear bomb.  Remember, we're not doing TOTO right now.  We're working on a different exercise.

The basis of this type of suspicion is slow movement and eye contact.  Fast, energetic moves, burlap swinging around, sleeves moving everywhere, do not arouse suspicion, they arouse prey.  Suspicion is aroused by SLOW, METHODICAL moves and behavior in the helper.  Listen very, very carefully for the difference between prey (play) barks and the deeper, fight (suspicion) barks.

This is a simple "Turn On" .... half of the "Turn On - Turn Off" discussed earlier.  It's based entirely on arousing suspicion, thus putting the dog into fight behavior.  Once the dog wants to fight, it's time for the helper to flight.  Again, the dog always wins.  The dog never loses.

If you can see clearly how the motivation to fight comes from arousal of suspicion, you should also understand that we have to wait before making any kind of prey movement.  The principle I'm trying to discuss requires that the dog wants to fight before he is allowed to fight further.  He must show some intensity to want this fight.  I call it commitment.  His commitment must increase and improve in order to actually get the bite.  

In doing this, we create habits in the dog.  The dog learns very clearly and quickly that he must show the behavior to fight, with greater and greater intensity, or the fight will evaporate before him.  By repeating the "Turn On", the dog is learning to act on his suspicions, and the helper is making those suspicions come true each time he fights and/or flights.

The helper should also understand that he needs to raise the level of threat to the dog very gradually.  We'll become more threatening in our eye contact, gestures, and particularly in the moves which bring us closer to the dog.  The dog can take virtually anything in the way of threat at 100 feet, but it gets a lot more serious as it comes closer.  We want to remember that the dog always wins.  It would be disastrous to overpower the dog at the early stages.  Take
the time to build his confidence slowly.


We've got to determine if this is the right time for the dog to go on the square table.

If he's showing excellent nerves, calmness, and his confidence is really and truly high, I'd say yes.  If there's some weakness in the dog, we've got to be able to read that, and hold off until he's ready for an increase in threat.  His confidence has got to go up in such a way that he won't break down when some real threat is placed on his nervous system. 

I wish I could be right there with you, and see what the dog is "saying".  Then I could make a suggestion I could live with comfortably.  But this is a book, and it's impossible for me to tell the helper and handler exactly what to look for.
As I mentioned earlier, we have to read and feel the dog - each dog.

A few minutes ago, we used a shorter chain on the round table.  The dog's range of motion was limited, and - if we were all paying close attention - we should have seen the intensity go up a little.  Why? 

Because his range of motion was limited somewhat.  This caused a little more mental stress in the dog.  Now we're gonna really turn up the fire .... But keep some points in mind, please.

Every action has a reaction .... or
Every time we gain something, we lose something else.

We won't lose it permanently, but we'll see in a few minutes that the dog's carefully-created calmness is on the way out the window.  This exercise does not create calmness, and we don't want or expect it to.

When we "raise the stakes", we've got to expect the dog to "backslide" a little bit.  It's normal, it's OK, and we expect it.  So don't get excited - just relax and "Let It Be" (thank you John Lennon).

We're going to put the dog on the square table, and adjust the chain to about 8 or 9 inches, maximum.  Wide leather collar, of course.

I use the square table to increase fight in the dog.  It's here that the dog learns to take fighting a little more seriously. Again, (I know, I repeat myself a lot!) training is no more or less than building habits in the dog.

The dog is in an environment 40" off the floor, tied to a post with about 8" of movement, and the table is 4 feet by 4 feet square.  That's not a lot of "working room" for the dog who has, up to this point, only experienced fighting on the round table, is it?  And that's exactly why we use it!  It raises the dog's intensity thru his insecurity. 

What?  What did I just say?  Insecurity?  Exactly right!

But keep your eyes open, and watch where the insecurity goes!  First it's here - then poof! - it's gone.

Handler, leave the dog, he's going to work alone for awhile.  Get out of the way, and don't make eye contact with your dog right now.  Helper!  You ready?

This dog needs to be threatened - but you've got to be sensitive about it.  At first, I want you to do this from all the way across the room, keep a lot of distance between you and the dog, but gradually, we'll get closer and closer.  Now listen!  Watch the dog carefully - you remember the old "flight-fight-avoidance-submission" lecture?  Well, keep it in mind.  You've got to go to the dog, and he's got to win, no matter what, otherwise we all lose, OK?  So, you'll make eye contact, and reach towards the dog, make some threatening gestures, and watch carefully. 

