"The more you challenge your K9, the better they will be when you need it the most."- Paul Ludwig
Finding the correct balance and maintaining it while you expose the K9 to new environmentals is KEY to the success and performance of your K9 Partner. Too many trainers and handlers go from A to Z too quickly, while others begin way below what their K9's can handle. While training and exposing your K9 to new environmental challenges, focus on the K9's success, not tactics, until they establish their confidence. Always consider your venues: where you work and the surrounding agencies you may get called to assist. Think about noises and ultimate hiding places that are prominent in those areas; subway stations, airports, escalators, elevators, drainage tunnels, sewers...etc. If you had to find a suspect bedded down near a train track and your K9 never has been exposed to a passing locomotive you may be in for a sad surprise. Progressively expose, by taking small steps during exercises and training, to build their confidence. For instance, if you want to expose your K9 to metal grate stairs, work on that first. Let them get the exposure and climb a few times before you set up a barricade of boxes to have them push through or start firing a gun as they try to ascend the stairs. Work on multiple exposures ONLY AFTER they have had gunfire, stairs, and barricades. Not all at the same time when they first are sent out. Push the limits of what they can handle, then back off and keep it positive . Water: I do not know of many places where water exposure will not happen. Please do not misunderstand me, I Do Not condone sending a K9 into water to have them drowned by a suspect. But when you have seen in person, a K9 in pursuit of a suspect that crosses a creek, then the K9 stops dead in his tracks at the edge of the creek (which is less then a foot deep) and the suspect runs away never to be caught, it is infuriating. While the officer scratches their head and thinks, "What in the world just happened?", the suspect is headed to the next county. Build on their exposure of water so that if it ever happens, the K9 will not fail. Gunfire: Train the K9 to be gunfire Neutral . NOT to go after gunfire, but develop target acquisition during gun fire. Again, incremental steps to success. Start at a distance and with a whip/ .209 primer/ starter pistol/ 38 rounds, while having the handler working on obedience. Move in closer as you fire. If the K9 reacts negatively to the gunfire, correct the behavior by giving them the command to "Heel". Keep them moving and make sure you praise them when they are following your command and start realizing that gunfire is just another noise. Short sessions, only for a few minutes at a time. After a few sessions, you will see the difference. Muzzle Work: Not just muzzling when its Vet visit time or muzzle fighting time. Muzzle Neutral is what you want. I suggest putting the muzzle on for any reason, for a few minutes at a time, obedience, riding in the car for short periods, agility, etc... Once the K9 cares less and less about the muzzle, then you can progress into advanced training. The "Z" part of this training is when my K9s, while wearing a muzzle, will strike on command a decoy wearing nothing but his undergarments and continue punching in on the decoy until commanded otherwise. They will apprehend with out the help of equipment drawing them in. We have found that this is also a fantastic way to teach the beginnings of a verbal out command. Stressors / Distractions: Train under stress, have officers yell commands like they would during an arrest, have them run up and go hands on, onto the decoy while the K9 is engaged. (Slowly bring in the officers to crowd the K9 while on the decoy, remember the A-Z applies to everything). Judge the comfort of the K9 by their "Floating Eyes". If they are on an apprehension on a decoy, and as the handler and other officers approach, if the K9 is moving his rear away from approaching units, and you can see the K9's eyes floating around and looking at everyone, back off a little until you see the K 9 relax. Move officers in and out little by little. Slowly put hands on and bump the K9 and slap hands on the decoy until the K9 realizes that the back ups are part of "Their Team". After a few sessions, the K9 will become more relaxed and there will be less of a chance of a transfer bite onto another part of the decoy, or back up officer. Add specific details to your training, smoke to a car jacking bail out scenario, let the dog experience it like it is really happening. Many times during small apartment searches, a total ruckus is going on in the neighboring apartments, which can break the attention and distract your K9. Make sure to add distractions such as a crying baby, barking dogs, people yelling and moving around. Train for article searches in the dog park where the dogs' elimination area is, so your K9 gets used to searching for evidence where there are tons of scent and keep them on task. I have found with what I have mentioned above, if you train this way, and expose your partner progressively to as much as possible, you will have a higher success rate in the REAL world.
This article was written Exclusively for the K9 Chronicle
by U.S.P .C.A Certified K9 Trainer, PaulLudwig
About the Author:
Paul Ludwig is not just another "Dog Trainer". He is a District of Columbia Council of Governments
K9 SWAT integration Trainer, Fairfax County Virginia. In 2011 Paul received the Meritorious Service award for the K9 apprehension of a suspect wanted for Assault on a Police Officer in which the suspect disarmed the officer of his weapon and was in possession of two additional handguns. Paul Ludwig is a second generation Law Enforcement Officer that embarked on a mission to make the streets of the Washington D.C Metropolitan area safer and his dedication could not go unnoticed, Paul was honored with the Meritorious Service Awards in 1991, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2011 Paul has also received commendations from the A.T.F. for aiding in the recovery of dozens of stolen handguns after a local gun store burglary. The District of Columbia’s U.S. Attorney’s Office awarded Paul with commendation for apprehending three Attempted Murder / serial sexual assault suspects. Paul and his K9 Partner received commendations from Prince Georges County Police Department for utilizing his patrol canine to locate / recover a handgun which was used in the attempted murder of a Prince Georges County Police Officer. Paul has since retired after 25 years as a Law Enforcement Officer and now teaches K9 handlers how to prepare themselves and their dog for the REAL Streets of America. You can visit: www.IrondogK9.com to read more about Paul Ludwig and his K9 Partners. Pick up a copy of Paul's video "K9 Guardians" and find out how the night of December 9th, 1999 changed his life and the way he trains K9s forever.