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Hey guys,
So I don't have a dog, would like to get one in a year or two when I have a stable housing situation. I'm very interested in the doberman breed, but I'd like to do some sort of activity with him, to keep him working and busy. I've been watching some bite work videos on youtube, but they aren't all that informative. Cool to watch, but I really don't know what's going on training wise.


My questions:
Quality resources to learn about this to see if it's right for me/my prospective dog breed?

Does training your dog in bite work make them more susceptible to aggression?

Are these dogs trained for real security and safety reasons or is it just for the sport (I have some home invasion based anxiety that's been getting worse over the last few years and I think a dog trained in some sort of security would make me feel better, as well as keep both of us busy)

^Coming off of that, is there a different security/protection sport/method/training that would be better than bitework?

Is there any big controversy about bite work that I should know about?



I know I can use the Google machine to read up on a lot of these questions myself, but there's always misinformation being spread in the dog training areas, in my experience. You guys all seem really knowledgeable from my postings in the past so I'm just looking for some jumping off points. Thank you!
 

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Bunches of good questions that I can't answer, but it's a great time to be asking them ( before you get a dog).
The dog sport clubs, Schutzhund/ringsport, etc. can be quite friendly and open. Look them up in neighbourhood, send out a friendly email (or phone call) stating your interesting and ask if you can go to a trial, or even come out to practice so you can chat with people and observe. They may even help you source your new dog.
If you're interested in bite work, you will definitely need a club to join anyway. Not a 'do-it-yourself' sport. @San & @DriveDog have actual experience with this sort of thing.
I just observe from the sidelines, but love watching working dog sport.
 

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Lots of people look at the powerful breed in the adjective sense - muscled, strong, large. Powerful to me is confidence, the ability to influence or control - without even acting. You'll meet powerful people that you automatically show respect to, almost automatically feel confident in their abilities. A fearful or anxious large breed is not powerful.

I've been around dogs all my life, always been confident with dogs - but I wouldn't attempt bite training with any dogs. It's a specialty that isn't for a novice, and it's not something you'll learn from youtube for sure. There are many dogs that will protect family and property naturally - the dobie is one of them - as long as they are raised properly.

You mention you have anxiety - if you transmit that anxiety to a breed like a doberman, you'll likely end up with a mess.
 

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I would think joining a schutzhund club, learning new skills, meeting people, and doing seriously fun things together would be a great way to build confidence in both man and dog.
I'm too lazy, local club meets 3 times per week, or I would be there (well, maybe not, my dog is missing some teeth).
As for safety, in schutzhund, dogs must pass a BH test before they move on to protection work. It is basic obedience tested in 'real life' situations, crowding with people and dogs, gun shots fired off (another reason I can't do schutz with my current dog), very rigourous.. Breed club members would be able to put you in touch with breeders that produce dogs with good nerves. @jagger , what is it about bitework that makes you not want to do it? Lack of interest (I for one, do not feel like committing to 3 days a week of group practice) or something else. --Bitework (at least in schutzhund) is an elaborate game of tug with rules for some dogs--just plain tail-wagging fun. There are ways to make it more than that, but I would think that is up to the handler. Dogs learn to bite the jute sleeve. Sleeve is worn by the big guy in the bite suit, game on.
I'll remain an armchair quarterback and just play tug and agility with my guy, but this thread reminds me that I have an open invitation to observe a local schutz practice...fun.
 

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I'm too lazy, local club meets 3 times per week, or I would be there (well, maybe not, my dog is missing some teeth).
Developing a dog to be a guard dog - and keep it that way would likely be a lifetime thing - it takes alot of dedication and it's dedication I wouldn't have either. If a person isn't willing - or at some point unable - then what happens to the dog. If the OP has the dedication for it, wonderful - but it sounds like they want to attempt it alone.

Most of the dogs I've owned over the years will protect. Even the minpin - not so much with me, he knows he doesn't need to protect me - but with missus, all bets are off. Hasn't been put to the test, but I know he will at least try. I pity the fool that tries to steal that dog, better come with a net and a good pair of gloves.
 