Think real hard about the intensity and strength he's previously shown us on the round table - you're gonna try to increase that right now.  But you're not going to jump from, say, a 3 to a 12.  Just watch carefully, and when he responds, get the hell out of there.  I want to put the pebbles in the pail, but not a dumptruck full.   

Run your butt behind that door over there, and cool it for a few seconds.  When he's calmed down a little, (he won't calm down 100%), come on out and try to get exactly the same level of fight response again.  Handler!  Forget the "aus" for right now - we'll get to that later.  Helper, don't change a thing, just come in about 6" closer than you were on the last go-'round.  Repeat this about 3-4 times (first session on the square table) then end it.  That's enough for one day. 

If you overpower this dog, helper, I will choke you and beat you with the whip.

This will be repeated.  As the dog gets stronger and stronger, the helper will get closer.  At some point, he'll try to pinch the dog - on a paw, tail, or flank.  It's probably not necessary to actually touch the dog at all - he should be going completely berserk on the square table, trying to get at the helper.  His behavior, eyes, and breathing should tell the story - just look and see.

Let me tell you what you should be seeing:  The dog has probably forgotten all about the "Turn On-Turn Off" routine, and that's correct and acceptable at this stage.  He's probably barking his ass off long after the helper is gone, and it probably sounds like a bark you've never heard before.  Kind of like a "Please, God, just let that son-of-a-bitch ease over here, and I'll dismember him!", or maybe, "I'd give up 5 days of food to have that bastard in my teeth right now!  I'll rip out his liver!"  And, towards the end of the barking, it probably gets a little high-pitched, sort of frustrated, sound to it. 

Am I close?  You bet your ass I'm close.  (I'm in Florida.)

He might have foam around his mouth - and I hope so! - his breathing is probably about four times as fast as normal (normal for the round table), his tongue is twice normal size, and his eyes are probably lit up like spotlights!  But HE WON!  Of course - he always wins!

And we have just raised his BEHAVIOR to FIGHT!

Some folks call this civil agitation, defense work, or popcorn.  Whatever you like to call it, it simply comes down to one thing: the helper asks the dog "DO YOU WANT TO FIGHT?"  He behaves in a way that creates suspicion, the dog reacts, and the helper loses.  And, since training is no more or less than building habits, it follows that when the dog hears "pass auf!" that he'll learn to respond more and more powerfully.  This "power", or development of fight behavior, is balanced out with calming work and TOTO.

This is called an "equalizer".  It's a fancy name for a fancy tone control.  When you listen to music, it allows you to boost up the bass, or reduce it.  The same procedure applies for treble.  You use it to balance the sound to what you want to hear.

It's not really that different from dog training, except training isn't done with sliders or a computer.  You do exercises to make certain behaviors stronger or other behaviors less strong.  You balance the dog, using specific exercises, until you accomplish the goals you've set.  If you're thinking clearly, you can turn some behaviors "up" and turn some behaviors "down" in a short period of time - using the correct exercises.



Over a period of time, with a sensitive, skilled helper, the dog learns how much power he actually has - he learns to use his power, and also to still recognize the end of the fight.  He learns to "turn off" almost instantly, because he knows the fight is finished.  Look back - you'll see we've never "lied" to the dog - OR let the helper lie to the dog.  He's always seen that "aus" is to be believed.  You'll also see there's never any "re-agitation" after an "aus".  To do so would only show the dog that this ISN'T "aus" - the fight is still in progress.  And that will not build reliable outs!

There's a key in here - the key is what the dog will do reliably when he's turned on - when he hears "pass auf".  Let's back up a little ways, and imagine the first few times the dog ever heard "pass auf".  Let's imagine a pretty weak response, a few barks, and the dog circling on the table, not at all intense to the helper.  From what I've described above, this is going to change.  Work on the square table will give the dog a much "sharper edge", and he'll soon learn to explode when he's turned on. 

We're going to use the square table to build habits - in time, the dog will practically tear the post out of the table to get at the helper.


We've discussed training dogs with medium to high strength, dogs with outing problems, and, generally, strong dogs. Well, what about the weaker dogs?  The dogs that flight and show weakness in their temperament?  My honest feelings:  don't waste the time or money.  But we can discuss a possible alternative - and it has severe limitations.

