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Written by
Ed Frawley

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01/ How To Housebreak A Puppy or Older Dog

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05/ Introducing a New Dog into a Home with Other Dogs

The Chain Gang

Over the years I have heard of a number of methods of training dogs that I don’t agree with. It’s hard to find two dog trainers that totally agree with one another. If one has been involved in dog training for more than two weeks you will fall into this category. When this happens it’s usually just difference of opinion on which training method is better than another.

Occasionally one comes up against training methods that are either cruel or just plain wrong. The Texas Police K-9 Association training 4-month-old puppies to be narcotics dogs and then certifying them to work the street at 6 months of age is one such case that was just wrong, (they no longer do this). Table training protection dogs is an example of a training method that is often cruel, (see my article on this work). But by far the worst case I have heard of in the past 28 years is the CHAIN GANG (CG) that the Minneapolis Police K-9 unit is currently using in it’s 10-week police dog training program.

Before I explain what the CG is I will tell you that it is not only ILLEGAL in the state of MN, it is inhumane and cruel. I refuse to call the CG training because it is not training, it is nothing more than animal abuse by people who do not fully understand how to train police service dogs.

The way the CG works goes like this: a long chain is strung between two fixed objects (i.e. trees), and every 6 feet, a 2-foot chain is attached along the length of the chain. In this case there were 8 dogs on the chain. The dogs were put on the CG three nights per week for 8 of the 10 weeks of the course. The stronger dogs go on the ends of the chain with the weaker dogs in the middle.

At the end of the day when handlers bring the young dogs back to the police kennel, they are attached to the shorter chains and are left outside all night (for 14 to 16 hours) without water and without a dog house. They stay there until the handlers pick them up the next day. If it rains they sit outside in the rain and mud. If it’s cold they sit outside in the cold. If it’s windy they sit in the wind. The last class of 8 dogs were all between 11 and 13 months of age. I consider dogs of this age barely older than puppies. German Shepherds don’t really enter maturity until they are 18 to 30 months old, depending on the genetics of the dog.


The Minneapolis Police Dog Kennel and the Minnesota State Law
I wish that my state (Wisconsin) had the animal rights laws that Minnesota has. The fact is that the Minneapolis Police Department is breaking Minnesota law by chaining their police dogs outside all night long without shelter.

The last time I looked, law enforcement officers were expected to be held to a higher standard. Until Minnesota legislators change the laws on how police dogs can be treated, the Minneapolis Police Department should be expected to follow the law.

I would like to know who gives their K-9 unit the authority to break the law and mistreat their dogs. Should police service dogs have less rights than junk yard dogs? The instructors should be held accountable for their actions. Do we have a double standard here? It certainly looks like it.

I believe that not only should these instructors be held accountable under MN law, their supervisors should also be held accountable.


Minneapolis-St. Paul Channel Four First Exposed the Chain Gang
In Minneapolis, Channel Four TV and Caroline Lowe first exposed this abuse in the fall of 2001. They have a web site at which you can view the TV I-Team Report on Chain Gangs. There were also two written articles on this work.

Here is the link to the I-Team Report

The arrogance of the Minneapolis K-9 instructor in this TV interview shines through. What they do with the Chain Gang is an embarrassment to every legitimate police K-9 trainer in this country.

Back in 1997 the Minneapolis Police Department changed it’s organizational structure and eliminated the Lt. in charge of the K-9 unit. Dog teams were moved from a central unit and placed out into the precincts. As a result of this I-Team report that decision was reviewed and changed. As I understand it they now have a Sgt. in charge of the K-9 unit. This is a good idea from a liability standpoint. With luck this new supervisor will eliminate the Chain Gang from their program.


The Minneapolis Instructors Who Came up with the Chain Gang
The two Minneapolis K-9 instructors that came up with the CG are Greg Zipoy (an 18-year K-9 veteran) and Scott Kossan (a police dog handler with 4 years of experience in PSDs).

