At the end of last month’s article, I stated “The canine shouldn’t be biting the toy, bite pillow or sleeve until they get tired.” Not sure what I was thinking at the time or where I was going with that; probably several thought processes getting merged together into nonsense. It can be difficult to summarize months’ worth of training into a couple of pages, please bear with me.
Let’s talk for a moment about equipment. The standard choke collar should not be used. If you use a choke collar, whether you have it attached to slip (choke) or not, that puts a lot of stress on your canine, especially on their throat. Do not use a choke collar during agitation training. You should be using a 2” wide leather agitation collar, agitation harness or patrol harness. Your canine is growing into a very powerful animal and you will feel the force through the lead. With a 2” wide agitation collar, that force is spread out over the collar across their neck, so they are less likely to be injured. With an agitation or patrol harness, they are using wide leather or nylon straps, most likely 2” wide, and placing the force across the chest just below the neck. With the use of a harness, there is even less likelihood of an injury.
For working canines, I firmly believe in the decoy/helper using and not using protective equipment. Let me explain. When you hit the streets with your canine, the bad guys will not be wearing a bite sleeve or bite suit, at least we hope not. During training, the canine will not be biting an arm or leg without protective equipment, but you can do agitation work without equipment. That canine should be seeing flesh and various types of clothing. The decoy can wear short sleeves and a pair of shorts and be agitating the canine, making sure the canine is focusing on him and trying to get the bite, but doesn’t.
At this point, you have been working through the different pieces of biting equipment, the tug toy, bite pillow and soft sleeve. When you are working with bite sleeves, whether they are hard or soft, don’t offer up only one arm to bite. A lot of guys think one are is stronger than the other or are more comfortable balance wise to only use one arm for biting, but you must switch off between the arms. DO NOT offer just the right or left arm. It may not happen, but if you are doing this, in the real world of fighting crime, the canine may only target that specific arm. You will also want to incorporate leg sleeves into the training.
Just a reminder, make it fun. Although you may be using a tug toy as a reward, that sleeve (hard or soft) is also a toy to them. Don’t always give the bite command, get the bite and then out them. Have the decoy/helper slip the sleeve after the bite. By slipping the sleeve, you are providing the canine a much bigger toy/reward to play with and thrash around. Makes them feel like they have won.
Hard sleeves are great for developing the strong bite. Being that it is of hard material, the canine must bite harder in order to hold onto it. Just as you would with a soft sleeve, the decoy should be pulling the canine around, lifting them up off the ground, etc. If the canine loses the sleeve, they will want it back and over time, they will build the muscles in their jaw, making for a very strong bite.
As you progress through the training, don’t forget to use hidden sleeves. I mentioned above about the decoy wearing various clothing. Using a hidden sleeve under jackets and other various clothing will allow the canine to work on the bite, without seeing the sleeve. You do not want your canine to only bite when they can see a bite sleeve.
Throughout the training, you must work on getting the full mouth bite. The full mouth bite is the strongest bite and provides more surface are that is being held onto by the canine. If the canine is biting only with the front of the mouth, then it isn’t as strong and although the subject will have some lacerations, makes it easier for them to get out of the bite and escape.