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Leerburg Dog Training Q&A Archive Bite Work Q&A

Bite Work Q&A

Bite Work Q&A

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I try and answer every question I receive on dog training. I may often come across as a little on the blunt side, (some may call it brash). That is because I consider myself an advocate for dogs and not dog handlers. I am an advocate for common sense dog training and not the latest fad that appears on the horizon. Good dog training is not rocket science. It's common sense.

  1. Why don’t you use an “out” command on the hidden sleeve?

  2. The helper in our Ring Club says that he always works his dog in fight drive. As soon as he is done working the dog comes up to him wagging its tail to get petted. Can this possibly be fight drive that the dogs are working in?

  3. My pup will play with her tug like crazy at home. When I take her to the training field or down the street she ignores it. What should I do?

  4. Can you tell me if a trained personal protection dog can be an effective deterrent for a serious stalker?

  5. Our SchH Club lets the helper pet the dog after bite work to show how stable the dogs are. What’s your opinion of this?

  6. My 17 month old dog bites the sleeve on the elbow all the time. What can I do?

  7. My 18 month old dog is doing good prey and defense. He is very strong-- too strong for my wife to handle. Can I add control without hurting his drive?

  8. What is the youngest one should put a pup on a helper?

  9. I am confused about is what is causing the dogs to go for the bite during the bark and hold. Is the handler giving the command or is the dog simply taking the sleeve when its presented?

  10. One of the helpers took my dog out at 7 months and brought out his defense. Did this ruin my dog?

  11. I'm trying to get my dog to look at me when we do the heal and it just isn't working. Any suggestions?

  12. My dog is having problems on slippery floors when we work on the search. Can we get him past this issue, and is it that much of a concern considering he will do what is required of him on the floor?

  13. My young dog is very focused on the sleeve, even when it’s on the ground. He will go for the sleeve even when I have given him corrections. What can I do?


I have many of your videos, but as I watch the police and personal protection videos I notice that you don't use an “out” command on the hidden sleeve, but you just pull the dog off. Why don't you use an “out” command on the hidden sleeve?

Thanks again.........



There is nothing wrong with OUTING a dog from a hidden sleeve if the dog is clean in the OUT. If there is any question about a police dog re-biting after its release then it is too dangerous to out him unless he is on a leash where he can not bite the helper in the leg or body. If the dog gets hooked up and the handler has taken the slack from the line so that he can control his dog after the OUT there is nothing wrong with this practice.

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My name is John and I belong to a French Ring club here in California and our club decoy says that he trains all his dogs in Fight Drive. Well, after I purchased your tape on Fight Drive (Bark and Hold for Police Service Dogs) I'm wondering if his dogs are just playing a mean game of tug of war, because as soon as the decoy works the dogs they come right up to him and he pets them and gives them love. He says that they are working in Fight Drive, but it does not look like the dogs really look at him as a fighting it possible Mr. Frawley for a dog to be working in Fight Drive, but as soon as the bite work is over the dog is wagging his tail and getting petted by the decoy?? This does not look like Fight Drive to me!! Thanks in advance.


You are 100% correct. The dogs are not working in fight drive, it's just active prey. You probably should not tell him this as it will only upset him and may influence your relationship with the dog.

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My pup will play with her tug like crazy at home. When I take her to the training field or down the street she ignores it. What should I do?


I would continue to play with the dog in the yard – the only thing I would change would be that I would NEVER allow the dog to get the toy when it was home – just tease her with it. Build the drive for the toy through frustration.

Then continue to take the dog to other locations. Try and play with the dog in these locations and when the dog does play, allow it to get the toy and play with it. I just wrote a Q&A for Competition Obedience explaining how to determine what toys the dogs like more than others. Read it and see if your dog has a preference in toys – most do – then only use the toy it likes the best.

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Dear Mr. Frawley,

I am writing to seek your opinion about whether, in your experience, a properly trained and handled personal protection dog can be an effective deterrent against an aggressive stalker.

First, let me say that I don't want to impose on your professional time. I would be happy to pay you for a formal consultation over the phone. I am contacting you because you have consistently been suggested as a knowledgeable resource by trainers and law enforcement officers in my area. Also, I have received your video catalog in the past and been very impressed with its quality.

