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Dr. Ps Dog Training

Training Passive Apprehensions
by Rodney Spicer (
Gold Coast K9
Copyright © 2001

Apprehension work is obedience. It's not for the dog to decide who or when he will apprehend, but only at the handlers direction who and when he will apprehend.
I first evaluate each dog and handler so that I can see how clear and consistent their commands are. I'm looking to see that sit means sit, heel means heel and apprehend means apprehend. If a dog it not very clear in obedience, then we work in obedience to teach the dog that each command means something specific. If you give a command and the dog does not respond you need to be prepared to take action immediately. Immediate action tells the dog a correction could be coming at any time thus making each command have a specific purpose. Now that the obedience has a purpose and is consistent, we carry this same philosophy to apprehension work. Note: This is with a dog that is already trained to apprehend. If the dog has no training at all, we train to apprehend first, then obedience.

I start out by having the handler put his dog on a down. I then have the helper mill around in a calm manner with out stimulating the dog. When the helper stands still, I give the command to guard. The helper stimulates the dog at the same time the command is given so that the dog anticipates the action from the helper. When the helper goes away, the handler downs the dog. By keeping the dog in obedience, he is loading and becoming more alert in his environment. After several of these sessions, we then wean the dog off stimulation from the helper. The helper should only stimulate the dog for a short time and make each encounter brief. Also, every 3-4 repetitions, the handler should reward the dog with an apprehension. By giving the apprehend command this also releases stress and builds confidence. It also makes each command more clear to the dog and consequently makes the dog more explosive in the apprehension. By now the dog has learned to associate the guard command with action from the helper.

We then start our passive apprehension training. I begin by having the helper in a full body suit facing away from the dog. I then, have the handler approach from 15 to 20 feet away with the dog in the down position. The handler then makes an announcement, thus cueing the dog. I do not allow the dog to bark. If the dog is not already focused on the helper I may even throw a coin at the helper. In order to focus the dog. Then I give the apprehend command. The helper is quiet and doesn't move. He remains passive until the dog has apprehended him. Once the dog is involved in the apprehension the helper calmly moves around thus reinforcing the apprehension. This is repeated several times in different locations. I may then put a blanket over the helper so the dog does not see the equipment. The handler makes the announcement with the dog is in the down position. Then, when focused on the helper, the dog is given the command to apprehend. Again, the helper remains passive until the dog has made the apprehension. Only then can the helper move. I also make it so that the only part of the helper that is exposed are the legs. The dog needs to be comfortable apprehending any part of the body. He should not pick and choose or look for a sleeve. The dog needs to apprehend what is accessible and counter any aggression from the helper.

Problems that may arise include COURAGE. You cannot train for it, it is either there or not. Dogs that bark and hold and who are corrected by the helper have more difficulty learning the passive apprehension because they are being taught that when the helper is passive they should bark and hold. The dog has learned to respect the helper rather than counter his aggression. He also becomes more vocal while on the apprehension with shallower grips because he anticipates the out followed by the helper correction. The stick or whip should be used by the helper to build aggression and to teach the dog how to counter the threats, rather than to respect him. The apprehension is an obedience command. The handler trains the dog in obedience not the helper.

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