Eden Consulting Group

International Consultation and Canine Services Exclusively to Law Enforcement

Raising a Potential Police Dog

Bob & Stryker smallExcerpt 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 are well temperamented. 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.


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