“Real world knowledge in all aspects of law enforcement K9 training.”

Raising The Potential Police Service Pup

Excerpt from "Dog Training For Law Enforcement" © by R.S. Eden

When buying a  puppy for the home, police or security work, take the time to check into various kennels as well as private breeders. Study the pedigrees to  ensure purity and attempt to deal with breeders who will place a  guarantee on the pup should elbow or hip dysplasia develop. Reputable  breeders will have no hesitation in providing you with such a guarantee. Purebreds which are registered with the Canadian Kennel Club or the  American Kennel Club are preferable but not an absolute must.

Look carefully  and get references from people who have purchased dogs from the breeder  you are thinking of dealing with before making a decision. If possible  have a look at other dogs sold by the breeder to ensure they have a good  temperament. Once you have located a few reputable breeders it is time to choose the puppy you want.

When first  choosing a puppy, the handler should watch the pups as a pack and  observe each one. The ideal choice is an aggressive, self confident pup  who shows leadership over the others, and who will readily approach you  as a stranger without any hesitation or fear. Ideally we are searching  for the Alpha male of the litter, or the next closest prospect depending on temperament. (Those who have an opportunity to see the pups suckling the mother will note the leaders of the litter almost always will be  the ones using the teats which yield more milk and therefore the  dominant pups force the others to less lucrative positions.) Beware of  pups that whine, howl or bark constantly when excited as these habits  may be hard to break and can be extremely annoying. These pups are very  often anxious and al though in other tests may rate high, may have a  tendency to be high strung and are often hard to settle down.

Once you have  chosen one or two prospective pups, one at a time they should be removed from the litter to a place totally away from the mother and other  siblings. Preferably to a place totally unfamiliar to the pup. This  places stress on the puppy, as will other tests and will test his  ability to adjust to his new situations. He should react positively to  his new surround ings by investigating where he is at and becoming  accustomed to his new surroundings. He should also respond to you in a  friend ly, confident manner without becoming fearful or anxious. If the  pup has a favorite toy, play with him for a while, and throw the toy a  short distance to see if he will retrieve it for you. It is not  necessary that he return the toy, only that he shows an awareness to it, that he is playful, and is not afraid to carry something in his mouth.

Now that the  puppy is showing some confidence, play with him and rough house with him a bit. Ascertain if he is willing to take a bit of guff without shying  or running scared. There is no need to be very rough, just wrestle and  tease him enough to get him worked up. If he responds by barking or  playing right back, that is an excellent response. Take a rag and try to play tug of war with him. Tease him. Again an excellent response is if  he will join in the game. At some point squeeze one of his toes firmly  just enough to cause him some pain. He should be quick to forgive you  and become trusting again.

The next test  is again very simple, and enables the handler to test the pup to his  reactions to sudden, new and unsettling noises. Take any two metal  objects which you can clatter together such as a pair of hubcaps and  bang them together in front of the pup. If he shys away suddenly and  shows some hesitation, this is all right, as long as he recovers and  does not continue to show fear. The noise need not be excessive, only  enough for the pup to notice it. Even though the candidate puppy may shy away in some circumstances, this is not a bad fault. The idea is to  test the pups recovery time, to see that he is able to adapt to new  sounds, surroundings, and in particularly that he reacts joyfully and  confidently towards you as a stranger.

Pups which are  older in the six to eight month age range can also be given the gun  test. Put the pup on a leash and have a suspect with a revolver  containing blank loads suddenly appear and fire a few rounds into the  air. The pup may balk a bit, but as long as he doesn't break and try to  run or show a lot of fear or anxiety, he should be O.K. In most cases  the reaction of a solid pup will be one of curiosity. His ears will perk up and he will show much interest in what is going on. Other candidate  pups may even bark or lunge at the suspect, which is an excellent  response.

One final test I utilize is with an umbrella. The shape of an umbrella is very unusual  to some dogs and when opened suddenly can bring out some rather unusual  reactions in a dog. Stand facing the dog with the umbrella in the closed position and the top point facing towards the dog. Have the handler  place the dog, on lead at a sit position. Without warning open the  umbrel la with a sudden fluent movement so the dog is suddenly facing a  new unusual object. Again the ideal results are the same as those in the gun test sequence.

When you have  chosen your candidate pup you have made a decision which will alter your daily way of life for years to come. You will have initiated a  friendship between you and your new partner which is closer and stronger than any other between man and the animal kingdom. Whether you mistreat this dog or treat it royally, you will find that he will be dedicated  and will worship you simply for the smallest amount of love and praise  which you may offer in return. This type of blind dedica tion is but a  small indication of how strong these animals feel about us. Therefore  all we have to do is simply return that love, be patient during our  training periods, and that dog will do its best to please us. The trick  to dog training is simply this: the dog already knows how to jump, run,  track, attack and even search for articles. It is all a part of his  natural in- stincts. All we have to do is learn how to persuade him to  utilize these abilities for us. This is the key. We must be willing to  learn how to communicate our wishes to the dog, and how to read what he  is communicating back to us in both body language, and by his barks.  These aspects have been dealt with in the section on UNDERSTANDING AND  READING K9 BEHAVIOR.

