FULL MOUTH BITE, WHO IS RIGHT?
The frequently unsuccessful and consistently inept law firm of Cook & Mann continues to look for new areas to improperly portray the Police Dog as a menace to society. While they have stipulated to our training, procurement and expertise they continue to search for the weak link. Currently they are attacking the “full mouth bite”. The theory of Van Bogardus and Dr. Peter Mead being, a full mouth bite involves all 42 teeth in a dogs mouth, when in fact, a full mouth and a shallow bite almost always only involve the canines. While a full mouth bite is more likely to be singular, a shallow bite will most often be multiple.
The compelling reason we train for a full mouth bite is it is an indicator of the balance of the drives the dog is operating in while biting. When a dog is too high in defense he will have a shallow bite and he will release and re bite. When high in prey, the dog will bite full and hold on.
A police dog’s primary function being to find things or people, and understanding a dog will not search for something he will have to defend himself from, we have a simple explanation of the full mouth bite. It has been successful in court as well!
MORE ON THE FULL MOUTH BITE
To be a successful dog handler in a sport it is necessary to have a good dog and a very good technical understanding of the dogs behavior along with the ability to train (condition) the dog to reach his greatest potential. This requires much more than just understanding the rules of the sport. If you are successful you will do well, if you are not successful, or if you commit an error during competition it will be reflected in your scorebook.
The difference in handling and training a dog for police service is you need all the skills and understanding of a successful sport dog handler, as well as the ability to explain in court why you condition your dog to respond in certain ways. A prime example, though not the only one, is the full mouth bite. Given just the mechanics of the full vs. the shallow bite, most jurors would say the shallow bite would be a more acceptable community standard. If you cannot explain why, who will? In addition, if you do not understand it, how will you accomplish the task? The need for technical expertise will increase if we expect to continue our success.
TECHNIQUES AND EQUIPMENT
The techniques for developing the full mouth bite transcend simple biting exercises. It is necessary to maintain a balance in the dogs drives throughout all training. Beginning bite training that is not started with 100% play/prey almost certainly will not produce a good police dog. Using dogs that have been trained to a high level in bite work prior to procurement not only saves time; the wash out rate is greatly reduced. The problems begin when we assume a police dog should operate differently than a sport dog during apprehension work. Recent article condemning prey drive is the ultimate anthropomorphic behavior attributed to a dog, by police dog “experts”, once he leaves the “sport” world for the “real” world. The fact is we must insure all subsequent bite training closely replicates the initial prey conditioning the dog received. We simply must expand what prey is to the dog.
A simple explanation of prey as it exists in our domestic dog is perhaps necessary. All the drives we have in our dogs are inherited from their predecessor, the wolf. A dog is simply a mutated wolf. The prey drive in our dogs is mutated behavior, in no way connected to the food chain. The dictionary term “to vanquish and to kill” is not at all appropriate for the domestic dog suitable for sport or law enforcement.
In conditioning our dogs to search for a human, we should use the behavior (drive) most closely related to the task. This is not defense or “fight”, it is prey. When the dog was taught to bite in advanced stages he also must learn the “prey” may fight back. So we introduce a degree of defense early on. If we upset the balance or start too soon the dog will defend himself by fleeing. Given a large enough dose of defense, all dogs will flee. In smaller doses, the higher the defense is, the poorer a dog will search. Again, why search for something to defend yourself from? So far most would agree. The area we see the most problems with police dog training is the next step.
THE HUMAN AS PREY
Already we have attorneys excited and risk managers worried. The importance of being totally candid to ourselves allows us to advance further and faster in our conditioning process. In addition, to this date all the expert witnesses called upon to testify against us are not really experts, only persons willing to perjure themselves for a fee. In time, a real expert may surface and attributing behavior to dogs that does not exist will eventually cause problems. So its best we accept the term “prey”, use it properly and interpret it for people that have misconceptions about our dogs
The techniques of using muzzles, bite suits, undercover sleeves, etc. are not new to police dog training, however, the transition to making the suspect prey, not someone the dog must defend himself from is critical.
All the transitions should be accomplished at a basic level, similar to initial bite training. The dog’s communication with members of his own species and humans is primarily through body language. The transition to the next step is to show that the man is prey by using his body actions as opposed to the equipment he has on. The techniques defy a simple explanation. A book could be written on the subject, but even that would not replace the ability to practice the practical application. The final product is a dog that operates high in the proper balance of drives using sleeve, suits, muzzles, or when working on the street.
The control of the behavior also will be enhanced when it is in uniform in all training or real world environments. The handlers’ ability to control the dog’s drives are based on positive and negative re-enforcement. The dog’s reaction to negative re-enforcement is based on his defense drive. When properly applied, the dog will defend himself from the negative re-enforcement he knows will occur if he does not comply with an order from his handler by exhibiting the behavior he has learned in previous training. When the drives are not balanced somewhat equally in all areas we may use a correction on equipment to sever the desire to operate in that drive would be severely reduced absent the equipment thus, a dog operating without a proper confidence level, and to a high in defense when working on the street, but too high in prey when biting equipment.
As mentioned earlier, the purpose of this article is to try to explain the need for balance across the board in training and street deployments. The techniques are many and varied. Most are accomplished by the use of skilled agitators and proper equipment. A bit of this is covered in my articles on agitator training as well as “What is defense aggression?”
PROPER TRAINING EQUIPMEMT
The proper equipment to accomplish a good full mouth bite, and assist in balancing the drives across the board, should include a bite bar sleeve, a bite suit as lightweight as possible, a proper muzzle, and a tie out chain. And, most important, a skilled agitator.
The bite bar sleeve is used to teach and re-enforce the full mouth bite. The suit, used properly, teaches the dog to focus on the man and his actions, instead of a certain piece of “prey”. The tie out chain is used to frustrate the dog in drive, which will increase that drive. In addition, when his bite is shallow, he will simply lose his “prey”, and he will learn to hold on. The muzzle should be a type that the dog can wear several hours at a time without losing his ability to breathe or diminish his olfactory capabilities.
This is an obvious over-simplification of the tools, a good practical class should clarify the techniques for you.
Adlerhorst International, Inc.
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