This subject is a little difficult, because somebody probably loves this dog.  I've found it's impossible to exclude emotions entirely, but for the sake of discussion, let's try to limit ourselves to the dog's character.  Let's try to look at things objectively, and reserve the "love" aspect for another time.  If it's possible, consider that somebody else owns the dog.

The dog with weak nerves can take some training, and it's possible that his confidence will come up sufficiently to bite convincingly.  However, we can't overlook the fact that not all dogs can fight equally well.  This is a situation where our expectations may be unreasonable.  If we expect too much, we're gonna be real disappointed, real soon.

Many weak dogs will act convincingly up to a distance of about 10 feet.  Once the helper is closer, the dog's nerves fall apart, and we see flight, avoidance, and submission.  It's right here that some helpers make some of the worst mistakes.

At this exact point, the dog must learn that fight is the solution to the stress.  He must learn that flight, avoidance, and submission are not the solutions to the stress.  What's coming is difficult, but it's got to be done.

The helper must continue forward on the dog that flights.  Since it's impossible to literally "corner" a dog on a round table, he must "corner" the dog mentally.  The helper must never flight from the dog which is flighting from him.  If he does, he only teaches the dog that flight is the solution to the stress, and the dog will, naturally, repeat the flight.  The helper must mentally "corner" the dog, and allow the dog to learn that fight is the solution.


Boy, this is going to be a bitch.  I feel it coming, and it's the worst part of this book.  I knew when I started I'd have to write about this.  I didn't like it then, and I don't like it now.

I used the word "pain" for a reason.  I used it to catch your attention so you can think about it.  It's not the proper word, and it doesn't accurately convey my meaning or reality.  The correct word is "discomfort".  Compared to genuine "pain", discomfort is quite mild.  Genuine "pain" lasts for awhile, a lot longer than a fraction of a second.  I used the word, even though it's the wrong word, to try and help you think about this.  What I'll describe in this section is not PAIN - it's discomfort.  As you read, think it over for yourself.  I feel sure you'll agree that "pain" is an awfully extreme word for very mild, momentary discomfort.   

Suspicion : is what makes some dogs want to fight.
Threat : is what makes some dogs want to fight.
Pain : is what makes some dogs want to fight.

Suspicion works like magic on the confident dogs.

Threat works on some relatively insecure dogs.

Pain sometimes works on the weak dogs.

We're talking about weaker dogs.  This requires unlimited patience, and a helper who can focus himself totally.  Reading the dog is required, not optional.  The slightest indication of fight must put the helper into flight.  I can't emphasize that strongly enough .....


and the helper is gone - disappear! 

In these situations, I generally do not stop to praise the dog after he's successfully driven the helper away, instead, I repeat the confrontation at least 3-5 times before the dog rests or is praised.  I try to set this knowledge in the dog's mind.  He can beat this son-of-a-bitch helper, and I work to get those pebbles in the pail while the dog is still hot.  After 3-5 reps, I'll usually "transition", and the handler and I will both go to the dog and praise him.  In these moments, the dog may show a lot of insecurity, trying to jump on us, paws all over us, whining, etc.  We back away from the dog until he settles a little, and then go back to the praise.  He's "leaking" from the stress, but he's not corrected for these behaviors.  After a few minutes of praise, we're back to work again.

The weaker dogs require a lot more patience than the strong dogs.  TOTO (Turn On - Turn Off) with unlimited amounts of praise from the handler and the helper usually bring these dogs up quite a bit. 

I find in working with weaker dogs that I use a longer transition between "fight time" and "out time".  Frequently, I'll use hot dogs to help get the dog calmed after the fight.  Both the handler and I will feed the dog on the table.  Again, this can take a lot of time, and it's very hard to decide if the dog is really worth all the effort.  

It's hard to tell a handler that his dog is a wimp, and 3 years of training still won't produce a bite worth discussing.  But we're not gonna change the truth - not all dogs are created equal.  Not all dogs have the nerves to fight.  Some dogs are born weak, some are raised to be weak - did you read about "human power", above?

At some point in time, after many times on the table doing TOTO, we've got to move to the bite stage.  Thru the years I've learned that the weaker dogs often have problems with the bite itself.  It may be here that the "make 'em or break 'em" rumor got its start.  Somehow, the weak dog must be provoked to want to bite.  If it's not coming from suspicion, (and it's not coming from suspicion, is it?) it's time to turn up the heat a little.

