Biddability/Handler Sensitivity - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 09:13 PM Thread Starter
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Biddability/Handler Sensitivity

So I was watching a mali do some police training exercises at training the other day. This mali has almost killed two men (bad guys) this year because of crushing femoral bites that nearly severed the major artery.

He was bought, trained, and placed, by a friend of mine (she owns/runs a police k9 training facility). This same dog is handler sensitive. Crushing (obviously) bites, fearless, fighting, hunting, machine...and yet handler barely needs a small pop on a tiny pinch collar to make the dog comply and stay under obedience.

This got me thinking about handler sensitivity and I was discussing this with her. She has placed and trained tons of police k9's and told me she'd take handler sensitivity any day of the week. I have to admit, it is always pretty cool to see an incredibly strong dog that is so in tune and sensitive to his handler.

My male is handler sensitive. I value it more and more as he get's bigger and more mature (he's 16 months now). That, plus he's my first dog, and I'd rather "fight with him" as little as possible because I'm not totally confident in my handling skills to take on a handler hard dog.

I don't have any kind of "sacrifice" in bitework (so far) that makes me wish he was "harder" towards me. He's everything I wanted in a working dog, but I know that some people really want that "handler hard" dog, that challenges even them, will come up the line at what they deem an "unfair correction"etc...

Wondering what other's opinion in the sport and/or working community is on this. Do you prefer a more handler sensitive dog, and why? By handler sensitive I'm not meaning the dog that falls to pieces under a correction, I'm meaning one that has high biddability and doesn't want to come back at you, and takes a correction more as a "go go go" to do the right thing. By handler hard, I mean one that comes up the leash.

The more I think about it, and the more working dogs I see, the more I think there is supposed to be this handler sensitivity in the breed (sometimes I see this called biddability). The dogs are supposed to work WITH their handlers, respect their handlers, die (essentially) for their handlers. The dog's that I've seen washed for handler hardness or lack of biddability, didn't give two farts about their handlers and seemed to be doing it because they HAD to or enjoyed the fight, not because they had a desire to work with the handler and often obedience and control was a huge issue.

Another question could be, do you lump biddability with handler sensitivity, if not....what is the difference, in your opinion?

Thanks for reading, just curious on other's thoughts on this. :-)

"An excess of size is an unserviceable feature for breeding, his powers of endurance, his speed and the smartness of his movements suffer in all circumstances. Giants are never nimble."-Creator of GSD
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 09:31 PM
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I have a dog that is fairly handler sensitive in most instances, he usually has one eye on me all the time....except when it comes to bitework. Then he is uber focused on his task and I am not so much in his thoughts.
Though he isn't soft by any means, and doesn't shut down from a correction.
Yet when it came to teaching the blind search and retrieves we had to use some pressure to get him to comply.
I think biddability is genetic, as is handler sensitivity, they do go hand in hand. But there are certain times when the dogs agenda overrules his normal behavior.
Maturity also plays into that overruling agenda...I've found my dog is much better at maturity with clear thinking and balance than he was at 2 when I had to use the compulsion to get him to comply to the blind search issue and retrieves. Had I started them earlier in his foundation I think it would have gone much easier.
Sometimes letting the dog grow up and not rush all the training, and then judge the lack of compliance, isn't a fair assessment of who the dog is. Many police k9's are put thru the paces so fast their little brains must be completely overloaded.

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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 09:55 PM
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I think I may have a little different definition of handler sensitive. I see a handler sensitive dog as a dog that see the handler as a comfort blanket and is not very confident in working on their own.

In reality, I think there are very few "handler hard" dogs. I think with a good foundation, most dogs are biddable. I think you get "handler hard"ness from unclear communication with a dog and a dog learning to work through ever increasing levels of correction, frustration, etc... This is not the case with every dog, there is certainly a range biddability of dogs and some dogs are just not "pleasers". I do not lump handler hardness and biddability together.