When I e-mailed these men and asked WHY they would consider using the Chain Gang, Zipoy replied with, “Every time the stronger dogs ran around, moved, barked, etc. the weaker dogs in the middle would feel the effect and would start barking and being jerked around. The dogs learned many things from each other in this type of setting. We would try and do much of the training where the dogs on the chain could observe. When the decoy came out, the stronger dogs knew right away what was going on... the weaker dogs, some of which were clueless, learned quickly from the action of the stronger dogs. The dogs also were very excited and eager to get off the line to come out and work and I believe they worked much harder because of their frustrations. I also feel that a lot of the leash control and obedience training problems were handled because the dogs spent time on this chain. This was the first class that I have ever trained that we did not use a choke collar.”


The Dutch Police Dog Vendor for the Minneapolis Police Department
In Zipoy’s e-mail to me (see the complete email below) he stated “I also spoke to the person who we purchased our dogs from in Holland, and he also said they use it (the CG) for the Police K-9 training program over there.” This is a false statement. These dogs were purchased from K-9 Guardefense Kennel in the Netherlands, (http://www.K9gardefense.com).

Jan van der Tak (one of the owners) visited my kennel when he delivered this batch of dogs. I was in Holland at the time and did not have a chance to meet with him. My office manager said he was a very nice man. He e-mailed me and told me he totally disagrees with the Minneapolis K-9 Unit’s training. He thinks the Chain Gang is inhumane and he will not sell them any more dogs (even though he had a 4-year contract with the department) for their K-9 program as long as Zipoy is in charge of training. To quote Jan: “I think that if you train with a dog for a whole day and you leave him in the open air, that has nothing to do with training. A dog needs a good rest after training, a proper dry shelter and food.” (See his complete e-mail at the end of this article).


Scott Kossan trying to Justify the Chain Gang
I also wrote Scott Kossan and this is part of what he wrote back (I include his entire email at the end of this article):

“The training chain other than being around since the domestication of the dog became very popular in the late 1800's by a trainer of the name Shelley. Since then it has been the staple for training in numerous dog arenas. Unfortunately the trainers that have taken advantage of the positive results from the training chain have been hunting dog and sled dog enthusiasts and the K-9 world in their pride have used the statements that hunting dogs and police dogs have nothing in common. To them I say, ‘Give me two reasons why they have nothing in common and I'll give you 50 reasons why they do have something in common.’”

This is truly a misguided trainer. He does not understand the difference between police service dog training and hunting dog training. He has tried to apply his hunting dog experience to his PSD training. Very little translates over to the two disciplines.

I have to say that Scott is not totally to blame. It takes years of training to become a good police K-9 instructor. Scott Kossan has only been a handler for 4 years. A handler with 4 years experience is still a novice trainer (even if he has trained hunting dogs for years).

A good police dog instructor must be able to recognize dogs of different characters and different backgrounds. He must have the experience to know what kind of training a dog with a KNPV background has had. He must have the experience to know and understand what kind of foundational training dogs from the Schutzhund or IPO sports have had and he must recognize the training that dogs who come from the Belgium Ring Sports have had. No one can learn this by training one street dog and being a handler for 4 years. So Scott Kossan is not to blame here. I understand he is a very nice person and a good cop.


Additional Information From Scott Kossan
Below I include another part of Scott’s e-mail to me in which he tries to justify the decision to use the chain gang. I do not agree with one point on this list. In fact, his list demonstrates his lack of understanding of PSD training. My advice would be to stick with learning to be a good police dog handler and give up your night job of trying to be a PSD instructor.

“These are some of the reasons we use the training chain which benefits young dogs and why it is a benefit to strong, older, experienced dogs alike.

1) Allows the handler to train with a soft hand

2) Develops a point of contact where the entire foundation for negative reinforcement is built upon.

3) Builds a bond with the handler

4) Builds a work ethic

5) Builds up a dog that lacks confidence even if the dog is already strong and confident.

6) Develops independence

7) Makes training more efficient

8) Builds the foundation for check cord training and E-collar training

9) Allows the dogs to watch other dogs"


Police Service Dogs (PSD) are Athletes, Not Tools
PSDs are athletes, not tools. They need good quality food, good health care, proper exercise and good, warm, dry housing to do their job. If you talk with your child’s teacher they will tell you that children need to be safe, well fed, and rested to learn.

