Thursday, February 8, 2018

Brockle - Protection Dog Fail

My boy Brockle grew up some in the last few years. He filled out and came into his own as my right hand dog. He still spends much of his spare time watching me and the rest of his time walking at my side.

Thanks to my excellent trainer (HMT), protection work taught me a lot about my dog. By channeling Brockle's aggression, I was able to gain control of it. By gaining control I was able to discover how much he didn't want to bite. Brockle doesn't want to bite anyone, or anything for that matter.

If he felt danger approaching he would become anxious.  At least he did if I was on the other end of the leash, he was perfectly willing to let the HMT be eaten by the bad guy (decoy). He would offer every kind of delay tactic he could think of, while becoming more and more agitated. Finally he'd explode and go after the decoy with everything he had.

Brockle will go down in history as the dirtiest biter the HMT ever came across. This is not a good thing. Dirty biters refuse to honor the protective sleeve they are trained to grab.

He was never rushed. We were several months into obedience, playing tug and encouraging prey drive before he went to defense. Still, the first time he actively defended me, something triggered and he began to try to bite in earnest.

Brockle would knock the sleeve aside and go for the throat, belly, thigh or groin. He would slither up under it and go for the face. It got to where he wouldn't play with the sleeve anymore. He was becoming wary of our decoys, even his best friends.  Brockle didn't see protection work as an amped up tug-of-war like the other dogs. He saw people he trusted acting in a threatening manner. My dog was not amused. In his defense, he always listened to my "Leave it!" and faded off, it seemed like he was relieved.

We decided to back off and just play ball on our weekly workouts.

My good friend, Batman, was always one of Brockle's favorites too. He worked on our place most week-ends and the two of them put in a lot of ball time. He was also a kick ass decoy - the last one willing to work my dog.

Batman offered to play with Brockle. After all, he wasn't geared up, what could go wrong?
He threw the ball out in the field, and my dog bounced after it, his tail a flag wagging in the wind. He scooped up the ball, Batman called, "Good boy!" and clapped his hands. Brockle bounced over, all happy and cute, until he was maybe a yard from our friend, spit the ball out and leaped for his groin. He caught his jeans, but not any skin. Like I said, dirty biter.

That was the day we ended protection training.

We still went to training, but now it was to bring him down. To make friends with the people he felt had crossed the line. A lot of ball, a lot of obedience work and tons of ball slowly brought him back.

As the summer progressed we did the same at home with the crew working on my barn. Batman was there to keep an eye on things and I figured out his triggers. By fall, Brockle was almost back to normal. His recall was about perfect, I could put him on and call him off and he was reliably friendly with the people coming in and out of our place.

He will nip the goats when I tell him to "Put em'up!" He will air snap at a horse trying to slip out a gate and he still fights with my rat terrier Charlie. That, of course, is still Charlie's fault. He'll chase down a rabbit, roll it and let it go, just like he used to do in the dog park. Like the many dogs he rolled, the rabbits don't appreciate him-even if he doesn't want to bite.


Anonymous said...

I also have a rat terrier and selfishly want to hear more about yours....

Anonymous said...

Hi Mugs! I have a horse training question for you... ecstatic to see you back posting. I've been following your blog for *gasp* almost a decade! Happily sift through your old posts and apply what I can to my own horses, it truly is an amazing resource. Anyways, if you aren't interested or don't have the time to field questions, totally understand, I'm happy to read any of your writing whether it be about horses, dogs, or life!

Otherwise, I have a 17hh gelding who retired from racing last year, had 6 months downtime, starting him back in to work now. He is really short coupled, built to go uphill but has learned on the track to move down, not up. If I let him happily go around on the buckle, he will drop his nose to the dirt like a peanut pushing pleasure horse and trot around to his heart's content. Heavy on the forehand with me feeling like we're about to go arse over teakettle if he takes an awkward step. To set him on his hocks I've started teaching him to whoa from my seat (he's used to relying on his rider's hands to hold him up through the downwards transitions). Also working on rollbacks at the walk, lengthening and shortening the stride walk/trot, I don't give him contact to lean on, and we are basically leaving the canter until he's more balanced. I get moments of true brilliance, and can see the light at the end of the tunnel in those moments, but would love to hear about any exercises you use to re-introduce a horse to his hind end and remind him that it's attached to the rest of him.

janet huntington said...

Somebody is trying to get me to work. I'll have to think on it.

HorsesandTurbos said...

^^^ My gelding forgets he's attached to his hind end, too! Once the weather here in Michigan breaks, I'll be working on that.

Dog related: I just acquired a 2 year old Aussie! I love him, but he challenges me in a different way that my 11 year old GS mix does. He's smart and very much wanting to be physically attached to me. We are doing great but there are challenges are taking a dog that has been outside at a boarding/roping barn for two years and teaching him to wait for 10 hours in the house until someone comes home. I'm lucky I keep my horses at home and we spend an hour in the am before I go to work outside, and then when I get home for a few hours (he gets let out with my other dog by my husband when he gets home before me). He's gets toys that he does not get when I am home in the am, but has still done some minor furniture corner remodeling (I have stocked up on bitter apple), and the cardboard cat scratchers are gone...but other than having some difficulty adjusting to being alone during the day (he is with my other dog and the 8 cats, so just without humans), he's been great - even leaves the free ranging chickens alone! I was told he does not stay in a crate, so I have not tried. I have him because he would not work cattle, and while his previous owners were not actively looking for a home, when they heard I was considering another dog, offered him to me.

I will be so happy to read your dog thoughts so I can apply them to him in the same way I apply what you shared with my horses!

Khutulan said...


I have half assed followed your blog for about six months now. I have about a gnat's worth of computer knowledge, so I have no idea how to 1. ask to be included in your followers and 2. would love to have you check out my own blog. I'm not a spammer!
Just a middle aged (well...trending more to the high side than middle) woman who got back into horses a few years ago and am still trying to learn to sit the trot. I will confess to having cut and snipped a photo from your blog to use on my own, and I apologize for not asking your permission first.

I don't do dogs...I am allergic to them...but my barnlord has about leventyseven million of them (she breeds and shows them) and so as long as they leave their hair on their own bodies and off mine, I am fine.

My condolences on losing your beloved husband. I am so very lucky to be married to probably the finest human being I've ever known, and this was after my first two strikes. I guess I finally learned that the big L on Husband's 1 and 2's foreheads did not mean Lucky!

anyway, please, I would like to be one of your followers.
Thank you,

Khutulan said...

Oh, duh.
My email is
URL is

MaryDVM said...

I think it's more accurate to call Brockle a sport dog fail. If you ever really need protection, he'll be there in spades.

Mags said...

Hey Mugs. It's been a couple of years since I've checked your blog, and was delighted to see new posts. I followed over from fugly, and really have enjoyed your writing, although I've rarely commented.
I am sorry to hear about Jim, there are no words.
As far as Brockle the wonder dog, I agree with MaryDVM; Brockle won't fail to protect you. Hugs and warm thoughts from Kentucky.

DeeDee Levine said...

Mugs, So glad to hear from you.

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