Just back from the Law Dog 2008 Police K9 Conference in Las Vegas. This was my second year participating as a presenter, and the second year I had the opportunity to meet an excellent group of speakers and attendees.
Highlights for me were the opportunity to see Stewart Hilliard, Ph.D. who is currently the Chief of MWD Course, DOD Lackland. Stewart came to Tarheel Canine twice for seminars about 4 or so years ago, one for my staff and some outside attendees, and once to teach with me for the K9 Unit at Ft. Bragg, NC. It was a great opportunity for us to catch up with each other, and it was great to see him. In Las Vegas, Stewart spoke on “Out Problems” as well as PSD selection testing. As usual he gave a thorough treatment of the behavioral foundations of out problems, and how to remedy them. He presented video of the numerous dogs he has had the opportunity to work with in the DOD courses he has conducted over the last few years. If you have a chance to get to a seminar by Stewart Hilliard, do it. There is nobody more knowledgable about dog training theory and its practice. In addition, he is a great teacher.
I also had the opportunity to meet Steve White of the Seattle PD K9 Unit., and I2IK9 (www.i2ik9.com) He gave an excellent presentation on training techniques for Hard Surface/Urban Tracking. Steve uses positive reinforcement methods to teach tracking on hard surfaces, article search , and many other police dog skills. Steve and his wife Jennifer White are passionate trainers, and very nice people. I am glad to have had the opportuity to meet them both, and look forward to interacting with them both personally and professionally in the coming years.
I also want to take the opportunity to thank the seminar participants who came to my presentation titled, “The Misapplication of Force in Police Dog Training.” The goal of my talk was to convince listeners to look first to positive reinforcement in teaching new concepts in training, before teaching with negative reinforcement techniques. I covered four examples where force is traditionally used, and in my opinion, often creates more problems than it solves. The examples I used were: Handler Aggression, Obedience Training, Out on Command, and the Call-Off (Recall) exercise.
In my recently released manual, “Controlled Aggression in Theory & Practice,” (available at www.tarheelcanine.com) I cover in detail, the approaches to training obedience, out, and the call-off to achieve better results by emphasizing motivation and reward balance in training, and that reward is essential in building a proper foundation for learning, and to limit stress and the cross-over effects of stress. In my talk I explained new and different approaches to dealing with handler aggressive dogs to achieve better results and a better relationship, where this kind of behavior doesn’t interfere in the effecient use of K9 resources.
I came away from this meeting noting that K9 handlers are hungry for more information to use in their training. I also came to see that many of the handlers who came to this conference are willing to see beyond what they may have been taught in the past, and be open to new ideas. I applaud those of you who came, learned, and will go back to your units and enrich the training experience of your K9s.
I want to thank Danny King, Invictus Tactical, for putting on an excellent event in Las Vegas. Go to www.invictustactical.com for more information on the Law Dog conference, and to get ready for 2009!
Two years ago, the National tactical Police Dog Association Inc. (NTPDA) was founded as an organization designed to provide real-world training certifications as well as a platform for relaying new information on training and deployment to K9 handlers and civilians in the police dog business. Please look at the website, www.tacticalcanine.com in the coming weeks, to see the new certification standards, and to see the new Accreditation Process for Training Facilities (all facilities not just police K9 facilities). Also, look at the upcoming events for seminars. NTPDA will keep costs for ongoing education low (average of $40 for a three day seminar per K9 team!). There are a lot of new member benefits aside from accreditation and low cost seminars, such as a new discussion board for members, and discounts from K9 retaillers for members.