Promoting responsible German Shepherd Dog ownership
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He will be five in mid January. In PSA, you have to tell the judge if your dog is a leg dog or upper body dog. If the dog is a leg dog, he can bite anywhere on the leg and typically dogs bite just below or above the knee with the head on the outside off the leg unless it is a flee bite where they bite the back of the leg. Upper body dogs always bite the left bicep unless it is a flee bite and then they bite the tricep or back. In the fend off scenario in level 2, the decoy tries to block the dog from biting the upper body, forcing the dog the bite the leg. The other exceptions are in the carjacking scenario in the PDC and level 1 where the dog is in the passenger side of a vehicle and bites a hidden sleeve on the forearm when the decoy attacks the dog through the window. There is also a sleeve division in the PDC for weaker dogs that won't bite a suit, but it is only in the PDC and if they pass the PDC, they can't go on to the next level.
Mine would be an arm dog. Not that I’ve trained him to do that, but when he gets amped he bites my sleeve for attention.
I think it’s interesting to see the reasons behind dogs not biting in suits. I usually question what’s going on training wise. It took about 1 minute to get Cion biting on a suit.
Doesn’t Cion love to bite anyway?
He does but that’s not a unique trait in working lines. Depending on the foundation work and how long the dog has been doing it, some dogs do struggle to transition from sleeve to suit. Most dogs I’ve seen do so without much issue. Lower level dogs are the ones I see struggle more.
It seems like a good dog would be able to transition more easily, the more time they spend training anyway.
I think foundation, temperament and type of suit are three main factors. With my dog, he was started on a leather pillow. The leather has an advantage over jute or synthetic material because jute makes it easier for a dog's teeth to bite into the jute and a leather pillow is more slick and teaches the dog to bite harder if he doesn't want to lose the prey. Also we never make much prey movement with the pillow, the decoy is standing still with the pillow as opposed to moving around to stimulate prey, and we never use whips to stimulate prey because all those approaches become crutches and are not going to be seen in a trial except for flee/escape bites. Then we transitioned him to the suit. A Belgian sleeve worn in reverse can be used, but too often, unskilled decoys will feed the dog the sleeve to protect their chest which is not protected by padding as with a suit. It also helps to have a large, sturdy table with a swivel pole in the center to attach the dog to. This makes targeting the bicep easier and more accurate to train. The issues some dogs have is seen when using thin competition suits which is all we use. With a thin suit as opposed to a thick, puffy suit, the dog can feel the muscles and ligaments moving under the suit and realize they are biting the man and not just equipment, which is what you want because it teaches the dog to fight the man and not just bite equipment. Most good dogs are not bothered by a competition suit and those that are uncomfortable in the beginning often get over it with a few sessions. Even more nervy dogs can do okay, especially if they have more extreme prey that can masks nerve issues. The extreme prey compels them to stick the grip even though they are stressed. I don't think my dog has ever bit a sleeve or maybe has a few times, which turned out to be a good thing because PSA changes their rules in the level 2's allowing a fend off item to be a sleeve. That creates problems for dogs who cross compete in sleeve and suit sports. I think it is unfair and doesn't add to testing the dog IMO. You can also now use a bite suit as a fend off item which I also don't agree with, but I think we have only slipped the suit with my dog one or two times. I think a fend off item should be a rigid object that physically blocks the dog from biting the upper body. That would include things like metal trash can lids, an actual wide wooden board with handles or something similar. I have seen large, strong dogs just push through two metal trash can lids and get a bicep bite anyway which is acceptable.
I think as long as the training matches the temperament it shouldn’t be too hard. The dogs can be a little weird about it if all they’ve every bitten is hard surface items like IGP sleeves and tugs.
I think it’s an issue that generally can be overcome with a little work. I think a lot of the PSA scenarios are over the top for me. A lot of them ask way more control from the dog then I’d be any in a protection dog. Some of the other ones I think lead to a less safe dog from a sport perspective. While it looks good on video, real world criminals aren’t fending dogs off with sleeves. If there is a sleeve in the picture then that’s what I want my dog to target. If real world protection was his primary duty I’d feel differently. It is a giant setup for a sleeve dog because if the helper slips the sleeve and the dog goes back at him there’s a whole world of problems.