There are two types of dog equipment used in protection training: those to guide and train the dog and those to protect the bite assistants from injury. Of the two types, neither is more important, and handlers must have a good working knowledge of all of the required equipment for a successful outcome.
For control, protection dog trainers use a slip collar (chain with a ring at each end), which provides a quick snap and release correction aid during the obedience phase of training. For dogs with extremely muscular necks, or an abundance of concentration, a pronged slip collar keeps them in control. Once on bite work, a thick, heavy-duty leather collar is used, so when the dog strains against it to lunge for the attacker, a chain collar doesn't choke him. A six-foot leather leash and a long-line (20 to 30 feet in length) provides a handler/dog connection for both close and distance work.
A tracking harness protects the dog's neck from the lungeing force of agitation bite work and the constant pressures of tracking. A tie out chain with a heavy-duty ground spike keeps the dog at a station unattended during protection training. A bamboo stick, or leather strap to agitate the dog, is necessary for more advanced work.
Because a real attacker is likely to fight back if they can, protection sticks are used in training to help prepare the dog for the realities of protection work. They are lightweight and hollow, and do not do damage to the dog.
The assistant (usually the trainer) is in a vulnerable position during protection training. She agitates the dog, makes aggressive moves toward the dog and is bit by the dog. The proper gear is mandatory to keep the assistant safe during bite training. A sleeve is a minimum requirement. It is a heavy padded arm covering that has a handle inside the assistant grasps to hold it in place. It covers the hand, the forearm and the upper arm. For more advanced off-leash protection work in which there is less control over where the dog will bite, a full protection suit is advisable. It is made of the same material as the sleeve and covers the body in an overall-type style. Sleeves on both arms are a good idea.
Where to Get Supplies
Other than the collars and leashes, online dog training suppliers are a good place to start looking for dog protection equipment. Protection training is a speciality that most civilians do not attempt, so the supplies are not usually found in local pet stores or department stores. Some metropolitan pet stores may have a few of the supplies.
The most expensive items in dog protection equipment are the bite protection arms and suits. In 2010, sleeves ranged from £19 to £130 for a full sleeve. Body suits averaged £97 to as much as £975 for more advanced materials and heavier duty protection. Collars and leashes vary depending on size and type but are less than £32.50.
Never attempt dog protection training without the proper guidance from an experienced trainer. Ask a potential teacher for references. Unskilled training of protection dogs leads to injuries or unstable animals. Done properly, a protection dog is a vital member of the family who is attentive and affectionate and knows when to use its training against an intruder or assailant.
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