Are you an expert K-9 handler?

According to new research from work performance guru Tony Schwartz and the Harvard Business Review, no, you’re not (and not by a long shot)

Work performance guru Tony Schwartz writes in a blog for the Harvard Business Review that experts agree that a minimum of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice of a complex task is necessary to become an “expert” in any complex task.

Let’s assume that dog training and handling is such a complex task. Now, let’s apply a little math. If we were to do 40 hours of deliberate practice a week (impossible) it would take 250 weeks to become an expert. There are 52 weeks in one year, so that comes to about 4.8 years of deliberate practice (at an impossible rate of 40 hours of practice a week). Let’s say, we do something more reasonable, like 20 hours a week, then that means we are looking at 9.6 years to become an expert in any complex field such as dog training.

For police dog handlers, we require as an industry standard of four hours per week of in service training. So, how off the mark are you at being an expert dog handler if you do just the minimum?

A lot off the mark.

It is well known that the best handlers put in a lot more than the minimum. The best handlers work hard at the practice of their craft every day, and as such are probably doing more than the 20 hours a week that will get them on their way to being the best they can be in their field. The same holds for trainers, but in my opinion, even more so. Every opportunity to observe training, and think about it, and to get your hands on dogs, brings you closer to maximizing your potential.

So, don’t think of how many months or years you have been a dog trainer or handler as reason enough to prove what you know. What really matters is how often — every week — you get your hands (and your mind) engaged in the deliberate practice you need to develop your skills to the “expert” level.

About the author

Girard William “Jerry” Bradshaw is the CEO and Training Director for Tarheel Canine Training, Inc. of Sanford, North Carolina. Jerry is a professional consultant to various Police agencies and private corporations for K9 training & deployment. Jerry is often featured speaker at Police K9 conferences and has been invited to instruct at workshops and seminars around the country. Jerry has written articles for Dog Sport Magazine and Police K9 Magazine, and is the author of the forthcoming book Controlled Aggression in Theory & Practice, which is available for purchase here.

Jerry is a co-founder, Judge, and East Coast Director of one of the fastest growing protection dog sports in America, widely recognized as the single most difficult protection sport there is, PSA. Jerry is also a co-founding director of the National Tactical Police Dog Association which applies many of the same successful scenario-based principles found in PSA to the certification of police dogs.

Jerry has competed in National Championship trials in both Schutzhund and PSA, winning the PSA national championships in 2003 with his dog Ricardo V.D. Naaturzicht. Jerry is the only competitor to train 2 dogs to the PSA 3 level, and has achieved the SchH 3 level numerous times, with “V” scores. Tarheel Canine Training is a nationally renowned training facility for police service dogs, and has placed trained police dogs at various federal, state, and local agencies nationally and internationally since 1994. For more information on Tarheel Canine Training, or Jerry Bradshaw, please click here.

Jerry’s latest book, Controlled Aggression in Theory & Practice, was written for police K9 professionals and covers basic foundation training such as testing green K9 prospects for patrol suitability, training drive development, drive channeling, working in the bite suit, human orientation (combating equipment orientation). The book further features key skills training including training guarding behavior, out on command, redirected bites and the out and return, and the best way to train a call off with little to no pressure on the dog. If you have trouble with the recall (call-off) exercise being reliable, the information alone on training the call off in a new and different way is worth the price of the book hands down. Order your copy by clicking hereclicking here.

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