Just like with all things K9 or dog related, everyone has their preferred method of teaching or instruction. Although there can be plenty of dissenting opinions on the effectiveness or efficiency of a certain technique we must remember that we are in a field with measurable results. These techniques can be debated or argued, but ultimately we can test their effectiveness against our end state goals.
One such topic surrounded by debate is muzzle fighting. Now I’m not here to say any one way is better than another, however I think a majority of us know that anything done right in this field takes time, and many steps layered on top of one another(successive approximation). That being said I’ve seen plenty of solid dogs with real bites behind them have less than desirable behavior when confronted with a muzzle fighting scenario. Even with properly conditioning the wearing of a muzzle, I’ve witnessed time and time again a canine strike the intended target and once the decoy plays the role of wounded rabbit, the dog begins to beat their snout against the helper in attempts to remove the muzzle that it knows is hampering its ability to fully engage the “suspect.” Even when conditioning the muzzle properly, the dog fully understands that when muzzled, its weapon is holstered and it cannot fully engage as its been trained without first addressing the issue of removing its weapon from said holster.
That being said, there have been a ton of tricks and alterations to training equipment in an effort to combat the psychological hurdle of making the muzzle transparent (both literally and figuratively) to the canine. I’ve yet to find the solution I had been looking for until I came across the “bridging muzzle” from Recon K9. With the proper steps, this muzzle can be invaluable not only for working dogs on the street, but also when dealing with behavior modification in aggressive and reactive dogs.
From the LEO perspective I’ll give you a quick synopsis as to how I’ve utilized the bridging muzzle with great success; I will actually muzzle condition the canine with the bridging muzzle as opposed to a traditional muzzle simply for the ease of being able to deliver the reward as I go through the progression of training. Once conditioned, I would back tie, or table the dog in preparation for a bite session. Much like you would do for grip development, you’ll feed the dog a frontal bite and apply back pressure to stress the grip, coming back into the dog's apex to allow the dog to punch and grab a more full bite. It’s really that simple, doing basic grip work with the bridging muzzle on so you condition the dog to understand that even when the “holster” goes on the dog, they’re still able to engage, bite, grip, and feel the material of the sleeve, wedge, whatever in their teeth. This translates into a dog who never feels hampered or at a disadvantage simply because you’ve made them dawn the muzzle. You’ll see this translate into muzzle fighting with a dog that will continuously punch with the end of the muzzle like a cobra because they’re convinced they can bite with the muzzle on, versus slapping their face wildly against the decoy in an effort to remove the muzzle so they can actually begin the engagement. I’ve witnessed dogs attempt the slapping motion even with a bitebar inside the muzzle, this simple added step really sets up the dog psychologically to never view the muzzle as a hindrance.
“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying, and I can’t imagine not having this tool in my tool bag. It’s proven its weight in gold when conditioning my dog's mental preparedness for overcoming an obstacle, even when that obstacle is strapped to its snout. I highly recommend and encourage at least giving it a try, and you’ll be amazed at the different level of aggression your dog will continue to bring, even on your muzzle training days.
Mountain Sanz- Para Bellum K9