The Breaker Bar

by Bill Lewis II

“The Breaker Bar” is not a local pub where K9 handlers assemble at the end of a training day to have a few brews and spin a few tales. It is a tool that is slipped between the teeth of dog that is biting to force the dog to release its bite because other preferable methods have failed.

Here’s a partial description; The breaker bar was originally designed for police and military K9 use. During a deployment of a police (or military) dog in a bite situation many dogs will refuse to “out” off the suspect due to a variety of reasons. When everything is being videotaped and shared on social media nowadays, the non-compliance of the dog to release on command can cause bad optics and problems with the public, in litigation, and with administrators. The tool is not designed to train an “out” command. All dogs should have a good “out” command as part of its training and certification.

I will share two thoughts on this tool;

1. If you frequently require a breaker bar to get your dog to release its bite because other commands or methods have failed, you have serious problems with control and obedience that are apparently not being resolved in your training and I question both your training and the dog you are using for police work.  If you can’t remove your dog from a bite, you probably shouldn’t be deploying your dog for a bite.

2. If you need a breaker bar to get your dog to release its bite because other commands or methods have failed, you should use a breaker bar to get the dog off a bite as quickly as possible once the suspect is secured and under control and it is safe to do so.

Personally, I don’t like the idea of a handler having a breaker bar because of the first thought above – but I have no issue with “every handler” carrying and having immediate access to a breaker bar, a crow bar, or a 2×4 piece of wood to use if needed to get a release in a timely manner if other means fail. 

You don’t want to be that handler that cannot get your dog to release its bite for what seems like forever while the clock is ticking – especially if your failure is being recorded for all to view later. When it’s time to remove the dog from a bite, you need to do whatever will accomplish that goal and do it expeditiously.

The breaker bar should never be the first option to consider in a real-world situation, but when a handler does use it, it should be addressed in a debrief later why it was necessary to use and the timing involved, and the training afterward should focus on “not using it” in the future.

If you are thinking about using a breaker bar, you should not use one unless you have been properly trained how to use it and the tool should be approved by your agency or K9 supervisor along with your other tools, leashes, gear, and equipment. It should be clear that the breaker bar will never be considered nor used as the primary means to remove a dog from a bite.

Unlike a visit to the “Cheers” bar, you don’t want everyone to know your name if you’re frequenting “The Breaker Bar.”

Bill Lewis II © August 2022

This article was reprinted with permission within the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) Monthly Newsletter (September 2022).