To continue with obedience, I use hand and arm signals with my personal dogs like we’re taught in the military. These work well for puppies just learning or for teaching something new.. Now, what signals do I use?? It depends on the task but for example teaching a puppy to “sit”. I will use a treat to get and keep the puppy’s attention then moving my arm like I’m bowling and stop about waist high.
This guy is over exaggerating his sit arm signal, rookie… ha. This probably won’t work on a puppy the first few times but have patience and give a guiding hand by pushing down on their butt while saying “sit” (you always want to pair a command with an action), and once they sit, reward them in place. Only reward them in place, meaning give them the reward, treat or whatever they want most!!!!!!! after they sit, lay down or whatever task you are teaching. This re-enforces the position and later on in training the dog will not break until rewarded or told another command.
To teach the “down” position using an arm signal, I like to start in front of the dog, with reward/treat in hand, move my arm from around shoulder height straight to the floor in front of the dog while saying “down”. When the dog lays down, you reward them in place. Then just repeat. In my next post, I’ll talk about how to, what we call, extinct you having to bend all the way over or reaching over your dogs heads to have them sit or down.
Here’s my first dog in Colorado, IIsidro. If anyone remembers what I said about double letters?? Well if not, long story short he was nuts. I feel like talking about a typical day as a K9 Handler. Usually, we start work at 0730 ish… I always put my lunch box up, my backpack down, maybe check my email or something like that. Within the first 30 minutes of work, I go check on all the dogs, spray out kennels, pick up any pans from morning feeding, see if everyone got their meds, etc. Then I go to my dog’s kennel (usually spinning, going crazy cause its time to work!!) pet them for a minute or two, grab my gear, hook up the pup and head out. I’m very self-motived and start training without anyone usually. I like to start with a good rapport walk around the base, anywhere from a mile to 4 or 5 miles. A long walk gets the stupid out then your dog will be calm enough to train for the rest of the day.
Depending on what the trainers have planned for the day, I’ll check back in or meet them wherever they are for training. With IIsidro, I had a plan for every day! This dog man, he was super super reward aggressive and possessive. He tore the pocket of my uniform, ripped a sleeve off my top, bit me in the leg, hand, ass cheek, and other places. So that was a typical day with him.
IIsidro was by far the most different dog I had. But I loved his ass, he was a great dog and had a lot of potential. Things didn’t work out and he was sent to a different base.
Now when you get certified and work the road, your day is usually pretty busy with walking patrols around certain areas, searching large vehicles, searching vehicles coming through the gate, responding to anything from a lost dog, to a major vehicle accident. I made everything training in some way. Always looking for a way to be a better team.
In the mix of this is doing kennel checks, feeding, mentoring/leading your troops. Definitely a busy shift, days would fly most of the time. Then at the end of the day, I’d take my dog to the obedience yard for some little play. Playing with your dog, from my perspective, is the best bonding tool. After like 10 minutes, I’d put them up and do changeover and bounce. End of the day.
Beginning basic ob (obedience) with your dog is fairly simple. First, I suggest you find what drives your dog, i.e. what reward means the most to your dog. My personal dog at home loves!!! marshmallows.
This is Mica. She loves her marshmallows haha. But using them I trained her to do a lot of different tricks and basic ob.
So once you find that reward your dog absolutely loves.. Begin with the basics if your dog doesn’t know anything yet. The sit is the easiest and usually the first ob task thought. The way I always thought my dogs to sit was, hold the reward in your hand, move it straight over their head, this forces them to look up and not very comfortable for the dog (no pain involved), they will either sit or back up. Don’t worry if the back up!!!! If they do that, use your other hand and apply a little pressure on their butt while giving the command “sit”. It’s very important to pair the action of sitting with the word sit. Over time and with the continual reward schedule I decided in a previous post, your dog will understand when you say sit and its butt touches the ground, it gets a reward. Along with the reward, you as the owner/handler need to praise the dog, this lets them know you are happy with them and the behavior is highly likely to continue.
For down position, you use the same steps for the sit but more than likely you’ll have to guide the dog into the down. I like to kneel in front of the dog and I’ll give the command “down” move my hand with the reward down in front of the dog, to the ground and once the dog lays down, I do what we call “pay in place” and give them the reward. Paying in place re-enforces the position and with praise they know they do what you wanted. Over time, start to move your position higher until you’re standing and the dog completes the task. Don’t if your dog doesn’t go to the down position, just means you need to reset and try again. Remember, patience and persistence here will pay off greatly.
This basic/beginning training method is used all the time, I use it for my personal dogs and my MWDs at work. A dog, like humans, can forget or regress if you don’t do a task often so don’t get upset if they forget. Take it back to basic and they will remember after one or two trails.
