Have you ever got into a verbal altercation with another person who argues back very forcefully, or turns the argument around to attack you? Yes, we all have, and usually it makes you even angrier, and prolongs the fight.
Have you ever gotten into a similar argument with someone, who instead of arguing back, or turning it around on you, says something like "I see you are upset, please don’t yell at me, let’s talk about it," and they keep a calm, non-combative, demeanor? It diffuses the argument, and puts you back on a productive road.
Relate this to dealing with your police dog. Do you have a dog who sometimes comes up the leash out of frustration, or reactivity to a correction? In the old days, we were instructed to not let the dog "win," by fighting fire with fire, if you get my drift. But the real work of solving handler aggression does not come in the moments when we see handler aggression, it comes in how we structure the relationship with the dog in the 99% of the time when he isn’t showing us handler aggressive behavior. You need to learn K9 Judo rather than K9 Karate. Reject the model of the Alpha, and learn the model of the Super Alpha.
What if instead of going full bore, you stay calm, hold the dog up a little, and then calmy redirect him into some obedience. Give him something to do with his conflict – sit, or down or heel with you a little – before you address the issue that caused the argumant in the first place. What if in the time in between these episodes you set the dog up tfor te kind of relationship where he is eager to show you the deference you want him to show you. Here are some tips:
1. Disorient his expectations, and set the dog up to have to show deference to get anything he desires, including affection, rewards, food, etc. (including toys, bite sessions).
2. Use obedience as a pre-cursor to his favorite activities or those where he gives you problems (e.g. obedience for bites).
3. Keep a level head – leaders do not explode with anger. Be results oriented, and do not become upset if you need a few trials to get the desired behaviors. Regiment his life. He makes no decisions, and he makes no choices on his own.
4. Use negative punishment to reduce unwanted behaviors (dominance behaviors). Positively reinforce appropriate behaviors. Use rewards in obedience (food rewards work well – little chance of fighting over possession of the reward).
5. Focus on the pre-cursors to aggressive responses, and plan your training to set yourself up to win any possible confrontations. (e.g. You know he gets frustrated and impulsive prior to bite work, and challenges your authority to control him).
6. Desensitize the dog to triggers (e.g. corrections, by focusing the dog outwardly during the use of physical correction, and planning ahead).
If anyone would like more information on this topic, email Jerry at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the powerpoint presentation on this subject of handler aggression and dominance in Police K9s.