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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-03-2015, 02:53 PM
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Started Out Way Too Sensitive...

I have a training hardened a handler sensitive 2.5 y/o male that for a long time was looking to me for confirmation or assurance on just about everything. We worked out the kinks in protection (humanely with repetition, environment changes, helper rotations and encouragement.) and several months ago during bite work I finally got the, "I got this Dad, I'll take him out." He has changed to where he listens for the most part if I give him a command during bite work but isn't checking with me before (or after I give him a command constantly.) We started training late (7+ mos.) so some of this is expected. He has been with us since birth and was really the victim of a very dominant female mother WGSD. He now owns her and she actually submits more than she wants to.
The only place it is showing now is in tracking so a month before his IPO1 trial its back to basics... Not really sure whether we will pass the first time, it may take a 2nd trial at a later date to pass tracking. My trainer is now working with me to help correct the errors in my training...
Onyx - how did you get the "1 eye on me" stopped for tracking? It's not really an issue in obedience anymore but he keeps on checking.. (All I have really done is use gentle "No" corrections when he strays way off the track or looks back at me...

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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2015, 08:55 AM
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My 11 mo old WGWL pup is not handler sensitive, which I've always defined as not wilting when corrected. Corrections mean very little to him.

He is, fortunately, quite biddable. Very eager to learn new things & really enjoys his obed (his food drive is off the charts). He learns new commands very quickly.

To me, handler sensitivity & biddability are not really connected. I could be wrong, of course.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2015, 02:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zetti View Post
My 11 mo old WGWL pup is not handler sensitive, which I've always defined as not wilting when corrected. Corrections mean very little to him.

He is, fortunately, quite biddable. Very eager to learn new things & really enjoys his obed (his food drive is off the charts). He learns new commands very quickly.

To me, handler sensitivity & biddability are not really connected. I could be wrong, of course.
My definition of handler sensitivity is not the same as yours....wilting at a correction is a soft dog.
A dog that is handler sensitive, IMO is one that is in tune with the handler, and reads the facial expression, body language and feels the emotion down the line. Doesn't mean the dog cannot take a correction whatsoever. A dog that is sensitive to the handler tends to have a fair amount of biddability because there is that connection and bond going on...so they do go together, in my limited experience anyway.

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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2015, 04:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onyx'girl View Post
My definition of handler sensitivity is not the same as yours....wilting at a correction is a soft dog.
A dog that is handler sensitive, IMO is one that is in tune with the handler, and reads the facial expression, body language and feels the emotion down the line. Doesn't mean the dog cannot take a correction whatsoever. A dog that is sensitive to the handler tends to have a fair amount of biddability because there is that connection and bond going on...so they do go together, in my limited experience anyway.
My experience is opposite . I have not seen handler sensitive and biddability go hand in hand. I have a male that can take a strong correction and not wilt but based on his herding lineage I believe is very biddable. I think handler sensitive dogs usually don't handle firm corrections well at all. Not that anything is wrong with that.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2015, 07:39 PM
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Question
How do you take a extremely sensitive dog, one that will shut down and avoid even though the correction has been a verbal non yelling "hey" to a less sensitive dog that won't shut down upon a slight small correction, verbal or physical?
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2015, 07:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by misslesleedavis1 View Post
Question
How do you take a extremely sensitive dog, one that will shut down and avoid even though the correction has been a verbal non yelling "hey" to a less sensitive dog that won't shut down upon a slight small correction, verbal or physical?
You have to figure out what will motivate them first so you can show them how to succeed at something. When you tell them no, you go right back into giving them the chance to be correct. I think the shutting down is usually confusion. Maybe you've been unclear.

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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2015, 08:01 PM
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l was training with someone who's very successful in the akc obedience world, she always does something positive after a correction, so the dog will be rewarded....and she isn't correcting with nags, they are always meaningful. Bringing the dog back into drive after correcting helps bigtime.

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