Protection Dog Training: Teaching a Puppy to Bark and Hold

Training a young 5 month old puppy to do a bark and hold exercise for police k9 work, personal protection or even dog training sports such as Schutzhund involves a delicate balance of desire and control. Putting too much pressure or too many expectations on a puppy at a young age can result in excessive stress and confusion which can lead to a reduction in your puppy’s confidence, understanding, and most importantly their motivation.

Ashton Fitz-Gerald is featured in the video below demonstrating how he teaches a puppy to learn a bark and hold command with enthusiasm and intensity. Phender is taught to ‘guard’ on command using a puppy bite-sleeve, 15 foot dog training line, a remote dog training collar and some very enticing treats.

The goal of a bark and hold command is to be able to have the dog begin barking repeatedly and intensely until given the command to either bite, or come back to the handler. Obviously with a young puppy, it is important to give the puppy confidence throughout all of his training sessions by allowing him to explore options while the handler is guiding and shaping the dog’s behavior toward the ultimate goal of the dog trainer.

Ashton is teaching Phender two things in this video.

  1. He is learning to bark on command at an object
  2. He is learning to turn his attention away from the object and on to the handler

Phender has already had quite a bit of practice barking in order to get to his reward (the puppy bite sleeve). In the event Phender does not bark intensely on command, Ashton can easily encourage the barking by moving the sleeve to excite the puppy into barking. During the teaching phase for a bark and hold, the dog needs to become conditioned that when he makes any noise at all, he gets his reward. It begins with rewarding any noise at all, then progressing to rewarding only the deep barks, then progresses to building up the dog’s intensity and time he barks by lengthening the amount of time the puppy is required to bark in order to get his reward.

While teaching the puppy to guard and then to stop and watch the handler on command, a long line is used to maintain the puppy’s guard on command and to stop him from grabbing the reward before the handler allows it. This enables the handler to maintain control over which behaviors give the puppy success. The treats are used to bring the puppy’s attention back onto the handler when desired, along with the Sit Means Sit dog training collar.

The puppy has already been taught the ‘tap’ or stimulation from the remote dog training collar is connected with food, so he is very willing to turn his attention to wherever the handler desires. Check out this puppy training video with Fred Hassen showing how you can link the dog training collar with food.

By redirecting the puppy’s attention from the sleeve to the handler without conflict, you gain the ability to control the dog’s attention while still maintaining desire. The same can be said of reversing the roles. Teaching the dog to look at another target (i.e. a bite sleeve) without force or conflict creates a much more effective learning scenario for the dog. The key is being able to tap into your puppy’s desires and move his attention from one item of value to another seamlessly and without conflict or confusion.

Watch the video below to see this beginning phase of a remote bark and hold with a young 5 month old puppy. We’d love to hear your opinion on this video, as well as any of our other dog training videos. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

Related Police Dog Training Video
Check out this police dog training video showing what a remote guard and bark command looks like when it is a finished command. The dutch shepherd dog in this video is demonstrating looking at the handler, then looking at a suspect, then looking back at the handler. All of this on command, at a distance. We even throw in another police dog doing drug searches while this is going on.

7 Responses to Protection Dog Training: Teaching a Puppy to Bark and Hold

  1. Liz March 14, 2010 at 2:34 pm #

    I am buying a Doberman Pinscher puppy for protection/family dog. How do I teach him to have the drive to want to bark and bite when I tell him to guard? I have a little chipom and when I kick her toy, she just runs after it. She will act like she will rip someone’s leg off at the door, but she cowards away when they try to pet her. My husband is a Correctional Officer for the Montana State Prison and we live very close to his work. He’s not the prisoners’ favorite there. I need to train him to actually bite if someone tries to hurt us.

  2. ashton March 16, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    @Liz: When it comes to the dog’s drive level, you are dealing with a genetic trait.

    Genetics can’t be taught or trained. Some dogs are gifted in this area, some are less so. I would recommend seeing the puppy before purchasing him, or have someone you trust (who knows working dogs well) see the dog on your behalf. If the puppy shows no interest in playing with toys/retrieving, then he likely will have little interest in them as an adult. For a working dog to train into a protection dog, the best trait in a puppy is the desire to play with toys/fetch. This is referred to a ‘prey-drive’.

    Dogs that have high prey drive (like your Chi-Pom) are easy to train an develop into protection dogs, however they also need confidence (which your Chi-Pom lacks). Confidence is achieved through proper socialization and structure provided through obedience training.

    Keep in mind the liability involved with having a protection dog in your house is the same as owning a gun. That dog better not bite someone without fair justification in the eyes of the law. 90% of the time, the presence of a dog alone deters most people. The remaining 9.9% will likely shy away from a barking dog, particularly a dog that barks on command especially in an aggressive manner.

    This video shows the basics of teaching a young dog (with high prey-drive) to bark at an object. Note that a 6 month old puppy is not capable of protecting you emotionally or physically. He will grow into that in time of course.

    I’d recommend contacting a protection trainer in your local area who uses prey-based protection training techniques (rather than defensive techniques). Defensive protection training basically teaches a dog to gain confidence by acting aggressive. This technique can potentially create unstable dogs (especially if it’s not done properly). The essence behind this approach to training is to threaten a dog with visual displays (posturing or threats) and running away when the dog shows any aggressive response. If the dog feels threatened, he may react aggressively in other situations too.

    The puppy above is being taught aggression through the use of prey-stimulation (chasing moving objects). His barking is strictly a symptom of his frustration (he can’t get his toy). With a defensive approach to training, the dog is usually taught that barking will deter a threat. Eventually this puppy will learn to protect amidst an aggressive threat, he’s just not emotionally ready yet. This is no different than with a 5-6 year old child. They’re not ready for confrontation, however they can still learn sparring skills.

  3. Lorrie March 29, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

    The videos are great, but it is hard to hear Ashton and what he is saying. It would be better if he was microphoned too.

  4. Ashton Fitz-Gerald March 30, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    Hey Lorrie,

    We're aware of that. Sometimes we shoot these videos on the fly with an iPhone, and the sound pick-up is terrible. We'll be sure to be better equipped with a good mic so you can hear things clearer. Thanks for checking out our videos.

  5. Ashton Fitz-Gerald March 30, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    Hey Lorrie,

    We're aware of that. Sometimes we shoot these videos on the fly with an iPhone, and the sound pick-up is terrible. We'll be sure to be better equipped with a good mic so you can hear things clearer. Thanks for checking out our videos.

  6. yp October 2, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    I really like your approach with the dog. The Dog has wonderful prey- drive and will excel in protection work! I have a 6 month fila that is not big on fetching his toys but will stalk & pounce moving things if he doesn't see it come from my hand. Should I be concerned about his fetching toys?

    Also can you enlighten me about the warning mode were dog barks before attack, is that implemented for liability purposes. I have come from a School of thought that dogs should be silent until in attack mode watching and waiting for hostile actions.

  7. Ashton Fitz-Gerald November 2, 2010 at 9:27 pm #

    Teaching a dog to bark before biting is commonly found in the sport of Schutzhund. It's taught as convention in that sport as bite work is seen as simply a game of apprehension. The dog seeks out and holds a suspect by barking. If the suspect attempts to escape, the dog subdues him. In police work, teaching a dog to alert is sometimes used as a crowd control measure. Most commonly in the public sector, dogs are taught to bark simply as a means of intimidation.

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