The topic today is bark, bite, fight and win. Over 16 years ago, I started my journey as a dog trainer because I wanted to get a German Shepherd dog. I had them growing up as a kid, but I had really wanted one as an adult. So that way, I could train it to do all the amazing things that these dogs can do.
And so I set out, and I got Jasmine. A few years into our journey together, we discovered a sport that was designed specifically for the German Shepherd dog, and that sport is Schutzhund.
This sport translates into protection dog, but it is a sport that many breeds other than the German Shepherd compete in. It has really been a blast for me. Now, the sport is no longer actually called Schutzhund. It is now called IGP. It is essentially the same sport, just under a slightly different name.
So when we develop dogs in this sport, there are three things the dogs have to learn how to do. They have to learn how to do tracking, obedience, and they also have to learn how to do protection work to receive a title in the sport. And as I’ve been doing the protection sport for a long time and specifically the protection phase of the sport, it’s really been interesting to me to learn what we’re fundamentally asking the dogs to do.
So what is it that we’re fundamentally asking to do? Well, you guessed it. It’s the title of this blog. It is to bark, to bite, to fight, and to win. If you’re actually getting into the sport, you should know that putting those four things in order is what you want to begin to do with your dog. Now it’s super fun for dogs that love to play these games. And I would argue that the vast majority of dogs would like the games with the owners that these protection dogs are doing with the bad guys. So to speak.
Barking is an important part of the sport because we want the dog to show power against a threat while also showing control. If you ever watch any videos of mine, you will sometimes find me doing what’s called bark and hold. The dog is actually not allowed to touch the bad guy. They must sit there and alert when it finds the bad guy, but we will not touch him unless he takes action against us or our handler.
So the dog is just there to alert and teaching dogs how to do. This is the beginning of teaching the dog to bark, fight, and win.
Now I’ve done this in a variety of ways. I’ve used a fence with a toy on the other side to frustrate the dogs and get them to start barking. I’ve put them on platforms where they have to bark, and then we’ll release the dogs so they can get the toy and then a variety of other techniques. But you should know that this is where you want to begin teaching your dog how to bark. Now, once your dog knows how to bark and they’re doing a good job, this is a good opportunity to reward them by letting them bite something.
I recommend that beginners start on is either a leather tug, a synthetic tug, or a ball on a string. Now, if I had a preference, it would be the tug toys. The tug toys are really great, and the reason the tug toys are great is that it’s easier to fight between you and the dog.
Now the fighting is not really fighting your dog. It’s playing a game of tug. Much like a football contest. As a contest between two teams, which the team at least most of the time. They’re not fighting. You and your dog are wrestling over the item. And this is actually very healthy for the relationship.
Dogs that win quite a bit, actually, in my experience, have excellent manners with their owners. So let your dog win. Letting your dog win really does build its confidence and helps build the play relationship. So if you have a nice leather tug or a synthetic tug and your dog is barking, you can let it bite and then play tag with your dog. That can be just a lot of fun for them.
The key here is if they’re barking and they’re biting, and they’re fighting, then you’re letting your dog win. So you could say that protection sports are a glorified game of tug in a lot of ways. Other things go into it, but this is at the core of what you’re trying to get your dog to do. Now, I think that any dog willing to play tug should be introduced to this concept to bark, bite, fight, and win because it is very healthy for the animal to experience this kind of camaraderie with their own owner.