By Ed Frawley
In recent years more and more training clubs are using table training in bite work.
For many reasons I don't agree with table training. This article will list those reasons.
Table training is bad dog training. There are three kinds of people who use the table to protection train dogs:
Let's take a minute and explain exactly how table training works. Two tables are used. A three foot square table at waist-height and a shorter, larger round table closer to the floor. The dog is chained to the taller table by a short chain attached to a swivel that turns 360 degrees. When moved to the short table, the length of chain is increased. The tall table is used for the beginning work and the short table used for the control work.
Table training is founded in survival drive. Survival is the wrong way to train protection dogs. When a dog is placed up on a table and attached to a very short chain it quickly realizes that all avenues of escape have been removed. Initially the helper stresses the dog and demands attention and aggression. If the dog turns his back on the helper or does not act aggressive enough the level of stress is increased until the dog is brought into fight. The dog quickly learns that if I don't show aggression I get the crap scared out of me and the safest place to be is on the sleeve.
What people don't understand here is that the fight drive that they see in this work is coming totally from the fight or flight in avoidance. It does not come from the fight drive that I refer to that is built as a result of a confident foundation started and built through early prey work. If you are confused on the issue of fight drive read my article titled The Definition of Fight Drive.
I had a friend tell me of a Doberman he saw go through its first experience on the table. The dog had questionable nerves to begin with and probably could never do sport work. It was so scared and upset that it lost control of its bowels and bladder while the helper tried working it. As far as I am concerned this type of training is morally wrong. We have no right to stress a dog so badly that it loses control of its bowels. If a person needs a protection dog this badly he should find a home for his weak dog and go out and buy a dog better suited for this work.
In protection work, if the dog is exposed to enough stress at some point it will move into the part of defense where it must either fight or run from the threat. Table training removes the option of flight that the dog learned is his only option. When then happens is these dogs are fighting for their lives. If you understand dog training and know what's going on in the dogs head this is not a pretty sight. On the other hand, novice trainers are impressed because of the intensity of the aggression that survival drive produces. They confuse the intensity of avoidance biting with confident fight drive biting.
I guess I am not proud of the fact that there are times I have used avoidance as a last resort to bring a dog around a problem. But even then the dog has had a foundation of prey from which to work off of. I also feel that there is a place for survival sessions in training police service dogs. Where the dog learns to fight at all costs when faced with someone who is trying to kill you. This is something both cops and their dogs have to develop a mental attitude towards. But again, these dogs must have a solid foundation of prey and defensive training from which to fall back on. That training was not based on avoidance work.
Trainers that are schooled in table training will justify the method by explaining that the dogs are moved into their prey drive while on the table and then worked in control work on the short table. This is all compared to working a dog on a tie out on the ground. The fact is that this is a poor comparison. A dog worked on a six foot tie out does not have the same mental image of it's predicament as a dog on a short chain up on a table. The dog on the six foot tie out on the ground sees some room for escape. The dog on the table quickly realizes that the option of escape has been removed.
The table trainers will counter with the statement that a dog on a tie out can be placed into the same Fight or Flight mentality as a dog on a table. I agree 100% with this statement. If enough pressure is put on a dog on a tie out it will quickly realize that there is nowhere to run. Old time dog trainers used to tie a dog out on a fence and beat it with a hose until it went so far into avoidance that it fought. These dogs learned that the only safe place for them to be was on the sleeve.
The fact is that bad training is bad training. Dogs that begin on a six foot tie out do not start out thinking that they have nowhere to run like the dog that starts on the table. Bite work training based on a foundation of avoidance has holes in it somewhere - you can take that to the bank.
In my opinion, table work has no place in police dog training or sport training. The problems arise in search work. How can we expect a dog that has been trained with a foundation in avoidance to have the correct drive to search for a hiding suspect? These dogs have little motivation to go out in a field and search for a suspect that he knows is going to add a lot of stress to it's life. The same thing goes for sport dogs doing a blind searches.
When a police dog is sent to apprehend a suspect, it's almost impossible to duplicate the survival atmosphere of the table training. He is no longer tied to a table and at some point in his police work he is going to be faced with a situation where the pressure is so high that flight is now a viable option. When that point comes he may choose to run. Police dogs need to have a foundation for their hunting drive. This is developed at a young age when they play the game of chasing down their prey item and capture it. This foundation is missing in table work.