For any other methods or any questions on this, leave me a comment or email me through the link on the main page.
So I kinda talked about rewarding your dog in my last post but in this one I will go in depth with it.
Continuance schedule, fixed- variable schedule and variable reward schedule are the ones I use for my personal and work dogs.
Continuance reward schedule is mainly used for teaching a dog a new task. You reward the dog every time it does the task correctly. When performed incorrectly, you don’t correct the dog just reset them and start over. A topic for another post is conducive training and compulsive training. Always end on a positive note! The dog always wins!
Fixed reward schedule is used to advance a task once the dog understands the task it’s being asked to do. Instead of rewarding your dog every time you go to every 2nd time it does it correctly. If the dog can’t complete it 2 times without messing up, then start over with continuance schedule until you feel they can move on. After 2 times, you go to every 3, 4 and finally 5 times in a row without a mistake.
Last schedule it the variable reward schedule. You vary up when you’re going to reward your dog for a task. By varying up the reward, over time, the dog will wait in whatever position, sit, down, heal, under your legs, etc, the dog won’t break position because they know they can get rewarded at anytime if they don’t move.
Training a dog at any level training needs these 3 things to succeed. Consistency: Doing your training the same every time you pull your dog out. By being consistent on a daily basis, you build conditioning in your dog. He/she will know, over time, what you are asking of them. I know most trainers will call consistency, conditioning . To me its the same thing.
Example: Taking your dog outside first thing in the morning to use the facilities haha. When they go, you can reward them for a wanted behavior, going to the bathroom outside, using whatever kind of reward the dog values most! This will increase the likely hood of this good behavior being repeated. Over time, with you doing this the same way every day, your dog will know what to and when to do it. I’m kinda getting into reward schedules but I’ll cover that in a different post.
Patience: Having patience with your dog is huge! As a new handler back in 2013 I had zero. Wanted my MWD to do what I wanted when I wanted. Didn’t work out and we sucked as a team. Luckily I had some seasoned handlers there with me and they taught me to be patient. This is need with puppies and what we call “green dogs” (fresh from DTS). Puppies know nothing and green dogs know the bare basics. A good note is these dogs are like a very hyper 3 yr old with very little to no intention span. Patience is big in channeling their energy to what you are trying to teach them.
Simple: This is the easiest part. Whatever training you are doing, keep it simple and clear. Only work on one task at a time. If you’re working on teaching the dog how to sit. That’s it!! Do several short sessions a day (5-10 minutes) then take a break. Only teaching one task will eliminate confusion for the dog and for you.
Thanks for reading, leave me any questions, comments or concerns down below!!
Here I am with my first K9, MWD Drake/T697. I could not have asked for a better first dog. Obedient, loyal, smart as hell, easy going but on command aggressive AF. I will have this dog when he retires, i’m counting down the days! He’s 8 and average retirement for a MWD is about 10 years old if they are in good health.
I’ll talk about Drake more in later post (or all the time) but im gonna talk about my experience and training i got at K9 school down in Texas. So you get orders and go at your assigned class date. Mine was in Aug 13 and it last for 11 weeks. For the Air Force, we get a training RIP, which just an email saying when you’re going, what school you’re going to, how much it cost, etc. Pretty boring so moving on! I get there with only knowing where my hotel room is and check in. They had my reporting instructions for the course. I got there like 6 days early!! So I hung out and was bored ha. So first we meet at this big ass brick building with no windows, think of the build from Men In Black but brick, cool go in and sit in a hall with 10 other random service men and women. First day is just paperwork and a course overview then we leave at like lunch. I’m gonna move ahead to when we start doing training outside the classroom.
So you get assigned a MWD that failed some part of its training and they decide to keep them for training aids for students. DTS (dog training school) houses about 800 dogs at any given time and its a mix of dogs waiting to go to the field, in training, are for training or waiting to be adopted. So my first dog there was names Llyka, double letters note the dog was breed by us at Lackland and most of these dogs are batshit insane, she was calm and knew the game but before you can work or training with them we got to practice on ammo cans!!