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Developing a dog to be a guard dog - and keep it that way would likely be a lifetime thing - it takes alot of dedication and it's dedication I wouldn't have either. If a person isn't willing - or at some point unable - then what happens to the dog. If the OP has the dedication for it, wonderful - but it sounds like they want to attempt it alone.

Most of the dogs I've owned over the years will protect. Even the minpin - not so much with me, he knows he doesn't need to protect me - but with missus, all bets are off. Hasn't been put to the test, but I know he will at least try. I pity the fool that tries to steal that dog, better come with a net and a good pair of gloves.
Ah, got it. There's a difference between 'guard' and sport. Sport dogs cue off the suit, there are extra steps taken to turn them into 'guard' dogs.

We might have different ideas of 'bite work'. DIY is not possible. You need a helper; dude in bite suit, they go through some serious training too.

Livi12 , your best resource is a friendly training club. You get to hang out and watch a practice or two. I've met some very nice people in schutzhund and there very lovely dogs. If you're looking for an activity, dog sport will keep you very busy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
There's NO way I would every try this alone, so there would definitely need to be a club nearby if I was going to start that particular journey.

Thanks for the help, I'll definitely start looking for a club near me and maybe sit in on some practices. Great idea :)

Just a note, this is in the somewhat distant future, and I would never buy a dog from a breeder that I'm not 100% sure has the qualities I need/want. I'm going to try my best to ensure my dog is as well adjusted and happy as possible, so if bite work doesn't end up fitting, that's fine with me. I'm just curious :)
 

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There's NO way I would every try this alone, so there would definitely need to be a club nearby if I was going to start that particular journey.

Thanks for the help, I'll definitely start looking for a club near me and maybe sit in on some practices. Great idea :)

Just a note, this is in the somewhat distant future, and I would never buy a dog from a breeder that I'm not 100% sure has the qualities I need/want. I'm going to try my best to ensure my dog is as well adjusted and happy as possible, so if bite work doesn't end up fitting, that's fine with me. I'm just curious :)
Livi, just from the questions you asked, and the advanced time for asking, I figured that. This may lead to addictive fun. I'm jealous--my little guy is assuredly gun shy. But you've got me wanting to take my own advice and give the local club guy a call...just to go watch and drool...
 

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Let me preface this by saying, I haven't actually started involvement with any bite work sport clubs yet, but I've slowly started to drift from "wow, bite sports seem so fun!" to "I really like the bite work/working shepherd breeds and their work ethic, maybe they'd suit me better than a Border Collie for my next dog/agility" to "I want to participate in bite sports with my next dog." I've just started to get to the point in my research where I feel comfortable giving information about bite work and feel familiar with some of the bite sport/protection breeds (I looked into Dobermans heavily as a prospective second dog, even got so far as starting to look at breeders, but eventually decided there were other breeds better suited to what I wanted).

First: @Artdog is very right, there is a huge difference between "Sport" and "Protection" in bite work. You can cross over between the two, but depending on the sport you're involved in (for example, Schutzhund vs one of the ring sports) you may have difficulties or find you don't get scored as well (in Shutzhund particularly, the judge is looking for a specific way the dog is doing each thing, not just that they're "getting the job done"). The biggest difference is that in the bite work sports, the dog is most often being worked from "prey drive" and the object of their drive/focus in the bite suit/sleeve/pants and not the decoy themselves. In personal protection training, you're also working off of "defense drive" and utilizing "defensive aggression". That isn't to say that defensive aggression never comes into play in sports or prey drive never comes into play in protection, dogs switch drives all the time and a dog working only in defensive drive would be a crazy dog that thinks its in danger of harm/death all the time, not a healthy, well adjusted one.

Working in sports isn't going to make a stable, well adjusted, well suited dog more more prone to aggression because 1) you're often not working from any form of aggression at all and can choose to work primarily from prey drive all the time if you want to, 2) the dog is targeting to suit/sleeve and not the decoy themselves and is pretty much playing a big game of tug over the sleeve/suit and not actually attacking the decoy, and 3) the dog pretty much understands it is a game and not actually under threat.