Here is the background to my question: In 1997 I was aggressively stalked by a man I had formerly dated. I pursued all appropriate actions through my local police and through the courts (restraining order) at that time. My local police (Berkeley, California) were extremely helpful but very frank about the limits of their ability to protect me. I was surprise-attacked by the stalker on my property, fended him off, and at that point I left the area for a period of time on the advice of the police. The assailant disappeared from the area and his whereabouts remained unknown until a week ago. He has surprise-approached me once, and though he has made no physical or verbal threats at this point, I am taking the situation very seriously, as are my local police.

The Berkeley Police Department has no canine unit, but one of the officers has had some experience with protection dogs during his military career. He suggested that a properly trained "defensive or deterrent" dog might be an option to consider. I contacted a trainer in the area who specializes in training protection dogs and he was skeptical - his opinion was that any dog, including a retired hunter or herder, would be as much of a deterrent as a trained protection dog.

I have more than 32 years experience working pastoral and hunting dogs, but I know nothing about working with a dog for personal protection.

I would not take this step lightly, as I would consider any dog enlisted for this purpose to be a working partner, a companion, and a lifetime commitment - as I would any working canine. Also, I expect that I would need substantial training in order to handle the dog properly, and I wonder what length of time that might take.

Any advice you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Again, if this request merits a paid consultation, please let me know how to best contact you by telephone and we can proceed on that basis.

Thank you.


I do not agree with your local trainer. My gut feeling is that this individual is not as good a trainer as he would lead people to believe. He probably realizes that you really do need a dog that will work and does not like the responsibility that goes with your needs.

I do think that a well trained dog could become part of a security plan. It should not be the entire program. I would suggest a dog, a gun and pepper gas.

I would talk to the police about a concealed carry permit and then find a police officer that is a certified law enforcement trainer to teach you how to shoot. You also need training in deadly force (when you can and cannot shoot). This is important. Some very good advice if you ever have to shoot (because you fear for your life) would be to shoot until the threat is gone (he is dead). Being able to verbalize your perception of a threat on your life is an important issue after a shooting. This is not to be taken lightly.

The lower level of force is the dog and pepper spray.

A stalker is going to quickly realize that you have a dog. The dog will only be effective when it is with you. So there are going to be times when this is not possible. A serious stalker is going to pick a time when the dog is not there or he is going to challenge the dog because he does not believe the dog will actually bite. Hence you need a well trained dog.

The problem here is there are a lot of people out there who claim to be selling personal protection dogs – when in fact the animals they sell are nothing more than sport (Schutzhund ) dogs that will bite a sleeve. You need more than that. Many dogs bite sleeves but would NEVER bite a human without a sleeve. In fact a lot of police dogs fall into this category. The same goes for military dogs (the military has a miserable reputation for dog work).

I cannot tell you how much training you would need. That all depends on your skill as a handler, the temperament of the dog and the training on the dog. These are all variables. But it could range from a week at the minimum to several weeks.

Dogs like this are also not going to be cheap. I would caution you that there is an old saying “You don’t get anything for nothing.” This is especially true in the dog business. If a dog is a good dog it can be sold as a selection tested police dog. And a selection tested police dog (one without training but one that has the temperament for the work and one that has been x-rayed and checked by a vet) is going to cost $3500 to $4500. So one with training is going to be considerably more than that. Training takes time and time costs money. If money is an issue for you, then you would have to settle with a dog that is only for looks (it will not bite). These dogs are cheap ($200.00 to $1000.00). In which case you will have to rely on the gas and a gun for a real threat.

My gut feel is that you may be better off to go with an older more mature dog (4 to 7 years old) . While these older dogs will not have the life expectancy of a 2 year old – they are often more stable and there is a lot to be said about maturity. My thinking would be that you need a two or three year fix right now. An older dog can fit the bill and teach you a lot about handling a dog.

I hope this helps.