Dogs will often slip back into their foundation drives as they go through training. It's not uncommon to see dogs that are trained from a foundation in prey drive slip back into prey during defense work. Usually they are confused and so they go back to their bag of tricks to see what works. When a dog has been started from a foundation in avoidance (table training) they can slide back into avoidance and choose to run from the threat rather than stand and fight.
To train a dog to develop fight drive we must change the dogs view of the helper. We need to make the dog see the helper as a fighting partner. If his foundation work has been based in avoidance how can that dog develop the attitude that he can beat every man in every circumstance and in every environment? The answer is simple - he can't.
The issue here is not if you can train a dog to bite and bite hard with table training. The answer is that you can. The problem is that you are working in the wrong drives and the wrong balance of drives. It amazes me that people think that they can get a balance of drives from fear-motivated training. Remember the goal of balancing drives is confidence. How can this happen from something based on fear?
That's why people have so many problems when they take their table-trained dogs to a helper who is skilled in defense and fight training. When their dogs all of a sudden show insecurity their excuse is always the same: The dog was not totally finished with his table training. Yeah Right!!!!!!!!
My advise to new handlers is to stay away from table training. No one has reinvented a new, bigger and better way to train protection work here. Sound training is still sound training and there are no shortcuts to the final product.
I will make this quick, hopefully. I know you're
a busy man. I'm the Animal Control Supervisor for a small city of 85000 here in Southern
Calif. I was researching some of the "drives" info in the archives
for discussion and came across the term "table training." Not knowing what
this was about, I read the discussion from 2001 describing it in depth. I was sick
to my stomach, similar to the feeling I get when I have to deal with dog
fighters. This train of thought is very similar to the ideas behind "rolling"
a young dog for the pit, see how much he can take to try to get a certain
response. If I ever hear of anything like this in my city, I will prosecute under Penal Code 597. There is no excuse for this. Thank you for taking the
stand you did, it was well presented and thought out. If I know of anyone
wanting a protection dog, I will suggest they contact you for a referral. Keep
up the good work. You don't need to reply to this, I just want to commend
Dear Mr. Frawley,
I have a 4yr. old female GSD with good german working lines.
Sasha is Schutzhund trained. Sasha has super intense prey drive with a
good balance of defense. She can be a little sharp or nervous at times.
Not something I worry much about because she is much more confident than
not. My problem is this: About two years ago I had to have her X-Rayed
and checked for worms. The vets assistants took her back to another room
without me. Later when she came back I could tell she had exposed her
anal glands. This was a first for her. I asked them how she did and if
there were any problems. They lied and said it was fine. Every since
that incident she will not allow the vet to touch her or even look her
in the eyes. Needless to say I use a different vet now. My new vet thinks
she just an aggressive dog. I have explained that Sasha has never bit
anyone. She is obedient and responds to me well. There have been two
You made the statement "you think she was started that you think she was started on the table a little too young" - let me say that NO DOG should EVER be put on a table. This is the dumbest method of dog training that anyone has ever thought up.
Your dog is not a balanced Schutzhund dog. Correct balance is 70% prey - your dog is not that. Your dog should not be worked in defense drive.
you ever seen it for yourself? you say in your article that a friend
of yours saw a dog being trained on a table. Do you know if your "friend" knew
what he was actually seeing??? How can you write an article based on what
someone else saw???? The person that developed this has put many dogs on the
podium..... the top scoring protection dog at last years national was
trained entirely on the table..... and he's NOT working out of fear. I know
cause I have caught the dog. Kurt Falkenstern didn't think he was working
out of "fear". And the 2nd place dog in the National is trained on
I have caught this dog when ed had him and since debbie has owned him and I
can tell you that he does not work out of "fear". If these dogs are
scared you would see it come out in the grips..... how can a dog that is not
confident have a full calm grip? You do not know what you are talking about
when it comes to table training! The square table does not have a 360 degree
swivel on it either. You should get your facts straight before you start
spouting off about this stuff. I also saw a Bernhard Flinks video on
obedience where you go off on a tangent about table training...... What the
My dog was trained on the table and I have shown him 2x..... SchH 1 protection score was 100.... SchH 2 score was 98. Maybe you should get a clue about what table training is. Why don't you post this under the article where it says "comments" instead of some woman who is kissing your ass??? I will NEVER buy another video from you. I will NEVER order anything from your web site again. You are working out of "ignorance". Please take my name off your mailing list! Remember, a person can ruin someone's dog on the ground just as fast as they can on a table...... bad training is bad training no matter where it takes place. Get real.
We had already removed your name from the mailing list. Not sure why - maybe you had moved and a catalog came back. But with that said I will not send you anymore catalogs.
