Nat Geo Wild has launched a new show, “Alpha Dogs,” which features German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois working dogs, and we’ve been getting some questions about the show and how closely it relates to the work we do at Protection Dogs Plus. Simply put, the dogs you see on “Alpha Dogs” are police and military dogs and they have very little in common with personal protection dogs.
There are some similarities here: we do train German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois to bite, we do encourage dogs with some of the same techniques that you see on the show (such as motivating dogs by using their food and toy drive), and we do condition dogs to be comfortable working around gunfire and other distractions. But to paraphrase the show itself, “these (military dogs) aren’t pets.”
The truth is that military and police dogs aren’t good for homes, let alone children. Police and military dogs are selected for different traits than personal protection dogs; unlike police and military dogs, we look for a combination of power and friendly, stable temperaments. This complete package is much harder to find than dogs that are simply good at attacking targets or searching by nose. We know this because we have had experience in training dogs for other purposes than just personal protection, and can say that very few of the dogs chosen for police or military work would be the right fit for our program- probably around 5% of them. In “Alpha Dogs,” the dogs shown have little to no functional obedience training when they’re considered “finished” and many of the handlers on the show don’t seem to have control.
The trainers on “Alpha Dogs” are professionals, but they’re in a different industry than us, and therefore their knowledge and background is different than ours. They get dogs and usually turn them over in a matter of weeks, as they do not have to spend as much time training their dogs for obedience and sociability as we do. We train our dogs for months with every situation imaginable, and the personal protection dogs we train epitomize control.
This morning, for instance, we worked with Rex on one of our most valuable exercises: “turning off.” It’s one thing to get a dog to turn on aggressively against an attacker, but it’s another thing to make that same dog friendly on command. The dogs in “Alpha Dogs” are shown biting and then refusing to “turn off” or release their bite. Rex, like all of our protection dogs, can be told to instantly stop displaying aggression and release his bite on command. The scenario goes like this: we send Rex off-leash to bite a decoy with undercover equipment, and a second before Rex hits his target we give him the command to lie down. There’s no delay- Rex is “off” now, the decoy is safe and the dog can now be approached and pet. Our dogs do not have to be redirected, or given a ball to be rewarded each time because we’ve taken our training past that point and we’ve transitioned them to respond to a verbal command said in a normal tone.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see a reality show about personal protection dog training, but even that wouldn’t give you an idea of what happens at Protection Dogs Plus. TV producers like drama and that’s just not what we’re about. We take precautions so that our dogs aren’t biting the hand that holds them. We raise dogs to be a pleasure in your home, not just to look extreme for the cameras. And when it comes to training, we never rush the process or compromise our values.