Training The “Call Off”
The call off is an activity where the dog is commanded to down or recall on command after having being sent in to engage (bite & fight) or search for the decoy / assailant.
Training the dog to cease and desist after he has already been sent in for the bite is a more difficult exercise to train because the dog is already in drive and committed to the fight when it is given the command to stop.
We use the down / drop command to stop the dog when we need to, in any and all situations. We effectively consider the down command as the ‘off switch’ and expect the dog to cease all aggressive action, at any time when given this command by the handler. This process is also referred to as ‘capping’.
The down (as opposed to the recall) is a better option in the tactical environment for a number of reasons; it allows the handler and tactical team many more options and more flexibility; it is generally more reliable; and it is easier to train and more practical in a wide variety of situations and environments. Once the dog is in the down position, we can recall the dog if necessary or carry out a variety of other tasks. The ‘down’ effectively puts the dog on standby for further instructions.
In some certification for law enforcement and military applications, the call off is a required element. Depending on the tactical application, it should be part of your working dogs repertoire; not only for situations where the offender may surrender, but also where the situation becomes dangerous. There may be a danger to the dog for example, because you see the assailant has a weapon that could kill the dog, or it may be dangerous to an innocent third party who gets caught in the encounter (possibly, but not necessarily, as a human shield).
The dog must have a very strong down command in its general obedience, including being reliable under high levels of distraction and in a myriad of different situations, including having decoys in protective equipment actively walking around in front of the dog while in the down position.
Ideally the dog should also be competent and experienced in bite work and fighting the decoy. Although, arguably, the call off could be commenced early in the dog’s training; we find this completely unnecessary. What makes a lot more sense is to do most of the development and preparation work while concurrently building a confident biting and fighting dog. The dog will also need an understanding of a protection cue (the command to engage and fight an assailant).
The training mechanism utilised requires very little or no compulsion and also ensures virtually a zero error procedure where the dog learns without ever getting rewarded for incorrect behaviour.