That said- not all dogs are suited to bite work. If a dog is already nerve-y/reactive/aggressive or has shown it is prone to bite in normal situations (over resources like food or toys, or strangers, in defense, etc), then it should not be used in bite work sports. You want to be starting with a non-aggressive, well adjusted dog.

Personal protection dogs are a whole other ball game. You're moving a dog from prey drive to defensive drive, for one, and are transitioning to hidden sleeves vs obvious bite suits/sleeves, and then training "real world" protection scenarios. There are a lot of bad protection trainers out there- far more bad than good ones- and a bad one can literally make a dog that kills. There are many incidences of "protection trained" dogs biting and killing people (often children). Police dogs go through training similar to personal protection training, and there are many incidences of police dogs biting civilians when they perceived a threat that was not there, or even retired dogs biting people they live with. You may need to carry insurance for the dog, and they are pretty much a walking liability. Most people are not set up to handle them, and those that are are the ones who have a long experience working and living with bite sport dogs, IMO. I think it is something of a fantasy to train a dog in personal protection and then treat it like any other pet. You are essentially training a dog that "if you see a threat, I want you to do X Y Z" and also communicating that biting is an acceptable way to deal with a threat. Many are trained to ONLY bite on command, but that isn't always how it happens, and accidents with a personal protection dog can mean disfigurement or death for children and adults and a very, very hefty lawsuit for you. Also, in a lot of states, it is illegal for a dog to bite someone on public property even if the person it bit was committing a crime, and in some it is illegal for them to bite someone on their own property if they are committing a crime. People have been sued by would-be robbers who were bitten; not saying that the robbers won all the time and nothing was ever thrown out, but it has happened.

Personally, I do not think it is a good idea for people to own protection trained dogs. Sport dogs are a different story because they're doing something very different. Any large dog is going to be a deterrent to criminals, especially a "scary" breed. You don't need a dog trained to bite to have a crime deterrent.

I would highly suggest you look into bite laws in your area, and see if the law makes a difference between sport and protection dogs (some do, some don't). I'd also suggest looking up bite laws relating specifically to people being bitten in public, on private property, and in the commission of a crime. It is good to know about all those things prior to getting involved in any kind of bite sports, IMO.

There are also a few different bite sports, namely there's Schutzhund, which is fairly politicized these days and is the kind of sport that if you're a good trainer, you're likely to be able to go far in with an average dog. Shutzhund is very regimented and patterned, and dogs tend to score fairly consistently from trial to trial. In Ring, the order of the exercises is random and dogs tend to be all over the place in scoring between trials. There are also the Ring sports- French Ring, Belgian Ring, and Mondioring. Belgian Ring is not something you're likely to find outside of its country of origin as the set up is not super exportable for a lot of reasons. French Ring is intense- decoys are trying to make the dog miss the bite and mess up, and are exploiting the weaknesses they see in the dog. Mondio was designed as a sort of "halfway" between the other two Ring sports and was meant to be something that any bite sport trained dog (including those trained in Schutzhund) could participate in with little/no additional training. The decoy isn't allowed to make the dog miss the bite (they still have to "catch" them) but they are still expected to try to exploit weakness, I believe. They don't use a stick in Mondio to actually hit the dog, but I think they do in French. Mondio also includes more challenges of agility than French Ring, I believe, including some very high "high jumps" and very long "long jumps".

Schutzhund seems more friendly towards other breeds, while the ring sports are heavily dominated by the working shepherd breeds (Mals, Germans, and some Dutch), from what I've read/seen online, at least at a high level. I've been told/read you can get a Schutzhund 3 with an average dog that you trained really, really well, but you're only getting high level Ring placements if you have an exceptional dog.

