When we talk about dog training, we often think of ways to get our dogs to be more obedient and bark less. Having a disciplined dog is certainly fine and well, but it is a far cry from the kind of training that results in a police dog.
K9 dog training is quite a bit different from your standard dog training and for a good reason. For police dogs, there cannot be a lapse in obedience. That lapse could result in a multitude of issues, including compromising the safety of both the dog and the trainer.
Because the core of K9 dog training is to instill obedience while protecting the men and women of the police force, that means that each dog has to be as disciplined as possible. They need to understand commands in short order and react accordingly.
So, how does K9 dog training work, exactly? This guide will give you a little bit of insight as to how they get their dogs in tip-top shape and maybe you can take a few pointers away as well.
Making it Fun
Above all else, training should be a fun exercise. If the dog associates training with an unpleasant or painful response, they aren’t going to want to do it. That will only make the process of training them that much more difficult to achieve.
Besides, when the experience is fun, that makes the dog want to perform these commands. The treats probably don’t hurt the matter, though. Ultimately, if the dog makes the decision to perform a desired behavior on its own, they will learn more over the course of the training.
Making the process an enjoyable one is the quickest way to a path of discipline and command-following for your next K9 crime stopper. Furthermore, rewards-based training doesn’t have to be about treats. You can use play time, a favorite toy, or even other pets to help motivate the dog to succeed. It is just about finding what the dog is motivated by and using that to get them learning.
Take Breaks and Watch for Patterns
Training can definitely be hard work, but the same principle applies for dogs as it does for humans: relaxation and rest can help you recharge. Not only that, K9 police dogs do best in 5- to 10-minute training intervals. This allows them to take in the knowledge that you are instilling without getting bored or distracted.
Taking those breaks also means allowing those commands to sink in so that the dog can better understand them. If you inundate your dog with too much information in one short burst, they will not be able to retain those commands and understand them correctly. Pace yourself and take breaks to give them a chance to process things.
There can also be ruts in the training process as well. Perhaps you notice that you always ask your K9 to sit prior to feeding them. Try mixing things up by maybe asking the dog to do a couple of different commands as well.
This process of mixing things up does two things. The first is that it helps to avoid those ruts that can make training boring and less effective. This should be avoided at all costs as commands can begin slipping through the cracks.
The second is that it keeps your dog from associating certain actions with certain times. While this is okay in some respects, you don’t want the dog to only associate the “sit” command with being fed. Introducing different commands for different scenarios means that they learn the command, not the instance where the command was issued.
Maintain Positivity and Utilize the Dog’s Natural Energy
Not all dogs are created equally and that means that they will not all have the same levels of energy during training. Recognize this and understand how to best implement their training while they show the energy and enthusiasm that they need to be effective learners.
Each session should also end on a positive note. Again, this should be fun for both trainer and trainee. Keeping a positive attitude about everything means that your dog will look forward to the next training session and will be more responsive to these commands.
When the experience is negative – with yelling or a general negative attitude – it will pass down to the dog. They will become much more tense and insecure and the commands will not stick the way that you hoped they will.
Be positive, reinforce good behavior, and continually reassure them that they are doing a good job. That is the way to learn and understand commands for K9 training.
While there are some out there that feel as though punishment is the best method for learning, that will not work out for training K9 dogs. As a matter of fact, that will result in a bite more likely than not. Sometimes, that negative reinforcement can result in a battle of wills and the dog will usually win.
The major danger of punishment is two-fold. The first is that there is potential for both physical harm and an erosion of the dog-handler relationship. That relationship is meant to be built off of trust and punishment will degrade that level of trust that the K9 dog has in its handler.
When that trust is eroded, the dog has a harder time taking those commands that are essential to K9 dog training. If the dog won’t listen to the commands, there is no chance that it can be trustworthy out in the field.
The second danger of punishment is that it can lead to an escalation. If the handler gets frustrated or angry and lashes out with punishment, the dog will pick up on that and respond in kind. This will only lead to further battles of the will, getting nowhere fast.
Patience Is the Key
Think about it like this: clipping your dog’s nails is not the easiest endeavor, especially if you just jump right into it. It is about being patient and building up a level of trust. Start by handling their paw gently. Start with a toe with just one finger for a second and work up from there.
The same principles apply when training a K9 dog. Patience and consistency are what will result in those commands being obeyed every time. Introduce the command to them and let them try to learn it. Don’t expect them to take it on and get it right the first time out.
This consistent method of learning will provide them with the foundation that they need to continuously add new commands. It will also give them a concise pace to follow, resulting in more consistent learning as you go.
Rushing impatiently through commands will only result in frustration for the handler and a disconnect with the dog. Patience is rarely easy, but it will go a long way when you need it. More importantly, the dog will pick up on the patience you are displaying and will be eager to do well.
There are many methods in which K9 dog training is implemented, but these basic building blocks can get most dogs down the path to success and discipline.