Training for the Schutzhund Dog: Part VI, Blind Search with
Hold and Bark
By Jim & Phyllis
Dobbs and Alice Woodyard
In the last five
articles, we covered selection of equipment, fitting the
collar to the dog, and basic principles that apply whenever
training with electronic collars. We explained how to
introduce the dog to the e-collar with the "three-action
introduction," which teaches the dog the strategy for
success. We have covered developing a reliable retrieve, a
spirited send-out, and confidence with the jumping
In this article, we
will cover the blind search and the hold and bark. These
exercises must be taught separately. However, they should be
taught concurrently. You should do this so that when the dog
has a good understanding of both the hold and bark and the
blind search, you can easily put then together to form the
exercise as done in competition. This article deals only
with the obedience aspect of the hold and bark, and not with
THE BLIND SEARCH
We teach the blind
search in three parts:
dog to go around a blind,
dog to continue to another blind after searching the
handler teamwork with the dog, so that together you can
progress smoothly down the field, searching each blind
collar is used to keep your dog relying on your direction,
rather than running down the field directly to where he
thinks the helper is hiding. It is much easier to structure
the exercise to keep the dog wanting to look for the
handler's direction after each blind, rather than trying to
fool the dog as to which blind will contain the helper. If
you do not remove the dog's option to run the blind of his
choice, you will not have consistency in your blind
Teaching the Dog
to Go Around a Blind
Partially open a
portable blind, so the dog can easily see you when you stand
behind it. Sit him on the far side of it, facing you. Call
him to you as you step quickly to one side, attracting him
by your motion to run around that side of the blind.
procedure several times, gradually moving the dog's starting
position farther and farther to the side, so that he must go
around more of the blind in order to come to you when you
call him. Always step to one side as you call, to encourage
the dog to come to you on the same side of the blind
regardless of his starting position.
If you build the
dog's path slowly in increments, he is unlikely to run
around the wrong side of the blind. If, however, he should
try this, apply brief, low level stimulation as he comes
along side the wrong side of the blind, just as you did when
you taught him not to run around a jump. (Momentary
stimulation, if your e-collar has it, is ideal for this
Give the dog a comparison. Start him off sitting closer to
the correct side of the blind the next time you call him, so
that he will be successful and come to you on the correct
Now set up the
portable blind in its normal position. Fasten a length of
cord inside the blind, so that it hangs down from the top,
with a clip on the free end. Clip a tug toy or receiving
bumper to the cord. Attach it so the dog can easily pull the
object off the cord.
Send the dog to get
the toy from the blind. Repeat a few times and get the dog
excited about the toy. Encourage him with your "Search"
command. From now on, you will use this command when you
send him to a blind.
Now leave the dog on the far side of the blind. Command
"Search" and call him to you after he has grabbed the toy.
A side benefit of starting the dog searching this way is
that it gets him looking into the blind instead of
just running around it.
Now begin sending
the dog from your side into the side to get the tug toy.
Start by offsetting your starting point to the left of the
blind, so that the dog's path is a shallow "horseshoe"
around the blind to its open side where he grabs the tug
toy, then returning to you along the opposite side of the
blind. As you see the dog grab the tug toy, move sideways
away from the side of the blind that he entered so as to
encourage him to return on the opposite side of the blind.
Thus going around the blind rather than retracing his path.
Some dogs prefer to
go clockwise and others counter clockwise when turning. The
side the dog prefers is that dog's "power side" and he will
feel more comfortable searching blinds from that direction.
Observe which side your dog prefers and build the horseshoe
pattern in that direction.
As the dog gains
proficiency through repetition, gradually move your starting
position away from the blind until the dog is going about 25
yards into the blind, grabbing his tug toy, and exiting the
blind on its opposite side to run back to you.
Teaching a Dog to
Continue on to Another Blind
Set up a second
portable blind about thirty yards from the first blind.
Teach the dog to go around blind No. 2 just as you did for
blind No. 1.
Now hang the toy or
bumper in blind No. 2. There should be nothing hanging in
blind No. 1. Stand between the two blinds, about 10 feet
away from blind No. 2. Send the dog around blind No. 1, call
him back toward you, and immediately direct him into blind
No. 2, where he finds his hanging tug toy reward.
After this stage,
the dog learns that he will be rewarded with his tug toy if
he takes your direction and continues searching after
finding nothing in the first blind.
