Working Dog Theory
Today I want to discuss a working dog theory and get everyone’s opinion on the idea and why people are so adamant that it works. Although I really won’t weigh in on what I think, only giving the facts and the pros and cons, those who know me and my writing will probably know where I stand! I am fascinated by the fact that this particular theory seems to work so well for so many.
Let me clarify, for today’s article working dog=police/military/competition dog. This theory would not work for Guide/Service/Hearing working dogs.
As the theory goes; working dogs should not be treated as pets and are not pets. Working dogs should be kept outside in a kennel and not live inside with their handler or owner. The dog should be taken out a few times a day to work and some work related play is allowed. It is believed that this aloofness creates a better working dog.
Let me be clear, I am not talking about people who leave their dogs in a kennel constantly and rarely if ever take them out at all; this type of treatment is abusive there is no question about it.
I am talking about police officers, military trainers and handlers and those that run kennels and some who train at a national or world level. In order to have a quality working dog, they must devote the time to taking the dog out and engaging the dog in training, which is usually done several times per day. And then they take the dog to work with them for 8 hours or more; these are not dogs rotting in a kennel 24/7.
Some police departments don’t allow their officers to bring their police dogs in the home and treat them as pets. Military dogs are NEVER taken home to live, they only live on base in a kennel.
The dog LIVES to come out and do his work! This is in fact the only time the dog really gets to come out so he is intent on listening and obeying each command. He pays attention with fervor and he wants to please his partner. His whole life revolves around his training, playing control games and his work.
When he comes out of his kennel he is happy and animated and ready to work!
Not working well and ignoring commands often gets him remanded back to his kennel until he is more prepared and eager to work. Mistakes are not ignored, and commands are expected to be executed immediately! Commands are also never repeated, but behaviors are often repeated until they are accomplished with precision and only then are they rewarded.
He is given positive reinforcement, affection, praise, sometimes a yummy treat and a good game to play when he works well.
He normally gets to be involved in a large number of fun activities like; agility, retrieve games, detection work (sniffing), bite-work and all kinds of other behaviors the dog enjoys.
Defiance is rare because he wants to stay out and continue the training and playing as much as possible. He is more than willing to refine his behavior and performance to perfection to get his rewards.
He doesn’t know where his handlers “buttons” are and probably wouldn’t push them anyway because he has only a working relationship with him.
Affection is lavished on our pets for just being…our pets. We stroke them we talk to them and we coo to them, almost constantly. We rarely ask them to perform tasks before petting them or showing them affection.
Living with someone allows you to find their weaknesses and exploit them (pushing their buttons) for your own needs, this isn’t just dog behavior this is mammal behavior! Once you have found someone’s weakness, you can use it to your advantage when you don’t want to comply with commands or whatever you don’t find convenient!
Admit it; your dog has a certain “look” or behavior that you LOVE and think is totally adorable and when he does it, you allow him to get out of or away with certain things.
I use to have a Rottweiler that would jump in the bathtub whenever he thought he was in trouble or didn’t want to do something. When he was young it was like pulling teeth to bathe him, so by jumping in the tub he was showing us he was still willing to please us in some way!
Living with a dog (or a person), means you are almost constantly asking them to do something for you but when they don’t immediately comply most of us don’t jump straight to enforcement. Dogs get use to ignoring us because we drone on constantly and because we give so many commands and directions that we don’t enforce; we simply all get sloppy.
Precision and perfection are lost. And dogs are rarely worked multiple times a day, some dogs are lucky to get worked weekly.
I think it is like a new relationship: when you first begin dating you do everything right away to make sure things are going well and everything is successful; or perfect. You listen to your partner, romance is almost constant and positive reinforcement is abundant!
But once we have been with that person for months or years, we begin to slack and set up expectations that haven’t been reinforced and therefore are unrealistic! Praise is rarely given and the relationship sometimes is strained and contentious.
I think, we as dog owners, spouses or significant others can keep the magic alive…if we are willing to do the work, invest the time and not get sloppy! But, not getting too comfortable is definitely the key!
What do you think?
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.