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.

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