Imagine if your job was to let dogs bite you all day. As handlers we are trained to not only handle our working dogs but to also help train eachother’s. That includes decoying for each other to help our dog’s build their drive which in turn builds their confidence which makes them better working dogs. To some, decoying looks easy, just stand there and let the dog bite you. Well a good decoy can take a dog’s confidence through the roof and turn a dog into a fantastic working dog. A bad decoy can create bad habits in a dog, hinder it’s confidence, injure a dog and even shut it down completely keeping it from developing it’s drive and confidence. Decoying is one of the most crucial and important aspects of developing the patrol certified working dog.
A decoy can use different kinds of gear to maximize a dog’s drive. There is the bite sleeve, the bite suit top which only covers the top half of the body, the bite suit bottom which covers your legs, hidden sleeves which decoys put under there clothing and much more. This gear protects the decoy from actually getting bit but from time to time some dogs are so powerful that their jaws will sometimes get through, or sometimes the gear has a small tear and a dog will get through.
Axel keeps a sharp eye on a “suspect” during aggression training Sept. 19 at a deployed location in Southwest Asia. Axel is a 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron military working dog. The military working dogs are trained several times a week to keep their skills sharp. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder)
It can look dangerous but once you learn how to decoy it can be a lot of fun. In fact, there are people out there who are professional decoys where all they do is decoy for dogs. A good decoy is high in demand because they are as pivotal to developing the dog as the handler is. A bad decoy can not not only injure a dog but they can get injured as well.
When these dogs are released to attack the bite isn’t the biggest concern, it’s how hard the dog will hit the decoy, or the dog’s drive for the bite. Some dogs hit so hard that I have heard of shoulders being dislocated or some other injury take place. It can feel like you just got hit by a small train. It may sound dangerous but once you learn how to properly “catch” a dog it can be a lot of fun. Watching a dog come after you like a speedy bullet can be a rush for the decoy, but the biggest rush is for the dog about to get what he loves doing, the bite.
The goals are to maximize the dogs drive for the bite, teach it how to bite properly, and also bite when a real life situation presents itself. So if a handler needs to send his dog on a criminal, insurgent, or someone being unruly and the dog performs well, they can thank themselves as well as the decoys.
This video is a fantastic compilation of decoy work. The Israelis are known for having some of the most well trained working dogs in the world. In fact, they sent some of their expert trainers to train our military on new techniques they are using with dogs in combat because their dogs have been so effective. Here they show some of their abilities in decoying.
The video is long(7:59) but it has some great footage in terms of decoying. My personal favorite clips are at
:36, 4:12, 4:25, 5:19(leg bite), 7:05(dog flips), 7:34(slow motion leaping)