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Mr. Frawley

I reviewed your video "The first steps of bite work" you made the remark that the helper should always play a neutral part. I agree it makes perfect sense. What I don’t understand is what I have seen in the past with other trainers at the SchH Club. One example was when I was working the sleeve on this import GSD. It was one of the trainers dog & he is telling me "this dog will bite you for real" I took it to mean it’s beyond a sport dog. To make a long story short, he then makes me the handler and now he becomes the helper on the same dog. The dog did the work successfully. Another example was when I just finished working this Rott on the sleeve the helper says okay, go ahead and pet this dog so you can see what a good dog is. I did pet him & he became friendly as I was petting him. The only real conclusion I have is that these were pure sport dogs in spite of the so-called trainers’ claims. I don’t know if this is a safe example to practice as a helper. The video makes more sense to me unless you see something I didn’t . Please explain.

Thank You,


What this really demonstrates is a Schutzhund club that does not understand the protection work as much as they should.

My video is correct – their work in your club is not correct. Sometimes there are different training theories that can accomplish the same thing. This is not one of them. Simply put they are making a mistake using this approach. I want the dog to HATE the helper. From the minute that he enters the field to the minute he leaves. The HELPER is a fighting partner not a friend – not EVER a friend. How can a dog work in fight drive if it’s working against a friend? The answer is simple – he cannot.

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I have several Videos you have made, and refer to them a lot for Schutzhund training I plan to get a Tracking video soon. My problem is.... My 19mth Rottweiler bites the elbow on the sleeve. I have tried the sleeve cover with the plastic on the elbow, tried standing in his way of the elbow (he goes around me), tried outing him and only slipping when he hits center. Have tried barrel sleeve also working on his bite. Maybe I haven't done one or all things long enough to establish a habit??? Please let me know your thoughts. I haven't found not 1 thing in all the books and videos I have, on this problem. The sleeve with the plastic didn't last but about 10-20 sessions he stripped the jute fast from pulling. If you like this sleeve maybe you can refer me to a supplier of really good sleeves. He also drops and chews I have a hard time trying to hold his head up when I do he just drops the sleeve. I feel that the helper we have at the club Defenses him too much. And have sorta decided to take him back to the puppy sleeve and do a lot of prey work (My husband and I train police dogs so he works him for me through the week) and work on the hold and carry a lot. Also when you slip the sleeve (trial sleeve) he will (while doing the carry routine) mouth it getting it to the elbow.

Thank you,


When a dog does this its usually (99% of the time) an issue of avoidance to the helper.

You can have your helper wear two sleeves so the dog has to sit in front of him to take a bite. The bite comes from the helper swinging one of the arms up over his head and presenting the arm in front of him - this needs to be lighting fast when he does it - the dog never knows what sleeve is going to come so he can't sit to one side or the other.

If it were my dog I would back his training up to work with prey items. He needs to grip them firmly and learn to work and trust you. This is a problem with your dog now. He lacks trust and confidence - he has been worked in too much defense. He is uncertain of his ability to fight the helper.

When a dog can grip a prey item with a firm solid grip he will bite the sleeve with a firm grip. I am editing a video on training drive focus and grip with Bernard Flinks right now. Get that video when its done - it will solve the foundational part of your problem. Teaching your helpers will solve the second half.


Hi Mr Frawley,

I have read your website extensively and purchased several of your videos (puppy bite work, obedience, drive & focus, starting defensive work and the finished protection dog. I have a question that I need your help with that I have not been able to find the answer on my own research.


I have a 16 month old intact male Shepherd from Czech lines. Very high prey drive and started nicely in defense. Well developed bite. Does excellent in civil work. Serious, obedient, stable dog that loves his family and knows his place! He works well in obedience with my young kids.


During his agitation work (using your 2" collar) he is very forward moving and requires all my strength to keep a hold of him. There is no way my wife could handle him right now. I want to start introducing more control using more obedience in his agitation work such as staying in heel position or a down stay while he is being agitated. He respects his pinch collar very well.

My trainer and I agree that because of his high prey and defense drive there is no problem introducing the control. However, other people in the club feel this is a huge mistake at this point in the dogs training.

I would greatly appreciate your insight on when it is appropriate to add obedience or control into the agitation work.

Thank you


I cannot answer this question because I do not know how you train.

When done correctly obedience is introduced from the very beginning of protection work. It's not added at some point in the middle of training.

The young dog is first expected to run in a circle and then come to you and come into your arms when told to do so. The dog must OUT from your arm when told to. If a dog is strong then someone else holds the line during the actual bark before the bite. After the bite > slip the dog needs to use obedience to run in a circle and not run around the field going where it wants to go.

