This video was taken directly from The Foundation of Puppy Bite Work with Michael Ellis
Can the handler help the dog’s protection work? We tend to look at play with the handler and bite work as different activities. As the dog develops those things diverge into 2 different worlds. But when we’re working with puppies (pre-teething and very early adolescence) there are a lot of things we do with the handler that have parallels in bite work.
When we play with our puppies, one of the things we’re teaching them is to like to play and use their mouth. But we’re also teaching them to hit a certain (varying) target. We’re also teaching them to ‘out’, to let go. Teaching the dog to ‘out’ in play is a very critical step to teach before moving to protection work.
Another thing you can do is work on your puppy’s confidence by playing with them in a lot of new places. This introduces environmental stressors in a productive way for the puppy. When we do this it neutralizes puppies new things and the novelty of new environment and helps them better focus on us and the activity we’re doing with them.
Another aspect is getting our puppy used to the equipment we’ll be using. If we don’t familiarize our puppy with the equipment, then when we go to work with the equipment later on the puppy’s going to be distracted and may scratch at the harness; won’t be comfortable working. Taking your puppy for walks in the equipment or playing with the puppy while occasionally pulling on the harness or having someone hold the puppy back are good ways to familiarize them to wearing the equipment.
Something to watch out for:
A lot of our early play with young puppies is exactly the same as what we’re doing in bite work. Once you hit adolescence, this will change. So something that people become obsessed with is how the puppy is biting on the toy when they’re playing with them. A lot of people try to fix their dogs “gripping problems” in bite work while they’re playing with their puppy. This usually takes the fun out of the play. There’s typically very little carryover in puppy play behavior and adult dog play behavior. There’s a lot of benefit and habits we can get out of playing with our dogs, so don’t obsess over your puppy’s grip.