The dog has been a loyal companion of humankind for thousands of years. This companionship has not always meant a comfortable and peaceful life for the dog, however. In living together, humans took control. From wolves (the first dogs), humans selected animals with suitable traits and domesticated them.

Our dogs today have a great willingness to adapt to their circumstances and the rules of the pack, which now includes the human family. They are a pleasant animal, able to live close to humans. From the wolf they received qualities such as watchfulness, loyalty, and submissive behavior, which are also the source of their popularity as pets and K9s.

In this book we meet the wolf, the domestic dog’s ancestor. We become acquainted with its behavior and see how and why this animal was domesticated. From that foundation, we take a closer look at dog behavior and communication signals. These are fundamental to understanding how dogs play and learn, and it is important for every K9 handler to understand these behaviors. After all, if we understand the behavior of dogs, we can more easily raise and train them.

It is a pleasure to have a K9 as a reliable companion in service. For a successful team, the parties at both ends of the leash must trust each other. For this trust to develop, it is essential for us to recognize and correctly interpret the dog’s expressions, gestures, and signals. In this book we explain them.

We then explain operant conditioning, a successful method of K9 training that can be used for all kinds of special-service dogs, such as search and detection, patrol, remote guided camera, and attack dogs. We first describe the history and development of operant conditioning training with animals and how the training works, and then, of course, we provide practical techniques in how this method can be employed.

As a K9 handler, you are privileged to know what is going on in the dog’s mind and to predict its behavior. After reading this book, you will have a better understanding of that special animal: your K9.

Table of contents

1. Operational service dogs
2. Ancestor wolf
3. Basic concepts in dog behavior
4. Developmental stages and behavior
5. Expressions, gestures, and signals
6. Reading your dog
7. Operant conditioning: Development and basic principles
8. Physical punishment in dog training
9. Training service dogs using operant conditioning


Understand dog behavior to work with, not against, your K9’s instincts. In this revised edition of K9 Behavior Basics, expert dog trainers Dr. Resi Gerritsen, Ruud Haak, and Simon Prins share the essentials every police and working dog trainer needs to know about the latest advances in K9 training. Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned pro staying up-to-date, you’ll learn how to successfully implement or improve your dogs’ training programs using operant conditioning. See our full range of K9 titles at www. brusheducation. ca/catalog/k9-training.


The chapter [on physical punishment] offered good arguments against the use of harsh methods—some completely new to me and eminently usable outside of the service dog world.

- Canis bonus

This book is a must-read for any serious trainer.

- Dr. Sophia Yin, veterinarian/animal behaviorist/author

This is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand dog training theory.

- Susan Bulanda, National Search Dog Alliance

It is like a textbook you would have for a “Police Dog Training 101” college course. I would recommend it to all serious police K9 trainers and handlers as a basic reference. ... this book summarizes the information pertinent to police K9 training all in one reference book.

- United States Police Canine Association