Beginning decoy/helper work advice thread - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 04:54 PM Thread Starter
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Beginning decoy/helper work advice thread

I have taken on the task of learning helper work at club on an as needed basis or a back up helper. I was kind of on the fence about it but last week I was able to work a couple dogs and it was actually really fun. Plus I figured that the more I learn about all aspects of SCH the easier all other aspects will become. There is a lot of knowledge at club that I have access to, along with the TD having numerous dvd's I can borrow and watch, and eventually seminars, etc...
But I figured since there was a bunch of good helpers on here. I would also start a new helper advice thread.
So what is your best advice for a new helper? Also any free info online that you can link me to that would be great also.
Thanks

Athena BH, Rosko BH
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 10:28 PM
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I would not consider myself a good helper, but I do a lot of it. I read a lot of theory stuff. Stuff on drives and so on. Schutzhund Village Has a lot of good stuff. I also like the book "Controlled Aggression" by Jerry Bradshaw. First and foremost, remember safety of the dog comes first. Second, remember it doesn't matter what you look like. As long as the dog is progressing. Spend a lot of time working YOUR foundation. Practice presentations in a mirror to make sure your bite bar angle is correct until it becomes muscle memory. On that note, find a sleeve you like and stick with it. They are all slightly different. Practice drives without a dog. Use a heavy bag atatched to the sleeve and slow everything down to work correct position. You can practice stick hits this way as well. Focus a lot on correct foot work. Too many people don't understand this. For catches, stand in a good position and have someone throw a ball at you. If the ball hits and bounces off, then you jammed the dog. If the ball hits and goes past you, then you pulled the sleeve away. If the ball hits and drops straight to the ground, then you timed it perfect. Remember when catching the dog, your goal as a helper should be to get the dog on the ground as fast as possible safely. Not flinging the dog in the air for a cool picture. So if a dog goes sleeve side, hand should go down. If a dog goes stick side, elbow should go down.

At the end of the day, the only way to get better is to work as many dogs as you can get your hands on. To be a good helper, you have to truly have a passion for it. Otherwise you're just going through the motions. That's not productive for you, or the dogs.

P.S. Sorry for the lack of paragraphs and punctuation in the first portion of this. I'm being lazy lol.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-23-2017, 12:17 AM
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I had the opportunity to train with a Certified French Ring Decoy on several occasions and he would spend hours practicing in front of the mirror. as pointed out already. You can also ask someone to video tape your work and then critique it for you later.

As Mycobraracr said "you have to truly have a passion for it."

It is always about the dog, not you or me or egos.....just the dog.

Good Luck!


Kim
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-23-2017, 10:17 AM
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I am assuming you mean a decoy/helper for IPO. Despite the idealized descriptions of the sport you might read about from SchH USA literature, etc., it, as most sports are prey based. So for a decoy that learning, a basic fundamental is that prey always moves away from the dog. That means whenever you present a prey object for a dog to bite, it should be moving away from the dog forcing him to strike it forward in prey, as opposed to feeding the dog the prey of jamming the prey in the dog's mouth. This is one of the most fundamental skills that some people learn and some don't.
Taking it a step further with a sleeve, you want to actually "suck" the dog up into the grip. This requires you leaving some room to bring the sleeve from a lower position and then moving it up and into your chest while you body is absorbing the dog's entry. If you are really good, you can suck the dog into the bite as I described and take a short hop backwards at the same time to increase the prey moving away from the dog.
Timing is also important, but there is too much to say about that. Safety is very important. One of my pet peeves is the helper who doesn't wear scratch pants. You will want the dog at times to have his front paws on your chest and legs while gripping and you will need scratch pants if you don't want to get torn up by a dog's claws.
Learning how to make prey with a rag, tug and sleeve is important. There is a skill to it. I describe it as being able to field a hot ground ball in baseball. I don't know if you every played baseball as a kid, but people who were good infielders got really good at reading how a ball would hop across the infield and instinctively know were the ball was going in order to catch it. Some people can get very good at it and some people will never get good at it.
You also need to learn how to read a dog and tell when he is stressed and how to relieve some of the pressure, as well as having some presence in order to push a dog. Things like eye contact, facial expressions, breathing sounds and other sounds, etc.
A last thing is that you need to recognize when an inexperienced handler doesn't know how to correctly handle a dog during bite work or if they are using crappy equipment. They need to learn how to pole up so the helper knows the limits of the dog's bite perimeter.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-23-2017, 11:28 AM
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Once you have learned the basics and can catch dogs safely, which you learn by working a lot of dogs under the supervision of a good coach, you then can move on to training work. Great training helpers are developed through years of working dogs. Most are also naturally gifted, but it is something that can, for the most part, be developed over time. The more dogs you work, the more you develop an eye for cause and affect, the more feel you get for "if I do this, the dog will do that", the better you will become. There are many helpers that can do good safe trial help. The skill, the gift, is being able to read the dogs and develop the dogs to the trial level. To be able to bring out the best in any given dog.

