Sep
09
2011

Q and A - Stressors in Protection Training

Author: John Lockett|Print|Return

I was recently sent the following letter from a fellow trainer:

The Letter

Stressors in Protection Training

Mr. Lockett, Our current philosophy seems to be to acclimate the dog to a multitude of stressor's. The drawback in this philosophy is that it can never be complete, since it's impossible to anticipate every single variety of stressor. I propose that we introduce a few stressors in such a way as the dog never gets acclimated to them, either by doing them rarely, or by combining them in original ways, and rather than have the dog "get used to" one type of stress, have the dog either get acclimated to working under the emotional toll of stress itself, or to learn certain desired behaviors during periods of stress (obey handler), regardless of the kind of stress. In this regard, once a dog no longer sees an event as stressful, it becomes useless to us as trainers.

Question & Answer

I'm posting my response for everyone because it's an issue we've all dealt with...

Q. Our current philosophy seems to be to acclimate the dog to a multitude of stressor's. The drawback in this philosophy is that it can never be complete, since it's impossible to anticipate every single variety of stressor.

A. Yes and No, What do I mean? I never try to acclimate a dog to a set of stressor because as you said that's impossible! So my theory is to teach the dog to respond to any and all "Protection" based stressors one way, in "Forward Aggression". If the dog is taught bye responding in "forward aggression" to all active and none active theats or stressors, that he will take control which will ultimately result in a win, it will become second nature to try and move forward no matter what the stressor is. Once this is taught if said dog does not have solid nerves than acclimation may come into play.

Q. I propose that we introduce a few stressors in such a way as the dog never gets acclimated to them, either by doing them rarely, or by combining them in original ways, and rather than have the dog "get used to" one type of stress, have the dog either get acclimated to working under the emotional toll of stress itself, or to learn certain desired behaviors during periods of stress (obey handler), regardless of the kind of stress.

A. The purpose of training a dog for personal protection or sport protection is to condition the dog to overcome or acclimate the dog to as many stressors as possible be it aggression or environmental based. I agree with your proposal, but this only takes place after said dog is trained to respond to the stressors properly, automatically and systematically. The dogs respond to the basic stressors must be second nature before I'd start throwing curve balls at him, like highting stress levels and adding obedience into the mix.

Q.In this regard, once a dog no longer sees an event as stressful, it becomes useless to us as trainers.

A. As a trainer it is my job to always challenge the dog and after I teach the dog to handle and work through stressor come the hard part, teaching him to think while doing so.

A dog trainers job is never done. Thanks for the letter!

- John L Lockett