After a few
repetitions, you can begin increasing your distance from
blind No. 2 until you are half way between blind No. 1 and
When the dog can
search from this distance, vary the location of the tug toy;
sometimes put the tug toy in blind No.1, sometimes in blind
Any time the dog
tries to run directly to blind No.2, disregarding your
direction to first search blind No.1, call him to you with
"No. Here." Heel him half way to blind No.1 and send him
from there. Use your e-collar to reinforce "Here" if he
disregards your first "Here" command.
Add a third blind
to form a triangle of blinds. At first, blind No. 3 should
be fifty yards from blind No. 1. Blind No. 2 should be
thirty yards from blind No. 1 and thirty yards from blind
No. 3. This configuration will help the beginning dog to
succeed. Teach the dog to go completely around No. 3,
finding his tug toy hanging in it and returning to you.
Now hang the tug
toy in No. 3. Send the dog to search blind No.1. Just after
he rounds it, call "Here" to attract his attention and
direct him into blind No. 2. As soon as he is heading away
from you for blind No. 2, walk forward. As the dog comes
around blind No. 2, attract his attention with "Here" and
then "Search" as you direct him with a signal toward blind
No. 3. Your position will keep him from trying to return to
blind No. 1. You are teaching him to run across the field
just in front of you; he is awarded for taking your
direction by finding the tug toy in blind No. 3.
When the dog can
search three blinds in succession and does not try to return
to blind No. 1 again, vary the location of the tug
reward-sometimes it is found in blind No. 1, sometimes in
No. 2, sometimes in No. 3.
Now you are ready
to increase the distance across the field to about fifty
yards, and decrease the distance between blinds No. 1 and
No. 3 to about thirty yards. After a few repetitions, you
can add additional blinds. Teaching the blind search with
the tug toy reward allows you to teach the mechanics of the
search pattern on your own without using valuable helper
When the dog is
able to search six blinds, it is very important that you
take your dog to various locations and give him experience
at searching blinds on different fields.
The Hold and Bark
While you are
teaching the blind search and progressing through the steps
described above, which will take several days, you should
also be teaching the hold and bark as a separate exercise.
To teach the hold and bark, first teach the dog to sit and
bark for a tug toy or bumper held by the handler. Next we
add the helper, and teach the dog that sitting and barking
is what earns a reward bite. During this stage, we restrict
the dog so that he cannot fall into the habit of bumping the
helper or taking his own bites. In other words, we are
patterning the dog into being correct and teaching the
behavior that brings him pleasure (a reward bite).
After the dog knows
well what to do to earn pleasure and has been physically
restricted so that he cannot be incorrect, we eliminate the
restriction and let him make the discovery that bumping and
helping himself to his own bites leads to displeasure from
If you teach the
hold and bark in this order, you will have a clean and
confident dog that never needs a harsh correction in the
hold and bark, because he knows the only one way that leads
to pleasure-the correct way.
Teaching the Dog
to Earn a Reward
Teach your dog to
sit and bark at you on command for a tug toy or a tennis
ball. Practice this while standing in front of a blind. Then
add a recall, so that the dog runs to you on command as you
stand in the blind. He is to sit, bark, and be rewarded with
his tug toy. Build up the length of the recall gradually to
a distance of at least 30 feet.
At first you should
reward the instant he sits and barks. Then very gradually
lengthen the time you require the dog to continue barking
before you reward him.
Now eliminate the
tug toy reward, substituting in its place the reward of a
bite. Wearing a sleeve, you should stand in the blind as
before, and repeat the above procedure of recall, sit, bark
and reward. This time, reward the dog with a bite on the
sleeve and then let the dog carry the sleeve. Start with the
dog very close, say five feet away, then gradually lengthen
the distance of the recall to 30 feet. Gradually build up
the time you require the dog to bark before rewarding him
with the sleeve.
The reason we use
the handler at first rather than the helper is because the
dog is not prone to bite the handler, just the presented
prey object. Also, with the handler instead of the helper
using the sleeve, the dog is working totally in prey drive
and without defense drive.
Remember that we
are just building mechanics here, not developing defense
drive. (You and your helper will add that in the blind work
later). If you tried to build a defense drive while teaching
the hold and bark procedure, the dog would not be calm
enough to learn the proper procedure and would require a lot
of correction. Using excessive correction while the dog is
learning mechanics robs him of a confident looking hold and
bark. By having the handler wear the sleeve at first, we can
give the dog the experience he needs in earning the reward
through the desired behavior without having to worry about
him forming undesirable habits.
