Welcome to the NWK9 Reading Room. Here we present another installment of our series on training the police K9 -- teaching the young dog the "out" in play, and avoiding manwork problems down the road.

Teaching the Out by Tim Tieken

I have started bite work with my 18-month old German Shepherd. We are having difficulty getting him to out. At a recent seminar, the trainer recommended that I pull him up by the collar to force him to out, but it only seemed to be make the problem worse. Is there an alternative way to induce a quick and clean out?

Over the past twenty years I have seen at seminars that much time is spent trying to force an out during manwork. This is addressing the problem late in the game and after it has become a problem. It is also a poor time to TEACH. The dog is already in a high stress mode. I have found it best to teach the out completely separate from any bitework or any situations that he associates with bite work. Then -- after he is responding comfortably -- incorporate the "out" into the bitework.

I keep the out from being a problem by teaching it to my up and coming puppies during a game I use to develop (1) prey drive and (2) the alert command. The game begins with enticing the pup into play with a rag and engaging in a little tug-o-war. As soon as this is fun and familiar and I can see that he is stimulated at first sight of the rag, I stand still with the rag held just outside his reach and introduce the command "Watch him!"

I remain motionless for a few seconds, then move quickly -- offering him the rag as I command "Take him!" This is done in a manner so that the pup gets a hit in high prey drive and is fully engaged in the game. I make it a lot of fun for the pup! If he tries to grab the rag ahead of the "Take him" command, I simply lift the rag out of reach. This denies any reward for the errant behavior, and the pup quickly learns to alert but restrain himself. Most importantly, we both have fun. After a few seconds of raucous play-fighting, I command "Out!" and cease all motion (reward/gratification). I calmly take the pup's jaws from the rag with one hand, while lifting the rag out of reach with the other hand. I then resume my beginning-of-the-game posture to start another round.

The pup soon learns to come off by himself in anticipation of starting another round of this really fun game. After he is really proficient at this game, he can start manwork and will never have a problem with the out command. This game can also be used for remedial work with older dogs. It will be most effective if not directly associated with manwork.

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