Why you Can’t or Shouldn’t Play “Stick” with Just Any Dog! A Story Parents Should Read

This Sweet Face can Change in an Instant

When I was slightly younger than I am now, and I was training very actively with one of my many mentors I was beginning to learn the world of police, military, competition, and  attack dogs.

Ironically the older man who was teaching me was insistent on using positive reinforcement as often as possible.  Unlike the woman who I began learning from he believed that NO PUPPY should ever have a prong collar on and that teaching dogs how to behave was the only way to train.

I was totally blessed to find him.  Most people training police and attack dogs, especially back then, were all about corrections, and shock collars and punishment.  And, even though he had been working with police departments for over 30 years, he wanted to be kind to the animals and teach them what to do, not force them.

He also refused to work with any dog that did not pass his temperament test.  He always told me never to become the kind of trainer that “scares” a defensive or fearful dog into a behavior that makes him uncomfortable to bring out aggression.

He convinced me that these dogs may begin to come out of their shells and show signs of being aggressive in the work, but it was not a strong training technique and eventually something somewhere would break down. 

If My Life or My Children's Lives Depend on This Dog I want him Well Trained.

If My Life or My Children’s Lives Depend on This Dog I want him Well Trained.

He simply declined to work with a dog like that, for the sake of the dog and all the discomfort it would have to endure and work through while knowing that someday when a police officer’s life hung in the balance the dog might break down and revert to his first instinct of flight rather than fight.

That was an important lesson to me when I was young.  You can force some dogs… but what does that get you and when will those behaviors break down?

So I never learned to use table or box work to make a dog more aggressive, I believe what he told me back then and I am grateful for the information and education he instilled on me when I was young.  Seeing a big police dog trainer using the principles of positive reinforcement and reward was very powerful to me and was when I fell in love with the work.

While I was working with him and running around in bite suits, hiding in trees, under cars, on playgrounds and letting those police dogs find me and beat me up, I ran across another soon to be good friend.

From Sweet Face to This Face in .2 seconds

From Sweet Face to This Face in .2 seconds

He was a K9 trainer at our local Air Force Base.

Certain breeds, especially back then, were mainly used only in military and police service areas; these breeds just don’t make great pets.

So when he saw a bumper sticker with I Love My Malinois on our truck he tracked my ex-husband down and I set up a meeting to go and meet him and watch our military’s finest at work.  It was an honor to be escorted around the base and watch the dogs and handlers work.

But as I walked through the main training and kennel building I noticed a very graphic photo taped to the door I won’t subject you to images of the like.

The picture/s were of a young vet tech’s (I was also a vet tech at the time) hand and forearm right after the attack and then once she had had a few surgeries to try to correct the damage.

I think they kept this on the door to help remind their handlers and anyone else that these weren’t your average dog or pet and needed to be treated as such.

Ironically she worked for a very famous, well known veterinary hospital where the high profile veterinarians worked with most of the police and military dogs in the area.

As I recall (and my memory may not be THE best) this particular dog had been in for some routine work like a dental and he was very friendly, outwardly.  So the sweet tech took him outside in the fenced in exercise area for a bit of exercise and a game of “Stick” throwing.

I don’t know if she knew it was a military or police working dog or not, but most people especially kids don’t know or realize what I am about to tell you anyway.

You Don’t Play Stick with a Working Dog!

You Don't want to Play this Game with all Dogs

You Don’t want to Play this Game with all Dogs

And, sometimes you can’t tell what dog may or may not be a working police/protection/ or military dog.

These dogs are ingrained from the time they start training (usually around 8-10 weeks old) that when someone raises a stick or yells at the dog; the dog is to engage in an attack.  Anything that appears aggressive to the dog is met with teeth.

We even train by raising sticks and letting our dogs play the game of biting until it is conditioned, just the raise of a stick over your head becomes like a command to bite.  So is yelling or stomping or screaming and running toward one of these dogs.

Then they are taught to withstand some stick hits (the sticks are usually quite small and dried bamboo that is cut up the sides to make a clatter or sometimes a padded stick is used), but it is never meant to hurt the dog, only to build his confidence and raise his drive for the bite and the “game of bite work”.