Der Schutzhund by Helmut Raiser is a good book to read (English translation).
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-23-2017, 01:33 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for the replies. Thus far I have only taken bites in the blind and done a couple escapes. My biggest concern is messing up and hurting a dog. So I plan on taking it slow and working a lot on me in the beginning. Like I said there is a lot of knowledge I can tap into at club but it seems a lot of stuff I can learn by reading, watching, and as mycobraracer said going through motions with no dogs around. I'll look at the recommendations already posted. I like Michael Ellis and Dave kroyer. Anyone recommend others who are worthy of learning from.

Athena BH, Rosko BH
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-23-2017, 02:29 PM
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Regarding giving a dog a bite in the blind, I assume the dog is doing a bark & hold. One important fundamental is to quickly raise the stick above your head first and then pop the sleeve. As you get more experience you will recognize when a dog counters with his bark. Typically, people only think of a counter as a regrip. But by adding presence in the blind, such as slightly lowering yourself or leaning into the dog, or giving intense eye contact or a threatening facial expression, you might get a dog to counter with his bark. You will hear a change in the bark and it will sound more defensive in nature. That is where timing comes in and you want to pop the sleeve and reinforce the vocal counter with a bite while also relieving some of the stress. It all depends on what the dog brings to the training.
The other thing I see a lot on escape bite (besides poor presentation of the sleeve) is that after the helper starts his escape and the dog chases and grips, the helper keeps going at the same pace. He should escape at about 3/4 speed and when the dog grips, accelerate to full speed, because now you have an 85-90 pound dog hanging on your arm.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-23-2017, 03:18 PM
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A funny. I know how to do everything needed to do helper work. I know how to present the sleeve, how to correctly drive a dog and apply the stick hits. I can do this all day long until a dog is in front of me. LOL You can practice and learn technique all day long, but only through working dogs will you learn helper work.

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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-23-2017, 03:31 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lhczth View Post
A funny. I know how to do everything needed to do helper work. I know how to present the sleeve, how to correctly drive a dog and apply the stick hits. I can do this all day long until a dog is in front of me. LOL You can practice and learn technique all day long, but only through working dogs will you learn helper work.
Yep, I understand completely. Everyone's a great boxer in the mirror or punching a bag. It isn't until you have a guy across from you trying to punch you in the face that reality sets in.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-24-2017, 08:42 AM
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Learning the proper presentation, foot work and body position without a dog is invaluable. Building the muscle memory. The less you have to think about where your bite bar/hand/foot is, the more you can think about the dog. The more you can get used to how the equipment moves (or doesn't), the more free you are to work dogs. It's just like dry practice with shooting.

Ultimately, yes working a lot of dogs and different breeds of dogs is the only way to get a real feel for it. Every breed works different. Every dog works different. Every dog requires something else. At the end of the day everything needs to become a second nature. If you have to think about what you're doing, it's too late. You've missed it. Once you start getting a feel for it, and you get comfortable with your club dogs, I'd start trying to get around to other clubs and work as many dogs as you can get your hands on.

Training helper work and trial helper work are very different. Both require something different. There are good training helpers who are horrible trial helpers, and good trial helpers that are horrible training helpers. I don't have time to finish this thought, got to get to work.
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