Once you have  your puppy at home, prepare an area which is clean and warm, and  preferably a spot which can be his own, where he can be alone if  desired. Dogs, like people, often need time alone so they can relax and  unwind without the interference of young children or other distractions.

An adequate  supply of food and clean water should be maintained as well as a supply  of dog biscuits. This is an excellent treat and good for maintaining  clean, healthy teeth. Rawhide chewables are also excellent for the  puppy, especially through the chewing stages when he loses his baby  teeth and the adult teeth start to grow in.

Pups which may  have one floppy ear can often have this problem corrected by feeding him a lot of biscuits and letting him do a lot of chewing. This exercises  the supporting muscles which run behind the mandible (jaw) and upwards  to the base of the ear, and more often than not will correct ear faults. If the floppy ear persists see a veterinarian for correction. It is  extremely important that the ears be properly erect as you will be  reading your dogs reactions on the street and a lot of what the dog  tells you is translated from ear carriage and direction.

Even though you may do some training with your pup before he is eight months of age, do not expect him to be totally obedient and to understand you fully. He  is still a pup and for him to grow up mentally and physically healthy he has to be allowed to be a puppy and to grow up through his adolescent  and teenage period before we can start expecting him to act like an  adult.

Give your puppy lots of playtime as well as lots of quiet time alone. Teach your  children the importance of leaving the puppy alone and not to be  persistent in playing with him if it appears he wants to lie down or be  alone. In most cases where the dog at home bites a child, the dog is  instantly corrected and sometimes even destroyed in the heat of the  moment. The handler later learns that the dog had tried continually to  avoid the child. The child, not understanding the dogs need to be alone, continued to bother the animal until the dog finally strikes out in  frustration. This is not to condone the dog biting, as he must be justly corrected in such instances, but only to emphasize that the children  and others living or visiting in the household must be strictly taught  to respect the dogs feelings and needs. He too is an individual.

Once the pup  begins to grow into adulthood he should be taken to the vet and x-rays  taken to determine any signs of hip or elbow dysplasia. This disease can often be very painful to the animal and can cripple them badly. If it  is present in the animal serious consideration should be given to  replacing him as the disease usually degenerates with time, disabling  the dog and only adding to the budget expenses to start out on a new  animal later on, not to mention the heartbreak of watching your partner  degenerating to a crippled state. To keep these problems to a minimum  any dogs which need to be replaced for medical or other reasons should  be discovered as soon as practicable by constant surveillance of the  dogs incapabilities and medical problems, if any.

Pups at eight  or nine months of age may become skittish or act differently. This is  comparable to human puberty and is only a phase in many cases. Give the  animal a chance to recover, and you will likely find it is a normal part of his growing up.

Some light  training may be done prior to the pup reaching six months of age and  preferably by eight months. This allows the animal time to mature, and  also allows his neck muscles to strengthen so that he is capable of  withstanding proper choke chain correction as this is the majority of  corrective actions which will be used during our training procedures.



Now that we  have chosen the puppy, we have to raise him in a manner which will  prepare him physically, mentally and emotional ly for Police Service  work.

First of all,  take the puppy home and introduce him to his new environment. Give him a place that is his own, where he can go to be alone if he desires. Allow him to investigate his surroundings and explore his new habitat.

Prior to  bringing your puppy home, decide on what diet to feed, and remember that the nutritional requirements for a puppy will not be the same as that  of an adult dog.

Once our puppy  is settled in, the first and foremost training task is that of  housebreaking. The best way I have found to persuade him to do his  business where required is simply to make sure he spends a lot of time  outside at the same location and on the same schedule each time. Praise  him every time he is successful. Put him out immediately after feeding,  immediately upon awakening in the morning and after any naps. If you  prefer that he uses a particular spot, take him to that area each and  every time.

At night keep  him confined to a small area with one side being his sleeping area and  the other side being his training area. If you find your puppy is not  succeeding in training try using a small kennel such as those the  airlines use and lock him inside during his sleeping periods. He will  not soil or wet his own bedding if he can possibly help it. Upon  awakening, lift him immediately outside and as soon as he does his  business give him lots of praise.

A verbal  scolding is in order if he has an accident, but remember he, like any  infant, is still learning control, so don't overdo it. Scold just enough to let him know you are disappointed, not angry. It won't be long  before you will be successful.

Another  immediate priority with your new puppy is to help him through his  teething stage, usually around ten to twelve weeks of age. Your puppy  should be provided with rawhide chewables or even Milkbone to chew. He  should also be given a toy which he can play with and chew. These  articles will tend to satisfy his need to chew and assist to stop  destructive chewing on furniture. If you find him chewing on anything  other than his permitted allotment correct him firmly and immediately.  Never correct him unless you catch him in the act or you will do more  harm than good.