The foundation for this is covered in my DVD on Building Drive and Focus – and Preparing Your Dog for the Helper. I hope to edit the helper tapes later this year.



I have one very quick question to ask you about. I know I can get other peoples input on your web board, but it's yours I interested in. You have been around the block many times, and I'm sure you also know a lot of other top level dog trainers that have as well, but when is the earliest a person should let their pup work with a helper? I have just about every one of your videos on this topic, and I think I know the right answer, be the reason I'm asking you is that there's a local ring sport trainer that thinks it should be right away. He is a ring three judge, and heads up a club that's very close to my home, so training with him would be nice. But he has some training methods that I'm not real pleased with like covering the eyes on a puppy that's about the same age as my pup, while it's doing basic rag bite work. And pushing down on it's nose at the same time. Ed I truly value you advice, and I want what's best for my pup.


P. S. I know you don't have time to answer my every little question, but I need to know if these are good or bad signs in a club leader.


I would not put my dog on a helper until it was 12 months old. The problem with putting a dog on a helper too soon is insecurity – when that happens the dog's grip gets chewy. The reason the ring sport people will do this (other than they have more to learn) is that the French Ring does not judge grip – so a chewy grip is not going to hurt anything.

There is no reason you cannot do EVERYTHING this helper does when you are doing the prey work in PREPARING YOUR DOG FOR THE HELPER. These people are going to bad mouth this approach – but everyone has their own thoughts.

For me it's just not worth it.

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I watched the DVD several times and things are slowly beginning to soak in. One thing that I am confused about is what is causing the dogs to go for the bite during the bark and hold. Is the handler giving the command or is the dog simply taking the sleeve when its presented.

Ed’s answer:

The answer is BOTH – the dog should go for the bite when the helper makes a threatening move. Every time this happens the handler should give the bite command as the dog goes for the bite. This helps pre-program the dog to learn to bite on command.

As the dog gains experience you can reverse the order and have the handler give the command and then the helper moves. So the dog learns to bite on command. The dogs that are mature, are confident biters, have good training, can get stung by the stick if they are to slow to respond on the bite command.

Hope this helps.


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Hi Ed,

I have a quick question for you regarding defensive drive.  When I purchased my GSD thru my breeder I planned on doing Schutzhund or Protection work thru them.  We started obedience and have done really well at it.  At about 7 months one of the protection helpers took us aside to "check his nerves" and basically brought out his defense.  He did this for about an hour off and on by peaking around a corner and trying to get closer while Dakota barked louder or lunged at him.  The next weekend he did this as well.  After reading on here about starting them too early on defensive drive I am a little worried that we might have wrecked him. We have also done this at our house every now and then by having a friend trying to sneak into the house while Dakota was on leash and letting him bark and lunge.  (Recommended by the trainer)  We have since stopped all of this and just focused on his prey drive and play time.  I'm curious if we have ruined him in any way or if we are still ok.  One thing I have noticed since then is that he will not have a prey drive when out of his element.  Once he gets used to the surroundings then he will play all day but he needs to check it out first.  He is now 10 months old. Thank you for your time and great website. 


You are working with a helper who needs a lot more training.

Maybe you saw me write this statement: "Just because your pup can do something does not make it right.”

You should be doing the prey work in my two DVDs :

Building Drive and Focus
Preparing Your Dog for the Helper

You will find out how foolish the work your helper is doing when you see the correct way to prepare the dog for this work.

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Hi Ed,

I'm writing you to ask you how to train a dog with no motivation. My name is Jonathan and I have been training my pit bull for PSA. I have done a lot of work with him. His bite work is very strong. My problem is with obedience. He has no toy drive, so a tug or a ball is out of the question. I did all of his obedience with food and corrections. He is a lazy dog so everything he does is slow. The slowness is not my problem, because i know what my dog is and he can't be sped up. My problem is the heads up heel. This is the only thing holding him back from getting his PSA 1. He won't take food in front of a decoy and when I force him he isn't consistent. I've tried rewording him with bites when he is heeling well and that has helped a little, but when I step onto the field with him on a fur saver dead ringed he blows me off. He will look at me consistently when he is by my side, but he can't walk and look up at the same time all the time. If you can help in anyway i would greatly appreciate it. Thank you so much.