They are also taught to ignore the sounds of serious pain and screaming from a human.

Not everyone wants to Experience this Especially without the Padded Suit!

Not everyone wants to Experience this Especially without the Padded Suit!

Trust me, you don’t want a dog patrolling your neighborhood from thugs, drug dealers, rapist and murderers that would turn tail and run if someone yelled at, hit, kicked, or did anything to get the dog off of them.  You also don’t want a dog that would drop off of a criminal as soon as he screamed in pain. So we include some aspects of this in our training to help control it and teach the dog by building his confidence that he is stronger.

Lets Go Back to the Girl

So she probably took this big dog out with only intentions of playing with him.  It is clear that she didn’t bring a toy, since she resorted to using a stick.  And, I can only imagine as she got his attention and raised that stick it was a clear invitation to the dog to bite her since she was threatening him and the amount of horror as she realized he was going to bite her.

Add to that the fact that his handler was not there, the dog simply did what he had been trained to do for most of his life.

Sadly, the technician had to have several reconstructive surgeries and will probably never be able to use that hand and forearm like she once had.  She will likely be affected for the rest of her life.

I Want These Guys Protecting Me and My Family

I Want These Guys Protecting Me and My Family

Why is this Important to YOU or YOUR KIDS?

I personally think the world of working dogs is fascinating!  And others must think so too, with the recent addition of many new working dogs shows on TV.

If you were to see a friendly German Shepherd Dog wandering your neighborhood or in your yard that seemed friendly and playful would you or your kids think about grabbing a stick to throw for him?

I think this is a natural behavior for people.  I remember dogs wandering into our elementary school when I was a kid and I was the first to hide the dog (from staff) and then search for a stick.

And, if you do this or stomp or yell or threaten the wrong dog you may just be attacked.

I know if you wandered up to my dogs and yelled at, stomped at, or raised what looked like a weapon over your head you would be in for a world of hurt.

And, have you seen kids or teenagers or even adults teasing aggressive dogs in cars??  Well, I have seen dogs break out of windows to subdue the aggressor.

And, you just can’t tell by looking at a dog (When I trained with the older gentleman we had Cattle Dogs, Labs, Min Pins, Mastiffs, Aussies and even a Golden Retriever that was protection trained).

So rewire your thinking when it comes to dogs, don’t do anything that could be considered aggressive by you toward them and teach your children this valuable lesson and story.

The dog is just reacting to a situation but we as humans need to pass along the information so that we can all keep each other our kids and these highly trained defenders of our streets and country safe.

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Comments

  1. Barbara Schlanget says:

    I was watching a free video under the best breeds of dogs for children and the ways to train your dog without shock collars, hitting, etc. and accidentally hit a key on my phone and lost the video and cannot find it. Would you resend it to me?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I bet customer service would know email them at info@thedogtrainingsecret.com

    I am better at the behavior questions 😉

    [Reply]

  2. Norma says:

    Ths was extremely educaton. I provide boarding, walking and dog daycare, so anything I can learn is most helpful.

    Thank you for the info.

    [Reply]

  3. Richard Sunderwirth says:

    Fantastic information on the Play Stick with just any dog. Thanks

    [Reply]

  4. Venetia says:

    I found this article extremely helpful. I am printing it so that I can give it to the youth that participate in a pet education program at the local shelter. I have one youth that never likes to listen about which dogs we are allowed to work with. Yesterday, we took out a female lab mix and as you well know after they have been cooped up all day or in this casee all weekend in pen they are so ready to go outside. This particular day I only allowed one of the dogs to be brought out, this way all the youth devoted time to this one dog. The dog loved it. But this one little girl kept insisting that she was afraid of this dog and it might step on her foot. I told her it would be okay. However, she kept insisting that she was going inside to get that police dog out, because she trusted that dog. I had to keep telling her no, the german shepherd came in over the weekend so I had no information about this dog, police dog or not (which was not). I always look to see what aninmals have come in and when I saw this dog, he is definitely a jumper and probably a climber. He was jumping as high as the cinder block pen he was in which is at least 6′. The dog is definitely a good looking animal, but I tried to explain to her that I have four dogs reserved for the program and those are the ones that we can use. To make a long story short (sorry) I think your article will help explain. So Thank you.