BAM! look at this nerd… HA jk we all had to do this, i felt stupid as hell. Softer this during our first patrol training, my dog ripped out a tooth! She’s gone. Lost her and got assign the oldest dog i’ve ever seen! MWD Bear, this dog was 14 yrs old, Jesus! Besides being old as shit, she was a good dog. Though i lost a dog and got an old one, the whole course was fun even the classroom part. Classroom covered everything from our commands to vet care in combat situations. Anyway, fast forwarding a few weeks to our patrol certifications. During mine, with old ass Bear at my side, I sent Bear for a running bite. She bites the decoy, I run up and get my leash together and tell her “out”(basically let go of whatever you have in your mouth), she doesn’t listen, so as we’re taught, I brought the heat down on her. I gave this dog such a hard physical correct that she passed out. I thought I kill her!! I froze then picked her up and ran her to the shade, mid Aug in Texas=hot as balls, cooled her down and she woke up, thank god! She was out of training after that but i passed and moved on to the next phase of training.
I had SO much fun during this part of training and met alot of people that i’ve been stationed with in Japan, Turkey and Colorado. Its a small world in the K9 career field. Only like 1400 of us DoD wide.
Next was detection training at the main training site for DTS. Honestly, nothing special. A lot of hurry up and wait, a lot of helping the staff take dogs to the vet. Still fun learning what those dogs can do and are capable of. You really don’t learn that until you get to the field and get your first real working dog.
That’s pretty much my experience at K9 school and learning the bare basics of k9. Thanks for reading and leave a comment, ask me a question and i’ll respond as soon as i can.
Gonna start with sharing a little bit about myself. My name is Adam, I’m 33 years old, from a small town in southwest Louisiana. Grew up with an older brother and sister and a lot of Aunts, Uncles and cousins. Typical southern family, large holiday gatherings and always! always! great food at every get together. With food being said, I’m the only picky eater in La. So I don’t eat crawfish or shimp or anything, I think they’re gross but whatever. Anyway, I went to Elementary, Middle and High in Westlake, La. I played baseball my whole life and started football in middle school, played throughout high. Being from a small town, me and all my friends were always on the same teams and pretty much had the same baseball for 15 years ha. Sports will be a later topic. I graduated High school in 2004. Did the typical thing and enrolled at the local college. Majored in business management, however I wanted to be a history teacher for the longest time but gave up on that pretty quick. During college I worked at Target as a sales manager (hourly) and as a warehouse worker. Target was/is a great place to work!!! I loved my entire time there (5 years…college was hard ha). After I finished school, Target didn’t want to keep me on as a salary manager so I looked around and apply a lot of places and nothing… Since I struck out with a regular job, I decided to follow my older brother and join the military. Now he was commissioned in the Marines. I went with the Air Force but I enlisted because during my research of career fields/MOS, I saw a picture of a guy with a dog. That was it! I love dogs, we grew up with dogs, I HAD to become a K9 hander. Next day I enlisted and choose the Security Forces career field ( Air Force’s MP). Fast forward past basic training and tech school (both were boring and fairly easy), I got assigned to Ramstein AFB (Air Force Base), Germany! Awesome right?! I skipped some details but for the sake of those details I was married at this time. Long story short, it didn’t last. So now at Ramstein AFB, I did my time what we call a straight leg (regular Security Forces member with no specialized training). To become K9, you had to complete your CDCs, upgrade training and be in for 2 years. Did all that and put in a lot of time working at the Kennels with the handlers, trainers and the Kennel master. I applied and got in!! Yay me! Well shit, my class wasn’t for 8 months! SO I had to extend my tour there and went in August 2013. K9 school is 11 weeks of training at Joint Base San Antonio. The DoD K9 program is joint, other words all branches attend and work at what we call DTS (Dog training school). This is where all DoD K9s are trained and where all handlers are trained. After K9 school, I got orders to Japan. I went to Misawa AFB, Jp, it was great! Misawa is in northern Japan and it was very cold! My first MWD (military working dog) is the dog on the first post. Thats MWD Drake/T697. Thats my boy!! Did 2 years there and it was great. I had great handlers, trainers and kennel master there. I went to Turkey after Japan. It sucked ha. Hated all 15 months there. And now I’m at Peterson AFB, Co. Like I kinda mentioned in my first mini post, I’ll be getting out this summer after 10 years. This is a very basic background on myself and little history on how I joined then became a K9 handler/trainer. For future post, I’m going make them shorter, cover specific topics more in depth about myself and about training dogs. Forgive any of my grammatical errors or mispelled words. Cs get degrees kids.
Thanks for joining me on a new adventure of blogging. I’m starting this blog to talk about my experiences as a K9 Handler and Trainer for the military. To start, my name is Adam and I’ve been a Handler/Trainer for 8 years, a total of 10 years in the military and I’ll be separating soon. Time to hang it up. For those in this career field know its a very physically demanding job and it has taking its toll on me. But that’s for another time. I’ll post my first blog in a few days and my goal as of now is to post once or twice a week and follow up answering comments and questions about my experiences or dog training in general. Thanks for the support! Adam