By Joel Monroe &
Please direct any questions or comments
to Joel Monroe firstname.lastname@example.org
A skill that is often neglected in
many personal protection and police dog training programs is the
ability to point out or "mark" a specific target. Why
is such a skill in a important? Imagine you need to alert
your dog on an assailant in public and there happens to be several
other innocent people standing around. If you do not have the ability
to mark a specific target then the dog has no idea which one of
the several people in front of it is actually the "bad guy".
In an age of frivolous lawsuits, you can not afford to have your
dog make the mistake of choosing the wrong target.
Have your dog sitting in the heel
position and with its food bowl (with food in it) a few feet directly
in front. Point at the bowl with your entire hand and arm and say,
"Mark." Make sure your pointing hand/arm is within the
dogs line of sight. If the dog does not look at the food bowl, just
calmly repeat the word "mark" as you continue pointing
until the dog looks at the bowl. The instant the dog looks at the
bowl, give it your command that releases it from the heel position
to eat the food. Of your dog was staring at the bowl the entire
time, just point, say "mark" and then allow it to go eat.
The next day, place the food bowl
in front of your dog, however, slightly to the dog's left and repeat
the steps mentioned above. Place the bowl slightly to the right
on the following day. Eventually, start placing the bowl farther
away and in various spots in front of you and the dog.
Once this has been done for a while,
place 2 identical food bowls several feet in front of your dog.
One bowl should be to the left of the dog and the other bowl should
be to the right. Place a little food in both bowls and see which
one the dog stares at. Mark the bowl that the dog is not staring
at. If the dog does not follow your hand and look at the other bowl,
calmly say, "No" and then give the mark command again
as you point at the other bowl. Repeat it until the dog looks at
the bowl you are marking and then give it the command that allows
it to eat.
Unless you have very good off leash
obedience to call it back, I would recommend having a leash on it
in order to pull the dog back in case it tries to go for bowl it
was originally looking at. Anytime the dog goes for the wrong bowl,
get it back to the heel position and start again until the dog goes
for the correct one.
During this time, begin to slowly
increase the amount of time before releasing the dog to eat after
it has marked the correct bowl on your command.
Once dog is proficient at the 2 bowl
drill mentioned above, have one of the bowls be much closer to the
dog than the other. It will be natural for the dog to want to go
for the one that is closer. Mark the bowl that is farther, but when
you release the dog to eat, be ready to stop it from going for the
closer bowl. The dog will learn that in order to get what it wants
it must follow the directions you give.
Now you can take this skill to the
training field. Repeat the method used with the bowl except you
are now marking people instead a bowls. If you have done your homework,
this skill will transfer over to the man very easily. To ensure
that the dog truly goes for the man you have marked, find someone
that the dog has never worked with. Have your regular trainer stand
on one side with the bite sleeve and have the stranger stand on
the other side wearing nothing but street clothes. Have the dog
on leash, mark the stranger, and give your alert command.