You may be rushing it a bit, if your dog will look at you while he is at your side, then you need to break it down into smaller steps to make him understand that you want him to move with you while looking up.

I would use markers to train this.  Read the article Ed wrote titled Training With Markers.  There are three phases of training, the learning phase, the distraction phase and the correction phase. We use markers to introduce our dogs to the LEARNING PHASE of training.  I would do the marker training with food, away from the helper at first.  Obedience during bite work is a completely different exercise in the mind of the dog.  Teach him what you want and make sure he is very clear on what you expect away from protection before you add the huge distraction of the decoy.

You can also use the decoy as a reward; if he wants to bite then he has to look at you.  This takes a lot of patience on your part, but once the dog figures out what he has to do to get his bite the training will progress much faster.  I successfully retrained an older dog that had a crummy obedience foundation using the helper as the reward.  We called it “obedi-bites”  When he did focused obedience then I would randomly release him for bites, no focus, and we went back to the car.

I would not be working this dog on a fur saver or in any situation where he has the opportunity to blow you off.  The more chances he has to do things his way, the harder retraining becomes and the longer it will take.  Don’t let him rehearse behaviors you don’t like.



It's been quite awhile since I have come to you with a training problem. My first police dog had an issue with his passive alert and your advice was spot on and got us through a problem we couldn't find the answer for. Unfortunately, after a short but great career, my first partner ended up getting cancer and has been retired from service. So as it goes in our business, we tested and found a new dog to replace him. The dog tested well and is showing some great abilities in all the training he has gone through. However, we have discovered a problem and I would love to get your expert opinion. This dog, Zeke, is an 18 month old Czech GSD and is showing signs of a slick floor issue. It is not every floor, and it is not every surface. He is great outdoors, great on door agitation, but when he is sent onto a floor to make a find he hugs walls and crouches his way down the floor. When he does make the find, he alerts properly and aggressively. He will engage the decoy on the floor with a nice full mouth bite, but as soon as he is off the bite, it is very obvious that he is not comfortable on the surface. I guess my question is two-fold. Can we get him past this issue, and is it that much of a concern considering he will do what is required of him on the floor? We have backed up and slowed down his training on floors and are concentrating on the agitation side because he does do well there. We are not in a hurry, and I would appreciate any advice or training methods you have seen work. I'd be happy to give you anymore information you need as I really would love to see this dog make it through our training. However, we do plenty of building searches, and I can't afford to take a dog out on the streets with this kind of issue. Thanks again for your willingness to share you experience and I look forward to hearing from you.




Nice to hear from you. It sounds like someone missed something on the selection testing with your new dog.

Without seeing the dog I can’t tell you if you can make this work. I have seen some dogs pull through. Those that do pull through are dogs that have not been socialized to a slick floor as a puppy.

Those who don’t pull through are dogs with genetically weak nerves. Without testing in training it is very hard to tell which is the case. Frankly more don’t test out than those who get past it.

Those who don’t make it will eventually start to avoid hiding sports that contain a decoy unless they are stimulated ahead of time. This becomes a dangerous situation for the handler that tries to do real searches on the street.

All I can say is that you should continue your training with a “wait and see” attitude. Here are the some of the training steps we have done with dogs that had these issue.

  1. Start your work with bite work on slick floors– rather than playing with a ball. The dogs are in higher drive when they do bite work vs playing with a ball. The ball, tug narcotics work can be done after the bite work.

  2. Start with a sleeve being hidden inside the building – not that far in. The helper wearing a second sleeve starts just outside of the door for the building. He stimulates the dog with this second sleeve on his arm. He runs about 15 feet into the building and the dog is sent after him. The dog gets a bite – the sleeve is slipped and the dog carries the sleeve outside.

  3. The helper turns and runs back into the building and puts the sleeve on that was hidden. Depending on the behavior of the dog on the first bite  – he either steps to the door and re-stimulates the dog and repeats the procedure or he turns and hides further inside the building (not that far) and the dog is sent again. This can be repeated several times, even in different buildings.

