One of the most important aspects of a good protection dog is good nerves. If you’ve ever seen a pet get spooked in a loud thunderstorm, you know how loud noises can often throw an animal off-guard. Even most humans jump at the sound of a large bang. For police officers, recognizing the sound of gunfire, being able to remain steady and calm, and being able to act quickly and effectively to neutralize the threat are all life-saving necessities. The exact same is true of protection dogs.
In French Ring sport, there is an exercise intended to test the nerves of a competing dog, and how it performs during gunfire. In this exercise, the decoy/helper is given a gun that fires blanks. The dog is instructed to take a bite on the decoy, and the decoy fires the gun twice during the approach. The decoy fires once more during the bite, and then freezes, at which point the dog lets go and begins to guard the decoy. The judge then signals for the decoy to attempt two escapes, during which the dog will take two more bites to prevent escape. Finally, the judge signals to the handler to disarm the decoy and end the exercise.
It is important that protection dogs be trained around gunfire, and this exercise certainly accomplishes this. However, French Ring dogs are being trained with a fatal flaw that could end disastrously in a real-life situation. The third shot fired by the decoy is made after the dog has already taken a bite. In a real-life situation, this would be fatal to the dog. A criminal with a gun is not simply going to fire blanks into the air during a real confrontation; he’s going to aim at the dog biting him. A true protection dog should always be trained to target the weapon-arm as a first priority. Waiting for the handler to disarm the opponent is simply absurd, and could quickly end in death. The sooner that the gun is out of the criminal’s hand, the more of a chance there is that all involved will survive without serious injury.
The Belgian Malinois, and German Shepherds that compete in French Ring exercises are certainly impressive, but when it comes to true, functional protection work, you need dogs that are trained for real protection in real-life scenarios.