When people ask me if training their dog in a protection sport will make them dangerous, I pull out my martial arts comparison.
An a-hole with an unstable personality who would jump some random person for fun, is going to be an a-hole before he takes any sort of marital arts training. The big difference is that after some martial arts training, he’s liable to be more dangerous in that his abilities to injure someone are more effective. But there is also the chance that with the right type of training and mentoring, he might actually learn respect for others, self-control, how to deal with the issues that caused him to be a menace, and come out of it less likely to be a danger. It depends on what motivated him to behave the way he did, sometimes it’s actual fear that’s making him so aggressive. He might even move into the “normal stable” category I’ll describe next.
Someone with a normal, stable personality taking martial arts, is learning new skills that they may or may not ever use to protect themselves. But after learning those skills, they sure aren't more likely to run out and start randomly jumping people in the streets, or be more likely to start bar fights.
Some people that take martial arts would never consider getting into an altercation, but are interested in it from the standpoint of physical exercise, still won't have the personality to apply those skills outside of a controlled environment (training/competitions) even in defense of themselves. They simply enjoy the sport and the benefits it brings to their life (exercise, stress relief, camaraderie, etc.).
And finally there is the group of people who for whatever reason have lower self-confidence. Training in martial arts can improve their confidence, through improvement in their physical skills, but also by teaching them ways to mentally handle difficult situations in real life. If they tended to overreact to perceived threats, the training can make them less like to overreact, and more likely to read a situation better and handle it accordingly. Giving them a happier, less stress, life.
Just like all humans are capable of throwing a punch, all dogs are capable of biting. The difference for dogs and humans is in how effectively they can do it, and their motivation behind doing it.
Dog training for protection sports is similar to martial arts training, assuming a qualified competent trainer. And it's the trainers job to figure out which dogs are those unstable ones that shouldn't receive more training in biting, but instead heavy control training, which ones can actually benefit from training and become better afterwards, which are the stable ones that can be trained and still be safe, and also recognize those "sport only" dogs that can enjoy the training, but still not protect in real life. Remember, they are called protection SPORTS. The dogs are biting people wearing protective equipment. They are not biting flesh, and many protection sport dogs if they accidentally do get flesh will immediately let go and bite the equipment. There are also MANY videos online of protection sport dogs who are slipped the equipment, meaning the “bad guy” slips the equipment off their body and lets the dog have it, who happily trot around with the equipment in their mouth, completely ignoring the “bad guy” who just gave it to them. Just like people training for martial arts have sparring partners they learn skills from in a safe environment, dogs have decoys and helpers they learn skills from. It's a not a "fight to the death" every time they walk on the training field. Dogs training in these sports ENJOY what they are doing. If someone is trying to train a dog in a protection sport that has no desire to be there, they do not fall under the “qualified competent” trainer mentioned above. These are the trainers that can take a social, stable dog and turn them into an unstable biter, and you should grab your dog and run from these trainers.
Unlike in martial arts training though, there are two members of the “team” in protection sports. The dog and the handler. So while the dog is learning new skills, the handler is also learning how to better read, handle and control their dog. Something the person in each of the martial arts scenarios is missing. Protection sports are also not just about teaching a dog to bite. There are high levels of obedience and control required of the dog. Not just in the obedience phase of the sport, but during the bitework also. The dog is expected to bite when told, and IMMEDIATELY stop when told. It learns to stand or walk closely next to the person it really wants to bite, and only bite them under very controlled situations such as if that person attempts to flee. Many sports have a “call-off”, which is an exercise were the dog is sent to bite someone who is behaving aggressively, and then told to “stop” and return to the handler when the dog is less than 8 feet from that person. A dog that is going to bite just because, can benefit from being taught when it’s appropriate, and when it’s not. And their handler can benefit from learning to read their dog better, and therefore control the dog better when it’s considering a possible bite.
When the training is done correctly, it really comes down to the dogs basic personality. I’ve known multiple protection sport titled dogs who I would never walk down a dark alley with, and who have proven they would not protect in a real life situation. On the flip side, I’ve known many who did protect in real life. But they all had that potential prior to training. Just like you read newspaper articles about the family who’s Golden Retriever bit someone during a home invasion to protect them.
Rytmo des deux Pottois – FRIII, 1996 NARA FRIII Champion
Raptor was 10 years old when this video was taken, we decided
to have some fun during his cooldown time after his training session was over