The “bad guy” in Schutzhund or other competition sports as well as protection and police dog training goes by a number of names, including decoy, agitator, helper, and others. His job is made to look easy by online videos and by some “backyard wanna-bees.” However, becoming a good decoy is a skill that takes some effort, knowledge, and experience.
A good helper can make a mediocre dog look good. A bad helper can make a great dog look bad. A good/great helper makes a good/great dog. Handlers figure into the picture as well but a good handler will not be able to take his dog any higher than the decoy’s skill level.
The helper’s job is to bring out the necessary drives in the dog for the type of work desired, whether it be competition, personal protection, or police dog work. He will need to properly “read” a dog’s behavior and quickly respond accordingly – many times within a split second – in order to lift the dog’s skill level. A decoy who “mis-reads” the dog or doesn’t respond quickly enough can damage the dog’s training, often taking additional months of training to correct the problems created.
A good decoy will need to know the correct methods of agitation, timing, and will have acquired actions and reactions through numerous training opportunities. In other words, take every opportunity you can get in bite-work. Now, be sure you are being taught by a good decoy; one who knows what he’s doing. Learning from a bad decoy will only teach you the wrong way to do things.
The courses at the Dog Trainer College that include decoy work will empower the student to acquire the necessary skills to become a good decoy. We instruct the theory behind the training and give our students many opportunities to “catch” dogs on the sleeve as well as a bite suit. Movements, eye contact or the lack thereof, when and how to approach the dog, and when to retreat are all part of the education. Graduates leave with a solid experience in their repertoire and can attain their goals of decoying in competition work, personal protection, military and police dog work.