“Don’t Try This at Home Kids…” Basic Service Dog Decoy Work with Wade Morrell.

Posted: June 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

This won’t be a definitive description of the techniques and tips that are central to effective Decoying for Police Service K-9’s.  First, reading it won’t qualify you for what could be a singularly  dangerous activity.  Secondly, only approach this type of training with a Master Teacher that can show you how to do so safely.  Schutzhund (IPO) has enough dangerous elements to it, but this ain’t no DogSport kids!  Not even close…

Technique and Safety go hand-in-hand.

Technique and Safety go hand-in-hand.

Dogless demonstrations prevent accidents.

Dogless demonstrations prevent accidents.

The men (and yes, women) that handle canines for Law Enforcement purposes aren’t looking for points scored in an event with judges watching.  They are training dogs that make it possible for them to return home alive and well after every shift to their families, alive and well.  That puts an entirely different spin on their training…

Having said that, I must say that I am NOT qualified to be a Law Enforcement Decoy, nor will I ever call myself one. In spite of the Certificate that I earned attending it.  But, I didn’t just take this course as a “journalist”.  I was able to take bites as well, safely and securely, and earn some few of my chops.(And CHOMPS as well).  I’m grateful that the Deputies made me feel right at home among their number.    This seminar did give me skills that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.  And I assure you that it will affect even the manner in which I train Aunt Hilda’s Schipperke for basic obedience.  And the way  I handle my own dogs in IPO/PSA/ Ringwork in the future.(and there WILL be such a future)  The overlapping skill sets are profound and powerful. That’s what makes this post useful for all of my readers, not just the great people that keep us safe everyday from their cruisers on the streets.

You can run, but…

If you are one of those fortunate, brave, and skilled enough to work with a Patrol Canine, you will find this especially interesting I promise.  This is arguably the finest, state-of-the-art training available for teaching you to Train and Handle one of these impressive dogs.  The approach that Wade Morrell takes is, as they say, some “Next Level” stuff.  The proof is given by the far-flung places that have requested his instruction and guidance.  All over the United States, South America, Europe, and probably Antartica if they had a K9 Unit that didn’t pull dog sleds.  Without “guilding the lily”, which is totally unnecessary, I’ll give you a brief but concise resume’ for Wade Morrell.

Myra: The Dog Always Wins.

Myra: The Dog Always Wins.

-Recently Joined the Franklin County Ohio Sheriffs Department K-9 Unit

-More than 15 years Law Enforcement experience.

-Owner/Creator of Bite-Works Police and Military Decoy Training Company

-Co-Owner Police Dog Center of Ohio

-CE/Owner Priority 1 Canine LLC

-Level 2 Certified French Ring Decoy, over 20 trials worked

-Certified DVG Regional Level IPO Helper.

There’s other outstanding accomplishments but this suffices to tell you that Wade has “been there, conquered that” in the Dog World.  Beyond that, he’s a past United States Marine, writer, and innovator.  He doesn’t seem to have sat still for the last 20 years…In fact,  pushing a Sheriff’s Cruiser with a four-legged partner might just be restful for him in the near future…

Let’s get to the meat of this story…

The foundation element of Morrells system is the Three-Pronged Approach.  No longer is the Decoy (The guy in the Suit!) just the Bad guy, the Aggressor, or a Target for the dogs amusement.  The decoy becomes an Instructor, able to help a dog learn and improve his business.  Handler, Decoy, and Dog are a “Team” that works together, solving training issues, and building a cohesive working machine.  Good decoys can help a good dog become a Great Dog.  Bad, untrained Decoys, can make a great dog into a Cocker Spaniel that needs to stay on the sofa.  It’s sad but true.  But Wade doesn’t waste one half-second disrespecting  other Decoys or Decoy Trainers, criticizing or tearing down others.  Those few that would criticize him, are invited to bring a dog, and show him what they believe he does wrong.  He’s that easy to deal with, and he makes special effort to learn from every student he teaches.  The man is always looking for something to learn, collaborating thoughtfully with even the greenest newbie.  When he doesn’t know an answer off the top of his head, it goes out for discussion and analysis right then.  Humility is a rarely found commodity among dog-trainers, but Wade has it, even if he doesn’t need it.  Not that he won’t defend his methods if challenged.  offering to put the proof on the training field anytime.

Wade Morrell

Wade Morrell

One of the most useful skills that you will learn to appreciate from this seminar is close observation of the dog, his behavior, and how the decoy affects it and responds to it.  Flattened ears indicate blast-off time at the decoy, a head turn shows the dogs target area etc.  And there are countless more indicators that need to be watched.  If a dog (or Handler) does something in the middle of a session that needs to be fixed, it’s caught immediately and corrected.  If the dog (or Handler) does something that can be elevated to another skill set, it’s done immediately.  The course is centered around and laser focused on “Building, Building, Building” all participants to new levels of skill.  You always know that when you do something right, you will be acknowledged and your ambition to be even better grows.  If you do something wrong, Morrell manages to make it a learning experience.  He’ll take you into a close huddle, explain whats happening, and guide you thru it.  You end up WANTING to make this Instructor happy…

Good Decoys are Great Dancers! Footwork in Action!