I use several methods, beginning with the whip.  The dog will be on a shorter chain, approximately 12 inches, and I'll make my approach as usual.  The short chain will physically prevent the dog from laying down and submitting.  If the barking ceases, or the dog goes into avoidance - looking around for his handler, checking out the walls, etc. - I'll sting him lightly on the flank, shoulder, or butt with the whip.  Note here that the whip is used lightly - and not with any real power.  He's only going to be touched by the popper, the string part at the end which make the loud sound, and not the handle or solid part of the whip.  I'm basically "getting into his space" and actually touching him, while keeping myself at a distance of 5-7 feet.  I'll try to get around behind the dog, and get him to ignore me.  If so, he'll be stung a little stronger.  In fact, he'll be stung until he reacts OR until I conclude that this dog will not fight.

HOLD ON!  I better qualify that:  I'll make an honest effort to get a reaction, but some dogs would rather do anything than fight.  I can't (and won't) do a thing with those dogs.  Keep in mind that ANY fight reaction from the dog causes the helper to flight.  In other words, he can win, but he's got to fight to do it.

If a light sting isn't working, I may (but this depends on a lot of factors) put some more power in the whip.  This is pretty hard to describe in words, you'd have to be there and see it with your own eyes.  Some dogs simply require more power to "come out".  In these situations, I'll increase the power of the whip - up to a point.  I'm looking for a threshold - a pain threshold - a place where the dog is uncomfortable.  Bringing pain or discomfort to the dog in a careful, controlled manner may be what's required.  I raise the power of the whip carefully, and stay ready to flight as soon as the dog shows any fight whatsoever.  I've tested dogs which are completely in avoidance, looking away from me, but they lift a lip or growl.  At that instant - I flight.  The dog has shown fight. 

I'd like to clarify this a little more:  I'll use the absolute minimum amount of pain or discomfort to get the dog to respond, or "turn on".

It's going to get worse .... or better!

I recognize that the dog is weak.  The owners always want the same thing:  they really want the dog to come out, to be a protection dog, to fulfill their wants and their needs.  They encouraged me not to give up too quickly.  I think we all know the moral of that story.  Maybe I shouldn't let the owners influence me, but often, I have to really try to bring a dog out.

The very rare dog who doesn't respond at all to the whip, and sits or lays on the table regardless of what the helper does, is a candidate for electricity.  Read on, and try not to judge this too harshly.

The dog that's in avoidance and stays in avoidance thru repeated attempts might come out if he's stimulated enough. To do this, I use an electric collar at high intensity.  I wrap the collar around my right hand with the contact points aimed away from my fist.  An alternative is to remove the collar strap entirely, and just hold the collar box.  Another alternative is to tape the collar to the back of my hand with a strip of adhesive tape.  The transmitter is in my left hand.  As I approach the dog and he goes into avoidance, his sides or rump are towards me.  At this time, I press the button(s) on the transmitter, reach out and touch the dog's rump, flank, or whatever is nearby, with the collar contacts.  At this moment, the dog will invariably react to the electricity in some form or another, and it's most often fight.  He'll spin around to face me, and I must get the hell out of there.  The dog has shown fight.  This must be repeated immediately!  Get it set while the dog is still hot.  Within 2 passes, I shouldn't be able to touch the dog without getting mauled.

This is a situation where once or twice does it, or it doesn't get done.

It's extreme, some might think it's cruel, others might think it's a more considerate approach than some of the things we've heard about and/or seen.  Physically, it's a lot easier on the dog than flanking, ear pinching, etc.  Whichever .... the dog feels very brief electrical stimulation, and it's over with instantly.  But read this carefully: 

If the dog doesn't "turn on" within 2-3 passes, forget it.  I AM DONE.  Finished.  I will not do anymore.

After making an honest attempt to show the dog that fighting is acceptable,

I REFUSE to continue working with weak dogs that are not made for this type of training.

Owners cajole me, they offer me more money, they want to see results.

They argue, beg, and play guilt games.  They tell me how much the dog cost. 

They tell me his great grandfather was a spectacular protection dog.

They don't want me to give up on the dog too soon.

They want, want, want.  But they can't see, see, see.


This dog isn't right for protection work.  If he had normal nerves and responses, we'd all know it by now.  There's no benefit for any of us to force a square peg into a round hole.  Give him some hot dogs, praise him a little, and get him off the table.  Let's go find a dog who's more suited to protection work, and spend our time training that dog.

