- Do you look for dogs that have shown past aggression issues?
No, aggression is not a good thing. We look for a dog with balance of drives, defense, prey and play. If the dog possesses mostly defense/aggression the dog will be dangerous. An aggressive dog will look for a way to win the fight, and usually in a dirty manner. The dog will go for the face or leg, especially if the volunteer challenges him by staring eye-to-eye or leaning over the dog. The dog cannot be sound or sight sensitive leading him to react to their surroundings. Dogs that are evenly balanced between their defense and prey or play, will bite all day and never have the intent to hurt the person in an obvious play activity (the class). This type of dog will look forward to the “fight”, and he wins in every class, always getting to keep the sleeve. The dog wins the tug of war every time, which makes him come into each class stronger and looking forward to the fight, but really it’s just a game. We manipulate the natural drives and use them to give the employees a controlled environment to be attacked without the fear of being harmed. We hire dogs multiple times, like Kimon (German Shepherd) here in Florida. Kimon will see Cynde coming outside the training class and he will flip out with excitement. It is neither aggression nor anger! He’s thinking “fun time” or “play time”! It is similar to a Golden Retriever wanting to retrieve his ball a hundred times! Imagine a Lab excitedly wanting to leap into the water or a Heeler that sees sheep for the first time this is a combination of genetics, instincts and drives. This behavior cannot be taught, it is genetics, the dog was born this way. It is the same with dogs we use during class, they see the man suited up and think I get to “bite” not savagely but through “play time”. That is why it is safe and educational for the employees.
2. Are there times when training a dog that you deem them too dangerous to join Bulli Ray?
YES! Most of the dogs that are offered are too dangerous. People often confuse aggression with confidence. Aggression is usually based in fear, and there is nothing more dangerous than a fearful dog. They must have a balance of defense (aggression), prey drive (ball drive) and play (social drive). The prey drive will propel the dog towards the person and play drive will see the person as not a danger that has to be defeated, but wanting to interact. A fearful dog will avoid body contact. Their legs won’t touch the person, which means there will be no body slam, because the dog’s fear will keep distance between him and the volunteer. Where as a confident and dominate dog will hit the volunteer with both feet and body, because he is trying to make a point. He will then have a full grip on the sleeve and will be countering (twisting, twerking) his body to try and rip the sleeve off the person’s arm. The volunteer feels the strong compression on their arm, as well as the physical strength of the dog. The volunteer walks away with a life experience he or she will never forget.
3. Does Bulli Ray have a particular shelter that helps provide dogs? How do you find potential dogs?
We use a network of protection dog trainers, Schutzhund handlers and police canine officers. Facebook is used to find handlers in more remote areas. Someone in the network will recommend a dog handler to me and I will try to find more recommendations about the dog. I also try to find videos of the dog working, but that doesn’t always work. Many times we just try to hire several handlers to make sure we can get at least one or two suitable dogs into the class but that is only in the really rural areas of the country. Major cities or their suburbs we have no problems finding dogs. If we are going to an area that doesn’t have any dogs suitable we will fly Amy and her dog Kimon (Federal Service Dog) with us. We want to ensure we have a great dog for the classes, however, we will usually need at least four or more classes scheduled to afford that luxury.
4. What questions do you ask when reviewing or interviewing a potential dog?
Does your dog come fast and hard to the body and sleeve? That will tell me the dog is confident and enjoys the fight/game. Does the dog bite with a full grip? This is important because if the dog only bites with their canines and incisors they may be fearful and possibly come off the sleeve and bite an unprotected part of the employee’s body. How old is the dog? We only want dogs young enough not to incur injury; this is a very physical activity. We also don’t want dog’s that are actively competing for titles because this can confuse some dogs and interfere with the trainer’s chances of passing their upcoming completion.
If anyone has been to one of classes they know the dogs have a blast and that is important to us!!
Written By: Ashley Klawitter and Mitzi Robinson