Unfortunately Zipoy and Kossan think that a normal part of their PSD training program is to run the dogs through 8 weeks of HELL. The Navy Seals only run one week of BUDS training. This is where Seal candidates are sleep-deprived for 7 straight days during a one week period of their training program.

Zipoy and Kossan think their Chain Gang toughens their dogs and makes them ready for the work they will be required to do on the street. They have forgotten that they are dealing with animals and not people. Drive in animals (PSD) comes from genetics and proper training, not from abuse and mistreatment. They think that a CHAIN GANG builds frustration and drive. What it builds for German Shepherd Dogs is dog aggression, sleep deprivation and avoidance to the chain.

The U.S. Border Patrol, the U.S. Customs in Front Royal, Virginia and the U.S. Army all have professional kennel facilities where dogs are kenneled in appropriate dog runs with good shelter. Maybe Mr. Zipoy should go on a road trip and see if he can convince these agencies that the Chain Gang is something they should consider for their training. Why is it that I do not think his revolutionary new PSD idea would not be taken seriously?


There is Nothing a Police Service Dog Can Learn from a Chain Gang
New police dog candidates have a lot to learn in a very short period of time. They must learn to track, they must learn obedience, they must learn apprehension work and they must learn to search, all in a 8 to 10-week course. None of these disciplines can benefit from being chained out for long periods of time.

If anyone should know the downfalls of dogs being chained out, it should be the Minneapolis Police Department. For years their administration had the misdirected policy of only taking donated dogs. I compare this to trying to find a farmer that will donate a horse that can run in the Kentucky Derby.

Donated dogs are often dogs that had been chained out without receiving adequate attention. Just about any professional dog trainer will tell you that chaining a dog out for extended periods of time causes behavioral problems.

The frustration of chaining often results in dogs developing barrier aggression or defensive aggression. Neither of which is beneficial to PSDs. These Minneapolis instructors have now reverted to using the chain on much higher quality, young, imported dogs and they wonder why some of them do not work out.

As I understand it, this is one of the first cases that the department has actually purchased imported dogs. Zipoy also makes statements about the quality of this class’s working ability and points to the CG as a reason, when in fact it is the genetics of the dogs they purchased that is the reason that they end up being such good service dogs. This is in spite of the CG, not because of it.


The Chain Gang produces Dog Aggressive PSDs
In addition, I will guarantee you that dogs that have gone through their Chain Gang are dog aggressive. How can they not be? Dogs that are dog aggressive are washed out of many PSD programs all over this country. We washed a pretty good dog (which came from my breeding program) out of my sheriff’s department for this very reason. He was a good tracking dog until he saw another dog. The moment he saw another dog the track was finished. The only thing he could think of was fighting.


The Tie Out in Normal PSD Training
Kossan and Zipoy may want to argue the point that police service dogs (PSD) are often trained using a “tie out” and I agree that this is true. But a tie out in service dog training is only to be used as a tool to develop specific skills between a dog, the handler and the helper. What Zipoy and Kossan both fail to understand is that a tie out in and of itself is nothing, it has no value.

As my friend Kevin Sheldahl likes to say, the tie out is like a third hand. It is used to help timing and to place the bite in the correct spot on the helper. It’s used to help the handler restrain the dog so he can focus his attention on his dog while the helper works the dog in the appropriate drives (prey, fight and defense).

Kossan and Zipoy have misunderstood what the chain produces. If they think that building guard drive and survival drive on a chain is a positive attribute, and if they think that pack behavior is an important attribute to a PSD, then they are clearly lacking in their understanding of the task they are hired to do. Pack behavior is important to hunting dogs, it has no place in PSD training. Fight drive toward humans is important to PSDs - it has nothing to do with hunting dogs. Maybe if they want to go into the guard dog business they could make money. If they insist on continuing this CG work in their police dog school then they should retire and train guard dogs.


PSDs as Compared to Sled Dogs (i.e Ididarod)
Kossan has made mention that sled dog racers use the chain in their training. Trying to compare training PSDs with sled dogs is inappropriate. The only time sled dogs are chained together is when they pull, and even then they are expected to pull in unison (not the same as what dogs on the chain gang go through). When sled dogs are not working they are treated as athletes. They have the best quality food and dry shelter. Sled dogs are not expected to interact with humans the way PSDs do. I will guarantee that no legitimate competitor in sled dog racing will chain their dogs out all night long (without shelter) as some kind of a training exercise.


