It has been our focus from the beginning to produce “functional results” in obedience, protection and manners, and do so at the highest level possible. As Europe has always had a reputation as the leader in understanding dog behavior, competitive performance training and K9 law enforcement, it was natural that we start there.
Specifically, the methods of training in Europe in the sport of Schutzhund, French Ring, specialized canine units (K9 S.W.A.T. teams), as well as those of leading industrial canine security teams served as an initial foundation for our advanced training programs.
The largest dog sport in Europe is the German sport of Schutzhund. Included in this are Schutzhund’s sister sports (IPO, ZVV and SVV) throughout Europe. In comparison to other European dog sports Schutzhund’s most advanced title (SchH III) is still only basic obedience and protection, tracking (considered by many the most demanding or difficult phase) as well as some limited agility work. As a result the sport does not require tremendous ability or advanced training to earn titles. It is this point that causes most dog sport enthusiasts outside of Schutzhund to dismiss it. To do so misses what we consider to be Schutzhund’s greatest value. In order to earn the highest level of points and be competitive Schutzhund requires a highly motivated precision performance. It was this aspect that lead us to look to Germany’s top competitors for such training as well as their understanding of dog behavior.
There were many more challenging dog sports such as the Dutch KNPV, Belgian Ring, Mondio Ring but none as difficult or demanding as that of the French Ring Sport. The French decoys (trainers wearing the bite suit) had a reputation of being the most talented in all of dog sports. Where Schutzhund requires a decoy to “test” a dog, French Ring requires a decoy to “defeat” the dog (without the slightest bit of brutality or abuse of any kind). As a result both dog and decoy must learn “fighting skills”, somewhat unique to each dog and decoy, in order to defeat the other. The spirit of almost medieval combat combined with very advanced or difficult exercises provided much inspiration as well as technique.
At the end of the day while a highly trained precision performance within sport is an accomplishment as is advanced fighting skills and exercises, a sport is just a sport. It bears no resemblance to everyday life. It does not prepare a dog for functional protection and often not even functional obedience. It was very clear early on that this was the case. That isn’t to say that the European dog sports are without value. If a dog has the natural ability to provide viable protection these sports provide a valuable foundation on which to build. However, much building is necessary.
The dog sports provided an understanding of dog behavior, correct training principles based on dog behavior as well as techniques used in our early training programs.
The average K9 unit in Europe performed at a far higher level than that of units in the United States. While it produced functional results in protection it was usually with a lack of control and precision.
The few leaders in the areas of high profile industrial canine security (ie securing all of the Mercedes Benz factories in Germany) were among the first to take the training principles used in competitive dog sports and combine them with the functionality of K9 law enforcement within protection. By adapting these disciplines to the security field, they produced dogs that were highly motivated in obedience, extremely precise, = functional in protection and with a high level of control. It was their model of studying the masters within each discipline and adapting it within their field that CPI adopted.
Our exposure during the 1980s and ’90s to elite European K9 S.W.A.T. teams inspired the possibility of developing training exercises previously unheard of. Most important was their approach to creating advanced exercises that would be highly functional in the situations they faced as members of a S.W.A.T. team.
These elite teams created exercises by thinking “outside the box.” They thought in terms of what would be ideal for a dog to be able to perform. Then they developed ways to train the exercises. In most cases if they started with the understanding of what a dog was capable of performing, such training would have been assumed impossible.
One example is the idea of a dog being used to apprehend a criminal in a hostage situation where gunfire was impossible. At the time a bank robbery had recently taken place. Hostages were were taken. Upon exiting the bank the robber was surrounded by law enforcement. The robber used a number of hostages as shields as a stand-off took place over a period of hours. Law enforcement was unable to use gunfire because of the robber standing in front of the brick wall of the bank. The risk of ammunition ricocheting off brick and injuring a hostage was too great.
The first challenge in training for this type of scenario was for the dog to be able to target the criminal specifically from a distance while the criminal was behind or among the hostages, with continual movement. Also challenging was the need for such an operation to remain covert (no barking) so the criminal would be unsuspecting and therefore unprepared. Of course barking and protection work go hand in hand. In spite of the obvious limitations, once the benefit was established the techniques were developed. As a side note, this concept of dogs in protection performing in covert or “stealth” mode remain part of our own training program today.
In taking the same approach we began to think of ways in which dogs would be beneficial in obedience, protection and manners. We did so with complete disregard to whether such behaviors could even be trained. Professionals were consulted within the area of executive protection both in the United States and in Europe as well as those responsible for the personal security of royal families within the Arab gulf states. In doing so we created some of the most useful exercises in the areas of personal, executive and estate protection.
Of equal importance is handler protocol. This was developed in part through our relationships with professionals in the executive protection field. Specifically, how to strategically handle a dog in various threatening situations.
First the facts. The average criminal randomly targeting a victim begins his approach from 20 feet away. It takes the average person 1.5 seconds to travel the 20 feet. It takes the person being targeted (victim) 7/8 of a second for their brain to take in and respond to the information (approaching threat). That leaves 5/8 of a second to act. This information was essential not only in developing handler protocol, but also required that we create specific exercises an owner would need if faced with a threat.
One choice was to train each dog how to interpret a threat. This would enable the dog to have the same 7/8 of a second the owner has to take in the information and initiate a response. This enables the dog to respond immediately rather than using part of the 5/8 of a second the owner has to respond.
The inherent problem with dogs interpreting situations and taking initiative without a command is that everything is not black and white. There is often a fine line between what is a threat and what appears to be a threat. That is why K9 law enforcement continually train their dogs in order to redefine this gray area.
An example would be a jogger in a park coming off of a trail onto a main path as you are taking your dog for a walk. If your dog has been trained to interpret threatening situations and respond automatically, without a command, this jogger may become an innocent target. They appear to be coming out of nowhere, and running straight for you.
While we do offer such dogs with very advanced capabilities in interpreting situations, there are few individuals in the private sector who should own such dogs. Dogs such as these usually are sold with long-term maintenance programs. As most of our clients have families and lead very social lives, the majority of our dogs must see everyone as their best friend until told otherwise. Therefore they only “turn on” on-command.
Our Advanced Handler Protection Exercises™ are the solution to responding to a threat when only you only have 5/8 of a second. In many cases, a threat is able to be upon you virtually instantaneously. The Aggressive Secure™ exercise, one of the Advanced Handler Protection exercises, gives you time to create distance immediately between yourself and the threat. The Aggressive Secure (backing up with the dog off-leash, by your side, showing aggression and physically positioning himself or herself between you and the threat) provides you with a viable means of defense while retaining the necessary control of your dog, who responds only on command.
In summary, over time the European understanding of training in sport, K9 law enforcement and industrial canine security was developed and expanded upon, new exercises were created, resulting in a training program uniquely our own.
Our training programs continue to evolve in both our approaches to training as well as the exercises we have added. Over the years, we created completely new programs such as our Elite Family Guardian by CPI™ developed in spring 2004 as well as the Elite Personal and Estate Security Dog by CPI™ in March 2005. Our newest exercise, the Rest Assured by CPI™ was developed in May 2007.
Most importantly, our 5 training programs are designed to serve the specific needs of our clients. We ask that our clients fill out a comprehensive questionnaire online in order for us to understand their needs, expectations as well as personal preferences. With that knowledge we are then capable of selecting precisely the right dog combined with the appropriate training program. The training is then customized as needed, and in most cases personally delivered by our delivery training staff.
Our training programs, and the tremendous effort invested in each dog, has but one aim, to provide you with a dog whose performance in obedience, reliability in protection, enjoyment of personality and manners you will cherish for years to come.