Good Decoys are Great Dancers! Footwork in Action!

The dogs body language, and reading it properly is a constant consideration.  Watching the ears, eyes, and tail are key element.  You only learn these signs while working with the dog, not from a book, and students begin to pick up these signals as the class progresses logically.  On the other hand, use of the Decoys body language is also paramount in decoying the canine.  Using facial expression, and body movement alone, a dog can be placed into drive immediately.  Morrell teaches that too many decoys spend inordinate energy cracking whips to excite the dogs when they should focus on their own presentation.  Believe it.  The class saw it proven again and again.  A student would fire the dog up with the sound of the whip, but the dog would fade.  Morrel then approaches the dog in a challenging posture and expression, sans any tool, and refires the dogs drive.  Put the noisemakers in their rightful place, and think about your body language gang…

Safety of Dog, Decoy, and Instructor is always Priority One during the exercises.  And even as a truly rank amateur in bitework at this level, I never felt endangered by the exercises.  Scared maybe, but never endangered.  Students are instructed and coached in techniques that protect from such occurrences.  In a Runaway exercise, I got flattened (read “Pulverized“…No, make that “Freaking Pulverized”) by a Trident Missile in the shape of a Belgian Malinois named “Riddick”.  But the training to re-establish my balance and recover kicked in and the exercise is my favorite memory of the class.  (ALWAYS Keep your eye on the Dog is a lesson I learned well)  Most of the real education comes to students in slower than normal speeds, and after proficiency is proven, the real world kicks in.  These Officers need to train to a high degree of realism, but it only comes after they are ready.  Serious injuries are rare, even though the occasional nail scratch, or tooth mark from a really determined Dog can happen.  You’re dealing with an animal here that could easily bring down a 350 pound Middle Linebacker here folks.  Reality sucks, but that’s why so few can qualify to do this on the street.  It takes guts, courage and a strong sphincter muscle.  I’ll take away the safety procedures into my own training of IPO, and I welcome it with great enthusiasm.  The safety procedure that says, ‘The Decoy is Responsible for Keeping Spectators Safe by Keeping the Dogs Attention at all Times” is something new to many decoys.  That’s something that applies to every dog-trainer in every training situation.  Aunt Helens Schnauzer could do a lot of damage to an ankle if you don’t control it!  In Fact, The Deputies of the Unit have a colorful, if profane and inappropriate, expression that gets shouted out occasionally: “Control Your Dog, @^^&*(%@@!!) WadeMorrelschool 163

What sets this training apart from the various dog sports is Targets of Opportunity.  RingSports tend toward bites on the legs by the dog.  IPO or schutzhund is substantially on Arms.  Law Enforcement bitework, a more serious form of the discipline, involves what Morrell calls the “Ten Targets of Opportunity”.  These dogs need to engage their foes at whatever spot on the body offers the most effective target.  Sport dogs are not in this mind set.  Thru a series of progressive exercises, dogs are taught to put devastating bites on Center Mass, Left or Right shoulder in front AND back, Legs and below, front AND back, and both arms, front AND Back.  Whatever a foe presents, the dog will take with equal ferocity.  This must be TAUGHT to each dog, individually and incrementally.  The life the dog saves is somebody’s family member.  Every dog is proofed in these techniques until they can perform them well.  Perfection is not expected, because these are living creatures, and NOT perfect.  The point is that the Service Decoy is trained to bring their individual four-legged partner to a proficient state of performance.

Target of Opportunity.

Target of Opportunity.

There are so many hints and tidbits of a “How To” and “How NOT to” nature, that I could write a few thousand more words and still fail to get them all.  Morrells passion and enthusiasm, coupled with long experience and his desire to “Build” toward something better, make this a seminar that would make any K9 Unit the better for it.  Without doubt, the Franklin County Ohio Sheriffs K-9 Unit will undoubtedly lock up the designation of Best of the Best in this country in short order. But that’s NOT Morrells goal.  He wants to make every operational K9 Unit out there the very best it can be.  Those that take advantage of his help will see that fulfilled.  Morrell can be contacted at the link here. http://www.bite-works.com/#

An effective target...

An effective target…

I’ve got at least one or two additional posts coming from this experience.  The curriculum has helped me clarify certain aspects of my own dog training, and the state of the dog training in general.  It has also solidified my position on the politically correct mess that is being heightened every day in the dog TRAINING arguments from Purely Positive and Operant Conditioning zombie enclaves.  I’ll dive into those within  a few days .  Meanwhile, Once again, my most profound Thanks to Wade and the Sheriffs Deputies of Franklin County Ohio for this experience.  Now about those speeding tickets…

Trust me.  That Dog BITES!

Trust me. That Dog BITES!

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