As I sit here typing, I'm thinking that I've used electricity to bring out a total of 7 or 8 dogs.  Of these, 1 was a complete washout, and the others wound up doing pretty acceptable bitework.

The one I remember best was a 2 year old male Rottweiler.  He was on the round table at least 4 times (meaning 4 different days) with no response whatsoever.  For him, it was like a day at the beach.  Lay down - take a nap - wake him up when it's time to go home.  He ignored everything.  Nothing got a response from this dog .... until the electricity came into play.  One touch on the butt - it couldn't have lasted more than 1/100th of a second - and this brute came up and at me like a freight train.  I thought he'd tear the post right out of the table.  I flighted, and came back in a few seconds to try and repeat it.  Forget it.  The dog lit up like a Christmas tree - I wasn't getting anything behind him or near his butt again.  Once he got the idea, things went smoothly from that point.

The one that washed was a mix breed, I think Lab and Rottweiler, male, about 2-3 years.  His response was flight and cry.  At no time did he ever face me or show any fight response.  I touched him with the collar twice or three times, and then quit.  The owner was sitting right there, and we both realized that this dog couldn't do the work.

March, 2008 Addition:  Some readers may be thinking, "the dog is being forced to bite and do protection work."  That's not only wrong, it's emotional and irrational. 


I've already explained in detail - it's unnatural for a dog to fight a human.  Many dogs have become so conditioned to this environmental fact, they literally DO NOT KNOW that a fight response is possible.  They've lived in a world of control and dominance by humans, and have never had any opportunity to DISCOVER the possibility of fighting.  Some may actually be afraid to show a fight response, due to prior experiences and the creation of habits.  I didn't create those habits - other humans did.


When the dog's mind is conditioned by created habits - occasionally the techniques explained above are the only possibility for the dog to come out or "turn on".  These techniques are - as stated - fairly mild, and are not repeated.  Factually, they're rarely needed at all.   


Several thousand dogs have been here for their protection training evaluation.  The techniques described above have been necessary with very, very few dogs.  I'm not even sure why I'm spending the time explaining all this.   


Most sensible people would have no hesitation to be touched with an electric collar for a fraction of a second, or stung a few times with a whip.  Both have happened to me hundreds of times.  It isn't traumatic or life threatening - it's just uncomfortable.


I don't personally know how the weaker dogs have been raised - I don't live in their environment and observe the manner in which they're controlled and dominated.  For all I know, a 4 year old child regularly beats them in the face with a toy, and this is permitted by the parents.  Maybe the dog gets batted around with rolled up newspapers.  I don't know.   


Most dogs tested for protection will never be protection dogs.  The other 20% show normal reaction when suspicion is aroused.  My part - as a trainer - is to do the best work I possibly can with the dog's and handler's abilities.


People talk and talk and talk about breeding, genetics, strong character and nerves, "bred to work", "bred for the bite".  Some charge thousands of dollars for puppies.  They often brag about the puppy's father - 230x SchHIII, always 99 points in protection - a real biting machine.  They send you pages and pages of pedigrees, scorebooks, very impressive paperwork.

They're leaving out something: the ironclad guarantee.  How do we know this puppy will bite?  For a couple thousand dollars, how can we be sure?  Are we just rolling the dice?

Many breeders are OK.  I suppose they do the best they can to breed from good dogs.  I know very few breeders, so I can't intelligently discuss the subject. 

So now explain all the mix breeds.  Explain how some of the hardest biting dogs I've ever seen come from uncertain parents.  For example - most Malinois bred in Holland have no papers - there are no 5 generation pedigrees - there are no pedigrees at all.  Why?

Are biters "born"?  I really don't know.  I do believe that the bite can be taken out of a dog a lot easier than it may seem.  It can be taken out a lot easier than it can be put in!  Read the earlier chapter above - it's unnatural for a dog to fight a human.


In this chapter, I'll discuss some of the more interesting problems I've seen, and some details of how they were resolved.

One of the more recent problems was with a street police dog recently imported from France.  The dog is a KNPV titled 3 year old Malinois, and he's a very sociable, easy going dog.  I understand from the officer that he's got a lot of experience on the bite suit, but to this point, I haven't done any suit work with him.