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  5. Thank you so much for this critically important information.

    My German Shepherd Dog is a Schutzhund Level II Dog. While he was working on the field with a helper in padded suit, I have seen Logan respond on cue and attack his arm; then on cue, let go and prance away. He was trained in Germany. He is not a police dog. Schutzhund is a field sport.

    Off the field, he is a dear with an exemplary temperament with people and dogs and cats-excepting squirrels.

    Again, thanks for raising our awareness.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    absolutely!

    Raising the padded stick and yelling is their trigger to bite on field 🙂

    I too enjoy Schutzhund (IPO)

    [Reply]

  6. Jack says:

    This info. is very much appreciated because one of my neighbors is a canine officer with a HUGE black German Shepard, seriously, that thing looks like a werewolf. Occasionally he gets out of the yard and ends up at our house for some reason. I have walked him home a couple of times, oblivious to the potential threat he may have been. I have just instructed everyone in the household to not go near him if he ever gets out again.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    He’s probably fine and obviously social if you haven’t been bit.

    But I wouldn’t yell at threaten or raise a stick at him 😉

    Not all police dogs are aggressive, most aren’t until they feel they or their handler is in danger.

    Severely aggressive dogs don’t make it as police dogs, most have to have sociability.

    We as humans just don’t realize what can be aggressive

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  7. James says:

    Great article. I’ll be passing this information on to other dog owners.

    [Reply]

  8. Paula says:

    This is great information, and as you said you can not always tell how an animal will react to stimulus. Now if a person is out walking a dog and a strange dog, off leash comes charging towards you, what are you supposed to do to keep everyone safe and not transfer fear to your dog?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I tell my dogs down so I can deal with an oncoming dog. I take control so they don’t have to!!!

    I also carry dog stop spray just in case!

    [Reply]

  9. Cyndi says:

    Jack, the dog obvoiusly trusts you, they are not saying to be afraid of police dogs but to know they are highly trained and what not to do. I would as the officer if he can show you and your kids what things his dog would percieve as a threat.

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  10. Pat says:

    I was at a car wash, the kind where you can watch your car being cleaned through a glass barrier. After I paid, I walked to the window to watch the cars, and standing next to me was a police officer with his dog. I don’t know what kind of dog he was, but, he was in perfect health, and was a very good looking guy. His fur was short and sort of a grey-ish color. He sat there, with his master, the officer. I couldn’t stop looking at him. He just seemed so self aware. I wanted to ask the officer about him, if he lived with him and his family. But, I was a bit intimidated by the dog and the cop, so, I just admired him. This was an interesting article, because I remember that I stretched, sort of interlocking my fingers and raising my arms a bit. The dog did notice that, and looked at me. After reading this, I’m glad he was there with his master! I wanted to ask the officer about the dog, but, I figured he had to interact with the public for a living, so I didn’t want to bother him. I’m really glad that you use positive reinforcement instead of punishment. I have a little Welsh Corgi, I could never punish him, he’s just too adorable. Thanks for the information.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Hahaha I chased a cop (not scary) in the NY subway to ask about his dog 😉

    [Reply]

  11. Catalina says:

    I finally plucked up the courage to write to let you know how brilliant your webpage is. Thank you very much.
    We have 4 dogs. They live outside within a large area in the middle of the country in rural Spain. They have 3 “owners” giving them 3 different commands. I feel you are the only one who can redeem these lovely creatures from the confusion we create.
    Very much looking forward to your precious help.

    [Reply]

  12. Eric Serda says:

    Awesome info !! We are blessed with Xmass gift, a purebread long hair shepard pupy that loves to always be by my 6 month old baby girl. He can lay anyware in our big home but he always lays by her. When she sleeps upstairs and awakes and crys he lays at the foot of the stairs.(Zoro) barks right away like Dady get our babygirl…I REALY LOVE YOUR HELP on how to better raise our Zoro…Thank You from me and my family.

    Eric

    [Reply]

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