Packing is the most discussed dog sport. One might think it’s great, another might find it disgusting. When I tell them that I also do biting work with our dogs as one of our hobbies, the response is sometimes ‘oh how cool!’ and sometimes ‘well, I didn’t think that, you train really dog-friendly, don’t you?’. But what about dogs and helper work exactly? Is your dog being cheated, aggressive and antisocial due to handling?
What is packing?
Packing is a sport in which your dog learns to bite a person (the helper, or helper). This one wears a protective suit or a sleeve. In addition to biting and unloading, the dogs at exams or competitions must also show that they can search and master obedience exercises.
In addition to being a sport, dogs can also do this as their job. Think of the dogs of the police and the army. Not every police dog is a biter, by the way, there are also dogs that work purely for police detective work, such as drug dogs and explosive dogs.back to menu ↑
There are various sports programs in which biting work is a part. At IGP (International Working Dogs Prüfungsordnung) the helper wears a sleeve. So the dog always bites from the front, on the forearm. The program is always the same, so it is predictable for the dog. At exams and competitions, the dogs may first do a tracking test, then an obedience part with, among other things, following, staying and retrieving. And finally, they can show the suiting part. IGP is the most well-known form of protection work in the Netherlands.back to menu ↑
Ring sport is relatively unknown in the Netherlands. There are several variations, such as Mondioring, Belgian Ring and French Ring. The helper wears a full suit, with jacket and trousers. These are often made of light material, because in this sport the helper has to move quickly.
At Ringsport, the program can have many variations; so a dog must respond quickly to the handler’s commands. Ringsport is no exception, Ring also has an obedience section and a search section. In addition, a dog’s jumping ability is put to the test.
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KNPV (Royal Dutch Police Dog Association)
KNPV is another program and the helper wears a full suit (jacket and pants). The dogs learn to bite on an upper arm and the leg of the helper. At KNPV you also have a fixed program, in a fixed order.
The program consists of jumping exercises, search exercises, obedience and the biting part. Although the name suggests otherwise, the dogs are not police dogs. The police often buy service dogs for inspections and training, but these dogs still have to undergo an internal training course.back to menu ↑
Although the KNPV certificate is called ‘Police dog 1’ (or 2), the dog that has a KNPV certificate is not yet a real police dog. A police dog is not by definition a KNPV dog. Police dogs are different from police sniffer dogs, and surveillance dogs are different from drug dogs. But a police dog is actually a police service dog.
A book tip about the work of real police dogs is the book ‘Bumper the police puppy’. This is a very nicely written book about the famous police puppy Bumper and his four-legged colleagues.
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Which dogs are suitable for pack work?
Several dogs are suitable for recreation and sports. When I look at our dog school now, in addition to my Malinois, we also have rottweilers, a doberman and a labrador-stafford crossbreed in training.
If you can train in a playful way, a lot of dogs like to do pack work. The most suitable dogs naturally come from the group of working dog breeds.back to menu ↑
Does your dog change due to biting work?
That is possible and that has to do with the way of training. If you have an insecure dog, then training helper work, focusing on making your dog stronger, can help him gain more confidence.
If you train that insecure dog in a correction-oriented way and do not guide it in the right way, you have a high chance of an anxious dog. If your dog bites out of fear, it is unpredictable and therefore dangerous. A stable, sociable dog, who can keep sport and leisure apart, really doesn’t get ‘cheesy’ or unreliable.
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With some breeds you have breeding lines where the dogs have been bred for decades to be able to perform as well as possible with bodywork. That can be in the form of sports, or as a service dog. Biting behavior is therefore already firmly in the genes of these dogs.
In these dogs, the risk of problem behavior is greater if they cannot express their innate urges in a desired way. When such a dog can indulge its urges on a helper during training, it is easier to handle in his spare time.back to menu ↑
Which dogs are better off not doing pack work?
With dogs that are not social, or dogs that bite out of fear, it is better to choose another hobby. For example, for dogs that have this level of uncertainty, tracking and Body Awareness are better suited.
Of course there can also be physical limitations. Packing is very hard on your dog. If your dog is overweight, it is better to let him lose weight first. Your dog must also first have a good basic condition. For dogs with neck or back problems, bodywork is also not suitable.
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Can you train bodywork without punishing?
In recent years we have seen broadcasts from Rambam, Undercover in the Netherlands, and so on, with horrific images of punishments used in detention. Yes, that happens. Yes, that’s awful.
The general picture is therefore that you would not be able to do work without physical correction devices such as a puncture band, a power band or something to beat with. That stops a lot of people from doing work. And that’s why there are a lot of people who think that anyone who does help is mistreating their dog.back to menu ↑
How do I do that then? Also with penalties?
I sometimes use punishment in bodywork, just like in all training sessions. I use time out with my dogs and they know the word ‘wrong’. And the word ‘no’. The biggest punishment for my dogs is ‘not allowed to work’.
I consciously choose not to use these other resources. Not in bodywork and not in other training sessions, not with my own dogs or the dogs of others. Because of that choice it is sometimes (yes, honestly) difficult for me to figure out how I’m going to solve something. Because what the people who do use these resources often say is true: you can’t teach your dog this with cookies.
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So what’s so great about packing?
If this is what your dog enjoys the most, then you will really enjoy it with your dog. Your dog will become mentally stronger if he is trained in a fun way. In dogs with a strong predisposition for this sport, it is precisely the protection work as a sport that ensures that your dog does not develop problem behavior.
It gives your dog (and yourself) satisfaction. On the one hand you can compare packing work with hunting or herding sheep: you appeal to an instinct for which your dog was bred.