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Discussion Starter #1
I hoping to get all the experienced members in on this.

So we always talk about the proper drives and temperament for the work. What about self preservation? Is there a point that is acceptable for a dog to back off and re-engage or shut down? Are protection dogs, LE, PPDs and so on expected to fight to the death?

Here is an example of what I mean. In a SDA drill when a decoy "attacks" a handler dog team and motions like he is going to strike the dog hard. He does this twice while pressuring the dog the entire time. A dog that had never seen this drill before put her ears back and tucked her head to brace the hit then re-engaged the decoy. She stayed at the end of her leash and didn't back up at all. She really just looked like she was bracing the hit. In her defense she is an older, titled schH dog that had never been exposed to stuff like this before. Would this be considered self preservation? Is this acceptable behavior from a GSD?

I hope this makes sense enough to get a conversation going.
 

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I'd rather see the dog show some fight drive rather than brace for possible injury. She is fairly high threshold?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Well, this particular dog I had never seen back down from anything before and I haven't seen her do it since. If I remember correctly she was in heat too. I just remembered that.

Any way, I just wanted to talk about self preservation some more. What would be acceptable for a gsd? What should we expect? Are some of these things nerve issues or exposure issues?


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My answer would be no, every dog should have a limit and should not be expected to fight to the death.

I've seen all the SDA exercises in trial, seen most and tried many in training and trial myself, and I do not think any of them are such pressure that the dog should back off, or back off and re-engage. I've seen dogs do this and I personally don't like it. I don't think it's an outright failure of the exercise (at least the dogs I've seen did not fail/DQ), but it's not correct.

However you're saying this was an older dog, trained in SchH and never having seen the SDA exercises before, and she hasn't done it since...that wouldn't bother me as much. The exercises are a lot different than SchH. A nice dog can easily go either way but a dog that has *only* seen SchH for many years is probably at a disadvantage and I wouldn't judge too harshly or rule a dog out based on what you describe. It's not like she tucked tail and left the field. IMO if a dog does that once that's enough for me.
 

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I hope I'm not wildly off the point here and gate crashing your thread. I don't have sufficient experience to answer with total confidence but I'll give my 2 cents. I'm new to this stuff but simply find it pretty interesting.

I think some dog needs to be built up to something like this. The dog in your scenario thinks the strike will come from the decoy and so backs off. It spent it's life not taking hits so maybe the decoy is just coming on too strong too early with this exercise with this dog. If the dog wasn't desensitized to the stick, it didn't learn to go for the bite under the pressure of the threatened strike. If the dog was more aggravated or used to taking a few hits of the stick then it may be more inclined pursue the decoy in any event. When you look at a dogs skills and talents you'll see each need extra training in different areas to become as you want them.

If you strip back the equipment and say just have a tug and a stick then you can more easily get the dog used to the stick and build drive to bite and tug under the extra pressure and later progress to your sleeve or what ever. When the dogs gets into the tug you can rub with the stick and get the dog used to being poked, rubbed or lightly hit with the stick. Then you can try a threatened hit while the dog is biting the tug. If done right the drive for the tug increases and becomes greater than it's fear to take a hit. Eventually it should take a decent hit and remain focused on holding or grabbing the tug.

I'm sure that is normal for any dog. Any dog can become inhibited if the stick hits are timed wrongly or administered too strongly, or in this case out of the blue for the dog.
 

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Good question and the answer varies on the purpose intended for the dog. An LE dog is actually expected to give its life. So I would not expect them to back down no matter the pressure.

As for other purposes I don't know. If I were being attacked, I would want my dog to engage long enough for me to run screaming for the hills, then back off and get the heck out if dodge, before getting killed himself. Correct or not, I want my dog to live.


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Depends on the maturity of the dog. But I would want a mature dog to power up when pressured, not disengage.
And if it was a young dog, I'd make sure I was fairly exposing the dog to the stress so inhibition wasn't a factor.
Setting the young dog up for success is key in the foundation for future protection. IF the dog clearly showed disengagement, then I'd wash the dog out from protection...or grow the dog up some and reassess
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for the replies. In the example I gave, I agree the dog braced for the hit but didn't back down. So she did nothing wrong. I would defend my family to the death but I would still block punches.

As for self preservation, I'm just curious what we should look for and look at. I have seen GSD's I would call the "dumb jocks" that if you threw a rock off a cliff it would chase it. Is that what we want in our dogs? Or do we want ones that can think? What is the balance between fearless and reckless?
 

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I personally like a thinking dog with a higher threshold. My dog would not chase a ball or a whatever off a cliff or track so blindly that someone would hold a gun to his head at an article...he is too aware of his surroundings. He won't be a 100 point dog because of that, but it's ok with me. I'd rather have a dog aware and thinking than one tunnel visioned on the flashy side
 

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Isn't there some famous GSD who died when he went off a cliff for his ball??? I would never want that. Think before you leap.


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I was chatting to my friend from Poland whos father kept some german shepards and i was surprised to find that they where training dogs to run away when a gun was pointed at them(the dog) which is opposite to the way shepherds were originally trained in Germany. There they'd want the dog to ignore guns and gunshots. So it goes to show me that the dogs are trained according to the masters wishes and what is demanded on them by the environmental conditions rather than the dogs innate protection instincts.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I'm trying to talk about the dogs core instincts. There are a lot of things we can train our dogs through on a training field, but in a real life stressful situation their instincts are more than likely all you will see.

Look at the example I gave in the initial post. In that scenario it wasn't the stick the dog was afraid of. She is a titled schutzhund dog. She has had thousands of stick hits through out her life. In this case a decoy (one of SDA's top decoys) was coming at her full pressure/threat. She had never seen this before. In all reality this was a true test of her nerve as she wasn't "conditioned" to this. To her it was real. I see it as her instincts. She was told to protect her handler so that's what she was doing. She was at the end of her leash barking and so on. When he came for the strike, she didn't back up, she dropped her ears and tucked her head. Bracing for the hit and tried to protect herself while still protecting her handler. I see it as self preservation. In this case I think it was acceptable. But it got me thinking, What is acceptable? What about fires and other things not protection related? That's where I wanted to see this go. What is considered acceptable and what isn't for a well bred, solid nerved GSD?
 
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