Now is the time to
introduce the helper. Back-tie the dog with a premeasured
length of long line tied to a post. The back-tie must be
just long enough to allow the dog to get into proper
position to sit and bark, without being able to physically
contact the helper. The use of this back-tie is critical.
We are teaching the
dog the correct behavior to earn a reward during this
exercise. The dog must not be allowed top gain his reward
from incorrect behavior.
Have the helper stand in the blind with the dog back-tied.
Command the dog to sit and if necessary encourage barking by
patting the helper on the sleeve. For the first few
repetitions, have the helper reward the dog with a bite the
moment he sits, whether or not the dog barks. Then you can
require that the dog also bark for his reward bite.
gradually increase the time the dog must sit and bark to
earn a bite. Increase the distance from which you send the
dog, until he is running as far as the back-tie arrangement
Teaching the Dog
to Make a Comparison
Now the dog is
ready to be taken off the back-tie and make a comparison:
hold ad bark earns a bite; bump or bite on his own earns the
displeasure of momentary stimulation.
procedure above, with the dog off the back-tie. Be sure you
are in a position to be able to see if the dog bumps or
takes a bite on his own. Respond immediately to every
infraction with the "bump" of brief mild stimulation.
If your e-collar
has momentary stimulation, this is an ideal time to use it.
Momentary stimulation begins when the button is pressed, and
turns off automatically after only an instant, regardless of
how long the button is held down. Momentary stimulation is
perceived as mildly unpleasant by working a dog without
distracting him from his work. If your e-collar does not
have momentary stimulation, tap and release the button to
create very brief periods of mild continuos stimulation.
We don't try to
fool the dog as to which blind the helper is in. Instead, we
teach the dog, "Eat your spinach before you get dessert." In
other words, "Run around all the blinds before you get to
Set up three
portable blinds and leave the helper in plain view standing
in front of the third blind. Have the dog run the
three-blind search pattern he has already learned (in order
to find tug toys). This time, there are no tug toys.
Instead, at the third blind, is the helper. Just as the dog
comes around blind No. 2., the helper should step into the
blind. The dog searches blind No. 3, does a brief hold and
bark, and gets a bite.
Sooner or later the
dog will try to run straight to the helper, who is standing
in plain view in front of the third blind. Remove this
option by pressing the button on your transmitter as you
command "Here!" The dog will quickly learn that he must run
around blinds No. 1 and 2 before he can proceed to the
Now add additional
blinds and increase the search pattern to include all the
blinds. The helper should always be in the last blind until
the dog is reliable at performing a complete search and
never tries to run directly to the helper.
Position and Team Work
When you begin
requiring the dog to run the full pattern, searching all
five blinds in succession before arriving at the helper in
the sixth blind, you need to be sensitive to your own
position and motion in relation to both the blinds and the
dog. If you move too rapidly down the field, you will push
the dog too far down the field and cause him to skip a
blind. If you do not progress quickly enough down the field,
your position with respect to the blinds will tend to pull
the dog back to a blind he has already searched.
experimentation and practice will tell you how rapidly you
must walk. Typically, the walking handler should be about
even with the blind the dog has just finished searching at
the time he sends the dog for the next blind.
Do not correct the
dog for searching the wrong blind if it is caused by tour
position in the field. Your own position as a team member is
the determining factor for not skipping or repeating blinds.
If you see the dog going for the wrong blind, just call him
to you with the command "No. Here" without using the
e-collar (unless he disregards the first command). Start
over by repeating the last correct blind he searched.
To keep the dog
from running down the field directly to the helper, make it
a rule of thumb that the dog must look at you after
searching each blind. Reward his eye contact with your
command to search the next blind. This rewards the dog
because it allows him to continue his momentum toward the
helper. If he does not look at you on his own after
rounding a blind, immediately call him all the way to you
and require him to heel with you back to the position to
repeat the search of the prior blind. (If you need a second
command to make the dog come to you or heel, reinforce it
with the e-collar).
The dog will make
the comparison and learn that if he looks to you for
direction after each blind, he can continue his momentum
without being stopped. If he tries to disregard you, his
momentum will be stopped-and his progress to the helper
When the dog
accepts this control, you can vary the location of the
helper to add interest to the exercise. But do not begin
varying the helper's position until the dog accepts
performing the entire search of six blinds your way,
checking in with you after each blind.