Greg Zipoy’s E-mail to me:

It is difficult to say if this method provided all the positive results, which there were many. In the past the dogs had always been on a chain along a fence (but out of sight) during the down time, but this is the first time that I have left the dogs there overnight rather than going home with the handler.

For years I have seen problems with Police K-9 training in many areas. I was unsuccessful in solving some of these problems by myself or with the help of other Police K-9 trainers. I decided to go out of our circle and enlist the help of the real dog trainers... those that do it for sport or hobby and have been doing it most of their lives because they love it, rather than Police Officers who got into it for many different reasons, many of which have nothing to do with dogs. My search landed me with mostly trainers of hunting dogs. I was amazed at what their dogs are capable of doing compared to what I have seen of most Police Dogs. One of the training techniques that they spoke highly of was the 'chain gang.' One of our handlers was familiar with it and he spoke to a few other trainers to get the specifics and also found some books on it that I read. After conversation with some of those trainers, I decided to give it a try. I also spoke to the person who we purchased our dogs from in Holland, and he also said they use it for their Police K-9 training program over there.

The plan is to put out a long chain attached between 2 posts or trees. Then approx every 6 feet a 2 ft. long leader chain would be attached to the longer chain. Each dog would then be attached to each of these leaders. They would have approx. 6 feet of space, front and back and 2 ft to each side. The weaker dogs would be in the middle and the stronger dogs on the ends. For the collar I used 2-inch wide leather. Every time the stronger dogs ran around, moved, barked, etc. the weaker dogs in the middle would feel the effect and would start barking and being jerked around. The dogs learned many things from each other in this type of setting. We would try and do much of the training where the dogs on the chain could observe. When the decoy came out, the stronger dogs knew right away what as going on... the weaker dogs, some of which were clueless, learned quickly from the action of the stronger dogs. The dogs also were very excited and eager to get off the line to come out and work... and I believe they worked much harder because of their frustrations. I also feel that a lot of the leash control and obedience training problems were handled because the dogs’ spent time on this chain. This was the first class that I have ever trained that we did not use a choke collar. No longer were we continually yanking and correcting the dogs on obedience. No longer did we have dogs that had to go to the vet to have their necks shaved and then were put out of service so they could heal, as we did in the past when we used choke collars. All of our aggression work was also done with the leather collar rather than a choker. No more pulling, correcting, etc., but rather the out, etc. was achieved much more easily, in most cases, by voice commands rather than force. I believe the pulling of the chain gang had a lot to do with this. Finally I wanted the dogs isolated and resting at the end of the day. This was achieved by the handlers leaving the dogs at the kennel where they could rest without distractions. When we got back in the morning they were well rested and eager to go. When I first get new dogs and handlers I send the dogs home and tell the handlers to just play and spend time bonding. They should be the only ones that walk them, feed them, and play. They should not give any commands nor get in any position where the dog may need to be told no... try to avoid this at all costs. After about 2 weeks of bonding, the class starts. Here everything is business and the dogs will do everything they are told to... either by command or force or praise from the handler. I do not want any interaction with family or strangers during the 10 weeks of training... it would be very similar to boot camp... just work hard and learn. After the 10 weeks the dogs go home and then are introduced to families, etc. I want the dogs to be socialized but not over done. I want the edge to remain that they are always suspicious of strangers. I should also mention that during the class, the dogs were brought home on weekends (they were only left on the chain overnight for 3 nights each week), but they were told to keep the dogs isolated from other people and animals.

ike I originally said, I am not sure all the great things that came from this last class were from the 'chain gang' because there were other new things that I tried... but it sure didn't hurt. I am not a professional on this method but there are plenty of others, not in Police Biz, that could answer more of your questions and probably explain better than I have. Sorry I was so long winded, but it's a slow night here and a few lines couldn't really explain it.