In terms of your specific questions, I'll answer them in a separate post for the sake of length
 

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@Moonstream you definitely satisfy my inner dog training geek. Major super info dump--meant in the most complimentary of ways (as in, very informative post)--thanks from me. :)
 

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Hey guys,
So I don't have a dog, would like to get one in a year or two when I have a stable housing situation. I'm very interested in the doberman breed, but I'd like to do some sort of activity with him, to keep him working and busy. I've been watching some bite work videos on youtube, but they aren't all that informative. Cool to watch, but I really don't know what's going on training wise.
Have you ever owned a dog before?

Dobes can be really great dogs- like I said I looked into them for a while. Do be aware that there are a lot of shoddy Dobermans being turned out these days, and they are a fairly unhealthy breed. Heart failure is very, very common, and will often come on suddenly- they'll be fine one second and dead the next. Look for a breeder who is breeding from foundation dogs with long life spans, and definitely find someone who is health testing against heart issues. Be weary about breeders' claims about their own dogs- when you're choosing a breeder, look for outside sources corroborating what they are saying about their dogs. There are some breed specific forums for Dobes, and there's also a forum dedicated to working dogs in general- both may be good places to go for info on breeders.

Be aware that dogs being bred for sport are going to be more intense than already pretty intense show/pet line Dobes. There are less sport/working line Dobes than there once were, and some breeders producing dual use (show and sport, for example) dogs, but still not many of those either. I would bet that you'd be better matched with a European line dog than an American one- look into the differences between them, for sure.

Quality resources to learn about this to see if it's right for me/my prospective dog breed?
Like I said, look for some breed specific forums and working dog forums. There are also some bite work specific forums out there.

I also really, really like Michael Ellis as an intro to bite sports. Leerburg has some good video information too. Please note that the bite sport world still involves a lot of correction, and while you potentially could train a dog force free in those sports, very few people are doing so. That isn't me saying you need to train using corrections, or advising you do so. But both Michael Ellis and Leerburg do use aversives in their training and sometimes recommend them. I will say- Ellis has a few videos explaining why he doesn't use them to train new things, as well as why they aren't good for all dogs that I think are really good.

Does training your dog in bite work make them more susceptible to aggression?
Again, if the dog isn't aggressive to start with it won't. That said, there are some sport kennels that turn out dogs that aren't really good house pets. This isn't as true in Doberman, I don't think, but it is true in a lot of the working shepherd lines. I would suggest also prioritizing a breeder who is breeding their dogs in home vs in a kennel and has the dogs as pets first and foremost. Dogs bred from parents that live in a kennel are less likely to be good in a household, simply because that means that whether or not the parents were tolerable as pets was not a part of what made the breeder think they would be a good breeding dog. Again, not as much something you need to worry about in Dobes, but true of a lot of the top bite sport breeds like Mals, GSDs, and Dutchies.


Are these dogs trained for real security and safety reasons or is it just for the sport (I have some home invasion based anxiety that's been getting worse over the last few years and I think a dog trained in some sort of security would make me feel better, as well as keep both of us busy)
See above post, mostly. But to reiterate: the presence of a Doberman is likely deterrent enough. Likely, a normal, well trained, confident dog would protect you if you were in danger without ever being trained. Maybe not definitely, but likely given the breed and its traits, even after having been bred/watered down for some number of years. Bite sports, IMO, are not necessarily going to make a dog more likely to protect you, but they also aren't going to make a dog less likely to protect you. They will introduce a great level of control over your dog which people who intend to do you harm are going to find threatening. They also teach "aggressive displays" on cue like a bark and hold (pinning someone against a wall, barking) or a guard (looks somewhat similar to heeling combined with herding, they're shadowing the person you direct them to and waiting for the command to hit the sleeve/suit. They also teach a very specific, scary bark on cue. Those alone are likely to be enough to make someone weary of a dog and a normal person to see "the dog is going to bite me" even if it likely isn't or isn't any more likely to bite a non-suited person than any other dog.

I have heard of bite sport dogs actually being useful in a bad spot, and I have heard people who say they don't think their dog would be useful in a bad sport despite bite work training in sports. I think it's more a dog-by-dog basis, as well as what sport they were trained for.

