Why do some dogs show all the potential to become working dogs, go through training and pass the evaluation for working dogs, but when you deploy the handler and dog, some will report back that the dog doesn't want to work during operational deployment?
I have been a dog trainer since 1984 in law enforcement environments in SA. Why do some dogs show all the potential to become working dogs, go through training and pass the evaluation for working dogs (patrol and/ or sniffer), but when you deploy the handler and dog, some (a very small%) will report back that the dog doesn't want to work during operational deployment?
Is this a mystery of dog training?
This is a great question. It’s also a common problem.
The root of the problem starts in the selection testing the dog goes through. Many, many, many dogs are put into working dog programs that don’t belong there.
Inexperienced trainers confuse prey drive for aggression. I have seen this more times than I can possibly remember. Schutzhund is the perfect example, although the same can be said for the KNPV in Holland or the Ring Sports in Belgium France and America. Sport dogs that have good prey drive can be trained to do the protection exercises for these sports, but they could never do police service work because they don’t have the nerves for the work. The fact is, these dogs look at the sport work as a physical game and not a fight.
There has never been a study, that I am aware of, to determine what percentage of sport dogs can actually go out and be cross trained to be police service dogs. In my experience (and I went to my first Schutzhund seminar in 1974), over 95% of the Schutzhund dogs in America would not make good service dogs. I won’t try and estimate the number of KNPV or Ring dogs in Europe but a large majority of them cannot do police work.
Back in the 1990s, I visited the Federal Police Dogs Schools at Rotterdam and Nunspeet in Holland. The majority of their dogs come out of the KNPV, but with that said they go through ridged selection testing for police work. While all of the dogs that are selected are titled in KNPV before they come into police work, they all go through 6 weeks of training.
The second part of this problem, and answer to your question, is there are too many inexperienced police service dog trainers out there. These trainers can take a dog that may have the potential to do the work but without good training they will not stand up to the stress of the work – and a police service dog's work is stressful.
I compare this to basketball and Michael Jordan’s sons. They certainly have the genetic make-up to play good basketball, but without the right training they will never play in the NBA (National Basketball Assoc.).