Protection sports are practical and fun outlets for dogs with stable temperament. Most organizations require a temperament test to determine the dog is not likely to lash out in normal interactions with people. These tests involve a stranger approaching and petting the dog, handling its paws, etc in the presence of the owner. If a dog is not at ease with friendly strangers, it is unsuitable to train for protection work.
The formalized protection "routines" of titling organizations are designed to give the dog experience in a variety of circumstances. Because not being able to control a bitework-trained dog can result in serious injury, obedience is incorporated into all disciplines as a prerequisite. Heeling, stays, and coming when called are standard. In some sports, dogs are also tested that they accept a muzzle, take directions from a distance, refuse food from strangers, and other useful life-skills.
There are several titling organizations with various formalized routines. Schutzhund (now called IPO) has been popular in the US since the 1950s for German Shepherd dogs. See a video on IPO. Dutch KNPV, French Ring, Mondio Ring, Service Dogs of America (SDA), etc have not been practiced in the US as long. Michael Ellis explains the differences in Ring sports & IPO. Scott Warner of Sacramento has an excellent walk-through video on the first level of French Ring, the Brevet.
It can be hard to find an experienced decoy (trainer) close enough to train with regularly. Various practitioners and clubs exist in Northern California but they come and go. Inexperienced decoys are much more likely to inadvertently injure, spook, or mishandle your dog. It is not as not nearly as easy as it looks. Take time to select a high-quality decoy who is active in a certifying sport and constantly improving his own skills.
But I don't want a title, I just want to know my dog will protect me on a walk!Protection is a classic reason to have a dog. The mere presence of a large, dark, prick-eared dog is enough to deter most opportunist criminals. For general protection training, most trainers will start with a foundation in on-leash obedience. If the dog is sound in temperament, they may then teach "watch it" and "bark and hold" commands for an intense stare and threatening barking on cue. Training extensively on bite-sleeves can be fun but is not necessary to provoke a convincing defensive display. Bite-training a dog who is not confident and sound in judgement, with an equally capable and discreet handler, is a serious liability for both the trainer and owner. Dogs who are naturally threatening (growling, hackling, 'over-protective') towards friendly strangers are not good candidates for protection training.
Gary Watts, Envision K9, Red Bluff
Don Armstrong, Supreme Team K9 510-565-9257, Happy Valley
Lower Lassen K9 Training, Palo Cedro (530) 474-1322
Sierra Canine, Durham 530-966-6068
Scott Warner, Elk Grove
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