Obviously you have your opinions on table training and I have mine. Nothing wrong with that. I don't care to debate the issue. I feel as strongly as you do about my position.
I will say that I do not agree with your statement about how your friend has helped many people to the podium. I am not someone who believes that "the end justifies the means." There are many abusive methods to train which produce dogs that will score in sport work. That does not make them right. Table training happens to be one of them.
But I will add your email to the article on my web site so people can see that there is a difference of opinion on table training.
I agree that the Mal in the nationals was an excellent dog (in my opinion.) Debbie's dog is not breed worthy. It's a good competition dog - but its not a dog that I would ever recommend anyone breed.
My name is Szilvia and I live in Canada. My
dream was to train my dog in Schutzhund sport. I have a 8 month old
rottweiler from Belgium. I was very happy to find a Schutzhund club in
my area (which
is the only one). We are going to this club for 4 months once a week.
The owner of the club was using fishing post with a piece of leather
the end of the line to build prey drive. In the same time I was getting
tapes and I'm at "Building drive, focus and grip." I told
the club, that my dog is not ready to any more training because I still
on his drives and focus. Everything was fine until today. He put (not
a helper) my dog on a round table and he was using a tug and a whip
drive. But when the dog was not focusing he was hitting the dog with
the tug (not hard, but I didn't like it), even in his face I don't know
did this. He never used this table on any other dogs or I just missed
it. Anyway, I don't think I'm going back and it breaks my heart because
train my dog after all. He is a very nice dog. Your tapes help us a
lot. Thank you! To bad to waste this dog just because there is no good
clubs in my area! I like to ask if I waste my time to talk to the helper
(he is nice with dogs) to do it the way I want him to handle my dog? If
not, will this
dog protect me later without training? Can I do something? Thank
you for your time!!!!
I would suggest that you read the article I have written about table training. You can find this on the article page on my web site at http://leerburg.com/articles.htm. Table training is for fat helpers that can't move and for lazy helpers who won’t move and for inexperienced helpers who don’t know what they are doing.
What I would do if I were you is to continue to work your dog in the foundation work. This means the drive and focus work and the work that I show in video 310 "Preparing Your Dog for the Helper." All of this work is done by the handler. It sounds like you got ahead of yourself too. There really was no reason for you to go to the club until your dog had gone through this work.
As time passes I will be releasing additional training videos in which I use the work of Bernhard as the foundation. If you continue with these tapes you will become educated on the art of protection training for Schutzhund. The more you know the better you are going to be at telling a helper what you want done with your dog.
Just wanted to comment about a letter that was sent to you about table training from Szilvia Simon. I happen to train at the club in Canada that Szilvia was referring to.
I was training a dog at the club the day she was referring to when her pup was put on the table.
Just an observation on my part and other members was that her dog had very little drive. The dog didn't even focus on the tug, it could care less, no interest. It was almost like the dog had a missing link. Maybe the dog needs to grow up and mature... but most of the dogs at our club go nuts for anything that moves (tug) unlike her rottie by the time the dog is 4 month old. My GSD chased the leather on the fishing pole at 7 weeks! Her dog had no interest in chasing the strip of leather on the fishing pole, the dog would bolt off the field. As you know, the dogs that have poor prey drive don't work out in the sport.
It must have been disappointing, and a hard reality for her to not be able to work with her dog because it just doesn't have the proper drives that a working dog must have for the sport of Schutzhund. It's too bad she couldn't communicate to the helper of her concerns, could have cleared up some grey areas. We were wondering what happened to her when she stopped coming out to the club.
Our club is not a "protection dog club" but indeed a very successful
Schutzhund club with talented handlers and VERY talented helpers that
work the dogs beautifully for the sport, dogs at all different levels and strengths.
Just thought you would like the full story as to what actually happened that day that's all. Her dog was not miss treated.
Maybe Szilvia was miss informed and didn't do her home work about the Belgium lines her rottie comes from and in my mind, expects too much from the poor dog. Maybe her dog will do well in CKC/AKC?
Szilvia is right in saying she has a nice dog but maybe as a pet...
A good solid dogs will be able to handle the pressure of table training. Does this justify it's use? No.
With this said when a dog is lacking in some areas it will not handle the stress of table training. That's what it sounds like happened here.
Is the sport better off without this dog? I don't know. I do believe that the sport of schutzhund is loosing members to other dog sports and incidents like this only drive people away.
Who will ever know if this women would have seen the weakness in her dog and moved on to a more appropriate dog? We will never know that.
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