Should  destructive chewing persist, see your veterinarian and have your puppies diet checked. He may be suffering from a mineral deficiency. This  deficiency may even cause the pup to chew at his own coat, a form of  self destructive chewing. Should there be a chance of mineral  deficiencies, attempt to correct it using organic mineral supplements,  rather than chemical. The organic supplements have a tendency to give  better success. My own dog went through this stage and chewed himself  raw in spots until his diet was changed and mineral supplements given. I have found a product called SULFODENE, readily available throughout  America and in British Columbia, gives excellent results for topically  treating these and similar "hot spots".

The most  important thing to remember while raising your puppy is to let him be a  puppy. Allow him to go through his adolescent and teenage periods as a  puppy. Do not expect results as you would from an adult dog. This is  important for his emotional maturity. It doesn't mean however, that you  can't start training your puppy before he is nine months of age. On the  contrary, as you associate with your puppy encourage him to do simple  exercises. Show him how to sit, using the appropriate command, and make a game out of it. Every time he wants a treat, make him sit and then  reward him with praise and the treat. When you see him starting to lie  down, do a bit of word association by commanding "DOWN" as he performs  the task. Once he lays down give him lots of praise. He was going to lie down anyway of course, but it won't be long before this word  association with this and other natural movements will start to mean  something to him. As well as the word association take the time to  gently place him in the desired positions and use the appropriate com  mands. NOTE: SEE CHAPTER 8 ON HAND SIGNALS. Don't make a long training  session out of it, just do it periodically throughout the day, once or  twice each time. He will soon catch on, and everything he learns now  will make things much easier when we start on his formal training.

This time of  your puppies life is vital in the makeup of his personality and how he  will grow up and socialize. Keep this in mind and mould him into the  type of dog you want.

Take a lot of  time with your puppy to play games with him. Two very important games  which most puppies love are to fetch a ball and tug of war.

First of all,  in regards to fetching, do not expect your puppy to retrieve the ball  back to you right away, as this will come with time. It is usually best  that the ball also be his toy to play with. This way he becomes attached to it and is more likely to pick it up and carry it back to you. My  preference is to use a hard rubber ball. Soft rubber or tennis balls can be chewed up by your puppy and ingested. This is dangerous and can be  potentially life threatening. A recent example of this type of problem  occurred when an officer noted his partner to be vomiting and losing  weight. All attempts to cure the animal failed until the veterinary  surgeon ordered a series of x-rays. The x-rays showed a collapsed tennis ball lodged in the dogs intestine. Surgery to remove the ball was  successful and the animal recovered fully. Had the problem not been  discovered when it was, the results could have easily been fatal shortly thereafter.

Also ensure  that the ball is not small enough for the dog to choke on. Recently an  officer had a bad experience when his partner got a hold of a racquet  ball. Because of its size it easily slipped into the dogs throat and the animal came very close to choking to death. Fortunately veterinary  assistance was close by and the dogs life was saved. Had the problem not been discovered quickly and urgent medical attention given the results  quite likely could have been fatal.

Once you throw  the ball, use the word "FETCH" to associate the command to the game. If  he picks up the ball, coax him back to you and associate it with the  command "COME". Always make sure the game is fun and never force your  puppy or expect him to continue the game once he tires of it. Like any  child his attention span may be very short.

For tug of war  take a towel or gunny sack and gently tease the puppy with it until he  shows an interest in it. See if you can keep his interest in it. He may  not make any attempt to grab it at first, but if enticed carefully, it  won't be long before he does. While teasing him with the towel use the  words "TAKE HIM". Be excited, get him playful so he wants to play the  game. If he grabs the towel let him have it and give him lots of praise. Keep at it until over a period of time you can have a good struggle  over the towel. When you have him playing well and you want him to learn to let go of the towel, stop struggling, hold the towel firm and still, and sharply use the command "OUT". He may continue the game, but don't  comply. Command "OUT" again sharply, and using your forefinger over his  nose and placing your thumb in the corner of his mouth between his  teeth, gently separate his jaws enough to release the towel. Again  repeat the command and when the towel is released praise the dog.

Remember always to use only one word commands where possible. In some cases two words  are acceptable. Use his name frequently and as a key word for any  movement command. This clues him in and lets him know to pay attention  to the command.

Don't forget he is still a puppy. He needs to grow up and to act like a puppy. He needs to explore and investigate the things around him. His attention span  will be short and he may lose interest in things quickly. Let him enjoy  these early parts of his life. Make them fun and he will still amaze you with the amount he learns. Make sure you are his best buddy.

Note: More  advanced information on this subject during sessions instructed at the  International Police K9 Conferences held annually in various locations  throughout North America.