Greg Zipoy

Scott Kossan’s e-mail to me:

ED- Thank you for your inquiry. Unfortunately there have been those who don't understand the training chain and they don't ask what it is about. All they can say is "it's stupid." But they cannot support their reasons. Proving their ignorance.

I could write a small book explaining the positive effects the training chain has had on our dogs and on other dogs I have seen it used on. I'm not going to go into great detail other than to tell you some of the very few positive effects the training chain has on dogs.

The training chain other than being around since the domestication of the dog became very popular in the late 1800's by a trainer of the name Shelley. Since then it has been the staple for training in numerous dog arenas. Unfortunately the trainers that have taken advantage of the positive results from the training chain have been hunting dog and sled dog enthusiasts and the K-9 world in their pride have used the statements that hunting dogs and Police dogs have nothing in common. To them I say, give me two reasons why they have nothing in common and I'll give you 50 reasons why they do have something in common.

These are some of the reasons we use the training chain which benefits young dogs and why it is a benefit to strong older experienced dogs alike.

1) Allows the handler to train with a soft hand

2) Develops a point of contact where the entire foundation for negative reinforcement is built upon

3) Builds a bond with the handler

4) Builds a work ethic

5) Builds up a dog that lacks confidence even if the dog is already strong and confident

6) Develops independence

7) Makes training more efficient

8) Builds the foundation for check cord training and E-collar training

9)Allows the dogs to watch other dogs

I guess I could go on and on but I will leave you with those few reasons. If you’re interested in learning more and possibly using it in your program, I would be more than willing to try to answer any of your questions. If you have never used the training chain I highly recommend it because you will not believe the results until you have used it yourself. The training chain has stood the test of time as an important training tool. It is backed up by some of the most respected dog trainers and handlers around. Entire chapters have been written on its use and its benefits.

Thanks for asking and not assuming.

Scott Kossan


Your article on your web site was brought to my attention today. 

Being a dog lover and wanting to help my dogs be successful, I search the web looking for all types of training no matter breed, to see if it would be of value to me helping my dogs reach their potential.

I would like to know the reason for you writing the article and for the way you wrote the article on your web site?

This is the first time I have respond to such an article.

I assume you wrote this article.  Who ever the author is they are very educated in misrepresenting information and knowledge in propaganda.  Your first paragraph gave you away.  If really read, your article only proves that a person can find reasons to prove their agenda, no matter how inaccurate or distorted his facts or line of reasoning is. 

Why did you write the article?  Did you lose your contract with the MN police department to train their dogs, did they buy dogs somewhere else or didn’t you qualify to bid the contract.  At least be honest and state why you’re writing the article.  Next don’t start out with a disclaimer like, “It’s hard to find two dog trainers that totally agree with one another.”  Most dog trainers or at least good trainers agree on many areas on dogs and training.   It is a joke when you through in “totally.”  All pro trainers are trying to make a living, have different personalities and relate to dogs differently.  But you used it well of setting up your propaganda personal agenda article.

From your article of miss information and distortion, both you and a number of emotional groups like the anti-gun people have a lot in common. The anti-gun people scream and shout the slogan, “Guns kill” to get attention and try and get an emotion response from the reader to get the reader on theer side. When in fact the truth is, people murder and kill not guns. 

You are screaming, CG is the devils tool so legislate it to hell or it is legislate to hell when it isn’t.

Why not give the truth that people are the criminals not the tools.

Before you put the CG in hell, do a little research.  Find out the goals and results of a proper CG.  Find out the proper methods of building a CG and securing the CG. 

When the CG is built, setup and used correctly; the use is extremely safe, a very controlled environment, the dog is only under his own pressure, the trainer is out of the training equation as well as emotions,  the trainer should still be observing the training sessions to learn about the dog, all the results are positive when used correctly and very opposite of your article findings.  Used correctly it may be a tool you might just want to utilize in your own training program. 

If your description of the CG was accurate, it wasn’t a CG.  The dogs were “stakeout” on a chain.

If you want to attack, attack the abusers, not the tool.  Get the tool right too.

David Simmons [tulsimm@cox.net]

Ed's Comments:

This email proves there are still fools involved in training dogs. Is your nick name BUBBA?



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