  4. Then on a new training day you would not let the dog see the helper enter the building. Pull up make your announcement and send the dog. This should be a short easy search - find and bite - None of these are bark and holds. They are all find and bites.

    If this goes well don't let the dog carry the sleeve outside. Have him OUT the sleeve - the helper then turns and runs to a place he has hidden a second sleeve. The dog is resent for a find and bite and the dog then carries the sleeve out of the building.

    You can gradually extend the length of the search on the slick floors.

  5. If you can’t get past this step then the dog needs to be replaced.

  6. If the dog does well then you can repeat the process where the helper does not wear the sleeve- he just stands – stimulated the dog and disappears. If this goes well the dog is sent into the building without pre-stimulation. At this point the helper is close to the front door and the distance he goes inside is gradually increased.

  7. If your dog is going to be a drug dog you should do your training in a similar fashion. Use one scratch box. Start with the box just inside the door. Let him burst in make a quick find then a good tug of war and drag him outside while still playing tug.

  8. Gradually add more than one scratch box just inside the door. When he will come in and search 3 or 4 boxes you can move the finds further into the building. If he won’t search 3 or 4 boxes when they are close to the front door then the dog should be replaced.

  9. If the dog gets along really well with another dog and will play with that dog take them to play in a gym or cafeteria or some such place. It was a goofy suggestion the first time I heard it, but damned if it doesn't work if the dog simply lacks socialization to new things. They see their peer run in and play so they don't worry about it. This will not fix dogs with a genetic problem only those who have not been socialized to slick floors.

You may already know these things in which case I wish you the best of luck. Bottom line is that if this dog does not pull through you need to bite the bullet and start with a new dog. You can’t gamble your life on a dog that has nerve problems.


Hi Cindy,

I have a 17 month old GSD who I have had since he was 7 weeks old.  I have trained him in protection work as well as obedience and agility.  In obedience and agility he is doing fine but in protection I have huge control problems.  He is extremely highly driven in the presence of a sleeve, even when the sleeve is not on a helpers arm. 

I have been doing a lot of control exercises in the presence of the sleeve but not rewarding with the sleeve, using a ball as the reward.  He is happy to accept the ball as a reward but I can tell he has an eye on the sleeve.  I have tried walking the dog past the sleeve and rewarding him with the ball.  I have done this over a period of 3 weeks but there are still times when he will go for the sleeve without being told he can..  When he gets the sleeve I use a dominant dog collar to lift him up to release his grip on the sleeve.  I have tried using no and a correction or out and a correction but even a very hard correction just seems to send him higher in drive.

Have you ever come across this sort of problem before, this dog seems to love the fight, so much so that he is willing to fight through any correction in order to get what he wants.

I have done out training with him and he will out the sleeve consistently, however if he has been frustrated i.e. not been given a reward for a short period of time during training then when he eventually gets a bite reward again he is so high he will not out.

I follow your training methods religiously but don't seem to be getting anywhere with this. If only I could see some progress.



In my opinion, correcting a young dog for this is detrimental to your relationship and future training.  Using the ball is a good idea but obviously is not a good enough “trade” for him to consistently leave the sleeve. I am training in ring sport and the dog has to leave the decoy and run back to me, and I reward with a bite pillow or a tug and REALLY play with the dog.  It has to be worth his while to leave the sleeve.  For an example, you can try having the sleeve on the ground, ask your dog to look at you and when he does you say YES and then play tug with him with a toy you have with you.  He will learn that just because the sleeve is laying there doesn’t mean that’s the only way he’s going to get drive satisfaction.  This takes a lot of the conflict away.

Have you done marker training with him?  If not, I highly recommend it. 

The Power of Training Dogs with Markers
The Power of Training Dogs with Food

Ed is producing a video right now on the right way to play tug with your dog, and I think you will find this method very clear and fair to your dog.

If you have watched any of our streaming videos, you will have seen marker training in use.  I would recommend the Michael Ellis videos HIGHLY.

I think maybe you are getting ahead of yourself a bit in training.  I would work out the issues you are having with just the sleeve, away from the decoy because you are allowing your dog to form habits that will haunt you for the life of the dog.  Clear up this issue with the sleeve by itself before trying to work on this with the decoy right now.

This video shows what I was trying to explain 

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