The problem I encountered with him was what we call "sleeve freak".  Here's a scenario:  the dog's on the round table.  I put on a sleeve, handler said "pass auf", and I asked the dog to fight.  His eyes were directed totally to the sleeve, and he'd bark only 2-3 times, straining against the collar to get at the sleeve.  So - I laid the sleeve down on a different table, and walked around behind the dog.  He never took his eyes off the sleeve.  A quick sting with the whip, he looked at me over his shoulder, turned away, and still worked to get at the sleeve on the other table.  This was occurring while his handler continually told him "pass auf".

Within 2 weeks, training 4-6 times a week, we used "TOTO" - and no bite object - to get the dog to clearly understand what he was fighting.  As time went on, he'd be constantly barking, right in my face, making eye contact, without concentrating on the sleeve at all.  We also did this on the square table for several sessions.  To test this, I'd sometimes approach the dog with a sleeve in my hands, and throw it past him during the "pass auf".  With work, the dog was pretty consistent in ignoring the sleeve and keeping his intensity on the helper.  This dog works in an agency which does not deploy their dogs with "hold and bark", so we didn't ever teach this exercise.  But we did get the dog focused on fighting something other than a $160 sleeve.  I'd like to add that the dog is 100% sociable with me before and after a fight.  He turns off like a light, and isn't suspicious after the "aus".  He still has a slight problem releasing from a bite, but we're making progress on that.  He does release, but sometimes it's slower than what we'd like to ultimately see.  So we continue to put "pebbles in the pail".

I could have cleaned up this "sleeve freak" without using the round and square tables, but I've done it many times, and it works so much better on the tables.  Outside on the field there are too many variables, and the dog has too many options.  Besides which, the tables offer a small degree of mental stress, which I can use to my advantage, where being tied out on the grass offers none.


Sometimes, a very important step in pre-training can be re-establishing the umbilical cord.  These details are important, so please read carefully.  You'll be surprised what this little technique can do for your relationship with your dog - especially with an adult new dog!

We're going to condition the dog to be completely reliant upon his handler.  This is especially useful when you're bonding with a dog, or increasing the bond with a dog that you're training intensely.  To accomplish this, the dog is fed OUT OF HAND ONLY.  Put his bowl away.  His regular daily ration of food is placed into plastic baggie(s), and the handler, at non-regular times during the day and night, feeds the dog FROM HIS HAND.  The dog must always
COME TO THE HAND for his food.  There is no food for the dog which does not come directly from the hand. 

In a few days, since the source of food is no longer the bowl, we can begin to put food in the bowl again.  The dog will learn to ignore the bowl after a few days or so.  You might have to help him or correct him if he tries to stick his nose in the bowl, but he'll get the idea soon.  At that time, the bowl can be used, but the handler takes the food from the bowl, and offers it to the dog.  The dog does not take the food from the bowl.

A scenario might include taking the dog outside for play, walk, etc.  At some point, when the dog is not paying attention to the handler, a clicking noise, whistle, etc. is made, the dog's attention focuses, and food is offered from the hand.  The dog quickly learns to connect the sound with food, and will become very reliable to this signal.  Remember to be consistent!  REMEMBER NOT TO LIE!

Be sure to use exactly the same sound or word every time.  When I do this, I make the sound every time the dog takes the food.  Exactly: For each handful, I make the sound or word again.  This same procedure should be repeated in the house, car, etc. at non-regular intervals.  The dog might receive 5 handfuls, 15, or 1, it might be during a walk, playing ball, or at any time.  I use a "belly bag" - the type that belts around the waist, and is easily washable.  The entire feeding should not be given at one time, instead, break it up across the day.  Note please:  the dog is not being given a reduced ration of food or being starved.  The regular daily ration is simply being delivered to the dog in a different manner.  The bowl is no longer the source - the handler is.

Now for the bad news:  expect to wash your hands dozens of times a day.  This process is definitely messy:  saliva, food oils, crumbs, and slop are part of the deal. 

After about 7 days of following this process, the dog should be restricted to his kennel, and the handler should "abandon" the dog for 24 hours.  No food whatsoever should be provided to the dog.  He'll be OK without food for one day, so don't have a breakdown!  The handler should remain out of the dog's sight, and/or totally ignore the dog.  If you can do it, the preferred method is to not allow the dog to see/hear/smell the handler for an entire day.  After 24 hours, the handler releases the dog, ball, play, walk, and food from the hand follow.  The reunion is exuberant.  The dog has not been cut from the pack, and his leader has returned with food.

There's more.  Believe me - there's MUCH more.