^Coming off of that, is there a different security/protection sport/method/training that would be better than bitework?

Is there any big controversy about bite work that I should know about?
Pretty much: some people are going to think it's "cruel" or "mean", and some people do not distinguish between sports and protection training. People may be afraid of your dog and think you're "off" somehow for wanting to do these things. In the case of a personal protection dog, I would say that's understandable (the fear part, not thinking you're "off"). In the case of a (stable) sport dog, I would say that's dumb.

I don't think people should have personal protection trained dogs privately, so I'll focus on sports in the answer below.

It is very, very important you have a stable dog if you want to do any kind of bite work. Part of that is getting a dog from the right breeder, part of that is raising a dog the right way, and part of that is being realistic about the dog in front of you. Good bloodlines don't mean your dog is going to be able to do the work. If he hits 6 months, to a year, to two years and is showing signs he may not be suitable (such as reactivity towards people/strangers), then he should not be trained. A good club does turn away ill suited dogs or people they think are irresponsible.

My biggest advice is to look into clubs before getting a dog. Lurk, hang around, ask questions, and learn. I'm still 2-3 years out in getting my next dog, which I am pretty sure I want to be a Mal or Dutchie that I'm going to do Mondioring with. I'm planning to get involved with a club in the next 3 or 4 months (when ever I get a car out here and can actually travel) so that I have those years to get some experience, make sure I actually like that kind of dog and energy, and so I'm not going in blind.

You cannot and should not do bite work training of any kind on your own. Find a club or private trainer that you trust. Find well trained decoys- decoy work isn't about just letting a dog bite you. It is hard, physical work, and you end up bruised. Decoys need to have a very, very good understanding of dog body language, behavior, and drives, and they need to understand dog physiology on some level. Catch a dog the wrong way and you can shatter their jaw. Move the wrong way to try and throw a dog off and you can easily be bitten in the hand or face. Work a dog out of defensive drive and not react to the bite the right way (making him feel he's winning the fight) and he will readjust the grip to find a place that does hurt, which may create a dog that purposely targets hands, which is VERY bad because suits don't cover hands. (ex: the dog bite the shoulder, the decoy doesn't react, the dog re adjusts to grab something that is moving, usually a hand, and the decoy has a big reaction. Bingo! The should isn't a place that is vulnerable, but hands are, and the dog now bites for hands).
 

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@Moonstream you definitely satisfy my inner dog training geek. Major super info dump--meant in the most complimentary of ways (as in, very informative post)--thanks from me. :)
:p Thanks! Like I said, I just started to really get into it research-wise. Once I get a car out here (hopefully my mid/late September) I'm planning to try visiting and maybe joining the two clubs I found "near" me (at least 1.5hrs away each way, but still "close"). Before now, the sport I wanted to do was Agility. I still plan to do it with my Boston, and part of the draw of a Mal (probably a Mal, but maybe a Dutchie if I find I prefer them to Mals once I start actually meeting dogs and seeing them work in person) is that it would be a very competitive dog in terms of drive and speed, even enough to challenge border collies and really be a dog I could go places with if I wanted to, but I really like bite sports and don't think I would feel good about having a working line Mal I didn't do some amount of bite work with. And I really, really don't have any interest in the show line dogs. I absolutely hate confirmation line dogs of almost every breed, especially those that still have some amount of working line around. I just don't believe that kennel clubs like the AKC are doing anything good for any breed, and the breed standards aren't thinking about health or instinct at all, and very few working breeds have real dual purpose lines (seems like some hounds still do, and some gun dogs, but not a whole lot). I'm definitely a dog nerd, LOL.
 

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And I really, really don't have any interest in the show line dogs. I absolutely hate confirmation line dogs of almost every breed, especially those that still have some amount of working line around. I just don't believe that kennel clubs like the AKC are doing anything good for any breed, and the breed standards aren't thinking about health or instinct.
You are singing the song of my people.
 
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