Since OP is probably not coming back at this point, I’ll put down my thoughts on this for others to read if they ever look this thread up, and maybe we’ll get into a fun discussion about this.
I’ve been doing some protection training for a time now, and the person I work with also has experience training PP dogs. In his opinion, a lot of it is the show the dog can put on. Most people, aren’t going to keep coming if your dog is barking its head off at them at the end of the leash. This is something trainable, and even if the dog doesn’t have the perfect temperament for this type of activity…only a few trained/experienced people will be able to tell that the barking is forced and that the dog is showing some sort of anxiety and if truly attacked would probably tuck tail and run.
To that extent, you can take it a step further with the right dog and train it to bite a sleeve or a coat. You can then remove those things and bite hidden sleeves and basically “trick” the dog into biting a “regular presentation” rather than what our sport dogs are used to seeing.
Now, most of protection IMO is an obedience exercise. It’s teaching your dog when it’s okay to do X and when it isn’t. It’s quite fun to teach this to a dog, and over the past few months I’ve taught my dog to turn on and off at a command and it’s pretty cool knowing that at any point that I feel threatened by someone, I can turn my dog on, walk past them, and then turn him off. As my instructor put it, you can easily make the excuse to a stranger that your dog is just aggressive towards everyone or that “he never does this, I don’t know what’s gotten into him” until you’re past the situation. Will my dog bite if given the chance? Yes. But I haven’t yet progressed onto a hidden sleeve and unlikely that I will at this point because I’m not looking for that.
So, can a service dog be taught this. I’m sure it can. But I don’t think it has anything to do with a vest being on or off. I personally wouldn’t want a dog making its own decisions on a hiking trail about what is a threat and what isn’t. I can also imagine there could be some problems if your “service dog” ever acted out like this in public either when it was supposed to or it wasn’t. A dog with public access rights is IMO held to a much higher standard than a regular dog, and if your dog shows any type of aggression…warranted or not, you might be quite a bit of trouble.
The problem with the social anxiety disorder you have is that the dog's service to you is to calm you when you get anxious. The dog learns this and picks up on your chemicals to do this. I do not believe that you can teach the dog that when he's wearing the vest he reacts one way to your anxiety, and when he's not wearing the vest he reacts a different way. It will lead to a lot of confusion, and more than likely the wrong reaction in the wrong situation if he's ever tested. And if we assume you could do that, what if the vest is off, and you get anxious for the wrong reason and the person coming towards you is completely friendly...your dog does what he's trained and attacks. You realize you just lost your dog right?
Last edited by martemchik; 06-20-2014 at 10:09 AM.