Introduction to IPO - don't try it at home!
Because more and more often I see amstaff's "working" with their inexperienced owners I decided to publish a short introduction of IPO here, at our website.
IPO is a dog sport which focuses on developing and evaluating traits in dogs that make them more useful and emotionally stable companions. As a working trial, IPO measures dog's mental stability, endurance, structural efficiencies, ability to scent, willingness to work and courage & trainability.
IPO exam is divided into three parts - tracking, obedience and protection. The sport was originally designed as a breed test for the German Shepherd. Now it is one of most popular dog activities worldwide. One can participate and challenge his dog in 3 steps IPO exams and tournaments.
The most popular used breeds for IPO are German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois, because of their high trainability and ability to sustain high emotional pressure. Nevertheless, amstaffs are not least in this sport, and can be perfectly trained for it.
The key to understand IPO is that the dog is NOT trained for aggression but at a very strong prey drive. Sleeve, tugs, bite bags and pads are a prize, the thing he "fights" for with the helper. Handler and his dog are one team, they stand opposite of the helper. It is worth noticing that when the helper takes the sleeve off, He becomes an ordinary man, amstaff's best friend, and the dog should NEVER show aggression towards him! It is unacceptable in the sport training- and IPO surely is such. Dogs trained for police, military and other forces are run totally different. For Bull Type Terriers IPO must be fun, not an obligation and cannot be associated with aggression. Therefore, starting adventure with trainings, we need to learn ourselves and our dogs the basics of the sport:
The bitework of the dog should be firm - no matter if he bites sleeve, pad or a tug - he should always do it with his whole mouth. If the grip is not firm, you have to correct that, don't praise such grip, teach the dog to bite with his whole jaw. Experienced helper and trainer will show the dog how. That's why you shouldn't do it yourself. Only experienced helper will know how to correct dog's bite. Remember that when you have a show dog incorrect biting may spoil his teeth and disqualify him from showing and breeding.
Dog upon training should be excited, willing to work, never nervous and not self-confident. If your dog shows signs of fear and lack of comfort - you should work on opening him and strengthening his temperament. Normally, amstaff should be fascinated with biting work, it should be natural for him to have strong prey drive and willingness to bite.
It's a very important trait while IPO. Dog should release the sleeve at handler's command, should walk by the leg at command and be obedient at all time while training. It is very harm because dogs work at high drive and excitement, so it is difficult for them to control and behave as asked. There is no short way here, you have to work work work and work with the dog to get desired level of obedience.
While most of people consider IPO as bitework only - it's not. Tracking work is as important as obedience and protection. Dog has to work your or a foreign track precisely, mark all left objects without commands. Dog works on the track by itself - you are just walking at the end of a 10 meters long leash. The dog has to decide what to do by its nose only.
It is very important that when you decide to start IPO with your dog - you find a good helper/trainer to guide you. There is nothing worse that training at your own, without knowledge of what you and your dog are doing. You may ruin dog's temperament and your relations. And remember - IPO is not only biting - it's a demanding sport for both - dog and his owner.
A dogs basic character, socialization and training affects whether he will be aggressive towards people or not. A dog's genetics will define whether he has the protective instincts and courage to protect his family. IPO training will not change this basic nature but will give the owner some idea of how their dog might react, and also enable the dog to remain under the control of his handler. Terriers are not watchdogs, they have not been bred to protect home and families, so they will not have instincts like German Shepherds and will not work easily at aggression. Training a bull type terrier is even more difficult as they are strong, muscular and strong driven. If you chose a helper who tries to train your dog by aggression - leave him and search for another one. Why ruin many years of breeders work to determine no aggression towards humans by an ignorant and stupid helper?
Anyway - good luck and fun for you and your dog at professional IPO trainings!